Alwarula Bhakti Samrajya
14 July - 18 July 2010
Updated at1300 hrs. on July 23, 2010
With the mighty Lord walking on the blessed soil in Prasanthi, it is
perpetual festivity in this holy township, blessed by His most
Adding to this festive glory we often witness fresh hues of cultural
and spiritual traditions taking the centre-stage in Prasanthi in His
immediate physical presence. Sri Alwarula Bhakti Samrajya Mahotsavam
held from July 14 to July 18 was the latest in this series depicting
the story of love, devotion and surrender of the Alwars to Lord
Almighty. As the word meaning Alwar suggests, meaning one who loves
God, they exemplified through their illustrious lives the very word
‘Love for God’ in its fullest sense.
Alwars were Tamil poet saints with ancient Dravidian Culture of
south India who lived between sixth and ninth centuries and espoused
devotion to Lord Vishnu through their compositions singing love and
surrender to the Lord. They come from all walks of life and all
strata of society and were born in different part of the country.
They have revitalized the Indian religious milieu, sparking a
renewal of devotional worship throughout the subcontinent.
Travelling from place to place, from temple to temple, they composed
exceedingly beautiful poetry to their Divine Beloved, Lord Vishnu,
as an expression of their love for the Divine.
Thissaintly order begins with three principal Alwars (collectively
called Mudhal Alwars) who were not known to be born from any human
being. Those Alwars are: (i) Poigai, (ii) Bhoodath, (iii) Pey, and
others after them are (iv) Thirumazhisai, (v) Nammalwar (vi)
Madhurakavi, (vii) Periya, (viii) Andal, (ix) Thondaradippodi, (x)
Thiruppan, (xi) Thirumangai, (xii) Kulasekhara. Among all the twelve
Alwars, Andal was a woman who happened to be a step-child of Periya
Alwarwhom he found in the basil garden (tulsi udyan) of Sri
Villiputtur temple in Tamil Nadu. The Alwars claim different social
background as some of them were Brahmins, others were either
kshatriya, or of low social order and two were from royal lineage
whereas others were from low to poor income family. Except one Alwar,
Kulasekhara, who was from Kerala, all others were from Tamil Nadu.
Each one of these Alwars have telling tales of their devotion to
Lord Almighty and the festivity in Prasanthi Nilayam witnessed
exposition of these rare glimpses in a nutshell, presented by
learned scholars on every evening, from 14 July to 17 July, in the
immediate Divine presence. Vidwan Nidumamidi Srikanta Rao from
Bangalore, Sri Medasanimohan and Sahithya Shiromani Samudrala Dr.
Lakshmanaiah, both from Tirupathi, were the chosen scholars who
spoke on the interesting lives of this great lineage.
It is believed that the first three Alwars were born most
mysteriously and were found as infants in the lap of Nature. Poigai
Alwar was found in a lotus flower in Kanchipuram, Bhoothath Alwar in
a flower in Mahabalipuram while Perialwar made his entry in Adi
Kesava Perumal Temple in Mylapore.
There is a beautiful story that illustrates the trio’s (initial
alwars) Divine Romance with Lord Vishnu, who is often referred to as
It was day time but the rain clouds have overcast the sky and cover
of darkness spread all around. The torrential rain began beating the
earth. Wandering Poigai found out a small hiding place which was fit
for one person to lie down. He had just occupied the space that
Boodath, coincidently arrived there looking for a shelter. Poigai
accommodated him by sitting, as only two persons could be
accommodated by sitting. In the meanwhile, under strange
coincidence, Pei also came soliciting against the heavy downpour. He
was also accommodated as all the three preferred to stand because
the space was too tight to accommodate three sitting persons. The
darkness had become denser and inside the small room they were not
able to see each other. In the meanwhile, they felt that some fourth
one also forced his way among them.
In the lightning that flashed across, the trio could see the fourth
person who was exquisitely charming and they felt as if overpowered
with a sublime, divine feeling. The trio could immediately realize
that the fourth person was none other than Lord Narayana Himself
huddling among them.
Poigai, wishing to witness the charming divine effulgence again and
again, instantly composed hundred songs wishing the earth to be a
big pot full of ghee of ocean where the sun could be the burning
wick. Bhoodath also sang another hundred songs imagining to light
the lamp constantly through ardent love for The Divine. The third
one, Pei Alwar sang another hundred songs where he could describe
the enchanting charm of the divine face and described the
association of Narayana equipped with sankha and chakra (conch shell
and disc), and His divine consort Goddess Lakshmi.
