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Age old traditions kept alive at our Chatralayams

Our Chatralayams are centres of cultural learning where apart from academic support; our students are also exposed to yoga, music and other aspects relating to Indian customs and traditions.

Recently, a two day programme on Tevaram was conducted at the Anugraha Swami Dayananda AIM for Seva Chatralayam for Boys, Dharmapuri, Tamil Nadu. This hostel houses 38 boys.

The Tevaram course was conducted by Sri. Rajkumar, an Oduvar. Our students showed lot of interest in this programme. The Tevaram is a compilation of 4,150 verses of three prominent Saivite savants; (Appar, Sundarar and Thirugnanasambandhar).

Oduvaram is a recitation of songs composed by various Saivite saints in a certain format. This recitation is done by members from the Desikar community who go through a formal training process before they can start singing the verses at temples. The Oduvars have to be extremely fluent in Tamil, both spoken as well as written.

The recitation of Oduvaram signifies the importance of community worship at the temple. In the olden days, there was a main priest who did all the poojas at the sanctum sanctorum. The Adhyayana Battar (also a Vedic scholar) sat outside and chanted the relevant stanzas from the Vedas during the main worship such as the Abhishekas (pouring of fluids and other special ingredients on idols). The Desikars recited the relevant portions in the Oduvaram format. It was followed with Sangitam (a dance and musical offering to the Lord) by the devadasis to the accompaniment of various musical instruments. So rights of worship were accorded to all which in turn entailed participation of all communities.

Sadly, Oduvaram is a dying tradition today in Tamil Nadu with past masters citing low salaries given by smaller temples in the state.

But AIM for Seva is pushing all frontiers to keep this ancient tradition alive and vibrant. Sometime time back, children from the Seshachariar AIM for Seva Chatralayam for Boys, Cumbum, Tamil Nadu participated in Tirumurai (a 12 volume compendium of songs or hymns in praise of Shiva in the Tamil language) recitation programme conducted by the Arul Migu Thiruvavaduthurai Adheenam Saiva Thirumurai Payirchi Maiyam, Cumbum. They won prizes and participation certificates. We have 51 boys currently residing in this hostel.

Written in chaste Tamil, the Panniru Tirumurai forms the basis of Saiva Siddhantha philosophy. Set to music, the verses are sung in Shiva temples by Oduvars.

Our founder, Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati played an instrumental role in reviving this tradition. From 2006 to 2009, three events highlighted the beauty of Tirumurai. Conferences were held at Thanjavur and Kodavasal near Kumbakonam that brought about better understanding and relevance of this tradition with the participation of 350 Oduvars.

Swamiji took the music across to US with his disciples and devotees organising a Tirumurai Awareness Programme in New Jersey in 2008, at the Sri. Venkateswara Temple, Bridgewater.

Up north, 6 boys from the AIM for Seva 100th Chatralayam for Boys, Lucknow participated in a Bhagavad Gita chanting competition on the occasion of Gita Jayanthi.

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