Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sri Abhirami Bhattar


Hello readers,


As part of the “Entaro Mahanubavulu” series I am glad to present the Fourth article.

Whenever I hear the devotional song “Abhirami Andhadhi” sung by Dr. Seerkazhi Govindarajan am moved by the lyrics and the diction of Seerkazhi. The peom is fraught with devotion and bhakthi towards universal mother [Jaganmatha] Goddess Abhirami.

“Andham” meaning end and “Adhi” means beginning. “Abhirami Andhadhi” is in a format wherein the last word of the first verse become the starting verse for the second verse.

Abhirami Andhadhi is composed by Abhirami Bhattar who lived some 300 years before in a place known as “Thirukkadavur” near Mayavaram. Thirukkadavur or Thirukkadaiyur is now famous for conducting “Sashtiabdhapoorthi” [60 years completion] or “Sadhabishekam” [completion of 80 years]. It is the belief that by performing the above functions in Thirukkadiyur once life expectancy will increase because here the Lord Amirta Ghateswarar took the Avatar of “Kala-Samhara-Moorthy” and killed the God of death “Yama” for his devotee “Markandeya”. More details are given in the article under “The legend of Thirukkadavur”.

The life of Bhattar when read will take one up above the level in Bhakthi such is the devotion of Bhattar towards Goddess Abhirami.

Thought of sharing the life history of the Bhattar. Am enclosing herewith Abhirami Andhadhi lyrics with meaning, translated by Poet Kannadasan from Project Madurai.

Happy reading!
Warm Regards

A.V. Devan
Camp New Delhi -24.7.2010

Sri Abhirami Bhattar

Setting the scene – How Maratha Kings came to Tanjore

Abhirami Bhattar lived some 300 hundred years before during the period when Tanjore or Tanjavur was ruled by the Maratha Kings who were ruling the region between 17th to 19th Century. You may be interested to know how Maratha Kings came down from Maharashtra to Tanjore which is south Tamilnadu. Chola Nadu is a region of Tamil Nadu state encompassing the lower reaches of the River Kaveri and its delta and is named after the Chola dynasty who ruled the region till 16th Century. Following the demise of Chola rule the Tanjore region came under the rule of the Pandyas who ruled for about a century. Following the invasion of Malik Kafur , the Tanjore region fell into disorder.


The rule of the Delhi Sultanate lasted for half a century before Pandya Kings reasserted their independence. Soon afterwards they were conquered by Vijayanagar Empire. However they were challenged by the Nayaks of Madurai who eventually conquered Tanjore in 1646. The rule of Nayaks lasted until 1673 when Chokkanatha Nayak of Madurai invaded Tanjore and killed the then ruler Vijayaraghava and place his brother Alagiri on the throne of Tanjore. Vijayaraghava’s son however induced the help of Sultan of Bijapur to get back his kingdom. In 1674 the Sultan of Bijapur sent a force commanded by the Maratha General Venkoji, a half-brother of the great Maratha king Shivaji, to recapture the kingdom from the new invader. Venkoji defeated Alagiri and occupied Tanjore. He however did not place Vijayaraghava’s son on the throne but seized the kingdom and made himself the King. Thus began the rule of Marathas over Tanjore.

Legend of Thirukadavur

Abhirami Bhattar lived somewhere between late 18th and early 19th Century in a village known as “Thirukadavur” or better known as “Thirukadaiyur” which is situated between Mayiladuthurai and Tranquebar or Tarangambadi of South Tamilnadu. Thirukadavur is the place where Lord Shiva protected his devotee Markandeya from the clutches of Lord of death “Yama”. The Lord here is known as “Amrutakateshwarar” and the Goddess “Abhirami”. The Amritaghateswarar - Abhirami Temple of Tirukkadaiyur is associated with the legends of Markandeya and Abhirami Bhattar. When devas and asuras churned the ocean parkadal to get ambrosia or amrita, they forgot to worship Lord Ganesha. Lord Ganesha stole the pot of Amirtham and kept at Thirukadiyur, it is believed that the Sivalingam in this temple is made of Amirtha Kudam . Since the pot of Amirtham was hidden here, the lord Ganesa is called “Kailavarna pillayar”.

