Azhi Ther - massive temple chariot of Tiruvarur (Tamil Nadu), Tyagaraja temple 2019

Thyagarajaswamy Temple: Ther (Car) festival of Thiruvarur TripAdvisor
Today (first of April, 2019) a popular car festival takes place at Tiruvarur town, the district capital of Tiruvarur, Tamil Nadu. This  temple festival  is part of Paguni Uthiram and the Azhi Ther (big chariot) of Sri Tyagaraja Swamy (Lord Shiva) temple attracts lots of devotees. People  in lakhs from this district and other parts of Tamil Nadu  will converge at the venue to participate in this spiritual event. This festival, also called Azhi Therotam is  very old and the Tamil Savite saints like Appar, Sundarar, et al  mentioned about this important festival that is held in the month of Panguni. There is an old saying in Tamil about the chariot: "Thiruvarur Ther Azagu".  The sight  of the temple car moving  slowly along the broad streets  is quite inspiring in an atmosphere charged with utmost devotion and bhakti.
Tiruvarur Azhi Ther- temple chariot

. Thiruvarur Sri Thiyagarajar Big Temple East RajagopuramFlickr
This huge chariot, believed to be one of the few giant  temple cars in India  will be pulled by devotees in thousands and it will go around the four streets adjacent  to the temple. The journey will begin around 7 am and the chariot will return to the temple in the same  afternoon.  What is so unique about this chariot? It is a missive one weighing as much as around 400 tons, base alone weighs 220 tons  and additional decorations, canopy, etc add up extra weight. Including the canopy, the temple car stands  roughly 96 feel tall with a wide platform  (35 feet) that carries the presiding deities of the temple. The base of the wooden car is roughly 30 feet tall and is intricately  carved with impressive small images of gods and goddesses. There are scenes  depicted from the holy Hindu  scriptures.   Pushing and stopping such a huge car is a tough one and a special hydraulic break-system is provided for safety purpose. Besides, bulldozers in the back of the chariot give the additional push to help the devotees  pull the giant ropes with considerable ease.   It was in 1988 steel wheels were fixed to bear the enormous weight as part  of major restoration work. Prior to last year car festival, there was a big gap because the entire chariot underwent renovation at a cost of Rs. 2 crores. The original Azhi Ther was severely damaged due to a freak fire accident in 1922 and the chariot was rebuilt later. After 1848, Azhi Ther, for unknown reasons, stopped running. Only after 1988 the temple car began to run during the Punguni Uttiram festivals.

An interesting fact about the temple  is befitting the huge temple  car, it  owns more than 1000 acres of fertile land and   centuries old temple tank, one of the largest in India covering 15 acres  with a mandapam dedicated to Naganathar  at the middle of the tank. The water in the tank never dries  as it is replenished by several  underground springs below. Even if there has been a dry spell with no rain, the temple tank is not affected. I have heard  the people say that the  temple itself has a vast collection of iyempon (made of five metals ) idols of various deities and besides, there is an icon center functioning in the temple for the past several years. This center has a vast collection of metal idols from many parts of Tamil Nadu for safe custody.  

The main deity in the temple is Tyagaraja  (lord Shiva) and his consort is Kamalambika.  Here, Kamalambika is perpetually praying to lord Shiva, who is believed to be in trance. Here prayer  to marry the lord remains unfulfilled. In this respect there is a Tamil saying quite prevalent locally. '' Kallu ther odinaal, Kaalamadu Paal kodutha, Kamalalayam Vathi ponaal , Kamalambikavikku kalyanam'' (meaning: ''If the stone chariot (ther)  could run, if an ox could produce milk and  if Kamalalayam could get dried up, only then  will  Kamalambika  be married"). This signifies the perennial nature of the tank and how ingeniously the  ancient builders of this vast temple had planned this temple tank.
On this day, lord Tyagaraja with his consort ''Kondi'' (Parvathi) comes out of the temple and bless the devotees who take so much pain to visit his abode  all through the year  to get his blessings.,_Tiruvarur