Ennapadam Bhagavati

Bhagavathi at Ennapadam Temple at Kerala

Monday, January 17, 2011



Makar Sankranti is celebrated all over India, north, south, east and west. The manner of celebrations may differ, but the sanctity of the occasion is accepted by all the Hindus as the auspicious day on whicjh SURYA (SUN) moves into the Northern hemisphere. This day heralds the beginning of "Uttrayan", which is considered as the most auspicious time of the year. Makar Sankranti is celebrated differently in different parts of the country.


BHOGI PONGAL or Bogi festival is the first day of Pongal celebrated in Tamil Nadu. The similar festival is celebrated in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka with same name. Bhogi Pongal 2011 date is January 14, 2011. Bogi festival is dedicated to Lord Indra, the God of clouds and Rains. This is the reason why Bhogi Pongal is also called as Indran.
Pongal is an ancient festival of the people in South India particularly of the Tamils. The history of the festival can be traced back to the Sangam Age i.e. 200 BC to 300 AD.  Although, Pongal originated as a Dravidian harvest festival and has a specific mention in Sanskrit puranas, historians identify the festival with the ‘Thai Un’ and ‘Thai Neeradal’ which are believed to have been celebrated during the Sangam Age.

The annual Pongal festival in Tamilnadu, which lasts for four days, starts from today (14-1-2011).  Today (the first day) is called Bhogi Pandigai Day.  Tomorrow (15-1-2011) will be the day of Makara Sankaranthi.  The third day (16-1-2011) will be celebrated as Mattu Pongal Day and the fourth day (17-1-2011)will be celebrated as Kanum Pongal Day or Thiruvalluvar Day.

Right from the dawn of human history, it has been the timeless tradition in many cultures to offer thanks to the omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent Almighty God for a bountiful agricultural harvest year after year. The external forms and presentations might differ from culture to culture. But their underlying spirit, the spirit of setting aside a date every year to reflect on life’s blessings and the transcendental compassion of God towards all living creatures remains the same.

It is exciting to catch a glimpse of the spectra of colours and shades that mark the thanksgiving celebrations associated with the festival in different parts of the world. People celebrate this festival to offer their thanksgiving to God for protecting them and their crops every year.

Thus, the harvest festival of Pongal in Tamilnadu has to be viewed as an integral part of the timeless and universal tradition in different cultures in all parts of the world, more particularly in the context of today’s ever-expanding globalisation in which the whole world seems to have shrunk into a Global Village.   

The Pongal festival can be traced back to the SANGAM AGE. It is clear from Sangam literature that Observance of Pongal during the Sangam Era began with the sacred and auspicious Thai Neeradal (The Holy Bath in the Tamil Month of THAI).

The tradition of ‘THAI NEERADAL’ paved the way for today’s Pongal Festival. As part of the Thai festivities, we see that maidens of the Sangam Era observed ‘Pavai Nonbu’ at the time of Thai Neeradal. The Thai Neeradal was a major festival during the reign of the Pallavas (4th to 8th Century AD).

In Pallava and Chola times, this festival was observed during the Tamil month of Margazhi (December-January). During this festival young girls prayed for rain and prosperity of the country. Throughout the month, they avoid milk and milk products. They would not oil their hair and refrained from using harsh words while speaking. Women used to bathe early in the morning. They worshipped the idol of Goddess Katyayani, which would be carved out of wet sand. They ended their penance on the first day of the month of Thai (January-February). This penance was to bring abundant rains to enhance the production of paddy. These traditions and customs of ancient times, in course of time, gave rise to the Pongal celebrations of today.

Thus we see that Andal’s ‘Tiruppavai’ and Manickavachakar’s ‘Tiruvembavai’ vividly describe the festival of Thai Neeradal and the ritual of observing Pavai Nonbu. According to an inscription found in the Veeraraghava Temple at Tiruvallur, the Chola King Kulottunga regularly gifted lands to the temple, especially earmarked for the Pongal celebrations.

The PONGAL FESTIVAL lasts for four days.  Each of the four days of the festival is marked by different festivities.

On the First Day, Bhogi Pandigai is celebrated in honour of Lord Indra, ‘the God of Clouds and Rains’. Lord Indran is worshipped for the abundance of harvest, thereby bringing in plenty and prosperity to the land. Thus, this day is also known as Indran.


On Bhogi Day (1ST DAY)people clean and wash their homes from top to bottom, and collect all unwanted goods for purpose of bonfire. Fresh harvest of rice, turmeric and sugarcane is brought in from the field as initial preparation for the following Second Day of ‘Surya Pongal’ or ‘Perumpongal’ or ‘Makara Sankaranthi’.


On this Surya Pongal Day(2nd Day), a special puja is performed before the cutting of the paddy. Farmers worship the sun and the earth by anointing their ploughs and sickles with sandalwood paste. It is with these consecrated tools that the newly-harvested rice is cut.


The third day of Pongal is called MATTU PONGAL( 3rd Day). It is meant for the worship of both cows and bulls.


The fourth day of the Pongal celebrations is called KAANUM PONGAL. This day is marked by time honoured village sports like JALLIKATTU. In few places in Tamilnadu, the fourth day is also known as Karinaal or Thiruvalluvar Day.  On this day also people offer colored balls of the Pongal on banana leaves to birds. Sisters pray for the well being of their brothers and offer pudi on banana leaves to sparrow and crows. On this day thousands of people in all cities, towns and villages travel to different places for ordinary mirth and pleasure, entertainment and relaxation and diversion from the cares and anxieties of daily existence.

