Written by Smt Subhashini Narasimhan (2004)
Srirangam and divya desams around Trichy
I had wonderful vacation in India (barring few odd health problems – as usual – living in these places I find that our immunity capacity gets weakened over a period of time and we- rather our stomach and the digestive system becomes delicate darlings).
We (Appa, Amma, Saro and I) left for Srirangam on 23rd January – we had the trip with plenty of thrillers including the RAC for the 23rd night train. Luckily we got the berths when we boarded the train. I was praying to Lord Ranganatha that I should not miss this visit for want of one train reservation and promptly He heard my prayers and answered as well. I was worried especially about my Mother and proper rest for her in the night is a must. Luckily we got all four berths and had a comfortable journey.
On 24th morning the train reached Srirangam at about 4.00 AM and my cousin Sampath and Geetha were eagerly waiting at the station to receive us. We all went to their house and had a morning coffee and got ourselves prepared for the day trip. At about 6.10 I and Saro alongwith Sampath and geetha left for the Viswarupa darshanam of SriRanganathar. We were a bit late and could not watch the grand opening of the doors of the Sanctum Sanctorum. But we were lucky enough to have a very good darshan of Sri Ranganathar. I had been to this temple several times before, but after reading Thiruppanazhwar’s pasurams, this perumal looks totally different to me. His eyes are so powerful and sharp that I had the feeling that He is sharply looking at me. It is a fact that I am totally incompetent to describe the beauty of this perumal in anyway; but despite my drawbacks and setbacks He has all kindness to shower His blessings on me. In that morning hours, in His yellow silk vastram He was great feast for our eyes and I now understand how much Thirupanazhwar had enjoyed this perumal and no wonder that he was absorbed by the perumal Himself after reciting the 10 pasurams. Please do forgive me if there are any errors in mentioning about the pasurams – I am not well versed in all this. I felt that I could hardly see his eyes and his lotus feet in that few minutes time allowed inside, but it is something which remains inside my eyes.
After this we went to Thayar Sannidhi. There also we had very good darshanam and the bhattars were very kind to explain why this temple alone has two Moolavar Thayars in the same sannidhi. After having the manjalkappu prasadam from the bhattar, we had little more time to Have the darshan of Thayars as we contributed for the Nithya Manjal Kappu kaimkaryam and so our stay here was little more prolonged. After this we went to Chakkarathazhwar Sannidhi and offered some flowers and we could not do the archanai at that time as the same is done only after the first Koil kaalam. We decided to come for performing the archanais on the next day. We also went to Udayavar sannidhi – the bhattar here is the owner of the flat where Sampath is staying and so he made us have very special darshan. I was very eager to see the Thanagathontriya Thirumeni of Sri Ramanujar. The bhattar, being a very knowledgeable person, gave excellent commentary about Sri Ramanujar’s life and also showed us how the nails and all look so lively as if a real person is sitting there. He said that they are collecting funds for the Pachaikarpuram kaimkaryam to be done for Udayavar’s thirumeni.
After this we went to Sampath’s flat (which is very near to Thayar sannidhi – at keezha Adaiyavalanjan veethi) and had breakfast and started our day trip to other temples around 08.45 a.m.
First we went to Uthamar Koil and had a very good darshan of perumal and Thayar. The bhattar has little bit of hearing problem and was not able to manage even the small crowd visiting the temple – may be due to his old age problems and there was practically noone to help him in his work. He was rather keen in having all persons –about 20 of us standing in a small passage-having the darshan in one go and taking the aarathi only once for a big group of people eventhough all of us objected to it saying that we could not see the Aarathi. But anyway we could understand his problems and did not resist much. But later on when he came out to Thayar sannidhi he was a bit calmer and made us have a good darshan of Thayar and he even apologised saying that he is really over worked and we could understand his problems. This Thayar looked so beautiful draped completely in white silk saree.
After this, even though originally my Mother and Sampath wanted to return home and take rest, my Mother changed her mind and decided to go alongwith us to Gunaseelam temple. So we continued in one car and another auto. It is terrible to travel to Gunaseelam in an auto. I did not know that the roads would be this horrible, and had I known this before either I would have hired one more car or would have gone by a bus. Anyway we made it to the temple and had very good darshan there. They are doing renovations there and so we could not have the darshan of Moolavar. But when we went there, there was not much crowd and so we had a peaceful darshan of the Utsavar. After this we started for Thiruvellarai. Our car driver being new to the place, lost track of the route and went far away from the temple about 5 or 6 kms and then I realised that the temple could not be this far from Gunaseelam taking into account that we came through the shortcut routes. So we enquired and returned and managed to locate the temple.
Thiruvellarai temple is on a hill top and is so huge that even taking one pradakshinam around the temple, around the noon time especially, is very difficult and can be really taxing to our feet. I was almost running inside the outer compound of the temple to complete the pradakshinam. But with all its difficulties it is worth it and especially to see the hand-drawn caves of Markandeya Maharishi and Bhoodevi Thayar. Luckily we had Balaji, the son of Ramanujar Sannidhi Bhattar, working in this temple and he helped us in having good darshan of all the sannidhis and explained us in great detail the puranam of the temple. I do not remember correctly about the number of steps leading from outside to the sanctum sanctorum is 59 or 63. Actually the split up of the total number of steps is as follows:
18 steps for the 18 chapters of Bhagavad Gita
24 steps for the 24 syllabels of Gayathri mantram
4 steps for the 4 Vedas
5 steps for the Panchaboodams
8 steps for Ashtakshara mandiram
I am not able to remember whether there are 4 more steps and if so what do they denote. He also explained in detail about the Dakshinayana and Uthirayana vassal entries. The temple is big, the perumal moolavar is big and everything about this temple is only very big including the half-broken front tower ( eventhough the invaders of the 11th and 12th centuries tried hard to bring the whole structure down they were not successful in their attempts and they could bring down only half of the tower.) Hence the tower stands even today with half of the original structure. I was surprised to see that noone ever tried to get the other half completed and even asked him about it. For this Balaji mentioned that till this date nobody is able to measure how deep the basement goes into the ground and hence they are not able to decide as to how much above they can build on the existing structure and hence they left it like this. However still researchers are trying to work out the strength of the basement and trying to do something about it. I think that maybe Pundarigaksha Perumal has not yet made up His mind to entrust this job to any human being on this earth. I really felt the pain in my heart to see the front tower of a temple in this half broken form. However, we had good darshan in all the sannidhis and it seems they were having a thriumanjanam for the BaliPeedam that day (here thirumanjanam is performed only for the balipeedam and even prarthanais are offered only to the balipeedam).
