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Monday, September 12, 2016

Avani Moolam at Melukote Thirunarayanapuram 2016 : Araiyar sevai at Sri Manavala Mamunigal sannathi

10th Sept & 11th Sept 2016 were blissful ~ a visit to Melukote (Thirunarayanapuram) and thence to the avathara sthalam of Sri Thirumalai Ananthazhwaar. The Temple  ‘Sri SelvaNarayana Perumal Kovil’ at Melkote referred to by us as Thiru Narayanapuram, is a Abhimana sthalam of Udayavar, who lived here for 12 years, codified and ordained strict procedures for betterment of Sri Vaishnavism.    Have so much to state of the wonderful divine experience and here starting with ‘Avani Moolam’ at our Acharyar Swami Manavala Maamunigal sannathi at Melukote, more specifically about the Araiyar sevai.

Sri Vaishnava temples follow the doctrine and practices instituted by our great Acharyar Sri Ramanujar.  In the lineage of great Acharyars of our Sampradhayam – Sriman Nadhamunigal is in the midst. After the great Azhwars, there was a period when the ‘divyaprabandhams’ rendered by them were lost in oblivion; it was Sri Nathamunigal who got them back; he is credited with the regenesis of  ‘Divya Prabandham’.  He was also an exponent of divine music  who initiated the ‘singing of divyaprabandham ~ now known as Arayar Sevai’.

The “Araiyar Sevai” is unique offering that takes place on certain specific occasions at a few divyadesams – Thiruvarangam, Srivilliputhur, Thirukurugoor [Azhwar Thirunagari], Thirukkannapuram and of course Thirunarayanapuram [Melukote]….  It is bakthi in its purest form – rendered by special people – who sing the verses of Nalayira Divyaprabandham accompanied by abinayam [gesture] with ease.   Araiyars are hereditary and take great effort to preserve their family tradition, descending from the days of Acharyar Nathamunigal…. Sadly, there are not many as over the years we have failed to recognize and take care of their exquisite art totally dedicated to Sriman Narayana. 

`Araiyar Sevai’ is the visual enactment of the passionate expression by those in the tradition of Araiyars who have upheld the literature of Iyal, Isai and Natakam.  The Araiyars are not mere dance performers ~ being well versed in Vaishnavaite commentaries possessing great knowledge. Have read that according to ‘Koil Ozhugu’  record book of the Srirangam temple, Thirumangai Azhwar, started the practice of presenting Thirunedun thandakam with the accompaniment of music  before Lord Num Perumal; ages later, Nathamunigal introduced its performance during the Thiruvadhyayana Uthsavam.   His nephews - Keezhai Agathu Azhwar and Melai Agathu azhwar  became the foremost Araiyars at Srirangam.  According to tradition they were given a cone-like cape “Ariyar Kireedam'' two cymbals and the sacred garlands by the Lord of Srirangam Himself.  The Araiyars first recite the Paasuram, they then explain its inner meaning and finally perform the Abhinaya, a unique art/dance performance with their hands and legs explaining the Paasurams with special musical effect.

I had earlier posted about the committed to and continuing the traditions of Araiyar Sevai by ‘Srinivasachariyar of Srivilliputhur’. Melkote [Thirunarayanapuram] has a rich legacy and extremely committed people who uphold the traditions. 

On Avani Moolam thirunaal, in the evening (10.9.2016), there was the grand purappadu of Sri CheluvaNaranar (Sri Ramapriyan ~ Selva Pillai) to the sannathi of Acharyar Mamunigal.  In the purappadu it was Upadesa Rathinamalai, continuing at sannathi, followed by Thiruvaimozhi Noorranthathi sarrumurai.  At the sannathi there was Arayar sevai by Sri U.Ve. Arayar Srirama Sharma Swami.

Most of us would remember that this elderly scholar was in Thiruvallikkeni in Sept 2014 attending the sathabhishekam celebrations of Dr MA Venkatakrishnan Swami and performed at ‘Sri Nampillai sannathi’ on 23.9.2014 … he is no ordinary person, having received the Certificate of Honour to eminent scholars of Sanskrit, by the then  President of India Mr Pranab Mukherjee in 2014.   

Here are some photos of the Sevai at Melkote Thirunarayanapuram ~ wonderfully divine !

Adiyen Srinivasadhasan

12th Sept. 2016.

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