Monday, May 21, 2007

108 Divya Desam- Thiru Meiyam

Sathiya Moorthy Kshetram

Located on the Pudukottai-Karaikudi/Tirupattur highway, Thirumeiyam is also called Sathiya Giri and Sathiya Kshetram and is surrounded by a huge fort like structure. This temple dates back to the 7th Century AD. The Lord here is bigger than Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam. On the wall just above the deity one finds images of Brahmma and several Devas.

Adiseshan is believed to be protecting this place. The story goes that when the Asuras tried to kidnap the Lord, Adiseshan let open poisonous air to kill the asuras. As a reference to this incident, one can see Adiseshan being depicted in the same form here at this temple- letting out poisonous air- a unique feature at this Divya Desam.

It is said that Lord Vishnu’s guard (at this fort) incurred the wrath of Sage Durvasa, who cursed him to turn into a snake and was finally relieved of his curse here at ThiruMeiyam.

There are separate sannidhis for Chakkarathazhvaar, Krishna, Lakshmi Narayanan, Raama, Hanuman, Varaaha, Ujeevana Thaayar and the 12 Azhvaars.

On the Chitra Pournami day, Sathiya Moorthy Perumal is taken out on a 40 mile procession to Kadaya Kudi.

Pallava rulers are said to have contributed to the temple.

Quick Facts:

Deity : Meiyappan Standing Posture, East Facing
Goddess : Ujjevana Thaayaar
Mangalasaasanam : Thirumangai Azhvaar
Temple timing : 8am –12noon and 330pm-8pm

Priest : Krishnamurthy Bhaattar @ 89034 94019 or 04333 274043

Location : 18kms South of Pudukottai, 25 kms North of Karaikudi
Bus : One can Pudukottai-Karikudi or Pudukottai-Tirupattur bus to reach here
Place to Stay : Best to stay in Pudukottai or Karaikudi
Road Route : Trichy-Pudukottai-Karaikudi and Thanjavur-Pudukottai-Karaikudi roads are excellent to drive
(Pudukottai is about 55kms from Trichy and about 60kms from Thanjavur)

Also check:


Friday, May 18, 2007

108 Divya Desam-Thiru Pullani

A Sacred Place for absolute Surrender to the Lord
Lord Raama planned his onward march to Lanka from here

8kms South East of Ramanathapuram on the Keelakarai Road is Thirupullani, located on the banks of river Sethu (SethuKarai). This temple dates back to a time before Raama Avataaram. Raama came here in his search for Sita. Raama himself is said to have prayed to Adhi Jagannathan at this temple before he departed for Lanka.

Childless Couple

Raama’s father King Dasharatha is believed to have performed a Yagna here and is believed to have had his four children after this yagna. Hence it is the belief that childless couple who bathe at the Sethu river and pray to the Lord here will be blessed with a child.

Sacred Place for Surrender to the Lord

It was here that Vibheeshana, the brother of Ravana, came for refuge and surrendered to Lord Raama asking him for help. While the entire Vaanara army looked at Vibheeshana with suspicion- one who has come with a plot to attack the Lord, it was Hanuman, who with folded hands, expressed his opinion that the Lord should accept Vibheeshana. Hanuman can be seen here, at this temple, in a posture indicating Vibheeshana’s surrender to Raama and to protect him from his brother(Raavana).

It is here that Raama preached the doctrine of ‘Surrender’ that is applicable even today, several thousands of years after this incident.

In Valmeeki’s account of this ‘Surrender to Lord episode’, Raama says, ‘I cannot reject anyone who comes to me for protection. This is my dharma. If Raavana himself came to me I would not reject him. How then can I reject his brother who has done me no wrong.’

In the Vaishnava Sampradaya, this episode of ‘Surrender to the Lord’ is held just as important as the Bhagavad Gita(Mahabharata). It is a doctrine that Lord accepts all who, in absolute surrender, seek shelter at his feet. Their sins are burnt out by the mere act of surrender.

This is a message of hope to erring humanity. There is hope for the worst of us if only we surrender ourselves to the Lord. This divine assurance is the life and light that a world filled with sin and darkness, needs.

Out of all the Divya Desams, this is said to be the most sacred for those devotees who want ‘absolute surrender to Lord’.

Darbha Sayana Raamar

Having accepted Vibheeshana, it was here that Lord Raama along with the Vaanara (monkey ) army deliberated ways to cross the sea and orchestrated the way forward plan to Lanka to defeat Ravana.

Spreading Darbha grass (sacred grass used for religious rites) on the banks of River Sethu, Raama undertook a fast addressing Varuna(Sea Lord) and looked to him for a solution to cross the sea. Varuna asked him to build a bridge across the sea with boulders and trees and also promised him to show the best route to build the bridge.

Being the one who undertook a fast, lying on the Darbha grass, Raama here is called Darbha Sayana Raama.

Thirumazhisai Azhvaar in his praise of the Lord says, The Sethu bridge was built by the vaanara army as a help to the Lord for having killed Vaali( the Vaanara King and the brother of Sugreeva). The Sethu, he says, was built in Raama’s quest to move forward to defeat Raavana.

Andaal too has sung praise of this Lord.

Raama’s marks on Squirrel

Not to be left behind, Kulasekhara Azhvaar too praises – he of the Squirrel, which on seeing the monkeys helping Lord Raama, too wanted to help out the Lord. Being small in nature, they could not carry the trees and boulders. Hence, they did something innovative. The squirrels rolled on the sand and then ran back to the Sethu Bridge and dropped off the sand that had stuck to their body.

So impressed was Lord Raama that he rubbed the squirrels with warmth, a mark that remains to this day on the body of every squirrel. Squirrels have 3(vertical) lines on their body said to be Raama’s finger prints.


Having defeated the Lankan king, Lord Raama is said to have come back here and performed Pattabhishekham(crowning ceremony). Hence, he is here called ‘PattabhiRaamar’.