I had a set of vastrams to offer and the bhattacharyar inside (a very old man as chief of the whole group) was very happy to receive new clothes for the perumal and Thayar. He said that 10X6 veshti for perumal is not enough as the perumal thirumeni is big and they need 12 by 12 veshti for the moolavar, he decided to drape the vastrams for the utsavars. He did this in such a graceful way and despite his age factor he could do it so nicely and sincerely and with all love for the Lord that I was very surprised of it and was wondering how we will all be at his age. It was a blue saree and a white veshti and it seems the bhattar decided to change the alankaram in the evening and drapped the perumal with blue saree turned into a veshti and Thayar with the white veshti turned into a saree and it seems it was very graceful and the sevarthis who visited the temple in the evening were very surprised to see such an alankaram and were very appreciative of it. All this I came to know when Balaji came to our flat to give us Aravanai prasadam in the night after returning from the temple. In this temple from one of the pigeon-holes we can see the Rajagopuram of Srirangam and also the tower of Thiruvanaikaval temple.
After this we came back to the car and returned to Srirangam. All this time my Mother was waiting in the car for us very patiently and that was the reason why we wanted to return without watching the Thirumanjanam. Then we went to Srirangam and had lunch as arranged in a neighbours place and took rest for a while and started for our evening trip to Anbil and Thirupernagar. In the meantime we had telephonic talk with my brother Raghu and he advised me not to go Anbil and Thirupernagar in the evening time; and that I can visit one temple that evening and go to another one next morning especially given the fact that they are in remote areas with absolutely no facilities on the way and what we will do if there is a car break down. Especially in my case, when my brother tells me something like this it turns out to be true. And I decided to hire two cars instead of one even though we were only 6 persons and I could have opted for a Tata Sumo. It proved to be a very wise decision later on.
First we went to Anbil. It was about 5.25 p.m. My Mother wanted to visit Anbil temple as this is the native place of my Father and actually my grandfather and his family lived here for a long time and naturally she had an attraction for this temple. We have to cross Kallanai to reach the village of Anbil and it is better to buy fruits and flowers before hand as there is hardly anything available in this place. We did not foresee this and did not have even flowers for Perumal eventhough we had some kalkandu packets with us and also vastrams for perumal and thayar Moolavar and Utsavars. While the Bhattar was draping the vastrams for perumal and Nachimargal, I and Geetha went out and managed to buy some flowers and bananas from a faraway shop. By the time we reached back the alankaram was over and it looked to me as if Perumal was looking happy to wear new vastrams (or I do not know whether it is my eyes and mind which was imagining this). More than this my Mother was happy to offer vastrams to the temple of her in-laws family and she expressed it openly. I felt happier to see my Mother like this and was feeling the great satisfaction of offering the vastrams in this temple eventhough I had done it in many other temples before. I realised that more than the vastrams it is my Mother’s feeling that gave me the satisfaction and I was really glad that she managed to go with us for this temple too.
In this temple perumal is in sayana thirukolam and the two Ubayanachimargal are holding his feet in such a way that we cannot have the darshan of his Holy feet. At the time when we reached the temple there was power shut down and after a little while the power supply resumed and we were very happy to have good darshan of the perumal. The temple was renovated only a few years ago, but the temple is not in any good condition so far as the revenue for Nitya aradhanai and conducting of utsavams are concerned. Bhattar even asked us if we can help in anyway to raise funds to conduct the utsavams for the temple. We had the darshan of Thayar and then we started for Thiruppernagar. I gave plenty of money to my Mother to be given to the workers in the temple and she was very happy about it. I do not know how long she will be there but I am glad that we all together managed to take her to few of the temples which she had not had the chance of visiting before. Looking back at the history of the village of Anbil, it is painful to see its present day conditions. By the time we left this place it was about 6.20 and we decided to go to Thiruppernagar despite the advice of Raghu.
Around 7.30 p.m. we reached Thiruppernagar temple. It is a
fact that the drive to this place is really difficult especially in the
nights. Even though the two temples are not far away from each other,
we have to make a long trip via the junction as there are no direct roads
from Anbil to Thiruppernagar.
Altogether we made a driving of 45 kms from Srirangam to these two temples. I bought flowers from the junction itself having in mind the experience I had in Anbil. By the time we reached the temple, it was around 7.30 pm and there was no electricity here too. There were lots of sevarthis waiting for the darshan and luckily the current supply resumed and we had very good darshan of the perumal. My Mother decided to stay in the car as she was scared of climbing the stairs leading to the temple. But later she managed to come out of the car and climbed a few steps slowly and sat down near the front tower of the temple.
As Mr. Venkat had rightly written, we were also lucky to hear Bhattar’s electrifying commentaries of the Perumal and the Appakudam which is supposed to be placed far from His body. He was very clearly showing it to each and everyone of the sevarthis and did the archanai in a grand manner. He asked us particularly to give our gold chain or bangles to be worn on Utsavar and did the archanai and returned them with the prasadam to us. This is the first time I have come across such a thing and I was also surprised like the others and he did it only with a few of us and not all of us for reason which I could not make out. After this he asked us to wait and have the darshan of Thayar and it took us sometime to go to the Thayar sannidhi as there were sevarthis coming in groups one after the other and he could not lock Perumal’s sannidhi when there were people coming in. Finally he came to Thayar sannidhi and did the archanai and gave us prasadam with a one rupee coin and told us to keep it in our Poojai. At this time there were a group of 10/12 persons who had come from Chennai on pilgrimage. They could not proceed further on their trip as it was well past 8 p.m. in the night and they did not want to go back to Srirangam and wanted to know whether they can stay somewhere nearby in a hotel or so. Bhattar said that there was no hotel facility available nearby and was very kind enough to offer them to stay in his house. I was surprised at the hospitality of these people even in those living conditions and I was wondering how his wife and he himself will manage to make food for 10/12 persons at that time of the day especially. This kind of behaviours make us feel very proud of our country and our people and I could feel the difference as to how the place I am presently living-in differs from this humanly behavioursand the kind touch in life. With all his busy schedules he managed to go to his residence and bring us a lot of appam prasadams of that day and also the photos of perumal and thayar utsavars and the sandana kappu of perumal which he had kept preserved in his house.
