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THE HINDU ONLINE : Friday, July 25, 1997 Entertainment 0925079d.htm

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Date: Fri Jul 25 1997 - 18:31:27 PDT

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<H2>
  Adored by the Alwars
</H2>
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Date: 25-07-1997 :: Pg: 30 :: Col: d
<P>
Kumbakonam, the temple town of Thanjavur district, is famous for the Mahamaham
festival celebrated once in 12 years. The town has many temples dedicated
to Siva and Vishnu, praised by the Nayanmars and Alwars respectively. Just
like Srirangam, where the Cauvery and the Kollidam flow around the town,
Kumbakonam also is surrounded by the Cauvery and its tributary the Arisilaru.
Here also Lord Vishnu reclines on his ``Aadishesha'' at the famous temple
of Sri Sarangapani Swamy.
<P>
In Srirangam, the Lord blissfully reclines in ``Boga sayanam'', and in Tirupati
the Lord majestically stands, whereas in Kumbakonam, the Lord is seen just
half-rising from His snake-bed. This unique posture, only one of its kind,
is called ``Uttana sayanam''.
<P>
As per the ``sthala purana'' (temple chronicle), the Lord descended from
Vaikundam to this town in a chariot to marry the Goddess and hence the temple
``garbha griha'' (sanctum sanctorum) is in the shape of a chariot with four
wheels drawn by horses and elephants on both sides. The main shrine has two
entrances on its side, each one opened for six months of a year only,
corresponding to ``Uttirayanam'' and ``Dakshinayanam'', based on the northern
and southern movements of the Sun. Since the Lord is said to have descended
directly from Vaikundam here, this temple is called ``Bhooloka Vaikundam''
(Vaikundam on Earth) and so there is no ``Paramapada Vasal'' in this temple.
<P>
The presiding (Moolavar) deity of the temple is called ``Aaravamudhan'',
meaning ``Nectar that shall not cloy the desire''. According to the
``prabhandam'' of Nammalvar, the Lord is so beautiful that, just like ever
desirous nectar, the more we look at the Lord the more we desire to see Him
again. And hence, He was named ``Aaravamudhan''.
<P>
Thirumangai Alwar also hails the Lord of Kumbakonam as ``Aaravamudhan''.
<P>
The processional deity is called ``Sarangapani''. Since the sacred bow he
holds in his arm is called ``sarangam''. The Goddess here is ``Sri Komalavalli
Thaayar''. According to legend, to fulfil the penance of sage Hema rishi,
Goddess Lakshmi appeared as a child in a golden lotus in the Pottramarai
kulam (Golden lotus tank) of the temple. The delighted sage raised her and
offered her in marriage to Sri Sarangapani Swamy. Unique to this temple,
is the separate ``Dwajasthambam'' (flag-post) to the Goddess.
<P>
Sri Nathamuni initiated an exclusive utsavam in this temple called ``Atthiyayana
Utsavam'' (recital festival) in the month of Markazhi to recite Divyaprabhandam,
so that it would not fall into oblivion. This Utsavam is celebrated for 10
days with, the recital of ``Periya Thirumozhi'' in the morning (``Pagal Patthu'')
and ten nights with the recital of ``Thiruvaimozhi'', (Era Patthu). The day
on which Nammalvar attained Mukthi is also remembered. This ``Atthiyayana
Utsavam'' is being celebrated for the past 1,000 years or so and as envisaged
by Sri Nathamuni, the prabhandam ``lives'' to this day.
<P>
The most sacred mantra for Srivaishnavas is the Ashtachara mantra, (eight
letter mantra), recited as ``Om Namo Narayanaya''. One can understand the
importance of this mantra by the fact that Sri Ramanuja Acharya had to travel
between Sriperumbudur and Tirukotiyur several times to learn the meaning
and philosophy of the mantra from his religious guru Tirukotiyur Nambi. Only
after learning this Sri Ramanuja embarked on his Vishistadwaitha (qualified
dualism) philosophy .
<P>
Lord Sarangapani is said to be the author of this sacred mantra. He pronounced
the same to this world through Tirumangai Alwar.
<P>
The famous dance of the Lord Siva at Chidambaram is well known. But the ``Dance
of Vishnu''? This rare phenomenon is attributed to Lord Sarangapani. As
``Kudamaadu Koothan'', (Dancer of pots), the Lord is said to have perfected
the dance with pots. By his swift dance movements, he dances on the fragile
pots rythmically.
<P>
Andal mentions this ``...Kudanthai kidantha kudamaadi...'', meaning ``Dancer
of pots'' resting at Kumbakonam, Thirumangai alwar also mentions this.
<P>
The temple has two main gopurams on the eastern and western sides, and two
other ``gopura vasals'' in-between, called ``Manja gopuram'' and ``Naidu
vasal'' respectively. A hundred pillared mandapa, a Vasantha mandapam surrounded
by temple garden, separate sannidhis for Alwars and Desikar, sub-shrines
for Navaneetha Krishnan, Rama, Rajagopalan and Andal are also in the temple.
The chariot ``garbha griha'' has beautiful sculptures of Narasimha in four
forms, Gajendra Varadha, Krishna, Rama, Thiruvikrama and the like on its
side niches. The roof of the ``Thirumamani mandapam'' (antechamber of sanctum)
has intricately carved bas-relief figures.
<P>
Inscriptions of Rajaraja III (1222 A.D.), Virupanna Udaiyar (1385 A.D.),
Krishnadevaraya (1513 A.D.), Sadasiva Raya (1553 A.D.), Raghunatha Naiker
(1634 A.D.) and the like are found in this temple. They mention mostly donations
offered for conducting various festivals in this temple.
<P>
R. RAMAMURTHY
<P>
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