ARAT IN COCHIN TD TEMPLE-PART 2-VARIOUS RITUALS AND THEIR SIGNIFICANCES FROM 1st TO 7th DAY
My humble Pranams to our Kuladevata, Lord Laxmi Venkateswara,Goddess Laxmi, our revered senior pontiff, H.H.Srimad Sudhindra Thirtha Swamiji of Kasi Math Samstan and His Patta Sishya, H.H.Srimad Samyamindra Thirtha Swamiji.
PUSHPAKA VIMANA PUJA
I will not be doing justice to this blog, unless I express my deep gratitude to a few wise and important personalities who are experts and well versed on the subject and who have willingly shared their knowledge. Chief Priest, Sri.L.Krishna Bhat, Temple Tantri, Sri.Premkumar.N.Vadhyar, Sri Purushothama Mallya, renowned Writer, Author, Epigraphist, Research Scholar and Historian, Sri.A.Ramananda Bhat, Acharya of the temple, Sri.Anantha Bhat, nephew of Sri.L.Krishna Bhat and Parpathi Naveen, a member of the temple administration, a few temple Office Bearers and Volunteers and Sri.S.Krishnakumar have helped immensely to understand many of the important aspects of the festival and the various rituals being performed. My Pranams to all of them.
The history of Lord Venkateswara and Laxmi Devi, as also the TD Temple, both of which are intricately linked, has been dealt with extensively in another blog post of mine, titled HISTORY OF KOCHI TIRUMALA VENKATESWARA AND TD TEMPLE.
This post details mainly the functions and rituals from the 1st day to 7th day. The details of varios functions and rituals on the 8th day are detailed in a separate blog post titled, ARAT IN COCHIN TD TEMPLE-PART 3-RITUALS/FUNCTIONS ON 8th DAY AND THEIR SIGNIFICANCES.
SIGNIFICANCE OF TWO ARAT FESTIVALS IN COCHIN TD TEMPLE
One of the unique features in Cochin TD Temple is that there are two Arat festivals in an year, one called Mahotsavam, performed in the Lunar month of Chaitra(falling in March/April) and the second, called Rathotsavam, performed in the Lunar month of Margaseersha(falling in November/December), the former one to celebrate the first consecration of Lord Laxmi Venkateswara in Cochin temple and the latter to highlight the importance/significance of the Lunar month of Margaseersha as mentioned in the Holy Gita. The Great Lord in the avatar of Krishna says in chapter 10 of Bhagwat Gita that ‘I am the month of Margaseersha amongst the months’. The two major differences between the two festivals are that, in Rathotsavam, a Pushpaka Vimana Puja is performed on the 7th day of the festival, towards the end of the morning functions/pujas and during Mahotsavam, Mahabhishekam is performed for both the Moola Moorthy(The Main Stapana Deity) and the Utsava Moorthies(Deities) together on 8th day.(Arat day).
CONCEPTULISERS OF THE TWO ARAT FESTIVALS
These two festivals in an year, can be seen as culturo-religious festivals, unlike all other purely religious festivals. The procedures for the various Arat festival components and their sequences were drawn by Brahmasri Vedamurthi Subbha Achari, the then Acharya of the temple as ordained by H.H.Bhuvanendra Thirtha Swamiji of Sri Kasi Math Samstan along with His disciple, H.H.Varadendra Thirtha Swamiji. The Acharya has drawn and detailed the various pujas, yajnas, abishekas, vana yatras, etc, based on the religious scriptures, Padma Samhita- Part 1 and Part 2, and got them approved by the Swamijis.
