Famous Hindu temple chariots of India - 01

 The annual  Chariot festival, an integral part of temple ritual protocol, is observed by countless Hindu temples across India, in particular,  Tamil  Nadu where it is a long drawn event, commonly associated  with  the annual Brahmotshavam. Therottam  normally takes place in the Tamil month of Panguni, Chithirai and Aadi. The huge  well decorated temple car carrying the deities - utchavars (processional deities)  will be manually pulled by hundreds of devotees around the four streets called Ratha Veethys. 

tharangampadi, TN Car festival procession. samlinger.natmus.dk

The chariot is like a moving temple carrying the presiding divinity of that particular place and its configuration is almost like a temple. temple worship being part of our cultural ethos a preponderance of Hindus will get involved in such temple festivities. 

 A structure of the temple is like a cave temple of the earliest period and the ardent devotees have to go deep into it to reach the sanctuary - sanctum which is a sanctified place.  The tower above it represents vertical dimension suggestive of the ascent to enlightenment and
deliverance/ salvation? the core of the temple is garbhagriha just like a mother's womb where the ambience is quiet and conducive to spiritual awakening because there is no distraction there for the devotee to focus himself on God.   

The word 'Ratha' is of Sanskirit  origin meaning to ''move''  and   chariot, refers to the 'vehicle for movement'. It has been tradition to run the chariot around the temple  as in many temples of Tamil Nadu or to a particular destination as in the case of  Puri Jagannath temple  from the main temple to Gudicha and back. This ritualistic religious journey is called  rath yatra often accompanied by music, dances, chanting of god's name or mantra etc.  In some temples  it may be a short  journey and the small chariot will be pulled along the four prakara clock-wise round the garbagriha. 

Below  are posted the images of chariots (rathas) of some of the important Hindu temples:

Kanchi Varadharaja perumal temple, TN : 

Varadaraja perumal temple, kanchi. upload.wikimedia.org

Varadaraja perumal temple, kanchi.dreamstime.com

Varadharaja Perumal Temple of Kanchipuram, TN dedicated to Vishnu is a famous Vaishnavite temple in this state.  One of the 108  Divya Desam shrines (the fourth of the Divya Desams)  believed  have been visited by the 12 Tamil  Vaishnava  saints  or Azhwars, it is a highly sanctified place because one of the greatest Hindu scholars of Vaishnava (Vishishtadvaita) philosophy, Sri  Ramanuja is believed to have resided in this temple. Commonly  known as: ''Perumal Koil', it is one of the most sacred places for Vaishnavites. This temple that occupies 23 acres of land has 32 shrines, 19 vimanas (tower) and 399 pillar halls characteristic of lion yali. The various episodes of mahabharata and ramayana are dipicted in 96 well carved ornate pillars. Mumurtivasam (abode of trio) refers to this temple,  Ekambareswarar Temple and Kamakshi Amman Temple. Vaishnavites believe completion of  4 divyadesam shrines including the one a Melkote (Thirunarayanapuram), Karnataka without any break will assure the devotee an eternal place of rest in paramapadam in the shadow of the lord

As for the ther festival an eleven day event - of this temple, it falls in the month of may every year and the chariot festival is a popular one attended by lakhs of devotees.  This year this event took place on 
May 20th(festival began on 13th march. Garudaseva took place on   the 15th of May.

Sarangapani Temple (Vishnu), Kumbakonam:

Sarangapani temple, Kumbakonam, TN. flickr.com/

Giant wheel of Sarangapani tmple, Kumbakonam. divinetraveller.net

Above image: Sarangapani Temple (Vishnu), Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu  is one of the Divya Desam shrines  and also one of the Pancharanga Kshetrams. several rulers had built this old temple 
 at different times from Medieval Cholas, Vijayanagar Empire and Madurai Nayaks. Some portions of the temple are dated to the 7th CE. The temple is enshrined within a huge granite wall and The temple complex that is enclosed within huge granite walls has many shrines and water tanks.  The Rajagopuram (the main gateway) with 11 tiers is one of the tallest  divyadesam shrine (ht:173 ft (53 m). The Potramarai tank, the temple tank, is located opposite to the western entrance of the temple. The lord  worshipped as Aravamudhan (unsatiating nectar), is seen reclining on serpent  Adisesha with the left hand below the head and shoulders slightly raised. This pose is called Utthana Sayana.  When inquisitive   Thirumazhisai Azhwar questioned the lord whether his sleeping posture was due to over  exertion. Upon this, it is believed, that the Lord slightly raised his posture to greet the saint. The processional idol is Saragapani. 

