|Madurai(TN) meenakshi amman temple, prakaram, .flickr.com|
Madurai city of Tamil Nadu is one of the oldest cities in India dating back to several centuries where Tamil Sangam was nurtured by the well-known Tamil poets and god-fearing kings. Often called the cultural capital of Tamil Nadu, the Chithirai festival also known as ‘Chithirai Brahmotsavam’, that falls in April every year, is quite popular in which lakhs of people participate. In the last two years the festival seasons in Madurai lost their luster and sheen due to COVID pandemic and frequent lockdowns. Events like Meenakshi Thirukalyanam and Azhagar Attril eranguthal (God Azhagar - perumal getting into Vaigai river) were held without any pomp. For the first time in history, public participation in the festival was very much limited for two consecutive years in the wake of strict implementation of govt protocols on health precautions during the pandemic
This year the famous Chithirai festival has given a much-needed solace and respite for people as well as for scores of traders. The festival events mean huge business for the merchants worth more than Rs. 100 crores, a sign of local economy on the uphill move. According the Chamber of Commerce and industry, if you take the entire Madurai district, the festival season will bring in business worth more than Rs.500 crore, a whooping sum. It means several lakhs of people throng the places of worship, etc. It also means the 2 year hiatus between 2020 and 2021that witnessed loss of business in the past years. So, this year the business may cross the limit and hit the roof. Hotels, restaurants, small traders and others may see 25% to 35% hike in their business. For those traders near the temple it is a boom. That festival events in temple towns like Palani, Madurai, Thiruchendur, Kumnakonam, Srivilliputhur, Kanchipuram and other places give a big boost to local economy is a good news for the local community.
|Madurai Meenakshi temple,TN.temple-timings.blogspot.com|
|Madurai idols of goddess Meenakshi and god Sundareswarar. quora.com|
As for as this city is concerned, the rulers in the past - centuries ago used to run the administration in the name of goddess Meenakshi. Even to day deity Meenakshi is looked upon as the primary patron of this sprawling city. Consequently this city of Madurai has always had a unique distinction of holding a special pride in the realm of culture, rituals and festivals that keep this city busy year round.
|Madurai city, Tamil Nadu, earthcelebrations.com|
|Meenakshi amman temple chariot festival, madurai. oneindia.com|
Above image: This year the Meenakshi Amman temple chariot festival takes place to day 15th April. In this old image devotees are seen pulling the temple car on the Masi streets as part of the Chithirai Festival........
Amid the Vedic hymns by the temple priests and in the presence of thousands of devotees' the temple flag was hoisted in the Meenakshi temple’s 'Kodimaram' (Dwajasthambam) on the morning - 5th April. Meenakshi Pattabishekam was held on the 12th, followed by Meenakshi-Sundareswarer Thirukalynm on the 14th. On the 15th there will be chariot run on the Masi streets and the festival comes to an end on the 16th of April. In the next 5 months - Tamil month Chithirai to Avani, the belief has been among the people of this city is that Goddess Meenakshi will be the holding the scepter (in Tamil Senkol) and run the administration. This belief has been here since the days of Nayaks and even prior to their period
Chithirai festival of Azhagar Kovil, a ten day festival event is an interesting one and is associated with the famous visit of Kallazhagar to Madurai. This year Kallazhagar Festival begins to day 15 April 2022 and will end on 19th April 2022. Muhurtha kal (pole) was already set in place in the Prasanna Venkatachalapathy temple at Tallakulam on the first day of the month heralding the beginning of this festival. The most important date is April 16. As part of the festival, Kallazhagar begins his journey from Azhagar kovil near Madurai in the guise of Kallar (robber) and reaches Madurai on Pournami (Full Moon day). Here, he gets into Vaigai River in his horse vahana(m). This particular event attracts lakhs of people to the river bank close to the venue. It is called "Ethir Sevai" which is held at Tallakulam previous day before Azhagar stepping into river Vaigai. People of Madurai give traditional welcome to God Kallazhagar (an avatar of God Vishnu) as part of the festival. At Tallakulam perumal temple normally every year Kallazhagar would wear the flower garland presented by Sri goddess Andal and give darshan to devotees till 12 midnight..
|Azhagarkovil near Madurai. .alamy.com|
|Madurai, TN. Azhagar (Vishnu) getting into river, oneindia.com|
|Madurai, TN Kallazhagar on golden horse vahana,youtube.com|
When Azhagar gets back on his way to his abode, Vandiyur Dasavatharam festival is celebrated throughout the night at Ramarayar Mandapam in the Northern part of Vaigai River. From there Azhagar is taken to Mysore Veera Mandapam on decorated Anantharayar Palanquin. Following day the god in the guise of Kallar returns to Azhagar kovil in 'Poo Pallakku'(Palanquin decorated with flowers).
Through the festival event, one could see the local people brimming with religious fervor, devotion and dedication come together for a common cause and make the huge event a success. . Their obsession with Chithirai festival is just overwhelming and their collective participation and religious unity is beyond comparison. More than 1000 police men will be on duty to control the sea of humanity descending on Madurai. during the festivities. There will be numerous traffic diversions and road blocks to check on the cars and motor bikes. This year more than 900000 people would attend the festivities here, it is said.