Sriman Narayana Charanau Saranam Prapathye
Srimathe Narayanaya namah
Sri Kumudavalli sametha Thirumangai Azhwar Saranam Prapathye
Srimathe Ramanujayah namah
Sri Dasarathaya namah
Sri Vara Vara Muniye namah
Offering obeisances to asmath Acharyar, Sri Mudaliandan Swamy, Adiyen wishes to share our experience at Thirunangoor this year. Due to acharyar’s kataksham, adiyen could participate in Manjal kuliyal after a gap of 11 years and also have acharyar’s darshan.
We reached Sirkazhi at 11.30 P.M. and took an auto to Annan kovil for refreshing at Sri.Balaji’s swamin thirumaligai, we got ready to go to Thirunagari temple, the place from where the procession starts, and reached Thirunagari temple which is about 12 kms from Annan kovil.
In the village of Thirunangoor near Sirkazhi, every year Thai Amavasya and the succeeding 2days are celebrated in a grand manner. On Thai Amavasya, Thirumangai Azhwar is given Manjal Kuliyal(holy bath with turmeric water) which is being celebrated for more than 12 centuries, on the next day, 11 Garuda Seva is celebrated which is more than a 100 year old festival. The third day marks the return of Azhwar to Tiruvali-Thirunagari temple. Srivaishnavas make it a point to participate in these festivities.
Many bhagavathas had gathered in front of the temple and several autos were parked near the temple. Usually, devotees engage a vehicle to go to these temples which are located in and around Thirunangoor within a radius of about 40 kms.and participate in the festivities. Blessed are the devotees who go behind the Azhwar by foot on that day. To cover all these 13 temples, the auto drivers charged app Rs .900/-
As this is celebrated every year, Adiyen wishes to narrate the happenings of the day in brief in present continuous …..(for many thousands of years to come, this has to be celebrated and cherished by bhagavatha bandhus)
On Thai Amavasya (no moon ) midnight, at sharp 0130 hours , Azhwar along with Kumudavalli Thayar accompanied by the deity worshipped by Thirumangai Azhwar himself named “Sindhanaiku Iniyan”(one who is sweet for contemplating) and a small vigraham of the diety and Sri Ramanujar’s vigraham seated in a well decorated palanquin leave the Thiruvaali Thirunagari premises. To mark the arrival of Azhwar, crackers are burst and trumpets blown. The temple elephant leads the procession followed by a horse and azhwar’s palanquin follows.
The procession leaves thirunagari temple and heads towards Thirukuraiyalur, the birth place of Azhwar situated about 12 kms at 1 .AM . It takes more than one hour for the procession to reach Thirukuraliyur.. The procession winds its way through narrow, rough, dislevelled, stony roads in the dark. There are no street lights. As Azhwar used to start in the midnight for his hunting expedition, this system is followed. The palanquin bearers about 20 persons literally run through these roads carrying the Azhwar unmindful of the stony path. With the routes cleaned with water and kolams drawn , the residents both young and old alike eagerly wait to receive Azhwar . The procession stops at few places and mangala aarthi is given to Azhwar. Finally the procession reaches Thirukuraiyalur temple , the birth place of Azhwar. The presiding diety, Lord Narasimhar eagerly awaits Azhwar’s arrival.
Upon arrival, amidst mangala vaadyam, the Azhwar is received with full temple honours. The temple priest approaches Azhwar with Perumal’s parivattam , garlands etc and welcome him. Azhwar accepts the same and in return the priest is given a gift of garland and parivattam adorned by Azhwar. Azhwar’s procession enters the temple. In this way, Azhwar is received at all the temples and this procedure is followed at all places In one temple, Hare Krishna maha mantram is sung whereas in another temple, musical fest is performed.
Azhwar faces Perumal. As this is the first temple, the prabhandham starts with the recitation of Thirupallandu, Kanninunsiruthambhu, followed by Azhwar’s Thaniyan and the 1st decad of Peria Thirumozhi- “Vaadinen Vaadi”.. is recited in chorus by nearly 200 srivaishnavas. Then food offering is made to Perumal and then to Azhwar. Karpoora aarthi is given to Azhwar and Saatrumarai is recited followed by Azhwar’s Vaazhi Thirunaamam. Prashad is distributed to the assembled devotees(usually sweet and pongal). Devotees have darshan of Thirumangai Azhwar’s moola vigraham in the temple prakaaram . ( In this temple, Azhwar is alone whereas at Mangai maadam, Azhwar is with Kumudavalli Thayar.)
