Panguni Uthiram and Serthi Utsavam at Srirangam were celebrated on a grand scale this past week.

Two historical events relating to Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam were re-enacted during the first week of Panguni. The first one related to the home coming of Ranganatha at Uraiyur and the second one, a few days later, related to the divine couple of Srirangam providing the Serthi Seva on the occasion of Panguni Uthiram.

On the sixth day of Aadhi Brahmotsavam and the second day of Panguni ( March 16), Namperumal, the processional deity of Lord Ranganatha, went on his seven-hour trip across the River Cauvery to meet his beloved Kamalavalli Nachiyar at Uraiyur.

The history of Uraiyur

Uraiyur was the first capital of the Chozhas and is also the birth place of Thiruppaan Azhwar, who composed 10 famous verses on Lord Ranganatha called ‘Amalanaathipiraan’ in which he showered the highest praise for the Lord of Srirangam.

Uraiyur relates to the celestial love story of young Kamalavalli and her wedlock with Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam.

Legend has it that, pleased with the prayers of Chola king Nanda Chozhan, who was childless, Lord Ranganatha asks Goddess Lakshmi to be born as the King’s daughter at Uraiyur and promises to marry her at an appropriate time. Being born out of the Lotus, she is named Kamalavalli. Time comes when the Chola King decides to get his daughter married and he readily agrees when he realises that Kamalavalli has fallen in love with Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam, the one who had blessed him with progeny. Giving in to the king’s prayers, the Lord agrees to marry Kamalavalli Nachiyar.

Delighted, Nanda Chozhan builds the temple at Uraiyur to celebrate the ‘Home Coming’ of Lord Ranganatha. This event is enacted every year during the Tamil month of Panguni when devotees can have darshan of Namperumal with Kamalavalli Nachiyar at the Uraiyur temple.

A unique feature of the temple is that this is the only Divyadesam, where the Goddess is facing the Northern direction, (in this case facing the Ranganatha temple, Srirangam, which is North of Uraiyur).

This year, after the celebrations at Uraiyur, Namperumal was taken back to Srirangam, across the River Cauvery, on March 17, at 1.30 a.m.

New ring for Ranganayaki

The episode leading to the buying of a new ring for Ranganayaki Thayar goes thus: Learning about the Lords’ trip to Uraiyur to meet Kamalvalli and presenting His ring to the Nachiyar, Ranganayaki Thayar fumes with anger.

On the occasion of Panguni Uthiram (the fifth day of Panguni), Namperumal decides to meet Ranganayaki Thayar at her sannidhi located on the Northern side of the Srirangam temple. To convince Ranganayaki, it is believed that, the Lord goes around the Chitra and Uthira streets to meet the devotees and collect money to buy a new ring for Thayar.

After over three hours, Namperumal reaches the Thayar Sannidhi. As if waiting for a chance, Ranganayaki shuts the door refusing Him entry into the Sannidhi. The Lord’s repeated attempts to move into the sannidhi fail. To top it all, He is even pelted with butter and fruits from the other side.

A war of words ensues between the two with the Lord trying his best to convince Thayar of his commitment to her. During the 90-minute debate, which was one of the biggest highlights of Panguni Uthiram festival, the Araiyars (led by Araiyar Sampath Kumar), represented Namperumal as the mediator between the Lord (waiting outside the entrance of the Thaayar Sannidhi) and Thayar.

After an intense debate, with Namperumal trying unsuccessfully to convince Thayar, Nammazhwar, who had been closely watching the drama, intervenes and advises the Goddess to accept the Lord once again. Immediately, accepting this directive, Ranganayaki relents – “Lord, I accept you as directed by Nammazhwar. Please come in.”

This heated debate between the two and the way it ends, with Thayar accepting the Lord again, showcases to the world the beautiful relationship between a husband and a wife.

Serthi Darshan

Following the debate, Namperumal enters the Thayar Sannidhi and for almost 10 hours, the divine couple give darshan to the devotees at the Serthi Mandapam. Thousands of devotees thronged the temple this year to worship the Serthi Darshan.

This is the only occasion in the year when Lord Ranganatha and Goddess Ranganayaki are seen together and hence this is a very sacred occasion. Belief is that a visit to the Srirangam temple on this day for the ‘Serthi Seva’ will relieve one of all sins.

‘Chinna Perumal’s night procession to Coloroon

As per the tradition at the Srirangam temple, ‘Chinna Perumal’ (Selvar), who is seen alongside the Moolavar deity, is taken out on a procession to the River Coloroon at 10.30 p.m. on the Panguni Uthiram night for Theerthavari. After vedic recital and distribution of sacred water at the Coloroon, Chinna Perumal joins Namperumal and Ranganayaki at the Serthi Mandapam around midnight.

Ramanuja’s compositions

It was on Panguni Uthiram, at the Serthi Mandapam, around 900 years ago that Ramanuja composed three great works of prose called ‘Gadhya Thraya.’ In the first verse called ‘Saranagathi Gadhya,’ a delighted Ramanuja on finding the divine couple together at the Serthi Mandapam approaches Ranganayaki Thayar, sings in praise of Her and seeks Her blessings to make Lord Ranganatha to accept his total surrender at his feet.

In the second composition called ‘Ranga Gadhya,’ he sings in praise of Lord Ranganatha and shares to the world the many virtues of the Lord.

In the third composition, called ‘Vaikunta Gadhya,’ Ramanuja in a glorious description brings to light the great things and the divine world of Vaikunta.

In memory of his contributions, thesethree compositions of Ramanuja was rendered in front of the Serthi Mandapam at 1a.m. on the Panguni Uthiram night.

On March 20, Araiyars rendered 16 verses in praise of Lord Ranganatha and Ranganayaki Thayar at the Serthi Mandapam. On the Panguni Uthiram night, Namperumal was adorned with 18 different alankarams.

At the end of the festivities, the Lord was taken out in a procession on a chariot though the four Uthira strets, before being taken back to his sanctum.

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Highlights of Panguni Festival

Namperumal makes his annual trip to Uraiyur Divyadesam across the River Cauvery.

Uraiyur is the Only DivyadDesam where Nachiyar is seen facing the North.

Panguni Uthiram is the only day in the year when the divine couple of Srirangam come together.

Debate between Namperumal and Ranganayaki Thayar is one of the highlights of the festival.

Ramanuja composed Gadhya Thraya on Panguni Uthiram in front of the Serthi Mandapam.