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

Saturday, September 21, 2013

ThiruppuliyUr divya dEsam (aka kutta nAdu)

This is one of the 5 divya dEsams in the ChengannUr area of kEraLA, that are connected with the five pAndavA brothers of mahAbhArathA fame.

Location and Access:

ThiruppuliyUr is located 5 km West of the town of ChengannUr. It is best to drive to this Divya dEsam. Buses are very infrequent. There are practically no facilities for staying here.

The Temple:

The temple is fairly big and is built in the typical kEraLA divya dEsam architecture with a big open prakAram. The thAyAr here is Sri porkodi nAchiyAr and the perumAL is Sri mAyappirAn in a standing posture. The temple tank is known as pragnyA saras.

Legends and History:
  • Stone inscriptions in the temple date it back to the Second Chera Empire (800 - 1102 AD).
  • The temple is believed to have been built by BheeemA, the second of the pAndavAs of mahAbhArathA fame. There is a large mace in this temple that is said to be a likeness of BheemA’s weapon. 
  • The food offerings (prasAdam) at this temple are of a huge quantity – as befits the appetite of the temple’s patron, BheemA. 
  • Legend has it that, this place was ruled by a cruel king Virukshadarbi. There was a famine here and the king thought of giving gifts to the holy Seven Sages (saptharishis) to attract their blessings. However the sages declined to accept the ruler’s gifts. The enraged ruler performed a sacrifice and invoked an evil spirit to kill the Rishis. Lord Sriman NarayanA directed Indra to slay the evil spirit and protect the sages, which Indra did dutifully. Further, the Lord appeared before the Rishis and blessed them here at this divya dEsam.

AzhwAr mangaLAsAsanams:

SrI nammAzhwAr: 3535-45
SrI thirumangaiAzhwAr: 2673 (71)

[Note: The numbering convention for the pAsurams seems to differ in various Divya Prabandham books. In some Divya Prabandham books, the same pAsurams by srI nammAzhwAr are listed as verse numbers 2842-52.]

A sample pAsuram:

நேர்பட்ட நிறை மூவுலகுக்கும் நாயகன் தன் அடிமை
நேர்பட்ட தொண்டர் தொண்டர் தொண்டர்  தொண்டன் சடகோபன் சொல்
நேர்பட்ட தமிழ் மாலை ஆயிரத்துள் இவை பத்தும்
நேர்பட்டார் அவர் நேர்பட்டார் நெடுமாற்க்கு அடிமை செய்யவே

In this pAsuram (which is the last of Sri nammAzhwAr’s set of 11 pAsurams on this divya dEsam), AzhwAr describes himself as the servant of the servant of the servant of the servant of the Lord. Those who chant this decad of pAsurams by Sri nammAzhwAr will be blessed with the fortune of being devoted worshippers of the Lord.
Sri porkodi nAchiyAr samEtha Sri mAyappirAn thiruvadigaLE saraNam

Monday, August 12, 2013

Thiruchenkunroor Divya dEsam (aka ThiruchitrAru)

This is one of the six divya dEsams that can be worshipped by making TiruvallA town as the travel base. This place is also referred to as Chengannur.

Location and Access:

Thiruchenkunroor (or Chengannur) is a railway station that is located on the rail route from Thiruvananthapuram to Ernakulam via Kollam. Chengannur has hotels and chowltries. It is a fairly big town. It is also located 10 km south of TiruvallA town.

The Temple:

The temple is fairly big and built in the typical kEraLA divya dEsam style, with plenty of open space. The thAyAr here is known as Senkamalavalli and the Lord here is known as imaiyavarappan. The Lord is in a standing posture, facing west. There is a temple tank here called the sanka theertham.

