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Monday, September 15, 2014

Malai Nadu Divyadesam - Thiruvaranvilai (Aramula) Sree Parthasarathi Temple

Today’s the Hindu has a report on ‘Garuda-faced Thiruvona thoni’.  The famous boat with Garuda facade is carrying provisions and vegetables for the Onam feast at Aranmula Sree ParthaSarathy Temple  setting off for Aranmula from the Maha Vishnu Temple Ghats in the Pampa at Kaattoor near Kozhencherry.  In this grand festival witnessed by hundreds of devotees, a ceremonial lamp is kept in ‘Thiruvonathoni’ which will be escorted by row of palliyodams (snake boats).  

Aranmula celebrations begin with the arrival of Thiruvonathoni.  For the feast at Aramula, provisions come in this boat.   These are not the snake boats that are seen in races ... those at Thiru Aramula are known as ‘palliyodams’ – for they belong to the Lord -  are constructed so that the head and tail project out five and three feet, respectively, above the water. Each boat must have 64 seating compartments for 64 oarsmen, representing 64 art forms. The four oarsmen symbolize the four Vedas. In the middle of the boat is a platform for eight people to stand. They represent the Ashtadikpalakas (devas), who guard the eight directions.

Aranmula is a village in Kerala situated around 120 kms away from Trivandrum,  and almost the same distance from Cochin too ... this place is near Chenganoor.  Aramula is the place where the 'Thiruvabharanams’ (ornaments) Ayyappa Swami at Sabarimala, were originally kept and it still is a stop-over of the annual procession from Pandalam, and hence a famous palce for Aiyappa devotees. The temple here has golden flag staff (dwajasthambam) with four towers over its entrances on its outer wall. The huge beautiful eastern tower is accessed through a flight of 18 steps. Descending 57 steps through the northern tower, one can reach the Pampa river. This temple is a perfect example for Kerala Temple architecture.  

The temple dedicated to Lord Krishna is known as Sri Parthasarathy Perumal Koil (much different than the divyadesam of Thiruvallikkeni in Thondaimandalam aka Chennai) – this is  Thiruvaaranvilai ( Aranmula) believed to be built by Arjuna, who came here at the end of the Mahabaratha war.   Lord Parthasarathy is the owner of 39 villages in and around Aranmula and people in these villages consider Lord Parthasarathy as their protector. There are many legends associated with Lord Parthasarathy.  One of them is what you saw at the start of this post – the Thiruvonathoni. According to the legend here, the idol was installed at Nilackal by Arjuna which was brought here in a raft made of six pieces (Aranmula – six pieces of bamboo)... and the idol was installed in the temple on Uthrattathi day of Malayalam month Chingam(August-September) – to celebrate these events people of Aranmula started the famous snake boat race Uthrattathi Vallamkali.

For Sri Vaishnavaites, this place is of great significance – it is a Divyadesam situate in Malai Nadu – it is ‘Thiruvaranvilai” sung by Swami Nammalwar. (10 songs – 7aam Pathu – Patham Thiruvaimozhi).
சிந்தை மற்றொன்றின் திறத்ததல்லாத்தன்மை தேவபிரானறியும்,
சிந்தையினால் செய்வதானறியாதன மாயங்கள் ஒன்றுமில்லை,
சிந்தையினால் சொல்லினால் செய்கையால் நிலத்தேவர் குழுவணங்கும்,
சிந்தை மகிழ் திருவாறன் விளையுறை  தீர்த்தனுக் கற்றபின்னே.

The Divyadesam is appreciated as the Place of Lord to whom Swami Nammalwar resigns; the Lord at Thiruvaranvilai which is most pleasing to thoughts and the place at which fully immersed devotees pray through thoughts, words and deeds – and this Deva Piran knows the heart’s desire too well and there is No Other Lord other this Pure Immaculate Lord.

It is a very majestic temple with some steps to be ascended as it stands on a elevation.  Inside, in typical Kerala style is the big temple – with dwajasthambam dedicated to Lord Krishna known as Sri Parthasarathi situate on the banks of Pamba river.  This ancient temple is in a picturesque location with so much of water and vegetation.  Like most temples, Tulabharam is done here and a grand tulabharam hangs at the entrance of the temple here.  

Here are some photos of the Temple taken by me during a visit...  one may not know - ‘Abrus precatorius’ known under various names such as  jequirity, Crab's eye, rosary pea, Indian licorice, Jumbie bead -  a slender, perennial climber that twines around trees, shrubs, and hedges. It is a legume with long, pinnate-leafleted leaves.  The plant is best known for its seeds, which are used as beads and in percussion instruments; in olden days people used to play using them – commonly known as ‘gundu mani / kunri mani’ – it would look attractive.  In some Kerala divyadesams, it is offered and here too there is the practice of offering these pods at the dwajasthambam as could be seen in a photo below.  

Adiyen Srinivasadhasan.

8th Sept. 2014.

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