-V.N. Vedanta Desikan
Vaishnava tradition attaches great importance to the Archa form of God - the moorti (idol) enshrined in temples. The deity isa manifestation and
incarnation of the Supreme Being. Rendering service to this Archa form is emphasised and strongly commended by Azhvars and Acharyas.
Oppiliappan Koil, near Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu is one among the famous 108 Vaishnavite shrines hallowed by the hymns of the Azhvars and has a three-fold distinction. First, fout Azhvars, including Nammazhvar, the greatest of the Tamil mystic poets, ha ve sung in praise of the lord. The others are Tirumangai Azhvar, Poigai Azhvar and Peyazhvar. Secondly, it is a Prarthana Sthalam where devotees fulfill the vows taken to propitiate the Lord. Thirdly, the temple has a hoary Puranic linkage, and is associa ted with the custom of avoiding with the custom of avoiding salt in the offerings to Him, which lead to the name "Uppiliappan".
Ecstatic indeed was the experience of the Azhvars as they set their eyes on the bewitching form of this Lord. In his soulful outpourings, Tirumangai Azhvar proclaims repeatedly, in song after song: "Oh Lord of Tiruvinnagar if You grace me with the vision of Your form, i do not want the plaesures of a family life." Namazhvar calls him "The Peerless (One)". Evidently the poet-saint was so enthralled by the charm of the Lord that he hailed Him "Tan-Oppar-il-appan" (The Lord w ithout an equal). Hence the name "Oppiliappan".
The deity, an enchanting beauty, kindles an aesthethic love andappreciation in the devout, what with the Lord's imposing figure, lustrous eyes and captivating smile. Bedecking the deity with ornaments gives greater charm. Devotees often dedicate orname nts and garments to the deity. That even without such external trappings , the deity affords infinite visual and mental joy, is a different matter.
An inscription (no.211 of 1911) in the Naganathaswami temple in Tirunageswaram speaks of the provision for a gold income from land presented by a Mahant in the army ogf Rajendra Choladeva (of 1020 AD ) to the temple at Tiruvinnagar-Tirunageswaram. Tiru vinnagar is another name for Oppiliappan Koil.
Some decades ago, a vedic scholar. P.S.Varadachariar raised funds to dedicate gemset crowns for the Utsava (processional) idols.He was also instumental in starting the annual 10-day music festival at the temple in October-November.
And now, a set of high-priced exquisely made jewels are to be dedicated to the Lord.A gem-set Kavacham (Ratnangi), with a sperical crowns is to be offered to the utsava deity. This piece of workmanship which costs Rs.10 lakhs,is almost unlike the Vajra kavacham used to adorn the Utsava deity in Tirumala. The moolavar deities (of the Lord and His consort) are to be adorned with a pearl-studded garment (Muthangi) valued approximately at Rs.1 lakh.It is significant that Nammazhvar refers to the Lord as the One of "pure gold lustrous like the gem and cool like the pearl."
The prime mover of the venture is Padma Veeraraghavan.(daughter of Late P.S.Varadachariyar). A classical musician who has had training from eminent vidwans and who heads a choral group of her own named "Goda Priya".She raised funds for the pr oject primarily through benifit concerts. Earlier she had offered a muthu kondai to Sri Andal at Srivilliputtur and idols to a temple in Nanganallur (Madras).
The Ratnangi,Muthangi and other ornaments are to be dedicated to the lord during a three day religious festivity at Oppiliappan Koil beginning on August 9. The Lord is to don the Ratnangi on August 11 1996.
Last modified on Thursday, February 1, 2001