Sunday, September 29, 2013

A STRANGER..- PICTURE...

Sri:
Srimate ramanujaya nama:

Priya arangan adiyar,

Mukhunth Raghavan is a 17 year old 13th Grade (1st Year college here) student living in Dubai. He is in our list of mail recipients. The incident of the beautiful relationship that blossomed between a recent acquaintance of our Trust and a Gurukulam child greatly inspired him. He wanted to portray the meeting in pencil and colour. And he has done it very beautifully. Voluntary involvement of such young blood is a great inspiration to one and all.

His reflection on the entire episode will set tone to the drawing that can be seen in the link:

His words
"The transition of a stranger to friend/relation is one that we all have experienced at least once in our lives. It is something that is inevitable and yet, contradicts all that has been said for ages like the common mother's phrase, "Don't talk to strangers." It is surprising that most of the time strangers don't remain strangers. As was aptly put in the words of the donor, "When we accept a stranger as our own, the bond is established forever."

 The link is here :

Friday, September 27, 2013

A STRANGER.... - 12

Sri:
Srimate ramanujaya nama:

Priya arangan adiyar,

Click here for the previous parts of “A Stranger”

(Continued……………….)

I did not know when I slept but a cool breeze woke me. I forgot to wear my shirt at night and had kept my blanket untouched. But my sleep was completely severed and I decided to get up. Kutti payyan was now sleeping with his entire right hand clasped round my waist. The toes of his right foot were softly placed on my ankle. I delicately removed his clasp and put down his foot. He lifted it again and kept it suspended in air for some time. And then put it down again. I knew it was very early since the children weren’t awake. I decided to catch an early bus to Chennai.

I washed my face, brushed my teeth with the Vicco paste placed in the bathroom using my fingers as brush. I slowly got into the tent again and implanted a kiss on the visible cheek of kutti payyan. How strange it was. I had asked so many details about him and his family; but never his name. I called him kutti payyan and it became his name for me. If I had another son, I would have introduced him to others as “yen chinna payyan ivan”. The chinna was kutti here. I always lovingly called my son “Motta”, “vaalu” etc. and addressed him with his full name only when the situation was serious and my scolding essential to discipline him. I hoped I would never be in a situation to scold “Kutti Payyan” and hence never have the need to know his full name.
Waking a boy sleeping in the ground floor, I asked him to open the gate for me. He sleepily recognized me and did as I said. I drew the diary of the Trust and the cheque book I luckily carried to the temple at morning. I read the yearly expense for a child from the diary and scribbled the amount in a cheque. I shook the sleepy boy by the shoulders and handed the cheque to him asking to give it at the office without fail. I was soon out of the Gurukulam and slowly made contact with the road and picked up speed to reach my friend’s house where my luggage lodged. 

The day reminded me of the previous day. Yesterday, I was a child’s father. Today,father of two. Namberumal had not given me his darsanam that day; but had shown me some of his prized possessions. I prayed Namberumal to give me enough strength to make the entire 22 children mine and walked past the junction of the South Chitra street and road leading to the temple that had become a true turning point in my life.

I’ll cherish the day till my last breath.

THE END
(With this ends a truly moving account written by a recent donor of the Trust. We thank him on behalf of the Gurukulam children and the readers of the Trust’s mails for the efforts in penning down his experience so vividly. A visual treat awaits the readers in the next mail. Please look forward to it.)
                          


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A STRANGER ...... -11

Sri:
Srimate ramanujaya nama:

Priya arangan adiyar,

Click for the previous parts of “A Stranger”

(continued………………….)

I looked above. The temple-town had almost slept now. Men and women had withdrawn into their houses, some happy with the day and others expecting the next dawn to bless them with happiness. I had heard my grandmother tell me that all the deities of other divya desams completed their tight-scheduled routine and retired to Srirangam temple each day for sleep. The sky above was clear with not many clouds to wrinkle its countenance. A few stars were visible and they looked like glimmering dots of light. In a few seconds, more stars started appearing at the same spot. In a few minutes, a community of stars started showing themselves up. Slowly, the dim perception of the stars took a definite shape and colour. 

