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Thirunangoor: Manjal Kuliyal

From: Parthasarati Dileepan (MFPD_at_UTCVM.UTC.EDU)
Date: Fri Jan 19 1996 - 06:48:15 PST

Attached is an article about Thiru Nangoor by Ms. M.S.
Ramesh that appeared in today's Hindu (Friday, January
19, 1996) .  This was faxed to me overnight from India.
It is very likely that when you read this article the
devotees assembled in Thiru Nangoor will be getting
ready for two days of pious festivities.  I hope you enjoy
this article as much as I did.


-- Parthasarati Dileepan



=======Start of The Hindu article===============

Centuries-old festivals in Thirunangoor
The Hindu, Friday January 19, 1996

     This Amavasya is the day when two festivals, -
one a century old and another twelve centuries old - are
celebrated with piety, pomp, and pageantry in
Thirunangoor, an ancient town in Thanjavur district near
Poompuhar.  Nangoor is the temple town of Cholas as
Kanchipuram is the temple town of Pallavas.  There is an
old Tamil proverb which refers to "Nangoor
Naalaayiravar", i.e. "The 4000 people of Nangoor"
which means that once upon a time there were 4,000
famous scholars living in what is now a very sleepy,
silent town, a home of eleven Vaishnavite divyadesas.  It
is believed this town bounded by Maniyar on the north,
Kaveri on the south, Poompuhar sea on the east, and
Tharangambadi on the west, was not submerged by the
Pralaya waters during the Great Deluge.

     The two festivals to be celebrated this weekend in
this town are referred to as Manjal Kuliyal Festival (Holy
Turmeric Bath Festival) and Padhinoru Garuda Sevai
(Eleven Garuda Sevai Festival).  In both, the Lords in the
Eleven divyadesas participate with Thirumangai Alvar as
the Soothradhari.  This Alvar honoured by Lord
Ranganatha of Srirangam with Manjal Neerattam as a
reward for rendering Thirunedun Thandagam before the
Lord.  This festival used to be celebrated on the banks of
Kollidom on Thai Amavasya day.  Later on with the
passing away of the Alvar, his brother-in-law had an idol
of Thirumangai Alvar installed in Thirukkuraiyalur, his
birth place and decided to replicate the Manjal Kuliyal at
Nangoor.  Thus, this festival to be celebrated this
Saturday has its origin in early 8th century A.D. and is
therefore a 12 centuries old hoary tradition replayed
every year with piety and eclat.

     Briefly the festival is as follows.  On the Thai
Amavasya day early in the morning even by 3 a.m. the
idol of Thirumangai Alvar is taken in procession from
Thiruvali Thirunagari en route visiting the five
divyadesas, namely, Thirukkaraiyalur, Thirumangai
Madam, Thirukavalambadi, Thirumanikkoodam, and
Thiruparthanpalli.  In each place, the procession stops
and the Alvar visits the Perumal Sannidhi in each temple
and does Mangalasasanam to the Perumal of that temple
by reciting the pasuram composed by him on that Lord.
By mid-day the procession reaches the banks of
Manikarnikai channel.  Then the idol is taken for a dip in
the waist deep water in the channel along with the
thronging devotees who followed the procession.  The
atmosphere is electrified with a rare religious fervour
which has to be seen to be believed.  During the dip the
devotees recite the pasurams composed by the ALvar on
his Guru, namely, Thirunaraiyur Nambi (Periya
Thirumozhi 6-6-8) and another pasuram composed in
praise of the Lord of Srirangam (Periya Thirumozhi 5-8-
9).  After that Mangalasasana the Alvar is honoured by
the two Lord, namely, Thirunaraiyur Nambi and Lord
Ranganatha, who give gifts to the Alvar.  The
Peethaambara which earlier adorned the Lord in those
places along with garlands worn by those Lords are
brought specially to this place and given as gifts to the
Alvar.  After receiving the gifts the Alvar is brought to
the banks of the river and placed in an old Mandapam
which is known as manjal mandapa.  A small silver plate
(Sahasradhara plate) is placed above the head of the
Alvar and on that plate is seated the idol worshipped by
the Alvar himself and lovingly referred to by him as
"Sinthanaikku Iniyan", i.e. one who is sweet on
reflection.  Then the holy turmeric water is poured on the
head of the idol worshipped by the Alvar and the water
flows down on the head of the Alvar himself through the
Sahasradhara plate.  The Thirumanjanam performed to
the Iniyan covers the Alvar as well.  As soon as the holy
bath is over, a sumptuous feast is held where all the
devotees and others who have assembled for that
function participate.  In the evening the Alvar again starts
on his return journey, visiting the Thirumanimada Kovil,
Thiruban Purushothaman Kovil, Thiru Vaikunta
Vinnagaram Kovil, Thiru Sempon Sei Kovil, Thiru
Thetri Ambalan Kovil, Thiru Arimeya Vinnagaram
Kovil.  Thus, five Vaishnavite divya desas are covered in
the morning and six other Vaishnavite divya desas in the
afternoon.  In all these temples, select pasurams
composed by Thirumangai Alvar in respect of the
Perumal of each divya desas is rendered.

