The month of Chithirai (April-May), according to the Tamil Calendar, is a festival month for the Hindu temples - (Star on the Pournami: Chithirai. Chitra Pournami & Varusha pirappu -Tamil New year day are the most important festivals in this month. The famous Chithirai Thiruvizha is celebrated in Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple. 14 April is the Tamil New Year). Chithirai Festival is a popular one and closely associated with Madurai city of Tamil Nadu. Considered as the longest celebrated festivals in the world, it lasts for one month and is divided into two parts. In the first 15 days of the festival, there are celebrations related to coronation of Goddess Meenakshi and the wedding of Lord Sundareswarar (Lord Shiva) and Goddess Meenakshi. This is a Saivite festival based on Saivite tradition of worship. The second half consisting of roughly 15 days is dominated by the celebrations of the Journey of Lord Azhagar (lord Maha Vishnu) from Azhagar Temple in Azhagarmalai, near Madurai. This one is Vaishnavite festival, following Vaishnava tradition This festival attracts around 1 million people from different places of Tamil Nadu and other places. The entire city wears a festive look and amazingly devotees attend the festival with devotion and bakthi unmindful of hot, dry summer heat. These two important festivals point out that both Shiva and Vishnu are one, though the people following them follow different traditions.
It was during the reign of king Thirumalai Nayakar both festivals became merged as one single event to prove that Saivaism and Vaishavism preach almost the same religious tenets with minor variations. Since his time Chithirai Thiruvizha has become a great and grand religious event in the the Tamil month of Chithirai. No other Indian cities have closer connection with Chithirai temple festival than Madurai city. Chithirai Festival dates in 2017 may fall between 29th April till 10th May. No doubt, Chithirai festival is synonymous with Madurai city, just like Thirussur with the Poorum festival.
|Meenakshi marrying Lord Sundereswarer, Madurai. www.pinterest.com|
Legend has it that Meenakshi was the daughter of Pandya king Malayathuvasa Pandian and queen Kanchana Malai, The childless Pandya King and his wife did special prayer to god to be blessed with a child. While doing Putra Kameshti Yagna, a small beautiful girl came out of the fire and sat on the lap of the king. A divine voice (Asiriri) from the sky told the royal couple that the child sitting on the lap was none other than an incarnation of of Sakthi (consort of Lord Shiva) and Lord Shiva would take her as his wife one day at the right age. As Meenakshi grew in the royal palace with love and care, she was trained in various aspects of royal administration, including warfare, etc. She was crowned as the Queen of Pandya kingdom after her father. As the head of the kingdom, she fought many a battle in countries scattered in eight directions and, on one occasion, went to Kailasham (the Place of Lord Shiva) to conquer it. When Meenakshi met Lord Shiva face to face at the battlefield, she immediately felt shy and fell in love with him. She realized that she was, in reality, an avatar of Sakthi and Lord Shiva's consort.
|Madurai city map MADURA WELCOME|
The wedding of Meenakshi (Goddess Parvathi) with Sundareswarer (Lord Shiva ) was to be held in Madurai and Meenakshi's brother Alagar (Lord Vishnu), was to attend the wedding. His abode was on the Azhagar hills, a rugged, wooded terrain near the city. Azhgar (Vishnu began his long journey towards Madurai disguising as a robber. This was to protect his valuable possessions. Because he had to cross the dense forest, his arduous journey got delayed and by the time he had reached near Madurai, while crossing the river Vaigai, he learned that his sister Meenakshi's wedding with Lord Shiva was already over. When Lord Shiva and Meenakshi came to know of Vishnu's visit near Madurai and of his unhappiness over the conduct of marriage not in his presence, they came to the Vaigai river to pacify him. Having become subdued, Azhagar presented all the gifts that he carried, to Meenakshi and Shiva in a Mandapam in the middle of Vaigai river, and returned to Azhagar Hill without entering Madurai.
|Meenakshi temple, model , Madurai Heritage Madurai|
|celestial wedding of Meenaskshi, Madurai aarkaytamil.blogspot.com5|
That Lord Vishnu, the elder brother of Meenaskshi could not attend the wedding and returns to his abode Azgharmalai, is a different legend and is part of Chithirai festival that last for roughly two weeks.