Exciting Chithirai Festival in Madurai - after a lapse of two consecutive years!!

Madurai(TN) meenakshi amman temple, prakaram, .flickr.com

Madurai city of Tamil Nadu  is one of the oldest cities in India dating back to several centuries   where Tamil Sangam was nurtured by the well-known  Tamil poets and  god-fearing kings.  Often called the cultural capital of Tamil  Nadu, the Chithirai festival  also known as ‘Chithirai Brahmotsavam’,  that falls in April every year, is quite popular in which lakhs of people participate. In the last two years the festival seasons in Madurai lost their luster and sheen due to COVID  pandemic and frequent lockdowns. Events like Meenakshi Thirukalyanam and Azhagar  Attril eranguthal  (God Azhagar - perumal getting into Vaigai river)  were held without any pomp. For the first time in history, public participation in the festival was very much limited   for two consecutive years in the wake of  strict  implementation of govt  protocols on health  precautions   during the pandemic

This year the famous Chithirai festival  has given a  much-needed solace  and respite  for people as well as for  scores of traders.  The festival events mean  huge business for the merchants worth more than Rs. 100 crores, a sign of local economy on the uphill move. According the Chamber of Commerce and industry, if you take the entire Madurai district, the festival season will bring in business worth more than Rs.500 crore, a whooping sum. It means several lakhs of people throng the places of worship, etc. It also means the 2 year hiatus between 2020 and 2021that witnessed  loss of business in the past years.  So, this year the business may cross the limit and hit the roof.  Hotels, restaurants, small traders and others  may see 25%  to 35% hike in their business. For those  traders near the temple it is a boom. That festival events in temple towns  like Palani, Madurai, Thiruchendur, Kumnakonam, Srivilliputhur, Kanchipuram and other places give a big boost to local economy  is a good news for the local community.   

Madurai Meenakshi temple,TN.temple-timings.blogspot.com

Madurai  idols of  goddess Meenakshi and god Sundareswarar. quora.com

As for as this city is concerned, the rulers in the past - centuries ago used to run the administration in the name of goddess Meenakshi. Even to day deity Meenakshi is looked upon as the primary patron of this sprawling city.  Consequently this city of Madurai has always had a  unique distinction of holding  a special pride in the  realm of  culture,  rituals and festivals that keep this city  busy year round. 

Madurai city, Tamil Nadu, earthcelebrations.com

Meenakshi amman temple chariot festival, madurai. oneindia.com

Above image: This year the Meenakshi Amman temple chariot festival takes place today 15th April. In this old image devotees are seen  pulling the temple car on the Masi streets  as part of  the Chithirai Festival........

Amid the Vedic hymns by the temple priests and in the presence of   thousands of devotees'  the temple flag was hoisted in the Meenakshi temple’s 'Kodimaram' (Dwajasthambam)  on the morning - 5th April.  Meenakshi Pattabishekam was held on the 12th, followed by  Meenakshi-Sundareswarer Thirukalynm on the 14th. On the 15th there will be chariot run on the Masi streets   and the festival  comes to an end  on the 16th of April.  In the next 5  months - Tamil month Chithirai to Avani, the belief has been among the people of this city  is  that Goddess Meenakshi will  be the holding the scepter  (in Tamil Senkol) and run the administration. This belief has been here since the days of Nayaks and even prior to their period 

Chithirai festival of Azhagar Kovil,  a ten day festival event is an interesting one and is  associated with the famous visit of Kallazhagar to Madurai. This year  Kallazhagar Festival  begins to day 15 April 2022 and will end on  19th  April  2022. Muhurtha kal (pole) was  already  set in place in the Prasanna Venkatachalapathy temple  at Tallakulam on the first  day of the month heralding the beginning of this festival. The most important date is April 16. As part of the festival, Kallazhagar begins his journey   from Azhagar kovil near Madurai   in the guise  of Kallar (robber) and reaches Madurai on Pournami (Full Moon day).  Here,  he  gets into  Vaigai River in his horse vahana(m).  This particular event attracts lakhs of people to the river bank close to the venue. It  is called  "Ethir Sevai" which is held at Tallakulam  previous day  before Azhagar stepping  into river Vaigai.  People of Madurai give traditional welcome to  God Kallazhagar (an avatar of God Vishnu) as part of the festival. At Tallakulam perumal temple normally every year  Kallazhagar would wear the flower garland presented by Sri  goddess Andal  and give   darshan to devotees till 12 midnight.. 

Azhagarkovil near Madurai. .alamy.com

Madurai, TN. Azhagar  (Vishnu) getting into river, oneindia.com

Madurai, TN Kallazhagar  on golden horse vahana,youtube.com

When Azhagar  gets back on his way to his abode,  Vandiyur Dasavatharam festival is celebrated throughout the night at Ramarayar Mandapam in the Northern part of Vaigai River.  From there Azhagar is taken to Mysore Veera Mandapam on decorated Anantharayar Palanquin. Following day the god in the guise of Kallar  returns to Azhagar kovil in 'Poo Pallakku'(Palanquin decorated with flowers).

Through the festival event, one could see the local people brimming with religious fervor, devotion and dedication come together for a common cause  and make the huge event a success. . Their obsession with Chithirai festival is just overwhelming and their collective participation and religious unity is beyond comparison. More than 1000 police men will be on duty to control the sea of humanity descending on Madurai. during the festivities. There will be numerous traffic diversions and road blocks to  check on the cars and motor bikes. This year more than 900000 people would attend the festivities here, it is said.