Friday, 12 February 2016

Govinda Dikshita, Nayak ruler and Kumbakonam Mahamaham festival
Centuries ago many  Indian Kings ruled their kingdoms effectively in association and coordination with a Council of Ministers,  each one of them was a specialist in a particular field. However, the rulers had to depend on the valid and sincere council or advice of an experienced and dependable minister with whom he had very close contact and could confide  important and confidential matters. In a way that particular minister was  considered the ruler's  confidant. In order to be qualified for such an exalted position of importance and eminence, the minister had to possess special skills, scholarship and relevant experience and expertise. Above all, such a minister should be above board, honest and loyal to the ruler at any cost and his royal family in times of war, family feuds and palace intrigues  and other serious situations.
Nayak Queen, Bronze,16th Century, Siva Temple, Thiruvidaimaradur near Kumbakonam,
During the Vijayanagara rule, between the 16th to the 17th century Thanjavur, Madurai and Gingi  and other regions  were ruled by Nayaks who acted  as provincial governors  for the Vijayanagar Emperor who divided the Tamil country into three territories - Madurai, Tanjore and Gingi. The Nayaks ended the Muslim rule in Madurai during their time. The Nayaks, whose mother tongue was Telugu,  were efficient rulers and patrons of arts, music and literature. The Hindu temples of Tamil Nadu saw vast improvements during their successful reign. Temples at Madurai, Srirangam, Thanjavur, Kumbakonam, etc underwent major repair and renovation work.

Among the Nayak  rulers of Thanjavur, Raghunatha Nayak (1600–1634), son of Acuthappa Nayak  (1560–1614) is considered as the greatest in the Thanjavur Nayak dynasty. He is quite well-known  for his support of scholarly research and was an ardent patron of music and art, never failing to keep up the legacy of his forefathers, in particular his father. One of his wives, Ramabhadramba  equally evinced keen interest in arts and literature and she was a gifted poet. He was ably assisted by his minister and confidant Sri Govinda Dikshita (Dikshtar).

Mahammaham Tank,

The mega festival Mahamaham at Kumbakonam city, Tamil Nadu, that is celebrated once in twelve years, will have a ceremonial beginning tomorrow - on Saturday 13th February, 2016 with a flag hoisting ceremony and will last for 10 days. The actual Mahamaham day is February 22, 2016. When people in thousands will take a holy dip in the Mahamaham temple tank. It is estimated the 10 day event will attract about 45 lakhs of people - a whooping figure from various parts of India. This important mega Hindu festival has close associationn with the Nayak ruler of Thanjavur Ragunatha Nayak and his wise council and minister Govinda Dikshita. It will be quite appropriate to remember the Nayak ruler and his minister at this juncture,  because they were the ones who popularized Mahamaham festival and since their time this ''once in 12 year event'' has gained prominence and religious significance.

Govinda Dikshita (Dikshitar) was a distinguished  minister of three successive Nayaks of Thanjavur in the  the 16th and 17th centuries CE. Not only was he a man of great sclorlarship and erudition, but also was a patron of  music   and  arts. Being a Kannadiga Brahmin,  belonging to the Hoysala Karnataka Brahmin community, he was a pious Hindu and directed the Nayak rulers in the right direction. Under his able administration and effective guidance the Nayak rulers  undertook renovation of innumerable Saivite and Vaishnavite temples in some parts of Tamil Nadu, including Thiruvannamalai and Rameswaram.  Earlier Govida Dikshita  worked in the Vijayanagara kingdom. It were the Nayak rulers who brought Dikshita and other Brahmins to the fertile Cauvery delta of Thanjavur to take care of palace administration, maintenance of temples, poojas, etc to keep up their tradition and culture. In later years, it is believed, that Dikshita lived in a palatial palace in Patteswaram (famous for Durga temple), near Kumbakonam. There is an idol of Govinda Dikshita on the temple premises of Patteswaram. The Ramaswamy Temple, built in 1620 and the commercial corridor at the Chakrapani temple  in Kumbakonam were the contributions of Ragunatha and Dikshita.

Govinda Dikshita and  Ragunatha Nayak  built 
the sixteen Dhana Mandapams, stone steps in the ghats and  shrines of Shiva around the Mahamaham  tank  for the comforts of visiting pilgrims. Besides, Dikshita donated gold equal to his weight 
during the construction of the Mandapams. The Brahmatherthewara temple at Kumbakonam was yet another contribution of the Nayak ruler.  Because the Nayak ruler had deep faith and trust in Govinda Dikshita, who had an humble beginning, he  enjoyed more or less royal patronage in the Nayak kingdom

The people of Tamil Nadu owe a debt of gratitude to these two great personalities of by- gone era whose religious  and  cultural contributions to the Tamil region  were immense.


 01. The Nayak rulers had highest respect for Govinda Dikshita for his wisdom and expertise in running their kingdom and used to address him as (a mark of respect) "Ayyan" (in Tamil meaning honorable and respected).

 02. The Nayak rulers named several places after him. The Ayyan Kulam (water tank) on West Main street and Ayyankadai street ( a bazaar street) in Thanjavur, Ayyan(m) pettai town near Thanjavur, Govindapuram (famous for Sri Bhojendral Athistanam) and Govindakudi village near Kumbakonam bear his name in recognition of his contribution to the Nayak kingdom under three consecutive rulers.

 03. Temple records  point out that Acchudappa Nayak is said to have given gold equal to his weight (Tulaabaaram). Govinda Dikshitar  generously used it to renovate the Mahamahm tank, the 16 mandapams and the tank steps along with Ragunatha Nayak. Dikshita's main  contributions are vimanams for the mandapams. 

 04. Dikshita  was in charge of renovating the Aadi Kumbheswarar Koil at Kumbakonam with a new  main tower - Raja Gopuram and the kudamuzhukku took place during the reign of Sevappa Nayakkar.  

 05.  The silver Rishaba (bull) vahanam & the silver chariot in Thiruvidaimarudur Shiva temple  were his contributions.

 06. There is an idol of Govinda Dikshta and his wife Nagamma in Adi Kumbeswarar temple as well 

 07. Sri Dikshita was a man of charitable disposition. As a tribute   to  his  munificence,  streets  in Thiruvidaimarudur,  Thiruvenkaadu, etc. were named Mahadhaana streets (great charities).