Sri Andal temple, Srivilliputhur and Vaikunta Ekadashi festival of 2023 - Araiyar sevai is done with great zeal

 Among the  rituals associated with Vaikunta Ekadashi festival (that falls in December- January every year) at Sri Vishnu temples,  Araiyar Sevai, a Tamil performing arts form  dedicated to presentation of  Nalayira Divya Prabandham  through  music and dance, is a fascinating one. It is performed only by  hereditary performers  before the festival deity of the temple   

The 1,000 plus years old art of Araiyar Sevai, temple inscriptions suggest  was once performed across Divya Desams. However, in the past decade it  has  declined and now it is  performed only in Srirangam Ranganathar temple, Srivilliputhur Andal temple,Azhwar Tirunagari Azhagia Manavala perumal temple and at Melkote (Thiru Narayanapuram). In the latter, it is said, Araiyar sevai is limited to rendition of devotional hymns only. 

Srivilliputhur Andal temple Raja gopuram, TN

In order to preserve the divine hymns of  Nalayira Divya Prabandham and the bhakti tradition of singing the devotional hymns, the great  Vaishnavite Savant Nadhamuni, (9th-10th Century A.D) introduced Araiyar Sevai at  Divya Desams. With help from his his nephews, Keezhaiyagath Azhwar and Melaiyagath Azhwar, Nadhamuni created special ragas and talas for the pasurams. It is mentioned  god Ranganatha of Srirangam is believed to have gifted the Araiyars (Kings of Music) the cone-like cap, two cymbals and a sacred garland to be worn around their neck when performing.

.Swarga vassal thirappu, Andal temple,Srivilliputhur.
Araiyar sevai is an exciting  event during the Tamil month of Margazhi at the Andal Divyadesam in Srivilliputhur, one anong a few Divyadesams in Tamil Nadu where Araiyar Sevai is still being performed. during Vaikunta Ekadashi. 

old image Srivilliputhur Andal temple Vaikunta ekadashi.

Perumal. (Vishnu) Srivilliputhur Mural art.

The  trained and devoted Araiyars 'll enact through singing with  matching abinaya the ‘Story of  poetess 'Andal’ her childhood playful exploits, pranks, etc while being brought up by her foster father Periazhwar and  her overwhelming devotion to  the lord as a grown up woman.

This year Pagal Pathu will start on Dec.13; Swarga vassal Thirappu is on Dec. 23 and Nammazhwar moksham (last event) will be on 3or 4 January, 2024 after completion of Raa Pathu events.

The  day one of this month -  Pagal Pathu is considered  holy and propitious when festival idols of Andal and Vatapatra Shayee (Vishnu)  are taken in a special religious procession to  the house of Vedapiran Bhattar ( the descendant of Periyazhwar) in the evening  5 pm to accept the gifts from his father-in law. It is the place where Perazhwar's  adopted daughter Sri Andal or Kothai was brought up. The lord received different kinds of vegetables  (''pachai parappu'') as part of gifts.  After the ritual idols of Rangamannar (Vadapatra Sayana Perumal)  were  taken  back to Pagal pathu mandapam where the ''ariyar seva,  10 - day Pagal pathu  event begins with religious fervor.  Besides recitation of  pasurams,  

As part of the Pagal Pathu and  Raa Pathu Utsavam,  the Araiyars will sing the 4,000 sacred verses over the 21-day period. The presentation includes Vyakyanam and Abhinayam of Thiru Pallandu during the wee hours of the night - First day of Pagal Pathu), Thiruppavai  (composed by poetess Andal),  rendition,  Nammazhwar verses on Thiru Venkatam and on the Lord of Azhwar Tirunagari. It  may include several annotations, themes like  the Churning of the ocean ('Amirtha Mathanam’ or slaying of Kamsa by Narasimha on the final day of the Pagal Pathu utsavam

Yet another holy event  is held in the which  there will be a religious procession around the four Car  streets  with the lord  on a Garuda Vahanam /mount  and Periyazhwar on an elephant Vahanam in the midst of chanting of  Pallandu’ verses. Thirumukkulam ennaikappu and Margazhi Neeradu vizha ( special herbal (ennai / thaila kappu) oil will be applied on the  moolavar idols. 

On the vaikunta Ekadashi -  Swarga vassal day, Periya perumal, Rangamannar and consort Andal adorned with pleasing alangaram will emerge from the Swarga vassal. Azhwars will offer Eathir sevai  (formal  traditional reception) to the deities.. Later, the deities will be taken to the Rapathu Mandapam at Sri Vadapathira Sayi shrine.  This will be followed by  mangalasasanam vaibhavam, Bhakti  uklavutha and other events like araiyar sevai, etc in the Raa Pathu mandapam.All the 12 Tamil  Vaishnava saints - Azhwars did Mangala  Sasanam to the perumal here. So, Sri Andal temple is an important one among the 108 Divya Desam shrines. 

During Raa pathu, daily around 7 pm  the festival idol of Sri Andal from the sanctum  will be taken out in a religious procession around the Car streets to bless the devotees, On return to the temple, goddess Andal will be kept in the Periya perumal shrine for darshan. There Thiruvaradhanam, Ariyar Vyakyanam  panchangam vasithal  will be held all through Raa Pathu. Special event during this period is Margazhi Thaila kappu for 8 days to sri Andal and she will give darshan at 10 am at Ennai kappu mandapam, Around 3 pm there will be Ennai kappu Sevai.

Srinivasachariar of Srivilliputhur, for about 8 decades  performed  Araiyar Sevai with the same devotion and commitments with which he started way back in 1943, when he was just 13 years old,  It will be quite appropriate to recall his services to keep the araiyar sevai alive despite odds  and pay our respect to him.
The following are important events during the Ekadashi festival at Vthe Andal temple, Srivilliputhur:

Thiru Adhyayana Utsavam
Pagal Pathu for 1o days
First Day: Pachai Parathal
Thiru Pallandu Thodakkam
Tenth Day: Amirtha Madanam
Daily Arayar Seva
Rap – Pathu Utsavam for 10 days
First Day : Vaikunda Ekadasi
Opening on Parama Padam
Tenth day: Nammazhvar Moksham
Margazhi Neeratta Utsavan 8 Days
Priya Vidai
Daily Ennaikkappu and Thirumanjanam