The following is an article written by Sri Sadagopan Iyengar, Coimbatore
Surprised at the caption? I hear you complain—“We have heard of Sri Rama Pattabhishekam, Sri Govinda Pattabhishekam, Vibhishana Pattabhishekam, etc., but never of Sri Ranganatha Pattabhishekam”. Please bear with me and do read on.
On this day, all roads led to Dasavatara Sannidhi. As you alight from a train or bus, the auto driver asks you whether it is to Dasavatara Sannidhi that you want to go. The entire island of Srirangam appears to be wearing a festive look, just as Ayodhya did on the day of Chakravartthi Tirumagan’s coronation. Utsavascha mahaan aaseet says Sri Valmiki, describing the festivities on the occasion and the rejoicing among the Ayodhya citizenry. Similar is the gaiety among not only the Sri Sannidhi sishyas but of entire Srirangam, on the occasion of the Pattabhishekam of the 46th Pontiff of Sri Ahobila Matam.
When you arrive at Dasavatara Sannidhi, you are greeted by a long line of cars, big and small, auto rickshaws, cycle rickshaws and all other imaginable modes of conveyance, signifying the presence of sishyas of various categories, some from overseas, many from Srirangam itself and others from various parts of the country, all assembled to celebrate the ascension to the spiritual throne of the 46th Srimad Azhagiasingar. The heterogeneous assembly includes Vidwans of the highest order, the not-so-well-read and the absolutely unlettered, people endowed with abundant riches and those eking out their existence with difficulty. Anushttaataas of acclaim rub shoulders on the occasion with those satisfied with mere Sandhyavandanam thrice daily. The august assembly includes not only direct disciples of Sri Ahobila Mutt, but also Sri Vaishnavas from other sampradayas and many North Indian Vaishnavites too. However, despite all these differences among them, the unity of purpose shines forth on all their thrilled countenances—to be part of the historic celebrations. It is not only people’s faces that are shining—the Sun too is out in all his brilliance: even though it is only 8 a.m., in his enthusiasm, Sooryan tries to get closer and closer to Srirangam, resulting in a predictable escalation of the heat.
Srimad Azhagiasingar enters the Sannidhi, with sishyas heralding his arrival enthusiastically. He performs tiruvaradhanam to Sri Malolan, offering each ministration with love and devotion, watched by the devotees mesmerized by the grandeur of both the Deity and His Chief Attendant. Srimad Azhagiasingar’s divine visage bears the trademark smile which has become his unique identity and which lights up the entire place. It is a smile full of love, affection, warmth, welcome and mercy, inviting all to come and partake of the inimitable experience of service to Sri Malolan. The entire interior of Dasavatara Sannidhi is jam-packed, with many standing on a single foot (there being no space to put down the other foot). Those who have managed to secure vantage spots sport looks of exultation. The festivities begin with the golden throne being bedecked with flowers and shawls. Srimad Azhagiasingar, in an endearing display of Acharya Bhakti, places the silver-clad Padukas of Srimad Mukkur Azhagiasingar and Srimad Villivalam Azhagiasingar on the throne and performs Padukaradhanam, invoking the blessings of the 44th and 45thPontiffs, who reigned for long from the Simhasanam, recalling their golden eras, with tears of devotion springing to his eyes. Having obtained the blessings of Sri LakshmiNrismhan, Sri Tirumangai Mannan (who stayed for long at the Sannidhi) and Srimad AdivanSatakopa Yatindra Mahadesikan, the founder of the Sri Matam, Srimad Azhagiasingar occupies the Simhasanam amidst a veritable uproar—the voices of vaidikas chanting Swasti Vaachanam, that of Pouranikas reciting slokas from Srimad Ramayanam recalling the Pattabhishekam of Sri Rama and the voices of unlettered people like me, invoking the blessings of the Paramapurusha on the auspicious occasion, in our own pidgin prose and paamara bhaasha. Valmiki tells us that Maharshis like Vasishtta, Vaamadeva, Jaabaali, Kaasyapa, Kaatyaayana, Suyagya, Goutama and Vijaya graced the occasion of Rama’s coronation: the assembly on Srimad Azhagiasingar’s coronation is no less august, with the presence of Vaidikas, Sri Bhaashya and Bhagavad Vishaya Adhikaaris, those who have seen the shores of the vast sea of Srimad Rahasyatraya Saaram and those who have authored commentaries on various works of Purvacharyas. Also present are the numerous devoted servitors of Sri Matam, whose invaluable contribution makes the chariot of Sri Malola run smoothly and with grandeur. It is this distinguished assembly of luminaries that escorts Srimad Azhagiasingar to the throne and ensconces him on it. Ramam ratna maye peete saha Seetam nyavesayat says Sri Valmiki, recording that the Maharshis seated Sri Rama and His Divine Consort on the golden throne studded with diamonds. Here too, at Srirangam, the throne is golden: the only difference in the case of Srimad Azhagiasingar is that it is the Tridandam that substitutes Sita Devi on Sri Rama’s throne. For an ascetic, the Tridandam is an extremely close and inseparable companion, as is evident from the veda mantram prescribed for picking it up—sakhaa me gopaaya.