Once there lived a sage called “Mrukandu” who was childless for many years. In order to beget a child he did penance towards Lord Shiva for a long time. Pleased with the penance the Lord appeared before him and asked whether he need one son with wisdom who will live only for 16 years or many children without wisdom but will be living for a longer period. The sage preferred the former boon stating that he preferred to have a son who will make him proud. Later they were blessed with a son who was named “Markandeya”.

Markandeya from childhood showed signs of wisdom and was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva. Upanayanam was performed at an appropriate age and Sage Mrgandu taught him all the Vedic scriptures. Years rolled by and when Markandeya’s 16th birthday was approaching the parents were crestfallen. Upon seeing his parents being dejected Markandeya enquired as to the reason for their worry. When came to know the truth Markandeya who was knowledge personified asked them to be patient and not to worry stating that Lord Shiva will protect him. When Yama dhootas came to fetch the life of Markandeya, he was performing Pooja to the Shiva Linga and they could go near him as they were blinded by the jyoti emanating from the Shiva Linga. They returned to yamalokha and informed Yama Dharmaraja about the incident and upon hearing this Yama decided to go himself and descended to Thirukkadavur where Markandeya was worshipping the Shiva Linga. Yama then threw the noose on Markandeya who then prayed the Lord to save him and embraced the Shivalinga.

Now the Lord Shiva got into fury and took the form of Kala-Samhara-Murti and gave yama a kick with his left leg and killed him with his trident. All devas came down to earth and were wonder struck to see the death of Yama at the feet of Lord Shiva. Markandeya bowed down with folded arms and praised the lord with Mruthyunjaya Sthothra. Upon devas request that yama’s death will cause imbalance in the world and later with markandeya’s request Lord Shiva restored Yama’s life back and said “Markandeya you will remain as Sixteen forever and all your wishes will be fulfilled” after giving the boon the Lord disappeared. Even today one can see the mark of the noose on the Shiva Lingam in this temple.

Abhirami Bhattar

Abhirami Bhattar was born in a Brahmin family who were worshippers of Lord Amirtagateshwar and Goddess Abirami. Being a descendant of devi Upasaka Bhattar used to worship Goddess Abirami with full devotion. He generally used to sit in front of Abirami and get immersed in meditating. Sometimes he used to cry thinking about her immeasurable kindness and sometimes he used to laugh when he visualizes the mother in his heart. People around him assumed that he is worshipping some devil and used to make fun of him saying that he was mad.
Maratha King Serfoji

During that period the Tanjore [Thanjavur] region was ruled by Maratha King Serfoji or [Saraboji]. The King was a devoted person and on the day of “Thai Amavasya” he decided to have a dip in River Kaveri and visited Kaveri-Poom-Pattinam. While on his return the King decided to have darshan at Thirukadavur. When the King entered the temple he noticed Bhattar who was sitting in front of Goddess Abhirami and was in trance without even realizing that the King is standing near to him. King Serfoji to clear his doubt asked the people who were standing there about who the person was. People around him out of jealous told that he is a mad man worshipping some evil spirits. However King could able to see brightness in the face of the Bhattar and went near him and asked “What is the day today?”. Bhattar who was in trance at the time was witnessing the moon like face of Goddess Abhirami and replied to the King that day was “Pournami” i.e. it is a full-moon day instead of no-moon day. The King then thought that what the people said was correct and returned to his palace.

Divine composition “Abhirami Andhadhi”

When Bhattar woke from the trance realized what had happened and was repenting for the mistake. He decided to end his life since the people around him called him mad and even uttered wrong statement to the King and lit a huge fire and erected a platform over it supported by ropes with 100 partitions. He then start singing “Abhirami Andhadhi” in praise of the Goddess to save her. He cut off one rope after another in succession at the end of each verse. When he completed the 79th verse “Vizhikke Arulundu” the Goddess Abhirami manifested herself before Bhattar and threw her ear ring [Thadangam] over the sky such that it shone with bright light upon the horizon as it was a full-moon day. Goddess then told Bhattar to complete the Andhadhi which Bhattar completed with 100 verses.

