Thanjavur Big temple Chithirai ''Chariot festival'' (Brahmotsavam) of April 20, 2024

 At Sri Brihadeeswarar Temple, Thanjavur, TN the annual Chithirai festival - Brahmotsavam is a long-drawn event lasting 18 days. This year the grand colorful festival began on April 6 with customary holy temple flag hoisting in the early morning on the temple premises with proper rituals. The therottam or rath yatra  was held on the 20th  - one day after the Parliament election. The festival  will culminate on April 23. Despite the soaring heat and hot weather,  a large crowd attended the festivities with great enthusiasm

On the 20th of April (Saturday), the beautifully  decorated temple car with deities was pulled by thousands of people all along the four main Raja Veethis, stopping at selected places for the benefit of the people. The other deities mounted on small decorated chariots were also part of the rath yatra. It was a spectacular festive event and the chants of  of ‘Aaroora thyagesa’ filled the air as the huge chariot kept rolling on the streets. At many places the floor of the streets were drenched with water to help the devotees feel cool   who pulled the ratha forward with barefoot. The iron wheels  are  fitted with special braking system for easy mobility.

Thanjavur big temple

Above image Thanjavur big temple chariot (old image). It was brought back to life on April 29, 2015 under the Late CM Jayalalitha. A new  wooden chariot with hydraulic break system was made  with ellupa wood (height of 16 1/2 feet and  weighs  40  tones with 231 wooden  icons  and  245 bell). 

 Sri Brihadeeswarar Temple, popularly known as the Big Temple, was  built by the great Chola King Raja Rajan more than 1000 years ago. Made entirely of hard rock - granite and gneissic rocks of pre- Cambrian age (about 3 to 4 billion years old), it is one among the three UNESCO recognized World heritage sites in Tamil Nadu.  

As in the past, the decorated processional idol of Sri Thyagarajaswamy was brought in a procession from the temple complex to the Chariot madapam right across the Kanchi Mutt branch on West Main street close to the chariot shed.  The idol was placed on the temple car at 7 a.m after certain rituals and pujas in the presence of a large gathering of devotees. At 7.15 am, the wooden chariot began to roll down the street clock-wise covering North, East and South main streets  preceded by the ‘Siva vathyam’ of drums, conch shell and other traditional musical instruments that reverberated the air matching the religious fervor and gaiety of the devotees.  The chariot procession ended by noon at the Chariot mandapam on the West Main Street. Later the idols were taken back to the temple in a procession. 

The crowd was well-managed by the posse of police personnel and special care was taken not to go near the huge wheels while the chariot was on the move. A brief delay was caused near   Sri Konganeswarar temple on West Raja Veedhi  due to overhead power supply line got entangled with top of the decorated canopy on the wooden chariot. The power supply was already  stopped as part of precaution.  The chariot resumed the long arduous yatra after the glitch was cleared by the corporation employees.

The 18-day festival that had begun with the hosting of the holy flag on April 6, will culminate on the evening of April 23 with the lowering of the flag on the temple premises after customary rituals. .

Quite amazing is the people's participation in the midst of hot weather condition and the political heat of Parliament election to send the MPs to New Delhi. 

Official records point out that the  last chariot festival of the Big Temple  that was held in 1818 stopped for ever after the Tanjore Maratha rule. During  the  East India company rule,  the temple car (in Tamil Ther)  was  damaged  due to passage  of  time, poor upkeep lack of adequate funds to repair it.

 Sri Konganeswarar temple on West Raja Veedhi  due to overhead power supply line got entangled with top of the decorated canopy on the wooden chariot