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Vittal Darshan Timings

Morning: 8.30 a.m to 11.30 a.m.

Evening: 4.45 p.m to 7.30 p.m.

Nithyothsavam for Sri Vittal Rukmini : the magnificence of Dolothsavam

A place of exquisite beauty:

Sri Vittal Rukmini Samsthan in Govindapuram, District Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, is a sacred centre of worship where bhakti (the spirit of devotion) is unmistakably in the air at all times. The worship of Sri Pandurangan and Sri Rukmini Devi is carried out here several times during the day as per an elaborate system called 'nithyothsavapaddhathi' in accordance with the Premika Sampradayam established by Sri Sri Krishna Premi Maharaj. Visitors are always deeply touched by the lyrical quotient and the musical nature of worship which is unique among all other temples in India.

The tranquil atmosphere of the ashrama and the gurukulam, established and presided over by Sri Vittaldas Maharaj - Brahmasri Jayakrishna Deekshithar, coupled with the spectacular architectural features of this temple, also known as 'Dakshina Pandharipuram', truly make this an abode of the gods.

Pilgrims come from far and near, at festival times as well as regular days, to have a glimpse of the fabulous sannidhi where Their Divine Majesties, Sri Vittal-Rukmini, reign supreme in all Their radiant glory. Visitors soak in the strengthening energy of the sanctum sanctorum and worship the beautiful images of Sri Vittal Rukmini by offering sprigs of holy basil (thulasi) or flowers. Devotees are thrilled to know that they can touch the beautifully carved, silver-encased feet of the jagatpita - jaganmata (parents of the world) and seek special boons in that holy enclosure. For, all are welcome into the premises irrespective of man-made divisions like nationality, creed, community or other barriers.

The Dolothsavam Shayanothsavam Ritual - Lulling the Lord into Slumber :

A typical day's routine at the temple itself reads like a series of mini-uthsavams. (festivals) Of these, the (Dolothsavam) or the night pooja of about one hour's duration, is a closed ceremony, not usually open to the public.

The beauty and significance of Dolothsavam cannot be fully explained in words but an attempt is being made to present this very sacred ceremony through the accompanying photographs and text.

The Dolothsavam starts at about 8.45 pm and lasts for about an hour.

The flowers to be offered to the Lord are cleaned and sorted patiently to the accompaniment of bhajans, abhangs or other devotional songs.

The pooja begins with the ashtottara archanai for Sri Panduranga, performed with fragrant thulasi (holy basil).

The holy thulasi in a silver vessel, ready for Sri Panduranga's ashtottara archanai.

Sri Anna performs ashtottara archanai for Sri Panduranga with thulasi.

Sri Panduranga in all His resplendent glory.

The Dolothsavam is virtually a celebration of the grandeur and supremacy of the Almightly but conducted with a delightful simplicity that even a child can enjoy. The shringāram ceremony whereby the deities are given various alankarams i.e adornment with a beautiful garlands and thilakam, flowers and perfume is performed to the accompaniment of songs as per the paddhati. Various upacharams are carried out. Swami and Thayar are given oonjalsevai in bhavam (i.e. they are placed on an imaginary swing). Balls made of pushpam (poopandhu) are tossed playfully. This is followed by offerings of milk, fruit, nuts and thambulam.

An array of nuts and dry fruits for the deities.

Milk and cut fruits for the deities.

Sri Anna offers the cut fruits naivedyam to the moolavar deities.

A moving prayer pleading for the good fortune of performing this kainkaryam (service) to the deities day after day without interruption, is sung by all those assembled. Meanwhile, the shayanarai is being readied with flowers and the placement of dry fruits and teertham inside the chamber follows. Namaskaram and a brief arathi follow in the main sannidhi along with kshamapanai or songs pleading for forgiveness

The uthsavar deities partake of naivedyam from the platter being held out by Sri Anna.

Sri Anna holds aloft the carved mirror for Their Majesties to look into.

Deep obeisance, or namaskarams to Sri Vittal Rukmini.

