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.