Legend indicates that the abode of Lord Gosripuresa changes for some reason or other, most of the time forced upon. In order to circumvent this cycle and propitiate Him not to bring about any more such circumstances to shift from Gosripuram, the main arat function on the 8th day of the festival has been so devised to symbolically change His abode temporarily, twice every year, by taking Him along with Goddess Laxmi Devi in a grand procession to the Sanctorum(Kulamandapam) located in the midst of the Papanasanam lake of the temple, by using a well decorated twin-boat stage and seating them on a stepped highly decorated throne on the upper floor of the mandapam. After His sojourn for a few hours with pujas, arti and Chakra snanam to purify the lake, soon after the arrival and pujas and arti at the time of departure, the Deities are carried back to the temple in the Golden Palanquin in a grand procession,led by elephants with Chakra and representative Moorthy seated on the top of two elephants. The main deities of the Lord and Goddess are taken directly to the magnificent Golden Garuda Vahana for the procession inside the temple premises. After the Garuda Vahana Puja,the Deities are taken to the parswa mandapam for the Pushpayagam, after which the deities are taken to Sanctum Sanctorum for Mangalaarthy puja.
The festival in its normative form starts almost 10 days prior to the Dwajaarohanam day, with Kauthuga Bhandhanam(tying of Kankan/Naandhi) for the Moola Murthy(Main Deity), Utsava Deities, all Upadevatas and all the priests connected with the main and upadevata temples, in order to ensure that the festival is carried on, irrespective of any unexpected/untoward occurrences on account of births or deaths in the family. Next day, pujas for the chosen arecanut palm trunk, temple flag, etc are performed.
The arecanut palm trunk for the mast is carefully selected by the temple authorities,by going around the sanketam and choosing the right one, with sturdiness and verticality, from one of the GSB family’s compound. The selection is done mostly a few months before the festival. However, the trunk is cut and brought to the temple in a procession a few days before the Dwajaarohanam day, with all vedic rituals performed and kept in a closed shed safely.
Another unique function organised about 8 days prior to the start of the festival is a procession of young GSB children, carrying vegetables, grains, fruits, etc and offering the same to the Lord, in the presence of the temple administrators , to signify the participative nature of the Mahajanams in the Arat festival. The procession starts in the Udhyaneswara temple and terminates at the main Gosripuresa temple.
Festival commences on the 1st day of the festival,in all solemnity, with the customary hoisting of the temple flag with the Sacred Garuda Ensign(Dhwajaarohanam) with Lord and Goddess, seated in the palanquin stationed in the parswa mandapam,witnessing the ceremony for the start of the festival and help remove all obstacles and bad omens. The arecanut palm trunk is decorated with mango and peepal leaves and a small metallic Garuda image fixed in such a way that it remains on the top after Dwajaarohanam. It is to symbolically scan the surroundings and remove all obstacles to the conduct of the festival.
Tantri is the customary custodian of all the pujas for the decorated mast, the temple flag with garuda ensign, pujas for the 9 kalasas, filled with herbal water, placed nearby, hoisting of the mast and the temple flag, propitiating all the devatas by offering the argyam(bali) with cooked rice, etc. The nine kalasas are sanctified during the Vishnuyagam on all the 8 days, in the morning and night, and used for the Avabrathasnanam on the 8th day.
Immediately after the Dwajaarohanam, puja is done for the large two Bheris(Drums), then the Utsava Deities seated in the palanquin and witnessing the Dwajaarohanam were taken around the temple, with beating of the Bheris and playing the madhhalam and nadaswaram. Vedic recital is done by Acharya, Tantri and their disciples at the four corners and the mid-way points. All the musical instruments and the beating of the Bheris are stopped and the Vedic recital is done in pin-drop silence. After completing a round, an announcement is made requesting all the mahajanams not to leave the town till the festival is over. Then the Deities are taken to Sanctum Sanctorum, pujas and arti performed. The Utsava Deities are then taken for the usual Pallaki(Palanquin) puja on the first day.
The atmosherics generated while performing each and every function/ritual during these 8 days are so electrifying, causing a surge of emotion and excitement that the devotees are filled with so much of spiritual ecstasy and they continue to remain spell-bound for years together and yearn for a return to witness the festival again and again.
