Au Revoir Athi Varada! Bidding farewell to the Lord for the next 40 years

A view of the Sri Varadaraja Swamy tank in Kanchipuram

A view of the Sri Varadaraja Swamy tank in Kanchipuram   | Photo Credit: B_JOTHI RAMALINGAM

There are many hymns praising the grace and benevolence of the deity, who will return to His resting place tomorrow

Srinidhim nidhim aparam arthinam artitharta paridana Dhikshitham

Sarva bhuta suhrutam dhayanidhim Devarajam adhirajam ashraye

(I worship Srinidhi Devaraja, who bestows His grace on all devotees and stands out as the Merciful Lord — Koorathazhwan Varadarajasthavam - 2)

It was a late evening. Thirukachi Nambigal was doing Thiruvalavattu kainkaryam. Suddenly there was a big sound indicating the jamming of a door. The Lord asks Nambigal about the sound when the temple gates were not closed. Nambigal tells the Lord that Koorathazhwan was shutting the big door of his golden palace 15 km away for the night. The Lord was amazed and asks Nambigal whether Azhwan was richer than Him to have such big golden gates. The conversation was duly reported to Azhwan by Nambigal. Azhwan was astonished. “Not for me this wealth which attracted the attention of Lord Athi Varada Himself.” He renounced the wealth, took leave of the Lord and hastened with his wife Andal to Srirangam to be with Ramanuja. The rest is history.

Remember Ramanuja took leave of Athi Varadar to proceed to Srirangam to succeed Sri Alavandar. The Kachivaithaan mandapam at the Athigiri shrine raises nostalgic memories. Those who return after worshipping the Lord will prostrate before descending from the Hills. This was the place where Ramanuja was conducting discourses. The descent from the Hills will be only through one particular way. The steps meant for descent from the Hills are not used by devotees. This was the place where Nadathur Ammal was known to have presented lectures on Visishtadvaita philosophy. Even today devotees will not put their feet on those steps as a mark of respect. The title Ammal was given by Athiyooran. Nadathur Swami took maternal care of the Lord while offering warm milk at night to the Lord. Athigiri Varada called him out and said, “Amma - the milk is not very hot. You have shown the concern of a mother.”


The Dasami Mala adorns Athigiri Varada during the Pagal pathu - Ra pathu festivals, the day before Vaikunta Ekadasi. The whole Hasthigiri will emanate sweet fragrance. Lord Athi Varada is adorned with huge garlands known as Dasami mala. The next morning, on Vaikunta Ekadasi day, Thirumangai Azhwar’s Peria Thirumozhi is concluded before the Dasami Mala ceases to adorn the Lord. Though there is no Paramapada Vasal, Vaikunta Ekadasi attracts huge crowds and marks the beginning of Nammazhwar’s Thiruvaimozhi.

Thirumangai Azhwar is very dear to Athi Varadar. He derived inspiration from Nammazhwar. A unique feature of the temple is the Nammazhwar shrine. Unlike other places, in Kanchi, Nammazhwar is shown as pointing his fingers to his chest - ‘Thuyar Aru Sudar Adi (Kanchi) Thozhudhu Ezhu En Manane.’ (Thiruppolindha Sevadi - Thiruvarangam, Poovar Kazhalkal- Thiruvengadam). Nammazhwar was consecrated by Thirumangai Azhwar at Kanchi.

Sri PBA Swami opines that the first paasuram of Thiruvaimozhi indicates Lord Athi Varadar — Ayarvarum Amararkal Athipathi — is the Lord of Hasthigiri. The Lord will be pleased only when the sufferings of the devotees end — Para Dukka Dukhi. The Lord ensures dukka nivrutti. Azhwar addresses his heart and wants to worship Sri Hasthisaila Sigarothjvla Parijatha.

Athi Varadar: the idol that emerges every 40 years

The same way the first pasuram of Thiruviruttam – “poi nindra gnalamum” is addressed to “Imaiyor Thalaiva” (Devaraja). The Divya Prabandha Goshti, on the Garudotsavam day inside the temple on Vaikasi Visakham day, chant this pasuram in chorus. It will be an emotional rendering by the adhyapakas.

Thirumangai Azhwar owes everything to Athigiri Arulalan. The Lord showed him the wealth at the Vegavathi river to discharge the debts to the Treasury. He calls the Lord ‘Varam Tharum Ma Manivannan.’ He had designated himself as Aalinadan, Arulmari, Arattamukki, Mangaiventhan, Parakaalan and Kaliyan. But a special name is added by him for himself — Yen nenjagam koil konda Perarulalan perumai pesa katravan kamaru seer Kaliyan. After singing the praise of all the deities in Kanchi he refers to Athigiri Arulala as ‘Ennai Manam Kavarndha Eesanai, Vanavar tham munnavanai,’ in Periya Thirumadal. This Thirumadal is chanted when the Lord goes for Rathotsavam at a hectic pace.

The question is often posed why the Azhwars did not refer to Athigiri Varada the same way as they refer to Aranga and Thiruvengadathan. Scholars explain that the relationship between Azhwar and Athigiri Varada is that of a kula stree who will never name her lord.

Nadhamunigal prays to Athigiri Arulala:

Vegavathuthare dheere Punyakotyam Hari swayam

Varadas sarvabhutaanam athyapi paridruishyathe

Athi Varadar is as old as Tamil literature. Perundevanar who wrote Mahabharata in Tamil more than 2,000 years ago has referred to Athigiri Arulala.

Nearly one crore of people waiting in five line queues for hours together in the hot sun for a fleeting glimpse of the Lord Athi Varada in the past 48 days should evoke admiration — for them Athi Varada was ‘unnum soru, paragum neer and thinnum vethilai.’ He had completely captured the mind and heart of the devotees. (Ennaiyum engal kudi muzhudhum aatkonda Mannan - Periyazhwar Thirumozhi). They were like Sadagopa who declared Chinthaiyalum, sollalum seigainalum Devabiranaiyae thanthai thai yendradaintha vankurugur Sadagopan. It is only because of the dust of these devotees that the world gets His Grace — Paadha thuli paduthalal ivvulagam bhagyam seythadhe — Periyazhwar Thirumozhi. What would have been in their mind when they worship. The Lord would have certainly blessed them for Punar Darsanam in 2059.


It is apt that there was Aani Garudotsavam at the beginning of the 48-day festival and concludes with Gajendra Moksham, Aadi Garudan.

Athigiri Varada retires to Ananthasaras and will be in Ekantha Kolam. The tank has never dried up. There are three natural springs — Varada ootru, Varaha Theertham and Sakkarai Theertham. From His peaceful resting place, Athigiri Varadar will certainly shower His choicest blessings on all devotees who think of Him.

We will all await His return 40 years later.

Pahimam Varada Prabho

Akaaratraya sampannaam aravinda nivaasineem

asEshajagadeeshatreem vandhe varadavallabhaam

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 1:15:27 PM |

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