Andal, the bride of Lord Rangamannar
Another interesting story is about the only one Lady Alwar, Sri
Andal. As Sita was found by King Janaka, while tilling the land for
performing a yajna, Vishnuchitha (a great vedic scholar, poet,
Vishnu devotee also known as Periyalwar found the divine child under
a basil plant while he was tending his garden in SriVilliputhur. He
brought her up in simple and godly surroundings natural to a pious,
vedic, person. The child prodigy thus fostered lovingly grew into a
beautiful maiden and became an embodiment of love for Bhagawan Sri
Being a devotee of "Sri Vatapatrasayee", the presiding deity of
SriVilliputhur, Vishnuchitha would weave a garland of basil leaves
daily and keep it sacredly rolled in a flower basket so that he may,
after attending to his other course, take the garland later to the
temple for offering to the Lord. The child “kodai”(Andal) in her
profound innocence would take out the garland daily without her
father's knowledge, adorn herself and look into the mirror to
satisfy herself whether she was suitable bride to the Lord and then
would remove the garland and replace it in the basket in its
original form. This was going on for days and without actually
knowing that her daughter had adorned the garland around herself,
Vishnuchitha would offer this to the deity who wore it beatifically.
One day to his surprise, Vishnucitha saw the girl wearing the
garland before he could take it to the temple. He was shocked for he
considered this as a great defilement. He remonstrated the girl for
this act. He fasted that day and did not offer the garland and was
all repentant. At night, the Lord appearing in dream asked
Vishnuchitha as to why he did not offer the garland for the day. The
Lord further revealed that He is ever eager to have the things
touched by His devotee. “Think not Andal kodai to be a mere mortal”
were His final words!
To his wonder Vishnuchitha found that tulsi wreath worn on the
previous day by Andal had not faded, but was as fresh like a freshly
made one. Thereafter, he offered the garland to the deity after
being worn by Andal. The Lord continued to give His bliss of
When Andal attained her marriageable age, her father was worried to
find a suitable match for her. But, the divine child was not ready
to marry anyone except Lord Krishna.
Therefore, Vishnuchitha narrated all the Kalyana Gunas of all one
hundred and eight Sri Vaishnava Kshetras in India, so that she may
for herself choose the deity. When she heard of the beauty of Lord
Sriranganatha, tears of joy came over her and her heart prayed to
HIM to come and accept her in wedlock.
At this, Vishnuchitha, knowing not what to do, meditated invoking
The Lord. Sri Ranganatha spoke to him in a dream: "Do not hesitate
to offer your daughter to Me, for she is Bhudevi herself."
Simultaneously the Lord sent officials of Srirangam to go to
SriVilliputhur and brought Andal in a palanquin in all royalty.
The whole route was decorated on either sides with flowers and
wreaths of finely weaved green saplings. As Sri Andal entered the
inner shrine of Sri Ranganatha, the magnetic beauty of the Lord
instantly attracted her and she merged in the eternal lustrous
Another Alwar, Kulasekarara, who was a ruler in Kerala had a great
passion towards listening to epics and related stories. He would
often entertain exponents to get to listen to such stories again and
During one such occasion when a war scene was explained wherein Lord
Rama was caught surrounded by the opposing demons, the Alwar became
emotional as if Rama was going to be harmed. To fix the situation he
asked the army to be ready to fight to save Lord Rama. Subsequently,
realizing the emotional state of the King, the Pundit was asked to
narrate the remaining part of the story, wherein Lord Rama wins the
battle heroically, that pacified the king’s emotion. This serves as
a classic example of the emotional devotion of the Alwars towards
the Ultimate Divinity.
While light was being thrown into these illustrious life stories of
devotion, dedication and surrender, every morning and evening, the
main dais, the Seat of The Lord in physical, witnessed rituals to
Lord Vishnu. The stage had a big statue of Lord Vishnu accompanied
by statues of Lord Ranganatha, Lord Ganesha, Sri Garuda (Vishnuchittha
or Periyalwar was regarded as an incarnation of Garuda) and Sri
Andal along with all the other eleven Alwars. Lord Vishnu is often
referred to as Alankara Priyaha Vishnu, and this function that had a
direct bearing on that Lord, brought the best of decor at the main
venue. Entire Mandir including the dais was nicely decorated with
big hoardings, flower buntings, billboards displaying details on
various Alwars etc. Deities onstage were draped in colourful royal
costumes, as Divinity “deserves”, and the main idol of Lord Vishnu
would adorn changed décor themes, namely, Mohini Thirukkolam,
Vaikunta Narayana Alankaram etc. every day.
