Nammazhwar Moksham (liberation), an exciting finale of the Vaikunta Ekadasi festival at Srirangam

srirangam, nammazhwar moksham

Above image: Nammazhwar at the holy feet of the lord, Srirangam Vaikunta Ekadasi.............

Among the  Tamil Vaishnava saints - azhwars, the most significant  contribution  was made by none other than Nammazhwar ( 8th century; fifth in the line of the twelve Azhwars). His work is the most prolific one consisting of as many as 1352  pasurams among the 4000 in the Nalayira Divya Prabandham. His theological and philosophical works related to vaishnavism  were compiled by Madhurakavi under four different headings.   

His 1000 pasurams called Thiruvaimozhi are part of  the  Nalayira Divya Prabandham, He played such a  crucial  role as to make it an important compendium - canonical work  for Vaishnavism.  Hence the word Azhwar is synonymous with Nammazhwar who is also referred to as  ‘Vedham Tamil Seitha Maaran. ’Nalayira Divya Prabandham, was so succinctly  compiled by Nammazhwar Nathamuni  (823 CE-951 CE),, an ardent devotee of Namperumal and who has the credit of introducing Araiyar sevai as apart of Vaikuntha Ekadasi, was able to pick up the essence and content of the Tamil Vedam. 

So impressed, lord Namperuman himself, it is believed, comes to meet him every year at the 1000 Pillar Mandapam, Srirangam on each of the 10 Raa pathu days following the Vaikunta Ekadasi. The purpose was to witness the Araiyar Sevai, a divine convention  of Araiyars and enjoy listening to their soul-stirring  singing of the pasurams with abinayam and bhavam. 100 Paasurams a day from Thiruvaimozhi – for 10 days beginning  with Vaikunta Ekadasi. 

A total of 1000 Pasurams are recited  during the Raa Pathu period. Rendition of 1000 pasuram with commitments and devotion, following certain norms  laid down in this sevai is a tedious one. It requires utter dedication  and concentration,  but the trained Ariyars do it with considerable ease because of overwhelming bhakti and religious fervor acked by training.  The belief has been that all Azhwars, including the great seer and philosopher Ramanuja  and ThiruKachi Nambi assemble here on the occasion.  The 10- day Divya Prabandham festival covering Thiruvaimozhi  is an important event during the concluding period of Vaikunta Ekadasi. God's participation in the Ariyar sevai is a way of honoring Nammazhwar. The Ariyar sevi tradition continues for centuries and today it stll persists despite odd circumstances i including inevitable political social changes. 

As for  the first 10 days - pagal pathu,  it was added later to recognize Thirumangai Azhwar’s contribution; 2000 pasurams from Prabandham are recited during the 10 day. It was Thirumangai Azhwar who had  tall compound walls built around the temple at Srirangam  Apart, credit goes to him for  organizing the ten day Tamizh Divya prabandham festival in consent with Lord Namperuman.     

Saint Nammazhwar, having spent so much time on earth and understood the transient nature of life, wilting under age,   was not keen to continue his life.  It was time for him to reach the abode of Sri Vishnu and spend his blissful life in the shadow of the lord.

Having led a contended life, on the first day itself Nammazhwar asked the lord to bless him with  salvation-Moksham (liberation).  But the edit of god was such that the lord delayed granting moksham to him and  wanted the great saint to continue his services for some time so that  Nammazhwar’s  Pasurams in chaste Tamil would reach everyone. So, on purpose, he delayed the grant  of Moksham till the very last day.

idol of

So much smitten with the beautiful rendition of pasurams, it is said,  Lord  was keen to take Nammazhwar  to Vaikuntam in the same form. Lord assumed,  “It was this body that rendered the beautiful Prabhandham to the world and hence I want to take you with me with your body itself” 

On the last day, at 6 am the festival idol of Nammazhwar along with Ariyars  is taken to the Thirumaamani Mandapam. With Nammazhwar  placed in front of Namperumal, the Araiyars begin the recital of the balance 10 pasurams (they had already presented 90 of the last 100 pasurams of Thiruvaaimozhi till 3am earlier that morning).

The finale of the whole event is when  Araiyars recite the last of Pasurams  of Nalayira Divya Prabandham, Nammazhwar  prostates before the lord -  falling  on the holy feet of Namperumal. The ritual signifying Moksham is performed for one hour from  6 am Namperuman finally responds to the pleading of Nammazhwar who had been seeking Moksham from the first day of Vaikunta Ekadasi, Nammazhwar falls at His feet (Tiruvadi Thozal) after 90 pasurams have been recited.  Now azhwar wears the garland worn by the lord himself. The idol of Nammazhwar was taken out and was placed at the holy feet of Namperumal, marking the end of the 20-day Vaikunta Ekadasi festival. Next moment, he attains Moksham to spend his blissful life in Vaikuntam  with the lord close to him. the belief is the lord Lord Namperumal took Nammazhwar to Vaikuntam in his full form (with his body).

Nammazhwar thiruvadi sevai, complete surrender.

Later Namperumal was taken from Tirumamani mandapam and reached the garbhagriha or Sree Kovil (sanctum)  at 10 a.m.