Celebrating Diamond Jubilee of Coimbatore Thiruppavai Committee

The poetess divine ‘Andal’ has been an integral part of our culture. She has enriched the Tamil language with her ‘Thiruppavai’. The thirty verses (Thiruppavai) have been part of our lore for centuries. Come ‘Marghazi’ and a number of devotees recite the Thiruppavai on an everyday basis. Long ago, the women of the household used to make tiny cones made of cow dung and place them on a tiny pedestal on every successive day of the Tamil month of Marghazi. Later, the cow dung was made into patties and dried. They used to take the patties thus stored and use it as fuel during the time of Pongal. The men of the household used to do bhajans on the street every morning. A cart used to carry the picture of the deity. It used to be decorated with the best of flowers. The people used to wash the streets with fresh water in order to make the path cool for the bhajan troupe.
The members of the household used to offer varieties of flavoured rice everyday at their pooja altar and distribute it among their near and dear. Puliyodharai, elumichai sadham, thengai sadham, ellodharai were among the 30 varieties that were offered. The elders of Coimbatore decided to have a peaceful celebration based on the works of Andal. Therefore a number of well meaning people got together and formed the ‘Coimbatore Thiruppavai Committee’ about 60 years ago. Advocate P.S. Narayana Iyengar became the Secretary and ‘Nadai Mannan’ Desikachari became the Treasurer. The famous jeweler P.A.Raju Chettiar became the first President of the organization. The lectures used to draw huge audiences at Sankara Mutt on Raja Street. Thirukudandhai Swamigal gave the movement a auspicious beginning by giving the first lecture. This was followed by a number of great scholars who spoke about this lovely composition of Andal. The speakers used to talk about the real meaning behind the composition. It used to be a quintessence of Ubhaya Vedanta. It had a calming effect on the people for they became peace loving and kind to everyone.
The lectures moved over to the Kodandaramaswamy Temple during the later years. It was held at places like the Sivananda Hall and the SNV Thirumana Mandapam for a few years. The lectures used to begin with a short prayer and Arati to a portrait of Andal. Its time to recall the services of a number of people like Ranganathan, N.Parthasarathy and a few others. Ranganathan used to visit all the committee members and patrons regularly. Desikachari would ensure that the monies collected were deposited in the bank on the very same day.
N.Parthasarathy, the son of Narayana Iyengar was deeply devoted to his role as the Secretary. It is pertinent to note that he used to be in full attendance for both – the morning and the evening lectures year after year. The amazing Advocate used to ensure that the lectures went on in a seamless manner. A number of meetings connected to this organization had taken place at C.S. Meals Hotel founded by C.S. Govinda Iyer. The donors used to be given pictures of Andal and many of the pictures continue to be well preserved. The committee used to have sessions in Adi and Marghazi on a few occasions. Villiputtur Thiruvazhi Ramanuja Iyengar, Kamalapuram Santhanagopalachariar, Karuppangadu K.S.Venkataramanachariar, Sri Rangam Embar Vijayaraghavachariar, Vellukudi Varadachariar, Thirukallam Sri Narasimhachariar, Srirangam Srimad Andavan, Madras Veeraraghavachariar, Thiruvahindrapuram E.D. Srinivasachariar were among the first speakers or Pravachanakarthas during the formative years.
Mukkoor M.S.Lakshminarasimhachariar, V.S.Karunakarachariar, Thoopul N.Lakshminarasimhan, Kalyanapuram Aravamudachariar Velukkudi Krishnan, Jayashri Badrinath, Sri Parasara Badrinarayana Bhattar, Kumbakonam M.N.Ananthapadmanabhachariar, Madurantakam Raghu veerabhattachariar, U.R.Devanathan were among the other stalwarts who graced the city with their lectures. The sixtieth year lecture is by Thirumalai Ananthan Pillai Akkarakkani Srinindhi at the Kodandaramaswamy Temple. He is the great grandson of Prathivadhibhayankaram Anangaracharya Swamigal.
A number of the speakers who espoused the cause have done great service to calm and vegetarian world of the Srivaishnavaite faith. Many of them have given lectures across the globe and some of them have a great following all over the country. The committee of the Kodandaramaswamy Temple headed by Advocate N.V.Nagasubramaniam has supported the good work of the Coimbatore Thiruppavai Committee in a marvelous manner. Dr.V.V.Parthasarathy is the incumbent Secretary and D.Balasundaram is the President of this historic committee. G.K.Sundaram of Lakshmi Mills had been the President for a number of years. He is well known for having been part of several organisations including the Kamban Kazhagam. Gentlemen like Kumar have done yeoman service for the cause. Krishnaswamy, the son of Desikachari has been involved for a long time and is ever present during the visits of the Jeeyar of Ahobilam. The family of V.Narasimha Iyengar were regulars too.
People used to travel from different parts of the Kongu belt to enjoy the divine lectures. The musician M.L.Vasanthakumari and her protégé Sudha Raghunathan have rendered the composition in a fabulous manner. It had been set by the great Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar. M.L.Vasanthakumari was a disciple of G.N.Balasubramaniam. People of Coimbatore used to listen to her singing of Thiruppavai, welcome the people who did the bhajans in front of their house and also attend the lectures offered by the Coimbatore Thiruppavai Committee. Quite a few of the faithful used to read the text from the ‘Chithira Thiruppavai’ published by the Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanams under the stewardship of the iconic Anna Rao.
The varieties of flavoured rice and sweets used to be cooked in a fine manner. One would not smell the fragrance of the offering until it was offered to the deities. The festival ‘Goodaraivalli’ celebrating the pasuram ‘Goodarai Vellum Seer Govinda’ used to enjoyed with the making of ‘Akkaradisal’ by the families. ‘Akkaradisal’ with ‘Muzhangai nei vadiya’ was the order of the day. Nei, rice, jaggery, cardamom, raisins were used to make this offering. The Coimbatore Thiruppavai Committee had recently sought sponsorships for the 30 pasurams from Bhagavatas. The contributors could donate Rs.30000 per pasuram in order to create a corpus for the events to go on for eternity. All the great scholars of the past and present used to enquire about the Coimbatore Thiruppavai lectures whenever they met the devotees of Andal from Coimbatore. The pure and Satvik followers of Andal will continue to enjoy the sacred and lovely Thiruppava, thanks to good work of the stalwarts behind the committee.
—Rajesh Govindarajulu

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