Sethu Bridge

The Sethu bridge has submerged under the sea but if you do request the fisherman on the banks of the Sethu sea shore, they may take you across the sea to show you the place that once was the Sethu Bridge.

Quick Facts:

Deity : Adhi Jagannathan – East Facing, Standing Posture

Goddess : Kalyanavalli, Padmasini

Mangalasaasanam : Thirumangai Azhvaar

Paasurams : 21

Temple timing : 8am –12.20pm and 330pm-8pm

Priest : T. Seshadri(Peshkar) on 98429 48390,
Ranganathar Bhattar on 99428 89763

Also contact : Anantha Krishnan (Accountant) on 04567 254 527

Location : 8Kms South East of Ramanathapuram, 60kms SouthWest of Rameswaram and about 120kms East of Madurai

Sethu SeaShore : About 4 kms South of Thirupullani Temple

Bus : Bus Numbers 1A,1B, 5,5A,5B, 10 and 17 from Ramnad

Auto : Auto will charge anything between Rs. 100 and Rs.150 for a one way drop from Ramanathapuram to Thirupullani

Place to Stay : Best to stay in Madurai (about 120kms away) or Rameswaram (70kms)

Road Route : Rameswaram- Ramanathapuram- Madurai is a National Highway, wide roads all the way through ( Paramakudi-Manamadurai route) that allows consistent travel at 80kms per hour

Rail Route : Currently on broad gauge conversion between Manamadurai and Rameswaram. Hence, all trains stop at Manamadurai

Places to visit nearby : Dhanushkodi, Pamban Bridge, Rameswaram


Thursday, May 17, 2007

108 Divya Desam- Thiru Koshtiyur

Ramanuja learnt the ThiruMandiram here on his 18th visit from Srirangam

This week we take you to three Divya Desams, Thirumayyam near Pudukottai, ThiruKoshtiyur near Thirupattur and Thirupullani near Ramanathapuram.

We start with ThiruKoshtiyur
Located about 8 kms southwest of Tirupattur on the SivaGangai highway, this is the place where Ramanuja was initiated the ThiruMandiram by his Acharya ThiruKoshtiyur Nambi.

The Temple- 3 Tier Structure
At the ground level, there’s a Sannidhi here for Lord Shiva. Above that is a 3 Tier tower with an Ashtanga Vimanam that is seen only at Koodal(Madurai) among the Divya Desams. On level 1 is the Lord in Sleeping posture(Uraga Mellanaiyaan-Sowmya Narayana), Tier 2 is the Lord in Standing Posture(Upendra Narayana). And on Tier 3 is the Lord in Sitting Posture-Paramapada Nathar.

On Tier 3, one is taken around by Shri Krishnamurthy, a young guide at this temple, through a small gap to the place from where Ramanuja pronounced the ThiruMandhiram to the world at large.

He explains the ThiruMandhiram story with so much passion, that even in the scorching 40 degree + May heat, the devotees are spell bound listening to his narration.

ThiruMandhiram-Ramanuja and Nambi

Ramanuja comes to ThiruKoshtiyur to meet Nambi and learn the ThiruMandhiram. On reaching here, he says “ I have come to meet you…………..” But he is turned back on 17 occasions.

On the 18th occasion, Ramanuja starts with “ Adiyen Daasan(your disciple) Ramanuja has come..” This time Nambi welcomes him saying ‘Your arrogance is gone. Now we can talk’.

Ramanuja requests his Acharya Nambi to teach him the Thiru(Narayana) Mandhiram. He is initiated the Thiru Mandhiram, subject to one condition that Ramanuja would not share it with anyone else and that if he fails, he would go to hell. Having learnt the ThiruMandhiram, Ramanuja goes to the 3rd tier, calls for the people and recites the Thiru Mandhiram to the world at large.

Shocked at this ‘break of promise’, Nambi questions Ramanuja on his failure to keep up the promise and the consequence of this ‘public’ utterance( i.e Ramanuja will go to hell for having failed to keep up his promise). In a stunning reply, Ramanuja says ‘By sharing the Thiru Mandhiram, I alone(one person only) will go to hell but by having shared it with the world at large, several people will get Moksham. And hence, he is ready to go to hell.’

Ramanuja known as Emberumaanar

Impressed with Ramanuja’s reply, Nambi tells him ‘ Nee Emperumaal Aanar’(you have become my Lord). Hence Ramanuja here is called ‘Emberumaanar’. Ramanuja and Nambi have separate Sannidhis at this temple. Outside the Nambi Sannidhi is a board that contains the list of 18 ThiruMandhiram.

On the third tier, on the southern side, one can see a beautifully sculpted statue of Ramanuja in a sitting posture to mark the ‘ThiruMandhiram’ pronunciation to the world.

Story of HiranyaKashipu and ThiruKoshtiyur
Asuran Hiranyakashipu prayed to Brahmma for a boon that he would not be killed by Devas, human race, animals or by weapons. Once he got the boon, he went around harassing everyone. Such was his force that he made everyone utter ‘ Namo Hiranyaya Namaha’.

Worried at his increasing power and anxious at what his next action would be, Devas went to Shiva asking for a solution. Lord Shiva directed them to Brahmma, who then directed them to Vishnu as the only one who could pin down Hiranya.

The Devas went to ThiruPaarkadal only to be told by Lord Narayana that Hiranya’s powers had spread around the world and there was no place where his name was not being uttered. They managed to find Kadamba Rishi’s Ashram as the one place where Lord Narayana’s name was still being uttered.

The Devas and Tri Murthies went to Kadamba Rishi’s ashram to discuss the plan to kill Hiranya. While everyone remained there, Lord Narayana went back to Thirupaarkadal. There he asked Sanghu Karnan to be born as Hiranyan’s son. From the time of birth, Prahalada, Hiranya’s son, utters Namo Narayana all the time, much to his father’s shock.

