The Music & Dance Traditions in Temples of Tamilnadu - Araiyar Sevai - Part 2
The earliest epigraphical records on the Araiyar Sevai are available at the Srirangam temple. An inscription of the Chola King Kulottunga (1070-1120 CE) tells us about the endowment of 50 Kalanju of gold by Kottur Veera Cholan (presumably a commander) for the Thiruvaimozhi Vinnappam (singing the verses of the Thiruvaimozhi of Nammazhwar) during the mornings, in front of Nam Perumal. Kottur Senapathi Viracholan made this endowment for the Araiyars who perform the Sevai during the Adhyayana Utsavam. This inscription highlights that the Thiruvaimozhi Pasurams are sung in the morning for Nam Perumal as Thiruppalliyeluchi. A 13th Century inscription from Sri Varadaraja Perumal Temple at Kanchipuram mentions 22 people as Thiruvinnappam Seivar, called Araiyars.
Araiyars are not just artists who perform during the Adhyayana Utsavam. They serve the Lord with immense devotion. Texts on Guru Parampara speak of some of the Araiyars being Acharyas. Thiruvaranga Perumal Araiyar preached Charamopaya to Udaiyavar as instructed by Periya Nambi. It also says after Aalavandar, the learned Vaishnavites of Srirangam decided that Sri Ramanuja was the right person to become Pitadhipathi. It said, “Thiruvaranga Perumal Araiyar went to Kanchi and requested the Lord to send Udaiyavar with him to Sri Rangam.”
The Araiyars are also known as Thambiranmars. The commentary they recite during the Araiyar Sevai is called Thambiranpadi.‘Padi’ is a beautiful Manipravala term for the Prabandhas of Azhwars. The scholars who wrote the commentaries of the Divya Prabandhams were well versed in the Vedas, Upanishads, Itihasa, Purana and Agamas.
They equal the Prabandham in importance by adding enormous value to the Urais. It is no surprise that Vaishnavites hold commentaries in such high reverence. These Padis of Prabandhams are now in print. However, the Thambiranpadi of Araiyar tradition remains in manuscripts, memorised by the Araiyars and performed.
The term Padi denotes/indicates the number of alphabets used in the commentary. Hence, Moovayirapadi, Arayirapadi, and Pannerayirapadi are names given to these commentaries.
The earliest commentary or Padi available to us is of Thirukkurukaippiran Pillai. His Aarayirappadi for Nammazwar’s Thiruvaimozhi dates to the 11th century CE.
Padi is made available to devotees through Kalakshepas held in temples. The Thambiranpadi contains Iyal, Isai & Natakam, and is known as Mutthamizh. The amalgamation of rich poetry, music, Abhinaya, and Bhakti makes this the most simple and sophisticated way to showcase the greatness of the supreme.
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