Tuesday, 21 January 2020

The sacred Thiruvabharanam procession to Sri Sabarimala Ayyappn temple, Kerala, a famous yearly ritual

Thiruvabharanam procession to Sabarimalanewindianexpress.
.Thiruvabharanam procession to Sabarimala. flickr.com
There are thousands of Hindu temples across  India  and many of them have their own puja protocols and rituals. Though many of them follow the temple Agama Sastras combined with local traditions, there are some  where the rituals are unique to them. For example, in spite of the fact Vaikuntha Ekadashi festival is being followed in all Vishnu temples, the Araiyar Sevai ritual is unique to Srirangam  Ranganathar temple, Tamil Nadu.  So is Karthikai deepam festival that is unique to Sri Arunachaleswarar temple, Thiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu.  In Kerala, the ceremonial procession carrying the sacred golden ornaments, etc., to  the popular Sri Ayyappan temple, Sabarimala    commonly referred to as Thiruvaparnam is  part of Mandala puja held  every year.  This Mandala puja was over  exactly one week ago and   except the devotees of Lord Ayyappa,  countless Hindus across India have no idea whatsoever about the important religious procession that takes place prior to the most sacred event Mandala Puja  every year in January.
Sbarimala Sri Ayyappan temple, Kerala. .livehindustan.com
Thiruvabharanam, the sacred  gold ornaments of God Ayyappan, the presiding deity of Sabarimala temple, nestled in the hills of Pathanamthitta of Kerala  were made  by the Royal  Pandalam  family and they  are to be worn by Lord Ayyappa during the Mandala puja. This royal dynasty came off  Pandya kingdom of Madurai (Tamil Nadu) which existed in Kerala during the Kollam era.
The belief is that the ruler of Pandalam has adopted God Ayyappan, a Naishtika (Naitik) Brahmachari (celibate) as his child. Thiruvabharanam is  always under the safe custody of the Pandalam ruler on his palace premises and it is near the Valiyakoikkal Temple, The tradition has it every year, the ornaments are taken to Sabarimala in a big  procession charged with religious fervor and devotion. Pujas are done to Ayyappan idol wearing the golden ornaments sent by the Pandalam family from their palace. Once the season is over, the golden ornaments are safely returned to the Srambickal Palace for safe custody.
Pandalam Valiyakoyikkal palace en.wikipedia.com
The titular ruler of Pandalam  is not allowed to  travel to Sabarimala, so he nominates somebody associated withe the palace to accompany the procession. His representative follows the religious Thiruvabharanam procession on a palanquin. The golden ornaments are to be worn by the lord on the day of Makara Jyothi, Soon after the pilgrim season, the return procession of the Thiruvabharanam starts from Sabarimala and reaches back Pandalam.
Makara Jyoth dharshan. Sbarimala Sri Ayyappan temple, Kerala. latestly.com
 During the pilgrim season, at the Srambickal palace on display are the golden ornaments  and the caskets - Thiruvabharanam  from 2nd week of November till the evening  of the procession day and at Valiyakoikkal Temple on the day of the  religious procession. This custom has been in vogue for a pretty long time and it is an unbroken one. The unique feature about this religious procession  to Sabarimala from Valiyakoikkal Temple is  it takes only  the traditional routes crisscrossing  forests, hills, rivers and various terrains.  A small team of representatives of the Royal family will follow the holy caskets being taken  on foot through out the journey. On the way at many places and temples ornaments, etc.,  accompanied by armed guards get reverential welcome  and receive honors. It is to be noted that no Royal family members are  allowed to participate in this 3-day  procession.  Receptions will be given  to the Thiruvabharanam procession on the concluding day of the journey on January 14, at Plapally, Nilackal and Attathode before the noon halt at Valiyanavattom. On the last leg - concluding phase of the procession, the Thiruvabharanam will get to Saramkuthi at 5 pm where a traditional reception will be given.

