“I will be on leave on Monday. Going to Pudukkottai” I announced to my colleagues, mentally preparing to face the next set of questions. But it came in sooner than I could prepare for it. `What’s the occasion?’ `Where?’ Before I could try to find an equivalent term for `Narasimha Jayanthi’ or `Bhagavathal Aaraadhana’, another colleague made it easy for me. "Wedding?” Came in much handy. Yes of course, wedding! Just that the bride and the groom are Seetha and Rama.
The mandapam was ravishing with the priceless jewels that the veteran Bhagavathas are. A five year old boy was rendering the Guru Keerthana, and all the bhagavathas participated, by repeating the lines, just like they would do while following a very senior bhagavatha. From my childhood, I have heard from many bhagavathas, that Sri Gopalakrishna Bhagavathar would unfailingly make every single child sing and he used to enjoy listening. A Mahatma does not hold a difference between a learnt and unlearnt... they only see God in everyone. Sri Subburama Bhagavathar, who led the festival, was still practicing his Guru’s teachings by encouraging everyone to sing in the Sanniddhi.
When veterans from Pudukkotai school of Namasankeerthanam say they are against the `slot culture’ in Bhajanothsavams, one would never understand how Bahajanothsavams will run otherwise.… until they attend Pudukkotai Narasimha Jayanthi.
What started by 9:00PM then went on until 7:30 AM the next day morning… pretty early, according to many present there!
Left - Bhagavathas doing abhinaya for Vasantha Kelikai Pavalimbu
ensured that all Bhagavathas sung at least one song. “It is my duty that I should deny no one’s wish to sing in this sannidhaanam”. He was, in fact, least bothered about the fact that delaying Devatha Dhyanam would lead to delay in Pavvalimbu, and would eventually bite into the next day’s programs. He would listen in rapt attention to each Bhagavathar, big or small, long or short. A truly amazing role model for us!Singing the Pavvalimbu songs in all its grace were Sri Sundar bhagavathar, Sri Ramanujam bhagavathar Trivandrum Sankar bhagavathar sang along with a host of bhagavathars from all parts of the country and abroad. This year the absence of Chennai Nataraja Bhagavathar due to ill health was conspicuous. Abhinayam was done by Chennai KK Kalyanarama bhagavathar and his accomplice.
The serene roads, less populated country sides, the rickety roads and countryside farms makes one wonder if we were traveling down the time machine. No wonder, time factor always takes a backseat in Pudukkotai Bhanajotsavams!
The road to Swarna Kaadu, Sri Gopalakrishna Bhagavathar's birth place
The guardian of the place, Sri Ramamurthy Bhagavathar gave his unexpected guests a very warm welcome.
We were amazed by the humble attitude and the way they receive guests. They led us to the shrine area, where the vigrahams were kept. They had a small shrine comprising of Srirama, Lakshmana, Seetha and Hanuman, and Narasimha Moorthy. May be this is the only place on earth where you can find Lord Narasimha in between Rama and Lakshmana. The shrine was also home to around 50 saligramams.
Sri Gopalakrishna Bhagavathar's place of upbringing
Ramdas mama quickly started a small bhajan session, and my appa Sri Ramachandra Bhagavathar continued. Such was the divine vibration of the place that this bhajan, with just the seven of us, one jaalara and no instruments at all… would remain as one of the most enchanting and enthralling bhajan sessions of my life! We sang for just 15 minutes, but I simply cannot find a simile to explain how the happiness feels like. God Bless Ramadas mama who was instrumental to give us darshan of Swarnakadu and its deity.
We returned to Pudukkotai, with our hearts filled with a feeling of a divine content! On our way back, Ramdas mama and Ramakrishnan mama (Thiruvananthapuram) narrated their childhood experiences with Gopalakrishna Bhagavathar. “He would always keep with him some vibhoothi and give it to people who come to him with any sorts of sorrow. And I have known cases where it has cured!” he recollected, in a trance of Bhakthi. “But my personal experience is the biggest testimony” he recollected, with moist eyes. “We were a very middle class family, and we did not even have a decent roof top. Water used to leak in and we used to keep big pots here and there inside the house when it rained. All my father wished was to have a decently concreted hall, so that we could host bhagavathas at home. When Gopalakrishna Bhagavathar came to our house once, he said that things will be alright by the time he came the next time. And it became true!”
Left - Pooja shrine in Swarna Kaadu
Ramakrishnan mama explained that no words of a true Bhagavathar can go as a lie, because Bhagavan is indebted to fulfill his bhaktha’s words.
True to the core, it is this strength of Nama sankeerthanam which keeps us agile in all walks of our life , be it personal, official, public or private. We are nearing the centenary year of Narasimha Jayanthi Utsavam in Pudukottai. There was only one year gap when Gopalakrishna Bhagavathar lost his wife.