The Unjal utsavams at Srirangam are famous and most enjoyable as one sees the Lord SrI RanganAthan and SrIranganAyaki sway gently back and forth in their specially decorated Unjal.
It is customary to sing beautiful songs as the divine couple enjoy their Unjal utsavams. They come near us and they go away from us as the arcakAs gently push the Unjal forward and backward. The AbharaNams reflect the deepams in the hall and one gets mesmerized enjoying the munn and the pinn (front and back) sEvais. Saint ThyagarAja composed a lot of kritis for his ishta dhaivam , Lord Raamachandran and sang them , when he rocked the dolai for his Lord : (1) laali lAliyani UchEdhara VanamAli in Raaga HarikAmbhOji (2) uyyAla lUgavayya SrIrAma in Raaga NeelAmbhuri (3) Raama SriRaama lAli in Raagam sankarAbharaNam (4) Laali lAlayya lAli in Raagam KedAragouLai and (5) laali UgavE maa-paali dhaivama in Raagam Neelambhari . These are tender kritis filled with bhagavad anubhavam as the Unjal upachAram is offered to the Lord by the devotee. One of the Azhagiya Singhars has composed many songs to be sung during the Unjal utsavam for Dolai KaNNan at SrI Matam .
Two great poets of Srirangam created the Unjal Prabandhams for the Lord of Srirangam and His divine consort. These Unjal Prabandhams are one of the 96 kinds of Tamizh Prabandhams with defined lakshaNams.
Divya Kavi SrI PiLLai PerumAL IyengAr and His grandson, KonEriappan Iyengar are the celebrated creators of the Unjal Prabandhams for SrI RanganAtha and SrI RanganAyaki tAyAr.
According to some traditions , PiLLai PerumAL IyengAr is considered as a direct disciple of Swamy ParASara BhaTTar and that he was the grandson of Tiruvarangattu AmudanAr, the famous composer of SrI Raamnuja nURRandAti. Divya Kavi PiLLai PerumAL IyengAr is the author of ashTa Prabandhams:
SrI RanganAyakar Usal (*)
nURReTTu tirupapati andAti
SrI RanganAyakar Usal (Unjal) will be the focus of this write-up. The scholarly Tamil poetry of IyengAr has been a source of unending delight for Tamil scholars.
Prior to covering all of the Unjal ceyyuLkaL( Paayirams) on Lord RanganAtha, it would be my bhAgyam to share with you a quick summary of the works of both the Kavis as covered in an audio tape on their compositions. This input is an extract from an essay, aDiyEn posted long time ago in Bhakti archives. Here it is:
aDiyEn will start with the summary of the first side of this tape dedicated to AcAryALs and the divya dampatis of Srirangam and other divya desams.
You can access these recordings at the URL :
First 45 minutes of the tape:
The tape begins with a salutation to the uniqueness of arcAvatAram among the five forms of SrIman nArAyaNan (para, vyUhA, vibhava, antaryAmi and arcA). The benefits of arcA worship by AzhvArs and AcAryAs are next covered. The special four benefits arising from arcA worship are explained as:
ruci jAtaktvam or the kindling of the spiritual fire in the mind
SubhASrayatvam or the attainment of inner peace and tranquility through darSana soubhAgyam of the beautiful arcA mUrti
akshaya loka caraNyatvam or the development of the affection for the divya dampatis in arcA form that raises the fire of Bhakti further and bUta dayA and
anubhAvyatvam or the enhanced state of spiritual experience that stabilizes one’s dhyAnam and dhAraNam preparing one to attain a sadAcAryan to perform Prapatti and qualify for mokshAnugraham.
