Celebrating the Azhwars and the Divya Desams of Lord Sriman Narayana!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Thiruthankaa Divya Desam

One of the Divya Desams in Kanchipuram.

Famous as the birthplace of the venerable Sri Vaishnavite Acharya Vedantha Desika. Sri Vedantha Desika was an ardent devotee of Lord Sri Hayagriva - the manifestation of Vishnu with the head of a horse. Lord Hayagriva is the personification of intelligence and knowledge.

It is quite natural that, as a devotee of Lord Sri Hayagriva, Sri Vedantha Desika was a scholar with a peerless intellect. In his celebrated work - the Hayagriva Stotram, Sri Desika prays:

"Harathu anthar dvaantham hesha hala hala"
[Lord! May the Divine sound of your wondrous voice remove our inner darkness]

The Thaayar is Sri Maragathavalli.The Lord at Thiruthankaa has a wonderful Thiru-naamam- Deepa Prakaasar [in Tamil, this translates to Vilakkoli Perumal].

Everything associated with this Divya Desam is related to aspects of knowledge. The Theertham here is called the Saraswathi Theertham. Naturally, there are Sannidhis for Vedantha Desika and Lord Sri Hayagriva.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Thirukkudanthai Divya Desam

In all the eighty three Divya Desams I have been fortunate to visit, the most beautiful Thirumeni of the Lord would undoubtedly have to be Lord Sarangapani of Kumbakonam. The official name of this Divya Desam is Thirukkudanthai. The Azhwars vie with each other in describing the beauty of this Lord, and Sri Nammazhwar wins hands down, calling this Perumal as Aaaraavamudhan (He who is uncloyingly sweet - thekittaatha amudham).

Saturday, October 20, 2007


Recently I have been browsing my own collection of digital photos - taken at the places I have travelled to, and one place that never fails to amaze me is Ahobilam. It is one of the two SriVaishnavite Divya Desams in Andhra Pradesh (the other of course being Thirumala-Thirupathi).

There are several Divya Desams whose current state is in stark contrast to how they must have looked during the times of the Azhwars. For example, Thirumangai Azhwar describes Thiruvallikkeni (aka Triplicane in Chennai) as "iraviyin kadhirgal nuzhai-dhal seidhariyaa ThiruvallikkeNi kandEnE" - i.e the place was so densely forested that sun rays couldn't penetrate. Today, I can safely challenge anyone to show me more than two full grown trees in the maada veedhis surrounding the temple of Lord Sri Parthasarathy.

Ah, I am digressing. Coming back to the point, Ahobilam is one of the few Divys Desams which have been preserved in more or less the same state as during the times of the Azhwars. Even the indefatigable Thirumangai Azhwar describes Ahobilam as a most inaccessible place, and calls it "Dheivam allAl sella voNNaa singa VaEL kunramae" i.e according to him, Ahobilam is inaccessible except to the gods! The formal name for Ahobilam is beautiful - Thiru Singa VaeL kunram (Hill of the Lion King). Indeed, Ahobilam retains its beautiful forests, natural springs, cave temples and hunting tribes so vividly and fearfully described by the Azhwar.

Ahobilam is consists of nine temples dedicated to the nine forms of Lord Sri Narasimha. The temples are located at various elevations on several hills. Some of them have to be reached only on foot, after a fairly arduous trek. In addition to the nine temples, there is a temple for Sri Prahalada Varadan at the base of the hills. Very close to this temple is the headquarters of the Ahobila Mutt, which is one of the most important Sri Vaishnavite monasteries. The nine temples are small and nestled amidst hills and forests.

The best way to travel to Ahobilam is by forming part of groups of devotees that travel to Ahobilam from various places in South India.

The origin of the name "Ahobilam" is very interesting and inspiring. Sri Garuda, who is Lord Vishnu's mount, and possessed of incredible physical might himself, was a witness to Lord Vishnu's incarnation as Sri Narasimha to slay the demon Hiranyakashipu. On seeing the power of Sri Narasimha, Garuda exclaimed in awe, "Aho Balam!" (What strength !!!)

Sri Lakshmi Narasimhan Thiruvadigalae Saranam.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Thiru-EvvuL (Thiruvallur, 45 kms from Chennai Central Station)

A serene, compact and beautiful Divya Desam under the maintenance of the Ahobila Mutt. The Lord's thirunaamam is Sri "Vaidya" Veeraraghavan and the Thaayar is Sri Kanakavalli. The Lord gets His nickname from his miraculous healing properties. So this is a Divya Desam to get the blessings of health and wealth!

