Thursday, June 28, 2007

Araiyar Sevai



It looks like the renowned Araiyar Sevai, a visual song and dance enactment of the ‘Paasurams’(4000 Divya Prabandham verses) that has been performed at Divya Desams for over 1000 years, is seeing a slow death. A ritual which was once performed at all the Divya Desams today exists in only three temples in Tamil Nadu- Srirangam, Srivilliputhur and Alwar Thirunagari (near Tirunelveli).

Origins of Araiyar Sevai

The famed Araiyar Sevai is said to have originated from Thirukkurungkudi, the Divya Desam about 40kms from Tirunelveli. Legend has it that the Lord used to listen to Araiyar’s Abhinayam hiding behind a wall in Bashyam Street (South Mada St). In recognition of this significant event, even today, one can see the name of this street in Tirunelveli’s Gazette.

Who are the Araiyars

Araiyars (King of Music) are descendents of Nathamunigal, who is believed to have introduced the Araiyar Sevai. It is believed that Lord Ranganatha himself gave the Araiyars the right to perform the unique musical chanting at the temples and presented them with the cone-like red cap, two cymbals, the sacred garland (which they wear around their neck when they perform).

Araiyars have been bestowed the special right to start as well as end the Paasurams in Vaishnavite temples through their special song and dance sequence.

The Araiyars first recite the Paasuram, then explain its inner meaning and finally perform the Abhinayam, a unique art/dance performance with their hands and legs explaining the Paasurams with special musical effect.

The Araiyar Sevai (Vyakyaanam) requires a deep knowledge and understanding of the Paasurams and its inner meaning. It is not an easy art, as can be seen from the fact that it takes one nearly 20 years to learn and perfect the Abhinayam.

Araiyar Sevai during Margazhi

One of the ‘Araiyar Sevai’ occasions that is of particular significance is during Vaikunta Ekadesi (the winter month of Margazhi)- The Paghal Pathu (10 days) and the Era Pathu(10 days)- when one is treated to a real spectacle with the Araiyars enacting the ‘Story of Andal’ growing into a young beautiful girl through the Abhinayam.

Will Araiyar Sevai become a thing of the past?

Of real worry,though, is the fact that only a handful of Araiyars are keeping this most difficult art going. Their plight, especially the Araiyars at Srivilliputhur, is difficult to digest. With no salaries, the Araiyars there are finding the going tough, making it difficult for them to even provide basic education to their children.

(In the last couple of years, a corporate chieftain in Chennai has been helping out the education of one of the kids of the Araiyar.The kid has secured top rank in the first two years of the college education).

Says Bala Mukunda Araiyar of Srivilliputhur, who is one of the few Araiyars still practicing this difficult art, “It has been a great honour for the Araiyars to be performing the ‘Abhinaya’. I learnt from my father for over 18 years and have tried my best to keep it going and pass on my knowledge to the next generation. I have also managed to do the Arangetram of my son. However, It will be a pity if this 1000 year old art dies because of lack of support.”

Awards have been bestowed on artists in various fields but the Araiyars have sadly been left out of this, despite delighting devotees with their unique recital of the Divya Prabhandam. One feels it is time that they were given the recognition that has been due to them for years.

Call for Help

One of the popular depiction of the Paasurams - the art of enacting the Divya Prabandham- could be lost to the world, at least in Srivilliputhur, if immediate action is not taken. While music and dance artistes have been recognized through various art associations, even the basic financial needs of these artistes (the Araiyars), who have put their heart and soul in this devotional performance, have been ignored.

Despite delighting the devotees with their beautiful performance, the Araiyars of Srivilliputhur are living in financial ruins and in a house that could collapse anytime.

It is time one looks at a face lift to the art and also a source of income to the Araiyars that would help them keep this unique art going for future generations to enjoy.

Only time will tell if the devotees, charitable institutions, private companies as well as the Government will come together in reviving the Araiyar Sevai across the Divya Desams. It is something too precious to lose and one hopes that it is not yet late to bring the Araiyars back to their glory days. Otherwise Divya Prabhandhams and Thiru Pallandu recitals in this unique art form will be a thing of the past, soon.

