There are many Mutts or Religious Organisations of Vaishnava Sect (followers of Lord Vishnu) all over India. Srimad Nathamuni, a Vaishnava scholar was the founder of Sri Vaishnava Tradition. After him, his grandson Yamunacharya became a great philosopher in Srirangam. Sri Ramanuja (disciple of Yamunacharya), Sri Manavalamamuni and Sri Vedantha Desika are considered as the other important acharyas of Sri Vaishnavam. They followed two different sects among the Vaishnava - one who followed either Sri Rama or Sri Krishna (the associated avatars of Lord Vishnu).
All these Acharyas of Sri Vaishnavam established schools or Mutts or organizations that preached Sri Vaishnava traditions and norms. Among them the Mutts that follow Sri Vedantha Desika (a popular Vaishnava Guru, a poet and a philosopher) are
- Sri Parakala Matam (situated in Mysore)
- Srimad Ahobila Matam (in Ahobilam)
- Sri Powndareekapuram Andavan Ashramam and
- Sri Srirangam Andavan Ashramam.
Among these, the oldest is Sri Parakala Matam and then Sri Ahobila Matam (also spelled as Ahobila Mutt). Sri Ahobila Mutt is considered one among the very important organisations of Sri Vaishnavism.
Ahobila Mutt was established about 600 years ago in a place called Ahobilam by Srimad Athivan Satakopan. He was originally known as Kidambi Srinivasachar and was a student under Gadikasadam Ammal in Kanchipuram. Establishment of Ahobila Mutt:
There is an interesting tale about the establishment of this Sri Vaishnava Mutt at Ahobilam. It happened one day that Lord Lakshmi Narasimha Swami of Ahobilam appeared in Srinivasachar s dream and instructed him to come to the temple town of Ahobilam. Srinivasachar consulted with his Acharya and with his blessings, proceeded to Ahobilam.
At Ahobilam, the Lord Malola Narasimha (one of the nine forms of Narasimha Swami) instigated Srinivasachar to follow "Sanyasam" (monasticism). Kidambi Srinivasachar was given the title, "Satakopa Jeeyar" and later was awarded the title "Van" by Lord Athippiran of Azhvar Thirunagari and the title "Athi" was added by Nammazhvar. Thus the Jeeyar came be known as "Athivan Satakopan".
Over a period of time Malola Narasimha of Ahobilam Himself ordered Athivan Satakopan to travel the all over the country and spread religious awareness. This made him establish the institution called Sri Ahobila Mutt in the very abode of Narasimha Swami at Ahobilam and thus began the journey of Malola Narasimha to different villages all over the state. Many villages were covered to spread Vaishnavism and the devotees were given a chance to undertake Pancha Samskaram and perform Bhara Nyasam at the lotus feet of the Lord.
The tradition thus started by Athivan Satakopan is followed till date with never fading enthusiasm and devotion. A succession of forty five Jeeyars of Ahobila Mutt, known as "Azhagiya Singar", headed Sri Ahobila Matam and spread the name of Malola Narasimha Swami. The unique tradition of the Lord travelling to the houses of His devotees all over the country is really a blessed opportunity by the Lord Himself. The Lord of Ahobilam is taken with His Mandapam with all the deities and idols worshiped by all the early Jeeyars, including that of Sri Ramanujachary and Sri Alavandar.
A day spent in Ahobila Mutt is like a day spent at the very abode of Lord Vishnu. All the devotees are allowed to visit the Mutt and have the divine glimpse of the Lord. But very few get an opportunity to stay in the Mutt and have an interaction with the present 45th Jeeyar of Ahobila Mutt, Srivan Satakopa Sri Narayana Yatheendra Mahadesikan, unless you have some recommendation.
Rituals performed in Ahobila Mutt:
In Ahobila Mutt, the day starts as a morning alarm at about 5:30 a.m. with the playing of "Kottu" a traditional way of waking up the Lord where musical instruments like "Parai", "Thiruchchinnam", and "Jalra" (musical instruments) are played.
At about 6:40 a.m. the acharyas are ready in front of the Srimad Azhagiya Singar s Ashramam with Thavil, Nadaswaram and Thiruchchinnam (traditional south Indian musical instruments) for him to finish anushtanam (daily worship). To the sound of Thavil, Nadaswaram, and Thiruchchinnam, Srimad Azhagiya Singar emerges from anushtanam and orders kainkaryapara (a personal assistant of Azhagiya Singar) as a signal for "Vadyam" to start.
