Tag Archives: Sri Rangam

King Kulashekara

Kulashekara Alwar and Lord Venkateshwara

King Kulashekara belonged to the Chera dynasty. Being a very powerful warrior he soon had the Pandya and Chola regions also under his control. He was a very virtuous and just king and endeared himself to his subjects. He was spiritually inclined and was a great devotee of Lord Rama. Lord Vishnu’s padukas adorned King Kulashekara’s crown known as Cheramudi. He longed to visit Srirangam and he also urged people of his kingdom to visit the holy city of Srirangam. As a reminder, every day there would be an announcement of a yatra to Srirangam on the streets of his kingdom. Knowing the king’s strong spiritual roots, the ministers used to arrange for kirtans and readings of the Ramayana in the palace and thus prevented the king from undertaking the pilgrimage to Srirangam. 

However, the king started spending more time with the Vaishnava saints and devotees. This irked the ministers and therefore they devised a plan to stop the holy men from coming to the palace. They hid some of the ornaments of the royal deity worshipped by the king and told him that the ornaments had been stolen. They charged the vaishnava devotees of theft. Kulashekar refused to believe that the Lord’s devotees had stolen the ornaments. He decided to go through a test on behalf of the vaishnavites and prove that there were innocent. He asked for a vessel with a poisonous cobra inside it. The king put his hand into the vessel and proclaimed to everyone present that if the vaishnavites were innocent, nothing would happen to him. Sure enough he retrieved his hand from the vessel safely. The poisonous cobra had not harmed him in the least. The ministers were stunned and shocked and revealed the truth to the king. 

King Kulashekar was very unhappy and disturbed that the Lord’s devotees had been falsely charged with theft. Already a renunciate within, he decided to hand over the kingdom to his son and leave for Srirangam. King Kulashekar was considered as one amongst the Alwars. He composed beautiful verses in praise of the Lord and it is said that the Lord himself used to come and listen to him. Kulashekar Alwar visited all the sacred vaishnava temples. His philosophy was of absolute surrender (saranagati) to the Lord. He never asked the Lord for mukti or liberation. He only longed to be a “servant of the servant of the servant of the Lord”. He was even ready to be born again and again but only as a devotee of the Lord. He was overwhelmed at the darshan of the Lord of Tirumala, Sri Venkateswara, and cried out to the Lord to make him a stone, a worm, a blade of grass, a fish in the pond of the sacred Tirumala hills! He entreated the Lord, “in Thy sweet remembrance, may the swan of my mind enter RIGHT NOW the cage of Thy lotus feet. At the time of death, which is riddled with pain, and when all the equipments are failing, is it possible for me to remember Thee?” And he prayed to the Lord, “make me a step (threshold) at your sanctum sanctorum so that I can joyously gaze on at your beautiful charming lotus face constantly.” The step or threshold of the sanctum in the Sri Venkateswara temple in Tirumala is known as “Kulashekara Padi” (Kulashekara Step) in honour of this glorious devotee of the Lord.

“I bow down my head to Raja Kulashekara in whose kingdom every day Ranga Yatra (pilgrimage to Srirangam) used to be announced (proclaimed)!”

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The Story of Andal

Andal

Vishnuchittar also known as Periyaazhwar (9th Century) was the first among the twelve prominent Vaishnava Saints of Tamil Nadu born in Srivilliputhur near Madurai. He was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu and has contributed to the philosophical and theological ideas of Vaishnavism. His major contributions include Thirupallandu and Periya Azhwar Thirumozhi.

Vishnuchittar was childless and that worried him. He prayed to God to bless him with a child. One day, when he was walking in his garden, he found a baby girl lying near a Tulasi plant. It is said that Mother Earth (Bhoomi Devi) herself had appeared as a child in answer to his prayers. He brought the child home, named her “Kothai” and brought her up as his own daughter. He would teach her songs and tell stories about Lord Vishnu and His glories. Hence, the little girl grew up in a divine atmosphere of Bhakti. As she grew up, her devotion and love for Sri Hari also grew to such an extent that, she decided she would only get married to the Lord. As the days progressed, her resolve to marry the Lord only strengthened.

Vishnuchittar used to make beautiful flower garlands, take them to the temple and offer them to Lord Ranganatha daily. This was his devoted nitya seva to the Lord. Kothai who considered herself the bride-to-be of the Lord used to take the garland, wear it and admire herself in the mirror and then remove it and place it in the basket to be taken to the temple. Vishnuchittar was unaware of this and used to take the same used garland and offer it to the Lord. Hence for days, the garland worn by Kodhai was being offered to the Lord.

One day, Vishnuchittar saw his daughter wearing the garland made for the Lord and was shocked. How could anyone wear what was meant for the Lord? He was extremely upset and scolded her and told her never to repeat this again. That day there was no garland for the Lord. That night, the Lord came in Periyaazhwar’s dream and told him that he liked the garlands worn by Kothai and henceforth He would only accept garlands worn by her. From then onwards, Kodhai came to be known as “Andal” – one who ruled over the Lord.