The Araiyars at Srivilliputhur can be reached on 94438 67345.

Postal Address:
Bala Mukunda Araiyar
35 Periya Perumal West Mada Street
Srivilliputhur 626 125(TN, India)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Ashes 1978-79- My earliest memories of an Ashes Series

Ashes 1978-79- A closely fought series but a heavy defeat for Australia
1978-79 was the first Ashes series after the Packer defection. England, captained by Mike Brearley, had in its ranks Gooch, Gower, Randall (in their early years of Test Cricket and eager to make a mark for themselves). Boycott was the one established star in their batting. On the bowling front, England had Willis, Old and Hendrick supported by the two offies, Geoff Miller and John Emburey(recently in the news for the India coach post). Ian Botham was the only all rounder in either team.

Stop Gap Captain
Australian cricket was in turmoil…They had recalled Bob Simpson the previous year for the series against India to take on the Indian Spinners. And he had made a significant contribution. But now it was almost a completely unknown set of players. Later that season, Indians were to have a taste of several of these players on home turf but for now these were completely fresh faces…except for Graham Yallop(even he was under 10 tests old), who like Alvin Kallicharan (WI), was the ‘scape goat’ (stop gap) captain.

There were several players in both teams who had the potential to scale to greater heights but only a few did… Gower, Botham and Willis played significant role in England’s success in the early-mid 1980s. Gooch, Boycott and Emburey went on the rebel tour to South Africa in 1981…and were banned for 3 years…Gooch came back strongly in the late 80s and early 90s including captaining England. English fielding had been raised greatly with the emergence of Gower(he remained a fielder to watch till a weakened shoulder prevented him from throwing in his later days) and Randall.

Phenomenal Debut series for Hogg
The Australian story was a lot more sad. Only Allan Border from this set of players rose from the ‘Ashes’.

Rodney Hogg burst on to the international scene with 41 wickets in his debut series. No bowler had had such a phenomenal debut series. But unfortunately he had to take a back seat with the return of Thommo / Lillee. While he played on till 1985, he never was the same force again.

While Graeme Wood played on till 1985 and while he did make a reasonable contribution in terms of run scoring, he, to many,is remembered for something unusual- ‘The run out’ king - it was this series which started it all.

The elegant Kim Hughes, regarded as a terrific stroke player, was a star performer in the early 80s but had one of the most tearful exits(in the mid 80s) Aussie cricket has ever known. (Like Border, Hughes too scored heavily in India when they toured here end of 1979)

Graham Yallop, who had been thrown into the captaincy, courtesy absence of the star players, was by far Australia’s best batsman in 1978-79. With the return of WSC stars and the emergence of Border and Hughes in the middle order, Yallop faded away, without really making a big mark for himself.

AB’s Debut series
Allan Border was the biggest beneficiary of the Packer defection. This series was a blessing in disguise for him. After a good debut series against England here, he had an excellent series in India in late 1979 scoring over 500 runs including a first test century in Madras and established himself as a permanent member of the middle order even after the return of the Packer players(Chappel, Hookes, Walters).

Captaincy makes a difference
Coming back to this series, in 5 out of the 6 tests, Yallop won the toss. And he had the opportunities, as a captain, in almost every test to capitalize and keep his side in the race…

In the first test at Brisbane, Yallop won the toss and on a green Gabba wicket elected to bat, slumped to 6/26 and never recovered to be bowled out for 160 on Day 1(Had he put England in, the scores may have been reversed).

He corrected himself in the 2nd test by putting England in on the WACA pitch. Hogg rocked the Englishmen with two early wickets and England was on the ropes at 3/40 but were allowed to recover to 300 plus.

Hogg’s 10 wicket haul at the MCG helped pull one back and raised Aussie hopes. A young and inexperienced non packer side had fought well with all its limitations. And this continued into the 4th and 5th tests.

In the fourth test, after bundling out England for 150 on day 1, Australia took a crucial 100 run 1st innings lead that could have been the foundation for squaring the series 2-2. Randall’s magnificent century helped England recover and then the spin twins, Miller and a young Emburey bundled out the Aussies in the 2nd innings.

