Category Archives: Lord venkateshwara

Venkatadri Swami & the Lord’s Diamond Crown!

Alluri Venkatadri Swami (1806-1877) was born to a pious couple in Alluru in Andhra Pradesh. He was devoted to Lord Narasimha of Alluru. He obtained mantra deeksha from his Guru, Narasimha Dasa and took to Hari Nama Sankeerthana. Venkatadri Swami travelled to many pilgrim centres and temples and offered his services to the various Deities in the form of keerthanas – Naadopaasana. At Bhadrachala, along with sangeeta seva, he completed one crore Rama Nama and had the divine vision of the Lord. He then travelled to Tirumala and offered his services to Lord Venkateswara. 

Sriranganatha, Srirangam, Kanchi, Namperumal, Vaikunta Ekadashi, Lord Venkateshwara, Ranganatha,
Alluri Venkatadri Swami

From Tirumala, Venkatadri Swami reached Kanchipuram and stayed in a room on the banks of the Brahmateertha pond which is even today known as “Venkatadri room”. Lord Varadaraja of Kanchi would physically be present to enjoy the beautiful keerthanas while an overwhelmed Venkatadri Swami sang for him! Venkatadri Swami was different from other renunciates. He accepted donations from devotees and utilised it completely for the Lord’s daily seva. He contributed to renovation and construction works related to various temples. Inscriptions are available for the same in the temples. Along with Veda-abhyas program for children, he started various seva projects and to make sure that all the projects continued without any hindrance, he set up a permanent charity and bought dry and wet lands to generate revenue for the same.

One day, Lord Varadaraja appeared in Venkatadri’s dream and asked for a diamond crown for himself! In search of resources, Venkatadri Swami came to Chennai. Amidst hardships, he reached the famous Sri Parthasarathi temple in Triplicane and sang, “Parthasarathi pada bhajana cheyave manasa (O mind! sing the glories of Lord Parthasarathi)”. By Lord’s Grace, the devoted people volunteered and contributed for the diamond crown. The beautiful diamond crown was completed in time. The devotees carried the crown in a procession through the streets of Chennai, accompanied by umbrella (chhatra), dhwaja (flag) and sangeeta (music). The crown reached Kanchi Sri Varadaraja temple. On the Vaishaka full-moon day, during the Garuda Seva, the Lord (utsava murthi) was adorned with the crown which came to be known as “Venkatadri Crown!” An overwhelmed Venkatadri Swami poured out his devotion to Lord Varadaraja in the form of beautiful keerthanas. Even today, on special occasions the Lord’s utsava murthi is adorned with the “Venkatadri Crown”. He then proceeded to make crowns studded with diamonds and other precious gems for the Lord’s consorts, Sridevi and Bhudevi. 

At the behest of the Lord’s divine will, Venkatadri Swami had a precious crown made for the utsava murthi (known as Namperumal) of Srirangam to replace the old damaged Pandian Crown. Unaware of the actual measurements, a model crown was made, and yet the crown fitted the deity perfectly! It is said that Lord Ranganatha Himself provided the measurements for His crown! The diamond crown needed a ONE INCH SQUARE EMERALD for completion. Not knowing what to do, Venkatadri Swami invoked the Lord to show him the way. The Lord appeared in his dream and told him that the required emerald was available with a diamond merchant, Madhav Seth in Kolkata. When the merchant was approached, he cheated them by providing an ordinary green stone. However the Lord forewarned and the merchant was confronted. Finally, the real and big emerald was obtained and the Pandian Crown was completed. The Utsava murthi, Namperumal was adorned with the new Pandian Kondai (Crown) on Margashirsha Vaikunta Ekadashi day!

Pandian Crown with the green emerald

Sri Azhagiya Manavala Jeeyar of Kanchi initiated Venkatadri Swami into the Pancha Samskaras of the Sri Vaishnava tradition. Later on, he was initiated into the sanyas order by Sri Ranga Narayana Jeeyar and came to be known as Thiru Venkata Ramanuja Jeeyar. Venkatadri Swami was well known for his socio-religious services. In recognition of his seva, apart from scholars, high-ranking officials and businessmen, the then Governor of Chennai, Lord Francis Napier also came to Srirangam and paid his respects to Venkatadri Swami. 
In 1877, Venkatadri Swami left his mortal body and attained to the Lord’s feet. His memorial is situated on the banks of the river Kaveri. Venkatadri Swami was a great Composer-Musician-Saint as well as a Karma Yogi. His compositions are simple yet profound in their message. None of his keerthanas which are overflowing with devotion carry his signature-name which speaks of his extreme humility and dispassion. Various Bhajan Mandali-s have been carrying forward his rich musical legacy even to this day.

Om Namo Narayanaya!

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Lord Venkateshwara and Karpura on His Chin!

