At Kanchi Varadaraja Perumal temple, Andal ‘Neeraatu utsavam ‘ is celebrated during the last ten days of Margazhi. It started on 5/1/2016 and will culminate on 14/1/2016 on Bhogi festival. Andal the belle from Srivilliputhur true to Her name rules the whole universe. Krishna said Margasheersham was His favourite month but Andal is responsible for proving it. Margazhi is synonomous with Andal’s Tiruppavai. 30 simple pasurams filled with layers and layers of inner truths is the subject matter of millions of upanyasams. The whole month asthikas get up early to do Dhanurmasa aradhanam and sing the beautiful pasurams of ‘tirupalliezhuchi and ‘ Tiruppavai’.
In Kanchipuram one can hear the sound of the drum announcing that Theertham is being carried for Perumal at the stroke of 4.00 a.m. Tirupalliezhuchi and Tiruppavai anusandhanam and ofcourse aradhanai is over by 5.30 a.m. and those assembled get Perumal theertham, Srisathari and an array of prasadams including Ven Pongal, the staple Margazhi offering’.
Andal Neeraatal utsavam (the last 10days) is something which should not be missed in Kanchipuram. At about 6.30 a.m. after ‘Neeraatal’ ( this is done in ekantham) Andal emerges out from Her sannidhi wrapped in a see-thru ‘Pani-Porvai’ (Dew -Shawl). The drummer, Tiruchinnam player wait in readiness as also the kainkaryaparas and sripadamthaangis. She goes in pradakshinam of the Atthigiri Hills and proceeds to Swami Desikan Sannidhi. The Veda parayana goshti follows Her with Vedic offerings. After accepting offerings at “Pathu kadai” She stops infront of the shops selling puja articles at the main entrance to accept the offerings before emerging on to Sannidhi Streets stopping every now and then to accept fruits and camphor offerings. She then turns right and moves on to North Mada Street and East Mada Street and South Mada Street. On hearing the kottu (drum) and sighting the Royal umbrella women clean the street and draw kolams with rice-flour outside their houses and light lamps. As the procession stops everyone feels elated that Andal has stopped by. The pavement shopkeepers and pilgrims alighting from the buses thank their good fortune and offer dandavath pranamams or anjali. She moves on to Anaikati Street and procceds towards Sannidhi Street. As She turns the corner near Tiruvadi koil, Sripadamthangis lower the paalaku and carefully remove the ‘Pani-Porvai’. Devotees drink Her Beauty.
Each day the saree is exclusive and ranges from contrasting bordered ones to checks and jari-designs. The ornaments vie with each other to adorn the Queen and the hair-do is usually a long braid with jadai and Andal-kondai with pearls dangling down. Ofcourse there is the usual Chandran-Suryan and forehead ornaments and rakodi. On Koodaraivellumshir day She had “kodaali mudichi” (hair done in a bun resembling an axe). Divya Prabhandham goshti after thaniyan recital chant the first pasuram of Tiruppavai at this spot. Sannidhi Street gets two visits. As She enters the temple the procession stops near the four legged mandapam. The day’s pasuram is chanted as also the last two pasurams of Tiruppavai followed by “Kodai Pirandha Oor”. The procession moves towards the temple entrance and stops before the dwajasthambam to hear the sonorous Vedic notes. At the entrance called Tondaradipodi’ ghata harathi ‘silver umbrella and fruit offerings are made. Andal then moves to the right and ascends on the unjal mandapam. Swinging takes place to the accompaniment of Nadhaswaram notes. Theertham is offered as also camphor harathi as also prasadam (dosais). Oonjal is a relaxing ceremony wherein little kids wave chamarams and the swing is pushed back and forth while devotees enjoy the exquisite alankaram and throng to get Theertham. Andal then moves in pradakshinam along Madapalli round (Alavandar chuttru) casting Her kataksham on Garudazhwar, Anathazhwar, Karimanikka Varadar, Madapalli and the store-room before returning to Her Sannidhi after stopping a while infront of Nrisimhan sannidhi. Devotees rush to have another glimpse of Her before the curtains are drawn feeling blessed on the cool Margazhi morning to be present at Satyavrathakshetram.
The following are the photos taken during the Utsavam:
Courtesy: Sri Elangadu Ranganatha Chakravarthy & Smt Vyjayanthi Rajan