Aussies still did not lose heart. But the 5th test was possibly the most tragic for them. For yet another time in the series, Yallop put England in and once again his quickies ran through the top order bowling them out for 160 on day 1. Yallop’s inexperience showed on the 3rd afternoon and 4th morning. His poor handling of trumpcard Jim Higgs, the leggie, in the 2nd innings on a turning track allowed England to recover from 6/130 to 360. Another captain and England may have been bundled out for under 200.

Throughout the series, Rodney Hogg helped Australia stay in contention with outstanding piece of fast bowling.

In almost every test, Australia had a chance and the 5-1 scoreline was not a true reflection of the closely fought test matches. Had Mike Brearley been captaining Australia, the result may have completely different.

For an Ashes battle, the 6 test matches series was played in front of almost empty stands.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Old Cricket memories- My Favourite Tamil Nadu XI of the last 3decades

1. V. Sivaramakrishnan-the most consistent opener for TN and a brilliant close in fielder, who paid special attention to fitness.

2. K. Srikkanth- beat VB through the sheer excitement and tension he gave the spectators. He was also a people’s cricketer and hence had several die hard fans through the 1980s, while VB always seemed to take the other extreme(serious, tough). While the favourite XI is pure performance based, the choice of Srikkanth also has the fans in mind
( while he may have lasted only half an hour on many occasions, the happiness he gave fans during that short period was immense) and hence he scores over VB.

3. WV Raman- A beautiful spin talent of the 1980s like LS, turned into a top order bat and made runs big time for TN for a decade and over. Cannot over look him for the sheer number of runs he scored and the way he contributed to the top order

4. S. Sharath-For the sheer durability and fighting it out time and time again, a 100 times for TN, he finds a place in the XI. For a long while, he seemed to be in the shadow of others…first Robin and WV in the early 1990s, then Sriram, S.Ramesh and Badani. But like Raman, he finds himself a place with the weight of runs scored over a long period of time. And he was always a team man.

5. Abdul Jabbar- The grittiest middle order bat TN has seen. He saved the day for his side many a time. And took some wonderful catches fielding close in. Never really came close enough for National duties but his contribution to TN cricket has been invaluable.( No talk of TN cricket of late 1970s/80s can be concluded without a discussion on V. Shiv and Jabbar losing out on bigger laurels. Hats off to these two men who fought out many a battle for TN. It still seems that TN cricketers are given a raw deal at the national level)

6. Robin Singh- An automatic choice in the XI. He brought freshness into the team and should have changed the face of TN cricket and taken it to greater heights but unfortunately didn’t. TN laid low through the 1990s winning very little on the national scene. However, he should rank as the most aggressive TN cricketer of the last 3 decades- close in and out fielding, running between the wickets, determination when he batted. For all his branding as a one day cricketer, his record in Ranji and Duleep Trophy prove that he was ideally suited for the longer version of the game. Very few took note of the fact that Robin’s best innings’ were always in the longer version of the game

7. Bharat Reddy- TN has lacked good wicket keepers in recent times and Bharat Reddy sees off easily, competition from D. Girish, Babulnath and M. Sanjay, the only other names in consideration

8. S. Vasudevan- This possibly was the most toughest of the decisions along with the 2nd opener slot. Venkatramana and LS donned national colours. Venkatramana had a beautiful action and could turn the ball square and was instrumental in many a win for TN and was a very useful lower order bat. LS was potentially the most talented TN spinner. But for all his potential, LS made very limited impact even on the local scene. Vasu had formed a potent left-right combination with Venkat in the late 70’s, early 80s. For a decade, he held the TN spin bowling together (including when Venkat was away on test duty). And hence finds the 2nd spinner’s spot. Also, he was the TN Ranji winning captain in the late 1980s.

9. S. Venkataraghavan- Captain

The first name that comes to mind when one thinks of TN cricket is Venkat. He was the first TN cricketer to break into the national scene in a big way.He was the one broke the shackles of bad treatment to TN cricketers,not through war of words but through sheer determination and performance on the ground. While VV Kumar had been treated badly in the 1960s and did not play much of Test Cricket, it was Venkat who fought out and came back stronger every time- He was the one day captain under whom Gavaskar scored 36 in 60 overs-he still refuses to be drawn into that controversy-, he was the one who was dropped after being captain in the previous test, he also belonged to the period when there were 3 other famous spinners( not counting shivalkar and goel). And yet, he came back into the national team through performances on the field.