In this context , the deep aunbhavam of the MangaLAsAsanam of the Archaa Murthy at the BhUlOka VaikunTham of Srirangam by ThiruppANa AzhwAr can be enjoyed at :
The audios of the excerpts from the SrI sUktis of SrI PiLLai PerumAL IyengAr (azhagiya MaNavALa dAsar) known as ashTa Prabandham are chosen by VidvAmsini Padma Veeraraghavan to pay her tribute to the bhakti of PiLLai PerumAL IyengAr for the arcA mUrti-s in general and SrI RanganAthA in particular. These pAsurams are literary master pieces by the direct disciple of ParASara BhaTTar. The ecstasy and devotion for the Lord of Srirangam found in these pAsurams of ashTa Prabandham earned IyengAr the honorific title of “divya Kavi”.
The first piece is sung in the morning rAgam, BhUpALam in the viruttham tradition (without tALam) to the accompaniment of flute. Here the divya kavi salutes the arcA mUrti-s and states that he is going to offer his salutations in the antAdi form selected by the Mudal AzhvArs and Swamy NammAzhvAr (ERRa MaNavALan). The reference is to the SrI RanganAtha Pativratai’s (ToNDaraDippoDi’s) TiruppaLLiyezucchi.
The second pAsuram is set in rAgam SaurAshTram and is from the section of ashTa prabandham known as Tiruvaranga Kalambakam. The tALam will be Adi in most of the renderings except for KaNDa cApu for two pieces dealing with Unjal of SrI RangarAjan and SrI RanganAyaki. Mrudhangam joins in now. In this pAsuram, Iyengar performs SaraNAgati at the sacred feet of the 12 AzhvArs in general and Swamy NammAzhwAr in particular (Vedam tohuttu tamizhp pADal seyta vimalan ….). Here the reference is to Madhura Kavi and His AcArya Bhakti.
The third pAsuram is set in rAgam Mohanam to describe the divya saundaryam of SrI RanganAthan, His beautiful face, His eyes full of Mercy, His sacred tuLasI mAlA and His divya Ayudhams. IyengAr says that there is nothing for him to fear in this world as long as SrI RanganAthA and His Ayudhams are with him (Periya PerumAL arangan ….--).
The fourth pAsuram is coming from TiruvarangattantAdi and is set in sAveri rAgam. Here Iyengar pays tribute to his Guru parampara starting from BhaTTar, EmbAr upward to SrI RanganAyaki and SrI RanganAthA.
The fifth verse from TiruvarangattantAdi is set in rAgam BhegaDA and salutes the five AcAryAs of RaamAnujar and then ends up stating that EmperumAnAr sitting in the middle of the 74 AcAryAs appointed by him is his succor and sustenance.
The sixth verse is from TiruvEnkaDa mAlai and is a salute to TiruvEnkaDamuDaiyAn as Gajendra Varadan. This pAsuram is set in the evening rAgam of HindoLam. IyengAr says that his tongue will not praise any
deity other than SrIman nArAyaNa standing in the form of Sesha Sekhara Vibhu on top of Tirumalai.
The seventh verse is set in the morning rAgam of danyAsi and is from TiruvEnkaDa mAlai. Here IyengAr salutes SrI Venkatesan as the mAyavan, KaNNan, MaNivaNNan and Kesavan. IyengAr also states that the Lord’s nayana dIkshai will remove every fear and SrI VaikuNTham will not be far away for them, who receive such blessings. We must recall that Lord RanganAthA spent few years at TiruvEnkaDam hills.
The eighth pAsuram comes from azhagar antAdi dealing with the praise of SrI SundararAja PerumAL of Solai malai or TirumAlirumcOlai. In the beautiful rAgam of Valaji, the artist and the group sing about the power of Azhagar to melt the hearts and the minds of BhaktAs, who recite His 1000 names (sahasra nAmams). The song starts with the words, “nencam urukkum, uyir urukkum …).
The ninth pAsuram is also from azhagar antAdi and is sung in rAgam ShaNmukha PriyA (ParantAmarai, tirumAlirumcOlai paramarai …). Here IyengAr begs his mind to focus on the sacred feet of Azhagar for his redemption. SrIi RanganAthan spent few more years as a guest of Azhagar at TirumAlirumcOlai.