Andal’s yearning for the Lord increased day by day and her devotional outpourings are called Thiruppavai and Nacchiaar Thirumozhi. When Vishnuchittar was searching for a suitable groom for “Andal”, she expressed her keen desire to get married to the Lord. He told her that there are 108 Divya Kshetras of Lord Vishnu and she asked him to narrate the glory of the Deity of each Kshetra. She was thrilled to hear about the Lord of Mathura, smiled when she heard about the Lord of Tirumala, happy to hear about Lord of Azhagar Temple (Madurai), but was ecstatic when she heard about the Lord of Srirangam! She choose Lord Sri Ranganatha of Srirangam as her husband.

The father was worried as to how he should proceed. The Lord then appeared in his dream and asked him to bring her to the temple. Simultaneously, the Lord appeared in the dream of the temple priest and asked him to bring Vishnuchittar’s daughter as His bride from Srivilliputhur to Srirangam. The Lord also told the Pandyan king, Vallabhadevan to make arrangements for the wedding. Accordingly, Andal in bridal attire was brought in a pearl palanquin. She reached the temple of Srirangam. As every one around was seeing, she walked into the sanctum sanctorum of Lord Ranganatha and merged with Him.

Bhoomi Devi who came as Andal is worshiped in Srivilliputhur. Even to this day for Tirupati Brahmotsavam, garlands worn by Andal in Srivilliputhur temple are sent to Lord Venkateshwara Temple at Tirupati. These traditional garlands are made of tulasi, sevanthi and sampangi flowers. These garlands are worn by Lord Venkateshwara during the Garuda seva procession.

When emotion of devotion increases, the devotee's personality and the Infinite nature of the Lord of his heart become one-----and this is the Essence of the Experience-Supreme - Swami Chinmayananda

[PS: I request all to please forward and share these value based stories rich in our culture and tradition to elders, youth and children]

Enchanting Divine Eyes that stole the heart!

Dhanurdas was a wealthy businessman and a good wrestler living in Srirangam. He got acquainted with the temple dancer, Hemamba who was extremely beautiful. Her eyes especially were most captivating and Dhanurdas was lost in admiration for them! He was seen very often carrying an umbrella over her head shielding her from the scorching sun.

Once she wished to participate in the annual temple procession of Lord Sri Ranganatha, the presiding deity of Srirangam. And both of them went.

Sri Ramanujacharya, the greatest saint philosophers (born in the year 1017AD) was also there along with his devotees to witness the beautiful procession of Lord Ranganatha. The mangala vadya was playing, the hymns were being chanted and everybody’s eyes were in the direction in which the Lord’s procession was about to enter the street. Sri Ramanujacharya’s eyes suddenly fell on this couple. The Acharya saw the young man, Dhanurdas turned completely in the opposite direction, gazing intensely at Hemamba. Fascinated with her beauty and especially her eyes, he kept looking at her and covering her head with an umbrella to protect her eyes from the sun’s rays! Dhanurdas did not even bother to turn around and look at the Lord’s procession.

Seeing such a public display of enslavement to physical beauty, Sri Ramanujacharya was filled with compassion for this mortal soul. He summoned Dhanurdas and asked him as to what made him turn away from the Lord, when everyone present there were craving for a glimpse of the Lord. Without batting an eyelid, he said, “Her beautiful and enchanting eyes! I have not seen a pair of eyes more beautiful than these!!” The Acharya challenged him saying what if he showed a more beautiful pair of eyes – most beautiful in all the whole world. Dhanurdas said that it was impossible. Sri Ramanujacharya insisted. Dhanurdas accepted the challenge and said if that be true, he would from then onwards follow that person if he found the eyes more enchanting and captivating than Hemamba’a eyes.

Sri Ramanujacharya asked Dhanurdas to follow him and they entered Sri Ranganatha Swamy temple. The Acharya went inside the inner sanctum and invoked the Lord: “O! Lord, Most Compassionate One! Here is a lost soul who can be reclaimed and redeemed if you but cast one loving glance at him”. The doors were opened to have darshan of the Lord. The Lord’s divine, beautiful, and captivating eyes moved! The Lord’s grace descended on Dhanurdas. Witnessing the never before seen Lord’s resplendent divine form and eyes, Dhanurdas broke down and surrendered himself completely to the Lord. Dhanurdas subsequently became one of the greatest disciples of  Sri Ramanujacharya. He became one of the greatest Bhagavathottama, whose devotion to Lord Ranganatha was considered to be on par with that of Azhwars.

[PS: I request all to please forward and share these value based stories rich in our culture and tradition to elders, youth and children]