Leaving Thirukuraiyalur, the procession marches its way to Thirumangai maadam, the birth place of Kumudavalli Thayar. It takes about 30 minutes for the procession to reach this place. At Thirumangai maadam, the reception is more grand as it is Azhwar’s in-laws’ place. Here the presiding diety is Sri.Veera Narasimhar. Inside the temple towards right, a small vigraham of Azhwar with his kumudhavalli nachiyar welcomes. Azhwar is received with full temple honours . Mangalasaasanam to Lord Narasimhar is done by reciting the decad of pasuram on Ahobila Narasimhar from Peria Thirumozhi by the assembled bhagavatas . Later food offering is done to Perumal and then to Azhwar and saaturmarai and vaazhi thirunaamam are recited. Rice upma and Pongal offered to the Lordships is distributed to all the assembled devotees .
The above two temples are the birth places of Azhwar and Nachiyar. From Thirumangai madam, Azhwar starts visiting the 11 divya desams in and around Thirunangoor. On the first day morning, Azhwar visits 3 divyadesams-Thirukaavalampadi, Thirumanikoodam,Thirupaarthanpalli, 5 temples in the evening-namely, Thirumanimada Kovil, Thiruvan Purushothaman Kovil, Thiru Vaikunta Vinnagaram Kovil, Thiru Sempon Sei Kovil, Thiru Thetri Ambalan Kovil, Thiru Arimeya Vinnagaram Kovil. and 3 temples ,namely, Thiruvellakulam (Annan Koil), Thiru Devanar Thogai, and Thiruvali and reaches Thirunagari.on his way back to Thirunagari.
At each divyadesam, Azhwar is received with full temple honours- mangala vaadyam is played, the corresponding temple priest bears a plate containing Perumal’s parivattam and garland on his head, the Perumal’s umbrella and other insignia etc .is brought forward. Azhwar adorns Lord’s parivattam and garland and Srisatari is offered to Azhwar. Azhwar felicitates the representative similarly and enters the temple. Mangalaasaasanam on that Perumal comprising of 10 stanzas rendered by Azhwar is recited . This is followed by Neivedyam and saatrumarai.
Azhwar leaves Thiurpaarthanpalli at about 10 A.M. and reaches Manjal kuliyal mandapam in an hour’s time. Azhwar ‘s procession is taken thru canal to reach the place (this route is not accessible by vehicles hence they take a different route). In the meantime, at Manjal Kuliyal mandapam which is on the banks of Manikarnikarai(a tirubtary of Cauvery), a group of samartha Vaishnavas glorify Azhwar and sing important pasurams from Peria thirumozhi- Vaadinen Vaadi…., Thaaye Thandhai endrum….” and other pasurams set to mind rapturing melodious tunes accompanied by musical instruments like harmonium, kartaal. The entire area is electrified with bhakti. Few devotees dance in ecstasy. The entire area surrounding Manjal kuliyal mandapam wears a festive look- we can see vendors selling books, CDs, photos,toys, tender coconut etc while few residents engage in offering buttermilk to the assembled devotees. All the 11 villages gather together and organize a large scale feast to serve the bhagavatas.
The residents of Thirunangoor feel very pleased to serve the bhagavatas. WE can see many residents stopping us on the way and request us to have hot milk offered by them and thank us when we fulfill their wish. They follow Azhwar in serving bhagavatas and opine that Azhwar would be pleased with them only when they serve the bhagavatas. We can see the residents irrespective of age doing this service. In the afternoons, they offer buttermilk. Few residents have the practice of offering food to 1000 srivaishnavas once in a year even today . they are unmindful of the rising prices and are keen only on serving the bhagavatas and thus obtain Azhwar’s mercy……This can be seen only at Thirunangoor.
