Gangavatarana takes place every year on the day of Kartigai (Kartika) Amavasya in the well belonging to the house of Sri Sridhara Ayyavaal, a great saint and Keertanakar (Composer & Singer of Bhajans) who lived in the 17th Century CE. Please read on to learn more about Sri Sridhara Ayyavaal & Gangavatarana.
PurePrayer offers Bhakti Namans to Sri Sridhara Ayyavaal on this occasion of Gangavataranam.
Devotees of Lord Shiva and followers of Sri Sridhara Ayyavaal, throng this little village in Kumbakonam on the banks of River Kaveri (Cauvery) to witness this divine spectacle of River Ganga swelling up in the well in Sri Sridhara Ayyavaal’s house which is better known as Gangavatarana Mahotsavam. This is a Ten-Day event here and begins from December 4, 2021. They visit the river to take a holy dip and then visit the well in the house of Ayyavaal for a sprinkle of the holy water believed to contain Ganga water.
Sridhara Venkatesha Ayyavaal was well-known as a part of the Divine Trinity of Bhajan singing along with Sri Bodhendra Saraswati Swamigal (Kanchi Mutt pontiff of 17th century) and Marudhanallur Sadhguru Swamigal. Ayyaval is a respectable Tamil suffix term given to this greatest exponent of Sampradaaya Bhajana Naama Sankeerthanam. They are as popular as the Divine Trinity of Carnatic Sangeetham comprising Sri Thyagaraaja, Sri Shyama Sastri and Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar.
How this Gangavatarana Mahotsavm in Tiruvisanallur started?
Sridhara Venkatesha was born around the year 1635 in a Telugu Brahmin family in Mysore. His father Sridhara Lingarayar was the Diwan of the Mysuru Kingdom ruled by Wodeyars. Lingarayar gave the best Vedic education to his son and also performed his wedding. Ayyavaal was offered the Diwan position in the court of the Wodeyars, after his father’s demise, but he refused it. Instead he chose to embark on a lifelong pilgrimage of the Shiva temples of the Cauvery Delta region around Thanjavur, Kumbakonam.
An incident that took place during the Shraddham (Srardham) he was performing for his father, led to the Gangavataranam.
Ayyavaal after reaching the Kaveri Delta region visited all the important temples in Kumbakonam, Thiruchirappally and many others. He settled at the beautiful lush green village of Tiruvisanallur in Kumbakonam. He had performed many miracles that included even bringing a few dead people back to life. However, he lived a humble life of engaging in Unchavrithi (taking alms house to house while singing in Sampradaaya Bhajan form). Sri Sridhara Ayyavaal composed many great Bhajan works like Krishna Dwaadasha Manjari, Taaravali on Lord Shiva, Dola Navaratna Maalika on Krishna, Dayaa Shatakam on Lord Shiva. He was extremely devoted to Lord Mahalingeshwara (Shiva) at the Tiruvidaimarudhur Mahalingeswara Temple and visited the temple every day, crossing the River Kaveri.
One day, on the occasion of Varshika Shraddha for his father, he was overcome by compassion by seeing a hungry beggar. He offered all the food prepared for the Shraadham (Srardham) to the beggar. The Brahmins of the town, who had arrived for the rituals were already jealous of Sridhara Ayyavaal’s fame. They regarded this act of kindness, as a grave sin and refused to perform the Shraadham. Ayyavaal requested the Brahmins to suggest a Praayaschittam (Atonement) for the deed, he had carried out.
They ordered that Sridhara Ayyaval must take a dip in the River Ganga as the only solution for this ‘sin’. Travelling from Kumbakonam to River Ganga in the North, would take years to reach and return back. Ayyavaal decided to invoke Goddess Ganga in his house itself, instead of travelling all the way to the Varanasi (Kashi).
Sri Sridhara Ayyavaal & Gangavatarana
He composed the Gangaashtakam and devoutly prayed to Mother Ganga to appear and get him out of his Praayaschitaam. In response to his prayers, Ganga appeared in his well, and started flooding the streets of Tiruvisallur. The whole town was on the verge of submerging in the Ganga flooding out of the well in Sridhar Ayyavaal’s house. The brahmins, realising their vanity, prostrated before Sridhara Ayyaval and asked for forgiveness, requesting him to send back the Ganges, or atleast, keep her confined to his well.
Sri Ayyavaal then prayed to the Ganga thus –
|| भगीरथमनोभीष्टसिद्धये भुवनाश्रिते |
| ब्राह्मणानां मनःपूर्त्यै मम कूपे स्थिरा भव ||
The sacred Ganges withdrew and stayed in the well at Sri Ayyaval’s house at Tiruvisanallur. This incident happened on the Amavasya in Kartigai month.
Every year, devotees turn up in large numbers on this day at Tiruvisanallur and take a bath in this holy Ganga water from the well. The ‘Gangaavatarana-Mahotsavam’ is celebrated for ten days by the Sridhara Ayyavaal Mutt. Devotees come in large groups to take a bath in this well water on this Karthika Amavasya morning and still, the well water doesn’t dry up. Devotees turn up very early on this morning, first take a dip in the holy Kaveri river near Sridhara Ayyaval’s mutt at Tiruvisanallur and then queue up outside the Mutt, for their turn to take a holy bath in the Ganga water from the well. Thus, one gets the Punya of taking bath in both Ganga and Kaveri at Tiruvisanallur on Karthika Amavasya.
Due to the efforts of Sri Ayyaval, the tradition of Bhajana Naama-sankeerthanam was firmly established in the south. Sri Ayyaval was satisfied that he had accomplished his mission on earth. He cast his mortal frame by disappearing within the sanctum of Sri Mahalinga Swami at the Madhyarjuna Kshetra of Thiruvidaimarudur.
This year, the Gangavatharana On Kartika Amavasya is taking place on Saturday of December 4, 2021. Devotees participate in the ten day Mahotsavam, with the most important day being Karthika Amavasai. Tiruvisanallur is at about 9 kilometres from Kumbakonam.
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