What is known as Surya Pongal (the second day of the Pongal Festival) in Tamilnadu, is celebrated throughout the length and breadth of India as MAKARA SANKARANTHI. On this day The Sun enters the ‘Makara Raasi’ (the zodiac sign of Capricorn - the goat) on Sankranti Day, signifying the onset of Uttarayana Punyakaalam. From time immemorial, Uttarayana Punyakaalam has been considered as an auspicious time and that is why the veteran warrior Bhishma, Son of Ganga, chose to die during this period. It is believed that one escapes the cycle of repeated birth and death, if one gives up one’s body on this day.

In several parts of northern India like Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, the 13th of January every year, is celebrated as LOHRI.  Lohri Festival is celebrated with great pomp in North India. It is a festival to worship the Sun God. At this time Earth starts moving towards the sun marking the auspicious period of Uttarayana Punyakaalam.


Lohri is considered as very important for the newly wed and the new born babies as it marks fertility. On the night of Lohri Festival Day, people gather around the bonfire and throw gingelly oil seeds, puffed rice and popcorns into the flames of the bonfire. Prayers are offered to the bonfire, invoking the blessings of Lord Surya, for abundance and prosperity.


The celebration of Lohri Day marks the end of winter. According to a hoary tradition in Punjab and other parts of northern India, their forefathers formulated a Sacred Mantra for protecting themselves against the biting cold of winter season. This mantra invoked the Sun God to send them so much of heat that the winter cold would not affect them in any way.
The following song in Punjabi is sung by all the young boys, sitting around a Lohri fire, as an act of thanksgiving to Sun God. Here are a few lines from this popular song/mantra:

Sundri Mundri Hei! Hoi!

Tera Kaun Bechara! Hoi!
Dullah Bhatti wala! Hoi!
Dullah Di Dhi viyahi ! Hoi !


On Makar Sankranthi in Maharahtra, people celebrate by offering each other tilgul-laddus. These are made from sesame seeds, sugar and jaggery. People exchange these sweets with the words 'tilgul ghya, god god bola'. This means have these tilguls and speak sweet words.


What it actually means is accept these tilguls and forget any ill-feelings or differences by fostering good relations. In Maharashtra, married women are invited home for haldi-kumkum. The woman of the house gives them a gift of any new utensil which she has purchased.


In West Bengal, Sankranti is known as POUS PARBON - a harvest festival. Every year, a very big mela (fair) is held at Ganga Sagar which a large number of pilgrims from all over the country attend.


Makar Sankranti is celebrated in the last day of the Bengali month of Poush. In Bengal, this day is one of the most auspicious time of the year. Thousands of pilgrims from different parts of the country gather at Gangasagar, the point where the holy river Ganges meets the sea, to take a dip and wash away all the earthly sins. Makar Sankranti falls on the day of the year when the sun-considered the king of all grahas (planets)-is in the rashi (zodiac sign) known as Makar (Capricorn). This is considered the most beneficial and auspicious zodiac of the sun. The calculations for determining Makar Sankranti are done according to the solar calendar. Therefore, Makar Sankranti always falls on the 14th January according to the English calendar. It is usually the month of Magh of the Hindu calendar, the 'Tithi' or the position of the moon keeps shifting because of the difference in calculations.
Myth: According to certain Hindu beliefs, in the past ages, in the Satya Yug lived a king named Sagar. He performed a holy yagna, the Ashyamedh yagna. The symbol of his power, the horse, was lost during this ceremony and Sagar's 60,000 sons travelled far and wide to find it. They found the horse near the ashram of the great sage Kapil and blamed him for stealing their horse. The sage felt insulted and his rage turned the princes into ashes.  On hearing this, King Sagar went to the sage and begged for his mercy. The sage, at first turned a deaf ear to his pleas but later told that the princes would gain enlightenment if their ashes were washed by the holy waters of the heavenly river Ganga. For two generations, attempts were made to bring down the Ganges but all efforts proved futile. A prince of this dynasty, Bhagirath, pleased the gods, and with the help of Lord Shiva brought Ganga down to earth. His forefather's sins were washed away and the people had the opportunity to wash their sins as well. From then on, Gangasagar, near the ashram of the sage Kapil, has been a holy pilgrimage in Bengal. It is said that a dip in the ice-cold water at the junction of the river and the sea is auspicious.



In Uttar Pradesh, Sankranti is celebrated as Khichiri.

Every twelve years at this time the Kumbh Mela is held here at Prayag in Allahabad at Uttar Pradesh. Bathing on the day of Makar Sankranti in  the holy waters of Triveni is considered very auspicious. Millions of people take a dip in the holy waters on this day. A big one-month long ‘Magha-Mela’ fair begins at Prayag (Allahabad) on this occasion. Apart from Triveni, ritual bathing also takes place at many places like Haridvar and Garh Mukteshwar in Uttar Pradesh, and Patna in Bihar.


Makar Sankranti is celebrated in Kerala at Sabarimala. The forty days of spiritual discipline undertaken by devotees of Ayappa comes to an end on this day with a big celebration at Sabarimala.

Sabarimala on Makara Sankranti


Makar Sankranti is celebrated as Sukarat or Sakarat.


The Assamese equivalent of Makar Sankranti and Pongal, Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu too is a harvest festival. Magh Bihu marks the end of the rice harvesting season, and is especially important in agrarian communities. For the occasion, a hut-like structure, called a meji ghar, is constructed with thatch and firewood. It’s erected in the shorn rice fields, and is ritually set aflame during the festivities. Community feasts are held near the meji ghar, and are accompanied by much merrymaking, including dance and music, bullfights and birdfights. The following song in Assamese is sung on this auspicious day.

The next day is the main Magh Bihu. In the very early morning, people take bath and burn the main 'Meji'. People gather around the 'Meji' and throw 'Pithas' (rice cakes) and betel nuts to the fire while burning it at the same time. They offer their prayers to the God of Fire and mark the end of the harvesting year. Next day is followed with community celebrations all across with rice cakes being distributed to all. People visit relatives and friends to convey and exchange Bihu greetings.

