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Homage to Sri Narayana Tirtha

As many as 120 artistes will converge on Thirupoonthuruthi where the Sri Narayana Tirtha festival begins on March 9.


"KALAU SANKEERTYA Kesavam". It is firmly believed that in Kaliyuga, the easiest way of getting God's grace is through the chanting of His name. One of the great propounders of the Nama Sankeertana ideology was Sri Narayana Tirtha (1675-1745). Like other proponents of Nama-Siddhanta, Narayana Tirtha was also a staunch Advaitic who took to sanyasa.

Sri Narayana Tirtha was born at Kaza in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh but was `drawn' to Bhupatirajapuram near Thanjavur, in Tamil Nadu, by a boar, on divine command. The boar that led him vanished into a temple of Lord Srinivasa and Tirtha settled down there obeying the directions he received in his dream. The place came to be known as "Varahur" (after `Varaha,' the boar). Here, Sri Tirtha was cured of his chronic illness and wrote ``Sri Krishna Leela Tharangini," in which he narrated the story of Sri Krishna from birth up to his marriage with Rukmini. It is a literary masterpiece, composed in Yakshagana style with 12 Tarangams, consisting of 145 kirtans, 267 verses, 30 gadyams (prose passages) and 30 darus (narrative songs). Tribute is paid to this remarkable saint-composer in Varahur every year by organising a 10-day festival, where the Tarangams are sung and a "Uriyadi" event enacted, to depict Sri Krishna stealing butter. Though he lived in Varahur, Sri Narayana Tirtha attained Siddhi in 1745 at a nearby village called Tirupoonthuruti under a huge mango tree, on the banks of river Kudamurutti, on the Masi Sukla Ashtami, Guruvaram, Krithika Nakshatram day. It is said that he attained `Jeeva Samadhi' (even while alive). A small shrine has been constructed on this hallowed spot, under the sprawling mango tree.

For over 300 years, landlords and local devotees of Thirupoonthuruti including R. Viswanatha Baghavathar have been organising music festivals at the Samadhi shrine at Tirupoonthuruti on Masi Sukla Ashtami Day.

In 1965, a regular Aradhana Committee was formed, following the suggestion of the late Dr. V. Raghavan, Sanskrit scholar, who assigns Sri Narayana Tirtha an important place in the history of Carnatic music and bhajana sampradaya. The small village of Tirupoonthuruti comes alive during the three-day festival.

The Aradhana Committee, under the leadership of its secretary, T. V. Venkatesan, organises programmes consisting of music concerts, lecture-demonstrations, bhajans, musical discourses and unchavriti. To enhance the institutional set-up, the Thirupoonthuruti Sri Narayana Tirtha Swamigal Trust was established at Chennai in 1986.

The inaugural function was held at the Krishna Gana Sabha, with a memorable recital by M. S. Subbulakshmi. The late Sadasivam too evinced great interest in the function held at Thirupoonthuruti and suggested that considering the spirit of the occasion, only Tarangams should be sung - a practice strictly followed ever since.

Another musician, who has been closely associated with the Trust is K. J. Yesudas, who produced a 13-part serial on Sri Narayana Tirtha for Chennai Doordarshan, under the guidance of B. Natarajan.

The most significant achievement of the Trust, however, is the construction of the "Nama Sankirtana Mani Mandapam" near the Jeeva Samadhi temple.

The Trust, which felt the need for a place to hold major festivals in the small village, launched this project in 1998.

The Rs. 22-lakh dream project has become a reality within a period of three years. It all started when Sri Viswagit Vijaya Sim Gaderao Sahib of Thirupoonthuruti donated one ground of land in 1999, very near the temple, for constructing the Mani Mandapam.

Donations, big and small, poured in and construction made rapid progress. The ground floor was declared open by Yesudas in March 2000.

The Department of Culture, Government of India, also came up with aid and the first floor was completed and inaugurated in 2002.

A. RAMJI

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