''Tamiraparni Mahapushkaram'',- Oct. 2018, Tamil Nadu: an interesting Hindu river festival!!

Tamiraparni Pushkaram Tirunelveli, TN tamil.oneindia.com
'Pushkaram' is an important Indian river festival as the Hindu religion gives importance to worshipping of rivers which form the life blood of a country. Duing this festival devout Hindus, in thousands, congregate on the banks of the river to participate in Pushkaram. The festival is also known as Pushkaralu (in Telugu), Pushkara (in Kannada) or PushkarPushkara is also a Sanskrit word meaning energy that nourishes

Pushkar celebration takes place  at shrines along the banks of 12 major sacred rivers  across India during which time they are marked by spiritual discourses, devotional music and cultural programs. It is also a form of ancestral worship-paying obeisance to our forefathers - pithroos. The uniqueness of this river festival is it is held  annually, once in 12 years along each river which is associated with a zodiac sign. The river is chosen for each year's festival based on which  Jupiter (Guru) transits into  a Zodiac sign  at that time. Some of the zodiac signs are associated with multiple rivers and this is due to regional variations in planetary positions. In the initial 12 and final 12 days in the years of its residence of Jupiter, Pushkara visits to that river. 
Godavari Pushkaram, godavarimahapushkaram.org
According to our Puranas Pushkara, the son of Varuna (God of rain), the presiding deity of all rivers, armed with a boon from Brahma,  becomes Thirthapalaka, the protector of all Thirthas. On a request from Bá¹›haspati/Guru (Jupiter), Pushkara  decided to enter one of the 12 sacred rivers when Bá¹›haspati travelled from one zodiac sign to another. Tradition has been that during the Pushkara days, the Devas make their divine presence there in the river and bless the devotees.
Pushkaram  draws major crowds only during the first 12 days  called  Adi Pushkaramwhen the Jupiter enters the zodiac sign and the last 12 days called Anthya Pushkaram when it exits the zodiac sign. These days  are considered as most auspicious. A dip in the sacred river is believed to absolve you of  all sins.The belief has been that during the above period of twenty-four days, "Pushkar", imbued with the power to make any river holy, will travel with Jupiter as Jupiter moves from one Zodiac house to another. Planets that fall in the "Pushkara navamsa" or "Puskara bhaga" of a birthchart are considered to be very beneficial and auspicious in jyotish astrology

In  South Tamil Nadu, Pushkaram is held in Tamiraparni River when Jupiter is in Scorpio. In the four places where River Tamiraparni flows from south to north, Banathirtham, Papanasam, Thirupudaimaruthur and Sinthupoondurai, the festival is celebrated as per tradition with religious fervor.  The Tamraparni temple at Suthamalli assumes much importance during the Pushkaram year

This year the river Tamiraparni is associated with Pushkar festival because on 12 October this year, Jupiter enters the zodiac sign Vrichikam (Scorpio); hence the festival is held from 12 Oct, to 23 Oct and the main center of Pushkaram is at Tirupudaimaruthur town  near Tirunelveli. This site was chosen by Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam as it is a  Putarjuna Kshetra. Last year in Tamil Nadu,  Tula Ghat, Mayilauduthurai became the hub of Pushkaram on the banks of the river Cauvery marking, the exit of Pushkara during Jupiter's transit. According to the Kanchi Mutt this Pushkaram is a special one hence, it is called Maha pushkaram. The is held every 144 years, this being due to the  peculiar alignment of the planets. Kurukkuthurai on the river bank is another location where arrangements are made for the pilgrims to make a holy dip. Between 14 July and 25 July Maha Godavari Pushkaram was held in Andhra. Likewise Between August 12 to 23 2016 Krishna Pushkaram was held in AP. 
Cauvery Pushkaram newindianexpress.com
The old name of river Tamiraparni is Porunai that originates in the Podigai malai above Papanasam and the river  zigzags through the District of Tirunelveli. Veda Vyasa's  extensive work Tamiraparani Mahatmayam, comprising  6300 verses, has interesting stories on Goddess Tamiraparani Devi who showered blessings on Devas, humans including birds and animals.

The river festival of Pushkaram is not mentioned in the early Hindu texts. It is believed, it is part of the medieval Hindu astrological lore hence, the names of 12 rivers may vary depending on the regional traditions. For example, in Maharashtra, Bhima is associated with Scorpio sign; so in Tamil Nadu, Tamraparni is associated with it. A few ensuing Pushkaram:

01. Mesha(Hindu Zodiac sign (Aries ), Ganga, Ganga Pushkaram -April 22 - May 5, 2023
02. Vrishabha(Taurus), Narmada, Narmada Pushkaram - May 1-13, 2024
03. Mithuna (Gemini), Saraswati, Sarasvati Pushkaram-May 15–26, 2025

04. Karka (Cancer), Yamuna, Yamuna Pushkaram June 2–13, 2026
Many Hindu festivals promote  harmony and devotion among various communities cutting across caste  distinctions, etc and imbibe  postive energy and a sense of commitment in whatever they  do. Our forefathers were not fools when they introduced various rituals and festivals.  These temple festivals, beyond religion,  give importance to something else to promote social intercourse and  integration, essential for the peaceful existence of people from different communities. 

Certain political parties in Tamil Nadu, it is said, approached the court to ban the Pushkar celebration on the river banks of Tamiraparni. That these parties believe in God not is not the matter; it is their ideology, but, it should be confined within the walls of their offices. If such festivals pose threats to life, peace, etc, they can voice their concern.  But, they  have no rights to hurt the sentiments of millions of people and their centuries-old  religious beliefs. This is true of any religion, be it Islam, Hinduism or Christianity. Indian political parties should stick with  the British dictum when it comes to religion:  ''The Church and the state are different.''