Legends and History:

There are 5 divya dEsams in the TiruvallA area in kEraLA that are associated with each of the five pAndavAs of the mahAbhArathA. Of these, Thiruchenkunroor is associated with the eldest of the pAndavAs – YudhistirA. Legend has it that, YudhistirA was very unhappy with his own act of lying to his AchAryA (drOnA)during the mahAbhArathA war. YudhistirA took bath in the sacred TiruchitrAru river here and worshipped the Lord at this Divya dEsam and regained his peace of mind.

AzhwAr mangaLAsAsanams:

SrI nammAzhwAr: 3480-3490

[Note: The numbering convention for the pAsurams seems to differ in various Divya Prabandham books. In some Divya Prabandham books, the same pAsurams by srI nammAzhwAr are listed as verse numbers 2887-2897.] 

A sample pAsuram:

என் அமர் பெருமான் இமையவர் பெருமான் இரு நிலம் இடந்த எம் பெருமான்

முன்னை வல்வினைகள் முழுது உடன் மாள என்னை ஆள்கின்ற எம் பெருமான்

தென் திசைக்கு அணிகொள் திருச்செங்குன்றூரில் திருச்சிற்றாற்றங்கரை மீபால்

நின்ற எம் பெருமான் அடி அல்லால் சரண் நினைப்பிலும் பிறிது இல்லை எனக்கே 
In this pAsuram, Sri nammAzhwAr states that he will never forget the feet of the Lord of ThiruchenkunrUr, which is located on the banks of the ThiruchitrAru river. This Lord is the One who is seated  in the AzhwAr’s heart; He is also the Lord of the demi-gods. He rules over AzhwAr, having destroyed the latter’s past sins.  

Sri Senkamalavalli thAyAr samEtha Sri imaiyavarappan thiruvadigaLaE saraNam.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

ThirukkadithAnam Divya dEsam

Also known as ThirukOdithAnam, this is one of the malai nAdu divya dEsams.

Location and Access:

ThirukkadithAnam is located 3 km east of the town of ChengannAchEry near TiruvallA in the south Indian state of kEraLA. ChengannAchEry is located 8 km from TiruvallA on the road leading to Kottayam. It is one of the Divya dEsams that can be covered with the town of TiruvallA as the travel base (There are no facilities for lodging in ThirukkadithAnam itself). From TiruvallA, this divya dEsam can be reached by bus.

Legends and History:

It is believed that this temple was renovated by SahAdEva, the youngest of the five pAndavA brothers of mahAbhArathA fame. Further it is believed that the idol of KrishnA installed here by SahAdEva shines with renewed holiness every 60 years. It is predicted that this idol will merge with the sky in the form of a blaze of light at the end of kali yugam.

Another interesting story associated with this temple is that of King RukmAngadA of the solar (surya) dynasty. The King maintained a beautiful garden. The dEvAs (demi-gods) used to steal flowers from this garden for worship of Lord SrI Vishnu. When the King discovered the theft of flowers from his garden, he had the devAs captured and imprisoned. Later, realizing who they were, he apologized and allowed them to leave. But, having been deprived of their powers, the devAs could not return to their heavenly abodes. To facilitate their return, King RukmAngadA undertook penance at this Divya dEsam every EkAdEsi day and gave away the fruits of his penance to the dEvAs.

The Temple:

The thAyAr here is known as sri karpagavalli and the perumAL  here is called sri arputha nArAyanan or amirtha nArAyanan. There are separate sannidhis for SrI narasimhA and SrI krishnA. The temple is built in the typical kEraLA style of architecture.

An interesting statue :

Outside this temple, we see a rather weird statue – which shows a man lying stiff horizontally on a vertical stone pillar. This statue represents a person (a local king) who once entered the temple after it had been closed for the day after the regular hours of worship. He was severely punished and as a deterrent for potential offenders, his statue was put up near the very temple  whose protocol he tried to violate. In the kEralA protocol of worship, it is considered extremely unacceptable to enter the temple after the normal hours of prayer in the evening. Contrast this discipline with the laxity in a temple like Tirupathi, where the temple hardly ever closes for the night!

