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Date: Tue Jul 15 1997 - 14:01:52 PDT

Dear Friends,

I am back from my month long trip to India and Australia. My visit to 
India was thoroughly enjoyable and memorable. I was blessed with a wonderful 
Darshanam of Parthasarathy Perumal and Lakshmi Narasimhar (Telliya Singar) at 
TiruveLLikeNi, Varaha Swamy, and Lord Srinivasa at Tirupati, Alamelu Manga 
Thayar at Tiruchanoor, Lord Ranganatha (Periya Perumal), Ranganayaki Thayar, 
Sudarshana-Narasimhar, Pattabiramar, and Lakshmi Hayagriva (at Desikar 
Sannidhi) at Srirangam, Hanuman and Lakshmi Narasimhar at Namakkal and 
finally Lord Srinivasar and Padmavathi Thayar at Kotai Srinivasar Koil in 
Bangalore. I also had the good fortune of performing Vachika Kainkaryam at 
each of these Kshetrams. I was able to get audience with my Acharyan, H.H. 
Srimad Andavan Swamigal of Srimad Paundarikapuram Ashramam on two successive 
days and also obtain the blessings of my mentor, Swami Rangapriya Mahadesikan 
(I was able to see him on 3 separate occassions during this visit) of Bangalore.

Smt. Vaidehi and Sri Raja Krishnaswamy of our group were trying very hard to 
get in touch with me prior to my leaving for India. Fortuitously, we were 
able to meet for a short while on the day of my departure. Thanks to Smt. 
Vaidehi, I had the good fortune of meeting her father, U.Ve. Sri 
Venkatakrishnan, who is an extremely learned scholar about our Sampradayam, 
while I was in Madras. U.Ve. Sri Venkatakrishnan provided several insights 
about the Kshetram of Parthasarathy Perumal Koil by referring to Azhwar 
Pasurams in praise of Perumal and established that a visit to Parthasarathy 
Perumal Koil was equivalent to making pilgrimage to Srirangam, Tirupati and 
Kanchipuram. Given this background, I was able to appreciate the finer 
aspects of this Kshetram. A large crowd had gathered in front of us when my 
family members and I got in line to seek a Darshanam of Perumal. 

A group of devotees started chanting the Vishnu Sahasranamam just as we 
entered the line and we joined them in the Parayanam. The line wended its way 
towards the Sanctum Sanctorum as we continued the Parayanam. Just as we 
concluded the  Sahasra Nama Parayanam, lo and behold! we were in front of 
Perumal, who was decorated with beautiful flower garlands and Tulasi Malais. 
Since we wanted to have Archanai performed, we requested the priest for the 
Seva. He ordered us (rather curtly and rudely) to wait by the side for a few 
minutes. This gave me an opportunity to render the Vishnu Ghanam "Eta 
Asadan..", while enjoying the Anubhavam of the Lord from 
head to foot. Just as I concluded the Ghanam, the priest invited me and my 
family to the front and performed Archanai for Perumal. My mother recited 
Desika Prabandham while we were circumambulating (performing Pradakshinam) 
the Lord. At the Lakshmi Narasimhar Sannidhi, I recited the Kamasikashtakam in 
my mind. 

A few days later, we made a trip to Tirupati. The ride from Bangalore to 
Tirupati was beautiful. With considerable effort, members of my family and 
I were able to get tickets for the Tomalai Seva and Sahasrarchanai Seva. 
While we were travelling uphill, we recited the Daya Shatakam and Garuda 
Dandakam. Later, while we were in line for the Sevas, I was able to render 
the Sri Ranganatha Gadyam and Sudarshana Ashtakam. The sight of Lord Srinivasa, 
resplendent with glory and decorated with beautiful ornaments, Pushpa and 
Tulasi Mala Alankaram was extremely gratifying. The fragrance of camphor 
permeated the surrounding. We were also able to go for a special Darshanam 
the night before the Tomalai and Sahasrarchana Seva. While a number of people 
were subjected to the "Randi Jargandi" treatment, yours truly was allowed an 
uninterrupted Darshanam for nearly 5 minutes by the sentry. Prior to the 
Darshanam of Lord Srinivasar, we were blessed with an excellent Darshanam of 
Varahaswamy in the Varahar Sannidhi. On the way back to Bangalore, we stopped 
at Thayar Sannidhi and had a very nice Darshanam. I had the opportunity to 
recite the Sri Suktam before Padmavati Thayar. 