Venkat has been the quiet man of TN cricket.He came up the hard way. He also has stories of cycling 15 kms every day in the 70s to keep up this fitness levels. He set high standards for himself. He was one of the best close in fielders TN has had, though Robin and V. Shiv would run him close on that.

His performances in the 1970s were miles ahead of other TN cricketers and it remained so till Srikkanth burst on to the scene in the early 80s. Given this scenario, it was only natural that most others in the TN cricket scene were in awe of him( the first big national cricketer from TN). Many in the TN cricket circles have quietly questioned his 'contribution' and support to TN cricket after his playing days. That discussion will be reserved for another day.

Here it is suffice to say that Venkat played his cricket hard and professionally and is my choice for the Captaincy.

10. T.A Sekhar- The quickest fast bowler TN has produced, tall and lanky, he was a big fast bowling hope for TN cricket. Alas, the Indian slip cordon (and may be politics) let him down. And he never made it big on the national fast bowling scene

11. B. Kalyanasundaram- For the sheer energy and effort he put into fast bowling at a time when TN was not known for ‘FAST’ bowling. He beats Bharat Kumar and B. Arun to the final bowling spot

Those that missed out

VB Chandrasekhar- He has possibly been the most influential cricketer in TN in the last 15 years or so. And was also arguably a better opener and captain than Srikkanth. I first tracked him in the early-mid 80s during his CIT days. His century in the Irani trophy match (against Gopal Sharma and co) that won the match for TN will remain etched in everyone’s memory for ever. However, for sheer excitement and tension value(not necessarily the number of runs), one would have to include Srikkanth, though he did not play that many matches for TN because of his international duties. While VB has been possibly the best TN captain and the most influential player in recent times, Srikkanth scores over him for ‘early excitement’ and the freshness he introduced to opening batting in early 80s. It must be clarified that VB was no less brutal in his attack of opposition quickies.

His arrogance may have let him down on many occasions. Once while playing for Chemplast in a YSCA Trophy match at the RKM ground in T. Nagar ( this was a very popular summer tourney and that evening there was crowd in excess of 1000 watching, VB made a remark to the crowd watching the match from the road on the Eastern side that stands etched in memory for the wrong reason ' Only Vettis come and watch cricket. You are jobless and have nothing else to do. That is why you are here watching this match'.

(VB had just returned from NZ after failing in the one dayers earlier that season. It was a pretty damning statement from an international player)

** While on the topic of openers, I must make a mention of VV Sankupani, a cheeka replica in local cricket. He never made it to the top grade.

CS Suresh Kumar- For a while in the 1980s( when Srikkanth was away) the left-right combo of V. Shiv and CS formed a most formidable opening pair. However, V. Shiv’s consistency over a decade and his outstanding catching abilities meant that CS had to miss out.

TE Srinivasan- Possibly the most technically correct batsmen of his time in TN, TE could have played several more international matches than he ended up playing.(Like VB later, he was chosen for a very difficult international tour (Australia-NZ) and never again played for India. He loses out to WV Raman in this squad for the sheer number of runs scored by the latter. WV, who began as a bowler, became an all rounder and ended as one of the most prolific scorers for TN at the top of the order in the 1980s-90s. For the number of runs he scored and the way he converted himself into a top order batsman, one could not afford to miss out on WV.

PC Prakash-Solid batsman in the late 1980s. Lent stability to the batting order. Loses out in a strong middle order of WV, Sharath, Jabbar and Robin.

R. Madhavan- My favourite TN players of the early 1980s were the two Madhavans- NP and R. NP played a lot less than he should have for TN but the bearded left hander was a heavy scorer in the 1980s for a couple of seasons and was possibly a little unlucky to lose out on international duty. And for a batsman, quit cricket quite early(late 20s) to pursue his career.

M. Senthilnathan- During his school time in Udumalpet, I had opined that he would play for India. Such was his power and stroke play. At the U19 level, he was seen as a big find. And he was a brilliant fielder. But he disappointed. Like UR Radhakrishnan in the mid 80s, was a good cricketer from the districts.