As I was examining the appearance of each star, I suddenly felt a soft palm tightly encircle my finger and grip it. It was kutti payyan’s. His grasp was firm yet soft. This was the first time he touched me. And this touch gave shape to all the unaccounted and maze of tangled feelings I had built up in the day. The mist in my mind seemed to rise. The dim became definite. The vague became certain, just like the stars above. I wept and wept. Tears rolled sideways wetting the sideburns and quickly proceeded to the ears instead of the usual straight route towards the cheeks. I concluded that my horizontal position prompted its diversion.

What had begun in the wee hours of the morning as a simple accident and a curious meeting with the child had now grown into a strong bond. I wanted to be his father. Not the biological father. Nor an adopting father. Should he be so to claim my love? Yes, he was a stranger to me. But who is not a stranger? I was married 10 years now. Before marriage, my wife was a complete stranger to me. Yet I “decided” to accept her as mine. We became one entity with two different names. Her father, mother and all her relatives were just like any other third persons before 10 years. Yet today, they are like my own blood. I “accepted” them. What about my parents and grandparents and the entire ancestry? Each married a stranger and begot children. My entire earnings are spent on this lineage of strangers. My time is submitted to their welfare. Their pleasure penetrates me .Their sorrow sobs into me. In that logic, my own son is half a stranger to me. The same is true from my wife’s perspective too. When I could accept the entire responsibility of a half-stranger, why could I not accept half the responsibility of a complete stranger? Why not?

I determined to support Kutti Payyan financially in spite of any hindrance that may come my way. In addition, I wanted to share with him all the good things I share with my son. I couldn’t afford to be with him all days. I would come once a month or more frequently. I would show love and affection on all the children of the Gurukulam but accept responsibility for kuttipayyan; till he completes education and even after that.

I wanted to stay in the background and do everything for him. The volunteers were there to take care of him; they have always been will ever be. It was the financial support that would relieve half their trouble. Yes, I knew other children needed the exact support as this boy. But my pocket could not afford more than one’s upkeep. Some other person would definitely share the father-son relationship with some other child of the gurukulam. They needn’t go through a similar experience for wisdom to dawn on them. I was, after all, a new entrant to the spiritual realm. Others already in sampradayam would be more aware and conscious of the needs of the children and would definitely support them.

When we accept a stranger as ours, then the bond is established forever. I always knew it. But this trip brought focus to my faint knowledge.

(………………continued)



Monday, September 23, 2013

A STRANGER.........- 10

Sri:
Srimate ramanujaya nama:

Priya arangan adiyar,

Click here for previous parts of “A Stranger”

(continued……………)

I lay on my back and asked him about his family. So far I knew nothing about him personally except that his parents were financially in great trouble. They could feed him but not well and education was beyond their means. He was admitted in the Gurukulam before a year and a half and he made this his home. This information was gathered by me from the chat with the volunteers. He was now under the shelter of the Trust’s Gurukulam and was well looked after and educated far beyond his parents’ wishes.

 I felt extremely relieved that his parents did not ill-feed him or deny him education thinking it socially dis-respectable to declare their financial constraints to others. They were wise and admitted him in such a good place. Not that all the people around here cuddled him and bought him sweets. The volunteers were not his caretakers alone. All the students were under their roof. They showed their love by persuading people to contribute funds, physically toiling to buy things for the children, shoulder so much of administrative work. I saw them as angels hovering in the air with every cell made of selflessness; they had a deep attachment to all yet not too personal to get carried away with a single child and lose track of the rest. They would love every child irrespective of his nature and whether he returned their love or not. I felt true gratitude.

 I had already called my friend many times in the day to inform my wish to be with the children. He was reluctant with it but answered an "ok" in a whisper. But he kept calling frequently to check if I altered my decision and turned towards his house. He had asked me to at least have dinner with him. But I was obstinate and never relented to his pressure. I affirmed myself that I would eat at his house in the next visit.

I was still trying to abstract information from kutti payyan about him. I asked his father’s profession, whether he had any siblings, whether his father had siblings and so on. He answered in the characteristic monosyllable but with utmost rapidity. In sometime I was whispering a series of questions in the air expecting replies. None came.

He had turned to my side and his left-hand became an additional pillow to his head while his right-hand extended to half the right thy. He was posed like moolavar but with closed eyes and heavy breathing. His left-hand was sandwiched between the pillow and his cheek. I blinked at him. He seemed to have slept before a long time. I drew the blanket over his fragile figure and his soft breathing began to caress by skin in a fixed pattern of inhale and exhale.