Thirumangai Azhwar has composed a beautiful decad of verses on Thiru-Evvul. Addressing the Lord as "Evvul Kidanthaan" - He who reclines at Evvul. Azhwar asserts that whoever recites his decad of verses will be sure to rule the World. In the event that they are not interested in ruling the world, they will rule the world of the Devas! (anDam AaLvadhu AaNai, anrael AaLvar amarulagae)

Salihotra Maharishi worshipped the Lord at this hallowed place. The theertham is called the Hruth-Thaapa-Naasini (which quenches the anguishes of the heart). Here is a photo from a poo-pallaakku utsavam from Thiru-Evvul.

Sri Kanakavalli Thaayar sametha Sri Vaidya Veera Raghava Perumal Thiruvadigalae Saranam.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Vaadinaen Vaadi..

The beginning of a glorious set of outpourings from Sri Tirumangai Azhwar.
The Azhwar with the most colourful life history. What really makes him most
endearing is that he was not a saint with an unblemished life. Self-admittedly,
he was guilty of every sin in the book.

Suddenly he made a U-Turn in his life, and became an unabashed votary of the
Lord. And even after his epiphany, he didn't completely give up his energetic
lifestyle - he merely channelized it in the service of the Lord. And even in
his mangalasasanams, we find not undiluted praise of the Lord. Tirumangai
Azhwar takes his liberties with the Lord - expressing anger, praise, love and
the whole gamut of emotions.

Supremely energetic, Tirumangai Azhwar travelled widely and glorified 86 divya

When he suddenly had his epiphany, thanks to initiation at the hands of Perumal
and Thaayar themselves, he burst forth into the decad called the "Thirumanthiram"
in which he describes the glory of the Naaraayana naamam.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Why this name ?

People familiar with Nammazhwar's famous verse on Lord Sarangapani of Kumbakonam (formally known as Thirukkudanthai) will know exactly how to pronounce the name of this blog.

"Aravamudham", as I have spelt it, is actually pronounced "Aaraavamudham". It means sweetness than can never cloy. Nammazhwar describes Lord Sarangapani as Aa-raa-amudhan".
I wanted a really sweet name for my blog, and what better choice than this ?

Also, the word "AaraavamudhE" has a great significance in Sri Vaishnava Sampradaya. A few centuries after the lifetimes of the Azhwars, knowledge of the Divya Prabandham was lost among people. A few people scattered here and there knew a few pAasurams. Not all the pAsurams were known to mankind. Sri nAthamuni, one of the AchAryas in the Sri Vaishnava AchArya lineage happened to hear the decad of pAsurams that starts with "ArAvamudhE". In the concluding pAsuram of this decad, Sri NammAzhwar mentions of this decad being one of the thousand (AyirathuL ivai pathum..) of his outpourings. This stimulated the thinking of Sri nAthamuni. If this pAsuram was one of a thousand, where were the rest ? He started enquiring around, and with unrelenting effort and the Grace of Sri nammAzhwAr, recovered the Divya Prabandham for the benefit of Sri Vaishnavas. So, it was the word "ArAvamudhE" that triggered the rediscovery of the nAlAyira Divya Prabandham.

Ramblings on the Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gita is part of the Mahabharatha, which is the longest poetical workin the world and is one of the two classical epics of India. In a nutshell, the Mahabharatais the story of the internecine conflict between two sets of cousins in a royal family.The Mahabharata culminates in a war of epic proportions between the feuding cousinsand the good guys win, ultimately. Krishna, an avatar of Lord Vishnu stands by and guides thegood folks to their justified victory.
Just as the two sides are on the brink of war, Arjuna, one of the good guys and a stalwartin war, gets stricken by guilt and remorse. His conscience begins to work overtime, and he starts wondering what the heck he is doing fighting with his own cousins and uncles. Krishna,who is his guide-cum-charioteer, talks to him about war, life and philosophy. At the end of question and answer session that probably lasted around three hours, Arjuna is raring to goin for the kill. The war begins.
Familiar people will recognize that the preceding two paragraphs represent a very superficial(in fact, bordering on the flippant) summary of the Mahabharatha and the Gita. The Gita is notmerely an incitement to war, not is it the motivational pitch a general would use to get his soldiers going. It is detailed philosophical discussion about how to percieve life and work.And it is much more..
Since the Bhagavad Gita is a discussion about perspectives of life, it is quite natural thatit is subject to subjective interpretation. Indeed, various philosphers and thinkers have interpreted or commented on the Bhagavad Gita from their respective perspectives. And the veryfact that there are so many interpretations means that there is no universal agreement!
The Bhagavad Gita is divided into eighteen chapters. Krishna talks to Arjuna about variouspractices like Karma Yoga, Bhakti, etc etc, which very frankly, I don't understand. In the finalchapter, however, Lord Krishna makes a telling statement -"Surrender everything unto me, and don't worry".
Is this the crux of the message of the Gita - letting go..?