"…Bihu anondia, Bihu binondia

Bihur mou mitha mat
Bihur ba lagi bihua kokair
Deu dhoni lagise gat…"

(Bihu is full of joy, Bihu is beautiful, Bihu songs are very sweet, when the winds of Bihu flow. The dancing spirit possesses one's body).
Bihu is the most celebrated festival of Assam. It is a festival that transcends all religious and class barriers bringing people together in a free and uninhabited manner.

There is a lot of feasting and eating in this bihu celebration as the fields are full. On the eve of the bihu, called 'uruka', young men go to the field, preferably near a river, build a makeshift cottage called 'Bhelaghar' with the hay of the harvest fields and the 'Meji', the most important thing for the night. During the night, people prepare food and there is community feasting everywhere. The entire night (Uruka) is spent around the Meji with people singing bihu songs, beating 'Dhol', a typical kind of drums or playing games.


Gujarat celebrates 2,000 festivals every year! Among these, the festival of Uttarayan is one of the grandest. People of all ages fly kites from dawn to dusk. Crowded rooftops, fun-loving rivalry to outdo each other in kite flying skills and delicious traditional Gujarati feast is the chief hallmark of the day.


The International Kite Festival

Every year, on Uttarayan Day, an international kite festival takes place. Participants come from Japan, Australia, Malaysia, USA, Brazil, Canada and European Countries to participate in this Kite Festival.


To conclude in the words of Sri Aurobindo: ‘Ancient Bharata’ where does she begin? When did she end?....She is timeless.....Then take our festivals, Deepavali and Dussehra and Makara Sankranti. Are they simply a show of lights and burning heads? Or could it be that we celebrate the festival of eternal illumination, asking for light to dawn on our minds, in our hearts, letting its warm glow mix with our blood? Could it be that we are celebrating the victory of good over evil, defeat of the asuras by the devas! It was not a group of Hindus celebrating a holiday, which united them; it was a gathering of humans celebrating the birth of light, the birth of righteousness - that is wherein lay another kind of unity.’

Friday, January 14, 2011


The Tamil month of Margazhi from mid-December to mid-January, has just concluded. In Tamilnadu, the month of Margazhi, in more senses than one, marks the zenith point of spiritual quest when the seeker experiences the glow, the aura and the Divine power of the spirit over matter. The Divine significance of the month of Margazhi has to be understood and grasped by taking note of the singing of the time-honoured and popular Tamil hymns of THIRUPPAVAI on all the days of Margazhi, not only in hundreds of Krishna and Vishnu temples but also in thousands of Hindu house-holds in Tamil Nadu. This sacred, glorious and hallowed tradition in Tamil Nadu has been going on for centuries.

THIRUPPAVAI consists of thirty stanzas (hymns) in Tamil, each of 8 lines, dramatizing a scene of a group of maidens going from house to house bidding their friends to rise and join them for an early morning bath. These thirty hymns were composed by Saint Andal also known as Nachiar or Kodhai or Goda Devi. She was the daughter of Vishnu Chitta alias Periyazhvar of Srivilliputtur. He was a garland maker for Lord VATABHADRASAYI in the Srivilliputtur. Andal or Goda Devi is one of the most important saints of Sri Vaishnavism. THIRUPPAVAI is part of Divya Prabandha, a work of the twelve Alvars, and is important in Tamil literature.

At an early age Andal fell in love with Lord Ranganatha in the Srirangam Temple. It all began because she used to wear the garlands meant for the deity VATABHADRASAYI before it was put on the deity.  Andal came to be called in oral Vaishanavite religious tradition as Chudi Kodutha Chudar Kodi. People believed that Andal was an avathara (incarnation) of Bhooma Devi. Andal left her ethereal body to mingle with her beloved Lord Ranganatha.

THIRUPPAVAI (Pavai Genre) belongs to the Pavai genre of songs, a unique Tamil tradition sung in the context of the Pavai vow observed throughout the month of Margazhi, originally by unmarried girls praying to the Pavai goddess (related to Goddess Parvathy) for a blissful married life. Sri Vaishnavas sing these stanzas every day of the year in the temple as well as in their homes. This practice assumes special significance during Margazhi: each day of this month gets its name from one of the thirty verses. There are references to this vow in the late-Sangam Era Tamil musical anthology Paripadal.

The worship of Goddess Pavai was very common in Tamil Nadu since ancient times. The worship was done by unmarried girls. They all used to take bath in the rivers daily early in the dawn, in the month of Margazhi (December-January) and worshiped the Goddess by dance and music, observing very strict vrata (penance or fast or nonbu) during the day. This it was believed would get them good husbands and would lead to a very happy married life.

This time-honoured tradition continues even today. On each day, during the month of Margazhi, a hymn of THIRUPPAVAI is sung in many Vishnu and Krishna temples and several Tamil households even today. Andal’s emotions and sentiments poured out in a cascade of Divine Bliss in her 30 pasurams (poems to God) in THIRUPPAVAI and 143 pasurams of THIRUMOZHI have found an immediate echo in the mind’s and hearts of men for centuries. According to Vaishnavite tradition Sri Ramanuja who was the greatest saint and  philosopher of Sri Vaishnavism, eloquently extolled Andal’s Bhakthi and sang all the thirty Thiruppavai pasurams every day. In view of this, Ramanuja came to be called as Thiruppavai Jeeyar. Also there is a practice to this day among Sri Vaishnavas that during the Poojas of God in any of their temples the last two stanzas of Thiruppavai are sung. It is also interesting to know that these two stanzas are also recited in Tamil during coronation of the kings of Thailand.