The driver of the car (which was as it is in bad shape) in which I was travelling was a young lad and it looked as if it was his first time driving out of Srirangam and also the other car driver was a smart guy and knew the places very well and he had a car which was in good condition. I did a very wise thing while returning. I told the first car driver who is a smart one to follow us as I had an intuition that the driver of my car will loose track of his route while returning. The same thing happened as was foreseen by my brother. The car promptly broke down after crossing the kallanai and it was in the middle of fields where there was absolutely no light, nor a single living soul could be seen. The sight in the night was really scary. Luckily the car behind us stopped and the driver came out and checked our car and said that he could not do anything and a mechanic was needed for this. So we decided that 5 of us could return to Srirangam in one car. So our cousin Sampath decided to wait alongwith the other driver. Poor boy he was so much scared to stay alone in that place at that time and he was very much thankful to Sampath for his act of kindness. By the time we returned home it was well past 9 p.m. and by the time Sampath could return it was 11.30 p.m. We had nice seeramilagu rasam and rice for the dinner and had a good nights sleep after a long tiring day full of journeys, but our souls were all so very satisfied after having had good darshan of perumals in so many temples and I was trying to recollect the days experience before I could fall asleep. Even while writing this message I was just trying to relive that beautiful day in Srirangam.
The next day my sister and Geetha went to Samayapuram temple and Thirukkozhi temple. My Mother, with lots of efforts (with all her knee and leg problem), made a successful trip to Sriranganathar sannidhi and SriRanganachiyar sannidhi. She was very glad after all the visits that I forced her to undertake the journey to Srirangam and was glad that atleast she could visit some of the temples in her life time which she never had the chance of visiting before.
So much for our Srirangam trip. I will continue in my next message about the trip on 28th and 29th to Tirupati and on 4th to KMU and the trip on 8th and 9th to Thanjavur, Vaduvur and other temples.
With best regards,
On 3 Feb evening I left for Kumbakonam and your Father had already reached KMU after his Thillaivilagam trip with your brother and family. I arrived on 4th morning in Thirunageswaram around 06.30 am and our great driver expert of KMU Mr. Rajendran was waiting for me at the station as arranged by your Father. He took me to the AKS lodge and there your father and family were all getting ready for the day. I had a quick shower and got myself prepared for the day. I and your Father had programmes in one direction and your brother and his family had programmes to go to Madurai that day.
First we went to have the darshan of Oppiliyappan Perumal. We had very good sevai despite the crowd there and then started our day. As it was a Muhurtha Naal, all caterers were very busy and so we could not go to anybody’s place for our breakfast. So we had Oppiliyappan’s prasadams for our morning breakfast apart from the coffee we had in the Lodge.
After this first we went to Nachiyar koil and had good darshan of Srinivasa perumal there. As you are aware this is a huge temple and to my knowledge it must be one of the architectural marvels of our ancestors specially looking at the symmetry of the pillars in various mandapams. We had wonderful darshan here and after this we went on a shopping spree specially in search of our kutthuvilakku in Nagas pattern. First we went to Poompuhar and then we went to some of the local makers. To our surprise we found that we could buy two vilakku for the price of one quoted in Poompuhar. That much is the price difference here. Thanks to your Father and also Rajendran, they made a good bargain for me and ordered for two vilakku for me of about 3 and a half feet height and weighing about 12 kilos each. It worked out totally Rs 4400 for both. In case any of our friends want this type of things in the future, we can guide them to the proper makers.
After this we went to Nathan koil as Sri. Mahalingam had informed us that they will do a Thirumanjanam for Thayar Moolavar and utsavar as it had been long time since they had done one. On one hand I was glad that I can witness a Thirumanjanam and on the other I was feeling sorry that we were only two of us – I and your Father - to witness the Thirumanjanam. Maybe my sincere feelings were heard by Thayar as She responded to it very soon and very sharply that I was really surprised. When we reached the temple at about 10.45 or so they were preparing for the Thirumanjanam. There was a Iyengar family of about 8 persons had come from Thirucherai to have the darshan of Sri Jagannatha Perumal in Nathan Koil and they were very happy to stay behind and have the Thirumanjanam sevai of Thayar. In fact, among them there was a very old lady who was very happy particularly as she felt that Thayar was waiting to give this sevai to her as she was not sure whether she can make another visit to this temple again in her life time and she even mentioned to me that it looked as if it was all arranged for her sake. She went eagerlyaround to pick up some Parijatham flowers and to be offered to Thayar. I was very much touched by this gesture and was ashamed that it never struck me to get the flowers from that tree for Thayar. We had good performance of Thirumanjanam and the bhattar told me that in fact they had arranged for separate thirumanjanam of all utsavars in Perumal sannidhi and for Thayar Moolavar. We both were surprised, but took it as bhagavath sankalpam. Well, we cannot compare the Thirumanjanam of Thirunangur with anyother Thirumanjanam. But this one was also done in a sincere way by the bhattar. But I missed the Vedic and Divyaprabhandam chantings of thirunangur.
