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A chronicle of Sreerangam temple during the last milennium

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Life is a dream
Staff member
I. The advent of Raamaanuja in Srirangam:
(c.1040 A.D.)
We begin our account from the period immediately after the arrival of the vaishnava saint, Raamaanuja, in Srirangam after the demise of AaLavandaar in 1040 A.D.
Accompanied by Periyanambi Raamaanuja offered worship at the sanctum sanctorum and occupied the Cheran mutt which was located at the first house in the eastern half of the North Uttra Street . Assisted by Aalvaan (Kurattaalvaan) and AanDaan( Mudali AanDaan), Raamaanuja took over the temple administration. But soon he went away to TiruveLLaRai since he met with resistance from the priests and servants who even tried to poison him. TiruvarangapperumaaL arayar, the scion of saint Naathamuni, went and brought him back to Srirangam after two years. Raamaanuja renovated the shrine of Dhanvntari and let it be in the care of GaruDa vaahana panDitar. We learn that GaruDavahana panDita was the 74th in the family of Uttamanambis who descended from Periyaazhvaar and was in charge of the temple affairs at that time. He was also a physician and authored a kaavya called Divyasuricaritam. From then onwards medicinal decoction and milk were offered from the Dhanvantari temple to the Lord every night before the temple was closed.
This practice continues till today.

Next Raamaanuja decided to re-establish the paancharaatra aagama and hence expelled the vaikhaanasa priests who had taken control of the temple.

From time immemorial there existed a fivefold division of the temple retinue viz.
the kovaNavar, the koDavar, the koDuvaal eDuppaar, the paaDuvar and the tazhai iDuvaar.
Raamaanuja expanded these groups into ten and called them Pattukkottu.They were:

1. Tiruppatiyaar, who were pilgrims and others who had attached themselves to him by accepting him as their preceptor.

2. TiruppaNiseyvaar, who were descendents, numbering five, of the kodavar, Tiruttaalvarai daasar. They were given the names: Tirukkurukoor daasar, NaalukavipperumaaL daasar,
SaTakopa daasar, TirukkalikanRi daasar and Raamaanuja daasar, after their preceptors.

3. Bhaagavatarnambis, who were a newly created group of devotees.

4. ULLooraar or TodavattittuimaRaiyaar, who were priests.

5. ViNNappamseyvaar, to which category belonged the temple singer, Naathamuni Arayar and others.

6. Tirukkarakakkaiyaar, who carried the holy water pots.

7. Sthaanattaar, who originally belonged to the group of talaiyiduvaar and included Senainaatha brahmaraayar, Veerasundara brahmaraayar, Jagannatha brahmaraayar and others.

8. BhaTTaLkottu, who were to recite daily from the sacred texts in the sanctum sanctorum and included Periyanambi, the TiruppaNi seyvaar, Aazhvaan, Govindapperumaal, Aachaan, Tiruvarangattamudanaar, PiLLaan, SiRiyaalvaan and NaDaadoor ammaaL. They were to recite from the Rgveda, the Yajurveda, the Saamaveda, the AtharvaNaveda, the puraaNas, the itihaasas, the Sreerangamahatmya, the Naalaayirap pirapantam, the Purvottara mimaamsaa sutra, the AaSvalaayana sutra and the Sribhaashya.

9. AaryabhaTTaal.

10. DaSanambis.

Raamaanuja became their chief, called Senaapati durandhara. In this capacity he organized the Adhyayana utsavam in the form of a drama in which he, along with Aazhvaan and AanDaan, played the roles of Brahma, Siva and Indra respectively. Embaar and others represented the other gods. This practice continues till today with the Jeeyar, BhaTTar and Vaadula deSikar prostrating before lord Ranganaatha at the western flight of steps and reciting the verses of Nammaalvaar in which Brahma, Siva and Indra acknowledge the overlordship of Vishnu. The priests, Uttamanambi and Sthaanikas represented the celestial attendants of the Lord in Vaikuntham. The Jeeyar, BhaTTar and VaaduladeSikar took the roles of Brahma and his subordinates who dwell in the region between Satyaloka and Bhuvarloka. All the other SreevaishNavas were asked to represent the celestials on earth. They received honours such as holy water at the four pillared mandapam adjoining the treasury. The progress of the liberated soul towards Vaikuntha was also enacted likewise during the ten days and ten nights of the festival. Raamaanuja also took an active part in the Arayar sevai during the festival. After his return from Melkote, he installed the Aazhvaars in Srirangam and conducted the festival in their presence.
The code of regulations laid down Raamaanuja was strictly followed for about two centuries until the muslim occupation of the temple town. It collapsed completely when the vijayanagar chieftains assumed direct control of the temple adminstration and appointed their own officers in charge of the various departments. An inscription of MaaRavarman SundarapaanDya I dated 1225 A.D. refers to the dereliction of the heads of the pattukkottu (ten groups) who were in league with the ODDas and narrates how they were dismissed after an enquiry by the devotees of Raamaanuja. They instituted a committee of SreevaisNavas in their place by election and an inscription of Kulottunga I refers to this committee.
Raamaanuja then visited many sacred shrines and brought many kings and scholars into the srivaisnava fold. He was blessed with the title of Bhaashyakaarar by goddess Sarasvati of the SaaradaapiTham and KoilaNNan by AanDaL. He recited the Sreebhaashya in the presence of the Lord at Srirangam and then sent it to Sringeri through his nephew, NaDaadur AmmaaL and got the approval of Sarasvati to recite the Sreebhashyam after the Geetabhaashyam during the vedic recitation thenceforth.
Raamaanuja also named the sons of Aazhvaan after sage ParaaSara and
SreeraamapiLLai, the father of Aalvaan. It was at this time that he had to flee from Srirangam due to the persecution by the ChoLa king. He went to TirunaaraayaNapuram (Melkote) where he installed the idol of CelvapiLLai. He returned to Srirangam after twelve years, when the ChoLa king died and his son was installed as king. On his way he established Govindaraaja of Chidambaram at Tiruppati and visited Tirumaaliruncolai. He finally appointed KandaaDai aanDaan and ParaaSara BhaTTar to look after the interests of Lord Ranganaatha and the VaishNava canon, before leaving the world.
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