When Vishnuchitta, a garland maker for VATABHADRASAYI in the Srivilliputtur Temple, found a female child near a Thulasi bush in his garden, he joyfully accepted her as the Lord’s gift and took her home. The child was to grow up as Goda Devi, imbibe the Krishna-consciousness prevalent in Vishnuchitta’s home, dedicate her life to the Lord’s service, indite 143 pasurams of THIRUMOZHI and 30 pasurams of THIRUPPAVAI, and finally merge with Lord Ranganatha in the Srirangam Temple. It is a glorious dramatic saga of Love Divine, of a soul’s aspiration matched by the answering Graces of the Supreme.

For more than 1,500 years, the devotional world of Tamil Nadu has fondly recreated Andal’s life, recited her songs and entered into communion with the Divine. Andal means ‘One who has Ruled us’. Millions of Vaishnavas recite Andal’s THIRUPPAVAI, sing it melodiously and hear it expounded daily during the sacred month of Margazhi. There seem to be several reasons for the choice of this month. The scriptures celebrate the Margazhi month as the most sacred month in the Hindu calendar. In the Bhagawat Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna: “I am Margasirsa (Margazhi) among the 12 months”. Tradition has it that the Brahma Muhurta of the year occurs during the month of Margazhi and early morning baths in Holy Rivers followed by prayers in Temples confer material and spiritual wellbeing on the true devotees.

Shri Bal Gangadhar Tilak in his Gita Rahasya describes the grandeur and glory of the month of Margasirsa (Margazhi) in these words: “The first place has been given to the month of Margasirsa among the months because it was usual in those days to start with the month of Margasirsa in counting the months (Mahabharata . Anu 106 &109, Valmiki Ramayana, 3.16 ). There is a similar reference in the Bhagawata (11.16.27). I have pointed out in my book called Orion that the Margasirsa Constellation is called the Agrahayana or the Constellation of the commencement of the year, that the Mrga Constellation must have got the first place, when the computation starting with the Mrga Constellation was in vogue,  and that the Margasirsa month must also have acquired importance later on, on that account.

In the ancient Tamil classic Paripadal, the poet Nallandhuvanar gives particulars of such bathing (neerattam) undertaken as Vrata (nondu) by young girls (pavai) in the month of Margasirsa (Margazhi). The young girls in the poems of THIRUPPAVAI aspire to be united to the ‘Bridegroom’ of their choice and pray to the fresh floods of the Vaigai River to grant them prolonged youth which would help them enjoy wedded bliss for long.

However, the Margazhi-Thai-Neerattam” of the Sangam Age gathered a new significance as the centuries went by. The legends of Lord Krishna from Mathura, Brindavan and Dwaraka spread to the South and brought the Katyayani Vrata observed by the cowherdesses of Vraja (Mathura-Brindavan region). In the life of Lord Krishna this observance of Katyayani Vrata has an importance place. Once when there was a drought in the Yadava country, the maidens enacted this ceremony and prayed for rain. Lord Krishna immediately rewarded them with HIS abundant Grace and Prosperity returned to the country. The Katyayani Vrata by the Gopikas was observed somewhat like the Margazhi-Thai-Neerattam”, but with this significant difference. Bammera Potana (1450-1510) in his Potana Bhaagawatam conveys it thus: “In the first month of cold Hemanta, from the opening day onward, the maids of Nanda’s tribe woke up early, bathed in Kalindi waters, made a figure of Katyayani with sand, offered scented blossoms, sandal paste, scented smoke, lighted lamps and various sweets to the Divine Mother with the prayer: ‘Oh! Katyayani, Bhagawati! We salute you! Grant us Lord Krishna as our husband! The day we gain HIM, we shall hold a special festival in your honour!’”

As a child of the Tamil heritage as also of the Bhagavata tradition from the North, Andal (Goda Devi) took up the theme, unified the long standing existing custom of Margazhi-Thai-Neerattam” with the imported observance of the Katyayani Vrata and wrote the 30 pasurams of THIRUPPAVAI as a Guidance-Hymn to those who wished to follow the path of devotion. Soon THIRUPPAVAI became popular with laymen and scholar, housewife and ascetic, artless youth and learned preceptor. As Dr Prema Nandakumar has put it most exquisitely: Andal (Goda Devi) had transformed the seasonal vow into an incandescent poem of Bridal Mysticism, where the soul wishes to be united with the Supreme. Though the poem contains prayers for rains and other means to prosperity, the symbolistic motif of THIRUPPAVAI is servitude to the Supreme, in this life as well as in all lives to come. The prayer is attuned to receiving the Grace (parai) of the Lord for attaining spiritual freedom.”

Many do not know that an annual Festival called "Trivambave - Tribave" is celebrated in the month of Margazhi between December 14 and January 12 every year  in Bangkok by the people of Thailand. This festival is celebrated by the Brahmin priests chanting verses in praise of Hindu gods. This festival is marked by the singing of THIRUPPAVAI AND THIRUVEMBAVAI. These Thai Brahmins who sing these Pasurams are descendents of Tamil Brahmins from Rameshwaram, Srivilliputtur and other parts of South India who were brought to this land as early as the 2nd century .

The area comprising the present Thailand, Cambodia and Burma was once ruled by Khemers till 13th century. Historians believe that the Khemers were either our Pallava Kings or Leaders of local tribes who were made Kings by the Pallavas. We have plenty of evidence by way of archeological findings, legends and stone inscriptions to confirm the theory of Political connections between the Palllava Kingdom of India and the Khemer Kingdom of Thailand.

The Khemer Kings, being Hindus, practiced either Vaishnavism or Shaivism. The King who built Angkorwat , Surya varman, was a Vaishnavite and it was built as a Vishnu Temple. Angkorwat is the largest Vishnu temple in the world. The Khemer Kings adopted a concept called "Devaraja Cult" which means that the King is an incarnation of Vishnu or Shiva. They built temples for Vishnu and Shiva.

