Caitanya Mahaprabhu's Tirtha-yatra, Part 31
BY: SUN STAFF
Sri Adhinathan and Devis
Jun 05, 2013 CANADA (SUN) A serial exploration of the holy sites visited by Lord Caitanya.
Naya-tripadi, Part 2
Today we complete our survey of the Tamil Nadu tirtha visited by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu known as Naya-tripadi (Naya-tripati), located at Alvar Tirunagarai, a town about seventeen miles southeast of Tirunelveli. Yesterday we noted the confusion about whether Lord Caitanya visited one temple there or several temples in the group of nine, and whether or not He saw one Deity, or several of the nine Deities residing in those temples. It is a difficult question to answer if one relies solely on Madhya Lila 9, due to the multiple versions that have been published. Fortunately, the answer becomes clearer as we look at the temples themselves.
This cluster of Visnu temples is included amongst the 108 Vaisnava Divya Desams. They are known together as the Nava Tirupathy Temples, and each of the temples is associated with a certain planetary personality. Of the nine, only one is located in Alvar Tirunagarai (Alwarthirunagari), and that is temple number 5, dedicated to Jupiter.
Alwar Tirunagarai Temple
In Madhya 9.219 ("original edition" at Prabhupadabooks.com), we read:
"There was also a temple of Lord Visnu at Naya-tripati on the bank of the river Tamraparni, and after bathing in the river, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu saw the Deity with great curiosity and wandered on.
This Naya-tripati is also called Alwar Tirunagarai. It is a town about seventeen miles southeast of Tirunelveli. There are nine temples there of Sripati, or Visnu. All the Deities of the temples assemble together during a yearly festival in the town."
As we clarified in a segment several weeks ago on the Tamraparni River, the holy Tamraparni (or Purunai) runs through both Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The Nava Tirupathy Temples along the Tamraparni are spread throughout the Chola and Pandia (Pandya-desh) area.
So we can see that in the "original edition", Srila Prabhupada is, of course, correct in his purport, stating that "There are nine temples there" – not all at Alwar Tirunagarai, but clustered together nearby one another. Likewise, the translation in the so-called original edition is correct when stating in the singular that Lord Caitanya saw the Deity at Naya-tripati – meaning the presiding Deity at the one Nava Thirupathy temple residing at Alwar Tirunagarai.
The BBT's revised edition might be considered correct insofar as it states that "There were nine temples of Lord Visnu at Naya-tripati", and "Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu saw the Deities". But given the information provided in Madhya Lila 9.219, this statement could only be taken as correct if it referred to the single temple at Alwar Tirunagarai, having more than one Deity in residence (i.e., presiding deity and consort, etc.).
Even so, the revised edition unnecessarily opens the door to confusion by referring to the plural rather than the singular, which casts doubt in the reader's mind as to whether Lord Caitanya actually visited several of the Nava Thirupathy Temples, or only the one at Alwar Tirunagarai. Better we should rest upon Srila Prabhupada's unchanged words, and increase our understanding from that absolute baseline.
The Two Tripadis
Before offering further details on the temple at Alwar Tirunagarai, let us first clear up one other potential point of confusion.
We began yesterday's segment by mentioning that Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur's summary of Madhya Lila 9 mentions 'Tripadi' rather than 'Tripati', although in the sloka of Madhya 9.219, the place name is given the latter spelling.
In Madhya Lila 1.105, we find another reference to Tripadi, but this one is not to be confused with the Tripati at Alwar Tirunagarai. The Tripadi of Madhya 1.105 is further north, in the Tanjore district, near the city of Chennai. It is associated with another leg of Sri Caitanya's tirtha-yatra:
trimalla-tripadi-sthana kaila darasana
sarvatra karila krsna-nama pracarana
"He visited the places known as Tirumala and Tirupati, where He extensively preached the chanting of the Lord's holy name.
This holy place is situated in the district of Tanjore (Chittoor), South India. The temple of Tirupati is situated in the valley of Vyenkatacala and contains a Deity of Lord Ramacandra. On top of Vyenkatacala is the famous temple of Balaji."
In the next verse, Madhya 1.106, we read: "After visiting the temples of Tirumala and Tirupati, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu had to subdue some atheists. He then visited the temple of Ahovala-nrsimha."
So the Tripati at Alvar Tirunagarai is not the same one as the Tripadi further north, in Tanjore District, where the Lord subdued some atheists (converting a Bamite sannyasi named Mathuranatha). These two might also be confused because as we read in Madhya 9.219, the Lord visited the nine temples of Lord Visnu at Naya-tripati, while similarly visiting nine temples – the Nava-nrsimha (or panna Nara-shrines) -- at Tripadi in Tanjore district.
Tirunagarai Temple pillars
Nava Thirupathy Temples
As mentioned above, the Nava Tirupathy Temple at Alwar Tirunagarai is the fifth in a group of nine temples dedicated to the planetary deities, as follows:
1) Sri Vaikuntam - Sun – Surya
2) Varagunamangai - Moon - Chandra
3) Thirukkolur - Mars - Angaraka
4) Thirupuliankudi - Mercury - Budha
5) Azhwar Tirunagarai - Jupiter - Guru
6) Thentirupperai - Venus - Sukra
7) Perunkulam - Saturn - Sani
8 & 9) Tholavil Mangalam – (Twin Temples) - Rahu & Kethu, the Dragon's head and Dragon's tail
Map of Nava Tirpuathy Temples
The presiding deity in each of these temples is the graha (planet) himself, thus there are no separate shrines for the Navagrahas. At the temple Lord Caitanya visited, Alwar (Azhwar) Tirunagari, Jupiter is the presiding deity, as Guru. He is also known as Adhinathan, Adhipiran, Varaha Perumal, and Gnana Piran. His consort Laksmi is here as Adinathavalli (or Adhinatha Nayaki, Kurugoorvalli, or Thirukkurugur Nayaki. There is also an utsavar (processional deity) known as Polindhu Nindra Piran.
Lord Adhinathan (Jupiter) is said to have appeared here on His own, being swayambhu (self-manifesting). The feet of Adhinathan are below the earth.
The main temple has a large courtyard and gopuram. The presiding deity is facing east. There is also a sannidhi for Varaha perumal Ganapiraan. Alwar Tirunagari is a Pancha Kshetram (Adi kshetram, Danta Kshetram, Varaha Kshetram, Sesha Kshetram and Sangara Kshetram). Araiyar Sevai Festival is celebrated at the temple, just as it is conducted at Srirangam. Hymns praising Lord Adhinathan (Prabandhams) are recited during abhishekam to the lord.
The stala-vriksham (tirupuliazhwar), a tamarind tree, is said to be none other than Laksman, embodying the Brahamacharya Yoga. Laksmi Devi performed penance here to marry the Lord, but being in the Brahmacharya Yoga, he accepted the mother as a garland and wore the same. Under this tamarind tree the sage Nammalwar performed his penance and authored his hymns.
The temple theerthams are the holy Tamraparni River and Kubera theertham. The temple vimanam is Srikara/Govinda Vimanam.
Lord Indra is said to have been relieved at this tirtha from suffering the sins of having neglected his parents.
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