Friday, October 18, 2013

Navagraha Ottam - Support Crew Flexibility

Navagraha Ottam - Part # 5 - Support Crew Flexibility

Navagraha Ottam was a multi-day, multi-leg event.  Each of the four days, we stayed at different places and each day had multiple legs.  While the runners got up everyday and ran, the support crew had the envious task of taking care of everything else.  They had to ensure that the runners were supported on the road while working to get the breakfast, lunch and dinner ready at the same time.  Let me not forget the bedding and luggage.  Support crew also had to transport blankets, pillows besides the luggage of all runners.  So it was a durbar move every day.

Going to back to the food part, it is not just the preparation, but also serving the runners at different places as we kept moving.  The best laid plans can go awry and that's what happened on day 2.  Here is that story..

On the day#2 of the Navagraha Ottam, we covered 3 Navagraha sthalams.  The initial plan was to complete the temple darshans by 11:00 AM and reach Vanathirajapuram for lunch.  But, that proved to be too ambitious.  While the temples were close by, it tooks us longer at each temple and few of the runners also made a quick side trip to Uppliyappan koil from Thirunageswaram.  So, we started couple of hours behind schedule from our first stop.  This delay along with the harsh Sun took a toll on the runners slowing us down significantly.

On each day, first leg was the easiest.  runners were generally fresh after good night sleep and would comfortably cover 10 - 15k before the Sun came up.  That was the case on day#2 as well. We started from Thippirajapuram around 5:15AM and comfortably reached Thirunageswaram by 7:00AM covering about 11k.

Thirunageswarm -Rahusthalam (திருநாகேஸ்வரம் - ராகுஸ்தலம்)
அரவெனும் ராகு அய்யனே போற்றி
கரவா தருள்வாய் கஷ்டங்கள் நிக்கி
ஆக அருள் புரி அனைத்திலும்  வெற்றி
ராகுக் கனியே ரம்மியா போற்றி

Thirunageswarm, Raghusthalam is a massive temple, well maintained.  It also has a beautiful pushkarini (temple tank).  Some runners took a dip while waiting for everyone to assemble.

It seems customary for devotees to shed some of their clothes in the Pushkarini after the dip (aking to shedding their sins?)  I found mounds of clothes rotting in beautiful hallways of the temple tank.  Wonder why it can't be put to better use,,
All Navagrahas looking at Suryan in the middle.  It was pointed out as something unique to this temple.  Selva - Do you know the significance behind this..? Any interesting story?
 This is one of those 'only in India' types.  Temples trying to collect dues from defaulters through public shaming.  I have seen this many Tamil Nadu temples, but not sure of its efficacy.

We started from Thirunageswaram well past 9:00 AM and by that time Surya Bhagavan was out in all his glory.  This slowed us significantly and it took many of us over 1 1/2 hours to cover 11k distance to our next stop.

Suryanar Koil - Suryasthalam (சூரியனார் கோவில் - ஸுர்யஸ்தலம்)
சீலமாய் வாழச் சிரருள்  புரியும் ஞாலம் புகழும், ஞாயீறே போற்றி
சூரியா போற்றி.. சுதந்திரா போற்றி,

விரியா போற்றி, வினைகள் களைவாய்
Suryanar temple is relatively small compared to other temple we visited early on the second day.  It was also less crowded, making the visit short and sweet.

The next stop, Kanjanur is only 4k from Suryanar koil, so Balaji and I decided to run / walk to the temple without changing in to the running gear.  The cotton Veshti & Thundu was actually quite comfortable and we ended walking most of the distance.  By the time we reached Kanjanur, both of us were overburnt toast.

Kanjanur - Sukrastham (
கஞ்சனூர் - சுக்ரஸ்தலம்)
சுக்கிரமுர்த்தி சுப மிகயீவாய்
வக்கிரமின்றி வரமிகத் தருவாய்

வெள்ளிச் சுக்கிர வித்தக வேந்தே
அள்ளிக் கொடுப்பாய் அடியார்க்கருளே
It was noon and the temple was closing down for the session.  Thanks to the magic of Selva and race director, Narayanan we were able to have darshan and the temple annadhanam sappadu.

By this time, we were well past our schedule.  Our lunch was going to be at Vanathirajapuram, which is a good 12k away.  Runners who were already badly toasted and didn't have any juice left to step out on to the steaming roads.  Here is where the flexibility of the support crew came through.  Narayanan re-routed the lunch caravan to Kanjanur and we were allowed to rest within the temple premises.  While that was coming, Selva also arranged for us to have temple annadhanam food.  It was frugal and minimalist but tasted yummy for few of us who took it.

I started taping 60 second clippings of the runners talking about some aspect of the odyssey.  Here is Bib Bala talking about the first day run and what's in store for day#2 @ Thirunageswaram.

A short clip on the beautiful Thirunageswaram, temple tank.

Detailed booklet on the Navagraha Ottam here
Navagraha Ottam album here
Navagraha Ottam Post  #1   #2  #3 #4