 The Pallava Kings took some Brahmins with them as Court Advisors to Thailand as was the practice in Mainland India. That is how the cultural tradition of the Brahmins functioning as Royal Advisors was firmly established in Thailand and continues even today.

The Khemer kingdom , after 1300 years of glorious rule by the Hindu kings, fell to the Thais in 1282 when Jayavarman , the last Khemer King, was defeated by the Thai invasion that formed the First Thai Kinddom -- Sukhothai. The creation of a Buddhist Thai Kingdom should have ended Hinduism practiced by the Khemers. Surprisingly it did not.

The practice of Devaraja Cult established during the days of the Khemers did not die with them. The Thais, even though they became Buddhists , continued the Khemer tradition of Devaraja Cult for two reasons. Since they took over a land of Khemers, they did not want to change the practices of the land and be alienated from the locals. Secondly, the Devaraja cult suited their intentions of assuming supremacy as it gave them instant  recognition among people. So the Thai kings also continued the Devaraja cult and as a consequence extended patronage to the Indian Brahmins and projected themselves as Incarnations of Hindu Gods in addition to practicing Buddhism. This explains why the Royal family in Thailand continues to adhere to the tradition of Hindu Rituals and practices even today. The singing of THIRUPPAVAI AND THIRUVEMBAVAI in the month of Margazhi in a temple in Bangkok every year is a part and parcel of this inherited tradition.


Many of you may not have visited a place in Bangkok which houses three Hindu deities-- Ganesh, Shiva and Vishnu. It is not a temple patronized by the Indians like Dev Mandhir and Mariamman Temple. It is a Thai temple. It is called Devasthan ‘Boat Prahm’ and is situated opposite the Dev Mandir, right behind the Giant Swing. The word Boat Prahm means "Sanctuary of Brahmins". This is the place where the Thiruppavai Thiruvempavai festival takes place for 15 days and all the Brahmins in Thailand come and stay in the temple for 15 days. It is a memorable experience watching these Thai Brahmin Priests reciting the Thiruppavai and Thiruvempavai .

The Kanchi Paramacharya had spoken in highly eloquent terms about this ancient practice of reciting Thiruppavai in a Buddhist country like Thailand in Mayavaram's Dhakshinamurthy Mutt in 1952. He had even commented that "even though we in TamilNadu recite Thiruvembhavai , we do not perform it as a festival but a Buddhist country thousands of miles away does it". On the request of the Kanchi Acharya, a team of Tamil Scholars, went to Thailand and studied the scripts of Thiruppavai and Thiruvempavai that are being recited in Bangkok temples and recorded the fact that they are in Grantha script.

Finally Andal (Goda Devi) transcended the bounds of human vanities by annihilating all desires. She entered---- almost glided into----the realm of the Spirit. Because of her inspiring spiritual quest and the single-minded realization of her goal, Andal remains a great and unique figure in the whole range of Tamil poetry, shining as a glorious lamp in Vaishnavite literature and ever-occupying the sovereign place in the hearts of millions of devotees to this day.

I invite the kind attention of my readers to a very sublimely beautiful book on THIRUPPAVAI published by Kalai Arangam in Chennai. The Tamil text of the 30 verses of THIRUPPAVAI, with Notation of a new version of rendering of the hymns, is by Gotuvadyam Vidwan Shri V.S. Parthasarathy Iyengar. The English translation of the hymns has been done by Shri.R.Bangaruswami. Dr. Prema Nandakumar, an incomparable scholar and litterateur, has written the General Introduction and Commentary on all the verses of THIRUPPAVAI. This book carries a forward by Maduravarshee Vidwan Shri.U.Ve. Thirunagai Viraraghavachariar. My dear friend late Shri.Rangaswami was a great poet and an ardent devotee of LORD RANGANATHA OF SRIRANGAM. He brought out this book at the instance of his beloved wife Shrimati Ramapriya Rangaswami Founder Convener Kalai Arangam in New Delhi. She was a disciple of Gotuvadyam Vidwan Shri V.S. Parthasarathy Iyengar and was privileged to learn the 30 hymns of THIRUPPAVAI directly from him. Shri.V.S. Parthasarathy Iyengar in his own hand wrote down the musical notation for these songs for her benefit. For over 25 years from 1960 to 1985 in New Delhi, Shrimati Ramapriya Rangaswami was observing Margazhi Poojas for the whole month and giving full fledged recital of all the 30 hymns on the Koodaravalli Day. A dedicated soul, she took it upon herself to teach the THIRUPPAVAI hymns to as many as possible in New Delhi to popularize the new version of rendering composed by Gotuvadyam Vidwan Shri V.S. Parthasarathy Iyengar.

Shrimati Ramapriya Rangaswami passed away in December 1991. Her immortal spirit and that of her great Acharya Gotuvadyam Vidwan Shri V.S. Parthasarathy Iyengar will continue to shine forever in the pages of this beautiful book. (The front cover of this book can be seen above).

Let me conclude this story with the last (30th) verse of Thiuruppavai in Tamil.

I am giving below the English translation of the 30th verse of Thiruppavai presented above:

30. Goda, daughter of Vishnuchitta

Has retold how the moon-faced damsels

Got there desires fulfilled by praying

To Madhava, the same Kesava

Who churned the ocean with ships afloat.

Devotees who repeat in order the thirty verses

Will be rewarded with happiness and grace

By the red-eyed, four-armed, noble Vishnu.


Thursday, January 13, 2011


Lord Dattatreya (painting by Ravi varma)
‘Dattatreyam gurum devam
bhyayannisam sadasivam
tanmantram tasya gitam cha
vyakurve tat prasadatah’

‘Dattreya, the Teacher and the Deity,

I meditate on Him, the Lord, the ever-holy Lord,
His hymn and His song too
Do I expound by His irresistible Grace’

Datta Jayanti or Guru Dattatreya Jayanthi, the birthday of Lord Dattatreya, is observed on Margashirsha Purnima, the full moon day in the month of Margasirsha. Datta Jayanti in Margazhi this year (2010) or Dattatreya Jayanthi 2010 fell on December 20, 2010. Dattatreya, the son of Anasuya and Atri Maharshi, is considered as Trimurti Avatar, an incarnation of Hindu Trinity – Lord Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva.

