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Worship of Sri Rama in Andhra

From: Mohan Sagar (msagar_at_worldnet.att.net)
Date: Thu Apr 17 1997 - 21:10:27 PDT

Mr. Sadagopan writes:

>Sri Thyaga Brahmam celebrated Sri navami for 9 days . Today , Sri Rama Navami 
>is celebrated in that manner at Oppiliappan Koil .The peak of the celebration
>is on April 25 , when Rama Pattabhishekam takes place with pomp and 
>circumstance . 

I had intended to compile and post the following yesterday, but was unable
as our family was very much involved in our own celebration of Sri Rama Navami.

Several months ago, during the month of Margazhi, I had the opportunity to
post a few observations on Andal's worship in Andhra Pradesh, the state from
which much of my family hails.  I would like to take a similar approach to
the worship of Ramavatharan, describing the traditions that result from the
immense popularity of this form of the Lord among SriVaishnavas in Andhra.
Much of this discussion is based on our own family traditions and on a
conversation with a few friends and relatives who attended the aradhanai in
our home yesterday evening.

The popularity of Lord Sri Rama in Andhra could easily be considered to
exceed such in other states of South India.  While Srinivasa Perumal is the
most prevailing form of our Lord in SriVaishnava temples in Andhra, Sri Rama
is the most popular Deity in SriVaishnava homes. The tradition that Sri
Thyagaraja took in celebrating Sri Rama Navami over nine days continues in
temples and homes in Andhra to this day, as it approximately coincides with
the time period between Ugadi and the actual Navami day.  Generally,
devotees perform the Paarayanam of Sundara Kaandam during this time,
culminating such activities by reading or attending the auspicious Sri
SitaRama Kalyana Utsavam.  

Although the Kalyanam is most famous at the Bhadrachalam temple, one need
not go there to participate in such.  For particularly in Hyderabad,
Perumal's wedding ceremony to Sita Pirati can be as close as a few blocks
away, in the local shrine to Anjaneya.   there are temples to Anjaneyar in
every neighborhood and subdivision in Hyderabad - ranging from small
Northern Indian style Mandirs to elaborate and orthodox temples - as there
are temples to Vinayakar in Chennai. Indeed, Siriya Thiruvadi seems to take
the equivalent role in Hyderabad that Dr. Robert Lester once ascribed to
Vinayakar in Chennai - being the god of the people, who hears one's prayers
and conveys it to the Lord. 

The catalyst and center of all of this is the famous temple to Sri
SitaRamachandraswamy at the temple town of Bhadrachalam, which serves as a
very important Abhimaana Sthala for the SriVaishnava Community in Andhra.  I
visited this temple once almost a decade ago with my parents and
grandparents, but, still remember the picturesque beauty of the temple and
the Lord therein.  Perumal here is in a very unique posture when compared to
the pictures and vigrahas that we all have.  The Lord reveals his full four
armed form in the temple, holding a bow and arrow in His lower hands and
Sankham and Chakram in His upper hands.  Rather than standing in a tribhanga
posture, Perumal is seated in yogic posture with Pirati sitting on His lap
to His left side.  Standing next to Him is Illaya Perumal with bow and
arrow, affectionately guarding His Brother and Sister-in-Law.  All three
have their right hands in abhaya hastam, but interestingly, both SriRama and
Lakshmana fold their thumb and forefinger over their hand and support an
arrow.  Another interesting aspect of the Lord's form is that His Divine
Armaments are reversed in His hands, with the Sankham being in His right
hand.  My mother told me that popular belief as to why this is so is because
the Lord was in haste to provide His Saulabhyam in this form, and raced from
Paramapadam in reckless ignorance of the positions of His armaments.

While the temple is arguably located in the "heartlands" of Andhra Desha,
the traditional practices of Pancharatra Agama and Nalayira Divya Prabhandam
still continue with all due orthodoxy.  The heriditary lineage of priests at
the temple emigrated to Bhadrachalam from Kumbakonam at the behest of
Bhadrachalam Ramadas himself.  While generations of separation from Tamil
Nadu have encouraged the priests to converse in Telugu and don the saffron
colored vEshtis of Andhra Brahmins, the Goshti takes pride in the continued
fluent recitation of the Prabhandam as part of the daily Kainkaryam.  They
have also taken every effort to include sannidhis of Dasavatharas, Azhwars,
Garudan, Thayar, and the Acharyas in the temple complex, and perform special
honors to SriVaishnavas who visit the temple.  


Daasanu Daasan,

Mohan