D. Vasu- Brilliantly committed cricketer loses out to the other Vasu on the spin front and to allrounder Robin on the all rounder spot- Possibly the unluckiest and undeserving loser (of a place) in this XI. He would be the first reserve, should someone drop out. Could have figured as the 2nd fast bowling option(as he started as a fast bowler) but Kalli as an out and out quickie and a No. XI beat him to that.

L. Sivaramakrishnan- Still remember him featuring on the cover of Sportstar ( early 1980s) with a ‘leg spinner’s grip on the red cherry( he was still a school boy then) after having shot to instant fame in 1982. Who can forget his ball to dismiss Javed Miandad in WCC 1985 Finals. But for TN, he flattered to deceive and loses out to Vasu. Leg Spinner would have been nice for the team and he was a good fielder and a solid bat but his overall bowling performance for TN in the 1980s meant he did not find a place. Have heard many interesting stories of why he did not fulfil his potential but that’s for another story.

D. Girish- Could have played a lot more than he ended up playing. Was a good wicketkeeper batsman. Guess injury ended his Ranji career early


B. Arun
K. Bharat Kumar
M. Santosh Kumar
M. Venkatramana

Biggest Disappointment:

No player(debut in the last 15 years or so) except Sharath figures in this list and that shows the downhill TN has been through in recent times.

* VV Kumar did not figure in the time period…else would have obviously figured in the team

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Divya Desams around Kumbakonam


Route map courtesy: Balaji Hariharan

11 Divya Desams around Kumbakonam

Saint poets, Azhvaars  were ardent devotees of Lord Vishnu. These saint poets composed verses in Tamil and revitalized the religious spirit sparking off a renewal of devotional worship, referred to as the Bhakti movement. The Azhvaars visited temples and sung praises in the name of Vishnu. Such temples have come to be known as Divya Desams. The compilation of the verses (known as Paasurams) is the revered Naalayira Divya Prabandam(4000 in all). There are 108 Divya Desams in all, 40 of these temples are in the Chola region (Trichy-Tanjore-Kumbakonam belt).

You will find that in all these temples, Vishnu is represented in one of three postures – reclining, standing or seated posture. (Detailed version on each of these temples will also feature separately in the blog)

1. Sarangapani(ThiruKudanthai) Temple (http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2007/10/108-divya-desam-thiru-kudanthai.html)

One can start off with the Aravamudhan Sarangapani temple in the heart of Kumbakonam town. This temple has one of the tallest temple towers for a Divya Desam (150ft) after Srirangam, Thiru Kovilur and Srivilliputhur. Also, after Srirangam(11) and Tirupathi(10), this temple has the maximum number of Azhavaars (7 of them here) singing praise of the Lord. Another highlight of the temple is that it is the home to one of the biggest temple chariots in Tamil Nadu. It is at this temple that the Vaishnavite savant Natha Muni got the inspiration to compile the works of the famed 4000 verses of the Azhvaars, after listening to the Tamil hymn 'Aravamudhe' composed by Nammalwar.

One of the mandapams at the Sarangapani temple is believed to have been built in 7th Century AD by the famous Pallava King Mahendra Varma. This temple was later renovated by the famous Vijayanagara King Krishnadevaraya.

The main sanctum has been conceived like a chariot with wheels drawn by horses and elephants and is truly a splendid sight to watch. A visit to this temple, it is believed, will help get rid of one’s past sins, just as a trip to Kasi in the North, would.

The Chitrai Chariot(April-May) procession of the Sarangapani temple is a special occasion at the temple (http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2017/06/sarangapani-koil-thiru-kudanthai.html)

Contact: Soundararaja Bhattar @ 94863 10896

2. Oppiliappan Temple


About 6 kms from Kumbakonam off the Kaaraikal road near ThiruNageswaram, it is believed that Lord Srinivasa here has similar powers to that of the Lord at Tirupathi and hence those who are unable to go to Tirupathi visit this temple. The Lord here is considered as the brother of Tirupathi Lord Srinivasa. This is the only Divya Desam where prasadams do not contain salt and hence the name ‘Oppiliappan’(Lord without Salt). Legend has it that any one bringing salt within this temple will go to hell. Some of the inscriptions at this temple date back to the period of Rajendra Chola, the great Chola king.