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Lord's Transgressions of Dharma

Reading through C.Rajaji’s Ramayana, Adiyen happenedto think of the Vali Vadham episode and wish to share some of my ramblings on this topic with this august forum of venerable Sri Vaishnavites.There are numerous occasions wherein the Lord has, uninhibitedly and brazenly flouted “dharma” to uphold the interests of His Devotees. Straightaway, Adiyen can think of three instances (doubtless, there are many more):

1. Depriving the Asuras of Amrutam, to confine it to the Devas, even though the Asuras had participated equally in the churning of the ocean and hence had an equal right to the spoils.

2. Killing Vaali, while remaining hidden, and that toowhen He had no personal score to settle with Vaali.

3. Protecting Saatyaki from certain death, by getting Arjuna to sever the hand of Bhurisravas in theKurukshetra war, though Arjuna was in no way involved in the Saatyaki-Bhurisravas duel. (I am not sure why the other such episodes are discussed as much as Vaali Vadham) Aren’t these open and flagrant violations of so-called Dharma ? No – because from the Lord’s perspective, the first and foremost Dharma is the protection of HisDevotees. Everything else (i.e conventional considerations of Dharma) are set aside when a Devotee’s well-being is at stake, just as the police are armed with special powers in the event of an Emergency. Thiruvalluvar says in the Thirukkural –“Udukkai izhanthavan kai pola Angae iDukkaN kaLaivadhAm natpu”. Just as a man’s hand instinctively clutches at his waist cloth when he senses that it is slipping, a man’s true friend rushes to his succour at the time of peril. If even a human friend can do this, what to speak of the Lord, when His devotee is in peril ? This is illustrated by EmperumAn’s speed in rushing to Gajendra’s aid – a speed so tremendous that it had the Lord waiting for Sri Sudarsana to catch up.( “Senru, ninru, Azhi thottaanai” – Thirumangai Azhwar describing the Lord of Triplicane) Now, what is “Dharma” and what is “Adharma” ? As is repeatedly pointed out in the Mahabharatha, the way of Dharma is extremely intricate and even great men are often perplexed at what is right and what is not. Thisis why the Lord says “Sarva DharmAn Parithyajtha; mAmekam saranam vraja”. For, what really is Dharma is not what we think it to be, it is what the Lord thinks it to be. (“AchAra prabhavo dharma, dharmasya prabhurachyutah” – says the phala sruthi of the Vishnu Sahasranama) Hence the Lord simplifies our task by saying, “You do not worry about Dharma (with your infinitesimal intellect !) .You just surrender unto me”. The same sentiment is echoed in a line in the Bible – “He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His Names’ sake”. ( If I remember right, it is the twenty-third psalm) Let’s consider another thing. We commit innumerable sins and acquire an enormous heritage of Dush-Karma. But still, we pray to the Lord, and He cheerfully reduces our gravest and most heinous sins (“sediyaayaval vinaigaL”) to ashes.(poya pizhaiyum puku tharuvAnninranavum theeyinil thoosaakum). Thus He allows us to get away without paying fully for our misdeeds.Strictly speaking, is this also not a transgression ofthe laws of karma and dharma ? And if the Lord were to strictly apply the yardstick of dharma while judging us, what would be our plight ? Such trivial considerations of karma and dharma are cast aside when the Lord’s Grace attends on us, isn’t it ?Doubtless, everything of the above must be something that readers have known/realized already, but stillthe Lord’s Daya cannot be over emphasized. I am surprised at my own temerity in placing these thoughts in this elite forum. I regret any errors in the form or substance of this message. Adiyen

Thursday, August 9, 2007

First Post

This blog will be a collection of aDiyaen's ramblings on the wonderful philosophy that is Sri Vaishnavism. Whether I am competent enough to blog on such a great subject is entirely questionable. However, there is no question about my interest and sincerity of purpose!