External references:

This webpage has a lot of information on the temple at ThirukodithAnam :http://www.thrikodithanam.org/

AzhwAr mangaLAsAsanams:

SrI nammAzhwAr: 3502-12

[Note: The numbering convention for the pAsurams seems to differ in various Divya Prabandham books. In some Divya Prabandham books, the same pAsurams by srI nammAzhwAr are listed as verse numbers 2909-2919]

A sample pAsuram:

கொண்மின் இடர் கெட உள்ளத்துக் கோவிந்தன்
மண் விண் முழுதும் அளந்த ஒண் தாமரை

மண்ணவர் தாம் தொழ வானவர் தாம் வந்து
நண்ணு  திருக்கடித்தான நகரே.

In this pAsuram, sri nammAzhwAr says: To end all your miseries, worship in your heart, GovindA, who measured the Earth and the Sky and who is worshipped by the people of the Earth and the Gods in the divya dEsam of ThirukkadithAnam.

Sri karpagavalli thAyAr samEtha sri arputha nArAyanan thiruvadigaLae saraNam

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

ThiruvallavAzh divya dEsam (ThiruvallA)

This beautiful malai nAdu divya dEsam is located in TiruvallA town.

Location and Access:

TiruvallA town is located near Kottayam in kEraLa. The town is on the rail route from Kollam to Ernakulam. The temple is about 5 km from the train station. The divya dEsam is also accessible by bus. There is a chowltry (a resting place; nowadays the word usually refers to a wedding hall) very close to the ThiruvallavAzh temple where pilgrims can stay for a nominal charge. It is also possible to cook in the chowltry.

ThiruvallA is a very good travel base to cover six Divya dEsams located not too far from one another. These six divya dEsams are: ThiruvallavAzh, ThirukkadithAnam, ThiruvAranviLai, ThirupuliyUr, ThiruchenkunrUr and ThiruvaNvandUr. All these six Divya dEsams can be covered in 1-2 days. Details of these Divya dEsams will be posted one by one on this blog.

The Temple:

The temple is not very big and can be easily covered in about 45 minutes. The temple is built in the typical kEraLA divya-dEsam structure, with a conical roof over the main sanctum and a stone platform in front of the sanctum. There is a spacious, open prakAram around the main sanctum. The thAyAr here is Sri Selva thirukkozhundhu nAchiyAr, also known as vAtsalya dEvi. There is a temple tank nearby. The Lord here is in a standing position and goes by the names of kOlappirAn, thiruvAzhmArban and SrI vallabhan.A unique feature of this temple is that there is a sannidhi for Sri ChakrathAzhwAr behind the sannidhi of Sri PerumAL.  It is not common to see a sannidhi for Sri ChakrathAzhwAr in the malai nAdu divya dEsams. 

Legends and History:

Legend has it that, a female devotee by the name of Shankara Mangalathammai used to religiously observe a fast every EkAdEsi day and then serve food to a brahmachAri on the next day. A demon called tOlakAsuran started harassing her and began creating hurdles in her religious practice. Sri perumAL appeared as a brahmachAri and slew the demon. In compliance with the wish of His devotee, SrI perumAL stayed at this place with Sri mahAlakshmi visible on His chest to bless all those who come to worship at this shrine. Hence the name Sri vallabhan for the Lord.

Another legend associated with this kShEthram is that of a person named GhantAkarNA. He was instructed by ShivA to worship Lord Sri Vishnu through the eight-syllabled ashtAkshara manthrA. To avoid hearing any extraneous noises, GhantAkarnA tied a bell to each of his ears and worshipped Lord Sri Vishnu and secured His Grace. The theertham in this Divya dEsam is called GhantAkarNa theertham.

It is also believed that the idol of the Lord here was installed by the sage Sri durvAsa, and that the sage visits  the temple every night to worship his Lord.