Srimad Azhagiasingar adorns his finger with the Hamsa Mudra, the ultimate stamp of approval on his assumption of the august office of Peetadhipati of Sri Ahobila Matam. The divine visage of Srimad Azhagiasingar shines with elation at the incredible good fortune of wearing the Hamsa Mudra, gifted by no less an Acharya than Sri Satakopa Muni, to no less an Acharya than Srimad Adivan Satakopa Yatindra Mahadesikan, as a token of appreciation for yeomen services rendered at Tirukkurugur. Passed on as an heirloom by each distinguished Azhagiasingar to his successor, the wearing of the Hamsa Mudra represents the symbolic assumption of the mantle.
Next on the agenda is for the distinguished new incumbent to put his seal of approval on Sri Sannidhi matters and Srimad Azhagiasingar commences his reign with the appointment of Devanarvilagam Sri Padmanabhachar as Sri Karyam. The letter of appointment is read out by the distinguished editor of Sri Nrisimhapriya, Sri LakshmiNrisimhachar Swami. This evokes a chorus of agreement from the assembled disciples, for the new Sri Karyam is known for his scholarship, anushttaanam, devotion to Sri Sannidhi and above all, for his extremely saatvic nature.
In his maiden message from the spiritual throne, Srimad Azhagiasingar recalls with gratitude and in a voice charged with emotion, the confidence reposed in him by the 45thAzhagiasingar in choosing him as the successor. He also firmly announces his resolve to continue on the hallowed path trodden by previous Azhagiasingars and take the Matam to new heights of glory.
Various Vidwans take the opportunity to pay glowing tributes to Srimad Azhagiasingar. Knowing our Acharya as we do, not a single word of their encomiums appears to be an exaggeration: if anything, they are only understatements. As one of the scholars enthuses, it is indeed a glorious occasion to have the Sri Sannidhi Simhasanam occupied by an acclaimed Ghanapaati and one who had been performing Agnihotram daily, till his opting for the ochre robes. None would have forgotten the appearance of Sri Nrisimha in the form of flames from the yagya kundam, in 2009, in an apparent and resounding approval of this Azhagiasingar, on the occasion of his renunciation.
Emperumans of various divyadesams have sent their udutthu kalainda peetaka aadai, toduttha tuzhaai malar soodi kalaindana, etc. to bless Srimad Azhagiasingar on the occasion and the adorning of the ascetic with garlands, shawls, etc. takes quite a long time. First in line of course are the Archakas from Ahobilam, Tiruvallur, Pullambootangudi, etc., where the kainkaryams are looked after by Sri Matam, followed by a long line of Bhattacharyas from various other divya desams. Soon after, Srimad Azhagiasingar pays obeisance at the brindavanams of his Poorvacharyas.
The festivities come to an end with a sumptuous celebratory feast, every bit in the tradition of Sri Matam.
As you take leave of Sri Malolan with reluctance, you find His divine countenance, which had hitherto been sober and subdued with the passing of His intimate servitor, Srimad Villivalam Azhagiasingar, now sporting a smile of satisfaction at having anointed Srivan Satakopa Sri Ranganatha Yatindra Mahadesikan to look after His bounties and to guide the multitude of His devotees on the right path.
It is worthwhile recalling that the avataaram of this Azhagiasingar took place at Srirangam (on Swati nakshatram) four years ago and it is again at Srirangam (again under the constellation of Swati) that his coronation also is performed now. It is not for nothing that the Lord has blessed this ascetic with the name Ranganatha: the association with Srirangam is too deep to be ignored.
And it is again no coincidence that the very first mangalaasaasanam that Srimad Azhagiasingar would be performing after his Pattabhishekam would be that of Namperumal.
Srimate SrivanSatakopa Sri Ranganatha Yatindra Mahadesikaya nama:
Write-up Courtesy: Sri Sadagopan Iyengar