Most of the morning session functions, starting from 5.30/6.00 am, on all the 8 days are common. They are:
1. Nadathurappu(opening of the doors of Sanctum Sanctorum).
3.Sheeveli-A procession of representative image of the Lord inside the temple premises, with the image seated on the top of one of the three caparisoned elephants and a tall coloured umbrella just behind it and the other two caparisoned elephants with only tall coloured umbrellas held on the top. The procession circumambulates three times around the outer temple perimeter. With the first round for performing artis by the mahajanam, at the starting and 4 corner points of the temple, the second round is led by pancha vadhyam, by playing otta chenda(beating of chenda with one stick), eratta chenda(beating with two sticks), talam(thalu), madhhalam and kombu(bugle) and the third round led by experts playing Madhhalam and Nadaswaram. The instruments used for sheeveli are different types of local instruments, used in festivals in almost all Kerala temples. The sheeveli procession takes almost 1 1/2 hours to complete the 3 rounds.
4. Abhishekam. Both Panchaamrutha Abhishekam and Kalagaabhishekam are performed for the Utsava Moorthies from 1st to 7th day. Milk, ghee, curd, honey and sugar/jagerry are used, one at a time, for the panchaamrutha abhishekam. After this, Deities are washed with water and dried. Kalabhabhishekam is then performed with the solution of sandal wood paste.Vedic mantras are invoked while performing the abhishekams to invoke Lord’s pardon for any of the shortcomings occurred in the past, knowingly or unknowingly, in the day-to-day puja activities and restore The Images to their original splendour, which must have been partially diminished due to any of the shortcomings.
The three deities of Utsava Venkateswara, bhoodevi and Sridevi are normally seated on a Kurma peetam. They are separately taken out of the Kurma Peetam and placed on a separate abhisheka peetam for performing the above abhishekams.After the abhishekams, the Deities are cleaned and dried with a cloth and placed back on the Kurma Peetam, decorated with the normal kavacham, diamond studded crown and other ornaments and flowers, arti performed and the Deities on the common Kurma Peetam is then carried and placed on the throne, just below the Moola Moorthy. Arti is again performed for all the Deities together.
During Mahotsava festival, the abhishekam performed on the 8th day is called Mahaabhishekam and done for the Utsava Moorthies, Moola Moorthy and Laxmi Devi together, with milk, panchaamrutham and water from Ganges, followed by Kanakaabhishekam and Kalabhabhishekam. All the images are then cleaned with water, dried and decorated with diamond studded crown, many other costly ornaments and flower garlands. The Deities are then seated in their original places, followed by arti, sahasranama puja, mahaneivedhya puja and the noon puja.
During Rathotsava festival, the above abishekams are performed for only the Utsava Deities and Laxmi Devi.
5. Noon Puja(Uccha puja) and offering of Neivedhyam and Shadagopam at the 4 upadevata temples are performed after the abhishekam.
Shadagopam is a function performed by the chief priest after the neivedhya samarpanam to the main Deities. The padukas of the Lord is taken on a plate by the Chief Priest, to the four upadevata temples,starting with Laxmi Devi’s and followed by Hanuman,Garuda and Ganesa, puja and arti performed at each temple and touching the upadevatas with the paduka.
On the first day, Dwajaarohana rituals are perfomed immediately after the noon puja, neivedhya samarpanam and Shadagopam. Pallaki puja is performed after Dwajaarohanam, followed by samaaradhana for the mahajanams.Vishnu Yagam is not performed in the morning on the first day.
