Thousands of devotees witnessed the 'Vaikunta Ekadasi' festival at the Srirangam Sri Ranganathaswamy temple on Thursday and offered worship to Namperumal, the processional idol, during its procession from the sanctum sanctorum to the 1,000 pillar mandapam.
The 20-day festival is divided in to 'Pagal Paththu' and 'Raapaththu' each spread over ten days. The highlight is the 'Vaikunta Ekadasi' as it marks the opening of the holy 'Paramapada Vasal' at this shrine, popularly known as 'Boologa Vaikuntam.’
Every religious ritual was carried out in accordance with the 'lagnam'. The idol Namperumal, left the sanctum sanctorum at 3.30 am in the Virichiga lagnam. The 'Paramapada vasal' was opened at 4.30 am allowing in a sea of humanity into the temple, considered a purification ritual.
Hour- long holy procession
The festival marks the commencement of the Raapaththu and the devotees witnessed the hour-long procession with religious fervor, repeatedly glorifying 'Ranga' even while surging behind the idol.
Decorated with a gem-studded 'angi' (armour), the idol of Namperumal was taken in the 'Simhagadhi' denoting the courage of a lion as depicted in the 'Tholukkiniyan', a hymn of praise. The deity was taken through the Rajamahendran thiruchutru, Kulasekaran tiruchitru before reaching the Vrija Nadhi mandapam, a few meters ahead of the Paramapada vasal.
At the Vrija Nadhi Mandapam, vedic scholars and pandits recited the Vedas, marking the Lord's preparation to bless the devotees with salvation (Paramapadam) and eternal happiness. The other important rituals included the Namperumal idol entering tirukottagai.
The idol of Namperummal was then placed at the 1,000 pillar mandapam where thousands of devotees will be able to offer worship all through the day. The 'Araiyar sevai' was marked with the recital of ‘Uyarvara’ paasuram, Abhinayam, Viyagyanam Tiruvaimozhi.
While the 'Paramapada Vasal' remains open up to 10 p.m., devotees are allowed to worship the Lord Ranganathar in the 'Muthangi' (gem armour) sevai from 7 am to 6 pm.
S. Jayaraman, Joint Commissioner of the temple, said that the special gallery, set up this year near the Sri Dhanvanthiri shrine in front of the Paramapada vasal, benefited the elederly among the devotees.
About 500 passes were distributed to the senior citizens who witnessed Namperumal idol entering the Paramapada vasal from the gallery. The setting up of closed circuit television sets at the temple, relaying the holy procession and other rituals, allowed devoyees to witness the festival and reduced the crowd particularly near the 1,000 pillar mandapam.
Other arrangements also proved to be devotee-friendly. P. Dhanabal, Additional Commissioner of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department, said that the innovative steps taken this year would benefit the devotees.
Barring some confusion over identifying VVIPs, the arrangements for regulating the queues and other civic facilities were adequate. Confusion breifly prevailed in allowing the VVIPs, VIPs and other pass-holders at the entrance to the 'Vrija Nadhi Mandapam', which is almost the mid point of the route. A senior police official clarified that the deployment of police personnel and officials from outside the Tiruchi region resulted in confusion in identifying the regional VIPs.
E.Ma. Masanamuthu, Commissioner of Police, swiftly defused the situation allowing smooth passage of the procession between 'Mahendran Tiruchutru' and 'Paramapadavasal',