The representatives carry three  caskets   called 
Thriuvabharana Petti (sacred ornaments to be worn by the lord), the Velli Petti (silver vessel for conducting puja ) , and the Kodi Petti (flag casket to be hoisted in the temple).  Both ornaments and Puja utensils include  an assortment of various items. As for Kodi petti - flag box, it contains  elephant caparison -Jeevatha, flags of Thalapparamala and Udamparamala   Mezhuvatta Kuda. 

The procession will begin every year on the 12 of January around  1 pm. The good oman is the sighting of a species of kite called garuda (''Krishnaparunthu”in Malayalam) on the sky. The belief is it accompanies the long  procession, covering  a distance of 83 km. This year it was the 54th procession to the Sabarimala temple and normally ,the team will consist of 10 to 12 people and the security will be provided by 20 member armed police team.
Makaravilakku commemorates the 41-day  strenuous fast and austerities being followed by millions of people across  the country  to go on a pilgrimage to the holy shrine of Sabarimala. Makaravilakku is an important event  and people in lakhs will watch the Joythoi darshnam  there in the evening  and  eagerly
wait for the sunset. Dewasom Board that controls the temple gets more than rupees 160 crores during festival period every year and the income goes up each year.  They also spend much of the income to improve the amenities for the devotees who come from many parts of South India, in particular, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. 

Saturday, 18 January 2020

Tuljabhavani Temple, Maharashtra where Shivaji Maharaj is said to have received the sword from the goddess!!

 Located in Tuljapur in Osmanabad district of Maharashtra  is an important Shakti Peeth or Peedam - second among the 51 Shakti centers. Tuljabhavani Temple  dedicated to Goddess Bhavani (Durga)  is an historical temple built in c. 12th century CE. It is close to  Solapur, just 45  km. Goddess Durga is actually Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva.
uljabhavani temple, Tulijapur, MH..gyanipandit.com
There are four famous Shakti Peeths in Maharastra: temples of Renuka at Mahur, Mahalaxmi at Kolhapur, and Saptashringi at Vani, and the fourth one being  Bhavani at Tuljapur  which is the deity of the Bhosale Royal family, the Yadavs and of countless numbers of families belonging to different castes. 
The legend has it, in this place a demon with mystical boons was causing untold miseries to the people and the sages. He did not spare  even the demi-gods. With no solution insight, they sought the help of  Goddess Shakti on the advice of Brahma. Goddess Shakti assumed the powers of other deities such as Vaishnavi, Kaumaari Indraani and Saambhavi, Mata Varaahi,  and Brahmi. The demon was no match for the powerful Goddess. Upon his death peace was restored in this place. According to  legends  Goddess Bhavani killed demon Mahisha, half human and half buffalo in this Yamunachal area of Balaghat  mountain range. and also the demon  "Kukur" who disturbed Anubuti, wife of sage Kadam when she was engaged in penance on the banks of river "mandakini". Hence, the goddess is referred to as  Tulja Bhavani. The Tuljabhawani temple is on this hill -Yamunachala.

The temple has three entrances  named after the parents of Shivaji Maharaj- Raja Shahaji, and Rajmata Jijau. The main entrance being
Goddess TulijaBhavani  pinrest com.
Sardar Nimbalkar.  Close to the entrance there is a  temple dedicated to Markandeya Rishi (sage).  On the temple premises one can see libraries and Homakund to do yagna. Tradition has it before entering the garbagriha - sanctum,  many devotees take a holy dip in the water tanks near by called Gomukh Theerth` and Kallol Theerth. On the temple premised there are other features Amruth Kund , a Datta  and temples dedicated to  Siddhi Vinayak, Aadishakti, Aadimata Matangadevi  and  goddess Annapurna
Unlike many temples, the image of Goddess Bhavani, it is believed,  is self-manifested - swayambhu`. The idol is not specifically carved out of stone, etc. The stone idol is three-foot tall, with eight arms holding weapons, and bearing the head of the slain demon Mahishasura. The Goddess is also known as Tulaja,  Tvarita and Amba. The goddess is full of charm and compassion to her true devotees. She is always a destroyer of evil forces and evil-minded people who go against Dharma.
Tuljabhavani temple, Tulijapur, MH. Main entrance gateen.wikipedia.org
Adi maya /Adi shakti temple is just north of  Tuljabhavani temple. It is said that very first puja is done here and then followed by pooja of Tuljabhavani. Th first puja is done at 5 am.  Dailyt here will be abishekam to the deity. Daily Naivaidhyam is offered to the deity. Devotees sponsor Naivedhya. As this temple is the family deity of the Maratha ruling clan, daily Naividhya is done and the prasadam is offered to the representative.
The main priests (pujaris) of the temple are from a Maratha Bhope clan. There are 16 head priests who take turns at officiating puja protocols, etc. The pujas and rituals are conducted as established 
by the management within the purview of  temple Agama Sastras.  The daily affairs of the temple are looked after by the trust which 
is headed by the District Collector Every year the temple's popularity is going up and, on an average, more than  4 million devotees visit this sanctified place ever year. 
Tuljapur, Maharastra nativeplanet.com