The tenth pAsuram is about TirukkuDantai ArAvamudhan and is set in rAgam Suddha sAveri. He asks the Lord: “Are You really tired from the enormous efforts to create the Universe and protect it? Are You the Lord, who extended His feet and measured the Universe during Your avatAram as Trivikraman? Please speak to me (KuDantai kiDantAi pEsu). The question is in the spirit of Tirumazhisai AzhvAr’s pAsuram.
The eleventh pAsuram is about SrI Oppiliappan of AkAsa Nagaram. Here IyengAr states to the Lord that He had made him think of Him and as a result, he has rejected all the worldly pleasures. The mood portrayed is similar to that of Tirumangai, who declared “vENDEn manai Vazhkkai viNNagar mEyavanE”. This verse is set in rAgam Hamsadhvani. The pAsuram starts with “kaiyum uraiyum karuttum unakkE aDimai ….”. The spirit of the pAsuram is similar to the famous pAsuram Passage of ANDAL (unakkE nAm AtceyvOm).
The twelfth verse is about KaancI PeraruLALan. Here IyengAr laments that his mind should be constantly thinking about Varadar only and not about anything else. This piece is set in rAgam Kaapi and starts with the words: “poruLAsai maNNAsai ….”.
The thirteenth verse is a marvellous description of Lord RanganAthA giving His sevai in Dolotsavam to IyengAr. The Lord surrounded by nitya sUris, Ayudhams, AcAryALs are visualized by IyengAr and that results in a PallANDu in the spirit of PeriyAzhwAr from him. This apUrva pAsuram providing a visual image of the Lord swinging in His Dolai and coming towards us and going away from us is a delight to experience. This pAsuram is set in rAgam KuRinji, a janya rAgam of SankarAbharaNam (tiruvAzha tiruvAzhi Sankam vAzha, tiruvanantan garuDan senaiyArkon vAzha,…. AzhvArkaL vAzha …. etirAjan aDiyAr vAzha ….). The tALam of KaNDa cApu fits marvellously with the rhythmic movement of the Dolai.
The fourteenth pAsuram is from KonEri Appan IyengAr, the grandson of SrI PiLLai PerumAL IyengAr , who wished to celebrate the Dolotsavam of SrI RanganAyaki with SrI RanganAthA on a Panguni uttaram day during sErti sEvai. He was inspired by PiLLai PerumAL IyengAr’s Usal/Unjal pATTu for the Lord. He is a later day poet. Appan IyengAar paints here a wonderful word picture of the movement of the bangles, the kinkiNi nAdam of the bells attached to the oTTiyANam, the pleasant nAdam raised by the ankle ornaments as SrI RanganAyaki moves back and forth enjoying Her swing. The gentle movement of Her forelocks in the breeze (movement of aLakabhArams) and other AbharaNams are beautifully described in this pAsuram set in KamAs rAgam and kanDacApu tALam. The title of this pAsuram is “SrI RanganAyaki ADirUnjal ….”.
This side of the tape concludes with a description of AcArya RaamAnujA’s saraNAgati at the sacred feet of the divya dampatis and the birth of SaraNAgati gadyam. Swamy Desikan’s celebration of Prapatti is alluded to in the concluding portion of this side. The second side of the tape pays tribute to the Tamizh Sri Sooktis of Swamy Desikan and His enjoyment of Lord Ranganathan .
Sri RanganAthan's Unjal Paayirams
The taniyan and the kAppu pADal-s for the Unjal Prabandhams for both SrIranganAyaki and SrI RanganAthan are the same.
