Devotees thronged to witness the once-in-a-year Garuda sevai utsavam, which took place at Srivilliputhur, on July 19.

The entire temple town of Srivilliputhur wore a festive look on Thursday last, ahead of the once-in-a-year ‘Five Garuda Sevai’ procession at the Vadapatrasayee Divyadesam on the occasion of the fifth day of the Aadi utsavam.

One of the five deities, Thiru Thangal Appan, the utsava deity of Nindra Narayana Divyadesam at Thiru Thangal, about 25 km east of Srivilliputhur, started his long trip a day earlier, on Wednesday (July 18), heading towards Srivilliputhur through Sivakasi, with the aim of reaching the place in the evening.

Unique feature

A unique feature of Thiru Thangal Divyadesam is that Garuda, adorned with jewellery, is seen along with his traditional enemy, ‘The Serpent Lord – Adisesha.’ The other highlight is that the marriage between Krishna’s grandson, Anirudh, and Banasura’s daughter, Usha, took place here.

By 10 a.m., on Thursday morning, Periyazhwar made his way to the eastern entrance of the Andal Temple to receive each of the five Lords for Mangalasasanam.

Vadapatrasayee Periya Perumal, utsava deity of Srivilliputhur Divyadesam, was received with Periazhwar’s ‘Parupathathuk Kayal Poriththa…,’ Sundararaja Perumal of Kaatazhagar Temple and Srinivasa Perumal of Tiruvannamalai were received with Nachiyar Thirumozhi verses.

Past noon, Thiru Thangal Appan made his way on a specially decorated palanquin from east of Srivilliputhur, where he had stayed the previous night. Periyazhwar received him with Thiru Mangai’s Periya Thirumozhi verse. Each of them, in a thanking gesture, presented their garland and parivattam to Periyazhwar. The event ended with ‘Goshti’ after the arrival of Rangamannar and Andal. After Thirumanjanam, it was time for the much-awaited event of the day.

Five Garuda Sevai

Beginning at 7 p.m., each of the deities and Periyazhwar prepared themselves for special alankaram. They were decked up with floral garlands and jewels. At 11 in the night, Periyazhwar, on Anna Pakshi Vahanam, led the procession from the eastern entrance of the Andal temple to the Mada Street, followed by Vadapatrasayee Periya Perumal, Sundararaja Perumal, Srinivasa Perumal, Rangamannar and Thiru Thangal Appan each mounted on Garuda Vahanam. They were joined by Andal on Anna Pakshi Vahanam.

Periyazhwar provided ‘Ethir Sevai’ as he proceeded around the four Mada Streets and the four Ratha Streets facing the deities that followed him.

After returning to the temple the next day, Andal handed over her garland to Thiru Thangal Appan who on receiving it bid adieu and headed back to Thiru Thangal bringing to an end the grand ‘Five Garuda Sevai utsavam.’

While Andal’s garland is sent to Kallazhagar (of Thiru Maaliruncholai Divyadesam) on the occasion of Chithirai Festival in Madurai, to Srinivasa Perumal on the occasion of Purattasi Brahmotsavam in Tirupati and to Vadapatrasayee every morning at Srivilliputhur, this is the only occasion where a Divyadesam Lord comes and personally receives the garland worn by Andal.

Periazhwar’s Thiru Pallandu

Legend has it that Srivilliputhur was built by Villi and Puttan and hence the name Villiputhur. Later, after the birth of Andal, Villiputhur became ‘Sri-Villiputhur.’

Pandya king Vallabhadevan wanting to know who was the deity that was bestowed with the power to lead one to Paramapatham. He sought a solution from Periyazhwar, who was brought to the court of the Pandya king in Madurai.

With several examples from Vedic scriptures as well as historical references, Periyazhwar told the Pandya king that it was Lord Vishnu who could take one to the heavenly abode.

A delighted Pandya king was impressed with the explanation given by Periyazhwar and conferred on him the title, ‘Vishnu Chittar.’ And so pleased was the king that he took Periyazhwar on an elephant through the streets of Madurai.

It is believed that Koodal Azhagar, along with the Goddess, came to witness this on his Garuda Vahanam. A surprised Periyazhwar instantly showered praises on Koodal Azhagar with his ‘Pallaandu.’ He composed hundreds of verses of praise including those that feature as the first 12 songs of the Divya Prabhandham called Thiru Pallaandu.

As Garuda brought Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam to Srivilliputhur for the marriage festivities faster than was expected, he was accorded a special status here and is seen alongside Rangamannar and Andal.

The abodes of the deities of Srivilliputhur Divyadesam

Srivilliputhur is 70 km south-west of Madurai. Bus service is available from Madurai every 15 minutes.

Those who wish to travel by train may take the Chennai-Shengottai Podhigai Express (20.05 dep.) to reach Srivilliputhur the next day at around 7 a.m.

Taxi journey from Madurai to Srivilliputhur will cost around Rs. 1,000.

Kaatazhagar Sundararaja Perumal: Located 10 km west of Srivilliputhur on the Western Ghats amidst elephants and wild boars. One has to walk about five km through a dense forest to reach the temple.

Devotees can go only with temple authorities.

Tiruvannamalai Srinivasa Perumal: Located about five km north of Srivilliputhur Temple in the backdrop of the Western Ghats.

One has to climb about 150 steps to reach the shrine. The Lord is a Sthaanagar Veerar without a utsava deity and consorts.

Srinivasa Perumal stayed back here atop the hill after hearing the news of Andal’s marriage with Rangamannar.

Quick Facts

Avathara Sthalam: two Azhwars - Periyazhwar and Andal

Temple Time: 6.30 a.m.-12 noon and 4-9 p.m.

Contact: 96775 46173/94425 47533/94438 67345.

Highlights of the Garuda sevai utsavam

Thiru Thangal Appan makes his annual trip to Srivilliputhur in the month of ‘Aadi.’

Periazhwar praises each of the five Lords with Prabhandham verses.

Periazhwar provides ‘Ethir Sevai’ through the night to all the five deities as part of the Garuda Seva procession.

This is the only occasion where Thiru Thangal Appan, a Divyadesam Lord, comes and personally receives the sacred garland worn by Andal.

Interesting facts

Araiyar Srinivasarangachariar has presented Araiyar Sevai at Srivilliputhur Divyadesam for 70 years. Srivilliputhur is in fact one of the three Divyadesams, where Araiyar Sevai is still performed.

Srivilliputhur Divyadesam temple tower has been the official symbol of the Tamil Nadu State Government.

Villiputhur became ‘Sri’ Villiputhur after Andal’s birth.

The nine-tier temple chariot is one of the biggest among the Divyadesams.

Special features of Srivilliputhur Divyadesam

Garuda seen standing alongside Rangamannar and Andal.

The temple tower is 192 ft, second nd only tallest after Srirangam’s Rajagopuram (236 ft), among Divyadesams.

Varnakala Idol, Vadapatrasayee is seen in a Bhoga Sayanam posture.

Sixty inscriptions inside the temple dating back to 1,000 years indicate the various donations made to the temple in the centuries gone by.

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