When asked where this Narayana was, Prahalada tells him that he can be found anywhere/everywhere. Angered at this and wanting to test, Hiranyakashipu smashes one of the pillars and finds Lord Narayana in his Narasimha form( Half human-Half animal) coming out. The killing of Hiranya by Lord Narayana marks the end of Narasimha Avataaram.

Kadamba Rishi requests Brahmma to give him a model of Lord Narayana killing Hiranyan. Brahmma instructs a 3 tier structure - one with Om, another with Namo and the 3rd with Narayana. He asks Vishvakarma to construct the Southern side of the tower depicting ‘Lord Narasimha catching Hiranyan’ ‘and Maayan to construct the Northern side of the tower depicting Narasimha killing Hiranyan’.

In the famous Thirupallandu(12 verses), Periyazhvaar refers to ThiruKoshtiyur in the following Paasuram.

“ Al Vazhakkonrumilla Ani Kottiyurkon Abhimanathungan
Selvanai pola Thirumale Naanum Unakku Pazhavadiyen
Nalvagayaal Namo Narayana Venru Naamam Palaparavi
Palvagai yaalum Pavithirane Unnai Pallandu Kooruvane”- Thiru Pallandu 11

(O Lord, Like the faultless Kottiyur Nambi, I am a servant of yours singing Om Namo Narayana and spreading several other names of yours in several different way, I sing praise of you life long”)

As the Devas came here in Groups(Ghosti) requesting Lord Narayana to kill Asura Hiranyakashipu, this place is called Koshtiyur. The belief is that a visit to this place will remove one’s sins as can be seen from the name – Thiruku( Sin)- Otiyur(removed).

It is said that a Vaishnavite who does not visit ThiruKoshtiyur will become a monkey in the next birth.

Quick Facts

Deity : Sowmya Narayanan East Facing
Goddess : Thirumaamagal

Mangalasaasanam : 5 Azhvaars - Thirumangai Azhvaar, Peyazhvaar, Thirumazhisai Azhvaar, Bhoothathazhvaar and Periyazhvaar

Paasurams : 40
Birth Place : Thirukoshtiyur Nambi

Temple timing : 730am –1230pm and 5pm-8pm

Priest : G.S. Madhavan
Temple Address : Soumya Narayana Perumal Koil, Thirukoshtiyur 630 210
Tel No. : 98654 85886 / 04577 261248

Also contact : Krishnamurthy( Guide/Assistant) on 99423 79393
Or 04577 261197

Location : 8Kms South West of Tirupattur, 25kms North of Sivagangai and about 25kms West of Karaikudi
Bus : Buses every 5-10 minutes between Thiruppatur and SivaGangai
Auto : Auto will charge anything between Rs. 50 and RS75 for a one way drop from Tirupattur to Thirukoshtiyur
Place to Stay : Best to stay in Madurai(about 60kms away)


Saturday, April 28, 2007

Cricket Tales- Memorable cricket matches

Here’s another set of (my) memorable cricket matches:

1. Jan 1983 World Series Cup - England v New Zealand- The Best run Chase of the time

It was still early days of flood light cricket and coloured clothing. The 1982-83 WSC – Aus, Eng and NZ- featured some big names and big matches. The one I liked best was the England New Zealand clash at the Adelaide Oval.

It was David Gower’s best one day tournament and he seemed to be in magical touch through the tournament. England had other big names as well - Ian Botham, Bob Willis, Derek Randall (batting beautifully) and a young Allan Lamb.

NZ had biggies in Hadlee, big hitting Cairns, Coney, economical Chatfield and solid openers in Wright and Edgar. Aus had Chappell, Hughes, Border and Hookes in batting and Rodney Hogg and Lawson leading the attack joined by Lillee in the later half of the series.

While the WSC of 1983 had several highlights, it had its low moments too…The one I still remember was Dennis Lillee’s open on field rift with Kim Hughes (who had displaced Greg Chappell as captain) on a field placing issue. Lillee was booed by the Aussie crowd as he came into bowl…quite a sight in Australian cricket.

(While we in India know the Bombay vs South politics in cricket, this one involving Lillee was particularly interesting...Lillee had formed a nice combination with Marsh and his first slipper and captain Greg Chappell and with Kim Hughes replacing Chappell as the captain, Lillee did not take it well.)

David Gower once again scored a century to take England close to 300 after Ian Botham, opening the innings, had made a better than run a ball half century. While these days chasing 300+ is a normal happening, this chase at the Adelaide Oval was one of the best big chases of that time and still remains one of my favourite one day matches.

The short square boundaries suited Richard Hadlee as he took NZ to victory(297/6) with a sparkling 79 (one of Hadlee’s best one day innings), after Lance Cairns (known for his big hitting) had taken apart the English attack with a rapid 49 off 20 odd balls.

Later that series, in fact in the 2nd final, Lance Cairns once again displayed his big hitting with a half century that included six sixers.

2. 1984 Port of Spain, Trinidad - Border’s brilliant double – 98 NO and 100NO

It was Australia’s first overseas trip after the retirement of GS, DK Lillee and Rodney Marsh ( all at one time). And what a difficult one at that. After drawing the first test, the Aussies went to POS with some hope and confidence.

Deano (Dean Jones) in his debut innings made 48 but it was AB’s(Allan Border) unbeaten 98 that took Australia past the 250 mark, after being 5 down for less than 100 at one stage. Windies took a 200 run lead with Jeffery Dujon once again dazzling against Australia with an elegant century (Remember Dujon had struck successive 40s in his debut series 3 years ago in Australia, playing as a batsman (not keeper))

Behind by over 200 runs, Aussie top order failed once again and it looked, on day 5, like WI would take 1-0 lead in the series . Australia had collapsed to 160/7 in the afternoon session. And when Terry Alderman( a close contender for permanent No. 11 with Walsh) joined AB at 9/240, it seemed like it would be a matter of time.