Sri Ramanujacharya, the great exponent of Vishishtadvaita Philosophy entrusted Anantalwar, one of his disciples, with “pushpa kainkaryam” – offering of flowers as a seva daily to Lord Venkateswara at Tirumala. Anantalwar happily accepted and settled down in Tirumala along with his wife. Every day he would collect various types of flowers, make a beautiful garland and offer it to the Lord. Since it was not an easy task collecting the flowers in the hilly area, he decided to cultivate a flower garden. He first decided to dig a well as water-resource for the garden. Considering this as his seva to the Lord, Anantalwar took a vow that he and his wife alone would engage themselves in this task, and would not take the help of any other person. 
Anantalwar started digging the soil, loosening it and filling it into a basket. His wife carried the basket of soil a little distance downhill to empty it. She was pregnant and walking downhill and uphill was not easy for her. Nevertheless, she cheerfully participated in the seva. One day, as Anantalwar was digging the soil, a boy of about twelve years of age came along and offered his help. Alwar politely refused, but the boy insisted. Angrily, Anantalwar asked him to go away and not disturb him. 

The boy went away from there but approached Anantalwar’s wife. He offered his help to her. Not knowing her husband’s vow, she readily agreed. The boy made sure that Anantalwar did not see him helping the lady. After some time, strangely, Anantalwar noticed that his wife was coming back faster to collect the soil! Was she walking too fast? That was not possible. Was someone helping her? He decided to check. As she carried the basket of soil, Anantalwar followed her unnoticed. To his utter dismay, he saw the boy whom he had sent away helping his wife in carrying and disposing the soil.

Anantalwar was furious. This adamant boy had disrupted his tapas. Seeing the angry Anantalwar, the boy started running away. He kept turning back to see if Anantalwar was following him. Sure, Anantalwar ran behind him, but could not catch him. In a fit of rage, he hurled the crowbar which was in his hand at the boy. It struck the boy’s chin. Anantalwar tried to catch him, but he disappeared. 

Next day, when Anantalwar went to the temple, the priests pointed out the Lord’s idol to him. Anantalwar saw the chin of the Lord badly bruised and bleeding. He was shocked. He now realised that the boy who had come to help him and his wife was none other than the Lord himself. The bleeding had to be checked. He looked around and saw “pacha karpura” (edible camphor) in the sanctum. He took a handful of the karpura and applied it to the Lord’s chin. Miracle of miracles! The bleeding stopped. Anantalwar was overwhelmed at the Lord’s grace and compassion and prayed to Lord Venkateswara for forgiveness. The Lord appeared before him. Acknowledging the devotee’s love, the Lord declared that in future, every day, as a part of his alankara, His chin should be adorned with karpura and without it, His alankara would be incomplete!

Since then, Lord Venkateswara’s chin is daily adorned with karpura to remind everyone of His great devotee, Anantalwar. The karpura is later distributed as “prasad”. The crowbar which Anantalwar used can be seen displayed on the wall on the right side as one enters the main entrance of Lord Venkateswara’s temple at Tirumala.

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Akasha Ganga of Tirumala!

Tirumala Nambi was a great devotee of Lord Venkateswara. He was also known as Sri Sailapurna. He was highly learned in all the scriptures and was one of the Gurus of Sri Ramanujacharya, apart from being his maternal uncle. It was he who introduced the Ramayana and elaborated the concept of “sharanagati” (surrender) to Ramanujacharya. 
He offered his services to the Lord of the seven hills by bringing water every day from Pushkarini which is about eight kilometres down the hills for the Lord’s abhisheka. Even though he was quite old, regardless of that, every day all alone he would trek down the forest without any fear of wild animals and carry a pitcher of water for the abhisheka. The seva is known as “teertha kainkaryam“. The Lord was happy with his unique and devoted service and decided to bless and help him. 

One day when Nambi was carrying water from Pushkarini up the hill, the Lord came to him in the guise of a hunter-boy. The boy stopped Nambi enroute and said, “Thatha (grandpa) I am very thirsty, please give me some water to drink”. Nambi was struck by the charm of the boy but politely refused to give him water. He said that he was carrying water for the Lord’s abhisheka daily without any break and he did not want any hurdles to the seva. Also Nambi told the boy that if he gave him water he would have to go down all the way to collect it again and that was not possible because he was too old. On the other hand, the boy was young enough to run down to Pushkarini and drink as much water as he wanted. 

Thus, having told the hunter-boy, Nambi started walking uphill. The boy slowly walked behind Nambi and hurled a stone at the pot of water. The pot cracked and all the water flowed out which the boy delightfully drank. Nambi was very sad. He would have to walk back, pick up another pot and then carry the water for the Lord. He was too exhausted and expressed his helplessness. The boy smiled and told Nambi that he did not have to go all the way down to collect the water for the Lord but right there very close to the temple he would provide an alternative for him. As Nambi stood and watched in surprise, the divine hunter-boy released an arrow from his bow. It struck the top of the cliff where they were standing and lo! water started to gush down from the top of the cliff. Nambi knew that this was no ordinary hunter-boy, but the Lord himself come down to help him. He prayed to the Lord to reveal his true form. The Lord stood in front of Nambi in all his pristine glory and told Nambi that this water-fall would be known as “Akasha Ganga” and henceforth the waters from Akasha Ganga would be used for the abhisheka. 

