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Grand Celebrations of Andal Kalyanam and Pongal Festival at Sri Meenakshi Temple

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Photos: Srini Sundarrajan

By Bhargavi Golla

PEARLAND:

Andal Kalyanam:

Sri Meenakshi Temple Society celebrated the sacred wedding of Andal/Goda with Lord Sri Krishna in the form of Lord Ranganatha on Saturday, January 13.  Andal, after observing the Paavai Nombu (vows) during the Dhanur month (December 15th to January 15th), merged with Lord Ranganatha in Srirangam. This union is celebrated as Andal kalyanam.

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Aandal is an 8th century Tamil saint and one of the twelve Alwars (saints) and the only woman Alwar of Vaishnavism.  These twelve alwars were installed at Sri Meenakshi Temple recently as part of CTRP project.  She composed the Thiruppavai (30 songs in praise of Lord Narayana) which are steeped in devotion and contain the esoteric truths revealed in the Vedas.

 

Priests decorated Utsava Murthis of Lord Ranganatha and Andal beautifully and placed in the center of the main temple. Devotees gathered at the main temple and were enthralled to witness the holy occasion of Andal Kalyanam and to receive the celestial blessings.  It started with Chairman Dr. Padmini welcoming the devotees and a board member Dr. Saranathan explaining the story of Sri Andal.MTS-in-1

Priests Pavan Kumar Sri Bhashyam, Sriman Narayana and Sridharan Raghavan performed the authentic divine wedding ceremony after the initial rituals including Sankalpam, Vishwaksena Aradhana (Obstacle removal) and Punyahavachanam (purification).   

 

Priests along with devotees recited Sri Andal’s Thiruppavai and Thiruppaan Alwar’s ten Pasurams.  Later Priest Sridhar Raghavan explained the meaning Thiruppaan Alwar’s Pasurams the principal purport in them is: “Perumal is the principal supreme entity and our aims and aspirations should be to attain Him through total surrender to him signified by our placing all of ourselves at his lotus feet.”

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As part of kalyanam, the priests performed homam while devotees chanted Varanamayiram, Andal’s narration of her dream and experiences with her friends on the way to getting married to Lord.  Then it concluded with exchange of coconuts, and final chanting by priest Manickasundara Bhattar with a praise of goddess Meenakshi.

Sheila Sriram from RAC Committee thanked the event coordinators (Bhargavi Golla and Preetha Sreenivasan), many volunteer devotees who brought prasadams, staff, silpis and priests at Sri MTS.

Pongal Celebration:

Despite cold weather, it was a full house with enthusiastic devotees participating in outdoor Pongal celebrations at Sri Meenakshi Temple on January 14.  

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Pongal is a popular harvest festival of south India that marks the return of the sun to the northern hemisphere. It’s celebrated to reaffirm and appreciate the many significant sacrifices of our ancestors, quite like Thanksgiving in America.  Pongal is the only festival of Hindus that follows a solar calendar.

More than 90 families, some from out of town, came to prepare pongal in the Raja veedhi, in front of the main temple. Pongal celebrations were in the Raja Veedhi for the first time this year after it was constructed as part of CTRP project.
Though the day started out cold with temperature in the forties, Surya Bhagavan (Sun God) graced us with his bright presence. The temperature soon warmed up to the cozy heat from all the wood burning stoves & so did the tempo with traditional pongal music & folk dances by energetic devotees. 

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Pongal was cooked by each family in beautifully decorated brass pots on stove made with clay and wood used as fuel. Rice and milk are boiled in a pot till the pot starts overflowing. The overflowing pot symbolizes fulfillment.   When milk started to boil over, everyone shouted out “pongalo pongal”.  The ambience was very similar to what you would see in the villages of South India as per feedback from several devotees.

Kannappan read the proclamation received from Mayor of Pearland, Tom Reid proclaiming Jan 14 as Thai Pongal Day. “In Pearland as the Indian American community celebrate Pongal and celebrate the festival days with colorful decorations, cooking, and with elders treating younger members of the family with gifts to show their love for the next generation”

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Priests offered the delicious Pongal prasadam to all four deities inside the main Temple: Siva, Meenakshi, Venkateswara and Padmavathi with a special aarathi.  Padmini Nathan, Kamala Raghavan and Ram Reddy were the coordinators of the Pongal celebration.

Chairman Dr. Padmini thanked Silpis Ramanathan, Arumugam and Viswanathan for the hard work in setting up the stoves and beautiful decorations, which was a visual treat.  She also thanked Sheila for all the prep work and Malathi for audio and Rani and her team for feeding big crowd with a smile.  Thanks to our priests, staff, board members & volunteers without whose help this would have not been possible.

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