Sastha Preethi Songs [Nurani]

Sastha Preethi Songs [Nurani]
Translated by P. R. Ramachander

Introduction

Nurani is one of the very famous Agraharams of Palakkad Town with large number of Brahmin houses. The people who originally inhabited this Agraharam believe that they have migrated to this village from Thiruvannamali of Tamil Nadu. It seems after their ancestors decided to settle in that place and when they were clearing the bushes in the western side of the village, the labourers who were from the nearby Harijan colony heard a sound akin to the ringing of bells as well as very aromatic perfume like scent. The Brahmins of the village were informed about this. Further digging was done very carefully and three cylindrical stones as well as a flat stone were recovered from there. The astrologers who were summoned to find out what they are told that the three cylindrical shapes were the idols of Dharma Sastha and his two consorts, Poorna and Pushkala and the flat stone was that of Bhagawathy (some say Malikapurathamma). The idols of Sastha and that of Poorna and Pushkala were installed in the Nurani Agraharam and the the idol of Bhagawathi was installed in the Harijan colony of Kaikuthu Paramba. The people of the Agraharam built a temple for Sastha along with his consorts. Later they came to know that there was a Namboodiri in that place before the Agraharam was built and he was a great devotee of Aryankavu Sastha. He used to visit the Aryankavu every year but when he became old and was not able to visit Aryankavu, the Lord appeared in his dream and ordered him to install his statutes in front of his house and worship them. People of Nurani believe that these were the idols worshipped by that Namboodiri. The people of the village believe that all this happened more than 200 years earlier. At that time, Ayyappan as a God was not popular among Brahmins of Kerala. But Sastha with his consorts was very popular in Thirunelveli District of Tamil Nadu. There are even today, large number of Sastha temples in that district. It is in one such village called Kulathoor, which is near Kallidai Kurichi Town, that the practice of Sastha Preethi originated. This village had a group of Brahmins called Karanthayar Brahmins. They were essentially business people and used to carry out trade in various parts of Kerala. In due course they first settled in Ernakulam and later In Trichur. (They were called Pondy Brahmins). These settlers were called the Pondi Samooham in Kerala. One of the members of this samooham was a family of Kambangudi. It seems that this family helped Swami Ayyappan by providing him food when he came to hunt for a tigress. At that time it is believed that the Lord promised them that he would be with them wherever they go and would assist them. (Kambangudikku Naan Adimai - I am a slave to the Kambangudi family). It was possibly that this family which started the Sastha Preethi as we know it now. It is essentially confined to the Brahmin community. (A similar function carried out by the non-brahmin community is called Ayyappan Vilakku.) After the worship and singing songs extolling Dharma Sastha, a wholesome food is provided to all the Brahmins. It seems in Kualthoor where it seems to have originated, the eighteen Agraharams used to join together and perform it in a grand way. It is not clear when Sastha Preethi started being celebrated in Kerala Agraharams. Possibly it started in a small way in the Pondi Agraharams in Ernakulam. But the Grand Sastha Preethi which is being celebrated in Noorani must have originated from here. Most of the Sastha Preethi songs are addressed to the then Kulathoor Ayyan; the villagers claim that they are celebrating it for the past 300 years. It is not at all clear about the format of the Sastha Pattukkal at the earlier times. One of the great Musician of Nurani called Parameswara Bhagawathar who was in the court of King Swathi Thirunal Maharaja, has played a key role in collecting these songs.

Most of these songs are addressed to the Thenkulathoor Ayyan. Many people still believe that the Kulathoor that they are referring is Kulathoor Puzha. But this is not so, because in Kualthoor Puzha Sastha is consecrated as a child and not as one who was married to Poorna and Pushkala. It is also interesting to note that there is only one idol of the boy Sastha in Aryan Kavu (Namboodiri is supposed to have consecrated it based on this temple). But In Kulathoor Sastha temple, which is near Kallidai Kurichi, the sastha is with his queens Poorna and Pushkala. Another important aspect about Nurani Sastha songs is that they extol also the son of Sastha called Chella Pillai and many courtiers of Sastha like Vella Kal Bhootham, Sangili Sastha, Yakshi, Karuppan and so on. Chella Pillai and these Bhootha courtiers of Sastha are not very popular in the Ayyappan cult of Sabari Malai. It is interesting to note that they are mentioned and are also popular in the Kulathhor temple of Kallidai Kurichi. Another interesting aspect of these songs is that almost all of them are in Tamil. Since the Palakkad Tamil is not pure but to a certain extent mixed with Malayalam, the words in the songs are mostly spelled in Palakkad Tamil. Except for one or two Dhyana Slokas in Sanskrit, few Vanchi Pattu (Boat songs) in Malayalam, all the text is in Tamil. It was difficult to translate these songs in to English because of this. I am sure large number of mistakes are still there. I request readers to point out these mistakes to me as comments or by mail to my e-mail ID. I am requesting this because this great treasure of songs about Sastha, which we have inherited, must be preserved for posterity in a language that they can understand.

