Glory of Sri Brindavan – ‘Sri Vana Vaasam Dehi me…’
Bhagavatam in various places says that the Lord will bestow one with anything and everything to anyone and everyone in this world but for Satsang and Bhakti, because only when the Lord wants to take that soul onto him, he bestows them with Satsang and Bhakti. That is what is said when the Lord converses with Muchukunda. A satsang can completely transform a particular soul amd bestow it with Bhagawan’s darshan. Even for the worst of the worst sinners, it is seen in Srimad Bhagavatam that satsang bestows with Lord’s darshan. One such example is Kaliya, a Deva Naga. He was doing all kinds of atrocities. He got into the satsang of a great Mahatma Saubhari. Srimad Bhagavatam talks about the greatness of Soubhari Maharishi in ninth canto. He was a rishi who was meditating under the sea for millions of years and at one point when he opened his eyes, he saw a school of fish going together as family. Immediately he felt that he had wasted his life in meditating all these years. A desire slowly crept in him to establish a family and lead a house-holders life. So he went to king Mandata and asked for his daughter’s hand. Srimad Bhagavatam goes to show how one should have dispassion and determined in life by elucidating the story of Saubahri Maharishi. Kaliya requested for a refugee with this Rishi in his Ashram. That satsang with Saubhari Maharishi bestowed him with Lord Krishna’s darshan. However, there is something beyond Lord Krishna’s darshan and that is the glory of Kshetra where Krishna dwelled. Lord Brahma could witness all the divine plays of Lord Krishna in Brindavan from Brahma Loka. A little infatuation in him insinuated and made his ego sprout out. He being the creator belittled Krishna by looking at his creature and so Lord Krishna taught Brahma a lesson – “The Brahma Mohanam”, where Lord Brahma hid all the Gopas, the cows and all other possessions of these Gopas and the cows. Our Lord, the most compassionate Krishna re-created exactly the whole populace as they were and it seemed as though nothing ever happened. It happened for whole one year. Lord Brahma realized his mistake and prostrates unto Krishna and says –“Janantha Eva Jananthaha”. He speaks about the glory of the little cowherd boy.
He says only one who can understand can understand your glories. Only those who have your grace can understand your glories. It is a beautiful Stuthi by Lord Brahma on Lord Krishna.
“aho bhagyam aho bhagyam nanda gopa vrajaukhasam”|
“yan mitram paramanandamm purnam brahma sanathanam”|| [Srimad Bhagavatam 10.14.32]
Lord Brahma says “I am not satisfied by looking at the divine plays of Lord Krishna from Brahmaloka” and earnestly requested for a birth in Sri Brindavanam. He requested for the Lord to bestow him with a life in Brindavan, at least a blade of grass. Not only Lord Brahma, many Mahatmas have craved for a life in Brindavan. The mere place and dust of Brindavan is considered Brahmam, says Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. Oothukadu Venkatakavi sings – “Pullai piraka vendum.. Kalla piraka“. He wants to be born as a stone in Brindavan since a blade of grass will summer. Another great Azhwar, Kulasekara Azhwar goes on to list the various births he wanted to take in Tirupathi. He wanted to be born as a “Kurugu”- a swan in Tirupati and then he says his desire to take birth as a stream, a mountain, a hillock, a flower, a vessel into which is used for Pooja in Tirumala. He then goes to say his desire to be born as a doorstep in Thirumala Mountain and eventually he says he will let the Lord to decide his birth but earnestly requested the Lord to bestow him with a life in Thirupati. Likewise many Mahatmas have expressed their interest for a life in Brindavanam. When we think of a Kshetra, we would want to remember all the glories in a Kshetra. To substantiate this precept, in Pandarpur, we can joyfully reminisce the devotees of Lord Pandaruga who have enjoyed all the places in Pandarpur. When we reminisce the glory of Brindavan, we enjoy all the divine plays of Lord Krishna that he had enacted in that divine place and is akin to following the footsteps of Lord Brahma and all other Mahatmas who have craved for a life in Brindavan. Our Guru Maharaj in one of his kirtan speaks about his desire to live in Sri Brindavan – “Sri Vanavasam dehi me..” He speaks about all the divine places in Brindavan and the divine plays enacted by the Lord in that holy place.