Taniyan anDAp pantaril, paRRu kAlkaL Aka
aRivu viTTam, karaNam sankilikaLAka
koNDa piRappE palakahai vinai asaippOr
koDu naraka suvargap bhUveLikaDammiR-
tokuttiTTAr tiruvarangattUsaRAnE Word by word meaning: anDam pantaril - with this Universe becoming the pandal (thatched roof)
paRRu kAlkaLAka - with the worldly attachments (pAsams) becoming the pillar to support the cross beam (viTTam)
aRivu viTTamAka - with the intelligence becoming the viTTam (cross beam) to attach the chains
karaNam sankilihaLAka - with the indriyams becoming the chains holding the plank
koNDa piRappE palakai Aka - with the taken birth serving as the plank for seating (the Unjal palakai) .
vinai asaippOr Aka - the two karmAs (PuNyam and pApam) being those, who move the Unjal up and down
koDdu narakam suvarkkam bhU veLikaL tammil - travelling (moving) amidst the spaces of the fearsome narakam , pleasant svargam and the earth
iRakkam taNDalil eRRam tangal Aka - Moving upward effortlessly or traveling downward with ease or staying stationary
taDumARi iDar uzhakkum Usal mARa - to remove the sorrows experienced (iDar uzhakkum) of these confusing movements (taDumARRam) hither and thither at dizzying speed (relating to the speed of the swing).
toNDarkku maNavALar pErar tokuttiTTAr tiruvarangattu Usal - is the Unjal Prabandham (Usal) presented (composed) by Azhagiya MaNavALa dAsar and his grandson (KonEri appan IyengAr) for the aDiyArs of SrIrangam divya dampatis dealing with Their rAjadhAni of Sriranga divya desam.
Comments: PiLLai PerumAL IyengAr (Azhagiya MaNavALa dAsar) and his grandson (KonEeri appan IyengAr) created this SrI RanganAtha and SrI RanganAyaki Unjal pATTukkaL .The taniyan states that these two prabandhams were created by the two poets to chase away the confusions and agitations in the mind of the servants of the Lord (toNDars), who are affected by the terrifying swinging movements (of the jIvans) as they rock between the cycles of their births and deaths. The supporting roof, the cross beam attached to it for positioning the hooks from which the chains of the swing are connected, the sitting plank, the movers of that Unjal, the places that Unjal stops over during the upward, downward and stationary positions as the Unjal rocks are connected allegorically to the Universe, the samsAric bonds, the dharma bhUta j~nAnam, the j~nAna-karma indriyams, the birth taken, the places stopped during the movement of this Unjal and the loss of balance (the spinning of the head). It is suggested that the study and the reflection on these Unjal prabandhams would banish all these agitations of the minds of samsAris as they experience their karmic activities.
aNDam is the ulakam (world), where this "Unjal" takes place. It serves as the roof. The AsA pAsams that one is tempted by are like the firm pillars supporting that roof. The cross beam fastened to the roof is one's j~nAnam (aRivu). the indriyams (sensory and karmendriyams) are the chains attached to the hooks in the cross beam at one end and on the other end are hooks attached to the sitting plank (seat) of the swing. The seat of the Unjal is the birth of the jIvan in this world (piRappu) in an embodied state. Those who rock this Unjal are the two kinds of vinais (PuNyams and Paapams accumulated). The Unjal goes up, comes down and some times remain stationary in space (ERRam, iRakkam, tangal). It undergoes all these varied giddying (taDumARRam) movements linked to the forces of the movers. The removal of all these sorrows experienced by the aDiyArs of the Lord of Srirangam have been programmed to be removed by the two poets through the effect of the two Unjal Prabandhams.
kAppu pADal putuvainagarbhaTTarpirAn caraNkaL pORRi
poygaibhUtanpEyAr pAdam pORRi
catumaRaic sol SaDakOpan SaraNam pORRI
tamizhppANan toNDaraDippoDi tAL pORRi
mutupuhazhsEr mazhisayairkOn padankaL pORRi
muDikkulasEkaran kaliyan kazalkaL pORRi
vAzhvAna bhaTTar tiruvaDigaL pORRi Meaning: Puduvai nahar Bhattar PirAn SaraNkaL pORRI = May the sacred feet of BhaTTar PirAn (PeriyAzhwAr) who incarnated in SrivilliputtUr as GaruDAmsar be the object of my worship!
