Sri Andal temple ''therottam'' (Chariot run) held yesterday after a gap of 2 years

Andal Chariot festival August 01, 2022

The annual temple Chariot (ratha) festival of Sri Andal temple, one of  the country's 108 Vaishnavite Divyadesam shrines glorified by Tamil Azhwar saints in the Naalayera Divya Prabhandam (Tamil Vadam), was held on a grand scale at Srivilliputhur in Virudunagar district of Tamil Nadu.  

Yesterday marked Sri Andal's  jayanthi, only Tamil poetess whose holy hymns -Thirupavai  are recited in the early morning in all vaishnavite temples through out  the Tamil  month  of Margazhi. Sri Andal was born and raised as the adopted  daughter of Periazhwar, yet another Vaishnava saint of high stature and the girl grew to be a great devotee of Sri Vishnu and ultimately married the lord and merged with him at Sri Ranganathar temple Srirangam. 

Andal temple, chariot getting ready

On Monday first of August around 9.05 am  the  huge wheels of the big chariot rolled on the four  ratha street with hundreds of devotees pulling the giant rope  chanting  ''Govinda''.  This time  euphoria and enthusiasm among the thousands of devotees were just over-whelming  as the Chariot festival was held outside the temple after a long gap of two years. In the previous year  due to continued threat of covid- 19 virus  the therotam  was held within the temple premises with  limited attendance health protocols.

Sri Andal idol, Srivilliputhur, TN

Andal temple, Sayana Perumal (rangamannar).

This year the therottam is a major event, earlier  as part of the 10 day festivities,  temple flag-hoisting was held on the 24th of July Gardasevai  on 5th fay of the festival (July 28th)  and Sayana Sevai (30th July) of Rangamannar (sri Vishnu) on the seventh day. 

Garuda vahana, srivilliputhur,

Andal temple pancha garuda seva,,

This year the Garuda Seva event - procession (Purappodu) appeared to be a great one.  On the night of 28th July five Garada sevas (pancha Garudasevai)  procession was  held with bhakti, one of them being saint Periazhwar on Anna pakshi (Swan/Hamsa) vahana followed  by Rangamannar  (perumal) on Garuda vahana  sri Andal on a big Anna vahana, Sri Sunderaja perumal, Sri Srinivasa Perumal and  Sri Thiruthangal perumal respectively on the Garuda vahana. Both  Maada  and ratha streets around the temple were very busy all night during the event and there were free distributions of tea and milk among the devotees. 

Yesterday July 31, presiding deity   here - Rangamannar received   silk cloths (vastharam) mangala items like turmeric, kukumam, garland, etc  from Kallazhagar temple near Madurai and also from Srirangam Ranganathar temple as a sort of Ethir Seer.( reciprocal gifts). It has been a tradition for a long time  to exchange gifts  during certain temple festivities  among the temples and the same is repeated. during chithirai month celebrations by Andal temple.  Silk clothes,  garland kunkuman, turmeric, etc., will be sent to Kallazhagar temple  and to Srirangam temple during Chihirai therottam. The temple senior representatives will carry the gifts and handed over them as per temple norms. At Andal temple these mangala items (holy thing)   were taken in a religious procession led by an elephant all along the Ratha streets before handing over them to the temple. A large number of devotees witnessed  the event. 

The culmination of the festival rath yatra or therottam commenced around 9.05 am in the morning. Special prayers and rituals were held earlier in the morning  and the idols (Andal and Rangamanar) left their abode around 3 am. Later they were taken in a palanquin to be mounted on the decorated chariot. upon the return of of chariot to the temple in the noon, after covering all the  four ratha streets,  the deities (utchavars) were taken back to their respective abodes. 

The festival successfully took place with cooperation from the public, tight security provided by the police under the district administration and other senior officials. The entire district offices, schools, etc., were on a holiday schedule as declared by the state government.  

The side highlight of this festival is the large scale of   sweetmeat, Srivilliputhur's famous milk peda (Palcova). I myself tasted it on a few visits to the temple town with my family and it is quite taste and  mouth watering . There are numerous  dairies in and around Srivilliputhur town.