Just 15months ago, AB had been in some sort of a similar situation and lost. Border, in the company of Jeff Thomson, had battled against the English attack for over 2 hours, on 4th evening and 5th day morning, in a 10th wicket stand that almost won the Boxing Day Ashes Test Match of 1982 (till Miller via Tavera pulled off a spectacular catch at 2nd slip to secure England the win that day). But this time Border pulled off a draw….an unbeaten 100 with the last pair fighting it out for 2 hours on the last evening.

It was a memorable test match for Border and one that I particularly enjoyed. It was possibly Allan Border’s two best test innings.

While Australia went on to lose that series, the gutsy and ‘fight to death’ approach of Border was already visible and later that decade, it was this fighting approach of Border led Australia that brought them on top of the world stage.

3. 1980 Aus v Pak Lahore Test on Radio Pak- Border's Two Unbeaten 150s in one test

Exactly 4 years before the above match, in March of 1980, Allan Border had played another brilliant double to save the 1980 Lahore test for Australia.

In an Australian team that had more prominent names, Chappell, Hughes, Marsh, Lillee and against a Pakistan attack that had Imran and Sarfraz at their best, it was Allan Border, just in his 2nd year of International cricket, who helped save face from another loss to Pakistan. Border helped Australia recover in each innings after Australia had collapsed to 150/4 in both.

This was particularly significant for Border as only a year back, at the MCG in 1979, Sarfraz Nawaz had triggered the most bizarre collapse in Test history by bowling Border just after he had reached his century (with Australia requiring just 75 runs for victory). And within the next half hour, Sarfraz had orchestrated a collapse that saw Australia lose 7 wkts for 5 runs to secure an unlikely win for Pakistan.

This time around, Border made sure that he would not lose his wicket and took Australia to safety. It was also Lillee’s only series in the Sub-Continent.

Border’s 150NO in each innings of the Lahore Test of 1979 was the first ever two innings unbeaten 150 in the same test by a batsman in Test History.

4. WSC 1991- Ind v WI WACA, Perth- A low scoring tie

On the bouncy WACA pitch, India was bowled out by Ambrose and co for 126. That afternoon, few gave India a chance. With the match turning interesting, evening India time, I was up there in my class at Vivekananda College listening to Radio Australia.

Indians had WI on the ropes at 75/8 but Ambrose and Cummins brought WI back into the match with a good 9th wicket stand. In a clever use of bowlers, Indians had bowled out the four main bowlers ( 10 overs each) in the first 40 overs.

With 10 overs to go, Sachin was brought on as the 5th bowler and in his first over, he had Anderson Cummins edging low to Azhar at 2nd slip. And the match was tied. A tremendous comeback by India, taking one’s memories back 7 years to the match in Sharjah when India came back strong after being bowled out for 125 by Imran led Pakistan.

By the time this match ended, I even had my Income Tax lecturer interested in the match and listening to the broadcast.


Thursday, April 26, 2007

108 Divya Desam-Temple Contribution

Devotees can now directly help needy Divya Desams through TTD
New initiative from TTD and SMILE to direct devotee contributions to the needy temples

For those devotees who are not able to personally visit the 108 Vaishnava Divya Desams but who are interested in helping the needy temples, Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanams(TTD) has launched a new non-cash help initiative.

Over 80 of the Divya Desams are in Tamil Nadu, many of which have a rich history and significance attached to it. Several of these temples are finding it difficult to even perform day to day poojas and are in a dilapidated state. Specific non-cash contributions from devotees towards helping these Divya Desam temples will be directed immediately to the needy temples that are facing difficulties in day to day functioning.

TTD will work with SMILE (Selfless Movement Improving Life Everywhere), a voluntary service organization founded by Mr. C.N. Paramasivan (son of renowned Director late Shri. A. P. Nagarajan) to collect and distribute the articles to the temples.

SMILE has been associated with TTD for over 6 years by sending volunteers for SriVari Seva in Tirumala. SMILE is already involved in temple service and its volunteers have cleaned over 350 places of worship in Tamil Nadu. SMILE has also been involved for the last 6 years in organizing old clothes and articles for the poor and needy. SMILE does not collect, accept or donate money

Key Highlights of TTD’s Divya Desam initiative

Ø To identify Divya Desams that are in immediate need of help in conducting day to day poojas
Ø To collect the contributions from devotees and to immediately distribute these contributions to the needy Divya Desams
Ø Contributions could include Vastrams for the Deity, articles for daily pooja, rice and other provisions for daily prasadham
Ø Devotees could also make monthly or annual contribution of articles and Vastrams
Ø Shri Venkatachalam, Vice Chancellor of Ramachandran Medical College,Chennai and a committee member at TTD has offered to provide transportation to take the articles from the TTD office in Madras to various temples in Tamil Nadu on an ongoing basis

Says C.N. Paramasivan, Committee Member of TTD and Founder of SMILE, “We have already identified about 15-20 Divya Desam temples in Tamil Nadu that require immediate support in running day to day poojas. TTD will collect articles from the devotees and direct these contributions to such Divya Desam temples that are finding it difficult to run their daily poojas and festivities.”

Contribution to Needy Divya Desams

Those who would like to make such contributions can contact 91- 94440 40748 for more information on this or email

NRIs who wish to contribute to these needy temples and would like someone to buy vastrams, pooja articles, rice for prasadhams and other daily requirements on behalf of you in Madras can contact me on this number or email id and I will help you buy the vastrams/articles on your behalf and hand it over to TTD/SMILE, who will then distribute the articles to the temples.


Monday, April 23, 2007

108 Divya Desam Anbil- Vadivazhagiya Nambi

Located about 20kms South East of Srirangam, one can reach Anbil via Toll Gate, Lalgudi from Trichy Chatiram bus stand. In centuries gone by, devotees used to walk across the Coloroon from Koviladi Divya Desam, a distance of 2 kms.

