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Devotion in romantic setting

S. PRABHU

Green trees, cool breeze… the mood was perfect for vasanthotsavam.



Pleasant ambience: The Vasantha mantapam.

Each of the festivals at the Lord Ranganatha temple in Srirangam is unique in its own way. If during Panguni, Namperumal, the handsome Utsava deity, crosses the Cauvery to meet his beloved at Uraiyur, in Margazhi he listens to recital of the entire 4,000 verses of the Naalayira Divya Prabandham.

The Vasantha Utsavam held in Vaikasi is a nine-day ‘evening' festival with Namperumal taking time off to enjoy the green surroundings of the beautiful Nandavanam (garden), created by Thondaradi Podi Azhvaar. The trees and water pool lend a cool touch to the place thronged by thousands of devotees.

Thondaradi Podi, who dedicated his entire life to the service of Lord Ranganatha sang the Thiru Maalai and Thiru Palli Yezhuchi verses in his praise. Every day, Thondaradi Podi would pluck flowers from the garden, make a garland and offer it to the Lord. When Thirumangai Azhwar, the last of the Azhwars, found the Nandavanam blocking the path of the famous ‘Mathil' (the big wall) of Srirangam that he was then building, he slightly changed the direction of his construction on the western side so as to not disturb any part of the garden.

Sacred water

In those days, Vasantha Kaalam (spring) signified a period that brought in a nice cool breeze in the evenings along with the blossoming of flowers. It was during this period that Jothista Homam, one that helps devotees attain moksham, used to be performed. Hence, the belief is that one will be liberated from his curse if he drinks the sacred water of the Lord during the Vasantha Utsavam.

It was in the mid-15 {+t} {+h} century during the Vijayanagara rule that a new Vasantha Mandapam, was created within the Nandavanam for the Lord to spend the evenings during the Vasanthotsavam. Every evening, Lord Namperumal would dance his way into the Nandavanam ready for an alankaram at the Vasantha Mandapam.

In centuries gone by, the Daasi Community, who resided in Srirangam, presented a special dance performance in front of the Lord at the Vasantha Mandapam and were honoured for their performance with the garland of Namperumal. This special dance performance during the Vasanthotsavam does not take place anymore. (The Daasi Community continues to perform at the Puri Jagannath temple)

Vasanthotsavam is one of the three festivals (the others being Maasi Utsavam and Brahmotsavam) at the Srirangam Ranganatha temple where Namperumal makes his way back to his sanctum led by the Divya Prabhandam Goshti.

Not having met his consort Ranganayaki Thaayar after the Serthi Utsavam in Panguni, Namperumal makes a pause outside the Thaayaar Sannidhi on his way back from the Vasantha Mandapam but this time all he can get is only a glimpse of her.

Back at the Garuda Sannidhi, the Prabhandham recital reaches a peak with the verses reverberating high positive energy among the devotees.

Vasanthotsavam culminates in the grand event of Namperumal going in a procession on horse mount around the four Chitirai streets of Srirangam. A special Thirumanjanam at the Vasantha Mandapam brings to an end the Utsavam, in which Namperumal is the cynosure of all eyes.

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