When Goddesses Saraswati, Lakshmi and Parvati came to know about Anasuya’s pativrata dharma, they wanted to test her. Accordingly, they persuaded their husbands Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva to make a request to Anasuya to serve them food with unclothed naked body. Through her yogic powers of tapasya, Anasuya tackled the delicate situation by making the Hindu trinity take the physical form of small babies and fed them without any clothes on her body. Anasuya’s huband, Atri Maharshi came and saw the whole episode and invoking all his spiritual powers as a Maharishi, he transformed all the three babies into a three-headed single baby. This form of Trimurti is famed in Hindu Religion, song and legend as DATTATREYA SWAMY.

Anasuya feeding the Hindu Trinity

As Dr.Radhakrishnan puts it brilliantly: ”The representation of Dattatreya as a being with three faces indicates the fundamental oneness of the 3 Gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva—eka eva tridha smritah—one only but conceived as threefold. Since this experience of reality cannot be adequately described, we must be gentle with the different versions of the experience. Spiritual humility should be our attitude and not dogmatic pride or intolerance. The forms we worship are the splintered images of The Divine Reality. This synthetic vision which is the characteristic of Hindu thought from it beginnings in the Veda has in it the healing of the divisions amongst religions today.”

All though Maharashtra is the heartland of Dattatreya devotion, his all-pervading presence extends throughout the Indian sub-continent, especially in Southern states such as Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu and Kerala, and also in Gujarat, apart from Nepal.

The opening passage of Avadhuta-Gita by Lord Dattatreya whom the Upanishads hail to be the Supreme Lord of the Universe runs as follows:” Knowledge of undifferentiated unity springs in the inspired men only by Grace of God and saves them from great peril.”

Recently I had the good fortune of reading a book titled DATTATREYA authored by His Highness Shri Jaya Chamarajendra Wadiyar Bahadur Maharaja of Mysore which was published in London in 1957 by George Allen and Unwin Limited. In my view this is the best book on the subject. In Chapter 1 of this book, he has stated as follows:

The opening passage of the Avadhuta-Gita (which I have cited above) forms one of the passages of my daily prayer handed down through tradition. Every time I recite it, it kindles deep reflection in my mind. My constant dwelling on these words drew my mind into the deeper significance of the expressions it contained. Though these expressions, verbally speaking, are familiar to us, the doubts that crossed my mind and the questions I was compelled to ask myself could not be satisfied by the usual meanings given to these terms. The conventional meanings of these terms conflicted with those which belonged to an ancient heritage of which the seers and rishis who shaped the very fundamentals of our culture, were the custodians. This was the message of DATTATREYA to the world, and it led me seriously to consider what meaning this declaration had in relation to actual experience of life. What is life? What is death? What is it that we really fear (mahabhaya), life or death? Who are those fortunate beings that are regarded as endowed with illumination? How are they fortunate? Are they fortunate because of birth or because of the grace of the Lord? What is the grace of the Lord? Is it something that is given to man or does he achieve it by his own efforts? What is God, Iswara? Is it God in the ordinary sense in which it is understood in the world? Is it the truth or reality, the ultimate principle of all? These and various other serious doubts assailed me until one day through a chance experience I was able to gain some insight into the meanings of these memorable words. One day the truth flashed across my mind. So many things cleared up.”

That moment of vision led His Highness Sri. Jaya Chamarajendra Wadiyar Bahadur Maharaja of Mysore to write his remarkable book dedicated to DATTATREYA.


In that lofty moment of rare ecstatic vision, the Maharaja of Mysore recalled to his mind the famous reference of Vasishta in his Yoga-Vasishta-Ramayana where he says that The truth flashed past one—like lightning—in between the gaps created by the absence of thought”. At that moment of illumination, he attempted to coordinate all this into a meaningful experience. Let us hear again the words of this Maharaja, in the true ancient Hindu tradition of King Janaka of Mithila:

That is how Dattatreya became to me the torchbearer of a new meaning  and purpose of life. His tremendous spiritual importance began to grip my imagination more and more until he became for me the visible form of the highest truth defined as ‘REAL KNOWLEDGE INFINITE IS BRAHMAN’,’sathyam gyanam anantham brahma’,’One only, secondless is brahman’(Taitreya Upanishad),’ekamevadvitiyam brahma’ in the vedas.”

Hindu mythology and iconography have represented DATTATREYA as a Being with three faces, one the face of Brahma, the other of Vishnu and the third of Shiva of the Hindu Pantheon. He has six hands of which the three right ones hold respectively a trident, a rosary and a lotus flower and the three left ones hold discus, conch and the ascetic’s water-pot. The three heads stemming from the same trunk represent the powers of Creation, Preservation and Destruction which are present in the Universe as being the functions that emanate from one and the same Reality although each function is designated differently. The Discus and the conch are associated with Vishnu, the trident and the ascetic’s water-pot with Shiva, and the rosary and the Lotus with Brahma. These are the myths and symbols suggestive of the rich exuberance of India’s philosophy, religion and art.

The Trinity (Trimurti) emanating from a Unity (ekam sat) indicates the synthetic vision of the unity of things which has given life to Indian philosophy down the ages. The four dogs portrayed at the feet of Dattatreya represent the Four Vedas which follow at the feet of the Lord as hounds of heaven and watch-dogs of Truth owned by Dattatreya, the Great Hunter for the Souls of Men. The ochre-coloured garb of Dattatreya symbolises sanyasa,the spirit of renunciation or detachment without which realisation of ultimate truth would only be a half-hearted effort and infractuous in the extreme.

