|Ranganathaswamy temple, Srirangam TN.hindutva.info|
At Srirangam temple, it is a 20 day festival divided into two parts: pagal pathu (morning part 10 days) and Ira pathu (night part 10 days). The highlight of this festival is on the day of Ekadashi, Vishnu as Lord Ranganatha (Utachava Murthy) or Namperumal adorned with an armor of dazzling gems (rathnaangi) is, in a procession, brought to the Thousand-Pillared Hall from the Garbagraha - sanctum sanctorum through the northern gate known as Paramapada Vaasal, the gate to Vaikuntha / heaven. The interesting fact is this particular gate soorga vaasal is opened once in a year, only on the Vaikunta Ekadashi day. Rest of the year it remains closed to be opened only next year. The traditional belief has been that anybody who goes through this paramapada vaasal will be free from his sins and released from the bondage - cycle of birth and death and will enjoy eternal bliss in the heavenly abode.
This year on 8th January, Namperumal (utchavar / procession deity) wearing ‘Rathnangi’ exited the Srikovil / sanctum sanctorum in ‘Simha Gadhi’ in the early morning hours. Through the Raja Mahendran Tiruchutru, Kulasekaran Chutru, The idol was taken to the ‘Vraja Nadhi Mandapam' adjacent to the ‘Paramapadha Vaasal’. Here the deity was kept for about 30 minutes while Veda Pandits were chanting and reciting mantras from the Vedas.
With the opening of paramapada vaasal at 5 am Ranganathar emerged in the midst of a huge surging crowd of devotees in the rear, chanting 'Govinda' and 'Ranga' and passing through the gate.
|Ariyar sevai, Srirangam temple, Tamil Nadu. puliyogare travels|
With this exciting event, followed by Arayar Sevai in the Thirumamani Asthana Mandapam’, the festival had come to an end. Arayar Sevai is a traditional Tamil performing art form, rendition of ritual singing and enactment of hymns of the Divya Prabandham. Performed only by hereditary performers, Araiyar sevai is generally performed with religious fervor only inside the temples before the procession deity (Utchavar). On the Vaikunta Ekadashi day, Arayar Sevai is an important part of the event.
As this great event fell on Sunday, the number of pilgrims to this temple was more than unusual a couple of days before the main event. The whole day devotees patiently waited in long lines, then prayed to lord Ranganatha and passed through the paramapada vaasal in the hope this year their wishes would be fulfilled through god's grace. In the afternoon, the crowd inside the temple had begun to swell considerably. On Saturday, 10th day of pagal pathu, Namperumal appeared in Mohini Alangaram.
Several LED and LCD television sets were installed by the temple authorities on the temple premises for the benefits of countless devotees to view the opening of the paramapada vaasal and God's exit through it, etc. This year around 4,500 police personnel were on duty by the state government to control the crowd, etc., due to threats from terrorists and anti-social elements. Security cameras were installed at innumerable places to avoid untoward incidents.
Likewise, at the world famous Tirumala Venkateswara Temple, Andhra, one of the richest temples in the world, this year Vaikunta Ekadashi was celebrated with bakthi. Thirumala temple has a special entrance called Vaikuntha Dwaram around the Garbagraha - the sanctum sanctorum and this gate is opened only on Vaikunta Ekadashi. It is believed that any person who passes through this `Vaikuntha Dwaram' on this particular day attains salvation. As part of this festival, golden chariot (Swarna Rath) with utchavar idol was pulled around the temple.
|Large crowd at tirupathy, Vaikunta Ekadashi. India TV|
At least 300,000 devotees normally would visit the hill temple on the Ekadashi day and amazingly half of the visitors would take the 11 km route - long steep flight of steps as part of their prayer. Devotees would be allowed into the temple in the small hours beyond midnight before the main event. The entire temple
wears a festive look with beautiful illumination, flower
decorations of different shapes and sizes, using tons of flowers.
On this auspicious occasion, the idol of Lord Venkateswara
would be adorned with precious ornaments, including golden
‘Peethambaram', After midnight the Vaikunta Vaasal (paramapada vaasal), around the sanctum, would be open and the devoteees in thousands, after intense prayer, would come outthrough the vaukunta Dwaram / paramapada vaasal. It would remain open till following day -Dwadisi for the benefit of the devotees.
The doors are opened once a year only on Vainkunta Ekadasi day, the priest said, adding, the Vaikuntam Passageway remains open on Dwadasi day on Monday too for benefit of devotees.
The Margashirsha shukla paksha ekadashi in lunar calendar is known as a 'Mokshada Ekadashi'. It is observed with special prayers, yagnas, religious discourses and speeches at many Vishnu temples across India.
In the famous temple city of Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu at the popular Sarangapani temple in the heart of the city, the Brahmostchava festival commenced with temple flag hoisting (Kodi Yetram) on 6 January 2017. It is a long drawn festival and on the Pongal day 14 January 2017 there will be Ther ottam (Chariot procession. As part of Vaikunta Ekadashi, here in the early morning around 4 AM the procession idol (Utchavar) entered the prakara (corridor).
An important fact about this Vishnu temple is, unlike many Vishnu temples, this one does not have paramapada vaasal or soorga vaasal. So, there's no opening or closing of soorga vaasal ritual here; the reason being, this temple itself is considered Bhoologa Vaikuntam . The belief is that Perumal appeared in this temple in his chariot directly from Vaikuntam and later stayed here. To mark this,, the Srikovil, Garbagraha (sanctum) is adorned with stone images of elephant and horse.
This temple is the 3rd of the 108 Divya Desam shrines dedicated to