"Chithirai festival" at Srirangam temple has been around since 1383 CE - car festival is on April 19

Srirangam chariot festival, TN. .thehindu.com/

Srirangam chariot festival, TN.thehindu.com

The annual Chithirai car festival which is steeped in history, is an important event in Srirangam and it has been around here for more than 1000 years. Historians  say the Chithirai festival started sometime in 1383 and since then it  has been in vogue. Srirangam, often referred to as  the nithya utsava kshetram, is also considered as   the ‘Bhooloka Vaikuntam’ by the ardent devotees.  Galore with festivals , from the Tamil month of Chithirai to Panguni, special utsavams are held here. The Thai ther, and the Panguni ther are the other temple car festivals celebrated with equal religious fervor in this temple town.

Wooden base, Srirangam temple chariot.srirangapankajam.in

The customary practice of contribution to the temple in the form of rice, fruits, grains,etc  from the people, including villagers continues to day for generations.  In the 1300s  the  Muslim army from the Delhi Sultanate raided Srirangam twice and  looted the temple, The  army  led by Commander Ulugh Kahn  in C.E. 1323 left  a trail of chaos, destruction, bloodshed  and beheading  of 12,000 innocent Vaishnavite residents (in Tamil - 'Pannerayiravar mudi tiruthiya pandriazhwan mettu kalagam'). The annual ritual of ''Tithi'' (Pithroo Karyam) or' Srardham' for the Pithroos (Ancestors) is being performed on Adi Amavasai day every year on the banks of the Vaikkal near  Gopurapatti temple.  

After Delhi Sultanate army's plundering  Lord Ranganatha was brought to the sanctum /garbhagriha  in 1371 (17th day Vaikasi month).Thanks to Goppana Udayar, another chieftain of the Vijayanagara empire, he took efforts  to bring back Namperumal to Srirangam.  Temple being in a much dilapidated state the situation was one of desperation and pathetic.Financillly ruined  the temple had no money even for Nithya puja and the local ruler requested the people to contribute to the temple. On 1377 King Viruppan ( Viruppan Udayar, was the son of Harihara II, the sangama kula king of the Vijayanagara kingdom)  donated Seventeen thousand gold coins for renovation of the temple. Apart, the king   officially granted  over 52 villages for Temple welfare and maintenance.  Hence even today  the villagers and others  contribute their mite to the temple.  In the year of 1383 after renovation Chithirai festival resumed after a long hiatus of 60 years. This festival highlights the sustained culture and ethos of this temple town. No doubt, this temple is number one in the list of 108 Divyadesam shrines glorified by the Azhwar saints. 

entrance to the main shrine, Srirangam temple. srirangapankajam.in

Gold-plated vimana above sanctum/Sreekovil. srirangapankajam.in

Ranganathaswamy Temple main tower, Srirangam.  srirangapankajam.in

The 11-day annual Chithirai car festival of Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangam began on the 11th of this month with the customary  holy flag hoisting ceremony on the temple premises  in the  early morning of that day.  The festival begins eight days earlier to Revathy asterism. This time, it is expected, a large number of devotees will be visiting the temple town to get blessed by the main deity Sri Vishnu and to take part in the temple car festival  which is scheduled to take place on the 29th of April. The major event therottam is on the 19th of April.  As it is Ranganathar's birthday the temple already received the gift -Vastharams (clothes),etc  to the lord from Sri Andal temple, Srivilliputhur. The lord will be wearing the clothes during the car festival. 

In the years 2019 and 2020 the Chithirai festival was a low key festival because of looming COVID-Pandemic that started spreading fas across the state. However, all pujas and rituals associated with the ceremony were performed.

Srirangam temple Chithirai Ther 2014 full view. credit:srirangaminfo.com

On the day of the therottam  the processional deity Sri Namperumal will be brought out was in a procession from the ‘Kannadi Arai’ in the early hours . Then  the idol will be  reverentially placed on the  the decorated temple chariot. Previous day the workers will engage in the decoration of the temple car and after finishing the work on the colorful canopy over the wooden base of the chariot, they will keep it ready for the following festivity.   Once the customary  Rituals are  performed by the temple priests the temple car stationed on East Chithirai Street  will be  pulled at around 6.30 a.m. amidst ranting of devotional hymns and mantras. The decorated chariot with the deity will be pulled along all the  Chithirai streets before coming back to the same spot from where it 's started.

Necessary precautions include police bandobast -  several posse of police will be posted at vantage  places to control the crowd, vehicular traffic  and to manage the security because such events, sometimes, may attract anti social  people and terrorist groups. More than 1000 police will be deployed  to supervise the festivities. The power supply along the chariot route will be suspended  for some time till the event is over.  The temple authorities take extra precaution over live power lines after the unfortunate tragedy that took place  near Thanjavur in the recent past.  Tree branches  on the route will be were pruned and electric wires will be checked for extra safety.  

It is likely there will be a proposal to livestream the important events for the convenience of devotees.


Srirangam Chithirai Ther. dailythanthi.com

During the 11 day festivities - Srirangam Chithirai Thiruvizha Namperumal (Sri Vishnu) was taken in a religious procession in the morning and  evening around the Chithirai streets and each day he will be riding  his favorite vahanas - Golden garuda,  Kalpaha viruksha palanquin, Simha vahana, Yali vahana, elephant vahana, golden horse e(8th day) etc. Each night the deity will be taken to the Kannadi Arai to be with  his consor upon completion of certain rituals..