Swamithoppe Pathi (Tamil: சுவாமிதோப்பு பதி, Swamithoppu-pathi, Manavai-pathi or Thamarai-pathi) is the primary pathi of the Ayyavazhi, the head of all Worship centers of Ayyavazhi, and the sacred venue of the Tavam. Religiously Swamithope is considered primary among the Pancha pathi and the primary centre of the incarnational activities of Vaikundar.
According to Ayyavazhi legends, Ayya Vaikundar, an incarnation of Lord Narayana, carried out his tavam at Poovantanthoppe, attracting many followers from across India. On his pass-away Ayya Vaikundar was believed to be interred there, and the square-shaped 'pathi' was constructed enveloping him. The holy book Akilathirattu ammanai of Ayyavazhi refers to the temple as "Thoppuppathi".
Genesis and history
As per Akilam, Ayya Vaikundar incarnated from the Sea, and after providing rules and regulations to God-heads, came to Detchanam (Swamithoppe) and performed Tavam for six years in the place which was now known as Vada-va-mugam in Swamithoppe. Then when the Kalineesan came to arrest him he went once again into the sea at Muttappathi and after that (in Tamil called the Vinchai), he returned Swamithoppe, from where he was arrested.
Then after his trial he was carried in a Vahana by his devotees to Swamithoppe where he incinerated the evil spirits and unified the Seven Virgins with himself. Then after the marriage with the deities in Ambalappathi he returned to Swamithoppe.
According to Akilattirattu Ammanai, Swamithoppe is the only place Narayana (Vaikundar) slept (in Tamil: Pallikolluthal) after the incarnation. Then he send 700 families to Thuvayal Thavasu to Vakaippathi and organised festivals and celebrations. And after all the Avathara Ekanais he attained Vaikundam and his physical body was interred in the place which is now the Palliyarai of Swamithoppe.
Architecture and structure
The Palliyarai contains two oil lamps (kuthuvilakku), an elunetru, and a large mirror. On a raised pedestal, covered with kavi cloth, the temple also preserves some articles believed to have been used by Ayya Vaikuntar, including a rattan cane (perampu) and a pair of wooden sandals. The Palliyarai is surrounded by inner corridors.
There is a fifty-five feet tall Flagmast at a distance of 50 feet from Palliyarai. And in north of flagmast there is a Unpanpurai. Here, they cook the food and distribute it to the devotees. There is a common well some 300 meters from the main Pathi. Akilattirattu Ammanai states that all the eighteen castes take baths from that well. It was considered sacred to bathe in and to drink the water from that well. Then there found a Paal Kinaru, in the extreme east, Vatakku Vasal in the north and Sivaye Medai, which is also called Karuda medai in the west of Palliyarai. Then all these were surrounded by outer corridors. There is a bell tower above the spot where Vaikundar performed the Tavam.
The main celebration of Swamithoppe includes Kodiyettru Thirunal, which was celebrated thrice in a year during the Tamil months of Vaikasi, Aavani, Thai. It startes with Kodiyetrru (flag hoisting) and ends on the eleventh day with Car procession. People from different parts of Tamil Nadu and Kerala take part in this festival. Then the Thiru Eadu Vasippu, the Seventeen day festival, in which the whole contents of Akilattirattu Ammanai where read melodiously. It was celebrated during the Tamil month of Karthigai, the month at which it was written by Hari Gopalan Citar.
As per the instructions in Akilam, the Swamithope pathi conducts daily festival (i.e.) every day is considered as a festival day. So the ritual practices conducted during festival days are conducted here throughout the year, though not in a grand scale as during the other festivals. The daily Panividai starts very early in the morning. Everyday, around 3 O’ clock the Payyans and the people staying at the temple go to Muthirikkinaru and take a holy bath. Then, they return to the Pathi and start the panividai. The Payyan chant Ukappatippu, and the devotees repeat it. Then, they open the door of sanctum sanctorum. It is considered sanctifying to witness this scene with the sounding of a dozen temple bells and conch. Then, there is the Vahana pavani.
Vahana pavani comes around the temple and along the four car streets, first through the Santhana Veethi and then through Ratha Veethi. The Nithiyapal is prepared daily and offered to Ayya Vaikundar ritually. It was the only food Ayya believed to be ate when in human form at Swamithoppe. This offering is done daily. The descendants of Podukutty, the first Pattathu Ayya of Payyan dynasty, prepare this daily at the Pathi. Thavanaipal, a gruel prepared with rice and green gram, is distributed to the devotees.
The Noon Panividai starts around 11 O’ clock. Daily Ucchipatippu is chanted. The devotees will repeat it and Thavanaipal is distributed to the devotees. One Sundays, large number of people from far and near come over here to participate in the Ucchipatippu.
In the evening, panividai starts around 5 O’ clock. The door of the sanctum sanctorum is opened amidst the sound of the temple bells and Conch. Then, the Payyan would chant ukappatippu. Those followers who congregate for the evening panividai would repeat this. Then, there will be vahana panividai. The Vahana is taken around the temple as well as the four car streets. After this, there will be Annadharmam.
This is the daily routine of Swamithoppe pathi. One can have a worship at any time of the day in this temple.
Ayya Vaikunda Avataram
The most important festival is Ayya Vaikunda Avataram, the day at which Ayya Vaikundar incarnated from the sea at Tiruchendur. Though many worship centers including other Pathis conduct celebrations during this festival, it is considered sacred to visit Swamithoppe on this day. So on this day Swamithoppe will get populated with the nation-wide Ayyavazhi followers.
This is the largest festival conducted in Swamithope pathi. Several processions were held on that day which starts from different places including Thiruchendur and Thiruvananthapuram and ends at Swamithoppe.
Swamithoppe Pathi is the headquarters of the five pathis of Ayyavazhi, and its geographical focal point. Swamithoppe Pathi, is located in the town of Swamithope, which lies southeast of the City of Nagercoil, the headquarters (capital) of the District of Kanyakumari in the State of Tamil Nadu at the extreme southern tip of India. Swamithope lies about half-way between the Cities of Nagercoil and Kanniyakumari on the Eathancaud-Manakkudi road.
This Pathi lies northern most to all other Pathis within Pancha pathi. Nagercoil (12 km) is the nearest Railway Station and Thiruvananthapuram (94 km) is the nearest International Airport. Town buses are available to Swamithope from Nagercoil and Kanyakumari.
- C. Paulose, Advaita Philosophy of Brahmasri Chattampi Swamikal, Chapter 2, Page 24: "To propagate his teachings and ideas he opened upon 7 Patis and 7 Tangs in Travancore and hundreds of small Pagodas through India."
- Manibharathi, "Samithoppu Ayya Narayana Cuvami - 3" in Tina Tanti Kutumba Malar, in dt.08-01-1995, Page-4
- Frederic Wilkinson, "Report of the Nagercoil Mission District for the year 1864", ARTDC for the year 1864, page-4.
- The Hindu Report on the Car festival in Swamithoppe
- The Daily Thanthi (Nagercoil Edition), 29-1-2007, Page 12, "Devotees from the districts of Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli, Thoothukkudi, Theni, Chennai, Coimbatore and also from the State of Kerala participated in the Car festival."
- The Hindu report on the Car festival at Swamithope on 29 January 2008.
- The Daily Thanthi (Nagercoil Edition), 3-6-2008, Page 11, "Thousands of devotees from the districts of Madurai, Tirunelveli, Thoothukkudi, Theni, Coimbatore and also from the State of Kerala participated in the Car festival."
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