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Pilgrimage - I: Nava Thiruppathi

From: Parthasarati Dileepan (Dileepan_at_utc.edu)
Date: Mon Aug 18 1997 - 10:06:09 PDT

Pilgrimage - I:  Nava Thiruppathi
---------------------------------

Due to a change in our graduate curriculum it became possible for me last
year to bank teaching credits.  Having taught overloads during Fall and
Spring I was looking at three months of summer with nothing that required
me to stay here in Chattanooga.   Then this absurdly ambitious idea of
going to India and visiting all the 106 Dhivya Desams occurred to me.  Such
an endeavor, for one like me bereft of any merit whatsoever, to have been
successful is clearly divine blessing.   The odyssey began with a trip to
Azvaar Thirun^agari on May 12th where Srimad Azhgaiya Singar was camping
and ended with Thirunarayanapuram on July 5th.   I am still a little awe
struck.  The only regret I feel is that it was all too rushed.  In the next
few weeks I shall write about my experiences.   Due to limitation of
ability my narration is unlikely to be interesting.  But with divine grace
I hope it contains some useful information.

My father joined me for almost the entire trip and my uncle joined us for
the Northern Divya Desams and the ones in and around Kanchi.

In this post I shall write about my visit to Azhvaar Thirun^agari where
Srimad Azhagiya Singar was camping for Nammaazhvaar utsavam.  Reaching
Azhvaar Thirun^agari itself turned out to be an ordeal.  The DKM government
had just named a bus transport corporation around Thirunelveli after a
Dalit leader.  The dominant caste (Thevar I think) in that area did not
take this kindly.  The Dalits are no push-overs these days.  One thing had
apparently lead to another and there was violence.  A few people were even
killed.  The now ubiquitous Dr.Ambedkar statues were desecrated.  That had
to be avenged. This chain of events was being repeated town after town.
Azhvaar Thirun^agari was one of the towns affected.  Oblivious to any of
this my father and I took a late night train from Madras on May 12th, the
very day we reached Madras from here.   Reaching Madurai at about 9:30 a.m.
the next day.  We rented a railway retiring room and took our showers.
Then, we hired a taxi and proceeded to Thirunelveli.  Only after reaching
Thirunelvei we found out that Azhvaar Thirun^agari was the focal point of
intense rioting the day before.  No buses were plying.  The taxi driver was
reluctant to go on.  But after some coaxing we slowly proceeded further and
managed to follow a police jeep and reached Azhvaar Thirun^agari.  Srimad
Azhgaiya Singar gave us an audience almost immediately and then readily
agreed to my request to perform Saranagathi the next day at the lotus feet
of Lord Sri Malolan.

The day we reached Azhvaar Thirun^agari was the second day of Nammaazhvaar
utsavam.  In the evening Nammazhvaar with "Koravan Kondai" alangaram came
to Thirukkurungudi madam where Sri Malolan was also present.  After
aradhanai and a moving Satrumurai, recognition was awarded to Srimad
Azhagiya Singar.  It is a matter of tradition to offer the first
recognition to Sri Ahobila Mutt representative during the first three days
of the 10-day utsavam.  This year the Jeeyar Himself was present to accept
it.   For each ritual at the temple the Bhattars come in person to the Mutt
to invite Srimad Azhagiya Singar.  HH then proceeded to the temple with His
retinue and participated in the rituals.  The mutual respect between the
two kalais is a sight to behold.  How wonderful would it be if such
cooperation exists in other Sri Vaishnava centers such as Sri Rangam,
Kanchi, and Thiruvahindrapuram.