Shivaji Maharaj receiving sword from the goddess Bhavani. darshanhotel.i

Navarathri festival (Sept-October)is celebrated on a grand scale and during Dussera, people in thousands walk to this temple barefoot from far off places.  The great ruler, warrior and founder of the Maratha kingdom, Chhtrapati Shivaji Maharaj visited the temple as he was an ardent devotee  of Goddess Bhavani.  People believe that the Goddess gifted him a sword  with which he won countless wars against the Muslim rulers and later the East India company's army.


Swami Vivekananda,'s visit to Madurai (1893) and his connection with Raja of Ramnad

Swami Vivekananda. .festivalsdatetime.co.in
Swami Vivekananda was a well-known Indian Hindu monk and  a true disciple of the 19th century Indian mystic  Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. Swami Vivekananda’s real name was Narendranath Datta.
sage, guru of swami Vivekananda. Sri Ramakrishna .onelittleangel.com
Above image: Ramakrishna (18 February 1836-16 August 1886) born Ramakrishna "Gadadhar" Chattopadhyay  was a 
well-known Indian Hindu mystic.  Belonging to Vaishnava sect of Hinduism, his family was devoted to Lord Rama. A native of Bengal (then not partitioned), right from his  young age he never failed to reveal his  spiritual ecstasies  His spiritual journey was influenced by several religious traditions; most important being  deep devotion toward  Goddess Kali, Tantra (shakta) and  Vaishnava bhakti. A follower of Advaita Vedanta, he was priest  at the Dakshineshwar Kali Temple and his mystic powers made him quite popular and became well-respected spiritualist among the elite Bengalis. Attracted by his simplicity and spiritual moorings, Sri Narendra Dutta (Swami Vivekananda) became his chief disciple.  This led him to found the Ramakrishna Math, which provides spiritual training for monastics, charity, social work and education. They have branches all over India. Near Srirangam and Tiruchy, Tamil Nadu  Sri Ramakrishna Mission  at Pettavathalai has been doing a great service to the local population for several decades................. 
The readers of this post probably would have  read about an interesting incident  related to Swami Vivekananda which I  briefly described here under.
Saddened by the condition of the India's poor  masses, Vivekananda traveled across the country  to motivate the fatigued people under the colonial rule to instill confidence and trust in them to face the hard life and challenges in the future. Once he was traveling through the United province (UP) to meet people and talk about spirituality and faith. As usual,  he was traveling third class  on the train.  When swamji was feeling thirsty, he was quite uncomfortable as he did not carry money with him. Being a Parirajaka sanyasin, he had no money on him to buy  even a glass of water to quench his thirst. 
Seeing his predicament, a rich merchant who was sitting right across Swamiji said, '' You can not wet your throat and stomach without money and you need it to meet basic needs.''  Unperturbed, Swamiji did not care about his sharp and carping remarks. The train stopped at that station for a while. A few seconds later, a  local trader approached Swamiji in a hurry and told him, ''I have brought food and water for you''.  Startled, Swamiji said, '' you have come to the wrong person, I am not the one you are looking for.'' Local trader said, ''Swamiji, pardon me, I had a dream in which  God Sri Rama himself asked me  twice to  come to this place to give you food and you have been  hungry since last night''. 
 Upon which Swami Vivekananda realized it was the mystic work of hid Guru Sri Ramakrishna  who gave him 'Sri Rama Upadesam''. The poor trader served Swamiji with a true heart  and devotion and  to say the least,  his happiness knew no bounds.
The rich merchant across the seat could have provided Swamiji food and water if he had a charitable mind toward a Sadhu, an ascetic, but, on the contrary,  he was full of ego and arrogance  and thought money could get him anything on this earth.  He had no compassion  for others unlike the small trader who brought the food all the way from his home to the railway station to feed a holy man whom he never saw before. The rich merchant came out of the veil over him and  realized his folly and apologized to the Swamiji. It finally dawned on him that devotion to God and care for fellow humans  will give lasting peace and tranquillity and money alone can not buy them.
About Swamiji's   famous trip to the US, 'The Hindu news paper' (Madurai Edition) dated January 13,  2013 carried an interesting article:
''It was during January-February of 1893 that Swami Vivekananda traversed the southern districts for the second time after his historic Chicago Address. His earlier visit was in December 1892 when he sat in meditation on the present Vivekananda Rock in Kanyakumari. His second visit began on the Pamban shore on January 26, 1893, where the steamer carrying him and European disciples from Ceylon anchored. The Raja of Ramnad, who had earlier sponsored his trip to the US to participate in the World’s Parliament of Religions, accorded a grand reception to the monk. He also drew the carriage carrying Swami Vivekananda.