Shiva is said to have visited this place on his way to Kandiyur from Uthamar Koil in his search for liberation from Brahmma’s curse.

Legend has it that Sage Durvasa once came to meet Mandaka Rishi but had to wait long as the latter was in deep meditation. Durvasa, who is known for his instant anger,cursed Mandaka Rishi for making him wait- a curse that turned Mandaka Rishi into a frog.

Wanting to get back his human form, Mandaka Rishi underwent penance and his prayers were finally answered with Vishnu who liberated him from Durvasa’s curse. Hence this place is called Mandaka Puri.

Quick Facts

Deity : Vadivazhagiya Nambi in reclining posture facing East
Utsavar : Sundara Rajan
Goddess : Azhagiya Valli Thaayar

Mangalasaasanam :

Thirumazhisai Azhvaar has praised the Lord here in one verse (Paasuram)- 2417

While referring to Lord Vishnu in his reclining posture, Thirumazhisai Azhvaar talks about Anbil(Vadivazhagiya Nambi) along side Srirangam Ranganathar, Appakudathaan Ranganathar(Koviladi) Thiru Kudanthai Aravamuthan(Kumbakonam), Thiru Vallur, Thiruvekka and Thiru Paarkadal.

Where to Stay

Best to stay in Trichy or Srirangam and to combine a visit to this Divya Desam along with Uthamar Koil and Thiruvellarai.

Priest/Office staff stay in Srirangam and come here every day.


Sunday, April 08, 2007

108 Divya Desam -Srirangam Serthi Festival- April 2007

The Only Day in the year Lord Ranganatha is seen together with Ranganaayaki Thaayar

On Sunday 1st April 2007, on the occasion of Panguni Festival, Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam started very early in the morning on a very interesting journey, one that lasted 3 ½ hours, around the four Uthirai and Chithirai streets.

The story goes thus:

The word was out that Lord Ranganatha had lost his ring. The reality was he had presented it to his beloved- Kamalvalli Nachiyar at Uraiyur when he had been there earlier in the week.

(On Thursday 29th March 2007, Lord Ranganatha, in all his splendour, took the 6 km trip across the Cauvery in a golden palanquin to meet his beloved Kamalavalli Naachiyar for the ‘Kalyana Utsavam’, where the entire marriage formalities between Lord Ranganatha and Kamalavalli Nachiyar was enacted at the Uraiyur Temple)

Lord Ranganatha goes around the streets to collect money to buy a ring

In order to buy a ring back, and not to be caught out by his consort Ranganayaki Thaayar at the Srirangam temple, the Lord comes out of the temple at 6am and goes around the Chithirai and Uthirai streets in a procession to collect money that will help him buy a ring.

Leading the way is the temple elephant, followed by the white horse.

Behind them, are 100s of priests (led by ThenKalai Priests in the front and VadaKalai priests behind the Palanquin) from the Srirangam temple singing Divya Prabhandham in a loud high pitched voice as they go from house to house asking for money to buy a ring for the Lord.

(While the Legend is that the Lord was to use the money collected to buy a ring.... now this money collected from households across the four Chithirai and Uthirai streets on 'Serthi Day' is shared by all the priests at the Srirangam temple)

Lord Ranganatha closely follows them in a palanquin. This event is enacted every year as part of the Panguni Utsavam festival in Srirangam on the morning of the ‘Serthi day’.

After over 3 hours on the street in the hot sun, the Lord is keen to meet Thaayar and makes a rushed entry into the temple via the Therku Vaasal (South Entrance). He runs a sprint through the Nandavanam (Garden adjacent the Thaayar Sannidhi to the right of Chakrathaazhvar Sannidhi) to make a hurried entry onto the Thaayar Sannidhi.

An Angry Goddess Ranganaayaki shuts the door on Lord Ranganatha !!!

Much to his dismay Lord Ranganatha, carried by the Seemaanthaangis(with those brightly coloured distinctive turbans on their head) on his palanquin, finds Ranganaayaki Thaayar shutting the door on him. He tries again with a quicker run but he fails to gain entry as the big doors of the Thaayar Sannidhi are shut even faster. This is enacted a few times, but sadly for the Perumal the door is shut each time with greater intensity.

Not just that, the Lord was even pelted with butter by the Thaayaar side. One found smudged faces all around the Lord’s side - butter on forehead, cheeks, shoulders of those who carried the Lord.

Ranganaayaki Thaayar was angry and upset with the Lord for been to Uraiyur (3 days ago) to meet his beloved Kamalavalli Nachiyar and having presented her with his ring.

A Heated Debate -War of Words between Perumal and Thaayar

For the next couple of hours, there is a war of words between Lord Ranganatha (represented by his priests/ Araiyar) and Ranganaayaki Thaayar( represented by her priests). The Lord tries hard to justify his commitment to the Goddess and explains that he went around meeting his devotees and blessing them and that was the reason for his delay.

Thaayar is not convinced. She questions him (and with a lot of suspicion) if that was the real reason or was it because he went out to meet his beloved at Uraiyur. The Lord (through Araiyar) asks Thaayar not to insult him in this manner especially after he has had a tiring trip in the sun that morning.

There is a rendition of Paasurams from the Divya Prabhandham to try and explain the situation and his commitment to the Goddess. The Lord makes a ‘one step at a time’ forward move towards the Thaayar Sannidhi. After an intense debate, with each side trying to go one up on the other, Ranganaayaki Thaayar finally relents saying ­ ‘Nambal Nammalzhvaar Sonnapadiyaale Ungalai Ettrukondom……..’.

Together at the Serthi Mandapam

And the Lord enters the Thaayar Sannidhi and goes to the ‘Serthi Mandapam’ on the Sunday afternoon - the only time in the year when Lord Ranganatha and Thaayar Ranganaayaki are seen together.

