T.N Govt. meddles with the customs of Srirangam Temple

via HK Correspondent published on December 17, 2010

One thousand year old tradition of honouring the ‘Araiyars’, for their reciting Tamil hymns of Azhwars is going to be dispensed with from this year at Srirangam Ranganathaswamy temple, as directed by the HR & CE of the State Government.

Azwars and Tamil Pasurams

Several centuries  back, 12 Vaishnavite Acharyas, popularly known as ‘Azhwars’ visited 108 temples and sung in praise of Lord Vishnu.  All those 12 Azhwars together have rendered 4000 Tamil hymns, known as ‘pasurams’.  .Around 1200 years back, a great Vaishnavite Acharya known as  ‘Nadamuni’  compiled all these 4000 Tamil pasurams known as ‘Nalayira Divya Prabandhams’.

Araiyars

In order that these Tamil pasurams reach the common people, Nadamuni  trained two of his brothers-in-law to recite, sing and dance the pasurams before Lord Ranganathan at Srirangam.  Nadamuni created a group called ‘Araiyars’.  Traditionally, for the past 1200 years, they used to recite the 4000 Tamil pasurams with raga and tala before Lord Ranganatha during the ‘Vaikunta Ekadasi festival’.  This is popularly known as ‘Araiyar Sevai’.

Ten days prior to Vaikunta Ekadasi is called ‘ Pakal Pathu’ and 10 days after Vaikunta Ekadasi is called ‘Erapattu’.  Araiyars used to perform Araiyar Sevai during these 20 days.   They will also perform dance for some pasurams and enact some situations based on pasurams.  Generally, this is considered as ‘Muthamizh vizha’ (prose, music and drama is known as Muthamizh).

Dedication of Araiyars

These Araiyars perform ‘Araiyar Sevai’ only before Lord Ranganatha  during these twenty days.  They used to take training for nearly 20 years to perfect this ancient art.   Even when Chennai Music Sabhas approached these Araiyars for performing during Music season at Chennai, they refused to perform outside the temple, whatever be the compensation offered.

These Araiyars have totally dedicated themselves for performing Araiyar Sevai, using Tamil pasurams.  Besides Araiyar Sevai, they also sing the Tamil Pasurams before Lord Ranganatha during important occassions.   For all their services, they do not get paid by the temple.  They only get great temple honours.

Temple honours to Araiyars

On the last day of Erapattu, after completing the entire 4000 Tamil Pasurams, the head of the Araiyar Tem will be requested to sit in the palanquin carrying the palm leaves of the 4000 pasurams,  This palanquin is a special one used for Lord Ranganatha only.  Those persons, who used to carry Lord Ranganatha, will carry the Araiyars on their shoulders and drop them at the house.  This practise prevails for the past 1200 years.

Government orders to stop the tradition

But now, due to the influence of few atheists in the Board of Trustees, the State Government has ordered to withdraw the tradition of dropping the Araiyars at their home carrying in palanquin.  This has triggered anger amongst the devotees for meddling with the thousand year old tradition.

Mr A Krishnamachariar, Editor of Panchasanyam said that the Government had taken this decision on the ground that it was below the dignity when men carry another man on palanquin.  He disagreed with this logic, saying that the age old tradition honours the Tamil Pasurams and those who devoted their life time for maintaining this art of singing Tamil Pasurams.  He said, he would fight against this type of tampering with the customs of the temple, through all forums.

Mr Arjun Sampath, President of Hindu Makkal Katchi said that they would stage protest against such tampering of the traditions of the temple by the atheist Government.

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