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A school for hymns

MARGAZHI, A Tamil month, is generally identified with beautiful eye-catching kolams, hymns played in temples and houses, etc. These hymns are also recited during bhajans by devotees, who go round in their areas, according to a traditional practice called Unjavirthi, during this month.

While they can learn these songs from their elders and ancestors, there is an institution, Thiruppavai Thiruvembavai Isai Palli, in the city functioning on the premises of the Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple located on South Adi Street training people in singing these songs.

Teaching recital of devotional songs and spreading spirituality, thereby working for the welfare of the womenfolk, are the main activities of this institution, which is in its golden jubilee this year.

The Palli, which has been their mission, has produced more than 40000 students so far. The successful candidates are now rendering the service in different parts of the state, nation and the world.

Started on the advice of Kanchi Chandrasekarendra Saraswathi Swamigal, by Rajammal Sundararajan, with just 10 students on the premises of the temple, today it is serving over 70 students on normal days. This number swells manifold during `Margazhi'.

"In fact our activities gain momentum during Margazhi. We conduct `vilakku puja' during this season every year. This year being our golden jubilee, we plan to have a mega 10008-vilakku puja on December 14, in Tamukkam grounds", says Visalakshi, president of the Palli and daughter of late Rajammal.

"So far we have done `vilakku pujas' in nearly 8000 temples across the country from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. In the city alone we have covered over 300 temples", she says.

"Yet another important programme celebrated by the institution is the Navaratri festival. Various programmes are conducted on all 10 days, including latcharchana, pujas, bhajans, etc. Many other festivals, meant especially for women, are also celebrated with great fervour", according to Ms. Visalakshi.

About the golden jubilee celebrations, she says, "subsequent to the 10008 vilakku puja, there is a month-long programme which will feature bhajans, vocal recital, competition for school students on different topics, etc. For the puja, the participant women have to bring a vilakku, plate, spoon, and a plate. The puja materials will be given by the organisers themselves."

A school for hymns

Classes are conducted from 6 p.m. to 7.30 p.m. daily and only girls and women can join the Palli.

"Basic knowledge in singing is preferable, but not a must. There is no age limit for joining the classes. Certificates will be given after a competition, which is held in May every year", says the president.

"The members associate themselves with services like `uzhavara pani', donate clothes and food to the poor and deserving students of various schools", she says adding, "we have extended our services beyond our premises to rural areas also. Classes are conducted at the Othakadai Narasingaperumal temple for children of nearby hamlets".

Recognising the services of Ms. Visalakshi, who has devoted her life to the promotion of the Palli, many NGOs have conferred her with several titles such as Tiruvilakkin Selvi, Tirupavai Ratna, the best achiever award, etc.

"But the best honour was the Shatkonam, which was given to me by the Kanchi Chandrasekarendra Saraswathi Swamigal, she feels.

"The institution plans to build a Dhyana Mandapam, to serve the needs of everyone. We are looking for a site somewhere near Alagarkoil", says Visalakshi.

M.R.ARAVINDAN

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