The synthetic philosophy of the Vedas finds an embodiment in Dattatreya and his philosophy is expounded in two important works known as the Avadhuta-Gita (Devanagari: अवधूत गीता) and the Jeevanmuktha Gita.

Avadhuta-Gita (Devanagari: अवधूत गीता) is a Hindu text based on the principles of Advaita Vedanta (nondualism). The singer of the Avadhuta-Gita is Dattatreya, an Avadhuta, and according to the Nath Sampradaya, the work was heard and transcribed by two of Dattatreya's disciplesSwami and Kartika. Ashokananda (1893–1969) has said that "the Avadhuta-Gita is a text of Vedanta representing extreme Advaita or Nondualism...". This text may also be considered a forerunner of Tantric literature as the themes, motif and orientation of this 'song' (Sanskrit: gita) are common to Shaivite Tantras, Buddhist Tantras and Vaishnava Agamas (which are also tantric literature) and ancient Yoga philosophy.

Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902) held the Avadhuta-Gita in high esteem and introduced it to his Western students and he translated aspects of it in the following talk he gave on July 28, 1895: "He who has filled the universe, He who is Self in self, how shall I salute Him! To know the Atman as my nature is both knowledge and realisation. I am He, there is not the least doubt of it. No thought, no word, no deed, creates a bondage for me. I am beyond the senses, I am knowledge and bliss. There is neither existence nor non-existence, all is Atman. Shake off all ideas of relativity; shake off all superstitions; let caste and birth and Devas and all else vanish. Why talk of being and becoming? Give up talking of dualism and Advaitism! When were you two, that you talk of two or one? The universe is this Holy One and He alone. Talk not of Yoga to make you pure; you are pure by your very nature. None can teach you.”

The author of Jivan-mukta Gita is Lord Dattatreya. Jivanmukta-gita is a short compendium of 23 verses which is a discourse about the various characteristics of a jivan- mukta (a liberated soul). A Jivanmukta (from the Sanskrit words jiva and mukti) is someone who, in the Advaita philosophy of Hinduism, has attained nirvikalpa samadhi ---- the realization of the Self, Parasiva - and is liberated from rebirth while living in a human body. Jivanmukta is a unique concept in Hindu philosophy, particularly in the school of philosophy known as Advaita. The ultimate goal of Hinduism is liberation from the cycles of re-birth. This liberation is technically called 'moksha'. In all schools of Hindu philosophy except Advaita, liberation is necessarily an event beyond the experience of human beings. But the Advaita school of Shankara envisages that human beings are already liberated and the soul is already free - one has only to realise, and to accept, this freedom. Souls who have had this realisation are called jivanmuktas.

1. What is Jivanmukti?

2. Who is a Jivanmukta?
3. Is Jivanmukta a Real Vedantin?
4. Is a Jivanmukta Free from All Bondages?
5. what is the vision of a Jivanmukta?

A Jivanmukta is a liberated sage. He is released even while living. He lives in the world, but he is not of the world. He always revels in the eternal bliss of the Supreme Self. He is Ishvara (God) Himself. He is a God on earth.

The Jivanmukta or full-blown Jnani (a person with full wisdom) is full of pure love, compassion, mercy, exquisite gentleness, and hidden power and strength. Love and lustre shine through his brilliant eyes.

The Jivanmukta has not a bit of selfish interest in him and is absolutely free from worries, difficulties, troubles, tribulations, sorrows, and anxieties under all circumstances. Even when pains and the rest attaching themselves to his body exhibit themselves on his face, his mind never writhes under them and their antithesis. He is not a slave of his moods; he is ever cheerful and peaceful. His higher excellences have been perfectly unfolded; all divine attributes are fully awakened in him. Every one of his weaknesses and limitations is burnt in toto. He shines in his own pristine glory, in his own essential nature of divine consciousness. He radiates peace and joy everywhere.

The true greatness of a realised Yogi is indescribable. His eyes are serene and steady, his actions perfect and holy, his speech sweet and short, inspiring and impressive. His gait is magnanimous, his touch purifying; his looks are merciful, gestures illuminating. He is omniscient; he has intuitive transcendental knowledge and clear insight into the very heart of all things and beings. You will experience a deep sense of peace and harmony, great elevation and inspiration, in his presence.

Those who are interested in studying the Jivan-mukta Gita of Lord Dattatreya in depth are advised to refer to Swami Sivananda’s (1887-1963)  JIVANMUKTA GITA. I am presenting the front cover of this book below.

Another well-researched book on Lord Dattatreya in all his manifestations and in all his religious, spiritual, scriptural, cultural, sociological dimensions is DATTATREYA, The Immortal Guru, Yogin and Avatara by Antonio Rigopoulos.

Lord Dattatreya is considered as very important in some of the minor Upanishads. Minor Upanishads are mainly technical manuals for the use of disciples of either Advaidata Vedanta or Yoga. German scholar Paul Deussen who grouped these minor Upanishads into the following 3 categories:

  1. The Yoga Upanishads
  2. The Samnyasa Upanishads
  3. Vishnu Upanishads
  4. The following are the most important temples of Lord Dattatreya in India and Nepal:
Lord Dattatreya–--either in his role of Yoga teacher or in that of Avadhuta or Paramahamsa---is mentioned in the Darshana Upanishad and Sandilya Upanishad within the corpus of the 21 Yoga Upanishads.

Lord Dattatreya is mentioned in Brihat-Avadhuta Upanishad, Jabala Upanishad, Naradaparivrajaka Upanishad, Bhikshuka Upanishad and Yagyavalkya Upanishad within the corpus of the Vaishnava Upanishads.