In the next two days we visited all the nine temples known to Sampradayam
as Nava Thiruppathi.  All the nine temples are undergoing massive
renovation at the expense of over Rs. 4 crores by TVS.  Some are already
complete, some are in progress.  We were fortunate to have the Bhattar of
ThenthiruppErai accompany us.  (He is the present care-taker for the
AhObila Mutt at Azhvaar Thirun^agari.)  The temples are generally open from
about 8:00 a.m. till 12:00 noon, and from about 4:00 p.m. till 8:00 p.m.
However, due to lack of sEvarthees the hours are not strictly followed.  It
is better to get someone to accompany you.  If your mode of transportation
is a taxi, there is always someone to oblige for a reasonable dhakshinai..
You need at least two days to complete dharsan of all the nine temples.
With advance notice one can stay at Srimad Ahobila Mutt.  For those who
need some privacy and/or comforts hotels with air- conditioned rooms are
only 30 KM (45 mintes by taxi) away at Thirun^elvEli.   With a little bit
of advance notice the caretaker of Sri Ahobila Mutt will be more than happy
to prepare prasadams for 2 or 3 people.

Navathiruppathi turned out to be a most wonderful way to begin our
pilgrimage of the paadal peRRa sthalams.  What was most appealing and
striking for me were the wonderful Tamil divine names for the nine
PerumaaLs.  Here is a list.

Polindhu ninRapiraan (Azhvaar thirun^agari),
Vaiththamaan^ithi (ThirukkOLUr),
magara nedunkuzhaikkaathan (Then ThiruppErai),
maayakkooththan (ThirukkuLandhai)
senthaamaraikkaNNan and DhEvarpiraan (irattaiththiruppathi)
kaLLappiraan (SrivaiguNdam)
kaaysinavEndhan (ThiruppuLiyangudi)
em idar kadivaan (Thiru varaguNamangai (naththam))

On the fourth day of our stay was the fifth day of the utsavam.  All the
nine perumaaLs came to Azhvaar Thirun^agari.  Nammaazhvaar came out of the
temple to welcome them by going around the Lord in pradhakshanam.  The nine
perumaaLs were staged in two maNdapams.  Due to the law-and-order situation
it was not clear whether the PerumaaLs would be able to come to Azhvaar
Thirun^agari for the GarduasEvai.  I believe this annual routine was broken
only once in recent memory when Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated.  At that
time Lord MayakkUththan from PerunguLam, the farthest temple from Azhvaar
Thirun^agari, made the trek only to find the other closer perumaaLs could
not make it.  (Hearing the aging temple guard narrate this was a moving
treat.)  Thus people were relieved and happy that this time all nine
PerumaaLs made it to Azhvar Thirun^agari without any incidence.

The Lords were now getting prepared for the GarudavAgana sevai at night.
The Garudasevai starts at about 10 p.m. goes on all through the night.
Suffering from flu all day long I just could not stay up for this wonderful
sight.  A prapanna having performed prapatthi according to sastras as
sAdhyOpAyA with its five angaas must be aware of his complete dependence
upon the grace of the Lord for everything. Trying to dwell on this thought
I tried to be content with the experiences our Lord had already allowed for
me.

We left for Madurai the next day.  On the way we went to Srivillipuththoor
which was now in the grip of caste conflicts.  Latter we learnt that a
Dalit was murdered on that day.  However, we were able to have dharsan of
our Lord and Azhvaars, and proceed to Madurai.  Madurai was also affected
by sporadic violence.  There was police everywhere.  Busses had stopped
plying.  But we were able to go about without any trouble.  We proceeded to
ThirumaaliruncOlai, about 45 minutes from Madurai.  KaLLazhagar came out to
the vasantha MaNdapam in the evening.  The alangaram was captivating.  The
newly renovated temple Gopuram was wonderful.  After a great dharsan there,
returned to Madurai, and took a train back to Madras.

(We had made train reservations well ahead of time.  But we had to change
the reservation when we came to know about Nammaazhvaar utsavam.  Travel
agents in Madurai helped us get the reservations changed, for a fee of
course.)

On the second day of our stay at Azhvaar Thriun^agari, Srimad Azhgiya
Singar gave upadesam just prior to the performance of my Saranagathi.  A
free translation of parts of HH's upadesam shall be the topic for the next
post.


adiyEn, azhagiyasingar dhaasan