On reaching Manikarnikarai, the palanquin bearers literally jump into the cool muddy waters along with Azhwar . While they stand in knee deep waters, pasurmas rendered by Azhwar on his acharyar, Thirunaraiyur Nambi are recited along with pasuram on SriRanganathar. The muddy water is splashed on Azhwar’s thirumeni. Azhwar is honoured with the gifts sent by Sri Ranganathar and thirunaraiyur Nambi. A priest from Srirangam temple brings forth Perumal’s parivattam and garland (uduthi kalaindha peethaga aadai and soodi kudutha maalai) with a golden umbrella and offers the same to Azhwar. With the sole desire to construct the surrounding walls of Srirangam temple, Azhwar resorted to wayside robbery and plundering wealth. To honour Azhwar for the various kainkaryams done by him like constructing walls, starting Thiruadhyanautsavam etc.,, Ranganathar sends parivattam and garland. Likewise, Lord Thirunaraiyur Nambi of Nachiyar kovil, Kumbakonam who is considered as Azhwar’s guru (as HE gave him the mantropadesam) feels pleased with HIS student and sends parivattam etc. After this, Azhwar is taken to Manjal kuliyal mandapam for giving holy bath,Thirumanjanam.
Azhwar alongwith Kumudavalli Nachiyar is placed in the centre, to the left, Lord Sindhanikku Iniyan along with Ubhaya Naachiyars and silver utsava murthi is placed .to the right of Azhwar, a small vigraham of Sri Ramanujar is placed. Thirumanjanam with water, milk, curd, tender coconut, turmeric water etc .is first performed to Lord Sindhanikku Iniyan, then to azhwar and lastly to Sri Ramanujar. After this, the silver utsava murthi of Sindhanaiku Iniyan is taken to Manikarni karai and given a holy dip. This marks the end of Manjal Kuliyal. A curtain is drawn and after few minutes, the devotees can have darshan of Azhwar along with Nachiyar adorned with floral garlands. Thirumanjana theertha prasadam is offered to the assembled devotees and once again the curtain is drawn for decorating the deities which takes about an hour or so.
Meantime, most of the assembled devotees are served prashad in the nearby school premises while few devotees get the opportunity to have prasadam in thirumaligai. In almost every house, Thadhiaaradhanai is done (serving bhagavatas).
At about 6 P.M., Azhwar reaches Thirumanimada kovil popularly known as Narayana Perumal kovil. It is here that 11 Garuda sevai is performed. The garuda vahanams of all Perumals are kept here in designated mandapams. Azhwar is greeted as usual and pasurams comprising of Thirupallandu, Kanninunsiruthambhu, respective pasuram from Peria Thirumozhi are recited followed by neivedyam, saatrumarai and vaazhi thirunaamam.
Azhwar then visits Thiruvanpurushothaman kovil where professional musicians entertain Azhwar by exhibiting their talent in playing nadaswaram and mrudangam . After mangalasaasanam, Azhwar visits Manavaala maamunigal sannidhi in the temple precincts. Azhwar was one of the favourites for Manavala mamunigal mamunigal organizes the 11 garuda seva on the following day.
From there, Azhwar reaches the remaining temples and returns to Manimada kovil after midnight.
On the succeeding day,all the divya desa Perumals arrive in palanquins from their respective places and reach Thirumanimada kovil.. In the evening, Thirumanjanam is performed to all the deities who are later well decorated. The deities occupy their respective Garuda vaahanams . At about 1030 P.M., the much awaited Garuda sevai begins. Manavaala mamunigal in his parangi naarkali comes out first and receives Azhwar seated on Hamsa vahanam. One by one all the Perumals arrive in Garuda vaahanams. Mangalasaasanam sung by Azhwar is recited and after due honours, the Perumal goes round the 4 mada streets..
On the third day, after all the divyadesa Perumals leave to their respective divyadesams, Azhwar also leaves Manimada kovil.. On the way he visits Annan Kovil where he is received grandly as he is considered as their “Maapillai”(son-in-law”). Finally Azhwar reaches Thirunagari where Vayalaali Manavalan-the presiding diety of Thiruvali-Thirunagari temple waits near the entrance on Garuda Vaahanam to welcome Azhwar . Perumal and Azhwar then enter into the temple together. This marks the end of the three day festivities at Thirunangoor which is celebrated for more than 140 years.
Due to laukik commitments, Adiyen could participate only in Manjal Kuliyal. Adiyen begs the bhagavatas to bless me to once again participate in all the three day festivities. Azhwar graced Adiyen by allowing me to visit Singaperumalkovil and have darshan of Sri Ranganathar, Pataladri Narasimhar and our Acharyar.
Adiyen concludes this travelogue and profusely thank the bhagavatas for patient reading and advise this insignificant, ignorant soul who is groping in darkness attempting to find a way to enlightenment.