Maha Sudarshana Homam
A Maha Sudarshana Homam, a fire ritual aimed at world peace, was
conducted on the third morning and it turned out to be a grand
spiritual spectacle for the thousands assembled in the Sai Kulwant
This homam is done towards Sri Chakkarathalwar, who is also known as
Sudarshan Alwar, represented by the discuss held in the hands of
Lord Vishnu that helps protecting His devotees.
On the 17th July morning, while sacred Vedic hymns rendered the air
bringing soothing, holy touch to many an ear assembled in the Sai
Kulwant Hall, the centre of main activity turned out to be on an
elevated platform turned mandap (covered structure with pillars), in
the centre down the stage, facing the original Seat of The Divine!
There was an elevated platform that had all the paraphernalias
related to the morning rituals, including eighteen Kalashas placed
reverentially for worship along with a Sudarshana Yantram, apart
from having a sacred fire pit for the proposed Maha Sudarshana
Homam. Nicely decked up, showing up with a riot of floral decor,
quite pleasing to eyes offering a visual treat, the special seat of
worship had the touch of grandeur and could be seen by everyone
present in the hall without any exertion. The elevated platform also
had two ramps on either sides, facing ladies and gents, to
facilitate Bhagawan to get onto the venue.
After an hour long initial rituals related to the homam as the Maha
Sudarshana Homam went on to reach the concluding part, Bhagawan
arrived onstage officiating the Maha Poornahuthi. As He sat facing
the sacred pit, priests got the sacred offering blessed by The
Divine, and as the chanting went on, these sacred offerings were
made into the sacred pit officially marking Maha Poornahuthi.
Sudarshana Moola Mantram chanting for 10000 times had been going for
the previous two days, chanted by fifteen participating priests, and
the ritual to follow was an offering to the idol of Sudarshan Alwar.
The double faced statue had both Sudarshan Alwar and Narasimha
Swami, two in one, facing opposite to each other. As Bhagawan took
His seat, facing upfront, down the stage, the rituals continued with
sacred bath offered to the Alwar, using the eighteen kalashas, that
were being worshipped during the previous day and the next morning.
One after one the priests took these kalashas to get them blessed by
Bhagawan before offering the same, giving the Lord a sacred bath, in
the immediate Divine presence of The Lord of all Gods! These
eighteen kalashas, named after eighteen selected names of Lord
Vishnu, namely, Kesava, Madhava etc. contained waters from selected
holy rivers across India.
After the rituals "Vastram" was offered to the Alwar, before he
showed up on the specially erected dais facing the Seat of The
Divine! Bhagawan sanctified the 'abhisheka theertham' (holy water
offered to the Lord) with His Divine touch and even sprinkled the
same onto some of the priests before asking them to sprinkle the
same to other priests and officials present near the dais.
Tamarind Rice, Sweet Pongal and Curd Rise were offered to one and
all as prasadam marking the auspiciousness of the occasion.
Sri Sathya Sai Sathya Narayana Vratham
When the first four days were reserved for the above rituals as well
as Alwar stories, the grand finale had something unique in store. In
the morning the regular one hour Veda chanting was followed by a
forty minute bhajan session, after which Pushpayagam (Pushpabhishekam)
to Lord Vishnu, the main Idol on the dais, was performed to the holy
chants of Vedam. Over twenty two varieties of flowers were used for
this abhishekham that lasted for more than half-an-hour.
Vishnu Alankara Priyaha…true to this saying, this final morning, Sai
Kulwant's main stage, the dais, wore a thematic costume, symbolising
and illustrating the special ritual for the day, Pushpabhishekam. It
was a riot of flowers and colours everywhere, a feast not alone to
the human lenses but to hearts and souls as well.
The final celebration on the final session was Sri Sathya Sai Sathya
Narayana Vratham attended by a whopping 1108 couple. The Vratham is
normally conducted for all-round family prosperity.
Elaborate arrangements were done in organizing the whole of the
affair to make it a grand success. And in the Sai Kulwant hall
seating arrangements were done so meticulously that each couple was
allotted special blocks with defined numbers.
The function began at 1600 hrs. with Vidwan Nidumamidi Srikanta Rao,
master of ceremonies, explaining step by step instructions, in
Telugu and English, for the couples to follow. First part of the
function, main rituals, lasted for 55 minutes upon which Sai
Gayathri chanting went on, invoking Bhagawan. After the final
rituals Sathya Narayana Story followed, wherein, the first four
chapters of Bhagawan's Life Story were narrated in english, lasting
for almost half-an-hour.
Sumptuous prasadam, Tamarind Rice, Sweet Pongal, Kesari Baath and
Bobbattu were distributed to the entire assemblage including all the