The King and all the subjects came to know this and repented for their mistaken identity. Later the King granted lands for Bhattar and his successors. The person who was once called as Mad due to his staunch devotion was later praised by all as "Abirami Bhattar" or "priest of Goddess Abhirami".

Devotees who chant the Abhirami Andhadhi will beget all benefits. Abhirami Bhattar’s says in the 69th verse of the Andhdhai :

Dhanam tharum

kalvi tharum

orunaalum thalarvariyaaManam tharum

dheiva vadivum tharum

nenchil vanchamillaInam tharum

nallana ellaam tharum anbhar enbhavarkkae

Ganam tharum poong kuzhalaal

Abhirami kadaikkangalae

Devotees of Abhirami who exhibits thick locks of hair resembling dark clouds, shall get the following by the mere grace of the corners of Her eyes: Riches, education, tireless mind, divine form, relatives without malevolence and everything good.



Bibliography

Abhirami Andhdhi – Lifco publication
Wikipedia
Google Maps
Poem Hunter.com

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Temple Visit - Kandakottam


“Kovil Illatha Ooril Kudi Irukathe” – Please don’t reside in a place where there is no temple. The Statement of our forefathers is sacro sanct because the temple indicates that the community is graced by the presence of God and that its Citizens form a moral community. A Community identifies and is identified by others with its temples.


There are lots of temples in and around the Metropolis of Chennai. Chennai has vaishnavite divya desams, thevara shivite temples and even Navagraha temples in and around the city. I recently happened to visit Kanda Kottam a shrine dedicated to Lord Muruga located on the heartthrob of Chennai.

The temple is situated amidst the narrow lane of “Rasappa Chetty Street” in the Park Town which is located near the Ratan or Evening Bazaar between Chennai Central and Parry’s Corner. The temple has the legend dating back to 15th Century and is managed by Ayira Vysya Beri Chettiyar Community.

This temple was frequented by the Saint Poet “Vallalar” Ramalinga Adigal who has sung “Deiva Mani Malai” a devotional poem on the Lord Kandasami.
Thought of sharing the details of the temple.
Please read on to know more about the temple and its legends.
Happy Reading!
Warm Regards
A.V. Devan
Chennai – July 7th 2010

Legend

Kandasami temple was founded by two old friends Velur Mari Chettiar a Beri Chettiar and Kandappa Achari a Viswakarma man. According to the legend, the two friends were on their monthly pilgrimage to worship Lord Murugan at Tiruporur, fifty six kilometers away situated on the Old Mahabalipuram Road when they miraculously discovered the idol of Kandasami hidden in an anthill and brought it back to Madras.


There on an auspicious day in 1673 they installed and consecrated the deity in a temple dedicated to the elephant God Vinayakar located in the garden of one Muthiyalu Naicken of Pedda Naickenpet. Subsequently when Mari Chettiar sought to build a temple for the deity funded in part by his wife’s generous gift of her jewelry, Muthiyalu donated the Park Town lands on which the temple now stands. When Mari Chettiar completed the Temple, he handed its management and that of its financial trusts to the “Eighteen Group” Beeri Chettiars, the eighteen named clusters that composed the Town Beeri Chettiar community at that time.


In commemoration of his services, the Beeri Chettiars installed a statue of Mari Chettiar near one of the Temple’s sanctums, where he is worshiped today as a God. Here we see an individual Mari Chetti, being commemorated for what he had done. From archival materials, endowment records and stone inscriptions in the temple we do know that Beri Chettiar control of the temple is more than two hundred years old. F.L. Conradi’s map of “Madraspatnam” as the city was then called depicts a small unnamed shrine at what is the temple’s location today.