Our Guru Maharaj in one of his kirtans beautifully pointed out that Brindavanam is verily one’s heart. “Brindavanamae un manamae”. By the immense grace of our Guru Maharaj we will have the Lord’s darshan in our hearts, verily the Brindavanam.
Glory of Lord Ranganatha
As we see Bharatha is the most auspicious place in the whole universe. If the whole Universe is considered as a house, then the Pooja rom is verily Bharatham. That is where all Mahatmas have incarnated and also all Avatars of the Lord have taken place. In India, there is a beautiful balance that the Lord has shown. Avatars like Rama and Krishna have taken place in North India. Lord wanted to strike a balance and so he had done the avatar if Matsaya in Pandya Desam and the last Avatra, the Kalki is going to take place in South India in a village called Shambala.
The first and last Avatras are in south India and the remaining Avatars are in the north. Likewise Mahatmas incarnations have also been across the country and the seed of that have been sowed in South India – The Azhwars – starting from the first Pozhigai Azhawr, Boothath Azhwar and Periyaazhwar.
“Kvachith KvachinMaharaja dravidaeshu cha boorishaha”|
“Thamraparni nadhi yatra KruthaMala Payasvini”|| [Srimad Bhagavatam 11.5.39]
“Kauveri Cha mahapunya pratichi cha mahanadhi”|
“Yae Pibandhi jalam thaasaam manujha manujaeshwara”|
“Praayo bhakta bhagavathi vasudevaeamalaashayaaha”||| [Srimad Bhagavatam 11.5.40]
All these Azhwars have incarnated in South India. Each Azhwar has sung about Perumal is various temples. They have sung about the Lord in Para Vasudeva form in Sri Vaikunta, glorified the Lord in Shirabdhi as Shesha Paryanka Shayana, rendered songs about the Lord in Vibhava Avatar. The term Vibhava connotes the incarnations of the Lord as Matsya, Koorma, Varaha, Nrishimha, Vamana, Rama and Krishna Avatars. These avatars are difficult for people reveling in the mundane world to visualize and relate. In order for normal mortals to comprehend and instill faith have sung about Archa Avatars which means singing praises of the Lord in the temples. Kulasekara visualized all Perumals has Lord Rama. He perceived GovindarajaPerumal in Tillai Kshetram in Chidambaram is as Lord Rama and narrated Ramayana to the Lord there. He also recognized Souriraja Perumal in Thirukannapuram has Lord Rama and put him to sleep by singing “Mannupugazh kosali tan mani vayiru vittavanae”. A common point to note among the Azhwars is that all of them have sung praises on Lord Ranganatha is Srirangam.
If a lamp is lit and Tiruvaradhanam (proper pooja) is performed to Lord Ranganatha, then it is equivalent to performing poojas in all the 108 Divya Desams, irrespective of whether they are physically performed there or not. This is because all the Perumals reside in Lord Ranganatha. That is the glory of Ranganatha of Sri Rangam.
The Emperumal descended onto the earth to have normal mortals ascend to him. Among those Avatars, the greatest one is the Archa Avatars. Without the help of Azhwars and Mahans we cannot comprehend this precept. It is said that the Lord first created the earth and he lived alone in Vaikunta and in the Pralaya waters.
‘pani kadalil palli kollai pazhagavittu odi vandhen manakadallil vazha vanda maya manalanai’
Periyazhwar extols in his hymns that the Lord had forsaken his comforts in Vaikunta and Parkadal and came scurrying to reside in the heart of Periyazhwar. It is said in Srimad Bhagavatam eleventh canto that Sage Agasthiyar saw the Lord in the waters of Pralaya. The Lord created the earth and then went to create the humans with all sense organs intact. People unable to leverage the sense organs for proper usage and in order to guide the people, the Lord gave the Vedas. Having said this, the people were not able to envisage the crux of Vedas since certain people only were allowed to read them. In order to give the essence of Vedas to all the people and show how one should lead a life, the Lord decided to incarnate in the form of Avatars. This effort also did not completely serve the purpose and so he decided to send Avatars and Acharyas to the earth to lead the mortals to him. Once, Lord Brahma had a small satsang in Brahma Loka. He was pondering on a question that was bothering him for a while. He wanted to know how everyone would perceive the Lord. He first put forth this question to all Vaikunka Parshadas and Nithyasuris in Vaikunta. They replied that since their abode was verily Vaikunta, they were able to have the darshan of Lord easily. Then Lord Brahma went and asked the same question to Jnanis and they answered that they see the Lord everywhere. A Yogi replied that he sees the Lord in his heart. A Rishi told Lord Brahma that he perceives the Lord every morning as Lord Suryanarayana. The Devas mentioned that they have the darshan of the Lord at Kshirabdi (the milky ocean). At last, Lord Brahma approached the devotees of the Lord [the bhaktas] and they beautifully told him that they were not born during any of the Lord’s incarnations and were not contemporary with the Lord but they said that they derived happiness and joy mere reminiscence of the Lord’s glories and singing his divine names. These replies made Lord Brahma cogitate as to how the normal mortals would envision the Lord in Vaikunta. Akasha Ganga can only be used by Devas and people in Vaikunta. The Patala Ganga is akin to the Yogis who see the Lord in their heart, but rain is seasonal akin to the Avatars of Rama and Krishna where people contemporary with these Avatars were bestowed with their darshan. Even Hiranyakashipu, Kamsa and Ravana were blessed with the darshan of the Lord. The water in the reservoirs is stored for future usage. Akin to this, the Lord descended as Archa Avatars in the temples. Lord Brahma who was still nebulous, went to the Lord for clarification. The Lord who is a personification of love and compassion, on hearing Lord Brahma’s concern told him that he would come in front of Brahma in a form that can be seen only in Vaikunta. Just after Brahma heard this, everything suddenly became dark and a fierce storm came from a distance. The Ranga Vimanam came floating in the Thirupaar Kadal. The Vimanam had Gayathri Mandapam, the two ‘dvaya’ sthambas (pillars) and the beautiful Lord just like how Lord Brahma had the darshan of the Lord in Sesha Shayanam. The Lord was so gorgeous and just not only his front appearance but his back countenance was indeed beautiful and that anyone who had the darshan of the Lord was totally lost in the Lord’s beauty. The water coming from the Ranga Vimanam is so sacred since the Devas are reside in the Ranga Vimanam and even today people eagerly wait to partake the water from the Vimanam during heavy rains. The temple’s Elephant, our Andal comes daily amidst the heavy rains to take the water from the Vimanam. Lord Brahma was also bestowed with the darshan of the Utsavar, with Bhoodevi and Sridevi. Lord Ranganatha’s first Gita is Ranga Gita which was given to Lord Brahma by the Lord himself. Even today, the Lord’s Utasvams are celebrated in accordance with the Ranga Gita. Ranganatha is considered as an embodiment of all the 108 Divya Shetra Perumals. The BadriNarayana Perumal is the head [Shiras] of the Lord. The Pushkar Theertha Narayanan constitutes the tongue, Geethacharya as mouth, Ayodhya’s Rama as the ‘kaNTam’ (neck), Ahobila Narasimhar as heart, Thiruvengadamudayan as Vakshathalam, Lord Jagannathar in Puri as stomach, Vamana as sound [Dwani], Aravamudan as beauty, Sundararaja Perumal at Tirumaliruncholai (near Madurai) as Bhujam (arms), Sourirajaperumal for his gait [walk], Rajagopalaswamy for sight, Vanamaamalai perumal as thighs [Thodai].
An Utsav by name Pavitra Utsav is celebrated in Srirangam where the Lord is adorned with 108 sacred threads [Punal] on top of him. This connotes that having the darshan of Lord Raganatha is akin to having seen all the other 108 Perumals in other Divyadesams. This is commemorated in the first half of tamil month of Avani for a period of ten days and commences on the Ekadasi day. The Mulavar [Lord Ranganatha] is embellished with the 108 sacred threads. The Lord is taken to a holy place where fire oblations (‘yaga’) take place. He is placed on a colorful bed made of myriad of flowers which is then followed by Thirumanjanam and other divine offerings to the Lord. In the meanwhile, the sacred threads are made for each part of the Lord’s body. These threads are made of cotton and bundled together in various sizes tied together to form knots which resemble beads. The Vedas are recited and to instill life in the deities. Following this, the longest Pavithra called as Vanamala Pavithra is taken out to the Mulavar. The Utsavar is then taken to the Pavithra Utsav mandapam for the devotees to have darshan. On the second day of the Utsav, Aradhana is performed to the Lord for three hundred and sixty times to each of the seven deities in the sanctum. The seven of them include Periya Perumal, Azhagiya Manavalan, NamPerumal, Sridevi, Boodevi and the four deities for Snanam [bath], shayanam [sleep], bali and theertham. The sacred threads are then removed and placed in different deities inside the sanctum including the Mulavar. This is also known as “Poochandi Sevai” and he is decorated with sacred thread only. On the seventh day, the Utsavar along with Nachiyar (Divine Mother) are taken to the granary to take stock of the grains. This is called as “Padiyalapu Sevai”. Lord Ranganatha is the king of the whole Universe, is He not? In those days since farming was the main occupation, the Lord would measure the grains for every year. On the ninth day, Thirthavari is performed in the evening. Senai Muthalyar (Vishwaksena) is taken to the banks of Chandra Pushkarni and Thirumanjanam is performed. The priest takes the Lord and places him on his head and takes a dip in the waters and is then taken to the sanctum. The devotees are allowed to take bath in the Chandra Pushkarni only on that day and this event concludes the beautiful Pavithra Utsavam.
A key point to note is that Lord Ranganatha and Thayar are not bathed in milk or curd since they came directly from Vaikunta and hence Kumkum and Saffron are the only ingredients for Thirumanjanam.
During hot summers, just like how normal mortals try different means to quench the heat, it is the same case with Lord Ranganatha as well. He is taken to a cool sanctum inside the temple, known as Vasantha Mandapam. An Utsav knows as Vasantha Utsav is celebrated in the tamil month of Vaikasi for nine days. The Utsav Perumal enjoys the cool evenings in a beautiful flower garden that was created by Thondaradipodi Azhwar, who dedicated his whole life to do divine service to Lord Ranganatha. He sang the Tirumalai and Thirupalliezuchi verses in the premises every day. In the mornings he would pluck the flowers from the garden and make a beautiful garland and offer it to the Lord. The Lord during this Vasantha Utsav would start on a procession around 5pm in the evening and takes the ‘Aaryabhatta’ entrance, Garuda Mandapam detour in order to reach the sanctum of ChakrathAzhwar. The Lord is all set to be adorned at 6pm and heads back to his sanctum close to 9pm after spending about three hours in the Vasantha Mandapam. He listens to Divyaprabhandam en route to the sanctum and stops at the sanctum of Thayaar to show his decorations to the divine mother. On the seventh day of the Utsav, a special Thirumanjanam is performed to the Lord and on the culminating day of the utsav, the Lord goes on a procession outside the temple to give darshan to people who did not come to seek his darshan in the Vasantha Mandapam. This Vasantha Mandapam is only opened during the Vasantha Utsav and remains closed for the rest of the year.
The Utsavam for the divine mother commences after this Vasantha Utsav. The Vasantha Mandapam for Thayar is inside the sanctum itself.
Lord Ranganatha’s utsavams take place almost every day in a year except for about forty days in a year.
“Karudai Megangal kandal unnai kandal okkum kangal oruodayai ulagu ezhum undaga vandu piranthai thiruvudayai manavala thiruvangathae kidanthai marudhi manam kamazhkindra maligai poochota varai”
Periyazhwar says that the moment one is bestowed with darshan of Lord Ranganatha, ones’ eyes is lit up and starts rejoicing akin to how one becomes happy on seeing the dark clouds covering the sun just before a big shower. He also extols the Lord by saying that the Lord incarnated to redeem all the seven worlds. He requested the divine mother to adorn herself with the Jasmine flowers that have everlasting fragrance. This Puchatal Utsavam is celebrated in May or June every year for a period of ten days where the Lord is decorated with different kinds of flowers in the evenings. This Utsavam is also celebrated for Thayyar who remains in the ‘Serthi Mandapam’ to give darshan to all the devotees.
The satsang concluded with prayers and Namasankirtan.