The temple has twin temple chariots weighing 300 (660,000 lb) each - 3rd largest in Tamil Nadu.  As for its size size the chariots are next only  to the ones in Thygaraja temple in Thiruvarur and Andal Temple in Srivilliputhur and they were given a new lease of life and renovated in 2007. The chariots were not used for some years prior to that period.  Here, the therottam takes place twice a year - during the Brahmmotsavam  in April–May and Ratasaptami in January–February.  The wooden part of the chariot has nice carvings from the Hindu mythology. The attributes of Narashimha are well represented on the wood.

Brihadishwarer Temple, Thanjavur:

1010 year old Brihadeeswara temple, Thanjavur, TN.commons.wikimedia.org/

Thanjavur Big temple chariot, near the ther shed. hindu.com

Above image:  Brihadishwarer Temple Chariot. Thanjavur.   A  UNESCO Heritage Site, more than 1010 years old it was built by Raja Raja Chola I. Lord's consort is Bragannayaki. The  last chariot festival of the Big Temple was held in 1818. Later it was not held due to paucity of funds during the early colonial period.  The  new chariot is 50 foot tall (when decked-up)  and  weighs  40  tons with 231 wooden  icons  and  245 bells. After a lapse of 100 years it first ran  on  29th April 2015. The credit goes to the Late CM J. Jayalalithaji and her team of ministers. Only this year the chariot ran on the four main raja veethys in April and about a lakh of people witnessed the event.  Past two years, the therottam was not held on official order due to Covid-19 health threats. 

 Nellaiappar Temple, Tirunelveli, TN:

2019 july Nellaiappar (Shiva) car festival,  indiatimes.com

Nellaiappar (Shiva) car festival,Tn thehindu.com

Inside Nellaiappar temple, Sangili mandapam. en.wikipedia.org

Nellaiappar temple wooden base of the chariot, TN. twitter.com/

Above images: Nellaiappar Temple dedicated to lord Shiva is a prominent temple in Tirunelveli. The lord's consort is Kanthimathi Amman (Parvati). The temple chariot is the 3rd largest one in Tamil Nadu and the  car festival in June  attracts huge crowd. More than 600 police officers were on duty on the festival day and special cameras were fixed at vantage points for crowd management, security, etc. This is a huge and artistic temple and the life-size stone sculptures are quite impressive.  The temple built by various rulers is pretty old 700 AD. Following India's independence, the temple car here sported Shiva's bull flag as well as India's national flag in 1948. Aane festival  is a10 day event and on the 9th day god Nellaiappar and his consort Kanthimathi will be taken out in a procession around the Ratha streets. It is one of the oldest chariot made in 1505 with 8 wheels including four inner wheels. I is designed in such a way that it does not need any heavy-duty bulldozer to push it behind. Its iron axles were made in  England and about 23 years ago this chariot had 13 tiers.So part of the canopy was  removed for easy pulleying. The chariot's wooden base has beautiful wood carvings that include Dasavatharam of Sri Vishnu, images of god Ganapathy, demon king Ravanna shaking mt. kailash. An interesting feature is the carved image of Veerabhadra swamy at four corners.  At the bottom of the car there are numerous carvings of goblins. 

 In the past years a posse of 1000 police saw security duty, besides  drones were used to monitor the crowd. The festival attracts lakhs of devotees from this district and neighboring places as well. This temple is quite popular across India for the amazing musical pillars.