Singing paeans to Lord Rama

Both the temple in Needamangalam and the song on the deity are special

July 12, 2018 04:31 pm | Updated 04:31 pm IST

“Ramo Vigrahavaan Dharmah” — Lord Rama, the embodiment of righteousness and the Ultimate deity whose infinite excellences remains the eternal source of spiritual strength for generations of devotees. ‘Yatra Ramo atra bhayam na asti’ — where Rama is, there is no fear — such is the efficacy of the Rama Nama.

TIRUCHI,TAMIL NADU, 09/07/2018: Sri Santhanaramaswamy Temple in Needamangalam, Tiruvarur, district in Tamil Nadu.
Photo: M. Srinath

TIRUCHI,TAMIL NADU, 09/07/2018: Sri Santhanaramaswamy Temple in Needamangalam, Tiruvarur, district in Tamil Nadu. Photo: M. Srinath

Among the Trinity of Carnatic Music, Saint Tyagaraja sang of Rama’s glory in hundreds of songs. Muthuswami Dikshitar, who propitiated many deities in his majestic songs, also sang the praise of Rama, ‘Satyasandha,’ whose Dharma of life was Truth. While another of Dikshitar’s marvellous composition, ‘Sri Ramam Ravikulabdhi Somam’ in Narayanagowla is a unique piece, no less is the grandeur of his kriti, ‘Santana Ramaswaminam’ in Hindola Vasantam sung in praise of the deity enshrined at Yamunambapuram (Needamangalam), a small town in the present Tiruvarur district. This kriti is special because this is the only piece that gives the crucial link to the existence of this rare temple, where the deity is said to bless childless devotees, who pray here.

TIRUCHI,TAMIL NADU, 09/07/2018: Sri Santhanaramaswamy Temple in Needamangalam, Tiruvarur, district in Tamil Nadu.
Photo: M. Srinath

TIRUCHI,TAMIL NADU, 09/07/2018: Sri Santhanaramaswamy Temple in Needamangalam, Tiruvarur, district in Tamil Nadu. Photo: M. Srinath

Dikshitar, who is known for tracing temple history through the Murti-Sthala-Tirtha concept, addresses the Lord as blessing childless couples (Santana Soubhagya Vitaranam). Further the composer beautifully sports with the terms like — “Santatam Yamunambapuri (named after the Queen of Pratapasimha) niva santam ” (living always in Yamunambapura), nata santam ” (worshipped by the God), Hindola Va santam ” (the Raga mudra) and so on, to make it an exquisite Prasasti of the “Dharmatma.”

Dikshitar worships Rama, the embodiment of “Sat-Chit-Ananda” in a parallel description of Him as ‘Saguna-Nirguna Svaroopa’ and glorifies Him as the Endless Lord (Anantam), as the Remover (apaham) of falsehood (anrutam), jada (lifeless) and duhkha (miseries), showing the two-fold path to the Ultimate Release (Jeevanmukti) through the mesmerising sahityam of “Santana Ramaswaminam.”

TIRUCHI,TAMIL NADU, 09/07/2018: Sri Santhanaramaswamy Temple in Needamangalam, Tiruvarur, district in Tamil Nadu.
Photo: M. Srinath

TIRUCHI,TAMIL NADU, 09/07/2018: Sri Santhanaramaswamy Temple in Needamangalam, Tiruvarur, district in Tamil Nadu. Photo: M. Srinath

An interesting aside for the grammar-oriented: according to veteran musician Prof. B. Krishnamurti, the composer authenticates the employment of Suddhadaivatam in the kriti for Hindolavasantam just as in the kriti ‘Raa Raa Sita’ of Saint Tyagaraja.

A visit to the temple, after a long wait and search, was an elevating experience. This small town was earlier known as Neeraaduvaarmangalam in connection with the bathing episode of Yamunamba, Queen of King Pratapa Simha, in the Saketa (named after Ayodhya) Pushkarini at the temple. The royals were duly blessed with a child.

This temple has a Utsavamurti of Lord Rama seen with Sita and Lakshmana, as beautiful as the other renowned murtis of Rama in Vaduvur, Tillai Vilagam and Madhurantakam. In the background, the Silamurti of the three deities can be seen.

TIRUCHI,TAMIL NADU, 09/07/2018: Sri Santhanaramaswamy Temple in Needamangalam, Tiruvarur, district in Tamil Nadu.
Photo: M. Srinath

TIRUCHI,TAMIL NADU, 09/07/2018: Sri Santhanaramaswamy Temple in Needamangalam, Tiruvarur, district in Tamil Nadu. Photo: M. Srinath

According to temple history, the town was named after Yamunamba, by King Pratapa Simha, of the Maratha dynasty at Thanjavur, whose rule was known for its prosperity, spiritual atmosphere and artistic achievements. The temple was built by the king in 1761 and it is not one among the 108 Divyadesa kshetrams. Waters of the Vennaru and the Korayaru surround the temple on the three sides. Saketa Pushkarini, is in front of the temple, which has a spacious Prakara where Vishnu Durga and Ganesa are enshrined. Rama Navami is celebrated in an elaborate manner at this temple.

The temple has Trayanka Vimana and the Archaamurti is in a standing posture. The face of the Utsavamurti glows with compassion; Anjaneyamurti has a separate shrine and Garuda Azhwar awaits the Lord’s command with folded hands. It is said that Udayavar, Nigamanta Desikan, Nammazhwar and Tirumangai Azhwar are worshipped here. On the occasion of Rohini and Revati stars, bathing in the holy tank and cradling the Santanagopalamurti idol in the Garbhagruha are believed to bring auspicious results for childless couples.

Rama Navami is celebrated in an elaborate manner at this temple. This is one of the lesser-known temples in the South, the beauty and importance of which has been amazingly captured by Muthuswami Dikshitar in his immortal composition “Santana Ramaswaminam.”

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