From Pamban, Swami Vivekananda travelled to Rameswaram, Ramanathapuram, Paramakudi and Manamadurai before reaching Madurai on February 2. Here, he stayed as the guest of the Raja of Ramnad. He visited the Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple and addressed a reception accorded to him by the people of Madurai at the present Madura College Higher Secondary School.
A Portrait of Raja Bhaskara Sethupathi of Ramand State, a painting.fineartamerica.com
In his address, Swami Vivekananda said: “Being in Madura, as the guest of one of your well-known citizens and noblemen, the Raja of Ramnad, one fact comes prominently to my mind. Perhaps, most of you are aware that it was the Raja who first put the idea into my mind of going to Chicago, and it was he who all the time supported it with all his heart and influence. A good deal, therefore, of the praise that has been bestowed upon me in this address, ought to go to this noble man of Southern India. I only wish that instead of becoming a Raja he had become a sanyasin, for that is what he is really fit for.”( vide: https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/tracing-vivekanandas-journey/article4304189.ece)
Then in the year 2013, the Ramakrishna Mutt here headed by   Kamalatmananda, recalled how Vivekananda Jayanthi had become a  National Youth Day since 1985 and 
memories of his visit to the historical city- Madurai. The Ramakrishna Mutt here has been active here for a long time and they sponsor National Youth Day every year upholding Swamiji's virtues and his teachings that are relevant to day. 
Vivekananda Rock Memorial in 2016, en.wikipedia.org
Vivekananda Rock Memorial on a 1996 stamp of Indiaen.wikipedia.org
 Vivekananda Kendra-  a fitting Living Memorial alongside the stone structure of the Rock Memorial was mentioned in 1964. It is in the tip of southern most peninsular India close to Kanyakumari town. The place is the confluence of three oceans on three sides, south being vast Indian ocean. On east and west there are the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea respectively.  After pretty long efforts lasting about nine years, Vivekananda Kendra was officially founded on 7 January 1972 (the 108th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda. The kendra is  a spiritually oriented service mission of non-monastic order. The tradition of penance was to be continued by young men and women coming as Karyakartas of Vivekananda Kendra to spread the message of Swami Vivekananda.
The credit goes to
Shri Eknath Ranade,  a social activist and leader,
Shri Eknath Ranade, a socialist and spiritualist. twitter.com
motivated by the twin spirits of nationalism and spiritualism, and known for his great organizational abilities. He relentlessly worked hard for the establishment of Kendra here and decided that Vivekananda Kendra was to be a cadre-based organization. Young men and women whose hearts long to serve the nation would be provided the opportunity and the right platform to serve God in man.