Nambi continued his “teertha kainkaryam” and also introduced other forms of seva like thomala seva, tirumanjanam, vedaparayanam, mantrapushpa kainkaryam etc., for the Lord which earned for him the title “Acharya Purusha” of the temple. Since the Lord had addressed him as “thatha” he is also known as “Thathacharya”. Even to this day, it is the privilege of the descendants of Tirumala Nambi to offer all these sevas started by him to Lord Venkateshwara.

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Adhika Maasa (Purushottama Maasa) -Significance

There is a difference in calculation between the solar and lunar calendars. After 32.5 months of the lunar calendar, there arises a discrepancy of 30 days (1 month) which has to be included in the lunar calendar to perfectly align it with the solar calendar. This month is called as ADHIKA MAASA (Extra Month). Each month has its own presiding deity. However Adhika Maasa did not have any presiding deity. Adhika Maasa approached Lord Vishnu and said, “Lord, there is no presiding deity allotted to me. I am known as “extra” and “unwanted” month. Everybody totally ignores me and no one associates anything auspicious with me.” The Lord heard Adhika’s plea and said, “Do not worry. I myself as PURUSHOTTAMA – “the Best of Beings”, will be the presiding deity of Adhika Maasa.” Hence the Adhika Maasa is also called as Purushottama Maasa. All the divine glories associated with the Lord are therefore associated with Adhika Maasa.

The Adhika Maasa is an extra month that Prakriti or Mother Nature has given to mankind which comes after every 32.5 (nearly 33) months. Normally an individual is constantly engaged in sheer worldly pleasures and materialistic activities all through the months, year after year. The call of our great Rishis is that atleast in the Adhika month we should refrain from all materialistic activities and devote the entire month to religious and spiritual activities. Hence in this month vivaaha, gruhapravesam, naamakarana etc are not celebrated. Importance is given to Japa, Tapas, Upavasa, Puja, Homa, and Dana. All the merits acquired by performing pooja, japa, tapa and dana in the other thirty three months put together collectively can be acquired by performing the same in just this one Adhika Maasa. Lord Brahma once weighed all the sadhana he had pursued prior to his work of creation with the sadhana performed in the Adhika Maasa. The scales tilted in favour of the sadhana undertaken in the Adhika Maasa!

Reading of the Upanishads, Bhagavad Geeta, Bhagavatham, Ramayana, Chanting of Stotras like Vishnu Sahasranama, Lalitha Sahasranama, Aditya Hridaya, Hanuman Chalisa, chanting the 15th chapter (Purushottama Yoga) of the Bhagavad Geeta, etc., attending Satsanghs, undertaking pilgrimage to various holy places are also taken up during this period. Lighting Akhanda Deepa (day and night) all through the Adhika Maasa which represents the “initiation of spiritual knowledge in an individual” is also undertaken during this period. There are Adhika Maasa Vratas and Vows prescribed for this month. Any noble and virtuous activity taken up during this Adhika Maasa is supposed to give Adhika-phala (extra merit). 

33 (thirty three) is a number associated very closely with the Adhika Maasa, since this extra month comes after 33 (32.5 to be precise) lunar months. If we have not performed our religious activities and charity during the last 33 months, it is atoned for now by doing the same 33 times in the Adhika Maasa. Therefore chanting of a specific mantra 33 times or in multiples of 33 is normally undertaken. When fruits, tamboola (betel leaves), or sweets are offered to the Lord the number prescribed is again 33 or multiples of 33. Similarly when dana or charity is given, it is 33 or in multiples of 33. This is supposed to take care of the lapses on our part in our religious activities and charity during the previous 33 months. 

Amongst the danas, “Anna-dana” (food distribution to the needy) is supposed to be very important. A unique feature of Adhika Maasa is “Apoopa dana” – the dana of “Athirasa” (Apoopa in Sanskrit). It is a deep-fried sweet-dish prepared by using rice flour, jaggery and ghee – a wholesome nutritious delicacy. Traditionally, 33 apoopas are given in charity every day along with 33 fruits, 33 betel leaves and 33 coins. If it is not possible daily, this unique dana is done atleast once during the Adhika Maasa. Apoopa dana is considered equivalent to prithvi-dana!

The glory and uniqueness of the sacred Adhika or Purushottama Maasa was narrated by Lord Narayana to Sage Narada, and by Sri Krishna to Yudhisthira, the eldest of the Pandavas.

[This year Adhika Maasa begins on 18th Sept 2020 and ends on 16th October 2020]

Charity must come from one's sense of abundance. True charity springs from a sense of oneness between the giver and the recipient. - Swami Chinmayananda

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