I looked above.

(…………………….continued)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A STRANGER......... - 9

Sri:
Srimate ramanujaya nama:

Priya arangan adiyar,

Click here for the previous parts of “A Stranger”

(continued……………..)

A few volunteers carrying bags of cut vegetables and big vessels of milk arrived at the gate of the Gurukulam. They recognized me as the morning intruder. I got up and opened the gate for them since their hands were full. They smiled courteously and went in asking if I was comfortable and ate well. I nodded in complete satisfaction and internally thanked them for the day they had made for me. I had a chat with a few of them.

The last class (d.prabandam) was over and the stream of children came down the stairs in steady trickles. One was singing some pasurams in the tone they use at temples. He was methodical in reiterating it from his memory and sung well with no hindrance. A few others joined him for a while and they ran into different directions at the junction of the stairs and the corridor. I went up the stairs to find what kutti payyan was doing since he was not present in the descending lot. He was nowhere to be seen in the first floor. I knocked at the restroom and received no answer. The last room too was empty. So I thought he was somewhere further up. I had not seen the entire gurukulam. So there were areas still unknown to me. So I came to the exit at the first floor. The stairs to the second floor was now visible to me. It would have been visible the entire day but my eyes had failed to send its image to the brain for processing and storage. The 15 watts bulb on the wall threw enough light for me to ascend the stairs.

There was no second floor. The entrance opened to a long rectangular terrace. It was very pleasant. Light emitted by a tube light was visible at its end. I took quick steps and reached the end. It was a room and inside were seated the resident-tutor and kutti payyan. Kutti Payyan was repeating something after the master. I figured it was Sanskrit. The teacher smiled at me though he did not stop the class to attend to my presence. I waited for the class to end. I asked the tutor what he was teaching. The tutor told this boy was very fond of Sanskrit and took extra lessons in addition to what others were taught. I was very happy for this boy with a twinkle in the eyes who showed good appetite for learning.

Having completed the class, he prostrated before the master and came out with me.I addressed him “kutti payya” from behind but nature’s call took precedence over mine and he vanished into the restroom. He was out in a few minutes, eased. He washed his hands and feet and uttered “Achutaya namaha…anantaya nama….etc”, the shloka we often repeat during sandyavandanam. He answered by curious look saying that one needs to chant them after answering nature’s call.

By this time, most of the Gurukulam children marched into the terrace armed with a sleeping mat in one hand and a pillow in the other. A blanket hugged each pillow and seemed inseparable from it. Each boy rolled out his mat, laid the pillow and fell on the mat, later adjusting the pillow to their heads. As per the rule, one grown up boy drew a big mosquito tent on all sides to seek protection from the notorious mosquitoes.

 The mosquitoes in Srirangam seem very diligent in drawing blood from everyone, irrespective of age, creed or gender. A much unbiased species I suppose. Newcomers and strangers were no exception too. No bite discounts offered to any. Their sincerity grew substantially as hours rolled on and peaked at nights. The volunteers of the Trust knew this and were proactive enough to shield the children against them with the tent. One mosquito whizzed past my ear making a loud cry and settled on my brow. Kutti payyan saw it and waved his hand across my face to scare it away. It flew away sneering only to come back from hiding in a few minutes. This time it retaliated by attacking my forearm.

Kutti payyan went down to get the essentials for the night and soon arrived with the mats, pillows and the blankets. He crept into the mosquito tent and spread across the mat for us. He came out soon gratified with his effort. He went down again and brought me a sombu full of water. I think it was the sombu he used at dawn to clean the sitting slab. I asked him why he brought it and he told me visitors usually felt thirsty at Srirangam. I realized his analysis was correct and my throat felt parched and yearned for water. I drank from the sombu .But he stopped me midway and asked to keep some for midnight. Appreciating the foresight in the small boy and regretting the lack of it in me, I put it down and covered it with the plate he handed out to me. He had more foresight than I could imagine in his small and cute head.

