Chennai: Athigiri Arulala Perumal Vandhar
Karutha Varam Tharum Dhaiva Perumal Vandhar
Umbhar Thozhum Kazhaludayar Vandhar
Vanera Vazhi Tanthar Vandhar Thame
Thus goes Swami Desikan’s Stotram, written with utmost devotion to Sri Varadaraja Swamy in Kanchipuram.
If Kanchipuram is a city of temples, as saint Kalidas once said ‘Nagareshu Kanchi’, Sri Varadaraja Perumal temple in Little Kanchipuram holds pride place among the places of worship there. One of 108 Divya Desams in Vaishnavism, this temple has a rich tradition and culture. If you think the Garuda Sevai and Thiruther are the only two famous events that draw devotees in large numbers, hold on. The raising of Athi Varadar (made out of fig tree) from beneath the temple tank once in 40 years is the most celebrated ritual here.
Come Monday, the majestic 10 feet long idol of Lord Athi Varadar will be kept at the Vasantha Mandapam for next 48 days for darshan. Lakhs of devotees from across the globe are expected to throng the shrine to offer their prayers in the once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The divine work to retrieve the Lord’s idol, which has close semblance to the presiding deity in the sanctum sanctorum, was completed Thursday night. Vedic scholars brought out the idol and carried it in procession to the Vasantha Mandapam. Thirumanjanam was performed; besides, the idol was given a herbal bath. After special poojas, the idol will be kept for public darshan from 5 am Monday (1 July).
WHEN TO HAVE DARSHAN?
Devotees will be allowed for darshan from 1 July for the next 48 days daily from 5 am to 8 pm on all days. Free entry apart, arrangement has been made for devotees to purchase Rs 50 entry ticket. All have been requested to carry Aadhaar cards with them. Special darshan for Rs 500 could be made online through the website: www.tnhrc.org.
STORY OF ATHI VARADAR
According to pundits, Athi Varadar was carved out of an athi tree by Vishwakarma in the Kritha Yuga. It was the presiding deity in the temple until the 16th century. When Muslims invaded the south, Athi Varadar was reportedly put inside the temple tank to preserve it from invaders.
After several years, efforts to trace Athi Varadar began. When the search failed, the priests made a stone image of Athi Varadhar and thereafter resumed regular pooja.
However, when the temple tank was emptied for some other reason after a gap of 40 years, they found Athi Varadar inside. They decided that this idol has to be taken out every 40 years for pooja for 48 days and again be immersed in the temple tank for another 40 years.
40 YEARS AGO
The previous occasion on which Athi Varadar came out for darshan was 2 July 1979, and prior to it 12 July 1939. Speaking to News Today, Saranathan, a resident of Kanchipuram, says, “I am fortunate to witness the celebrations twice in my lifetime. I was a 15-year-old when Athi Varadar was taken out in 1979. I still remember the poojas conducted then. The whole town will be crowded and chants of ‘Varada Varada’ will rent the air.”
ALL ARRANGEMENTS IN PLACE
The Tamilnadu government has made elaborate arrangements, spending Rs 29 crore, for devotees to have hassle-free darshan of Athi Varadar.
Roads have been re-laid and a few stretches widened. Temporary bus stands have been erected at Orikkai, Oli Mohammedpet and Pachaiyappa’s College grounds. Parking facilities have been provided in large open spaces a few kilometres from the temple.
Transport facilities to the temple from these places have been provided. Bio-toilets have been erected and 24X7 drinking water facilities have been provided.