After finishing the Thirumanjanam at Thayar sannidhi bhattar went to perform utsavar Thirumanjanam in perumal sannidhi. In the meantime, that family wanted to have darshan of perumal and wanted to leave as they had a sevai in Thirucherai (annual utsavam was going on in Thirucherai). Once again I felt sad that we will be only two persons to watch the Thirumanjanam of perumal utsavars. Again the Lord heard me and answered too. There was a group of people who had come to have darshan of Perumal and when I told them that Thirumanjanam is going to be performed, they themselves said that they would like to watch it and sat down for the whole time. Thirumanjanam was done in a grand way but only the Bhattar was murmuring the Purusha Suktam all alone as there was noone else to chant along with him. I was feeling very sad about this. Anyway that is the way it is. After this we went out and sat in the front mandapam while alankaram was being done for Utsavars. I was not prepared for utsavar Thirumanjanam and actually brought vastrams for Thayar Moolavar and utsavar. Luckily they had new vastram for utsavar and the bhattar drapped it for Him. Luckily I had a few extra vastrams for other Nachimargal and Aandal. After drapping new vastrams for all utsavars and offering the food to Perumal, the Bhattar requested us to wait for a while for the arrival of Mr. Mahalingam as he had gone to do some service for his old bedridden Mother in the morning and normally return to the temple around 1 in the afternoon.
In the meantime we both had good chat with Mr. Srinivasan who has been specially deputed by Vanamamalai Jeeyar to assist Mr. Mahalaingam in the temple’s affairs as there is renovation work going on there. The renovation is being carried out by Sri. Thirukoshtiyur Madhavan and at that time a representative of Sri. Madhavan also came to inspect the progress of the work and had good chat with us about various temple’s affairs going on. He said that they were all glad that the temple has a electic generator and this was in great use when Sri. Madhavan himself visited the temple to discuss the renovation work and as soon as they started to work out the money matters power supply went off and when they were all surprised as what to do, the bhattar went and turned the generator on and they were all very happy to proceed with their work. He also mentioned that Sri. Madhavan is undertaking the renovation of Nachiyar Koil temple which works out to about INR.1.25 crores.
That day Mr. Mahalingam had arranged for lunch for all the labourers doing the renovation work at the temple and it seems Mr. Srinivasan himself had to help the Paricharakar as there was noone else to do any help there. Anyway the whole group of people seemed to be very happy doing this kaimkaryam untiringly for the whole day and the place looked so full of life and activities. In that hot sunny day, I was really surprised to see the labourers untiring work of breaking the old plaster on the outer walls of the temple. They are the ones who actually serve Perumal, eventhough providing money is one of the important factors. I was in tears to see that they are sitting on the wall and working at that time of the day, whereas in their place I cannot even imagine myself to do this service even for half an hour. It is really great and I wish and pray to the Perumal to give these people enough strength in their life. After Sri Mahalingam returned to the temple, bhattar did the archanai for Perumal and offered me a saree of Thayar. I was really touched by this and in fact I this was totally unexpected. After this we had the prasadams for our lunch. Totally, including the flowers for Perumal it worked out to 1400 INR or so and I provided sufficiently for the paricharakar and also the Bhattar. Well, their service is well worth more than this, but we have our limitations.
The group of people who had the chance to be with us for the utsavar Thirumanjanam were very happy to be there till the end. Even though they are not vaishnavites, they were willing to be there and in fact one person mentioned that he was born and brought up in that village Nathan Koil and yet never had the chance to witness Thirumanjanam of Perumal before and said that because of us he had been lucky to have the sevai. He also mentioned that during his childhood there used to be lots of temple festivals and all bhagavathas were fed very well during these occasions and that only now the temple looks really bad eventhough it has started regaining its glory. He was very happy to have had the prasadams after so many years in his life in his birthplace. Well these all are only what He decides and it is one of His many leela vinothangal in bringing people to places and make them remember Him.
It was very late in the afternoon when we left the temple. We reached KMU town around 03.30 p.m. and I wanted to go to the Veda Patthira Maligai to order for a set of vessels for Thirunagari temple and I and Mama planned that we can pick up the vessels during our visit on 8th just before going to Thirunagari and Thalaichangadu. I took about half an hour to select the vessels according to the specifications of Sri. Aalin Aadan. Rajendran and Mama helped me in selecting the things and after buying a couple of other things for my use, we paid and left for Thirunageswaram to rest for a while. I thought that it is a must that Mama takes rest atleast for half an hour in the afternoon especially given the tight schedules he had for that day and on the day before in Thillaivilagam area. But he got himself freshened up sooner than I thought and was vacating the room even before I could get ready for the evening round. It was nearly 5 p.m. when we left the room to go to Thiruvelliangudi temple and we thought that if there is time we would go to Aadhanur temple also.
We could reach Thiruvelliangudi temple only after an hour or so as there was road work going on in that area and we had to make a round trip to reach the temple. AS you are aware this is a deserted place and Ramamoorhti bhattar was very happy to receive us. I had vastrams for perumal and Thayar. In fact last time when I visited it was the month of Aadi and they told me that they will use the new saree for Thayar on a Friday and do a archanai and send us prasadams which they did promptly. I thanked the bhattar for keeping up his word and openly appreciated Him for doing this especially given the fact many do promise to send prasadam but only a few keep it up. He was also glad that someone remembered this and visited the temple again and also said that we should visit the temple whenever we go that side. This time also he took the saree for Thayar and said that he will drape it for Friday as it happened to be the month of Thai. Then while he was draping the veshti for perumal your Father wanted to write some letter about the money provided for the temple and hand it over to him. After this he did a good archanai for the perumal and gave us prasadams. He mentioned that as such there is no major problem for the temple as the TVS group (I hope I am right) is taking care of the nithya aradanai and also thirumanjanam on Thiruvonam every month. There is no Thirumanjanam for Moolavar perumal as the thirumeni is made of Sudhai. But on Uttiram days as it is the Thirunakshatiram of perumal, he manages to do a simple thirumanjanam out of his own money collection.But every month he finds it difficult to do it eventhough he is able to manage it in the last minute somehow or the other. HE said that it works out to Rs.350 for a Thirumanjanam and I offered the money for that months thirumanjanam. After having Thayar sevai we left for the station around 06.50 or so. Again we had to take a bit of long distance due to the road works going on there and this made us get a bit late for the train at 8.00 p.m. from KMU station. But as you are aware Rajendran managed it well in time for us.
