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Forwarded from net

From: Mani Varadarajan (mani)
Date: Tue Jan 24 1995 - 11:48:00 PST

Dr. Srinivasan wrote a nice article about Vaikuntha Ekadasi
celebrations in Srirangam, which, unfortunately, I was not
able to attend on my last trip. It think the people on this
list may find it interesting.

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Newsgroups: soc.culture.tamil,alt.culture.karnataka
From: srini@ireq.hydro.qc.ca (K.Srinivasan)
Subject: vaikunTa Ekaadhasi in Sri Rangam
Organization: Institute de Recherche, Hydro-Quebec
Date: Tue, 24 Jan 1995 15:38:55 GMT

The fifth day of vaikunTa Ekaadhasi in Sri Rangam.

The special celebrations start at around 12 Noon, The uthsavar is
taken in a procession from the main altar to the thousand pillar
aayirakkaal mandapam, which takes a good two hours.

There are various protocols all along the route and is supposed to be
exactly as defined by Sri Ramanuja in 11-th century.A.D. All
protocols are in archaic Tamil. I saw many who did not wear sacred
thread, in duties closest to the idol. (They are called saaththaadha
Sri Vaishnavas. Their ancestors were installed by Sri Ramanuja
himself. I spoke to one myself. They speak Iyengar dialect, call
themselves as Iyengars and have same customs, like Iyengar Madisar
for women. Except those who have gone for modern education, they
appear quite poor. They do not consider themselves as Brahmin or
Vaishya or Kshatriya or Sudra. Their main acharya was Kandhaadai
Ramanuja Iyengar, who also did not wear Sacred thread. Now a days
many of them particularly in Srivillipuththoor area have started
wearing Sacred thread also, to merge with the "saaththina" Iyengars,
more easily. They appear to be the original casteless followers, of Sri
Ramanuja.)

For example, a group behind the curtain calls for the bearers of the
chariot and lamp bearers, as follows.
"aruL paadi sree paadham thookkuvO......r!".
A group outside replies, "naan indhE......n!" (=naan irukkirEn(Tamil)
or naan idhEn(Kannada)). It seems these words are exactly as instructed by
Sri Ramanuja himself 950 year ago. He also instituted a fine for being
late for the job. Hopefully he provided for inflation adjustment.
(Please do correct if some one is surer of the exact words, and know other
calls. Most replies were "naan indhE.....n".)

{ aidhu(Kannada)=aindhu(Tamil);   By the same logic,
idhEn(Kannada)=indhEn(Tamil), though nobody says so in Tamil today. }

There are several points where the procession stops and
special recitations take place. In one, all the four vedics are
called. Each representative comes, recites the vedas for a few
minutes. Then "theertham" (holy water) is given.
First priority is to men without shirts. Then to other men with
shirts. Women are not given holy water. I saw some men getting the
theertham and sharing it with their female family members.

In all the other stops, no such discrimination exists.
At times, even special individuals wearing no sacred thread
were given first priority.

In one of the stops, the aazvaars are brought for the honour.
The first call was for nammaazhvaar, next thirumangai aazhvaar, then
it was Sri Ramanuja. Then all the other aazhvaars
were called by the chariot bearers. They came in the order called.
The men recited and enacted some Tamil aazhvaar paasurams with abhinayam
(dance). They are called "araiyar". They wear red and blue colourful
head topis, very much like the moslem cap. It is however decorated with
jewels and carries the Sri Vaishnava emblems.

A 12 year old boy welcomed the procession at the entering steps
of the aayirakkaal (thousand pillar) mandapam, reciting Tamil
verses, like, "EzhaikkiLaiyaanE!, EzhumalaiaanaanE!...Ezh...".

I understood that all temple positions, temple duties are transferred
generation to generation by succession. The common successor is the
son, (unless there was not one or he has decided to quit the
profession, in which case, some other person might get named.) It
looks like that the higher authorities can not appoint their own
people in.

The last sErvai of the day called Ekaantha sEvai starts at 10:00 PM and
ends at 11:30. Five people sing and play veena in pin drop silence at
the "thaayaar" (mother) sannadhi. (Number five has special significance
for Sri Vaishnavism hence the term ai(ndhu)-angaar.). They wear turbans
(Mysore Maharaja style). The veenas are attached by ropes to their
bodies. It seems it is also as per Sri Ramanuja's instructions of 950
years ago. They are the 43-rd successors. They sang a few Azvaar Tamil
compositions in carnatic style. They also included two tyagaraja
kritis. (probably to get official recognition from music experts.) I
wondered how the 250 year old compositions got into Ramanuja's 950 year
old instructions. I suppose he left some room for future innovations. 
Compared to the commotion and tension of the day activities this was a
peaceful and relaxing experience.
    --------------------------------------------------------- 
Compared to the mEla atmosphere of the Sri Rangam Temple, the
mariamman Temple at samaya puram offers a calm setting. The
temple is closely associated with Sri Rangam. It seems at one
time it was financed by funds from Ranganathar temple of Sri Rangam.
Even today the madapaLLi (kitchen) appears to be
managed by Sri Vaishnavas, and one can see a lot of "thirumaN"
wearing people among the devotees of this Saivite temple.
This temple does not carry the sign "Hindus only allowed".
I myself saw a Moslem family in burkha right inside the temple,
in December 1994.
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ks