My family and I visited Srirangam soon after my return to India from 
Australia. The journey to Srirangam by a rented taxi was extremely 
enjoyable. We straight away proceeded to the Ashramam of our Acharyan, H.H. 
Srimad Andavan Swamigal of Srimad Paundarikapuram Ashramam and sought his 
blessings. Swamigal arranged for one of his Srikaryam members to give us a 
"guided tour" of the Ashramam's Desikan Sannidhi and to show us the Vigraham 
of the Utsava Murthy of Bhagavan Lakshmi Hayagriva. This is a replica of the 
Vigraham given to Swami Desikan by Garuda Bhagavan when the latter initiated 
Swami Desikan into the Prayogam of the Hayagriva Mantram. We were also provided 
with insights on Swami Desikan's Dhyana Shlokam salutation in the Hayagriva 
Stotram. Each aspect of the Dhyana Shlokam is depicted in the Utsava Murthy 
of Bhagavan Lakshmi Hayagriva. It was thrilling to be able to experience 
from less than one foot, the aspects of Bhagavan Hayagriva referred to by 
Swami Desikan in the Hayagriva Stotram. 

We were then taken on a guided tour of the great Temple of Lord Ranganatha. 
We saw the royal court at the western entrance-venue of the Panguni Uttaram 
Utsavam of Perumal and Thayar and the scene of Gadya Trayam delivery by Sri 
Ramanujacharya. Interestingly, this is the only entrance which does 
not have the Raja Gopuram. We were then blessed with a beautiful Darshanam of 
the back-to-back forms of Sudarshana-Narasimhar (Chakrathazhwan Sannidhi), 
where I performed Vachika Kainkaryam through the recitation of Swami 
Desikan's Sudarshana Ashtakam. Narasimhar is in the form of Yoga-Narasimhar 
This was followed by Darshanam at Pattabiramar Sannidhi, Krishnar Sannidhi, 
and then a glorious Darshanam of Ranganayaki Thayar. As a young boy, I had 
heard my grandfather (who was from Srirangam and whose Aradhana Daivam was 
Raganayika Sametha Sri Rangantha Swami) describe the matchless beauty of 
Ranganayaki Thayar decorated with AbharaNams. After a first hand experience 
of the Darshanam, I cannot find sufficient superlatives to dwell on the 
beauty of Thayar. Finally, we made our way to the great Sannidhi of Lord 
Ranganatha (Periya Perumal). Lord Ranganatha is seen reclining on the serpent 
bed facing the south. This posture of the Lord is due to his promise to 
VibhishaNa and Andal of constant Darshanam (Both Srivilliputur and Lanka are 
south of Srirangam). Due to Taila Kapu as part of the Jyeshta Utsavam, only 
the face of the Lord and the five hoods of the serpent bed (Srirangasayi) 
were visible. Since Lord Ranganatha is the Lord of Srirangam (Ranga Raja), he 
is forever the object of Utsavams. I rendered the Sri Ranganatha Gadyam as I 
reached the Sanctum Sanctorum of Lord Ranganatha. 

On the way back to Bangalore from Srirangam, we visited the Hanuman and 
Narasimhar Temples in Namakkal. Both Temples follow the Vaikhanasa Agamam. 
Interestingly enough, the Hanuman Vigraham does not have a roof and 
rain or shine, leaves the Moolavar unaffected. The Darshanam of Lord Narasimhar 
was breath taking. The priest at the Narasimhar Temple explained to us the 
various aspects associated with this Archa Murthy. In this process, one could 
see the connections to the Purusha Suktam salutation "Chandra MamansOjata: 
Chaksho SuryO Ajayata", Swami Desikan's KamasikAshtakam salutation "
Tapanenvagni Nayana:" and Tallapaka Annamacharya's tribute "Solasi Chuchi 
Nannu Surya Chandrulanu" in the Kriti Cheri Yashodaku. The priest then 
removed the AbharaNam covering the nails of Bhagavan Narasimha and asked us 
to behold the sight! Again a graphic display of Swami Desikan's 
KamasikAshtakam salutation "Vikasvara Nakhasvarukshata HiraNya Vakshastalee"  
was in evidence, which rendered us speechless in stunned silence.

On the day of my departure from India, I went to Kotai Srinivasar Koil in 
Bangalore. I had an excellent Darshanam of Lord Srinivasar and
Thayar. The Moolavar at Kotai Srinivasar koil is Svayam Vyakta. Pancharatra 
Agamam is followed at this Temple. Anyone from our group going to Bangalore 
must visit this Kshetram. I also had the opportunity to visit the Vijaya 
Vittala Temple in Nelamangala (25 km from Bangalore) and the Anjaneya Temple 
in Mahalakshmi layout, while I was in Bangalore. The Vishwarupa and Vittala 
statues have been marvellously carved out with careful attention to detail. 

Finally, memorable visits to the above Kshetrams made me wonder what I was 
doing on this side of the Atlantic as an "economic prisoner"!
Since this post has gotten longer than I had anticipated, I shall 
summarize in a separate post the highlights of my visits to Srimad 
Paundarikapuram Ashramam and Swami Rangapriya Mahadesikan's Ashramam in 
Bangalore. I have also brought along with me material from H.H. Srimad Andavan 
Swamigal of Srimad Paundarikapuram Ashramam, which I shall disseminate on 
this forum in a multi-part series.

Muralidhar Rangaswamy