Both of us crouched on the floor and crept into the tent silently like military men in the Indian borders. All the other children were fast asleep and I could see their furrow-less calm faces in the light of the moon. I had heard that Rama looked beautiful when in sleep. These children too looked so. I gently patted one little boy on his stomach and looked at his long eyelashes that were immobile and relaxing from the day’s long labour. Except for a few elderly children, all others seemed to prefer the terrace. I was instructed by Kutti Payyan to sleep on his right so that I could stay protected by him on the one side and a boy in the depth of his sleep on the other. How would the boy rise from so deep a sleep and protect me in the event of danger was beyond my comprehension but I had to listen to the instructions lest I be chastened by this little fellow.

 (..................continued)
​​

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A STRANGER....... - 8


Sri:
Srimate ramanujaya nama:
 ​​
Priya arangan adiyar,

Click here for the previous ​parts of "A Stranger"

(continued...............)

After laboring over the drawing of kutti payyan for some time, I finished it and looked out for him. He wasn't sitting with me when I drew him. He had other urgent matters to attend to like aiding a few boys who were beautifully dressing up a perumal and correcting a boy who seemed to be coming back to the same pasuram like a circular reference error. After the advice and corrections offered to others, he diverted his attention to me and the sheet I held in my hand.

The drawing filled him with absolute amazement! Though the drawing had the least resemblance to him except for the tiruman on the forehead, the veshti and a little of the hair, he seemed to consider it the work of a connoisseur and went about exhibiting it to everyone. All the children were very happy thinking I drew them since there wasn’t much in it that distinguished kutti payyam from them. But since he held the drawing in his hand and due to the implied rights that possession gave, they admitted it to be his and disclaimed their stake in it.

Other classes happened in rapid succession. Math, science, agamam and time came for the dinner which I was awaiting with renewed eagerness. The children seemed to never lose energy even after so much of knowledge accumulation. They drew out their plates, washed them and placed them in parallel rows. One banana leaf was spread out in their between for me. But this time, it was comparatively smaller to the morning spread. I sat down. Kutti payyan was the last to come and sat beside me like in the morning. By the time of his arrival, we had started eating. He examined what I ate minutely (which was rice and curd), got up and disappeared into kitchen. He fetched some fruits and bakshanams which surprised one and all there.

The children reported that those bakshanams were prepared a few days before for a function which took place at the Gurukulam. All the children were given lot of bakshanams on that day. But they had all eaten them on that day itself. But kutti payyan seemed to have saved some for the days ahead. And I was presently fed those with great care by him. He deposited everything he had in his hand onto my banana leaf even before I could protest. So, there I was, eating the sweets, savories and other tasty bakshanams soaked curd rice. The child had grown to care so much for me and it touched me like a mild electric shock. He had come to care for me just in some hours of acquaintance. He saw to that I carefully wrapped up the four corners of banana leaf after dinner and eyed me till I carried it to the dustbin. He would have felt unpleasant and a little embarrassed before others had I spilled the contents on the floor while taking it to the dustbin. Fortunately and to my relief, I didn't. He was ready with a tumbler of water for me. Handing it to me he disappeared with other children for the last session of learning for the day.

I sat outside the gurukulam on the stone slab and enjoyed the breeze that had suddenly decided to embrace me. I watched people walk past me. Men and women escorted their children and chatted over the inconsequential programmes that appeared in the televisions. A group of college student swarmed past me offloading a variety of subjects onto my ears like who would win the elections this year and who would bag the super singer title. How different were these children of the Gurukulam from those outside. The black gate alone did not make the difference. Lot of wisdom had been fed into the children of the gurukulam. Their world revolved around Perumal. Their talks were on Perumal. Their jokes were on Him. Their joy was Him and their sorrow Him. They learnt about Him and I felt, from my little observation that their thirst for His knowledge was unquenchable. My own child was mostly glued to the television. Well, how would he not be when his idol/father was an ardent devotee of the TV that encapsulated many a curses in sugar coated channels? I needed to introspect before judging my child.

(.............continued)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Redemption of a river...