Sarada Yagnapradhan (Ulunthoorpettai town, Tamil Nadu): Dec.09, 2019; page 09.

Swami Vivekananda, a captivating saint of India. His 157th birth anniversary celebrated recently

Swami Vivekananda pinrest.com
Swami Sri Vivekananda, Baranagar,WB en.wikipedia.org

Above image: Celebration of Swami Vivekananda's 156th birthday at Baranagar Ramakrishna Mission of West Bengal, India in 2019.................
Swami Vivekananda was born as Narendranath Dutta on 12th January 1863. Swami Vivekananda, a disciple of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa,  was the first person to introduce Indian Philosophy and its key elements of Vedanta and Yoga to the western world which, at that point of time, was quite ignorant of India's frontiers in the realm of metaphysics. He also emphasized the importance of interfaith and created an awareness  among other religious groups for peaceful coexistence.  Being  the foremost disciple of  the 19th century saint Sri Ramakrishna and founder of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna mission, Swami Vivekananda has become an integral part of India's deep-rooted Indian culture and its ethos. His inspiring quotes and ideals have reached very nook and corner of India. 

Every year birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda is celebrated all over the country imparting his teachings and messages  to the youth so that they will stick to the lofty ideals that will make India a better country in future. Many educational institutions in the south observe it as the National Youth Day  as in other parts of India and the  the primary aim  is to  create an awareness among  the young students about the philosophies, principles and ideas of Swami Vivekananda that will make them men of good character and patriotic citizens. This motivation is a necessity to prepare the young mind who could be leaders of our country to-morrow and engage in nation building. Due credit is given to cultivate clean habit and character in public life that will help them develop India free from evil of  linguistic chauvinism, corruptions, scams, lies, etc.  Sri Vivekananda remained a great Vedantist, inspiring and captivating people till his death. 
His birthday 157th birth day  celebrations were held  on the 12 of January, 2020 in the interior villages of Tamil Nadu as well. It was
Sri Swamiji Vivekanand's quote. .india.com
in 1984,  the Government of India declared this day as National Youth Day and since 1985 onward  every year this event  has been  celebrated  across India.
 Swami Vivekananda is well known for his spell-binding  speech that began with “Sisters and Brothers of America” at the Parliament of World’s Religions in Chicago in 1893.  His speech gave inspirations to many clear headed mind in the western world.
Wherever  Swami Vivekananda traveled  across  India his aura, clear mind and inspiring speeches attracted people from all walks of life.  When he saw the poor condition of the Indian people in the colonial era , he wanted to motivate them mentally and metaphysically  so that they could face challenges in life with courage and faith.
Very much inspired by his electrifying speeches, the Raja of Ramnad (South Tamil Nadu)  Sri
Bhaskara Setupati  urged  Sri Vivekananda to travel to America to participate in the World religious conference in Chicago, Illinois.  Swamiji  himself said that it was  ruler ''Bhaskara Setupati that first put this idea into his head''. Besides, the Raja of Ramnad, a trusted disciple of Swamiji, an ardent Hindu, sponsored his trip to the US with  the notion that Swamiji's lofty and noble  ideals  should not be confined to within the four boundaries of India  and  they should  reverberate across the globe.  Yes, they impacted intellectuals of many faiths from several countries.
Some quotes of Swami Vivekananda:
'01. 'Take up one idea, make that one idea your life. Think of it, dream of it, Live on that idea let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success.”
02.''If you think yourselves strong, strong you will be.”
03. “Experience is the only teacher we have. we may talk and reason all our lives, but we shall not understand a word of truth.”
04. ''Stand up, be bold, and take the blame on your own shoulders. Do not go about throwing mud at other; for all the faults you suffer from, you are the sole and only cause.”
05. ''Meditation can turn fools into sages but unfortunately, fools never meditate.”
06. ''You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself.”
07. ''We are what our thought have made us; So take care about what you think. Words are secondary. Thoughts live; They travel far.”



