Low-key Vaikunta Ekadasi festivities at Srirangam temple 2021 and opening of Sorgavasal

Srirangal temple, Sorgavasal dailytemple.in

Above image:   Srirangam Ranganathar temple, TN: Sorgavasal or Prathamapada vasal (heaven's gate) or gate to Vaikunta, the abode of Sri Vishnu on an ordinary day. The doors are closed year round and  are open only on the Sorgavasal day during Vaikunta Ekadasi annual  festivities ..........................

Perumal passing through the sorgavasal , Srirangam.timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Above image: Lord Namperumal traversed through the Paramapatha Vasal around 4.45 am...... .. 

Vaikunta Ekadasi is an annual grand festival at Sri Ranganathar temple, Srirangam, the foremost  among 108 Divyadesam shrines in the country. This year the peculiarity of this festival  is in the same Tamil month of Karhigai  celebrations and the opening of Sorga vaasal (door to Vaikunta- abode of Sri Hari) are taking place.  Once in 19 years, this rare event occurs.   Scholars said one reason for this was the conduct of Thai Brahmotsavam in January,2022 in Srirangam, hence they have vaikunta ekadasi festival in December itself. The Saranathaswamy temple in Thirucherai near Kumbakonam too has  Brahmotsavam festival in  January, 2022, so  ekadashi festival was held in Dec. 2021  itself.

Vaikuntha Ekadasi, Srirangam Ranganathat remple. hindu-blog.com

The Tamil Nadu Government does not want to take any risk in view of COVID-19 third wave threat and also the new virus OMICRON that is slowly taking a grip on the people.  Like previous years the government  directed the HR & CE - the govt. Agency in charge of Hindu temples in TN  to follow last year’s standard preventive  protocol and operating norms for COVID-19.  Consequently the festival this year will pan out and will be a simple one. Unlike  a  few years ago, it is not a colorful and grand event. Even the Pagal Patthu and Erapathu, Arayar Sevai: (Minnuruvai Pasuram, Abhinayam, Vyagyanam, Thanbikanpadi vyakhyanam ) may have very much limited audience No moolavar sevai  (worship to deity in the sanctum/Srikovil) after 4.30 pm.

an old image of Srirangam temple, TamilNadu.dailytemple.in/

Today being 14 December  (in the Tamil month of Karthikai and in some cases on January 13 2022 in the Tamil month of Margazhi) , Sorgavaasal Thirappu (opening of the Heaven's gate) event  is being observed only  at  a few temples besides Srirangam.  At Adi Kesava Perumal temple in Sriperumbudur (near Chennai),  this event is held  on the same day. Only in the Tamil month of Margazhi,   annually on the Ekadashi day opening of Sorgavasal or Prathamapada Vassal normally takes place. Rest of the year, the  prathamapadha Vassal is closed year round. 

For the second straight year the  paramapadha vasal opening  event was conducted on Tuesday morning in the early morning  - 4.45 am without  devotees; this being due to COVID pandemic.  Prior to that event.  clad in gem-studded armor, kilimaalai (parrot themed garland) and Pandian crown (kondai), Namperumal  in a blissful mood, came out of the sanctum on a specially made golden palanquin around 3.30 am.  As per tradition,  having passed  through  Rajamahendiran Thirusuttru (corridor),  Naazhiketttan gateway and  Kulasekaran  Thirsuttru, where the deity  went  round the flag-pole Diwasthambham), the processional deity shortly  halted  at Vraja Nadhi Mandapam. From here  lord passed through the Paramapada vasal in the midst of devotional  Vedic hymns recited by temple priests- Bhattacharyas. 

In view of this great event in Srirangam,  the government declared holiday for the workers - those with the government, etc.   In this temple  the annual Vaikunta Ekadhasi festival- a long drawn one  lasting 21 days (divided into 10 Pagal  pathu and 10 Era Pathu, last day being Namazhwar moksham) began on 3 December with  Thirunedunthandagam.   The lord will bless the devotees  in different alangarams  every day in the Arjuna Mantap during Pagal Pathhu. On the 10th day  (yesterday) Emperuman (Ranganathar) appeared in  Mohini avataram.

This year devotees were allowed to cross the Sorga vasal between 7 to 9 am  only.   Normally. they would be allowed to  go past the gate the whole day till a particular time. As part of COVID protection  devotees  visiting the temple must wear the mask and try to  follow social distancing as much as possible.  They  will not be given  theertham (holy water), shadaari or tulsi leaves to avoid body contact. They are allowed to have  darshan of the deities. No religious processions are allowed out side the temple.  Since it a big temple (largest functional temple in the world) about 2000 police men on security duty during the festivities.