Sri:
Srimate ramanujaya nama:

Priya arangan adiyar,

When Seetha Devi was abducted by Ravana, Lord Rama, along with Lakshmana roamed the forests, asking the trees, creepers and plants whether they had seen Her. The Lord, in great despair,finally asked the Godavari river if she saw Seetha Devi anywhere. The river, despite being an eye-witness to Ravana's abduction of Seetha Devi, chose not to reveal it to Rama for fear of persecution under Ravana's hands though he stayed miles away in the small island of Lanka. But Yamuna was flowing past the palace of kamsa, its waves lashing against the fortified walls of Kamsa's citadel. Yet, when Vasudevar, the father of Lord Krishna had to cross the river to reach Gokulam, she gave way to him and won the name “Thooya peru neer Yamunai” (blemishless Yamuna) from Andal. Andal celebrates Yamuna thus for such a fearless kainkaryam for Lord Krishna. But Godavari lost such a kainkaryam to Rama for the fear of someone staying afar. So there were speculations as to why at all attribute holiness to Godavari.

Such speculations were put to rest only when Godavari came to share the name of “Godha” (Andal) who was born as the daughter of Periyazhwar. The mere sharing of Andal's name sanctified the river .Andal is an incarnation of BhoomaDevi. She jumped into this samsara in order to save us like a mother who jumps into a well to rescue her drowning child . As we all know, Andal was born on the holy day of Pooram star in Aadi month, called as Thiru Adi Pooram. The greatness of Andal’s birth is said to be same as that of Andal Herself and that is why Thiruvadipooram is a special utsavam in all temples.
At our Srimaan Bhattar Gurukulam, Thiruvadipooram utsavam was celebrated by the students in a manner befitting its grandeur. There was an elaborate Thiruvaradhanam in the morning along with Serthi Thirumanjanam for Andal and Perumal followed by Goshti satrumarai. In the 4th pasuram of Thiruppavai, Andal offers the kainkaryam of performing Serthi Thirumanjanam for the aychiyargal (cowherd women) , herself and Kannan by saying “nangalum margazhi neerada magizhndhu”. It is exciting to know that the children at Gurukulam also got the opportunity for this kainkaryam on the day of Thiruvadipooram. In the evening, there was sevakalam of Nachiyar Thirumozhi and Perumal Thirumozhi and Vishnu Sahasranamam parayanam was performed. 

Andal is an ideal role model for each student at the Gurukulam. Even as a young kid, she expressed the essence of the entire Vedas in her Thiruppavai. These children in the pursuit of Vedic education, offered their humble obeisances on Her avathara thirunakshatram.

Do seek the blessings of Andal here :


Monday, September 16, 2013

A STRANGER ...... - 7

Sri:
Srimate ramanujaya nama:

Priya arangan adiyar,
 


Click for previous parts of 
 
 "A Stranger"
(continued…………………)

Summons for lunch arrived from beneath and the few children in my vicinity got up and moved, each of them disappearing slowly from my sight. I asked kutti payyan why he hadn’t got up for lunch. He was still absorbed in the Namazhwar portrait and was adding some green colour to the tree behind him. On my prompting he still sat undecided whether to desert the drawing and pay heed to my words or continue, ignoring my words. Good sense prevailed and he delicately placed the drawing in one of his divyaprabanda books and turned his eyes on me with a mischievous twinkle. Satisfied with its safety, we got down.

All the children had settled with their plates and tumblers. A big banana leaf was spread out for me and I was directed to occupy it. Kutti payyan somehow maneuvered through the plates and tumblers and settled beside me. I was very glad to see the shy boy take a liking for me. The children chanted some shlokas with great dedication and began the supper.My poor experience with the banana leaf showed up when I tried to chase the running liquids and stop their progress into the floor. I built fortresses out of the rice, pulled out soldiers from the vegetables and stew and stationed them at strategic positions so that the liquids didn’t escape from the leaf. The children laughed heartily at my antics and I too joined them. Kutti payyan seemed to take the laughs to his heart and sneered at his fellow comrades. My laughs at my self softened his attitude.

Post lunch, I was determined to go out and search book shops and do some shopping of traditional utensils and utilities. But the sleep deficit at night and the energy bouts of the morning played spoilsport with my plans. I wished to sleep and sleep. The children quickly sensed my condition and instantly diagnosed me with utter tiredness. The red eyes, worn out face, drooping eyelids were a few symptoms they noticed. I was led to the first floor by none other than kutti payyan and promptly given two paracetamols namely a sleeping-mat and a pillow. I instantly appreciated the quickness of the treatment and fell into a long slumber only broken by my own musical snoring.