Poygai bhUtan pEyAr Paadham pORRi =Salutations to the sacred feet of Poygai, BhUtam and pEy AzhvArs born in the month of aippasi at toNDai MaNDalam!
SathumaRai sorrchatakOpan SaraNam pORRI=aDiyEn seeks as refuge the sacred feet of KurukUr SaThakopan, who provided the meanings of the four Sanskrit Vedams through His immortal pAsurams in sweet Tamizh language.
TamizhppANanroNDaradippodi taaL pORRi=Praise unto the sacred feet of TiruppANar who composed delectable prabandhams in Tamizh and the RanganAtha Pativratai, toNDarDippoDi AzhvAr!
mudhu puhazh sEr mazhisayarkkOn padhangaL pORRi=aDiyEn's salutations to Tirumazhisai AzhvAr of ancient fame!
MudikkulaSEkaharan Kaliyan kazhalkaL pORRI = Praise be to the sacred feet of King KulaSekhara and Tiru AlinADAn, Tirumangai AzhvAr !
Madhura Kavi yatirAsan KooratthAzhwAn VaazhvAna Bhattar ThiruvadigaL PORRi=Salutations to Madhura Kavi , YatirAjar, KUrEsar and ParAsara BhaTTar of sucaritram(auspicious life) !
First of the 32 Unjal pATTu-s: MangaLAsAsanam for Sri RanganAthan's
Devi,Weapons,Nitya Suris,SaThAri and His BhAgavatAs ( Thiru-MuRRatthu adiyArs ) tiruvAzhat-tiruvAzhi-sankham vAzha
vEzhulaku-nAn maRayaum initu vAzhap-
periya-perumAlarangarADirUsal Meaning: tiru vAzha – May Your divine consort MahA Lakshmi thrive and prosper !
tiru Azhi Sankam vAzha – May Your disc (Lord sudarSana) and Sankham (Paancajanyam) thrive and live well !
tiru anantan garuDan sEnayairkkOn VAzha – May AdiSeshan (Your bed), GaruDan (Your transport) and Senai MudaliyAr (Your Commander in Chief) live well !
aruL mARan mudalAm AzhvArkaL vAzha – May NammAzhwAr, the recipient of your divine grace and all the other AzhvArs live well !
aLavu il guNattu etirAsan aDiyAr vAzha - May the adiyArs of YathirAjar of limitless auspicious attributes prosper !
iru nAalu tiruvezhuttin ERRam vAzha - May the splendorous growth of the glories of the ashTAksharam continue !
Ezh ulakum nAn maRaiyum initu vAzha - May the delectable lives of the beings of the fourteen worlds (seven above and seven below) and the four VedAs thrive !
peruvAzhvu tantaruL namperumAL engaL periya perumAL arangar Usal ADIr! - Oh Lord who blesses us with the Parama PurushArtham (the supreme goal of life, Viz., moksham)! Oh Our Lord ! Oh the great Lord at Srirangam! Please enjoy Your Unjal utsavam!
Sangeeta Kalanidhi Srimathy Subbhalakshmi has bequeathed to us a soulful rendering of this Paayiram that can be accessed at :
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9lmFxndas The name “namperumAL' was given by a dhobi at Srirangam , who used to wash the vastrams of Lord RanganAtha prior to His stay away from Srirangam for number of years during the invasion by the Muslim marauders.
When he returned home there was some confusion between the ancient RanganAtha archai and the interim archai consecrated during the sanchAram of Lord Ranganatha. The dhobi stepped in and from the fragrance of the Thirumanjana teertham used for both archais could identify the ancient Archai and declared that this One is our “NamperumAL” ( our own PerumAL).
