Archive for August, 2010


Koil Azhwar

Dear Perumale,

‘Koil Azhwar’. I had heard this term when much younger, and had not given too much of a thought to it. Then one day when adiyen started realising about the divinity of the 12 Sri Vaishnava azhwars, the aspect of the Koil/Kovil Azhwar came into deeper thought.

The term ‘azhwar/alwar’ in Sri Vaishnavite terms has been used to indicate the deep bhakti, those completely immersed in devotion. Thus apart from the 12 azhwars who were divine saintly poets, there are others who are also referred to as ‘azhwar’.

One such entity would be the ‘Koil Azhwar’. The Koil Azhwar is the name given to the holy place which enshrines the lord in Bhuloka. For example, the Tirupati mandapam would be called the Koil Azhwar. If one were to think of why it is called an azhwar, it would be reasonable to think how holy and deep in devotion an entity must be, in order to ‘shelter’ the lord!! The Koil Azhwar is also found in most Sri Vaishnavite homes – especially those with kutti thavazhara krishnar vigraham (crawling baby Krishna idol) and/or a Salagramam.

The first time adiyen heard this term was when my grandfather used to stand in front of the mandapam at home for hours together, reciting the Divya Prabandam and other slokas. The Koil Azhwar at home is a representative of the temple at a real Divya Kshetram, which houses the lord. Thus, the azhwar has to be treated in the same manner in which the priests take care of the house of the lord.

The Koil Azhwar is crafted in wood (dark teak wood is generally preferred). It is usually supported by four sculpted legs holding up a room representing the sanctum sanctorum.  There is a porch in front where an oonjal (swing) can be attached so that Sri Krishna can come out to swing on occasions.

There is a double door to this room. The one at adiyen’s place represents Jayan-Vijayan, the Dwara Palakas (temple guards of the entrance) who are usually found in any Sri Vaishnava temple. It is said that one should enter a temple only after asking the permission of Jayan-Vijayan!

At home, the doors of the Kovil Azhwar have to be opened early in the morning, after a ritual – clapping the hands and waking the lord before the doors are opened up for Him to give us a glance of His beauty. The various idols have to be adorned with flowers and other rituals performed. The lamps should also be lit.

Speaking of lamps, modern Kovil Azhwars have an electrical bulb fitted into the sanctum sanctorum for better view. This would be useful in places where the Pooja/Perumal rooms are not well lit. Adiyen has retained my grandfather’s Kovil Azhwar without adding any bulb, to retain the natural look. The reason why Archakas at temple light the camphor for the lord is because there was no electricity before, and this was the only way one could see the lord! In a lot of temples in Kerala, they have still chosen to give us a glimpse of the lord only through natural light.

Above the room is the gopuram (temple top with sulptures). Most of the Kovil Azhwars also have the Sri Vaishnava insignia represented on top, in front of the gopuram.

The Kovil Azhwar’s doors, just as is done at the temple, should be closed periodically to give the lord a rest. The doors at home are usually closed in the afternoon (after the food has been offered to Him), and in the night when the lord rests for the day. The doors are opened during the evenings when the lamps are lit again.

To the extent adiyen understands, the Kovil Azhwar at home is representative of a real temple. Few procedures are followed at home in order to inculcate the sense of holiness and depth of bhakti one experiences in a Divya Kshetra. But the Kovil Azhwar is not to be treated as less important than an actual abode of the lord, as the deity inside is as real as the one in the temple. And as the one in Sri Vaikuntam!

Adiyen’s apologies for any factual errors.

Srimathe Ramanujasya Charanau Sharanam Prapadye l

Srimathe Narayanaya Namah ll

Perumale,

Today, 16th August 2010,  is Garuda Jayanthi. Garuda – the  great, mighty divine bird who is the vahana of Sri Maha Vishnu, was born on the day of Swathi nakshatram in the month of Adi.

Dear Garuda, I have learnt that you are also known by other names:

Vainateya!

Pakshi raja, king of the birds!