Local town buses ply between Kumbakonam and Oppilappan Temple.
Contact: Kannan Bhattar @ 94865 68159

3.Nachiyar Temple in Thiru Naraiyur


Located about 10kms from Kumbakonam, the Nachiyar temple at Thiru Naraiyur is our next stop. This temple can be reached easily from Oppiliappan temple. Every year in the month of Margazhi, there is a one of its kind procession where Lord Srinivasa is taken out on a stone Garuda mount. The mount is said to grow exponentially in weight as it is carried out of its sanctum. While 4 people are enough to carry him out of his Sannadhi, the mount increases in weight as it comes out of every layer and by the time the Lord is out on to the last layer of the temple, it requires as many as 64 people to carry him. This is an experience not to be missed at this temple.

This is a temple of special significance for Lord Garuda and he is said to be very powerful here. At this divya desam, Naachiyaar (Goddess) gets the place of primary importance, unlike most other divya desams, where the main deity is the Lord. Another feature is that the idols of all the 108 divya desams can be seen here.

(http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2016/12/nachiyar-koil-divya-desam.html)

Contact: Gopinathan Bhattar @ 94435 97388 / Prasanna Bhattar @ 95007 16900

4.Thirucherai Saranatha Perumal

The Saranathan temple in Thirucherrai is 5 kms away from Nachiyar Temple and is close to Kudaivasal town. This is the only divya desam where the Lord provides darshan along with five Goddesses(Sridevi, Bhooma Devi, Neela Devi, Maha Lakshmi and SaraNayaki).
Contact: 0435 2468 175

From Thirucherai, one has to take a 45 minute drive back to Kumbakonam town.

Raman Bhattar @ 94441 04374/0435 2468001

5. Nathan Koil Nandipura Vinnagaram


The Nathan temple in Nandhipura Vinnagaram is about 5kms from Kumbakonam near Korukkai/Pateeswaram. Legend has it that Nandi performed penance here to seek atonement for insulting the Dwarapalakas of Vishnu and hence the name Nandipura Vinnagaram. It is also believed that Pallava King Nandivarma built this place and also created the temple here. An interesting feature is that Vishnu, who originally faced the east, turned westward to look at the spectacle of King Sibi saving a bird. An image of Nandi can be seen on one of the walls.

Lack of Attention from Vaanamaalai Mutt
This is under the administration of Vaanamaalai Mutt but despite the terrific commitment of the Bhattar, who does the daily rituals without fail even when there are no devotees, this is quite a neglected temple- something the Vaanamaalai Mutt must pay immediate attention to. Lack of attention from the Mutt has meant that that this temple, unlike Nanguneri Divya Desam, does not attract too many devotees, even on weekends. And add to this, the poorly paid bhattar, and it makes a very sad scene.
Contact: Prabhakara Bhattachar 98430 95904


6. Pulla Boothangkudi- Jataayu Moksham


From Kumbakonam, off Swami Malai, on the Kumbakonam -Thiruvaikaavur road, is Pulla Boothangkudi. This Divya Desam’s legendary tale dates back to the time of Ramayana. The Eagle King, Jatayu, an old friend of King Dasharatha (father of Raama) had fought a valiant battle trying to rescue Sita from Raavana, before the Lankan king cut off its wings. It is believed that parental curse will go away if one visits this place as Raama, who had not performed the last rites for his father, made up by performing his (Jataayu’s) obsequies, thus giving moksham to the Bird. In the Raamayana, this episode is referred to as the death of the 2nd father.

This is the only Divya Desam where Raama is in reclining posture and can be seen with all his ornaments and four hands. Interestingly, Goddess Sita is not seen with the Lord, as this temple relates to the time when Raama is separated from her.

The priest believes that many devotees have got employment after visiting Yoga Narasimhar (a separate sannadhi within the temple), so much so that the devotees have named it the Udyoga Narasimhar. This temple is administered by Ahobila Mutt.