    Mahur is said to be BIRTH PLACE OF GOD DATTATREYA. Dattatreya was born to Goddess Anusaya. There is an ancient temple of Dattatreya. Every Year on Datta Pornima Thousands of people visit Mahur.
    2. Sri Pada Vallabha Kshetram at PITHAPURAM IN SRIKAKULAM DISTRICT OF ANDHRA PRADESH-Bhagwan Shri Dattatrayas Kaliyuga's FIRST INCARNATION IS SHRIPAD SHRIVALLABH. His place of birth is PITHAPURAM (East Godavari)'
    Kukkuteshwara Swamy temple - The most famous temple at Pithapuram is that of Lord Shiva. ... Swayambhu Sri Dattatreya Swamy is also in the Temple Complex. ...
    Sri Kshetra Gangapur
    Sri Kshetra Gangapur, One of the most famous Dattatreya Peethas, is associated with Sri Narasimha Sarasvati Swami, an incarnation of Lord Dattatreya. It stands on the bank of the river Bhima in Afzalpur taluka in Gulbarga district of Karnataka. Narasimha Saraswati (1378−1458) नरसिहसरस्वती is the Purna avatar of Dattatreya (As per "Shripad Shrivallabha Charitra" he is second avatar of Dattatreya).He was born in Karanjapur which is modern Lad-Karanja or karanja in Maharashtra Vidbaraba region. 4 MANIKA PRABHU TEMPLE AT BIDAR KARNATAKA
    Maniknagar is a little hamlet village in Humnabad, a taluk town in Bidar, that has a temple complex of Sri Manik Prabhu’s Samadhi. Manik Prabhu, said to be the THIRD avatar of Lord Dattatreya, was a renowned saint of those times. The temple of Manik Prabhu is located on the outskirts of Humnabad, about a kilometre away. Maniknagar is situated on the slopes of high ground near the holy confluence of two little rivulets Guru-Ganga and Viraja. 5.AKKALKOT SWAMI SAMARTH MAHARAJ TEMPLE Akkalkot is a city and a municipal council in Solapur district in the Indian state of Maharashtra, situated 40 km southeast of Solapur near the state border with Karnataka.
    Akkalkot Swami Samarth Maharaj Temple  
    Akkalkot is home to Shri Swami Samarth Maharaj, a saint in 19th century who was believed to be THE FOURTH incarnation of God Dattatreya by his devotees            
    Shree Shirdi Saibaba Temple is located at Shirdi, Maharashtra, The Shirdi is a small village into Kopargam taluk into Ahmad nagar district of Maharashtra State. The Saibaba was physically there on the age of 20 into Shirdi. Shirdi was a small village of the 80 thatched houses among mud walls. Nowadays, Shirdi is a large town by modern shops and buildings.  
    7 GURU DTTAREYA TEMPLE At Girnar Mountain In Junagadh District In Gujarat
    The tallest Mountain of the Gujarat State in India is the Girnar Mountain, which is situated near the city of Junagadh in the Saurashtra region of the Gujarat State. There are many famous places of pilgrimage on this Girnar Mountain. The most famous of them all is the Amba Mata temple. Most of the pilgrims visiting Girnar visit Amba Mata temple for sure. However, very few people are able to visit the highest summit of the Girnar Mountain, which is known as Guru Dattatreya summit.  
    Located about 20 km east of Kathmandu in the Kathmandu Valley, Bhaktapur is known as the 'City of Devotees', the 'City of Culture', the 'Living Heritage', and 'Nepal's Cultural Gem'. It is one of the 3 royal cities in the Kathmandu Valley.    
    Dattavtars:: SADGURUS of Datta Linage     
    Sadgurus or Perfect Masters are in reality, the seers who have realized the Absolute or have reached the highest realm of spiritual attainment, are present for ever in the whole universe whether in an embodied or in an un-embodied state. They can operate in gross, subtle, or mental world. They have been actually chosen to execute the Divine Mission and for that, free from individual ego, work together for the execution of the Divine Mission. A Sadguru is the one who leads the created to the creator. Their actions are universal in nature cutting across religions, "Whenever there is decline in righteousness and rise in unrighteousness, O Bharata, then I send forth Myself. For the protection of the good and the destruction of the evil and the establishment of righteousness, I come into being from age to age". said LORD KRISHNA. Bhagavad Gita (IV. 7-8)
     Dattatreya Stotram from Narada Puranam translated by
    Sadgurus are infinite existence, infinite knowledge and infinite bliss.
    The form of Guru is the root of meditation, The feet of the Guru are the root of worship,
    The teaching of the Guru is the root of all hymns and The Grace of the Guru is the root of salvation.
    The Sadgurus or perfect masters are born at different times in different places and with different cultural backgrounds. The following Sadgurus are believed to be the Divine Incarnations of Lord Dattatreya.    
    1. Shripad SriVallabh
    2. Sri Narasimha Saraswati
    3. Sri Manikya Prabhu
    4. Sri Akkalkot Maharaj
    5. Sri Sai baba of Shirdi
    Dattatreya Stotram from Narada Puranam
    Translated by PR Ramchander
    Jatadharam, Pandurangam,
    Soolahastham Krupanidhim,
    Sarvaroga haram devam,
    Dathathreyamaham bhaje.
    My salutations to Dathathreya,
    Who is with matted hair,
    Who is Lord Vishnu,
    Who holds soola in his hand,
    Who is store house of mercy,
    And who is the panacea for all illness.
    Jagat utapathi karthre cha,
    Sthithi samhara hethave,
    Bhava pasa vimukthaya,
    Dathathreya namosthuthe.
    My salutations to Dathathreya,
    Who created all the worlds,
    Who looks after the worlds,
    Who destroys the worlds,
    And who grants redemption,
    From the bonds of sorrow of domestic life.
    I have presented above only two of fifteen verses of Dattatreya Stotram.