Friday, 17 January 2020

Shri Mahalakshmi Temple of Kolhapur, Maharashtra, one of the important shakti peedams

Kolhapur Mahalakshmi temple, MH youtube.

There are many Shakti peedams  across India associated Goddess Shakti. Shri Mahalakshmi Temple of Kolhapur city in Maharashtra, India, is one of the  six popular peedams.  It a Mukthi place where one can get salvation besides, one's  desire fulfilled.  Here, the temple is dedicated to Goddess Mahalakshmi, the divine consort of God Vishnu. It is on the banks of  the Panchganga River and the Goddess is also referred to as Ambabai.
deeppa stands. Kolhapur Mahalakshmi temple, MH tripadvisorin
Built around  
700 AD, the style of architecture implies the builders were  the Kannada Chalukya rulers of a big empire.  There are evidences to prove that this place was visited by the Konkan king Kamadeo, Shilahara, Yadavas of devagiri dynasties. Adi Shankaracharya of Kaladi, Kerala also visited this holy shrine. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj & Sambhaji reigned this part of the land..
It is said the temple dates back to 8th century  and in 109 A.D, Karnadeo  cleared the jungle and brought to light the presence of a historical temple. According to Dr. Bhandarkar & Mr. Khare. this place became submerged in the 8th century in the ground due to earthquake activities.  In the 9th century, Gandavadix (King) expanded  the temple by building Mahakali Mandir. Later many rulers made solid contributions to this temple.  In the 13th century, Shankaracharya built Nagar Khana, office and Deepmalas. During the reign of Maraths the temple saw many improvements though then and there because of Muslim invasions, considerable damages were done to the idols.
The present idol was installed in the 18th century. During  the reign of
Sambhaje -  1712–1792, Narhar Bhat Shastree  sought the audience of Sambhaje  and told him bout his dream.  In the Mogul reign, the devotees and Pundits were particular about safe custody of the idol and kept in a secret place to avoid destruction. Believing Sangavakar's dream, Sambhajee started a search. This idol was atlast found in a house in Kapila Teertha Market in the city. According to Sambhaji's letter dated 8 November 1723, Sindhoji Hindurao Ghorpade of Panhala  reverentially installed the idol again on 26 September 1712 (Monday, Ashwin Vijiya Dashami). As months went by, the devotees also grew in number and in course of time,  Devi became the Deity of Maharashtra.

The  3-foot tall goddess image with four arms, is made of  black stone stone and the deity is crowned with gold and gemstones  weighing  about 40 kilo grams. Standing behind her is her mount lion made of stone. One can see  Sri yantra  carved on one of the walls in the temple. One may see an image of the  Aadishesha - the big serpent of Vishnu in the crown. The four hands of goddess  Mahalakshmi hold a different object in each hand symbolic of valor and  compassion. Her image is facing west unlike other Hindu temples where the main deity faces east. The small window on the west wall is set in such a way   through which the sun light  falls on the face of the Goddess'image for three days around the 21st of each March and September. Along the Prakara or Prathakshina path, there are many small historical shrines where various deities are housed such as  Navagrahas, Surya, Mahishasuramardini, Vitthal-Rakhmai, Shiva, Vishnu, Tulja Bhavani and others  and they date back to the 11th century. There are some recent additions as well. 
Mahalakshmi_Temple,_Kolhapur, you tube.
The temple tank  is referred to as Manikarnika Kund and on its bank there is shrine dedicated to Visweshwar Mahadev. Surprisingly, here five kala pujas are offered each day starting from 5 am, and all pujas will be over by late evening. On Fridays and on full moon days, processional idol of the deity is taken out in a procession around the temple courtyard  and they are well attended by the people.

