The popular and colorful Chithirai festival began on the 12th of April, 2024 at Madurai, TN!

Happy Tamil

 Meenakshi temple, Madurai, TN

Azhagar kovil, TN

Madurai city, Tamil Nadu that nurtured Tamil Sangam (related to the growth of Tamil literature) a couple of thousand years ago is synonymous with two popular Hindu festivals  - Meenakshi - Sundereswarar  Tirukalyanam (celestial wedding) and Kalazhgar getting into Vaigai river. These two festivals are collectively called Chithirai Vizha (festival), one of the oldest festivals in India. Every  year, the  residents of Madurai and neighboring places relive the tales of goddess Meenakshi and Azhgar (Vishnu).

The annual event comes in the Tamil month of Chithirai (April-May)  during the hot sweltering summer time. Despite the heat wave and  sultry weather, lakhs of people, driven by Bhakti, celebrate the festivities with great pomp. pageantry, clamorous music  and, of course, with no lack of religious fervor. 

Kalazgagar (vishnu) in the Vaigai river, Madurai,The

This  carnival of long-drawn festivities roughly about  a few  weeks  associated with a riot of colors  and religious procession are part of the culture of this city. During the festivities lots of small business men and vendors do good business and make sufficient profit. The activities take place in the back drop of massive Meenakshi Amman temple and the Vaigai river. The first  half of the festival is dedicated to  celebrating the investiture of goddess Meenakshi (coronation as the ruler of the Pandya kingdom) and her marriage with Lord Sundareswara (god Shiva). The Ther Thiruvizha (rath yatra) takes place on the very next day of Meenakshi Thirukalyanam.  The idols of Lord Sundareswara and Goddess Meenakshi (Parvati) are taken out in a huge chariot  along  the streets of Madurai around the main temple.. 

Whereas, the second half is celebrated as remembrance of the journey of Lord Azhagar from Azhagar Koyil's Kalazhagar temple to the city of Madurai. 

The festivities which became popular during the reign of  Thirumala Nayak  revolve round Azhgar  temple (dedicated to God Vishnu), his guard,   Karuppasamy, and Vishnu's sister Meenakshi Amman,   popularly deemed the first female ruler of Madurai. Kalazhagar visits the city to attend the wedding of his sister.  Upon learning the wedding had already taken place, he got into the river Vaigai to remove the curse of sage  Mandoog and after that the lord  returns to his abode Azhgarmalai (hillock) near Madurai along with his retinue. 

The first phase of the festival began on the 12th of April, 2024 with customary  temple flag hoisting in the morning (9.55 to 10.10 am) on the Meenakshi Amman temple premises. Between 13th and 20th there will be many rituals both in the morning and in the evening including procession of the idol on various vahanas. This is inclusive of coronation of Goddess Meenakshi on the 19th April as per  tradition. On the 20th celestial wedding of the goddess with Shiva (Sundereswarer) takes place, followed by Therottam on the 21st; all the religious processions take place around four Maada streets. 

Madurai Chithirai festival, Ratha yatra,

Madurai temple

As for 2nd phase involving  Kalazhgar  (Vishnu), on 21st the god descends the hill and comes to Madurai where many rituals  including Ethir Sevai (reception) take place. The important event Kalazhgar (Sunderaja Perumal) getting into the Vaigai river takes place on the 23rd of April. It is a colorful event attended by lakhs of devotees around the venue. 

The grand spectacular festivities come to an end with the return of Kalazagar to this permanent abode Azhgar temple on the hill. In Tamil Nadu, it is one of the most important festivals like Vaikunta Ekadashi festival at Srirangam, Karthigaideepam at Tiruvannamalai and  Azhi Therottam at Tiruvarur Thyagaraja temple.