The avathara utsavam of Thondaradi Podiazhwar, who dedicated his life to the service of Lord Ranganatha, was celebrated recently.

‘Pachai Maa Malai Pol …….Yaan Poi, Indira Logam Aalum

Achchuvai Perinum Venden, Arangamanagarulaney’

In this beautiful composition as part of his 45 verses of Thiru Maalai, Thondaradipodi Azhwar, whose birthday was celebrated on Wednesday last (Jan. 9) at his avathara sthalam in Thiru Mandangudi, says that he prefers the opportunity to sing praise of Lord Ranganatha at Srirangam for which he is even ready to forego the prospect of ruling Indira Logam. It is said that those who listen to the 45 verses of Thiru Maalai are instantly enlightened and have a tendency to change dramatically for the good.

Very early in his life, Thondaradipodi (his original name was Vipra Narayanan) moved from his birth place of Thiru Mandangudi to Srirangam and mastered himself in the Vedas. His love and devotion for Lord Ranganthan was so enduring that he thought of none but the Lord of Srirangam.

Dedicating his life to the service of the Lord, he created a beautiful garden inside the Srirangam temple and with a basket in hand immersed himself in collecting flowers every day and handing over the garland to the Lord. So beautiful was his Nandavanam that when Thirumangai Azhwar found the Nandavanam coming in the way of the huge western wall he was building, he altered the direction of the wall slightlymoving it away.

Thondaradipodi Azhwar composed 55 of the most beautiful Paasurams of the Divya Prabandham. In Thiru Palli Yezhuchi, he showers 10 verses of praise on Lord Ranganatha asking him to wake up as the sun is up, flowers have blossomed, the elephant is ready, the drums are beating and his devotees are waiting for an early morning glimpse of him.

Undying devotion

Thondaradi Podi Azhwar’s devotion was so overwhelming that even when Lord Ranganatha offered him a chance to go to Vaikuntam and the 14 logams (7+7 logams), he refused saying for him Srirangam was the best place for him to stay.

Having heard of the Lord accepting Thirumazhisai Azhwar’s request to come out of the kingdom in Thiruvekka (Divya Desam) in Kanchipuram and later providing a special ‘Maaru Sayanam’ posture on his return, and also the story of darshan in another special posture in Thiru Kudanthai (Kumbakonam) with his Uththana Sayanam, Thondaradipodi was keen that he too be given a special darshan by his favourite Lord Ranganatha.

Ranganatha promised him to provide such a darshan but asked him to go to his birth place at Thiru Mandangudi. Unwillingly, he left Srirangam and reached Thiru Mandangudi where to his surprise, he was welcomed by Lord Rangantha, in a special and rare standing posture.

As the Lord acceded to Thondaradipodi’s request for a special darshan, the Lord here at this ancient 1,000-year-old temple in Mandangudi is referred to as ‘Varam Tharum’ Perumal.

In a separate sannidhi, Thondaradipodi Azhwar is seen alongside the deities of two different divyadesams – Lord Srinivasa of Tirupati and Lord Soundararajan of Thiru Maaliruncholai (Azhagar Koil).

The story goes that both of them had heard of the thiruppalliezhuchi verses sung in praise of Ranganatha and driven by the desire to listen more such verses made a trip to Thiru Mandangudi.

Ranganayaki Thaayar is seen with a full-blown lotus in her right hand and a flower stalk in her left. The temple is due for renovation and specifics are being worked out. For details, contact 94458 62016

How to reach: Mandangudi is on the Kumbakonam - Thiruvaikavur road off Koonanjeri. Town Bus (Route nos. 30 and 12) is available every hour from Kumbakonam.

One should get down at Koonanjeri and walk westward to reach the temple.

Auto fare from Kumbakonam Railway station is Rs. 200 – 250.

Celebrated once a year

On January 9, on the occasion of Margazhi Kettai, the birthday of Thondaradipodi Azhwar, his avatara sthalam, the now remote village of Thiru Mandangudi, wore a festive look. Waking up early on his birthday, Thondaradipodi presented his beautiful Thirupalli Yezhuchi verses at 5 a.m. requesting Lord Ranganatha to wake up on the chilly Margazhi morning and get ready for the birthday celebrations.

Shortly after, there was a presentation of his 45 Thiru Maalai verses. Starting at 10 a.m., there was a special Tirumanjanam for both Lord Ranganatha and Thondaradipodi Azhwar. At 4 p.m., Lord Ranganatha, adorned with the special floral alankaram, seated on Garuda vahanam, and Thondaradi Podi Azhwar on Anna Pakshi vahanam, were jointly taken out in a procession – an annual event at this ancient 1,000-year-old temple. Providing darshan along the way to hundreds of devotees, the two of them made their way to Koonanjeri about a km East of Thiru Mandangudi.

After the procession Thondaradipodi made his way back to the temple at 6 p.m. along with his favourite Lord Ranganatha.

Quick Facts

Moolavar: Ranganatha facing East is seen in a standing posture

Goddess: Ranganayaki Thaayar

Utsavar: Varan Tharum Perumal

Azhwar: Thondaradipodi Azhwar is seen facing South.

Time: 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Contact: K.G. Giri Bhattar (90956 38765)

More on the temple

The temple is 10 km North East of Kapisthalam Divya Desam.

Innumerable mini buses are available from Papanasam (Adhanur bound).

And once there, devotees may also visit Pulla Bhoothangudi Divya Desam (one km east) and Adhanur Divya Desam (three km east).

Special Features

Mandangudi is the Avathara Sthalam of Thondaradipodi Azhwar.

Thondaradipodi composed Thirupalli Yezhuchi and Thiru Maalai verses.

Lord Ranganatha is seen in a standing posture, which is rare.

Thondaradipodi is seen with a flower basket at this temple.

The shrine is referred as ‘Thiru Mandangudi Azhwar’ temple.