How the Sastha Preethi are sung in Nurani:
[From a book called Nurani Sastha Preethi Padal published by Sri N. E. Padmanabhan and Sri N. E. Anantheswaran in 2005.]

In Nurani Sastha Preethi is not a one or two days function. The festival starts from the commencement of the Mandalam every year. Around 9 PM all devotees assemble in the temple for the Ardhajama Pooja and sing Bhajans in conventional style peculiar to Nurani. Changalavatta (Oil lamp hanging on a chain) is lighted and after breaking coconut in the Sastha Sannidhi and after three Pradakshinams accompanied by Nadaswaram, all devotees sit in two opposite lines, facing each other, at the Sastha Sannidhi. Destined Bhagawathar with the permission of elders commences the songs as per Padathi (practice) giving importance to Sastha Songs, Natta, Thodaya Mangalam, Viruthams, Keerthanams and then Deeparadhana is performed. After Deeparadhana and distribution of Prasadams concluding Poojas and songs continue. Manthra Pushpam, Swarna Pushpam, Chathurveda Parayanam and Aseervadams are chanted. One stanza from Shiva Ashtakam, Ashtapadi and a Keerthanam, followed by Thevaram, Virutham, Pathyam, Venpa, Kalithurai, Nalangu, Kummi, Choornikai, Oonjal Nadai Chuthal and Vazthu follow.

In the fourth and fifth week of the Mandalam, after singing the usual songs, an auspicious Wednesday or Saturday is selected for starting the "Avesha Pattu". For this, senior devotees prostrate before the Lord Dharma Sastha and seek permission from the president and members as well as elders of the village to commence the Sastha songs. Afterwards Avesha pattu is sung on all Wednesdays and Saturdays till Sastha Preethi. These songs alert the devotees and create inspiration and Bhakthi in them. The Komaram or Velichappadu known as Narthakas dance around the temple to the tune of the songs to add gaiety to the occasion. Senior Komaram is given Sword and big rings (Thandai) and are adorned with Koorai (Red cloth). They dance around the temple distributing Vibhuthi prasdams, which instills faith and devotion.

These songs are to be sung only in the traditional way and ragas / thalams should not be changed to maintain age old tradition and the sentiments and devotion which go with these songs.

Preceding Wednesday before Sastha Preethi, Sastha Savarna Sahasra Nama Archana to Sastha is performed and on Thursday 1008 Sanku pooja and Abishekam to Lord Maha Vishnu are performed. Further Poorna Dravya Abishekam to Sastha and Kalababishekam to Vishnu are also performed.

On the auspicious Saturday, after mandalam, Sastha Pretha is scheduled except on Shukla Sashti, Ekadasi, Amavasya and Pournami.

After all great religious observations on the Sastha Preethi day, which includes a great feast, at night Vanji Pattu commences. After four Pradakshinams of the temple, all devotees assemble together and sing all the songs as usual.

Acknowledgements

I have only heard about these great songs sung during Sastha Preethi at Nurani (Noorani). When I wanted to translate them in to English, Sri P. V. Anatha Narayanan, who is my friend encouraged me do it. He also gave me a English transliterated version of the entire Sastha Preethi songs done by Sri Choodamani Noorani Hariharan alias Sunil of New Delhi. I have completely used these transliterated texts. My grateful thanks are to Sunil, who has done a back breaking job of typing the very large number of songs in English. Sri P. V. Anantha Narayanan also gave me a printed Tamil book called Noorani Sastha Preethi Padal published in 2005 by Sri N. E. Padmanabhan and Sri N. E. Anatheswaran in 2005. Whenever I had doubts, I have referred to this book. My grateful acknowledgements to both these authors, who live in Mumbai. My grateful acknowledgements are also to my friend Sri P. V. Anantha Narayanan.

Without the blessing of the Lord Dharma Sastha, I simply could not have done the job I took up. My Anantha Koti Namaskarams to him.

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