I had the opportunity to visit tiruvallA as part of a tour group. We stayed overnight in the chowltry near the temple. In the early hours of the morning, we were woken up by the sound of music and dance from the temple. I walked over to the temple and saw a group performing kathakali dance in front of the temple. There were no other people around except the performers. Later I asked one of the locals why there was a dance performance for no audience. The reply was that the performers were dancing for the entertainment of the Lord and not any human. I was amazed at this intensity of devotion.

AzhwAr mangaLasAsanams:

Thirumangai AzhwAr: 1808-17, 2674(118)
SrI nammAzhwAr: 3205-15

[Note: The numbering convention for the pAsurams seems to differ in various Divya Prabandham books. In some Divya Prabandham books, the same pAsurams by srI nammAzhwAr are listed as verse numbers 2612-22]

A sample pAsuram:

நாமங்கள் ஆயிரம் உடைய நம்பெருமான் அடிமேல்
சேமம் கொள் குருகூர்ச் சடகோபன் தெரிந்து உரைத்த
நாமங்கள் ஆயிரத்துள் இவை பத்தும் திருவல்லவாழ்
சேமம் கொள் தென் நகர்மேல் செப்புவார் சிறந்தார் பிறந்தே  

Sri nammAzhwAr has glorified the Feet of the Lord of a thousand Names at ThiruvallavAzh through a set of ten pAsurams. In this pAsuram Sri nammAzhwAr says that those who chant this set of ten pAsurams on the Lord of thiruvallavAzh will attain a celebrated birth.

Sri vAtsalya dEvi samEtha Sri vallabhan thiruvadigaLae saraNam

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Thiruvananthapuram Divya dEsam

[Click on above pictures to enlarge. Source of pictures unknown.]

A divya dEsam that combines delicate beauty with royal majesty, Thiruvananthapuram provides a sublime experience for the devotee.  Lord Anantha padmanAbha Swami resting on Adi sEshan is an awe-inspiring sight to behold. Like the nearby divya dEsam of ThiruvattAru, there are three entrances to the sannidhi to facilitate the devotees’ vision of the entire thirumEni of the Lord. Everything in this temple is grand and beautiful. The temple follows the kEraLa protocol of worship that maintains a superlative degree of discipline and purity.

Lately this Divya dEsam has been in the news for the putative discovery of treasure in the secret chambers of this temple. There have been several estimates of these riches – all varying depending on the imagination and fantasy of the reporters.  Quite understandably, there are also media reports and rumours of more riches awaiting discovery in the temple. There are also numerous stories of the underground secret chambers being filled with snakes, protected by magic spells etc. Whether these are true is best left to individual imagination. Incidentally, there are plenty of similar stories about many temples in India that have kindled the ambitions of treasure-seekers. Most, if not all, of these stories have been proven to be completely untrue. The real treasure in this temple is the Compassion and Grace of Lord Sri Anantha padmanAbha Swami!

Location and Access:

Thiruvananthapuram is the capital city of the south Indian state of kEraLA. It is well connected by rail, road and air (airport code TRV). It has a wide variety of food and stay options to cater to all budgets. The divya dEsam of Thiruvananthapuram is located close (approx. 1 km) from the city’s railway station.

The Temple:

The mUlavar here is SrI anantha padmanAbha swAmi perumAL and the thAyAr is SrI hari Lakshmi (no separate sannidhi for thAyAr). The theertham is called Matsya theertham and the vimAnam is known as hEmakUda vimAnam.  The main gopuram of the temple is very broad. The thirumEni of the Lord is so huge (about 18 feet) that He has to be viewed through three doors in the sannidhi. The mUlavar here has a very serene expression on His divine face. The sanctum is illuminated only by ghee and oil lamps. The thirumEni of the Lord is said to be made of over 10000 sAlagrAmam stones. The uthsavar with thAyArs is also seen in the sannidhi. SridEvi and bhUdEvi are also seen seated in front of the mUlavar. SivA and brahmA are also seen in the sanctum. The right Hand of the Lord is seen hanging over a Siva lingA and brahmA is seen seated on a lotus that emerges from the Lord’s navel. There is also a small sannidhi for Sri rAmA near the main sanctum.