Actually we had the train ticket only from Mayavaram as originally we planned to go to Parimala Rangan temple and catch the train from there. But we could not time manage it and so decided to take the train from KMU itself. After reaching the station, I went to buy the ticket for the KMU-Mayavarm secotr and Mama went to the VLR stall to pick up some Idli for our dinner. We boarded the train just before ten minutes of departure.
Altogether we were satisfied with the day’s visits and before retiring we chatted for a while about the wonderful darshans we had during the day.
I will continue about the visits on 8th and 9th in my next mail.
With best regards,
This is the continuation of my message about the visit on 4 February.
On Friday the 6th Feb, your Father called me over phone and said that he is a bit indisposed and that he may not be able to join us for our Thanjavur trip on 7th and that he would confirm it only by 7th after consulting the Doctor. However, as you are aware he could not join for the 8th and 9th visits.
On 7th we had Narasimhan’s Grandmother’s annual ceremony and so I could go to my sister’s place only around 4 p.m. to get my things packed for the Thanjavur and Vaduvur visits. I had plenty of luggages as I had planned for vastrams for all students and teachers in the Vaduvur padasalai and also vastrams for various temples. It was just a bit scary for me and my sister as we have never travelled alone (eventhough we were two) in a second class compartment and my sister was a too much worried. On top of it we had a big gang of people going to Sirkazhi for a marriage and especially one of the two who sat near us happened to have been a little bit drunk and this worried my sister even more. Anyway the man went quietly to sleep and so there was no problem. But there was another unexpected problem when we realised that there is no power supply in the toilets and in the pathways and it was all pitch dark all over the compartment. I called the TTE and complained about it and it was set right at Villupuram station. Well, the trip did not start that smoothly as it did before for all our visits to the temples and it continued to be so till we returned to Madras on 10th morning.
The train reached Thirunageswaram station about one and a half hours behind schedule. So we could reach the lodge only around 8 a.m. and so we decided to get ready and go to Thirukandiyur instead of visiting any other temple on the way as the Thirumanjanam at Thanjavur was scheduled for 10.00 a.m. and we had informed our cousin Sampath and his wife Geetha to reach Thirukandiyur by 9.00 a.m. By the time we got ready, had our breakfast and reached Thirukandiyur it was past 10.00 a.m. and Sampath and Geetha were waiting for us. I had asked Badri’s brother to prepare some sweets and snacks for the children in Vaduvur and they had packed the same very well and also gave me a few extra packets. They charged very reasonably for this about Rs.500 for about 50 packets, each containing one bhadusha, one mysore pagu and some kara sev, and they gave me the left-outs so that we can eat on our way.
We had good darshan of Harasaba vimochana Perumal in Thirukandiyur. Your Father told me to contact one Sri. Suresh who is in Thirukandiyur and had volunteered to go with us for the Thirumanjanam at Thanjavur. His full name is Sri.Suresh Krishnan and he is the son of the paricharakar in the temple and also they said that he is an Adhyapakar in the temple. He seems to have very good knowledge of both Sanskrit and English and explained in detail the three types of sthalapuranam of the temple. I do not remember anything about the sthalapuranams he mentioned, but only two things which I could remember are:- that one is cleared off all the sins when one visits this perumal and has His darshan as he did for Sivan and the other is the fact that the Utsavar Perumal has his left foot little bit in front as if he is ready to march out any moment. For this he gave one very good explanation. When we enter into our residence, we should always enter first with our right foot and then the left foot, whereas while going out for anything from the house we should keep our left foot first so that we are successful in the purpose of our going out and mentioned that this is carried out even today in the military march past with “Left Right, Left Right” - and not in the reversed order of right and left – to return home with success. Well there are many things like this in our religion and our culture which we have actually last track off and are not able to explain in any logical way eventhough we follow it blindly without questioning our elders.
Sri Suresh also gave two papers – one requesting for funds for some repair work to be done in one of the prakarams as the prakaram is in a higher level than the temple and as a result water floods in whenever it rains; and the other is the request for a nithya aradanam kaimkaryam. Both papers I have handed over to your Father and I am sure he would have communicated you the contents.
We had actually to rush from this temple as we were getting late for the Thirumanjanam in Thanjavur. I phoned and informed Mr. Gopalan about it and that we would reach the temple only around 11.30 or so. He informed me that he would not be able to join us for the Thirumanjanam as his son was down with chicken pox since that morning. Also when we reached the temple Sri. Suresh had also told me that he had to go to someone’s house for another ceremony around 11.00hrs and that he was already late. So he too left.
Anyway, the bhattar was there at Collector Aagam and he came to the temple immediately on seeing us. By the time they started thirumanjanam it was nearing noontime. I wanted to take the photographs before they started the thirumanjanam and while the thirumanjanam was going on. But unfortunately, the battery in my camera was running low and so I had to replaced the battery first and when I came back to the Mandapam again, it was the turn of the memory stick in the camera to finish and again I had to get to the outer mandapam to change the memory stick. So I missed witnessing part of the Thirumanjanam and so I decided to stay and watch the thirumanjanam instead of worrying about the photos. In fact I had to call Narasimhan at Madras to find out as to how I can change the memory stick as I had forgotten the operation and I could not catch him at his residence. However, I managed to load the new memory stick and after the thirumanjanam I managed to take at least one photo of the Thayar with the new silver Kreedam. They did the thirumanjanam very well and in fact they had called someone from KMU to recite Purusha suktam and prabandham. It went on very well and even Mrs. Gopalan also managed to be there in the temple for a brief while and had the darshan of the perumal while the Thirumanjanam was going on. Mr. Gopalan had also managed to be there with us till the end. All of us were missing Maama a lot as he was the one who had made all arrangements and was very eager about getting the silver kreedam made, but unfortunately he could not join us. They had asked me to bring the vastrams for Moolavar, and for the utsavars they have got it made there itself and took the money from me for this. For all utsavars – perumal, 2 nachimargal,thayar, Aandaal – the total cost worked out to Rs.220 only. As you can see from the photograph they have made it very well and I was very happy about it. In fact I thought that hereafter we should ask the local people to get it made so that it can be of proper size and also work out much cheaper. So after the thirumanjanam we had little bit of kesari in the temple itself and they said that they will send the prasadams to Collector Aagam which is nearby and that we can all eat there. The prasadams were very well prepared and this time for a change we had Kadamba sadham for prasadam. The family of the former collector were very hospitable and very courteous and kind (despite all their family problems) and I really cannot compare this kindness with anything else in the world. Totally it worked out to Rs1700 or so for the thirumanjanam and the sambavanai plus around Rs.6000 for the silver kreedam for Thayar.
