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Re:Saathivka Abhinayanms of Arayars for AzhwAr Paasurams : Part II

From: Sadagopan (
Date: Fri Aug 31 2001 - 18:30:36 PDT

Sri RanganATa ParabrahmaNE Nama:

Dear BhakthAs:

Our AzhwArs' dhivya prabhandham are in the ancient 
and rich language of Tamil for which the grammar 
was written by none other than Sage Agasthyar.
The literary heritage of Tamil goes back to Sanga Kaalam
and is recognized as " Sangha Tamizh " by our ThAyAr
Sri Andal in Her Divine ThiruppAvai. PerumkAppiyams ,
the counterparts of the MahA Kaavyams of Sanskrit 
literature , flourished during the Sangha and Pre-Sangha Kaalam.
Those literary works laid the foundation for Tamil Culture ,
which evolved into the triumvirate of Iyal, Isai and Naatakam 
/Mutthamizh ( Poetry , Music and Dance ).Sage BharathA wrote 
his epic treatise on dance few centuries earlier than the Tamil 

The Bhakthi movement swept through the second to tenth centuries
through India in general and in DakshiNa dEsam in particular as 
a fitting response to the damage done by  Vedha-Baahya darsanams .
The divine bards, the AzhwArs ,incarnated and gave us the divine
message of the Supermacy of Sriman NaarAyaNan and our relationship
to that Sarva Seshi as His Sesha BhUthans . The AzhwArs played out 
the way in which a Sesha BhUthan should perform SaraNAgathi to 
the Lord of the Universe and sang in stellar Paasurams about 
the anantha KalyANa GuNams of Sriman NaarAyaNan and His soulabhyam , 
KaaruNyam and His presence as ArchA Moorthys at His Uhandhu aruLina 
nilangaL.The AzhwAr's paasurams were steeped in devotional 
mysticism and celebrated the Parathvam of the Lord and stressed 
their ananya-gathithvam and aakinchanyam . They performed 
SaraNAgathi at the lotus feet of the Dhivya dampathis and 
left behind their immortal 4000 verses that constitute 
the Dhivya prabhandham . 

Swamy NammAzhwAr blessed Swamy Naatha Muni with these dhivya
Prabhandhams , which had gone out of circulation (luptham) in
the Ninth Century C.E. Swamy Naatha Muni set these 4000 verses
to Music and TaaLam and taught them to his two nephews ; these
blessed students were honored with the title of Arayar 
in recognition of their excellence in singing and SaathvIka 
abahinayam of the individual verses of the dhivya prabhandham 
set to Music and TaaLam . They sang and danced before the Lord 
and intrepreted the individual paasurams of AzhwArs as a part of 
the temple ritual known as Arayar SEvai . This tradition continued 
at Temples such as Srirangam , SrivilliputthUr , AlwAr Thirunagari.
The Arayars had a distinct place of honor in the worship of
the Lord at the above temples. Great AchAryAs like RaamAnujA ,
EmbAr, ParAsara Bhattar enjoyed these bhakthi-laden SamarpaNams
of the ARayars before the Lord during major festivals like
Pagal Patthu and Raa Patthu . Special programs were carried 
out during this important festival.

The Arayars always performed inside the temple and in front
of the Lord alone. They developed a repertoire of paasurams
of the AzhwArs in general and those of Swamy NammAzhwAr in
particular dealing with the dasAvathArams of the Lord and
those pasurams , where KuruhUr SatakOpan looses Himself 
in the role of  ParAnkusa Naayaki seeking the aasrayaNam
of the Sacred feet of the Lord and the unparalleled joy of 
union with her Naayakan , the Sarva Swami , Sriman NaarAyaNan.