I woke up to the sound of Veda mantras and saw a tutor and the children sitting at a corner and practicing the vedic chants. My tongue longed for something liquid and hot and I went down with the intention to seek something from the kitchen. The very amicable person in the kitchen sensed my need and poured me a cup of hot milk. I was ok with anything so long as it was hot. My tastes are narrow at mornings and mellow down by evenings and turn accommodative to anything offered. I asked him what the children had for the evening and he said “ Sundal and Kanji”. I was offered some sundal and I readily sent them down the throat.

The Vedic chants ceased and I saw the figure of the tutor descend the stairs and out of the gate. Quickly following his footsteps was the kutti payyan’s. He anxiously looked out for me and having found me standing outside the first room, relaxed and passed me without a word but brushed his angavastram against my body. He rushed to the bathroom and brought out a bucket half filled with clothes. From this he took out one garment after the other and smashed them on the washing stone till the very life in them was squeezed out. He then filled another bucket with clean water and dumped the battered dresses in it. Pulling out one by one, he mustered energy and made another squeeze with his hands. Satisfied with the pale colour it assumed, he hung them in a row on the nylon rope that stuck to the walls. All my advances to help in this work were refused with severe head shakes. He was determined not to share these personal works. Once done, he asked me to follow him. We were again in the first floor and he drew me close to his shelf. He pulled out a plain white sheet and handing it to me asked me to draw something for him. I could not swallow. He was a far superior artist than me. 
When my drawing for my child in his 2nd grade fetched for him nothing in the competition but scoldings from teachers and ridicule from students, I was determined never to put pencil to paper again. My boy too vowed never to ask my help in drawing. But Kutti Payyans expectant eyes and anticipation could now be crushed. I decided to draw. But what could I draw? I decided to draw what I saw. I drew him.

(……..continued)


Friday, September 13, 2013

A STRANGER ...... - 6

Sri:
Srimate ramanujaya nama:

Priya arangan adiyar,
 


Click for previous parts of 
 
 "A Stranger"

(.......continued)


Happy with what was offered to us in the tirumanjanam, we turned away from the sannidhi and acknowledging the presence of the Huge Garudalwar on the way from the prasadam-stall, traversed the rest of the temple in earnest. All were hungry. I was the most. I was so drawn to the children that I forgot the presence of a friend and his hospitable family awaiting me. But I could not severe the growing bond with the children and hence decided to be with them rather than go to his house. But this was a gurukulam and I was still a stranger. Such organizations were not darmasalas and had formalities and I had to seek permission to be with them. I had made up my mind to be with them for the entire day and even sleep in the Gurukulam if I was allowed.

Finding the office of the Gurukulam, which I came to know later, was Srimaan Trust, I stood at the door first and slowly moved in. A few women were sitting, chopping and cutting vegetables. A few men were packing something. And a few others animatedly discussed what to take for some evening stotra class. I asked one of them if I could stay at the Gurukulam for the day and explained my motive. I was handed to another. And an other. Finally one woman made a thorough check of my intentions and a little dissatisfied, asked me to wait. She then called someone, whom I assumed had the authority to decide my stay or abandonment, and spoke feebly. Finally, I was given the green signal but she cautioned me with a list of “what not to do at the Gurukulam” like a good traffic cop who catches a fellow without helmet and gives good advice. Their absolute concern for the safety and well-being of the children baffled me. They seemed to have such parental concerns that I felt a kind of gratitude towards them. 

My interest prompted them to give me the Trust’s Spiritual diary and a discourse DVD which came along with it. They told me a purchase of 10 Diaries would fetch a Sriranga vasam card which would entitle my family a stay at the Gurukulam for a day. I bought ten immediately since I knew it had the double benefit of giving me another day at the Gurukulam and also that the money out of the sale would be used for the children. Carrying the Diaries and DVDs in my hand, I moved out of the office in pursuit of the Gurukulam children who were on their way to the Gurukulam. I could not find them on the roads. My hunger was terrible and my legs swallowed the road in long gulps and took me to the Gurukulam a little quickly than I could give them credit for. Now, I clearly saw the dark pink building in daylight and recognized the huge banner that hung by its sides. I couldn’t read it in the pre-dawn darkness. The drawing of a beautiful Ramanujar accompanied by the words “Srimaan Bhattar Gurukulam” in a bold readable font invited my attention. I then looked at the gate, the stone slab I sleepily slid into that morning and of course the four steps I had the chance of repeatedly seeing so many times that morning.

