Monday, 25 June 2012

Travelogue TN: Day 2 - Tiruvarur


The next day (29th April 2012) we reached the temple at around 8.00 am. We were given food at Sri Shyama Sastri’s house and instead of my teacher’s solo performance, we were asked to remain for the rendering of the ‘Pancha Ratnams’. Prof Seethalakshmi could not reach due to some urgent requirements at her college (Queen Mary’s) where she was the principal. My Teacher, Saumya and myself were seated in the front row and I was naturally getting nervous about this. She told us not to move from the place until she said so. We remained there and sang the ‘Pancha Ratnams’ as best as we could. Some times I resorted to lip movement alone, since I was doubtful of my own rendering. My usual lack of confidence presented itself comfortably. But it was an altogether different experience where in we sang and took part in this ‘Aaradhana’ along with so many Vidwans and Vidushis, at the Kamalalayam, in front of the Kamalambika Sannidhi – Lord’s ways to provide when least expected to.

Kamalalaye Jananaath Mukthi’ – goes the age old saying by wise men. In my previous two visits to Kumbakonam, I couldn’t plan to visit the temple here. And what a temple it presented itself to be …

There were many Sannidhis in the outer Prakaaram, some of which had their own Tevarams sung by the Tamil Saints. The main deity is the ‘Valmikeswarar’ with ‘Neelotpalamba’ as his consort. The place is primarily the ‘Ajapa Natana Kshetram’. My Uncle, Sri Ramachandran Nair, who is an authority of Vedanta, Jyothisha, Temple histories and a host of other ‘Gudha Sastras’, had instructed me to visualize the temple where the base is of Lord Vishnu in ‘Yoga Nidra’. The ‘Ajapa Natanam’ happens in the ‘Aakasha’ of the temple which is on the ‘Hrudaya Guhya Sthanam’ of Vishnu. Those who are well versed in yoga, laya marga may very well relate to the same and understand the importance. The story also says that when Lord Vishnu went into Yoga Nidra using his bow as a stand, Sri Brahma Deva ordered the termites to cut the ‘Njaan’ – the string of the bow, so that he wakes out of his yogic sleep. It is this group of termites which formed a ‘Puttru’ – an ant hill, which assumed a ‘Swayambhu Linga Swaroopam’. Since the ‘Valmeekams’ (termites) were present there, the Lord has assumed the name ‘Valmeekeswarar’. We had the good fortune to witness the ‘Marataka Lingam’ kept in the Temple and the Abhishekams done on the same. There is a picture kept in the pradakshina veedhi which shows the Ajapa Natanam on Vishnu.

The temple is more famous in the form of the first of the ‘Saptha Vitanka Kshetrams’. The deity of Somaskandar also known as Tyagarajeswarar is also one representation of ‘Ardha-Nareeswara Swaroopa Sankalpam’ and the same is ‘drishyam’ or seen at the ‘yoga hrudayam’ of devotees. The story says that the great Chola King – Muchukunda who had helped the Devas in their fight with the Asuras, was given a wish to be granted by Lord Indra – the king of Devas. Muchukunda being a great Siva Bhakta himself, asked for the Somaskanda Vigraham which was supposedly kept and had puja done by Indra himself. In a fix, Indra made 6 more similar vigrahams and tested Muchukunda. He had to identify the original one based on which he would receive what he deserved. By the act of providence / Will of God, the great King selected the right one. Indra was pleased with this incident and allowed all the seven to be kept at the Bhu Lokam and to consecrate them at various sacred places. The main one in the story is placed at Tiruvarur. The other places are Tirukkuvalai, Tirukkaaraivaasal, Tirumaraikkaadu, Tiru Naagai, Tirunallaaru and Tiruvaimur.

Tiruvarur temple also has a separate Sannidhi for Kamalamba. She sits with one leg upon the other in a side on fashion which is a beauty which cannot be merely described. We had a chance to sing the Madhyamavati raga Dikshitar Kriti with the Sri Vidya Navavarana Mantra Sahita Kriti – Sri Raja Rajeswarim. We were sitting in the middle where normally Archakas walk to show the Arati lamp to devotees. Suddenly some kumkumam fell into the book which I was holding in my hand and singing the song. Obviously the Archaka was giving some kumkuma vibhuthi to a devotee from which this would have fell in. I consider this as a blessing from Devi herself.

Tiruvarur Ratham is said to be the best and the biggest in Tamil Nadu. The temple also has about 16 Ganapathis in and around the compound on whom Dikshitar had dedicated the Sodasa Ganapati Kritis on them. Samadhi of Kamalamuni – One of the 18 Maha Siddhars is said to be here.

The place is also famous that the trio of Tyagaraja, Muthuswamy Dikshitar and Shyama Sastri lived here at the same time and almost on the adjacent roads. So many kritis by the trinity and many other composers are also present along with specific Tevarams sung on the temple.

Some examples of famous kritis surrounding the temple (apart from the Ganapathi Kritis mentioned above) are –
Kamalamba Navavarams, Neelotpalamba Vibhakthi also known as ‘Gaulanta Kritis’ – all the 8 raagams ending with Gaula, Tiruvarur Panchalinga Kritis, the famous Navagraha Kritis of Dikshitar are said to be set on the nine planets placed inside the Tiruvarur temple complex, Tyagaraja Vibhakti Krithis, Vatapi Ganaptim (on the Ganapathy inside), Dakshinamurthe (On the Dakshinamurthi - at the outer courtyard of Tyagaraja Shrine), Shri Dum Durge (On the Goddess Durga - outside Southern Gopuram), Purna Chandra Bimba Vadane (On Kamalamba).

We also went to Tyagaraja’s house. Akhanda Kirtana Alapana was being done. There is a very nice feeling about the place and to think that probably here Sri Rama – Parivara Sametha had given darsanam to Sri Tyagaraja.

Visited Dikshitar’s memorial immediately after Tyagaraja’s. Thought that this may have been closed since it was getting late (about 1.00 in the afternoon). Surprise - this was open enough for us. The story of his guru, receipt of his veena and Muruka making him sing his first song at Tiruttani are depicted in a lively painting there. We asked whether his Veena was there. The Archaka said yes and went inside to take the same. All of us became very anxious to see this. He comes out carrying – a Violin!!!!!. “Where is the Veena?” we asked. He said he didn’t know. However the violin was used by Dikshitar’s family he said. We touched it and had a prayer in our minds and then proceeded back.

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