The main deities are then covered with soft blankets for the night. The bedding of the uthsavar or the processional deities is prepared and they are laid down in their miniature bed for the night. In winter, the blankets are thicker and warmer; while in summer, the bed-clothes and covers are lighter and cooler.

Sri Anna gently covers the Lord with a soft blanket for the night.

After Lord Vittal and Sri Rukmini Devi have been covered for the night, Sri Anna offers an aarati to them.

The process of offering chāmara (fly-whisk), vishari (fans), kodai (umbrella), pathakai (flag/herald) and thadi (staff) to Swami and Thayar and finally kambu (cane) to Lord Panduranga, is carried out.

As part of the Dolothsavam, next comes the beautiful ritual of leading the deities into their sleeping chambers - called shayana-griham or palli-arai in a raja upacharam. The palli-arai in Govindapuram is bigger than the one in Pandharpur and is exquisitely carved and embellished. Two stylised peacocks carved into the sides of this throne-like couch elevate it into a work of art.

Assorted flowers in readiness for the deities' procession down the red carpet to the shayana - arai.

These comprise the escorted procession by which Sri Vittal and Sri Rukmini are led down the sannidhi floor through the ardha-mandapam, all the way to the shayana-mandapam, all the time to the accompaniment of the praise-filled hymn containing the entrancing refrain, "jayavijayibhava" after each line. At each step, fragrant flower petals are thrown up in the air by the fistful, as if they are being offered upon the persons of the holy deities.

The regal procession of the deities from the sannidhi to the shayanarai, down the red carpet, escorted by Sri Anna amidst chanting "jayavijayi bhava" and sprinkling flower petals all the way.

Once the procession reaches the palliarai, the traditional upacharams like dhoopam, agar-dhoopam, deepam, karpooradhoopam and harathi follow, to the accompaniment of appropriate songs.

The breath-takingly beautiful shayana - arai of Sri Vittal Rukmini in the shayana - mandopam at Govindapuram.

Sri Anna then goes inside the shayana chamber and performs padasevai to the deities.

The final part of the Dolothsavam inside the Shayanarai - hymns, aarati and kainkaryam.

Using the large torches, the thee-batthi is waved in front of the shayana chamber, as part of drishti-shutthi-podal or warding off the evil eye.

The rear door of the palliarai opens, Sri Anna emerges and after a final silent prarthanai(prayer), the ceremony comes to an end. The flowers from the red carpet are collected and stored for distribution among devotees until the next day as prasadam - these precious petals upon whom Sri Rukmini Vittal have figuratively stepped - and the red carpet is rolled up for the night.

The beautiful resting couch of the deities in the shayanarai.

The sannidhi and the mandapams are then cleaned carefully. Not a speck of dust can one find on the ultra-clean floors; at the most one may find a stray thulasi leaf or a flower petal.

It is a beautiful experience to leave the sannidhi for the night with the glorious sights and sounds of the Shayanothsavam or Dolothsavam fresh in the mind. As one steps out into the open, one inhales the perfume of the various flowery shrubs as they release their fragrance into the night sky. The stars twinkle softly in the mellow moonlight as Swami and Thayar have a blissful sleep and bless us with Their grace, today and always.

Experiencing Divinity :

At Govindapuram, every pooja is accompanied by melodious songs in praise of the Lord. There is a song for every step, a song for every emotion, a song for every prayer.

"I reside where my devotees sing, O Narada", the Lord is said to have explained to the great sage.

Prayers offered here never go unanswered :

the Lord listens,

the Lord blesses,

the Lord bestows His compassionate glance (karuna-kataksham) upon those who open their hearts to Him.

Right here in this magnificent temple, divinity can be sensed in the beauty and melody all around :

in the fragile pink of lotus petals,

in the pristine fragrance of basil,

in the artistic carvings on the structures within,

in the delicate embellishments on the mandapam walls,

in the precision and elegance of temple rituals,

in the mesmerizing expressions on the faces of Lord Vittal and Sri Rukmini Devi.