Friday, 1 May 2020

Tiruvarur Azhi ther - temple car festival was cancelled due to Covid-19 pandemic - the temple town wore a gloomy look

 Tiruvarur temple, TN and big chariot. thiyagarajaswamytemple.tnhrce.in/
2020 car festival cancelled  due to Corona virus. Tiruvsrur Azhi ther -Chariot thehindu.com 
Tiruvarur Chariot festival, a historical  annual event  associated with the Thyagaraja Swamy temple, Tiruvarur in Tamil Nadu is normally  held during the summer between months of March and April.  The presiding deity Lord Veethividangar (Lord Shiva) - Utchava murthy commonly  known as Thiyagarajaswami  comes out of the sanctum of  the massive ancient temple, with his consort Kondi (Parvathi) on the special well decorated massive chariot ('ther' in Tamil) to bless the devotees gathered all along the four Mada streets.  The tradition has it the God,  for a change comes out of his abode - temple   to bless his devotees who take so much pain to visit the temple to pay their obeisance to him and  get blessed by him. They do it year round, so the lord just spends a day moving along the streets to bless them, in particular those elderly people who can not visit the temple. The chariot called Azhi Ther is Asia's biggest one, the intricately carved  wooden base alone weighs more than 250 tons (30 feet tall) with four giant wheels. With the canopy over it plus decoration, the total weight will be more than whooping 300 tons and the height is about 96 feet.  The huge chariot is provided with special hydraulic wheels and break system made by BHELat Tiruchirapalli factory complex.  The big chariot needs 10000 people to move it around the four Mada streets besides bulldozers  to push the chariot forward from behind. The people will pull the giant ropes (diameter one foot)  tied to the front of the car on either side. Pulling the temple car and holding the rope (in Tamil Vadam) is considered a holy act. 
Tiruvarur ther. car festival TN nammatrichy.in
Unfortunately, this year the popular  chariot festival  was not held at Thrivarur, the capital of the district because of Covid-19 pandemic.  The devotees of this small town and neighboring areas were quite disappointed over the cancellation of ''Ther Ootam'' - conduct of chariot festival because the state administration has cancelled  all temple festivals, etc  across the state. These  may  attract a large gathering of devotees at one place. In the absence of proper medication and treatment for the new virus from China, the government is particular about people wearing mask over the mouth and nose and observe social distancing like other states do. The entire TN state has been  under lock down  for a few weeks in various hospitals and certain parts of  cities like Erode, Coimbatore, Tirunelveli and Chennai, etc are sealed because virus infection is reported from such places. 

Tiruvarur, TN locaton map. .mapsofindia.com
Frankly speaking, under the able direction of the present CM E. Palaniswami and his ministers, besides the hard work put in by the medical fraternity and the police force and others who handle the tense, critical  and life-threatening situation with firmness and patience, the infection is under control. Certain sections of the community need to cooperate  with the officials who are ever facing the risk  to their lives while on duty away from the comforts of their homes.   Nationally,  out of 35000 infected cases 9000 people have been recovered and the casualty is 1154. In TN there  are 2323 confirmed cases and  about 900 active cases. . 

Across Tamil Nadu the temple festivals and other festivities  are not allowed by the government as a precaution  to retard the progress of the virus spread. This year, the people of Tiruvarur  miss the religious fervor  and gaiety during the festivities that normally would last for 25 long days.  Last year the main car festival was held on the first of April  and the devotees were led by velakkuruchi Aadheenam and the district collector. Flag-hoisting function took place on the 22 of February; two weeks later the main deity was taken to the Devasiriyar  mandapam  where ''patha darsanam''(holy feet of the lord)  function was held on March 26. The entire district will enjoy a holiday on the car festival day and it has been a custom for a long time. 
https://nammatrichy.in/the-96-foot-high-decorative-aazhi-ther-pulled-by-devotees-on-monday/
https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Tiruchirapalli/All-set-for-the-majestic-Azhi-ther/article14425392.ece
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiruvarur_Chariot_festival