Several 1000 devotees queued up through the evening and night to witness this once in a year spectacle. The queue, this year, was so long that it ran outside the Thaayar Sannidhi into almost the Paramapadha Vaasal.

At 10.30pm that evening Chinna Perumal (Selvar) goes on a procession through to the Coloroon where a Ghosti was performed and prasadhams handed out. He returned through the Vadakku Vaasal (Northern Entrance) at 11.30pm.

Devotees continued to have a darshan of the Lord through the night. And late into the night and till the very early hours of Monday morning, Thirumanjanam(Abhishekam) was performed.

Monday 2nd April 2007 - Lord Ranganatha bids adieu (to Thaayar) for another year

At around 7am the next morning, Thaayar goes back into her Sannidhi. And Lord Ranganatha bids good bye to her and leaves the Serthi Mandapam (in the Thaayar Sannidhi). It had been 24 hours of exciting devotional drama.

Lord is then taken on his palanquin to the junction of North- East Chitrai Street. He goes on a Chariot procession around the temple streets before finally getting back into the Sanctum Sanctorum through the Arya Bhattaal Vaasal later that day.


Saturday, April 07, 2007

Panguni Kona Vaiyaali- Srirangam photographs

On the evening of 31st March 2007

730pm- Priests reciting the Naalyira Divya Prabhandham

745pm -North-East Chitrai Street

Just before Kona Vaiyaali Event

8.15pm- Kona Vaiyaali on East Chitrai Street

9pm- At Therku Vaasal (South Entrance)
Just before entering the temple

Lord Ranganatha entering the Temple through the South Entrance after Kona Vaiyaali

915pm- Into Arya Bhattal Vaasal


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Nava Tirupathi Divya Desam

Saint poets, Azhvaars (there were 12 of them including Andaal) were ardent devotees of Lord Vishnu. These saint poets composed verses in Tamil and revitalized the religious spirit sparking off a renewal of devotional worship, referred to as the Bhakti movement. The Azhvaars visited temples and sung praises in the name of Vishnu. Such temples have come to be known as Divya Desams. The compilation of the verses (known as Paasurams) is the revered Naalayira Divya Prabandham(4000 verses). There are 108 Divya Desams in all, around 20 are in the Pandya region(Madurai-Tirunelveli belt). In each of these temples, Vishnu can be seen in one of the following forms- Reclining, Seated or Standing posture ( and even a walking posture!!!).

(also check - I moved to this in 2007)

In this Divya Desam series, we take you on a trip to cover 12 temples around Tirunelveli, including Nava Tirupathi (9 temples on either side of the river Tamaraibarani)

How to reach Tirunelveli

From Chennai, one can take Kanniyakumari Exp (445am arrival), Ananthapuri Exp(730am arrival) or Nellai Exp(8am arrival).

Where to Stay
The Railway Retiring room is a good and safe place to stay. Also, there are several budget and deluxe hotels near the railway station.

Not to Miss when in Tirunelveli

Ø “Iruttu Kadai Halwa”(Dark Shop Halwa) opposite Nellaiappar temple is the best Halwa you can taste in Tamil Nadu
Ø The famous Courtallam waterfalls is just over an hour’s drive from Tirunelveli
Ø Sea Shore Temple at Tiruchendur- 60 kms East of Tirunelveli

Nava Tirupathi Temples

These are 9 Vishnu temples on either side of Tamaraibarani river. These temples hold a special place in the 108 Divya Desams. While Irattai Tirupathi features as two temples in the Nava Tirupathi list, it is counted as one divya desam only. Nammazhvar, the only Azhvaar to have sung at the Nava Tirupathi temples, refers to certain temples in great detail, while some get only a passing mention. With extensive renovation work being funded by the TVS Group, these temples now have a mark of freshness about them. At each of these nine temples, one can find a display board with temple timings and route map.

One can start the Nava Tirupathi trip from SriVaikuntam and end with Azhvaar Tirunagari. From SriVaikuntam, one can take an auto/taxi to go around the other 8 temples. This will cost around Rs. 250-300 and will take about 5 hours.One can also begin the Nava Tirupathi journey at Azhvaar Tirunagari and end with SriVaikuntam.

1. Sri Vaikuntam (

SriVaikuntam is about 30 kms from Tirunelveli on the Tiruchendur road. Buses ply every 10 minutes on this route from Tirunelveli’s new bus stand. Also, there are daily local trains on the Tirunelveli-Tiruchendur route, though less frequent. One can see the towering structure of Vaikuntanathan temple as one enters the Tamaraibarani bridge, off Tiruchendur highway. The story goes that the Lord, disguised as the thief, presented himself before the King to save the thief. Hence, the Lord here is also known as ‘KallarPiran’. In Vishnu temples, Adisesh, the Serpent God unfurls his hood over Vishnu in a reclining posture. A unique feature of the Lord here is that Adisesh has his hood above the Lord in standing posture, one of its kind in the 108 Divya Desams.

Another feature of the temple is that the Sun’s rays falls directly on Lord Vaikuntanathan on two days(April-May and October-November period) every year. It is believed that this temple was used as a fort in the fight between the legendary freedom fighter Veerapandiya Kattabomman and the British in the 1800s. Surprisingly though, Nammazhvar only makes a passing mention of this temple in his Paasurams.

Temple timing: 7am-12noon and 5pm-8pm
Contact: A.K. Vaikunta Natha Bhattar @ 98656 28681 / Srinivasa Bhattar @ 99521 62359

2. ThiruvaragunaMangai (
This temple is about 2 kms East of SriVaikuntam and is known to many as the Vishnu temple at Natham. True to his name, Lord Vijayaasanar is seen to be sitting majestically like a victorious king on the throne. It is believed that a visit to this temple will help one attain moksha. This place is said to be a ‘Chandran’ Kshetram.

