A mammoth Hindu festival Mahamaham, February, 2016 and interesting facts

.Mahamaham February 2016. mahamaham2016.in
Mahamaham held every 12 years in Kumbakonam,Tamil Nadu. www.alamy.com
The Mahamaham, a Hindu festival that is celebrated once in 12 years with religious fervor and devotion, is a popular one comparable to that of Kumbhamela of  N.India. It is the largest congregation of pilgrims gathered in one place - the  well-known temple city of  Kumbakonam in Thanjavur District, Tamil Nadu. The city is located on the banks of the river Cauvery. Perhaps,  next to  Varanasi in  Uttar  Pradesh, Kumbakonam is credited with having a vast number of  Hindu temples, consisting of Shiva, Vishu and  Amman (kali) temples, besides Navagraha temples within a radius of 50 kms from the city.  Many of these temples are several centuries old and are large in size. The city is considered a ''Punya Shetra'' by many Acharyas of Hinduism. Given below are the unique facts about Mahamaham festival:

01. This year the Mahamham festival is scheduled for February 22, 2016 - the  Mahamaham day. Whereas Masimaham is an annual event that occurs in the Tamil month of Masi (February–March) in the star of Magam, 'Mahamaham' comes once in 12 years. Hence, much importance is given to this rare religious event. 

02. It is anticipated that roughly 4.5 million people from various parts of India, SE Asia, etc will visit this temple city during the festival period. They will take a holy dip in the Mahamaham temple tank- an event connected with exoneration of sins.

03. On the 13 th of February, 2016  temple rituals will commence with the ceremonial flag-hoisting in the Shaivite temples followed by Vaishnavite temples, a day later on the 'Ratha Sapthami.'

04. It is a 10 day festival (from February 13th to February 22 nd) and people will be visiting during this period and take  holy dip in the tank to wash off their past sins.

05. The Tamil Nadu Government had begun the preparation for this grand festival roughly a year ago. It is expected that the state will bear more than $ 22 million for additional amenities for the visiting devotees such as temporary bus stands at seven locations on the outskirts of the city, adequate drinking water facilities, innumerable medical emergency booths, numerous ambulance vehicles, 72 police booths,  monitoring 132 remote cameras located at vantage points, adequate toilet facilities, besides several parking lots each with a capacity to handle 25,000 vehicles on the periphery of the city. In addition to it,  more than 1000 fire fighters, paramedics and others will be deployed to take care of the visiting pilgrims. Special care will be taken to face threats from terrorists and other emergency situations.

06. As for the Indian Railways, they will run special shuttle services from near by towns to Kumbakonam to bring in devotees. Further, they have installed 50 to 60 surveillance cameras at the railway station   for security reasons and threats. Both the Central and State  governments  are working hard to make this mammoth festival a grand success and people - friendly. Credit goes to Ms. Jayalalitha, The CM of Tamil Nadu  and her ministers , HRCE  officials and the Central government staff.
Thousands bathe .Feb.16, 2014 at Mahamaham tank in Kumbakonam.www.thehindu.com
07. On the Mahamaham day, when Guru is in Simha raasi and, on the other side, Surya is in the Kumbha raasi, ''Therthavari'' takes place - on the full moon day (Pournima). From Astronomy point of view, when the planet Jupiter passes over Leo on the day of the festival, it is strongly believed, it will bring  forth all holy water bodies together and enrich the Mahamaham tank with minerals. Similarly, a lake in Kotihar in Jammu and Kashmir gets full supply of water the same day, which otherwise remains empty during the other 11 years.

08. Taking a holy dip in the Mahamaham tank during the 10 day period is considered as an  act of washing off sins committed wittingly or unwittingly in the past; a commitment to lead a pious and sin-free life here-on.
Mahaamaham-16 mandapams around the tank .www.indian-heritage.org
09. The Mahamaham Tank, located in the heart of Kumbakonam, covers an area of 6.2 acres and is trapezoidal in shape. The tank is surrounded by 16 small Dhana  Mandapams (shrines) and has 21 wells - representing Theerthams inside the tank. The wells carry the names of Hindu god Shiva or the holy  rivers (the Ganges, Yamuna, Godavari, Narmada, Saraswathi, Kaveri, Tungabatra, Krishna and Sarayu). of India. Beginning the eastern side of the tank, there are 8 wells  named after celestial deities namely Indra, Yama, Agani, Ninruthi, Vayu, Kubena and Isana respectively. The 9th well  'Brahma Theertham' is located between Yayu and Kubera wells 

10. The inscription in Sanskrit recently discovered by the ASI on the outer wall of the Gharbagraha 
Mahamaham tank, 1892 photo. www.justknow.in
(Sri Kovil  or  Sanctum Sanctorum)  of  the Brahmatherthewara temple here throws light on the plan of the temple tank. The Dhana mandapams, ghats on all four sides of the tank and this temple were built during the Thanjavur Nayak Dynasty. The then ruler of great repute  Ragunatha Nayak (Naicker)  built them under the able guidance of minister and scholar Sri Govinda Dikshitar (he was the minister of three successive Nayaks of Thanjavur in the 16th and 17th centuries) during the 17th  century CE.

11. According to inscription, in 1900s various wells symbolizing Therthams (holy waters) were built 
to  enable pilgrims to take  a  holy  dip  on  the Mahamaham  day and for this purpose tank water level was kept at low enough  to avoid drowning.

12. The  inscription in the gopuram (tower) of Nagalpuram, a village in Chengalpattu district, T.N recorded the visit of famous Vijayanagara ruler Sri Krishandevaraya in 1445. It is also   recorded in the inscription found in the Shiva temple in Kuthalam town, near Kumbakonam.


a. Sri Govinda Dikshitar was a Kannadiga (native Kannada language speaker) belonging to the Hoysala, Karnataka Brahmin community and  lived in a palatial house in Patteeswaram, near Kumbakonam. He was a pious Hindu and a scholar in Sanskrit. Sri Goinda Dikshitar, it is believed, had built  the Ramaswamy Temple, Kumbakonam when in 1620, he was the Divan - administrator for the Nayaks. Besides,  he also  built a commercial corridor between the new temple and the older Chakrapani Temple, Kumbakonam.
Thanjavur (now in Tamil Nadu) Nayak ruler. america.pink

b. The Nayak ruler Ragunatha Nayak was the son of Achuthappa Nayak of Thanjavur Nayak Dynasty and was the third ruler.  He ruled from 1600 to 1634 and is believed to be the greatest of the Thanjavur Nayak kings. During his  reign   literature, art and Carnatic music flourished in that region. He was succeeded by Vijaya Raghava Nayak.

c. During the Nayak period Hindu temples, in particular Vishu temples  were well taken care of and innumerable additions were made to the existing temples. The  famous Sri Rangnathar temple at Srirangam near Tiruchirapalli city, T.N saw several  additions  made  during this period.