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Fascinating Vadu Pari ritual, a part of Erapathu festival at Srirangam Ranganathar temple dedicated to Thirumangai mannan!!

outside 1000 pillar hall, Srirangam Ranganathar temple, TN.  Alamy.com
Srirangam temple gold horse mount. Vadu Pari ritual anudinam.org/
Vadu Pari ritual is part of Vaikuntha Ekadshi festival at Sri Ranganathar kovil, Srirangam. What is so special about this unique ritual is the story of king - turned  'robber' ''Thirumangai Azhvaar''(a devotee, and poet) way laying Lord Namperumal  and trying to take away his jewels was enacted on the 13 th of this month in the evening  before a large number of devotees  on the eighth day of the Era Pathu Festival. The ‘Thirumangaimannan Vedupari,’ is held in the sandy ground (Manal veli) in the 4th prakara at this temple  complex. Every year  the 8th day of erapathu is dedicated to king Thirumangai  as a sort of honor for his contribution to the ''Nalayira Divya Prabhandham''.  Among the Azhwar saints, his dedication to lord Vishnu is  a bit different. He visited  lots of Vishnu temples  - as many as 85  divya desa shrines across the land  and  sang in praise of the the almighty.Thirumangai Azhwar sang 1263 pasurams - devotional hymns  on lord Sri Vishnu and occupied a distinguished place among the string of Azhwars.

The legend is as follows: Born in Thiru Kuraiyulur,  close to Thiruvali-ThiruNagari Divya Desam near Sirkazhi (Tiruvarur District), Thirumangai Mannan (King), fell in love with a beautiful woman  Kumudavalli of Annan Koil. She wanted to initiate him into Vaishnavam, a Hindu sect and one of her conditions was to feed 1008 Vaishnavites daily. The task being an expense one, over a period of time, the king became poor,  however, neither his desire to marry the woman nor his dedication to  serve lord Vishnu showed any decline. With no money, now,  he resorted to way- laying rich people to fulfil his promises. One night, near Vedarajapuram when lord Lord Ranganatha of Thirunagari taking along with him his consort Amruthavalli Thayar of Thiruvali   Thirumangai  tried to waylay the lord in disguise  by flashing his  sharp weapons. Upon collecting the jewels in a small bag, he tried to lift it and run away. He could not lift the bag, not even an inch,  because it was too heavy.  Thirumangai stood there dazed. Then, the lord in disguise whispered  the ‘Astachara Mandiram’ into his ears and appeared  with his consort in Thiru  Kalyana Kolam (in wedding dress). 'Thirumangai Mannan'' (ex  ruler)  became a blessed soul and got the name  Thirumangai Azhvaar. The 10 day ‘Era Pathu’ festival called ‘Thiruvoimozhi Thirunaal’ was specially created for the Lord to listen to the beautiful Tamil composition of Nammazhwar.
Srirangam temple gold horse mount. Vadu Pari ritual anudinam.org
The function began after the processional deity Namperumal 
was brought on “Kuthirai Vaganam” (gold plated  horse) on the ‘Manalveli’(open sandy ground) inside the temple premises marking the commencement of the event. The lord began his journey at Santhanu mantapam and it was around 5.15 pm the deity was  brought to the Manaveli though the Aryabhattal gate.  At Manaveli temple honors were  presented  to the descendants of Thirumangai Mannan - Theeppakka Kula Thoppu family members.  There was  a brief anxiety among the devotees when one of the bamboo poles on which the deity was taken in a fast paced procession (Vaiyali Vagaira Kandarulal)  accidentally broke. Suspecting Deiva kuththam (blemish) the processional idol was  shifted to the Thousand Pillar Mandapam  in the 5th Prakara where special rituals were performed to correct it. The event continued thereafter as it was. On account of this ritual, the 'paramapada vasal' was closed on the 13th.  Pagal pathu began in the Arjuna mandap in the 2nd prakara last month. The Vaikuntha Ekadashi festival came to an end with the last ritual called Namazhwar Moksham   (Namazhwar reaching the abode of the lord -'Vaikuntham').
http://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2007/08/108-divya-desams-thiru-indhalur.html) and Thiru Ninravur Divya Desams

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Pongal, a joyous festival of Tamil Nadu

