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Aani Thirumanjanam In Traditional Style

Ranjani Saigal

The New England Hindu Temple celebrated the festival of Aani Thirumanjanam on June 24 2007 in a style reminiscent of Chidambaram. Scriptures say it was on Ani Uthiram, under a kurundai tree, that the Lord offered upadesa to Sage Manikkavachaka the writer of the famous Thiruvachakam. Legends have it that during the abhishekam to the Lord, as everyone watched, the sage merged in the Lord as a brilliant flame.
The event began with the Nataraj Vigraham being brought out from the sanctum sanctorum in a Chariot or Ratham and taken in a procession around the temple.  The word Thirumanjanam means holy bath. Aani Thirumanjanam ( Tamil month spanning June- July) is a special day ( Uthram Nakshtram) when an Abhishekam is performed for Lord Nataraja . It is believed that Lord Nataraja gives darshan to his devotees in the months Ani and Margazhi. Ani Thirumanjanam, the pradosha abhishekam on the evening of the day of Uthiram star in the month Ani (June-July), is considered the best time for worshipping Lord Shiva.

This was followed by a dance presentation by local dance teachers done in front of the Ratham. Sridevi Thirumalai presented  Jaya Jaya Shambo while Jeyanthi Ghatraju presented Simahavahini (varnam), Shankara Sri Giri and Desh Tillana. Ranjani Saigal presented Shiva Panchakshara Stotram, Natanam Cheiyyum Padanar and Devi Neeye Tunai while Sapna Krishnan presented Mahadeve Shiva Shambo. Just as the event was to end young Tejas Putcha who was visiting the temple performed impromptu to the accompaniment of Aparna Balaji. They presented Amba Vani Nanadari and Bho Shambho.  Tejas is a young man who was born and brought up in Durham New Hampshire. Due to his strong spiritual leanings, after tenth grade he has moved to India and enrolled in the Veda Patashala at Thirupathi where he learns Veda and Kuchipudi.

“While all dancers always say they learn from this or the other teacher, the truth is that Lord Nataraja is the ultimate Guru. We are one of the few temples where Shiva is in the form of Nataraja. The idea for the Natya Samarpanam came to me suddenly when one day Ranjani Saigal had come to the temple and was seeking special blessings from Lord Nataraja. I mentioned it to her then. She mentioned it to K.G Narayana and the event became a reality. By the blessing of the Lord this first event has turned out to be so nice.  I hope next year all dance teachers will make it their event as they celebrate their common guru Lord Nataraja” said Shri Bhairava Sundaram.

The dance was followed by an incredible Nadaswaram performance by the grandsons of Sheikh Chinna Maulana Saheb S.Kasim and S.Babu who were accompanied by Shri Senthi Kumar on the Thavil. “The Bharatnatyam Nadaswaram combination takes us back to Chidambaram” said one of the devotees “We look forward to the event next year”.

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Nataraj Ratham

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