Thanjavur Big temple Car festival: a great event that was revived in 2015

Thanjavur big temple, flag hoisting, chitrai festival.

Hindu Temple cars are chariots  with a strong  well- carved wooden base and they  are used to carry representations of Hindu gods (utchavars) around the temple streets. The cars are taken out from the shed and are  used on annual festival days called 'Ther Thiruvizha' ( in Tamil), during which countless people gather around and pull the heavy  decorated chariots with a colorful canopy.  This festival is also referred to  as Ratha Yatra in states like Odisha; ex. Puri jagannath Rath Yatra.

stone chariot,the Vittala Hindu temple.Hampi Karnataka Depositphotos

The annual Chitrai festival at Thanjavur Big temple dedicated to lord Shiva (Brigatheeswarar) commenced with flag hoisting here  recently. The  procession of temple chariot is part of the annual festival and it was held recently  on April 16, exactly two days before the election to the Parliament and to the state assembly of TN for 17 seats only that fell vacant on account of a Judicial court order, Madras High Court, Chennai.

Thanjavur car festival Hinduism Today
As temple tradition has it, the festival flag was taken out in a procession through the four  main streets of Thanjavur, TN and  later hoisted in the flag pole (Dwajasthambam)  at the Big temple just across the  main shrine by the  Sivachariyars amidst chanting of hymns between 7 and 8 am. Prominent citizens and temple officials were present during this important  event at the temple.  'Deepa' worship was also performed to the flag mast. Earlier, a special puja and abishekam were performed to Peruvudaiyar (Shiva Lingam) in the garbagriha/ sanctum sanctorum.

The chariot festival of the ancient Brihadeeswarar temple was held  at Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu in April, 2015 after a long hiatus of  100 years. For unknown reasons, the car was damaged during the late colonial period and for 100 years the people of Thanajavur missed the Therottam (Chariot run).  This 1000 plus year  old temple made entirely of granite rocks was built by the great Chola King Raja Raja II and it is a world heritage site recognized by the UNESCO.  This year the car festival was attended by about 100000 people  who came from near-by villages. The 45 plus ton chariot with a sturdy wooden base was specifically made on orders from the then late CM Ms. Jayalalitha.
It took over 30 sculptors and 15 months to craft the chariot  as per temple specification and the trial run was held a couple of days  before the main event in 2015.  The late CM thus fulfilled the long pending demands of the people from this city. 

Just like earlier years, the people said this year's event was a grand one. The decorated chariot with the Utchavar idols stated off  at 6 am from the base on West Main Street opposite to Sankara Mutt and passed through all the main street and finally reached the base in the afternoon. As the traffic near the big temple is heavy the big temple is not a base for the temple car. So, the festival idols have to be taken all the way from the main temple to the Chariot's base on the West Main street. Before the journey began, special puja and deepa aradhana had been done by the temple priests. Ardent devotees pulled the giant ropes tied to the chariot and kept it moving carefully around the streets. An amazing feature is the devotees attended this grand annual event despite the sultry weather and hot summer heat.
After the event, the wooden base of the chariot will be kept in a shed made of transparent thick plastic  sheets
all around so that devotees and tourists can see it from out side the enclosure.