The Arayars were trained by their own forefathers to follow
the Arayar Sevai in the strictest sampradhAyic manner going
back to Swamy Naatha Muni. The Arayars wear the DhOti in
panchakaccham style, adorn a silk upper garment and have
a conical cap(VishNu's cap) during their service(sEvai) to the Lord .
They wear the garlands used by the PerumAL and hold the brass
cymbals in their hands to beat time to the vocal music and
perform SaathvIkAbhinayam to the passages of the AzhwAr
Paasurams.Unlike the dance that emphasizes Nruttham
techniques requiring the wearing of ankle bells , the Arayars
engage in the performance of Nruttham-free Naatyam ,
where facial and body movements (abhinayams) are most important.
The basic Thatta-Adavu of Nruttham is occcasionally used.
Whenever the Paasurams dealt with SringAram , even the Thatta-
adavu is eschewed. The Arayars of Each temple have their own
particular rasAnubhavams during the performance of the Arayar
sEvai. For instance , at SrivilliputthUr and AzhwAr Thirunagari , 
the Arayars walk back and forward in a delectably sweet way
that is a treasure to behold. SrungAram is enjoyed here by 
the Lord in the spirit of aanadha SallAbham with the AazhwArs ,
His dearest ones .

Arayar sEvai can involve one ARayar or two. After the musical
rendering of the paasuram with the accompaniment of the cymbals 
for time keeping, an eulogy known as "KoNDAttam " (Celbration )
follows . Subsequent to that , the cymbals are tucked away and
the SaathvIkAbhinayam starts and some times it may last as
long as an hour to fully intrepret the many meanings behind even
in one paasuram. A flood of aanndahm soaks the Arayars and 
the BhakthAs as the Parama Rasikan , Sriman NaarAyaNan accepts
the Arayar's SamarpaNam.Only hand gestures are allowed 
during the abhinayam intrepretation without the use of
facial expressions . One of the Arayar provides the Commentary
from the old text known as TambirAn PaDi .

The special Paasurams chosen for Arayar Sevai have been
covered in earlier postings ( V.Sadagopan: Bhakthi List 
archives Dec30, 1998(0229);Dec 31, 1998(0232); Oct99 (message 8188).
Veda PramANam for Arayar Sevai is also covered here.

Srimathi Anita Ratnam , a celebrated Dancer and art critic
has a wonderful article in her web site on Arayar Sevai 
with excellent pictures (

Srimathi KaLLapirAN RanganAyaki AmmAL , a devout  Bhakthai of
VaanamAmalai Matam has written extensively about Arayar Sevai 
at Srirangam temple in her book: "Acharya PrabhAvam".. 

Bharata Natyam artist , Srimathi Lakshmi VisvanAthan has 
a small chapter on Arayar sevai in her book , Bharatha
Naatyam: The Tamil Heritage .

Arayar Sevai means : " the service of offering of royal priests".

Arayars are all descendants of Swamy Naathamuni's family.

Arayars peform only before the Uthsavar duirng His PuRappAdu.

Arayar's "stately walk, nimble right and left hand gestures
weave a complex imagery " of devotion to the Lord thru
Saathvika Abhinayam of Arayar Sevai.

Sri Rama Bhaarathi of Melkote has done a lot fro people 
to understand the intricacies of Arayar Sevai. A Typical Arayar 
will not teach this devotional art to anyone outside his paramparai.
This is too sacred for them . Many of the Arayars need strong
finnacial support .Their incomes from the temple except at
Srirangam is too little to sustain themselves.

The Arayar tradition gos deep . Swamy UyyakkoNDAr (b.886 C.E) , 
a direct sishyar of Swamy Naatha Muni had an Arayar by 
the name of ThiruvallikkENi PerumAL Arayar s his sishyan.

Swamy MaNakkAl Nampi (b.929 C.E), the AchAryan of  
YaamunAchArya and Sishyar of Swamy UyyakkoNDAr had another 
Arayar as his Sishyan ( ThiruvarangapperumAL Arayar ).

One of the Srirangam Arayar went once to Kaanchipuram 
Varadhan's Sannidhi and performed Arayar Sevai before 
the Lord of Kaanchi . Lord VaradarAjan was so pleased 
with the Arayar that he asked him to seek a Varam .
The Deft Arayar asked for permission from VaradharAjan
for RaamAnujA's settling down at Srirangam to grow 
the SampradhAyam. Lord Varadhan granted the boon 
and the rest is history thanks to the Arayar.

In the next posting of the series , adiyEn will begin
the coverage of the BhAvam, UpabhAvams behind the Paasurams
of AzhwArs that serve as the basis for the SaathvikAbhinayam 
of the celebrated Arayar Sevai.

Daasan , Oppiliappan Koil VaradAchAri SatakOpan  



           - SrImate rAmAnujAya namaH -
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