Periya Thiruvadi!

Interestingly you are called Periya Thiruvadi (big divine feet) for being the eternal vehicle of Sriman Narayana in through all yugas, and for being a Nityasuri in permanent residence in Sri Vaikunta. On the other hand, Sri Hanuman is known as Siriya Thiruvadi (small divine feet) for being the vehicle of the lord in one Avatara – Sri Rama Avatara.

Sri Garuda, you truly make the lord Sriman Narayana look even more majestic when seated on you and moving through the skies in a splendid, graceful manner. Garuda, thank you for transporting the lord on time on various occasions when needed. What comes to mind is the devoted manner in which you took the lord to rescue Gajanana (the elephant) from the jaws of the crocodileduring gajendra Moksham. Thank you, thank you!

Thank you oh Garuda, for showing us that one can act in true devotion irrespective of one’s form.

Speaking of form, I am amazed at your form being recognised in Buddhism and locally across different parts of south east Asia. So much so that Indonesia has your form as their national symbol, and name of their airlines (quite apt given that you are a vahana).  Once I had the privilege of explaining what Garuda meant (eagle) to an Indonesian lady, who had found a mall named Garuda in India… she had assumed Garuda was an Indonesian word!

Garuda as national symbol of Indonesia: There are five images representing an aspect called 'pancasila'. The line 'Bhinneka Tunggal Ika' held by the claws means 'unity in diversity'.

Srimathe Ramanujasya Charanau Sharanam Prapadye l

Srimathe Narayanaya Namah ll

Sri Andal’s thirunakshatram was celebrated on 12th August 2010. Kodai (meaning -string of flowers) as Sri Periyazhwar had named her, was the darling of Srivilliputhur and an avatharam of Bhudevi. It is amazing to note that in Parampadam where Sri Vishnu resides, there are three consorts – Sri Devi, Bhu Devi and Neela Devi. Whenever lord Sriman NArayana has descended on earth in an avatharam, He has always come along with the Goddess. In Krishnavataaram, it was Neela Devi who came as Nappinnai (Yashoda’s brother’s daughter) and married Sri Krishna. Sri Devi arrived in the form of Rukmini to wed Sri Krishna. While all this happened in Dwapara Yuga. In the next yuga (Kaliyug), Bhu Devi descended on earth in the form of a beautiful girl to be brought up by Sri Periyazhwar. Goda Devi or Kodai too married Sri Krishna – in the form of the supreme lord – Sri Ranganatha of Sri Rangam.

Adiyen thanks Sri Bhu devi who took the form of Sri Andal. Thank You for giving us Thiruppavai and Nachiyaar Thirumozhi. What an amazing divine poet(ess), devotee and Goddess. You have shown such miracles in your short life span of only fifteen years!! Could anyone equal You in both beauty and Bhakti!!

Goda Devi thiruvadigaLe sharanam ll

Aandavan Sri Ranganatharai Aandiya Sri Andal Vazhiye!!

It is interesting to note that our beloved Sri Ramanujacharya had gained the recognition of being a brother of Andal. While on his way to Sri Villiputhur reading the Thiruppavai, Sri Ramanujacharya (who was born much after the lifetime of Sri Andal), learnt that Kothai had wanted to offer hundred pots of butter and Akkaravadisal (a sweet like sweet pongal) to Sri Kallazhagar of Thirumalirunjochai. Sri Ramanujacharya was saddened by the thought that Goda Devi wouldn’t have been able to meet her wish in her short lifetime. Therefore he offered hundred pots each of the butter and sweet to the lord on Sri Andal’s behalf! 🙂 When he did so, it is said that the deity at Sri Andal’s temple in Sri Villiputhur spoke and called out to Sri Ramanujacharya -“‘Anna!” (brother). Thus Udayavar is also lovingly called ‘Kovil Annan’ (temple brother) since then.

Are there such bhakti-filled occurrences in the world today?!! 🙂

Srimathe Ramanujasya Charanau Sharanam Prapadye ll