     The other ancient festival started about 125 years
ago, is celebrated the next day.  In those days a devout
Vaishnavite by name Sri Thirumlai Vinjanoor
Srinivasachar, an inspector of schools at Chidambaram,
was transferred to Thirunelveli.  When he visited Alvar
Thirunadari he witnessed the Nava Tirupathi Garudaseva
celebration in the month of Vaikhasi when the Perumals
from Nava Tirupathi divya desas seated on Garuda come
and visit Nammalvar.  It occurred to this staunch
Vaishnavite that a similar Garudaseva for the Perumals of
the eleven divya desas in Thirunagoor could be arranged
on the same lines as nava Tirupathi Garudaseva at
Alvarthirunagari, so that the uthsavam celebrated in
Pandiya nadu for Parangusan is replicated to Parakalan in
Chola nadu and that it could be synchronized with the
annual Manjal Kulliyal Neerattam festival already in
vogue in the temple town.  It is this devout wish of that
Inspector of Schools which is re-enacted for the last one
century and more.

     A day after the Manjal Kuliyal festival the eleven
Perumals from 11 temples (in and around Nangoor)
would start from the respective places, seated in the
Gruda Vahana and assemble at Manimada Kovil.  All the
Utsava Vigrahas of the eleven Perumal temples thus
assemble under one roof in front of Manimada Kovil.
Then one by one all the Lords seated on the
GarudaVahana are brought before the idol of
Thirumangai Alvar.  All the pasurams composed by the
Alvar in honour of the respective Perumals are then
recited.  Finally the idol of Shri Manavala Maamuni is
brought in a procession and the song composed by him
on the Alvar is rendered.  The whole event is soul
stirring.  Finally that night a procession headed by Sri
Manavala Maamuni followed by Thirumangai Alvar
seated along with Kumudhavalli Thayar on a Hamsa
Vahana, followed by the eleven Perumals each seated on
a Garuda, one behind the other, form a long train.  This
huge procession goes around the four streets of the
temple town of Thirunangoor.

     The next morning the Alvar starts on homeward
journey, visiting Thiruvellakulam (Annan Koil), Thiru
Devanar Thogai, and Thiruvali and reaches Thirunagari.
When finally Alvar's idol reaches Thirunagari Vayali
Manaval Perumal of Thirunagari seated on the Garuda
Vahana waits at the entrance of the Rajagopuram of the
temple to receive as it were the Alvar after his holy yatra.
When the Alvar's idol reaches the entrance of the temple
the pasuram in Thirumozhi (8-9-8) sung in praise of
Thirunagari Perumal is recited.  After it is completed, the
Perumal along with the Alvar get into the temple,
signalling the conclusion of the Thiru Nangoor eleven
Garuda Seva.

     Thus the 12 centuries old Manjal Kulliyal festival
and the 125 year old Eleven Garuda Seva Festival
celebrated on Thai Amavasya Day and the day
succeeding it convert this sleepy slumbering town into a
hub of holy activity for those two days.  It is said that
Thirumangai Alvar in his previous birth was king by
name Upariaravasu and performed quite a number of
Brahmotsavams for the Gods and so in his later avatar as
Alvar also he continues to worship the Eleven Gods on
one single day in the year at Nangoor.

     There is a belief that if one visits the eleven divya
desas in Thirunangoor it is equivalent to having visited
the temples at Badri, Govardhan, Srirangam, Ayodhya,
Thirunarayanapuram, Kanchipuram, Dwaraka,
Kurukshetra, Thiruvidandhai, Thirupati and last, but not
the least, the Paramapadam itself.  This equivalence is
established with reference to the names of  respective
deities referred to by Thirumangai Alvar himself in the
pasurmas composed by him on the eleven divya desas at
Nangoor.  To illustrate, Pasuram 1312 sung in praise of
the Lord at Thiruvellakulam (Annan Kovil) the Alvar
uses the words "Thiruvenkata Vilakkae" and this the
commentators say establishes the equivalence of Annan
Koil Perumal to Lord Srinivasa of Tirupati.  For want of
space the connecting pasurams with reference to the ten
Gods cannot be mentioned in this brief article.  But
suffice it to say a visit to one town near Sirhazhi, it is
claimed will give one satisfaction of having visited not
only the eleven divya desas in that temple town, but also
another eleven on the list of 108 Vaishnavite divya desas
held in high esteem by all devout Vaishnavites.  All those
who participate in these two historic religious festivals
falling on Thai Amavasya and the next day can have the
satisfaction of having participated in centuries old
tradition.

Ms. M.S. Ramesh
=============End of The Hindu article=======