6. Vishnu Yagam(except on first day morning). This is a special function unique to the Cochin TD temple.Though it is something which should be done continuously during the festival period, it is done two times a day, once in the morning and once in the night, largely for accomodating various other functions and rituals which are equally relevant and important and hence are inevitable. The 9 kalasas with the holy herbal water sanctified at the time of temple flag hoisting ceremony are taken in a pallaki and kept in the yajna mandapam. At the time of Vishnuyagam, The Chakra and Utsava Deities are ceremoniously taken to the Yajna Mandapam located in between Garuda and Laxmi Devi Upadevata temples. There are 4 yajna kunds(pits), to represent the Lord, namely, Vasudev/Narayan(though it is one kundam,it is taken as serving for both), Sankarshana, Pradhyumna and Anirudh.Utsava Deities are seated on a stepped throne, which is fully decorated with silk cloth, flowers, etc, facing west, all the 9 kalasas kept just by the side and the Chakra seated alone, facing east, just behind the Utsava Deities.Invoking the mantras from all the 4 vedas, yajnas are performed in all the 4 kunds simultaneously, with dasadravya offerings, viz.milk, ghee, ashtagandham, curd, 10 herbs, samidh, dhoopam, til, yavam and paddy. Once the Yajna starts in the night on the 1st day, the yajna fire is kept burning continuously till the Vishnuyaga samaapti on the 8th day night.While the chief priest does the puja for the Utsava Deities, Tantri Does it for the Kalasas and various priests representing Acharya performing the yajnas. The sanctified holy water in the 9 Kalasas is taken for the Avabratasnanam on the 8th day. While the Deities and Chakra are taken to the Sanctum Sanctorum after the Vishnuyagam, the kalasas are kept in yajna mantap itself, till they are ceremoniously taken in a palanquin for the Avabrathasnanam on the 8th day.
The objective of performing the Vishnuyagam is to seek the blessings of the Lord and the Goddess for maintaining Peace and Harmony, not only for our community members, but also for the well-being of His entire creation, irrespective of the creed.
7. Pallaki(Palanquin) Puja- The Utsava Moorthies are carried in a procession in the Golden Palanquin inside the temple premises.The procession takes three rounds of the temple, along the inner covered shed . Temple Tantri leads, by offering the bali of cooked rice to the various devatas at 8 different directions, to seek their obeisance to ensure a benign completion of the various functions during the festival.
8. Pushpaka Vimana Puja on the 7th day in case of Rathotsavam festival.
9.Besides the above, a special Abhishekam, called Avabrathasnanam is also performed before the Utsav Moorthis are taken in procession to the Sanctorum in the Papanasam Lake on the 8th day. Samaradhana on the 8th day is after the conclusion of Chakra Snana function, a very important and highly significant function.
10. Samaaradhana on 1st and 8th day is by Dewaswom and on other days, if sponsored by anyone of the GSB community members.
The common functions in the evening on the first 3 days are:
1.Nadathurappu(opening of the doors of Sanctum Sanctorum).
2.Kazhcha Sheeveli– Taking the representative image of the Lord in a procession on a caparisoned elephant inside the temple premises. Other details are given above under morning functions..
3. Mangalaarthi at Sanctum Sanctorum.
4. Vishnu Yagam.All details are given above under morning functions.
5.Pallaki(Palanquin) Puja– The same way as given under the morning functions, with a difference in the offering of the bali, which is in the form of flowers during the night.
6. Vahana Puja-A procession of the Utsava Deities, on various wooden vahanas(carriages). The Deities are placed on wooden carved figures that are fixed on the vahanas. The figures decorated extensively with garlands, etc. starting from the 1st day, are wooden Garuda, Hanuman,Hamsam,Airavata(Elephant),Aswam(Horse), Pushpaka Vimanam, silver Sesha (Serpent) besides Golden Garuda Vahanam on the 8th day.
As the Deities are taken in the evenings for Vana yatra on 4th and 5th days, Pattana pravesam on the 6th day and Mruga Yatra on the 7th day, all the functions indicated against sl.nos.2 to 6 are performed after the above mentioned yatras in the same order as given above, except the sheeveli, which is performed at the end of the day, on 4th, 5th, and 6th day and as usual, just after Nadathurappu in the evening on the 7th day.
The functions on the Arat(8th) day are entirely different and they are explained in a separate blog post, Arat in Cochin TD temple-Part 3-Rituals/Functions on the 8th day and their significances.
