Shrine for an eminent Acharya

Published in the New Indian Express, 06th June 2019


CHENNAI: Thoopul or Tirutanka, an ancient part of Kanchipuram, is well-known, as it is home to a Vishnu temple dedicated to Deepa Prakasar and also because is the birthplace of the illustrious Srivaishnava scholar, philosopher and preceptor (Acharya), Vedanta Desika (1268-1369 AD). Thoopul has a shrine for this great Acharya enshrining an image of Vedanta Desika, seen with his right hand in jnana mudra and holding a manuscript in his left hand. It is said to have been installed by his son Nayana Varadachariar alias Kumara Vedantacharya.

Vedanta Desika’s devotion and close association with the Varadaraja temple of Kanchipuam is evident from the number of festivals connecting his shrine with the Varadaraja Svami temple. During the month of Purattasi (September-October), a ten-day Brahmotsavam is held in the Thoopul Desika shrine, which concludes on Tiruvonam (Sravanam) asterism.

On this day, Desika’s image is brought from his shrine in Thoopul in a special palanquin (pallaku), sent from the Varadaraja Svami temple in the morning to the Perumal temple for worship. The image of Svami Desika is taken right into the main sanctum after visiting the Perundevi Thayar (Lakshmi) shrine and other sanctums in this large temple. In the evening, the image of Vedanta Desika is carried back to his abode in Thoopul.

During the annual festival (Brahmotsavam) of Varadaraja Svami in Vaikasi (May-June), this deity visits the Thoopul shrine on three days. One is during the well-known Garuda Seva procession when Varadaraja Svami comes to Toopul and presents his garland to Desika. This is repeated during the Mohini avatara celebration and during the Punyakoti vimana procession.

On Chitra Pournami day, Varadaraja Perumal visits Desika at Thoopul. On the 12th day after Vaikunta Ekadasi, Varadaraja Perumal returning from Sevelimedu near Kanchipuram, on the occasion of Anushtanakulam festival, again halts for a while at the shrine for Desika.