Temple timing: 9am-5pm
Contact: Narasimha Bhattar @ 04630 256476 / 94864 92279

3. Thirupulingudi (

1 km from Natham is the Lord KaasinaVenthar temple at Thirupulingkudi. The East facing Lord is seen in a reclining posture with a lotus stalk from his navel terminating in a flower on Brahma’s image on the wall of the sanctum. The story goes that Vishnu, along with Goddess Sridevi, came down to visit this place. Angered at being ignored for the trip, Goddess Bhoodevi hid herself in the netherworld. After Vishnu pacified her, it is believed that the two Goddesses came back together and gave darshan here with the Lord. An interesting feature of the temple is that Vishnu’s feet can be viewed through a small window in the passage.
Temple timing: 9am-5pm
Contact: Gopalakrishnan Bhattar@ 04630 256476 / 93666 18185

4 &5. Erettai Tirupathi (

These are two temples within a 100 yards of each other in the middle of a jungle and are counted as one for the purpose of the 108 Divya Desams. One has to cross a small canal to reach this temple. The road leading up to this temple is very narrow. The first of the two temples has Lord Devapiran in a standing posture facing East.
Sage Suprabhar who performed a yagna at this place relieved a man and a woman from Kubera’s curse, which had turned them into a measuring scale (Tulai) and a bow (Villi). Hence this place is called Tulai Villi Mangalam. At the second temple one finds Lord Aravindalochanar in a seated posture facing East.
Legend has it that Lord Vishnu was impressed with Sage Suprabhar’s daily Lotus pooja and gave darshan to the sage on the Northern banks of Tamaraibarani. Hence, it is believed that one who does special ‘Lotus Flower’ pooja at this temple will be relieved of all sins.
Temple timing: 8.30am-1pm and 2pm-530pm
Contact: Seshamani Bhattar@04630 256372 / 94435 54570 - Balaji Bhattar @ 90472 17914

The Maayakoothan temple at Thirukuzhandhai is about 10 kms East of SriVaikuntam and near Eral. This place is now known as Perungulam. Legend has it that Vishnu went on his Garuda Vaahan to rescue Goddess Lakshmi from an Asura. Hence, one finds Garuda as the Utsav deity here. In the battle that ensued, Vishnu is said to have performed his victory dance standing on Asura’s body and hence the name MaayaKoothan.
Temple timing: 730am-1230pm and 430pm-730pm
Contact: MaayaKoothar Bhattar @ 04630 256372

7. ThenThiruperai(

Back across the bridge and on to the South bank of Tamaraibarani, one finds the big Nigaril Mugilvannan temple at ThenThiruperai where the Lord is seen in a seated posture facing East.
Legend has it that Goddess Bhoodevi found two fish shaped ear rings while performing a penance, on the banks of Tamaraibarani, to relieve herself of Sage Durvasa’s curse and offered it to the Lord. The Lord who wore this came to be known as ‘Makara Nedun Kuzhaikathan’.

Another story is that Varuna (the Rain God) performed a penance here to be relieved of his curse. As a mark of this, it is believed that Varuna, visits this temple, every year, on the full moon day in the month of Panguni and worships Vishnu.
Temple timing: 730am-12noon and 5pm-830pm
Contact:Anantha Padmanabha Bhattar @ 04639 273902 / 93605 53489 AKK Bhattar @ 04639 272030

8. ThiruKolur – The birth place of MaduraKaviAzhvaar (

3 kms South West of Thiruperai is the Vaitha Maa Nidhi temple at Thiru Kolur, where the Lord is in a reclining posture facing East.This is the birth place of MaduraKaviAzhvaar, the ardent devotee of Nammazhvaar. Legend has it that Kubera attained salvation from Goddess Parvati’s curse at this place and it was here that his Nava Nidhis were restored. It is said that a visit to this temple will help one recover lost wealth. The Lord here is said to help his devotees in distress.

Temple timing: 730am-12noon and 1pm-8pm
Contact: Srinivasa Bhattar @ 04630 291634

9. Azhvaar Tirunagari-The birth place of Nammazhvaar (

The last halt at the Nava Tirupathi temples is the AadiNaathan temple at Azhvaar Tirunagari (Kurugur). It is said that AadiNathan emerged on his own from the earth, though this does not figure among the only 8 temples where the Lord is believed to have emerged on his own.

Granting the prayers of a childless couple, Lord Nambi of Thirukkurungkudi is believed to have been born here as Nammazhvaar. When born, Nammazhvaar is said to have not opened his eyes or cried and he was taken to the tamarind tree within the temple.

Here, Nammazhvaar resided for 16 years till ThiruKolur’s Madurakavi (who was to later become his 
disciple) came and posed some interesting questions about life and that is when Nammazhvaar is said to have spoken for the first time.

So impressed was MaduraKavi (Azhvaar) with Nammazhvaar’s answers, that he said ‘ I do not need God, Nammazhvaar is enough’. Though Nammazhvaar died young, while in his 30s, his contribution to the Bhakti Movement is immense as can be seen from the fact that he sung praises of the Lord in one-third of the 108 Divya Desams. When Vaishnavites say Azhvaar, it means they are referring to Nammazhvaar, such is the reverence for him. There is a separate sannidhi for Nammazhvaar at this temple. He is the only one to have sung praise of Vishnu at the Nava Tirupathi temples. The centuries old tamarind tree at the temple neither bears fruit nor closes its leaves at dusk.

An important festival at this temple is the Vaikasi Utsav, when the deities from all the Nava Tirupathi temples congregate here at Azhvaar Tirunagari to listen to the Paasurams with Nammazhvaar seated on the Hamsa Vaahan. During Margazhi, one is a witness to ‘Thiru Mudi’ Sevai, the only one of its kind in Divya Desams. This is one of the three Divya Desams in TN where Araiyar Sevai, the visual song and dance enactment of the ‘Paasurams is still being performed. There is a stone nadaswaram at this temple, which is played out on special occasions. Most of the inscriptions here date back almost a 1000 years.