“Vallalar” Ramalinga Adigal & Kandakottam

After losing his father at an early age Ramalinga Adigal’s family migrated from Chidambaram to Chennai. Ramalinga showed no interest towards formal education but rather prefer to spend his time in the precincts of Kandasami temple at Kandakottam. Sabhapati, his elder brother was upset with the behavior of his younger brother Ramalinga and as a punitive measure he instructed his wife not to give his daily meal. However the compassionate sister-in-law secretly fed him food and softly advised Ramalingam to pursue his studies at home. Ramalingam relented with a condition that he is given a separate room of his own which was agreed. Now in the solitary confines of the room Ramalingam set up a mirror and in front of it lit a small lamp and start mediating relentlessly and this was the beginning of the young Ramalinga’s spiritual journey.


The first reward came in the form of a vision of Lord Muruga and in the saints own words “The beauty endowed divine faces six, the illustrious shoulders twelve”. Ramalingam spent most of his time in his room. Sitting before a mirror, he used to meditate and compose poems. As he meditated his individual self had disappeared and the Lord he realized within revealed himself in the reflection on the mirror. Visiting the Kanda Kottam Murugan temple became the daily routine and he felt intensely emotional and poured out his devotion in the form of Deiva Mani Malai, Kandar Sarana Pathu, Shanmugar Kalaipathu etc., The temple trust has recorded “Deiva Mani Malai” sung by Seerkazhi Govindarajan which is available for sale in the temple.

Temple Facts


The area covered by the temple is about eight acres. The moolavar Sri Kandaswamy, which was brought from Thiruporur is two feet high and Sri Valli and Sri Deivayanai are on either side of this presiding deity. There are also other shrines in the temple. The Uthsava moorthi is known as Sri Muthukumaraswamy with consorts Valli and Deivayanai and is enshrined in a separate shrine before a big uthsava mandapam. There is also a separate shrine near the temple tank for Sri Kulakkarai Vinayagar with Siddhi and Buddhi as his consort’s shrine. Near this Vinayagar shrine there is also a separate shrine for Sri Kasi Viswanathar and Goddess Visalakshi. At the entrance of the temple, there is a hall called Parivedan mandapam. Sculptured image of Vezhmugathu Vinayakar in sitting and standing postitions are kept on either side of the mandapam. To the front of the Artha mandapam, there is a dwajasthambam (Flag Staff).

The Mukha mandapam is where the idols of Sarva Siddhi Vinayakar, Meenakshi Sundareswarar, Idumban, Arunagirinathar, Sri Vallalar, and Pamban Swamigal are found along with the image of Mari Chettiyar. The jewelry adorning the images of Skanda are of great beauty. The entrance to the temple is crowned with a Rajagopuram and there is a tank within the temple premises. Four worship services are offered each day here.
Location of Kandakottam (See Map)


The annual Bhramotsavam is celebrated in the month of Thai. The eighteen group sponsor each day of the function like 6th day function by Gold Merchants (Kassu Kadai varthagarkal) 18th day by country-drug (Naattu Marunthukadai) merchants. The day following the Thai Poosam festival, witnesses a procession of Subramanyar to the Kachabeswarar temple in George Town, for the float festival (celebrated during times of plenty). Vasanta Utsavam is celebrated in the month of Vaikasi. Arudra Darisanam is celebrated in the month of Margazhi where the processional image of Nataraja is taken out in a grand procession through an exceptionally long processional route. The main festivals celebrated here are Skanda Shashti, Thaipusam and Vaikasi Visakam.

Saints like Dharmapuram Swaminathan (Oduvar), Thirumuruga Kripananda Variyar Swamigal, Purasai Arunagiri, Pithukkuli Murugadass were among the few who have frequently visited the temple and gave their performances like discourses, concerts etc especially during the festive season.

Please do visit and get the blessings of Kandasami!


Bibliography/References

Public faces, private voices : Community and individuality in South India - By Mattison Mines, Professor of Antrhopology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Templent.com
India9.com
Kandhakottam.in