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Seetha Ram kalana Mahotsavam at Buffalo

From: V. Sadagopan (
Date: Sat Mar 16 1996 - 21:06:13 PST

Sri Vijay Srinivasan of Buffalo invited me to 
the Kalyana Utsavam for Chakravarthi Thirumahan and 
Janaki Devi planned for March 23.
. The Dakshina Sampradhaya Bhajana(DSB) 
Paddadhti established by Marudanallur Swamigal 
is going to be such a delightful highlight of the planned 
celebration.  The DSB Mandali of Buffalo is to be congratulated 
on nurturing this great tradition . I could not make it to Buffalo
and hence I promised to contribute an article for their publication
related to this special occasion on Sri Ramachandra.I will say 
a few words on the Sampradhaya Bhajana first and the tradition
established by Marudhanallur Sathguru Venkatarama Bhagavathar
and his links to the Great Sankaraacharya by the name BhodhendraaL. 

Many villages in India at the 
time of Saint Thyagaraja had Bhajan Mandalis and the villagers
participated in the Seetha Kalyanam and Radha Kalyanam 
and derived great spiritual uplift form their participation.During 
Ekadasis  and Nityothasavams, The Bhajana group of the village 
offered musical worship to the Lord . I will say a few words 
about the Musical times of Saint Thyagaraja, 
the great Rama Bhaktha, since he was very much inflluenced by 
the Sampradhaya Bhajana Pattadhi  .

During Saint Thyagaraja"s time, the Tanjore court muscians
like Thodi Seethaaramaiah,
AtaaNa Appaaiya, Sankarabaranam Narasayaa ,
Darbhar Seethaaramaiah
were known for their Manodharmams and made one Ragam 
their own specialty. For hours, they elaborated on their
Special Ragas and demonstrated their musical genius.

At the same time, the Bhajana Groups put Bhakthi first
and Manodharmam next. They used invocations,
Thodaya Mangalams , Ashtapadis and associated
 Musala Dance, Choornikais, Deepa Pradkshinam,
 Mangalaashtakam ,Divya Naamaas, Vedic recitation
to practise Bhakthi for the Lord through Nama Sankeethanam
following the dictum , Kalau Sankeerthya Kesavam as the 
route to Moksham. 

Thyagaraja Swamigal combined the two traditions of Nama 
(Sankeethana) Siddhaantham with Naadha Siddhantham and 
blended his Rama Bhakthi with the Bhava Trayams (Sangeetha
Bhavam, Saahitya Bhavam and Bhakthi Bhavam ). He composed
 many a kriti to channel his great devotion for Sri Ramachandra
and used it during the occasion of Ekadasi, Unchi Vritti Bhajan
and Sri Rama Navami  and other Utsavams. 

The impetus and the inspiration for the Bhajan Tradition of 
Saint Thyagaraja came from a great Bhagavatha revered as
Maruthaanallur Sathguru Venkatarama Sasthrigal. He 
was born in Thiruvisanallur , which had another Mahaan known 
as Sridhara IyaavaaL, who made Ganga waters rise out of his house well.
Sathguru Venkatarama Bhagavathar lived in the 19th century .
He travelled all over India , collected Bhajans of great devotees
and culled them all into a Sampradhaaya Bhajan Paddathi, which 
lasts even today. The most recent practioner of this 
tradition was Sri H.H.Swami Haridhos Giri.
This Bhajan tradition is recommended for any one
irrespective of caste , creed or Sex.  Saint Thyagaraja was exposed
to  this rich tradition from his youth. Now a few words about Sathguru
Marudanallur Venkatarama Saastrigal.

His Bhajana Matam  existseven  today at  Maruthanallur.
This  is a tiny village on
the banks of Cauveri near Thiruvida Maruthur, a great Siva Kshetram,
Where the Lord is known as Mahaa Lingam. He was a great devotee
of a Great Shankaraacharya by the name BhodhendraaL . Latter lived in
the Sixteenth Century . He is the one , who replaced the Taadangam (Ear Ring),
 which is in the form of Sri Chakram, originally presented to Sri Akhilandeswari
of Thiruvaanaikkaval by Adi Sankara in the ninth century. 
BhodendraaL was a great Rama Bhaktha and the author of the 
most beautiful verses known as Rama Karnaamrutam. He abdicated 
from the post of Kanchi Mutt and went to Govindapuram , a village again
close to Thiruvidamaruthur on the banks of Veera Sozhan river, a tributary 
of Cauveri. There he Meditated on Sri Ramachandra and gave us another
celebrated Grantham known as Naama Kowmudhi. He used to say :
Rama Namameh Kalkandu, Athan Rasam theriyaathavan Kal Gundu.
This means that the Name of Rama is the sweet rock candy (Kalkandu);
those, who do not know its taste are Massive stones (Kal Gundu). He 
explained to us the Greatness and the sacredness of Rama Naama this way:    
Parjanam Bhava Bheethaanaam 
Aarjanam Kula Sampathaam I
Dharjanam yama dhoothaanaam 
Rama Ramethi Garjanam II
The roar of Rama"s name is pointed out by him here
to ward off samsaric ills, Chase away the servants of 
Yama, Lets one acquire untold wealth. 

One day, BhodendraaL  asked the boys playing on the dry river
bed of Veerasozhan to bury him in the sand. As
usual, the boys thought that he will come out of the 
sand pit. This time , he wanted Jeeva Samadhi anddid  not come back.
He  reached the Lord"s feet. Floods came and no one knew whether he
was washed away or was alive. Three hundred Years went by.
Marathanallur Sathguru wanted to know as to what happened to
this revered Acharya. On one hot summer day, Sathguru did
Anga Prathkshinam on the hot, dry river bed. As his body hit one 
location, he heard the loud chantings of Rama Naamam .
Sathguru Venkataramana Sastrigal stopped there and dug 
up this  area . Lo and Behold! He found the missing volume of
 Nama Kowmudhi, which was considered lost until then. He
 brought it back with Koil Maryadai and placed it in the Maruthanallur 
Bhajana Matam and offered Puja to the sacred Grantham and thru that to 
Sri Ramachandra worshipped by BhodendraaL..He continued the 
Bhajanais in front of the Sacred book of Nama Kowmudhi from then on.

It is clear that the place where the earthly remains of  the Mahaatmas
fall is a sacred site and that is why the Bridhavanams of Sanyasis
are worshipped even today. A Similar situation was experienced  by a great
devotee of Saint Thyagaraja few decades ago in this century. Bangalore
Nagaratnamma wanted to build a Samathi for Saint Thyagaraja on the banks 
of Cauveri in Thiruvayaru.Nobody knew exactly,where the Body of the Saint
was interned  according to the rules of burial for  a Sanyasi. Sri Nagaratnamma
began the excavations around the approximate place traditionally
considered to be the place of internment of Saint Thyagaraja.
When her workers  went over a particular site, they heard beautiful 
music in praise of Rama and were overcome by intense Incense fragrance.
Then and trhere  they recognized the site as the place where  the 
Saint"s body was interned and stopped their digging.
Bangalore AmmaL  built the Temple over that site, which is where today"s
Yearly Aradhana at Thiruvairu takes place . That is the experience  Of 
another Rama Bhaktha.

I will post another  article on Sri Ramachandra tomorrow and dedicate it
as my humble contribution to the Buffalo Seetha Rama Kalyanam celebrations
inview of my inability to be there.

                       ----- Adi sankara"s Raghavaashtakam

Sri Ramachandra Parabrahmaneh Nama: