Friday, April 22, 2016

Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam – Thiruppaan Alwar Shrine

Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam – Thiruppaan Alwar Shrine
There is a shrine dedicated to the Thiruppaan Alvar in Ranganathaswamy temple. Thiruppaan Alvar or Thirupaanazhwar is one of the twelve azhwar saints of South India, who are known for their affiliation to Vaishnava tradition of Hinduism. The verses of azhwars are compiled as Nalayira Divya Prabandham and the 108 temples revered are classified as Divya Desam. Thirupaanazhwar is considered the eleventh in the line of the twelve azhwars.
As per Hindu legend, he descended from eternity and was found in a paddy field by a couple from the paanar community. Thirupaanazhwar is known for his affiliation to Ranganatha of the Srirangam Ranganathaswamy temple and is believed to have merged with the deity.
The ten verses of Thirupaanazhwar are called Amalanaathipiran and his contributions amount to ten verses among the 4000 stanzas in the Nalayira Divya Prabandam. The works of Thirupaanazhwar contributed to the philosophical and theological ideas of Vaishnavism. Along with the three Saiva Nayanmars, they influenced the ruling Pallava kings of the South Indian region, resulting in changing the religious geography from Buddhism and Jainism to the two sects of Hinduism.
In South-Indian Vishnu temples, Thirupaanazhwar has images and festivals associated with him. The Tirupanazhwar Avathara Utsavam is celebrated in Srirangam and for ten days in Azhagiya Manavala Perumal Temple in Woraiyur/ The verses of Thirupaanazhwar and other azhwars is recited as a part of daily prayers and during festive occasions in most Vishnu temples in South India.
Thiruppaan is believed to have descended from eternity and he was found in a paddy field by a couple from the paanar community. The childless pair cherished the child and fed him with high quality food to avoid influence of deleterious food used by their community. Thiruppaan Alvar was born in Purthurmadhi year, Kaarthigai (Nov-Dec) month, on a Wednesday in the Rohini Nakshatra (star) in a small village of Alagapuri near Srirangam in the 8th or 9th century C.E. 
Paanars are a community of musicians and traditional song makers who are capable of moving their audiences to states of ecstasy and bliss. The Paanar communities were considered as outcastes. It is believed that he is the Amsam (form) of the small mark on Vishnu's chest (legend has it that all alvars are avatars of some part of Vishnu), called as Srivatsam on the chest of Sriman Narayanan.
Being a divine child, his instincts were heavenly and he grew as a man leaving all glamour of the world. Having a veena (string instrument) in his hand, he was always to be seen singing the glories of Vishnu. He was soon famous in and around these Tamil lands of Southern India. His skills as a bhakti (divine) musician and his abilities to express and invoke bhakti amongst his listeners drew audiences from afar. He was soon to be known as "Paanar perumal".
One of the strictures on outcastes was that they were not allowed to use some shores of Cauvery River, considered sacred and pure by the people of the region. Following this stricture, Paan Perumal did not come near the Kaveri River, but mostly stood alongside its banks facing the Srirangam temple and sang his praises to Ranganatha, the presiding deity of the temple. He believed that the conventions and spiritual sense specified by shastras lies in moral conduct.
A sage, Loka Saranga came to the river Kaveri for drawing water for the temple. Paanar was in deep devotion and was unaware of his surroundings that he missed the voice of Saranga asking him to leave way. The sage threw a small stone in his direction to wake him, but the stone accidentally hit the forehead of Paanar and he started to bleed. Paanar realised the happening and quietly retired. Unaware of the injury caused to Paanar, the sage returned to the temple.
He was taken aback on seeing blood oozing out from the forehead of the image of Ranganatha. That very night, Vishnu appeared in the dream of Loka Saranga and commanded him to fetch Paanar to the temple the next morning in his shoulders. Accordingly, Loka Saranga requested Paanar to come to the temple. But, Paanar, referring to his lowly birth, declined to enter the holy place. When he was told of Vishnu's commandment, Paanar was beside himself and was lost in a deep trance.
Loka Saranga said that if that were his objection, he could carry him on his shoulders to the temple. When they reached the sanctum, Paanar experienced the bliss of Ranganatha and composed the Amalan Adhipiraan a poem describing the beauty from head to foot of Vishnu in ten verses and ultimately laid his life at the feet of the deity. The poem is considered to be sweeter than even the sound of music of the Veena.
The devotees of Srivaishnva sect of Hinduism pay respect to the azhwars in a similar vein to their worship of Vishnu. The verses of azhwars are recited as a part of daily prayers and during festive occasions in most Vishnu temples in South India. There are shrines dedicated to the azhwars in most of the Vishnu temples in South India. In Srirangam Ranganathaswamy temple, a yearly birth festival of Tirupanazhwar is celebrated with Viswaroopa darshan of Ranganatha at the sanctum on the occasion of his birthday. The festive idol of Tirupanazhwar is brought from his birth place in Sri Azhagiya Manavala Perumal Temple at modern day Woraiyur to Srirangam.
Tiupana is accorded with grand honors called "Keezha Padi Honours". A Parivattam (silk turban) is tied on the Azhwar’s head, adorned with garland, shawl is wrapped around his shoulders and sacred sandal paste is handed to him, all of which are believed to bring a smile on the face of the azhwar.
An hour later, the image of the azhwar is taken to Nammazhwar shrine and then Thayar shrine, with the chanting of Nalayira Divya Prabandham with the verses of the Azhwar’s work Amalanaathipiran. In the Azhagiya Manavala Perumal temple, a 10-day festival is celebrated that includes Araiyar Sevai, Veda Parayanam (reciting of Vedas), special Thirumanjanam (ablution) and procession inside the temple.