Pongal. 123rf.com
It is needless to emphasis the fact that India is a land of so many festivals and each one of them has its own significance and religious connotation. These colorful and vibrant festivals are a testimony to our diverse tradition and culture that are being retained even to day. They provide an opportunity to bring people closer and creating unity and respect for fellow beings. Normally, Hindu festivals revolve around Gods' birthdays (Krishna Jayanthi, Rama navami, etc), legend and traditional myths (Oonam in Kerala, Diwali), seasonal changes, (like ploughing day, harvesting day,  advent of Spring -Holy, etc), nature worship (Aadi Perukku in Tamil Nadu, worship of rivers, Pushkaram, and others), etc. A festival is a tool to bring in joy and  enthusiasm to our otherwise mundane survival on this earth.

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The India's cultural tradition based on religion and festivals is an unbroken one for centuries; they are deep rooted.  Pongal, also known as Makar Sankranti in Andhra and other states, heralds the  arrival of  first day of the sun's return journey to the northern hemisphere. A famous  festival of Tamil Nadu, it is more popular in the rural areas than in the urban space because it is always tagged as a harvest festival.  In India, the monsoon season provides  two harvest seasons. The NE monsoon (also called retreating monsoon) plays a key role for the ensuing  agricultural season in the coastal regions of Tamil Nadu, Andhra, etc . whereas SW monsoon that begins on the  west coast brings in lots of  rain in  the catchment area of the Cauvery river (and others) which is the lifeline of the delta districts of Tamil  Nadu. Here, rice is the staple  crop.
pongal.  shutterstock.com
Pongal is also a sort of thanks-giving festival to the ''Sun''(Surya) which plays a crucial role in our  survival on the planet. Besides, we also  thank other deities for the  copious supply of water  by way of rain for food crops,  agricultural works, irrigation and drinking . ''Pongal'' also  refers to a special  sweet dish made specially on this occasion and this custom has been vogue for several centuries - more than 1000 years and it is not a broken tradition to use  earthen pot to make pongal with boiled rice, grated coconut, cashew nuts, raisins and jaggery (unrefined country sugar made from sugar canes).  The real meaning of pongal in Tamil is "boiling over" or "spilling over" when cooking it and it is symbolic of prosperity, plenty and welfare. Mind you, it is cooked only during the auspicious time.
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The festivities last for  four days always beginning on the 13th or 14th of January) toward the end of Tamil month of  Margazhi), followed by Pongal. It  also marks the beginning of Tamil month 'Thai', an auspicious one.  Bhogi, the main Pongal day and Mattu pongal get due importance.   Bhogi is dedicated to rain god Indira. On Pongal day, we invoke Sun God.  Cows and bulls are worshiped on the Mattu pongal day by the family members  and they are well cleaned, decorated and their horns well-painted.  Bulls are farm animals much used in agricultural lands. With the advent of machines in the last two decades, bulls are not widely used as in the past for ploughing, etc. 
Jallikattu is a popular sport  associated  with pongal festival in which bulls are tamed by a large group of men and it is famous in southern Tamil Nadu. Normally, they are held in selected places during later period, not during pongal holidays. A controversial sport, the events are conducted  with several restrictions. The reason being  participants are not physically well-protected,  In many villages women make pongal en mass in a public place near the temple. After puja/ prayer to Sun God and other deities in the morning, people will taste the dish.
The last and fourth one is called Kanya Pongal (Kanum  Pongal).  A variety of cooked rice (in small balls), etc will be placed  on the plantain leaf and left in the open terrace  and they are meant for birds -crow, etc. Further, it is done by young girls for the welfare and longevity of their brothers and other family members.
 During  festive days, colorful rangoli or kolam is displayed in front of home and offices and it is a sign of positivity.  People in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere are looking for the birth of Thai month because all
pongal festival, Tamil Nadu, you tube.
auspicious family functions, etc are held in large number. Anyway, pongal festival is a joyous occasion all for all. After all our ''life is dependent on hope, positive thoughts and trust in God''.