Temple timing: 7am-12noon and 5pm-8pm
Contact: Appu Sadagopachari 04639 273984 / Thiruvengada Bhattar @ 04639 272079

10. Vaanamaamalai(Nanguneri) - (

Situated about 30kms from Tirunelveli off the Nagercoil NH7 is the Lord Vaanamaalai Thothadri Nathar temple at Nanguneri. Out of the 108 Divya Desams, there are only 8 that have Lord’s Idol emerging on its own from the earth and this is one of the eight.

A speciality of this Divya Desam is that an oil pooja is performed daily for the main deity and this oil is deposited in the 25 feet open well within the temple. The oil is said to have medicinal values and is believed to cure both internal and external illness including ulcer and skin diseases.

The 600 years old Vaanamaamalai mutt(Jeers) are the hereditary trustees of the temple. Most of the main festivals at this temple are celebrated in a unique way, not found in any other Divya Desams. 

The main deity (Lord Deivanayakan) and Goddess are brought to the Mutt and the entire pooja festivities of the divine couple is performed at the Mutt.

Temple timing: 8am-12noon and 5pm-9pm
Contact: Nambi Srinivasa Bhattar 04365 250119
To reach Nanguneri : 45 minute bus trip from Tirunelveli New Bus stand. Buses every 5 minutes. Kanniyakumari Exp and Ananthapuri Express from Chennai stop at Nanguneri station.

11. Thirukkurungkudi Nambi (

Known as the ‘South Badri’, Azhagiya Nambi temple at Thirukkurungkudi is about 15 kms from Nanguneri. While the Lord lectures Ramanuja at (North) Badri, it is said that, here at Thirukkurungkudi, the Lord took the role of a disciple and obtained Vaishnava Initiation from Ramanuja and hence the Lord here is also called Vaishnava Nambi.

Chola, Pandya and Naayak Kings are said to have played a significant role in the construction of this temple. Culverts show that this temple in its current form and structure is at least 700 years old.

Under half a km from the main temple is the Thirupaarkadal Nambi temple and about 8 kms from here on the Western Ghats is the Thirumalai Nambi temple, where it is believed that Lord Hanuman took the leap to Lanka from here. Also, it is said that Lord Rama made his plans for the construction of the bridge to Lanka from here and then went over to Thirupallani. The Lord here has 39 different names including Kurungkudi Nambi, Vaishnava Nambi, Tirupparkadal Nambi and Malai Mel Nambi. Lord Nambi himself is believed to have been born as Nammazhvaar at Azhvaar Thirunagari.

The famed Araiyar Sevai originated from Thirukkurungkudi. Legend has it that the Lord used to listen to Araiyar’s Abhinayam hiding behind a wall in Bashyam Street(South Mada St). In recognition of this significant event, even today, one can see the name of this street in Tirunelveli’s Gazette. It is believed that ‘Vaikuntam’(the ultimate destination for Vaishnavites) is in ‘calling distance’ from this place. Thirumangai Azhvaar composed the last of his Paasurams here at this temple and is believed to have attained moksham from here.

Thirukkurungkudi is said to be the home to the Vaishnava tradition of ‘Kaisika Ekadesi’. On this day, the employees of the temple perform a Kaisika Natakam(drama)-worship of the Lord through dance, music and drama. This special event at the Thirukkurungudi temple dates back several hundred years. This year the Kaisika Natakam will take place at 10pm on 1st December.

Timings: 8am-12noon and 5pm-9pm
Contact: Murali Bhattar@ 94432 05739
How to reach Kurungkudi: Frequent buses from Valliyoor. One can also take a bus from Nanguneri.

12. Srivilliputhur (

Srivilliputhur, the birthplace of Andal, is considered to be among the holiest of the 108 Divya Desams because it is the birthplace of not one but two Azhvaars and a father-daughter one at that- Periazhvaar and Andal.. Legend has it that this town was built by two hunters Villi and Puttan and hence the name Villiputhur. The temple dates back to 1st Century AD.

The 196 ft high temple tower is 2nd only to Srirangam’s Rajagopuram. The temple tower is the one that is featured on the TN Government logo. The 9 tier temple chariot is said to be the biggest in Tamil Nadu. One finds Lord Garuda, the charioteer of Lord Vishnu, along side the main deities.

In all other temples, you would find Garuda standing opposite the main deity. It is believed that Garuda, brought Lord Ranganathan of Srirangam, to Srivilliputhur, faster than expected and hence he was accorded the special status here. A unique tradition followed to this day at this temple, not seen in any other Divya Desam, is that Lord Vadapatrasayi adorns the garland worn the previous evening by Andal (the Goddess).

Andal’s Thiruppavai (30 verses in praise of Lord) is one of the most beautifully composed songs among the 4000 Paasurams. It is believed that singing these 30 verses will bring peace and prosperity as well as God’s grace. Periazhvaar composed a total of 473 Paasurams, the first 12 is the famous Thirupallandu. It is said that Periazhvaar sang this first, in a debate on how best to serve the Lord, in front of the Pandya King in Madurai using Elephant’s bells as the beats for the song. A big attraction at the temple is the Araiyar Sevai, the song and dance enactment of the Paasurams. Vaikunta Ekadesi festival(Dec-Jan) attracts devotees from all over.

Temple timing: 630am-12noon and 4pm-9pm
Contact: Bala Mukunda Araiyar @ 94438 67345 / Mappillai Srinivasan Bhattar @ 94425 47533
Frequent buses from Tirunelveli via Sankaran Koil-Rajapalayam (2 hours). There is a direct train thrice a week (Podhigai Express) from Chennai