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Sri Kanchi Garudotsavam

From: sadagopan iyengar (
Date: Tue Jun 05 2001 - 08:56:38 PDT

Srimate Srivan Satakopa Sri Vedanta Desika Yatindra
Mahadesikaya Nama:
                      Sri Kanchi Garudotsavam

Adiyen was one of the thousands fortunate  to witness
this year's Garudotsavam at Kanchi, and would like to
share with the bhagavatas a few experiences.
Though Garudotsavam is celeberated at almost all
divyadesams as an important part of the annual
Brahmotsavam,the utsavam at Kanchi has acquired  such
popularity that when the word "Garudasevai" is
uttered, it automatically brings to the mind the one
at Kanchi, just as the word"Sahasranamam" refers
almost exclusively to Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam. This
utsavam has been sung by Acharyas like Swami Desikan
(Turaga VIHAGARAJA syandana AndOlikAdishu
               adhikam adhikam anyAm Atma shObhAm
               anavadhika vibhootim HastisailEsvaram
               anudinam animEshai: lochanai:
Lest the involuntary blinking of the eye deny him of a
second of Bhagavat anubhavam, Sri Desikan seeks the
nitya suri status of "sadA pasyanti", to avidly drink
in the grandour of the Lord on His favourite vAhanam.
When there are vAhanAs galore to carry the Lord, why
should this VihagarAja be called the favourite? Sri
AlavandAr answers this question by assigning a
multiple role to Sri GarudA- that of a dAsA (ardent
devotee)sakhA(close friend)vAhanam(carrier)
Asanam(seat) Dvajam(flag) vitAnam(overhead cover) etc.
Sri Garuda serves the Lord not only in Sri Vaikuntam,
but also in His vibhavAvatAras, in various capacities.
Responding to Sri PeriAzhwar's  lament about Sri
Krishna roaming the forest in the hot sun (KAnagam
ellAm tirindu un kariya tirumEni vAda), Sri Garuda
immediately spreads his wings to generate adequate
shade for the Lord, protecting Him from further
sunburn "Vinatai siruvan siragennum mElAppin keezh
varuvAnai, VirundAvanattE kaNdOmE" says Kodai NachiAr.
Another AchAryA  to have been sufficiently impressed
by the Garudasevai, to have devoted a stotram
exclusively to this utsavam, is Sri DoddayAchAryA, the
renowned author of "ChandamArutam" (a commentary on
Sri Desikan's "SatadooshaNi"). Unable to perform
mangalasasanam of the Lord's Garudotsavam one year,
Sri DoddayAcharyA, residing at
ChOLaSimhapuram,composed a stotram in five slOKAs,
seeing the utsavam, in all its splendour, in his
mind's eye.
Immediately, Sri DevAdirAjA deserted Kancheepuram
briefly and appeared before the AchAryA , resplendant
in his GarudavAhanam. This itihyam is commemorated to
this day, when Sri TEpperumAL pauses for a few minutes
at the western Gopura vAsal, ostensibly to bestow His
divyadarsanam to His devotee at ChOlasimhapuram. This
GopuravAsal sevai is known as "DoddayAchar Sevai",when
Sri Varadan's tirumEni is lit up by the glow from a
huge ball of camphor.
 The Garuda at Kanchi is a huge figure,  with palms
outstretched to carry the Lord's lotus feet, one knee
bent in a flying posture,  and,  as evident to those
who observe closely,a benign tirumukham  adorned wth a
 beatific smile,
reflecting his ecstasy brought about by such close
association with the Lord's tirumEni. Sri Garuda's
hands are outstretched, as if showing off to us the
extremely precious tiruvadi of the Lord, the tiruvadis
which are known only to the Upanishads, the tiruvadis
which are adorned with the kireetAs of Brahma, Rudra
and Indra bent in devotion. Here is Sri
DoddayAchAryA's mangalasasanam of Sri TArkshyA-
 "Yet vEda mouLi gaNa vEdyam avEdyam anyai:
  Yet Brahma Rudra SuranAyaka mouLi vandyam.
  Tat PadmanAbha pada padma yugam manushya sEvyam
  Bhavadbhi: iti darsayateeva TArkshya:"

In determining the Paratatvam or the Supreme Being,
the vEdas are our only pramANam, and conclusively tell
us that only Hari is the paratatvam, and  that  His
lotus  feet are the sole refuge for mortals.
Similarly, Sri VainatEyA, who is the embodiment of
vEdAs ("trayeemaya:"), displays the Lord's Tiruvadi to
fickle-minded mortals like us, as if exhorting us to
seek refuge in them. The fourth slOkam of Sri
DodayAchAryA's Sloka Panchakam brings this out

"Kechit tatva visOdhanE Pasupatou paramyam Ahu: pare
 VyAjahru:KamalAsanE nayavidOpi anyE Harou sAdaram
 ItyEvam chala chEtasAm tanubhrutAm pAdAravindam Hare:
 Tat sandarsayateeva samprati nriNAm
TArkshya:sruteenAm nidhi:"

Hours before sunrise, people of all ages and pursuits,
from babes in arms    to the very old, await with
bated breath and folded hands,   the appearance of Sri
DevAdhirAjA at the temple entrance.  A great roar of
devotion rends the air, as Sri TEpperumAL , in all His
majesty and splendour, with a prasanna vadanam, with
the chAmarAs waving gently, resplendant under the
famous umbrella adorned with pearls and precious
stones, appears at the temple entrance, ensconced on
Sri Garuda.  Adiyen's eyes instantaneously fill with
tears, impeding a clear view of the Lord, who, in the
meanwhile, has passed adiyen by, and the eyes clear
momentarily to take in the glorious "pinsevai". The
surging sea of humanity makes it impossible to have
another peek at Him from the front, and we have to
wait for another long year for a repeat performance.
Here is a graphic description from the SlOka
 "PratyUshE Varada:prasanna vadana:prApta abhimukhyAn
  AbaddAnjali mastakAn aviralAn AbAlam Anandayan
  MandOddAmara chAmarO manimaya svEta Atapatra:sanai:
  Antar gOpuram AvirAsa BhagavAn Arooda Paksheesvara:"

 For the fortunate few, an added bonus was the
unforgettable sight of Sri Azhagiasingar's
mangalasasanam of the Lord, as He arrived at the
pandal opposite Sri Ahobila Mutt. The beautiful smile
that played upon the pontiff's lips, as he drank in
the svaroopa soundaryam of Sri VaradA and Sri
GarutmAn, seemed to reflect the muktAnandam
experienced by the vriddha yati, as he   appeared to
concur with Sri Tirumangai Mannan ("ErAr muyal vittu
kAkkai pin pOvadE") and Swami Desikan ("Vaikunta
vAsEpi namE abhilAsha:").
  Srimate Sri LakshmiNrisimha divya paduka sevaka
Srivan Satakopa Sri Narayana Yateendra Mahadesikaya
                         -dasan, sadagopan.


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