Ramanuja had a standard operating procedure. He was really 'rules' Ramanujan, in the sense, he standardized temple sloka/puja processes and worship rituals in most temples he visited (For example Thirupathi follows his processes). Everywhere he went, he also, relevantly to the story I'm about to narrate, allowed low-caste people and women to enter temples. Melkote did not have a Moolavar, Utsavar and a temple. So he fought against the local chieftains, monks and sundry upper-castes to use the help of "low-caste" people to search for the missing Moolavar and Utsavar. The people helped him dig out the Moolavar from some hole (under Thulasi shrubs) in the ground that the Mughals had thrown it into. The Utsavar however proved far more elusive and that caused Ramanuja sleepless nights. Later, Ramanuja, now over 80 years old, learned that the mughals had in fact taken the Utsavar back with them to Delhi. So the old man walked to Delhi in search of the Utsavar. Upon begging to the Sultan to hand him back the Utsavar, the Sultan relented. The Sultan, who had apparently plundered several temples, could not isolate the Melkote idol, and so showed Ramanuja a huge set of idols that were brought back after the conquests. Ramanuja did not find the idol among that set. Then it was revealed to Ramanuja by the palace folks that the princess "Lachimar" had an play doll idol she loved very much. Voila! what do you know? That was the idol that Ramanuja was looking for. Legend has it that, when the princess refused to part with her doll, Ramanuja waged a bet with her. A contest where - if he called out to the idol and if the idol walked towards him, he would take the idol away with him. So he called out "Varai Chella Pillai" (meaning come loved son or come pampered son) "Sampath Kumara" (the name of the Utsavar). Some version of this story has the adverb as "Selva Pillai". The idol, it is said, walked towards him. Ramanuja took leave of the Sultan and rushed back to Melkote, anticipating that the princess may trigger a pursuit imminently.
His instinct was correct. The princess had fallen in love with the idol so much that she convinced the sultan to pursue Ramanuja. A hot pursuit followed. An army was hunting and chasing an old man. However, the proverb 'dharmam thalai kaakum' (dharma will protect your head) served one other purpose apart from being a title of an excellent MGR movie. Due to Ramanuja's positive reputation with the 'untouchables', the tribals protected him and escorted him safely back to Melkote. But the story does not end here. The princess, who was madly in love with Chellapillai pursued the idol to Melkote. Her lover followed her and acted as her body guard during her journey. Ramanuja, by that time, had installed the Utsavar in Melkote. So when the tired and almost unrecognizable, princess reached there, she could only beg Ramanuja to let her near Chella Pillai. He consented and she spent the rest of her short life near the idol. A clever legend of 'Thuluka Naachiyar' arose as a result of her story, in the hope to use this as a 'you and me are actually bhai-bhai' story to ward off invading Mughals. This legend worked to an extent and probably saved Srirangam from getting completely destroyed by the vile rapist Mallik Kafur. The procedures and rituals instituted by Ramanuja are followed even today in Melkote. Every year there is a procession of Sampath Kumaran during Brahmotsavam and guess what? 'untouchables' have always been allowed there. I visited ThiruNarayanaPuram a few years ago. A place, apart from the temple, that is extremely popular for Sarkarai Pongal (sweet pongal) and thiruman katti. However, the pertinent point for this blog post is that - I vividly remember the image of 'ChellaPillai'. And I can recognize an idol that has some similarity to it. And that brings us to something interesting.
So Kamal Hasan released a new set of photos for his upcoming movie Dasavatharam. Photos which to a Chella Pillai symbologist, as I'd like to call myself now, suggests a rather obvious connection.