This temple has been beautifully redone and has an air of freshness to it, especially with Gopal Bhattar’s friendly attitude towards devotees and his detailed explanation of the history of the temple.

7.Adhanur Ranganatha Perumal


This temple is very close to Pulla Bhoothangkudi. Legend has it that Kamadhenu, the sacred cow (she grants all wishes), had undertaken penance here and hence you would find sculptures of Kamadhenu and her daughter Nandini here. It is believed that Lord Anjaneya stayed here for a few days on his way back from Sri Lanka to Ayodhya.
Contact: Seshadri Bhattachar @ 75029 31420/ 0435 2000503

8.Kapisthalam – Gajendra Moksham


Located about 10kms from Kumbakonam on the Thiruvayaru road, this is the only Divya Desam where Lord Vishnu provides Darshan to two animals- Crocodile and Elephant. Legend has it that Vishnu, on his Garuda Vaahanam (a vehicle of the Lord), rescued Elephant (King) Gajendra from the clutches of the Crocodile(the Asura) on the banks of the river by hurling his Chakra at the Crocodile. This episode is known as Gajendra Moksham and is enacted every year during the month of Panguni (March-April). This is one of the ‘Pancha Krishna Kshetrams’ (5 Krishna Kshetrams).

Temple in Terrible state
This temple is under the administration of AG Lakshmana Moopanar family and is currently in a terrible state, completely neglected. It is a wonder how the Bhattar is managing the day to day affairs, with meager monthly salary. All the devotees who visit this Divya Desam have wondered as to why the Moopanar family is not doing something to renovate the temple, which has a rich history.
Contact: O.S. Seshadri Bhattachar- 04374 223434


9. Koodalur Jagath Rakshagan



5 kms west of Kapisthalam on the road to Thiruvayaru is Thiru Koodalur. It is believed that (River) Cauvery displayed her grief to Lord Jagathrakshagan here that all the impurities were being washed at the river and that she was feeling that the river here was becoming impure and unclean. With Lord’s grace, Cauvery regained all her glory at this place.
Buses ply at frequent intervals between Kumbakonam and Thiruvaiyaru (narrow road along the banks of Cauvery)

Currently, some renovation activities is taking place.
Contact: Kasturi Rangan Bhattar @ 76678 86775/ 96598 80628 / Venkatesa Bhattachar- 04374 244279

10.Kandiyur Hara Saabha Vimochana Perumal


The next divya desam on this route is Kandiyur, about 3 kms from Tiruvaiyaru on the Thanjavur road. The deity here is called ‘Hara Saabha Vimosana Perumal’ as Lord Shiva got cleansed of Brahmma’s curse (Hara is another name of Shiva). This temple is a ‘Pancha Kamala Kshetram’(Lord Kamalanathan, Goddess Kamalavalli, Kamala Pushkarani, Kamala Vimaanam and Kamala Kshetram). The place is called Kandiyur in memory of Lord Shiva, also known as Kandeeswarar, who got salvation from the Brahmma’s curse.

Thirumangai Azhvaar’s only verse on Kandiyur goes thus “பிண்டியார் மண்டை ஏந்தி....கண்டியூர் அரங்கம் மெய்யம் ” meaning - Vishnu rid the curse on Shiva, who went begging everywhere with Brahmma’s skull as a begging bowl. Other than worshipping the Lord, is there a way to salvation” sings Thirumangai Azhvaar .

Buses ply every 5-10 minutes between Thanjavur and Thiruvayaru
Contact: Kannan Bhattar @ 99439 44415/ Sriram Bhattachar- 98653 02750

11. Thanjai Maa Mani Temple


Our final stop on this Divya Desam journey is at three temples within a km of each other on the banks of Vennar River on the outskirts (North) of Thanjavur. These three temples together make this (one) divya desam. Legend has it that Lord Garuda flew over here and still guards this place. Hence it is believed that there are no snake threats here. The temples date back to the period of the Nayaks of Madurai. The three temples are administered by the Thanjavur palace

Narasimhan Bhattar@ 93441 47850

Where to Stay
For stay in this temple town, there are a number of economical, medium and deluxe hotels around the Sarangapani temple. (Siva International, Hotel Green Park, VPR Lodge)