The children were inside, some in the front rooms, some in the first floor, some calmly in the restroom and some washing the clothes and hitting their clothes on the washing stone with all the power they could generate. Kutti payyan was upstairs sitting and drawing something on a paper. I got behind him without his knowledge and saw what he was drawing. He was trying to draw Namalwar. I could easily tell that from the sitting posture, the tree behind him and from a few other peculiarities. I could observe that he commenced this drawing some other time and had put the pencils to rest for the temple visit. Now, he resumed whatever was left. The picture was very cute, though Namalwar looked a little too serious than I could picture him. And there was a big real Peacock feather pasted on his tuft. It far exceeded the size of Namalwar’s tuft and proceeded to occupy territories beyond the paper. I was puzzled .Why a peacock feather for Namazhwar? Kutti Payyan looked back at me and ignoring my puzzled look resumed the little decoration that was left. Once he completed, he came rushing to me and showed his handiwork with a beaming eye I could associate only with a Picasso or Ravi Varma. I patted on his back for sometime and asked why he put a Peacock feather on Namazhwar. The boy seemed surprised at my supposed display of ignorance. He said “ Krishar bakthi dhaan namazhwar. Krishnar ku mayil peeli undu dhanee? Adhaan ivarkum poten” (Krishna bakthi is Namazhwar. Does Krishna not have peacock feather on him? So I put one for azhwar too.)

(.......continued)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Tale of a Temple

​​
Sri:
Srimate Ramanujaya nama:

Priya
​arangan adiyar,

"In times of distress, we use to chant/recall the holy names of Srimannarayana in order that the problems facing us get dislodged and even cease to exist. But what if distress surrounds that Emperuman Himself? In that scenario, an Acharyan saves the Lord from that threat. Shri Vedanthachariar praises the glory of SriRamanuja in Yathiraja Sapthathi saying that He saved Emperuman who was about to caught in the slurry of Buddhism, entangled in the web of Jainism and the booby traps and deluding  words of the misinterpreters of the Vedas. Thus SriRamanuja had saved the abstract form of Emperuman, along with His divine attributes (kalyana gunas) and His wealth of both material and spiritual realms (ubhaya vibhuthi) from the miscreants mentioned above.

Few centuries later, Pillailokachariyar, an illustrious Acharya in the Srivaishnava Guruparamparai who is also an avatharam of Kanchi Lord Varadaraja, wrote many Rahasya Granthams and elaborated on the Visishtadvaita philosophy. In his later years, there was a threat for Emperuman at Srirangam due to a series of invasions and the utsava deity Azhagiya Manavalan (later called Namperumal) was protected by him. He was 120 years old at that time. He had set out of Srirangam along with Namperumal and a group of Srivaishnavas and went in search of safer places to safeguard the deity. Namperumal travelled southward to Jyothishkudi (near Thirumalirumsolai and Thirumoghur) where Pillailokachariyar attained Paramapadham. Thereafter Namperumal along with the disciples of Pillailokachariyar proceeded to Kozhikkode in Kerala, then to Thirunarayanapuram, and eventually to Thirumalai. At the same time,the children of the illustrious Shruthaprakashika Bhattar (descendent of SriParasara Bhattar) and his magnum opus commentary were saved by Acharya Shri Vedantacharya from the hands of the invaders by risking his own life.

During one of these invasions, it is said that Namperumal stayed for a few years at a hamlet called Azhagiyamanavalam. There was a Sundararaja Perumal temple at Azhagiyamanavalam village (near Manachanallur) where people were able to stay along with the deity without trouble from invaders. It is also said that people also used to visit Srirangam swimming across Kollidam (Coleroon) river and offer their prayers. When all the invaders had withered away and Srirangam was awaiting its King and that’s when a blind washerman identified Azhagiya Manavalan and exclaimed “Namperumal” with excitement. “The Sundararaja Perumal temple at Azhagiyamanavalam was in a dilapidated condition until recent times, in spite of its historical significance. In the year 2005, the temple was renovated with the support from few devotees and Samprokshanam was done
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recounts Archakar Sri U Ve Sundararajan Swamy who is a disciple of Thiruvellarai (Melathirumaligai) Sri U Ve SowmyaNarayana Swamy.

