Thyagaraja swamy temple, Thiruvarur,TN and Srikanteshwara Swamy temple Nanjangud, KA - known for heaviest and tallest rathas

Nanjangud temple and tall ratha.

Nanjangud temple and tall ratha.

Above image: Daily annabhishekam is part of temple ritual at this historically  old Shiva temple. Often called Dakshina Kasi, lots of devotees visit this temple for the cure of ailment..........

Thiruvarur Thyagaraja swamy temple, TN

Above image: Thyagaraja swamy temple, Thiruvarur. Temple entrance with Azhi Ther (chariot). The water tank, one of the largest in India called Kalalayam. The Pallavas during the 7th century initiated the complex. Contemporary history of the temple goes  back to the Medieval Cholas. period.  .........

A temple chariot /car or ratha  is made of  nicely carved  solid wooden base with cloth canopy over it, consisting of strings of festoons and flowers supported by wooden poles and decorations  and is meant to carry processional idol - representative god in the sanctum of the temple with which it is associated.  Mounted on the ratha, the primary god or goddess is taken around the streets of the temple normally called Mada street or Ratha streets in Tamil Nadu  during the annual festival time.The huge chariot mounted with the deity is manually pulled forward by the devotees, holding the Vadam (huge rope) and pulling it. Pulling the rope  is itself an offering to god.

Chariot temple car festival is more common in countless south Indian temples than in those in the northern states  and is often associated with an important annual temple event. The date of what is called Therootam or chariot run may vary from temple to temple. Among the temple rathas, the most famous one is the annual  Puri Jagannath temple yatra. 

Equally famous in South India are the chariot festivals of Dodda Jathre of Sri Kanteshwaraswamy Temple, Nanjangud, Karnataka  and Azhi Ther of Thiruvarur, Tamil nadu. The Nanjangud chariot - main one,  may not be a heavy one like the one in Thiruvarur, but it is taller than it. The significant fact is this Shiva temple like at Thiruvarur is popular and pretty old. The annual Chariot festival attracts lakhs of devotees. In the latter case, it is a huge temple complex and the daily worship protocols of god Shiva are different.The main idol of worship is Lord veedhi Vidangar (processional icon) (Thiyagarajar), depicted as a Somaskanda form.

One of the biggest temples of the Old Mysuru region including Bengaluru is the Srikanteshwara Swamy temple or Nanjundeshwara temple in Nanjangud  town that attracts lots of devotees. The highlight of Dodda Jahre festival is Pancha Maha Rathotsava -5 chariots being the major attraction of this car festival. These chariots are pulled through by a selected group of devotees roughly 110 (each carrying insurance against injuries, life, etc) along the streets around the temple. They use specially made rope by the locals to pull the ratha forward. in the past a couple of consecutive years the chariot veered off the road for two reasons: it is tall and the rope is not strong enough to pull the heavy ratha. Hence special attention is paid to the rope -19 inch diameter and 110 m long. Like others temples, pulling the chariot is ones of the ways to express devotion and is also an act of  offering made to the presiding lord Srikanteshwara here. Dedicated to Lord Shiva who is worshipped in the form of Nanjunda meaning in Kannada/Tamil a person who consumed poison.  Records mention that Chola Kings of Thanjavur in the 11th–12th  built this temple with later additions by the Hoysalas and the Vijayanagara kings.

The main chariot- the Gauthama Ratha is dedicated to Lord Srikanteshwara, the other chariots carry idols of to Lord Ganesha, Lord Subrahmanya, Goddess Parvathi and Chandikeshwara. Of these, the Gauthama Ratha is the tallest,  rising to a height of 100 feet consisting  of mostly  cloth canoy festoons, etc. It weighs 100 to 110 tons, but slightly taller than Thiruvarur Ther (ratha) Tha ratha yatra  culminates after the five rathas complete the circumambulation of the temple.  About 5 lakhs people attend this festival from many parts of Karnataka. 

In the case of Thiruvarur Ther or ratha associated with Thyagaraja swamy temple, the event falls in the month of March - April. The Tiruvarur chariot is known for being one of the largest of its kind in Asia. The wooden base of the chariot alone  with intricate carvings of  deities and episodes from the Hindu epics and huge wooden horses fastened to it, rises to 30-ft and the overall height with cloth canopy on top is around  96 feet. The kalasam atop alone accounts for six ft, thus making the chariot’s overall weight as 330 tonnes to 350 tonnes. Hydraulic brake system is fixed in the chariot to stop it then and there while on the move. 

Lots of Shiva devotees visit these historical temples.,_Nanjangud,_Tiruvarur