There is a huge stone platform in front of the sanctum sanctorum. Immediately outside the sanctum is a beautiful mandapam with silver plated stone pillars. Outside this mandapam, there is a very beautiful, small sannidhi for SrI yOga narasimhA.

The temple has huge corridors adorned with beautiful sculptures – made of both wood and stone.  In fact, it can be argued that the sculptures here are the most beautiful and delicate among all the divya dEsams. There is a separate sannidhi for Sri KrishnA.  The temple’s architecture is very different from the traditional kEraLA style. In fact, it seems to combine elements of the Dravidian (Tamil nAdu style) architecture with kEraLA elements.

The temple can be fully covered in a couple of hours (if not crowded), although you could spend a lifetime enjoying the beauty of this temple. I had the opportunity of visiting the temple between 3.30-5 AM and it was a wonderful experience. Visiting the temple at this time also gives us an opportunity to watch the thirumanjanam for the uthsavar in the sanctum. Also, when I visited temple there was a group of three devotees circumambulating the temple singing  MalayALam songs in praise of the Lord to the tune of a tambura in gentle tones. It was a mesmerizing experience.

Legends and History:

According to legend, an ascetic divAkara yOgi prayed to Sri perumAL intensely. The Lord incarnated as a 2 year old child and stayed with the yOgi. One day, while the yOgi was performing his daily prayers, the child took one of his salagramam stones and put it in its mouth. Irritated at this, the yOgi scolded the child. The latter ran away and was followed by the yOgi. Even as the yOgi watched, the child entered the hollow of a tree. The tree fell apart and Sri Vishnu Himself appeared in a huge form. divAkara yOgi prayed that the Lord reduce His size. Accordingly the Lord assumed His current form (as in Thiruvananthapuram).

The exact age of the temple is still debated. The temple is mentioned in several purANAs (epics). Official records date back to the 7-8th centuries AD. The recorded history of the temple is very strongly linked to the royal family of Travancore in kEraLA.  King mArthAnda varmA (regnal period 1729-58) was a powerful monarch who consolidated the territories of the Travancore Kingdom. He surrendered the Kingdom to the Lord Sri ananthapadmanAbha swAmi and declared himself  a vassal of the Lord. Since then, the kings of the Travancore Royal Family have called themselves “padmanAbha dAsa” (servants of Sri padmanAbhA) and have ruled the kingdom on His behalf. Even today the King of the Travancore Royal Family is visits the temple every day. If he is not able to visit on a particular day, he is obligated to pay a fine!

AzhwAr mangaLAsAsanams:

nammAzhwAr 3678-88

[Note: The numbering convention for the pAsurams seems to differ in various Divya Prabandham books. In some Divya Prabandham books, the same pAsurams by nammAzhwAr is listed as #3085-3095]

A sample pAsuram:

கெடும் இடராயவெல்லாம் கேசவா என்ன  நாளும்
கொடுவினை செய்யும்கூற்றின் தமர்களும் குறுககில்லார்
விடமுடை யரவில்பள்ளி விரும்பினான் சுரும்பலற்றும்
தடமுடை வயல் அனந்த புரநகர் புகுதும் இன்றே       

In this pAsuram, Sri nammAzhwAr states that all our misery will be destroyed if we chant the sacred name of “kEsavA”. Also, if we chant this Name, the emissaries of Yama will not approach us. So Sri nammAzhwAr exhorts us to go to “ananthapura-nagar”(Thiruvananthapuram) surrounded by agricultural fields, where the Lord reclines on a venomous serpent.

This divya dEsam has also been glorified by SwAmi dEsikan.

SrI hari lakshmi thAyAr samEtha SrI anantha padmanAbha swAmi  thiruvadigaLae saraNam