Under the banner of “Sannidhi Vandhanam“ of our Trust, the Archakar Swamy of this temple was honoured recently. He had visited the Gurukulam campus and had also shared his experiences with the Gurukulam children. He was very much impressed by the dedication of Gurukulam children. Moreover, Bramhotsavam was round the corner at Gurukulam and the enthusiastic students showed him all their
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arrangements. The children were also inspired by such a kainkaryaparar
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who is dedicated for service to Emperuman. “The next time you visit Srirangam, we request you to allocate some time to visit this historical Emperuman at Azhagiya manavalam" requested the Swamy.
P

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A STRANGER ..... - 5

Sri:
Srimate ramanujaya nama:

Priya arangan adiyar,
 


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 "A Stranger"

(.......continued)

The children were surprised seeing a stranger join them in their march. But they weren’t indifferent. They allowed me to have a word or two with them. A little grown up boy asked me who I was and I in return asked about him. Our conversation progressed well. I asked him to briefly explain what happened on the day of Jyesthabisekam.  He explained On this day, the gold Kavachams used by Namberumal throughout year is removed and cleaned. Certain purification rites are performed and then they are refitted to Namberumal’s tirumeni. Turmeric water is used for Thirumanjanam .Other Tirumanjana items ( Milk , curds , coconut milk etc) are used only at the sacred feet of the Lord so that these substances do not get behind the kavacham at the time of re-adornment. It is only on this day the Lord's divya tirumeni is without the golden Kavacham.” And starting from him, each child described details of every utsavam of Srirangam, though unsolicited. It was an admirable collection of information in their possession. Thus discussing the events of the day, we set forth to each sannidhi. The children, by now, dismissed their notion I was a stranger and also gave up attaching those inquisitive eyes on me. They now felt I was, after all, a harmless being seeking to enjoy their company.

This also gave the children an opportunity to display all they knew of the temple and its functions. I felt a surge of happiness when my “receptionist at the gate” & “fruit feeder” came forward to enlighten me on the “Nel-alavu” event that happened on the 7th day of some utsavam( I don’t remember which). We were now walking past that mandapam and heading our way to the thayar sannidhi. I was enjoying the second round of darsan with the children. I was learning a lot and felt happy. I decided to call him “Kutti payya” though there were a few shorter than him in the group. I named him so out of affection and not on the basis of his height. As we moved in the corridor, Kutti payyan directed and led me to the wall of the temple corridor. He placed his mouth close to a projection in the wall and shouted at the pitch of his office “Ranga!!!” The sound echoed for sometime and ended feebly. He tried it again with more energy but with the same result. Then he indicated me to repeat what he had done. I tried. Though my voice seemed like the menacing voice of some villain, I comforted myself that it was afterall Bhagavans name that I uttered. But the children were very happy to hear such a loud roar. They clapped instantly. Kutti payyan accepted their claps shaking his head as though it was his feat they acknowledged. We all paced further into Mudal Azhwar Sannidhi and then set forth to thayar sannidhi. One child reminded others to chant shlokas. They decided to chat something on Thayar. It was beautiful recitation, short yet sweet to the ears. We entered the thayar sannidhi again, took her blessings and completed two pradakshanam (I used to take one only but on the insistence of the children took two. They said it was wrong to take only one).

We worshiped the Narasimhar in the sannidhi perched on the top and descending the steps, took quick strides and found ourselves in the open air and lot of sand beneath us. Time was fast evaporating and we could afford only a humble bow to Ramar from the outside. Our steps dragged us into the sanctum of Namberumal and we were witness not to the deity but to very many rites performed. An assortment of screens hung about and we were informed the Lord was inside the last of the screens. The tirumanjanam was not for public view. So we stood outside drinking through the eyes what little view the stream of activities offered us. Finally, all the kavachams worn by the Lord were taken out and reverently placed for the bhakthas to worship. It was obvious the holy bathing of the day would rejuvenate the Lord like none other. His smile would be infectious. The garland He wore would be fresh and sparkling. We all drank the beauty of His golden kavachams with our senses. The “theertam” that touched his tirumeni-minus-kavacha was given to all and we too drank it with pleasure. I knew it would do very good to my spirituality but now it also allayed my thirst roused by the walks.

(.........continued)
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