Before taking lunch, we went and had the darshan of Manikundra perumal and Thayar. This temple is in much better condition than our Neelamega perumal. I wish someone like this comes up to do some kaimkaryam for Neelamega perumal temple also.
After lunch we started our trip to Vaduvur. In the expert-driving-hands of Rajendran we all reached Vaduvur safely eventhough we were all having the aftermath of a heavy lunch – Unda mayakkam. When we reached there it was around 3 p.m. and they were having Thaittriya Upanishad recitation session. It was your friend Sri. Sriram who was teaching there at that time as the main teacher had left with the Chief to attend the funeral of the periya Jeeyar in Tirupati. Eventhough Sriram offered to stop the session and that I can distribute the vastrams, I declined it and told him that we could wait for a while. They finished around 3.30 and so we had the chance of hearing wonderful recitation of Thaitriya Upanishad by the children. I think we were all blessed to hear the recitation by so many children. After this we distributed the vastrams and also the sweets and savouries to the children and they were all very glad to receive the snacks than the vastrams (this may be due to the fact that they do not get this type of things often). It seems as soon as we started leaving the hall, children started opening the packets and eating immediately (this my sister noticed and mentioned to me later on). I think hereafter whenever we happen to go to Padasalai we should make it a point to take some eatables for the children there. I had already sent you the photographs which I took ith the children, and also that of the Chariot for Sri Hayagreevar and Sri Desikar. It seems Sriram is collecting funds to make a new small ther as the old one is beyond repairs and also it had been ages since they had a ther festival there. The work is almost at finishing stages, but he mentioned that he is still running on a deficit of about Rs.57000. I gave Rs.2000 for this purpose and my sister also gave Rs.500 for the same. We could afford only this much at that time. I have also sent you the copy of his request for funds as pdf file by e-mail, I hope you received it.
Then we went to have the darshan of Vaduvur Ramar. As you are aware, I do not have to write anything about the beauty of this perumal moolavar and utsavar. After performing archanai for Ramar sannidhi and Krishnar sannidhi we left for Thanjavur once again to have the darshan of Sri VeeraNarasimhar. On the way, we had a coffee in a hotel in Thanjai on the way to Narasimhar temple and also bought plenty of fruits and flowers for the perumal
In this temple we met the Father of the bhattar of the Neelemega perumal temple. He mentioned that he had gone to the other temple in the morning to help in cooking for the thirumanjanam. He said that eventhough he is old, as they are not able to find anyone for the VeeraNrusimha swamy temple, he continues the kaimkaryam. He said that he gets paid regulary by the lady VIP who is taking care of the temple. In fact they have done very good renovation work in this temple. This includes the granite work in the sanctum sanctourm also. It looks really beautiful and gives a very clean appearance. They have the speaker and radio cassette system and Sahasranamam was running when we went there that evening. Moolavar and utsavar also have plenty of aparanangal and all the aparanangal were looking good on them.
Then we left for KMU. On the way we decided to go to Thirukoodalur as I did not visit the perumal after the samprokshanam in June 2003. The temple is in much better shape than what it was in August 2002 when visited first time. There were lots of bhagavathas in the temple when I went there and I felt very glad about this as this is one remote place which has very poor public transportation facilities and so people normally avoid going there.
I want to mention one thing here eventhough it may sound very rude. Bhattar there did the archanai, but when the other bhagavathas were asking about the sthala puranam and all he did not explain properly and only he was answering in mono-syllables when they were asking few questions and the reluctance on his part was very obvious. When we were doing the pradakshinam those guys wanted to see even the Sanku formation in the Jackfruit tree in the back of the sannidhi. They seems to be really devoted and we told them whatever we knew about this temple and the renovation work etc. Also we showed them the Sanku on the tree and they were surprised and mentioning that “iduvum oru deiva thiruvilayadal than”. I felt bad about the behaviour of the Bhattar as he was not treating all human beings at par that too especially standing in a holy place as this. If we people do not learn to go along with the crowd and take them also into our groups especially when they are interested in knowing the matters, our community will have to suffer further.
After the darshan of Jagatrakshakan perumal we went to Kavithalam. Bhattar had gone out of station that day and so he had employed another young lad to substitute for him. This chap did the archanai in a very good manner and was also very polite in his behaviour. We could clearly see the difference in the two young chaps in the two nearby temples and we were wondering about it.
After this we left for KMU, went to Badri’s place, had our dinner and retired for the day. The day was hectic and we were all so tired that we slept immediately.
Next day morning we decided to have the Viswaroopa darshanam of Sri Oppiliyappan. This time I visited Uppili twice. It is something strange that we get attached to some of the temples sometimes and it looks as if that perumal is calling us to have His darshan again and again. So Uppilis is one of them for me and the next one being Jagannathan of Nathan koil. (This includes even the latest development for the April 14th thaligai – whereas I wanted to perform a simple thaligai and give food to all the labourers doing the renovation work in the temple, it looks as if perumal has desired that my money should be utilised even for another group of people from the Vaanamamalai Mutt who will be there in connection with the Tamil New Year’s day and the Jeeyar Himself maybe there. So it is all His sankalpam . – nothing is ours. But I am glad that eventhough I cannot feed anyone from our clan here, at least it is possible to do it somewhere else, Thank God for this.)