It is then that Srimad Azhagiya Singar puts on the "Padhukas" (traditional slippers used by saints and sages) and makes the short walk to the abode of Sri Malola Narasimha Swami in the adjacent building. As Srimad Azhagiya Singar walks with Sri Tridhandam in His divine hands, kainkaryaparas follow with one holding an ornamental umbrella, one carrying water in the kamandalam, one carrying saamaram and another the silver dhandam used to keep the devotees from coming too close and accidentally touch Srimad Azhagiya Singar s thirumeni. No one is allowed to touch Azhagiya Singar (as they might lose cosmic energy attained by intense meditation) but they are allowed to prostrate from a distance.At the doors of building where Malola Narasimha is seated, Srimad Azhagiya Singar takes off the padhukai and awaits the kainkaryapara with the kamandalam to pour water at Simad Azhagiya Singar s holy feet. After washing the divine lotus feet, Srimad Azhagiya Singar enters the building while sprinkling the Sri Padha Theertham upon the devotee s heads. It falls on some lucky ones and the luckier gets a chance to carry the Padhukas on their head into the building for safe keeping near the entrance.
Most people come to the Matam for Theertam and Catari but they miss the golden opportunity for touching and sprinkling the Sri Padha Theertham. So, if you really don t want to miss this opportunity, be on time in the Matham at least by 6:30 a.m., just before Srimad Azhagiya Singar leaves the Ashramam. As Srimad Azhagiya Singar approaches Sri Sannidhi (place where the Azhagiya Singar sits near the sanctum) more people prostrate and seek his blessings.
Malola Narasimha and Dolai Krishnan (Baby Sri Krishna) are decorated with flowers and the entire decoration looks divine and the beauty and grace of the Lord leaves one awestruck. Then, Srimad Azhagiya Singar starts the recitation of Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Suprabhatam near the Silver Mandapam where Sri Malola is in Yoganidrai. The Supratbhatam is composed by the 30th Azhagiya Singar, Sri Srinivasa Vedanta Yatindra Mahadesikan.
At the conclusion of the recitation of Suprabhatam the devotees wait for the curtain to open for "Visvaroopam" of the Lord. One of the uniqueness of Sri Ahobila Mutt is the preparation of Nava Kalasa Dhravyam (Nava- Nine and Dhravyam-materials) to bathe the lord that includes sandal, turmeric, coconut, fruits etc. This way of performing pooja is very rigorous and elaborate and is followed in an authentic way. A cow and calf are brought in and made to stand with their backside turned towards Sri Sannidhi. After the conclusion of Suprabhatam kainkaryaparas disperse and return to their duties to reassemble with all the preparations for "Mangala Aarti". Then the curtain is removed to the sound of auspicious vadyam with Srimad Azhagiya Singar offering Mangala harathi. In the meantime, the gathered bhaktas sing devotional songs.
Aradhakas (the senior most among the kainkaryaparas) perform Ijjai and part of Panaka Aradhanam. They also assist Srimad Azhagiya Singar during abhigamanam, traditional way of worshipping Lord Malola. Further, they are responsible for performing Thirumanjanams (abhishekam or Divine bath to the Lord) on few auspicious days. Even the devotees can sponsor Thirumanjanam for the Lord. Aradhakas also perform the aradhanai during Dolais. Dolai for Sri Krishna is an event where the devotees sing and dance, play musical instruments and tell stories in the praise of Sri Krishna. This is a way of receiving and honouring Srimad Azhagiya Singar along with Lord Dolai Kannan. This is normally performed in the late afternoon/evening time.
There are about three to four Aradhakas (the senior most among the Kainkaryaparars) who perform all the rituals or assist Srimad Azhagiya Singar. The Aradhakas are highly respected and they maintain an extremely high level of traditional worship called as "Acharam" and "Madi".
There are generally one or two kainkaryaparas taking care of Thaligai for Srimad Azhagiya Singar (called "Alankaram") who also prepare prasadam for Srimad Azhagiya Singar. All in all there are about 40 to 45 kainkaryaparars at any given time at the Sri Matam. Anyone interested can sponsor one day s Alankaram by paying a prescribed amount after which you will receive prasadam by Srimad Azhagiya Singar. You can also bring some fruits and flowers as offering to the Lord as Srimad Azhagiya Singar uses them while performing pooja to Lord Malola Narasimha.
Panaka Aradhanam is performed in the evening usually by Srimad Azhagiya Singar. In some cases the Aradhakas will perform the Panaka Aradhanam. The evening worship in the Ahobila Mutt begins with a gong as signal to get ready. The worship begins with Sri Vishnu Sahasranaamam followed by Dhivya Prabhandham. Vadyam follows Srimad Azhagiya Singar playing auspicious music.
The Lord is then offered panakam and the evening Thaligai. Mangala harati and satrumurai follows. During Satrumurai, Panakam and Perumal theertam are distributed to goshti. At the conclusion of satrumurai, Prasadam (normally "dhudyoannam" and "sundal") is distributed to all the devotees. Some devotees stay back to have a close and personal darshan of Srimad Azhagiya Singar and seek his blessings. Not everyone is allowed to have personal interaction with Srimad Azhagiya Singar as only close source recommendations are considered. The devotees are generally allowed to prostrate from a distance. "Akshintalu" (sacred rice) or fruits and flowers are devotees prostrate Srimad Azhagiya Singar.
Then Srimad Azhagiya Singar settles down to write for Sri Narasimha Priya. At Sri Sannidhi the Silver Mandapam door is closed after all the devotees have their dharsan.