Second Usal pATTu : Sri RanganAthan's Dolai and its architecture uyaraviTTa-kaRpakap-pUmpantar-nIzhal
aNiyaranganamperumALADirUsal. Word for word meaning: uyara iTTa KaRpakam pU pantar nIzhal - Under the shade of the tall flower Pandal resembling a grove of KaRpaka trees (in coolness and depth of comforting shade)
oL pavaLam kAl niRuvi - establishing under the Pandal, the resplendent and sturdy Coral legs to hold the Unjal
Udu pOTTa vayiram viTTattu- In between those coral legs placing the adamantine (Vajram) cross beam for fastening the hooks
ADakam sankilikaL nARRi - and hanging golden chains on to those hooks (at both ends)
maragatattAl palakai taitta Usal mItE - ascending on to the emerald plank seat of that swing, (You are seated to start Your Unjal utsavam)
anRu tayiril iTTa mattu uzhakkum veNNaiykku Adi - Once during KrshNAvatAram, You danced with joy on receiving as present the ball of VeNNai churned fresh from amidst the curds with a wooden churning rod (the Navaneeta nATyam of Bala Gopalan is refered to here).
taDa maRukil kuDamAdi - You danced amidst the big cross roads with pots on Your head hands and shoulders in a deft manner (KuDamADu kUttan of TirunAngUr divya desam is invoked here).
tazhal vAy nAgam ayara iTTu anRu ADiya - On another occasion during KrshNAvatAram, You danced on the hoods of the poison spitting KaaLiyan and made it weak and made it give up its fight to harm You (KaaLiya Nardanam on the maDu in YamunA river is remembered here).
nIr Usal AdIr You danced in all these manners (some for pleasing and amusing Your devotees and others for protecting your devotees from harm's way).
aNi arangam namperumAL(E) Usal AdIr - Oh Lord living at Srirangam! NamperumALE! Please enjoy Your Unjal Utsavam!
Third Usal pATTu:Lord RanganAthan as SarvEswaran mInpUtta-visumpatupORRaraLamkOttu
Word by word Meaning: mIn pUtta visampu atu pOl - appearing like the sky with sparkling stars
taraLam kOttu, viritta nIla paTu vidAnam tOnRa - which looked like a blue canopy embroidered with shiny pearls (taraLam)
vAn pUtta kalai mati pOl - shining there like the full Moon with all its sixteen kalais
kavikai Onga - with the lofty white umbrella (veN koRRa kuDai) swirling in the sky
mati katir pOl kavari iru marungum vIsa - with the white cAmarams (fans) moving on both sides like two beams of the Moon
kAn pUtta taniccelvan silaiyuL karumukil minnal pOl - like the streak of lightning in the middle of the dhanus (bow) Indra of matchless wealth against the background of dark clouds resembling a grove of KaRpaka trees
kaNa maNi vAsikaiyain nAppaN - amidst the dense cluster of the navamaNi necklaces
tEn pUtta tAmaraiyAL - the Lady who resides in the honey laden Lotus flower (Periya PirATTi)
mArbil ADa - with Her staying motionless on Your broad chest
ten aranga maNavALar Usal ADir - Oh Lord of Southern arangam! Oh NamperumALE! Please enjoy Your Unjal utsavam!
The multicolored Indra dhanus (Rain bow ) is described by the poet as "vAn
pUtta tani celvan silai".
silayuL minnal karumukil pOl kaNa maNi vAsikai" - The bluish-black (SyAmaLa) tirumEni of the Lord, the multihued, splendorous navaratna mAlai on that chest of the Lord and Periya PirATTi radiant like a golden lightning there are invoked here by the poet.
What a splendorous scene at Srirangam! What an imagination of the divya Kavi!
Blue canopy of AkASam, twinkling stars, radiant Moon, its beams performing
TiruvAlavaTTa (fan) Kaimkaryam, Periya PirATTi staying still as Vakshassthala Lakshmi on the broad blue chest of the Lord like a golden streak of lightning and the Lord enjoying His Unjals' gentle movements! What a description !
Fourth Usal Paattu : Sri RanganAthan and ThirumuRRRatthu Brundhams bhUsurarum puravalarum vAnanAttup-