After the viswarupa darsanam we went to mark a quick attendance at the Grihapravesam at the newly built house of Badri. His complete family was there in the function and it is nice to see all sisters and brothers doing something in a very united way. It was a good family function. We had nice and heavy breakfast there that too at around 6 am itself.
As it was only 7.00 am and we had to collect our vilakku from Nachiyar koil only by 10.00 am, we decided to go to Aadhanur Aandalakkum Ayyan temple. When we went there, bhattar had gone to Pullambuthangudi temple in connection with the arrangements for the renovation work. So we gave the vastrams for perumal to the paricharakar there and asked him to hand it over to Bhattar. But as we had the pradakshinam and was about to leave the temple the bhattar just returned and so we were fortunate enough to offer the vastrams for perumal and Thayar. He performed the archanai and we felt blessed to do the same. After giving sambavanai to all in the temple we left and I wanted to go to Nachiyar koil straightaway.
As usual, our driver Rajendran decides certain things on our behalf and executes his plans without telling us. So he took us to Pullambuthamgudi temple from there. Anyway we were happy to go there and had good darshan there also. We had vastrams for this temple also and the bhattar, paricharakar and the grand old man of the temple (90 years old) were also equally happy to get new vastrams for perumal in the early morning hours in a day. It seems that the great grand old man in that temple simply stay in the temple premises itself and he told Azhagiya Singer about this when he visited the temple. It seems he takes the prasadam given at the temple and gives it in anyone of the neighbouring houses and whatever they offer in return he takes and has it for his food. I was really surprised at the strength he has at this old age as at that time when we went there he was actually washing the perumal pathirangal for the aradanam. He is really great and I wish that it is the wish of Valvil Raman that this man serves him for a long time there. I wish and pray Raman to give him strength the same way as he was on that day till his end. Bhattar was kind enough to show us the Pandian Kondai offered to the Perumal utsavar during the recent visit of Srimad Azhagiya Singar to this place. When we went round the temple we saw a Nellikkai tree and there were plenty of Nellikkai at that time on the tree. The watchman and the paricharakar mama were kind enough to get plenty of nellikkai for us and to tell the truth, I have never tasted such a sweet thing in my life before this. Then we left the temple. After this we thought we were going to Nachiyar Koil.
Once again Rajendran was taking us by surprise. He drove us to the Lakshmi Narasimhar temple nearby and said that noone visits that temple and everyone returns after having the darshan of Ramar.
So we were lucky to have the darshan of LakshmiNarasimhar sitting in Ekantham in a remote place as this. There were hardly any dwellings around the place. It looks so isolated. But the bhattar was very happy to receive us in the morning and even we had vastrams for this perumal eventhough we did not plan to visit this temple. Hereafter whenever any of us go that side, we should make it a point to visit these isolated/remote located temples or otherwise, I am sure these temples will all become HISTORY one day. Bhattar said that he will use the new vastram when he does the thirumanjanam on the day of Swathi for the perumal. Bhattar said that, Srimad Azhagiya Singar had told him to do thirumanjanam atleast on the day of Swathi days and also ordered him to manage the money by himself. He was mentioning that he finds it difficult to do this as there are hardly any sevarthis to these temples. So we offered him Rs.750 for that month Swathi thirumanjanam which includes the thirumanjanam for the Five Azagiya Singars also.
After this sevai, we had another surprise, Rajendran and the bhattar decided to take us to the nearby Five Azagiya Singar brindavanam located within hardly a km distance. So we were lucky to have blessings of our five Acharyas at one time. Bhattar said that he is bit too scared to visit this place everyday, eventhough it is his duty and he does it willingly, as there are too many snakes going around the temple and even the sanctum sanctorum during all the times of the day. It is a fact, as even during the daytime the place looks very deserted and there is hardly any sign of a living soul nearby.
At last, as Rajendran was satisfied with our visits in the morning he decided to take us to Nachiyar Koil to the Vilakku makers so that I can pick up the vilakkus which I had ordered during my last visit on 4th. When we went there they were doing the final touches for them and by the time we left the place, it was about 10.50 am. Then we were to drive straight to Thalaichangadu and we were supposed to reach the temple before noontime as they had fixed the thirumanjanam for that month on that day when we planned our visit. It is more than 50 kms distance from Nachiyar koil to Thalaichangadu and Rajendran managed very efficiently to reach the place just before noon.
Bhattar from the Arimeya Vinnagaram, (who did the thirumanjanam in
July 2003 in Thirunangur for KudamadumKoothan perumal) was there to perform
the thirumanjanam. Actually they were all waiting for us to reach
the place. Then they started the thirumanjanam immediately.
Mr. Thiruvengadam could not be there for the Thirumanjanam as he was down
with some sort of food-poison problem and so he had sent his son-in-law
to do the arrangements for this. They brought all utsavar moorthigal,
perumal, ubayanachimargal, thayar, Aandal, Nammalwar, Ramanujar, Thirumangai
Alwar for the thirumanjanam to the front mandapam and as usual it went
on very well (again I missed the recitation of Purusha Suktam in Thirunangur
in July 2003). Actually the mandapam is a bit sloppy area and so
water was circulating inside the mandapam instead of going to the outlet.
We all helped in sweeping the water out and so they were able to continue
and finish the thirumanjanam after a while.
We had vastrams for all the deities in the temple as planned and as your Father and Mr. Thiruvengadam had requested. So once again, I was lucky to offer one complete set of vastrams for all deities and also all the Alwars, Udayavar and others. When we were waiting outside while new vastrams were drapped for all moorthigal, Mr. Narayanan and the son-in-law of Thiruvengadam offered plenty of tender coconuts from the coconut trees in the compound. The water was very sweet (and you are aware that Thalaichangadu is very famous for its sweet water which includes the coconut also).