On the 4th, 5th and 6th day, the Utsava Deities are taken in the Golden Palanquin with all the paraphernalia along the southern, western and northern streets respectively around the temple, where the Deities are said to have absolute jurisdiction, temporal and spiritual(called sanketam). Two caparisoned elephants, one with a person on the top for splashing the holy water all along the route of the procession followed by the second one with the image of Chakra, representing the Lord’s weapon symbol, on the top as a symbolic image for the protection of the procession, lead the procession along the complete route. These processions are symbolic representation for expressing the love of God for His devotees by visiting them in their own premises and for the symbolic observation of the welfare of His devotees and also enabling each and every house-hold and the community members to show their devotion and love for the God by having the arthis performed and also offering neivedhyam from the court-yard of each and every house on the route.Devotees who are staying outside the sanketam bring all the puja articles inside the temple premises and have arthies and neivedhyam done before the procession leaves the temple premises for the yatra.
As these processions take more than 5 hours, the Deities, the priests and all other members, who are officially part of the procession, have their sojourn for rest and recoup at Keraleswara temple, Manjal Bhagavathi temple and well known Kini family’s house, on the 4th, 5th and 6th day respectively. The sojourn is called Vallag in local parlance. Flower decorations are redone, puja and arti performed during the vallag.
On the 6th day of the festival, a unique function called Jalakreedotsavam is performed in the fore-mandapam of Laxmi Devi temple. This is performed just after the Nadathurappu.The Utsava Deities leave for the Pattana pravesam from the same premises. The function is symbolic of a sporting activity for the Lord and Laxmi Devi. In a large open mouthed shallow vessel, filled with sandal wood water, Lord and Laxmi Devi are seated on slightly elevated seats, facing each other. The two chief priests then splash the sandal wood water on both the deities with dharba grass, enacting the sport that will be played by Lord and Laxmi Devi. After this sport for a few minutes, the chief priests search and locate two golden finger rings already placed inside the vessel in the beginning and wear them on the deities. The Deities are then placed on a throne placed nearby and puja and arti performed. The sanctified sandal wood water is then distributed to all the persons present as theertham and also splashed on everyone.
PROCESSION FOR MRUGAYATRA
In the same fashion as for vana yatra and pattana pravesam, on the 7th day,the Utsava Images are carried with all paraphernelia,on the Ashwa Vahana(Horse carriage) round the Rathaveethi(chariot route) of the temple for Palli Vettai(Mruga Yatra) to the temple of Udyaneswara(New Siva Temple) situated at the north-eastern corner of Papanasam tank. Legend has it that, as the relation between Lord Gosripuresa and Udyaneswara rests on a special bonding, a visit of Lord Gosripuresa to the Udyaneswara temple on the 7th day of the festival is undertaken for a joint hunting game and for symbolic hunting with a bow and arrow on a plantain tree.
Lord Gosripuresa on His return journey from the Udyaneswara temple visits the family of Devarvattom Shenoys’ family residence enroute, as a gesture of respect and good-will towards the family, who were solely instrumental in offering their family’s Laxmi Devi Vigraha in marriage to Lord Gosripuresa, when the Cochin GSB community members were not able to bring back the original Laxmi Devi Vigraha from Alleppy along with the Lord’s. The Lord and the Goddess have their sojourn(vallag) there for some time, before proceeding to the main temple. Puja and arti are performed during this time.
Other offerings of the Devarvattom Shenoy family, such as golden seat for the Main Deity, various diamond studded ornaments,a golden kalasa for the kalabhabhishekam of the Lord, golden garuda, etc. are praiseworthy and need a special mention here, to understand the significance of the Vallag in their residence on the 7th day. Sri. Janardhana Shenoy, son of Sri. Anantha Shenoy of the Devarvattom Shenoy family is largely instrumental for these contributions .
The Deities return to the temple in the Golden Palanquin. Mangalaarthy is then performed, followed by Vishnuyagam, Pallaki Puja and Vahana Puja, as explained above.
Arat Day(8th day) Functions are described in a separate post.