What should you look for

Do not miss the ‘Kumbakonam Degree coffee’ while here
A special sweet at Hotel Venkatramana on Big Street
Kumbakonam is know for Beetal leaves

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Thiru Kannapuram Sowri Raja Perumal

Eastern Gateway of the Lord
Lord Vishnu asked Vibheeshana to come here to have darshan of his ‘walking beauty’

Along with Nachiyar Koil, Thiru Kannapuram is  one of the two Divya Desams where Thirumangai Azhvaar has praised the Lord with a century of verses
கொங்கு மலி கருங் குவளை கண் ஆகத்
தென் காயங்கள்
செங்கமலம் முகம் அலர்த்தும்
திருகன்னபுரத்து உறையும்

வங்கம் மலி தடங்  கடலுள் வரி
அரவின் அனைத்
துயின்ற செங்கமலநாபனுக்கு இழந்தேன்
என் சேரி வலையே - Periya Thirumozhi

Located 20kms North West of Nagapatinam (20kms East of Tiruvarur, 30kms South of Kumbakonam and Mayavaram), this is one of the 5 Krishnaranya Kshetrams. Lord Narayana himself re-incarnated as Sowri Rajan at Kannapuram.

Walking Beauty of the Lord
This is the temple where the Lord showed Vibheeshana, brother of Ravana, his walking beauty. After seeing the sleeping beauty of Vishnu as Lord Ranganatha at Srirangam, Vibheeshna wanted to see the walking beauty of the Lord, upon which he was directed by the Lord to his “Keezh(akku) Veedu’ (Eastern Gateway of the Lord). 

Lord Vishnu displayed his ‘walking beauty’ to Vibheeshana here on the new moon day. To mark this event, on every Amavasya day at 12noon, Lord SowriRajan comes out of his sanctum and provides darshan to Vibheeshna.

Sowri Rajan- An extra growth of hair on the Lord
Once a garland of flowers sent by a king to the Lord did not reach the temple and hence the priest could not get the Lord ready in time for the King’s visit. To save himself from the King’s wrath, the temple priest quickly organized a garland of flowers from his house and placed it around the Lord. The king found that there was a hair in the garland and questioned the priest, who told him that this was the Lord’s own.

The priest told the king that he would show it(the Lord's hair) to him the next morning. Lord here is said to have saved the priest by displaying his long plait to the King. Hence, the lord here is called Sowri Rajan.

Special Pongal every night
A devotee who used to have his daily food only after presenting to the Lord was late one evening and found the temple closed. Hence, he presented the food to the Lord from outside the temple. It is believed that when the temple doors opened the next morning, the entire temple smelt of Sweet Pongal.

To mark this, every night, Pongal is served to the Lord - another feature at this temple.

Lord Narayana in 3 forms
On the 7th day of Vaikasi, Lord Narayana provides darshan in all his 3 forms (TriMoorthy Swaroopam)- Maha Vishnu in the day, Brahmaa in the night at around 11pm and Lord Shiva early next morning

Procession to the Sea Shore
Once a year, on the occasion of Maasi Magam, the Lord is taken on a procession to the sea shore near Karaikal, about 20 kms from here.

Quick Facts
Moolavar : Neelamegha Perumal- Standing Posture facing East
Utsavar   : Sowri Rajan
Goddess : Kannapura Naayaki

5 Azhvaars - Thirumangai Azhvaar, Nam Azhvaar, Kulasekara Azhvaar, Andaal and Periyazhvaar

Temple time: 7am –12noon and 5pm-830pm
Contact : S. Sowri Rajan Bhattar@ 04366 270718 / 95971 14670 / Raghava Bhattar @ 89034 70374
 

How to reach
Bus : Buses every 10 minutes on the Kumbakonam/ Mayavaram-Nagapattinam route
Auto : Auto will charge Rs. 50/- for a one way drop from Pugalur bus stop

Place to Stay : Best to stay in Kumbakonam

This is on the Kumbakonam / Mayavaram-Nannilam-Nagapattinam route. One has to get down at Thiru Pugalur and take auto (2kms). The temple can also be reached directly from Thiruvarur.