After the archanai, they offered us the prasadam of Sarkarai pongal and at that time when we were all very hungry, it tasted too good. In fact the brother of the bhattar from arimeya Vinnagaram had come to the temple especially for making the prasadam that day. One Income Tax officer from Madurai had offered to make a new Moorthy of Narasimhar in the outside praakaram as the old one was in broken condition and it was beyond any state of repairs. He had got the idol made from Madurai and sent it already to Thalaichangadu and even offered to pay for all charges in connection with the pradhishtai of the vigraham. This is really great news for this temple. I was very glad that at least one Income Tax officer had the mind to do it for this temple.
It was almost 2.30 by the time we left for Thirunagari. As it was a long gap from the time we had breakfast in the morning, and had some tender coconut in Thalaichangadu, I started getting stomach cramps and was really in bad shape by the time we reached Aalin Aadan’s house in Thirunagari. To make things worst, there was road repair works going on and so we had to take a diverted route to Thirunagari and I was really suffering. We had our lunch in their house around 4 pm and the food was very well prepared, but I could not enjoy it that much due to my stomach problem. This time we had bought, veshti for Aalin Aadan and his father, and a saree for his wife and they were more than happy to receive it. As you are aware, noone can beat Aalin Aadan in hospitality and he feeds almost anyone who visits the temple and he does much more than this for our group. So we thought that it would be more appropriate to give them saree and veshti instead of paying as money.
There was a death in one of the houses in Sannidhi street and so
they did not open the temple since that morning. Only by the time
we went there, they had just opened the temple and so after a little while
we went to the temple and had good darshan of Vayalaali Manavalan and Kalyana
Rather it looked as if Kalyana Ranganathar and Thirumangai were waiting for us to reach Thirunagari and we were the first ones to go to the temple as soon it was opened. We had very good darshan of Perumal with Aalin reciting various divyaprabandha pasurams sung in praise of Him. I don’t have to write more than this about Aalin Aadan as you know very well what he is.
It was around 5.15 pm that we could leave the place. I wanted to go to Keezhachalai and have the darshan of Madhava Perumal. There was renovation work going on in the previous two occasions when I visited the temple. So this time I wanted to see Him in His proper seat and enjoy the darshan. When we reached the temple, it was closed and I was upset for a minute, but luckily Aalin Aadan was with us and managed to go and call the bhattar who stays nearby. So we were lucky once again.
In this temples renovation work has been completed very well. It is comparatively a small temple, at least for the time being it has been very well maintained and I hope this continues. Of course this needs financial support and also local support from the population around the temple. Sri Muralidharan swamigal group has done the renovation work and also offered lot of aparanangal for Perumal and Thayar. It feels good to see a temple in good condition with all things provided for in a reasonable way. Bhattar mentioned that there is money for one time aradanam , but for the evening there is practically nothing and asked me to inform Ramadurai Maama and you to help in locating some sponsorer to come forward for the evening prasadam. I have told your Father already; I hope the bhattar might have spoken to him when he was there in March. We had vastrams for perumal and Thayar and the bhattar said that he will drape it during a Friday.
We left around 6 pm for Manimaadakoil; Samprokshanam was recently done in this temple. And the temple was slowly trying to get back to its normalcy after the grand Thai Amavasya Garuda Seva festival held here. I was not lucky enough to witness the Garuda Seva as I reached India only on the night of Amavasya and so I could not make it to Thirunangur on the very next day of landing there. But I had been lucky to have the darshan of the Grand Narayana perumal within the Mandalam period of Samprokshanam. This temple looks much better in condition compared to what it was in July 2003 when we all went there together. Atleast this time perumal and all deities had new vastrams, aparanangal and the whole temple was with a “Pudhu Polivu” after the renovation and the Garuda Sevai. Bhattar asked us whether we could contribute for one day special Pooja which they perform for a mandalam period after samprokshanam. So I and my sister gave the Rs.350 each for one day Mandala Pooja. After this Aalin Aadan left for his home and we left for Mayavaram.
AS we had heavy luggage and the train stops only for 2 minutes in Sirkazhi, we decided to take the train from Mayavaram eventhough we had the reservation from Sirkazhi and on the way we had to pick up something for our dinner and also buy the train ticket for covering Mayavarm and Sirkazhi sector. So once again it was a mad run for the hotel and for the station. But we could make it well in time and as usual the train was late and reached the platform only around 8.50 pm. So we had plenty of time in the station. Sampath and Geetha came to leave us there and from there they were to take a buy to Srirangam. Well, there is still one more incident to add to this. We had not cancelled the ticket we had for Ramadurai Maama and we thought we can get it cancelled with the TTE in the train. But while we were waiting for the train we noticed that one middle aged man, doing vaithiga kariyangal, was going here and there frantically to get a berth in that train. So we thought that we might as well offer him the berth we had for Ramadurai Maama instead of cancelling it. We could see him again only when the train was almost ready to leave; when we offered him what we had he was extremely happy and boarded the train. Later on we came to know that he is the Archakar in the Koothanur Saraswathi temple – the one which my sister wanted to visit this time and was mentioning it several times on the way. He was in dire need to get a berth in that train and he wanted to return to Koothanur from Kanchi the next day after noon train or bus as he could make arrangements for a substitute only for a day for his temple. That archakar was also very happy to offer us the prasadam of Saraswathi which he had brought after performing the poojai that evening, and to be given to his Son who is studying in the Kanchi Veda Padasalai. He wanted to attend a function in the Veda Padasalai in which his son was to receive a prize, from Kanchi Acharyar, for his good work in his studies. We were very happy to hear this. Luckily, I had two veshti and thundu which were left over after the distribution for students in Vaduvur Padasalai and offered it to him to be given to his son. I thought that it is His sankalpam that this boy also gets a new vastram on the day when he receives a prize for his hardwork, which should certainly be appreciated. Well, whatever it might be, we both were happy that we could extend some help to someone who was in need and was also very happy in getting to know this person who is really knowledgeable in his field and yet simple and down to the earth.
Next day morning he got off at Chingleput and went to Kanchipuram. We reached Tambaram and our Father (as we know him very well) was waiting at the station to receive us.
With best regards,