What is unique about Nellaiappar temple, TN Aani car ltherottam (rath yatra)?

The Chariot festival, or Therottam (in local parlance), is a significant temple ritual celebrated in Hindu temples across India, especially in Tamil Nadu. It is closely associated with the annual Brahmotsavam and typically occurs in the Tamil months of Panguni, Chithirai, and Aadi. During this vibrant event, a large, elaborately decorated tall temple car carrying the deities, known as utchavars (processional deities), is manually pulled by hundreds of devotees around the temple's four main streets, called Ratha Veethis.

Nellaiappar Temple

Nellaiappar temple chariot wooden base, TN. twitter.com

Nellaiappar Temple Chariot

Nellaiappar rath Yatra, Tirunelveli, TN .dailythanthi.com


The Nellaiappar Temple in Tirunelveli, dedicated to Lord Shiva and his consort Kanthimathi Amman (Parvati), is a significant place of worship. Its chariot is renowned as the third largest in Tamil Nadu, drawing massive crowds during the Aani car festival in June. Notably, after India's independence, the temple car displayed both Shiva's bull flag and India's national flag in 1948.

The Aani festival is a grand 10-day event, culminating on the 9th day with a spectacular procession of the deities Nellaiappar and Kanthimathi around the Ratha streets on the richly decorated chariot. This chariot, one of the oldest in South India, has a robust wooden base constructed in 1505 with eight wheels, including four inner wheels. It is ingeniously designed for easy movement without the need for heavy machinery. The iron axles were crafted in England, and the chariot was originally adorned with 13 tiers, though part of the canopy was removed to facilitate easier pulling.

The wooden base of the chariot features intricate and captivating carvings, including the Dasavatharam of Sri Vishnu, images of Ganapathy, the demon king Ravana shaking Mount Kailash, and Veerabhadra Swamy at the four corners. The base also includes numerous carvings of goblins.

Prominence and Architectural Splendor

Nellaiappar temple ornate  entrance i.pinimg.com 
Above image; This massive Nellaiappar temple has amazing wood carved ceiling at the entrance and a tall sturdy wooden door about 20 ft tall.
Nellaiappar temple,TN, famous musical stone pillars img.ifunny.co

Nellaiappar temple, TirunelveliTN1.bp.blogspot.com

Above image Tirunelveli city, TN - Nellaiappar temple, an architectural wonder with huge prakarams and ornate pillars. Famous for Musical Stone Pillars like the one at Hampi, Karnataka.

The Nellaiappar temple chariot is so massive, it is ranked  just after the chariots of Sri Villiputhur Andal temple and the Thyagaraja Swamy temple in Tiruvarur. The temple's Brahmotsavam extends throughout the Tamil month of Aani (15 June - 15 July). Additionally, a golden temple car, first inaugurated in November 2009, is utilized during key festivals such as Thirukalyanam, Kaarthigai, and Aaruthra Festival.

During the Thaipoosam festival in the Tamil month of Thai, Lord Shiva and Parvathy are taken to the Thamirabarani riverbank at the "Thaipoosa Mandapam" for special rituals before returning to the temple at night.

Historical and Cultural Significance

The original temple complex, believed to date back to 700 AD, was constructed by the Pandyas, with subsequent additions by the Cholas, Pallavas, Cheras, and Madurai Nayaks. Today, the temple is maintained by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department of the Government of Tamil Nadu. It is famous for its musical pillars, extensive Prathkshana path, and life-size stone statues.

Security and Crowd Management

The festival’s popularity necessitates stringent security measures. Over 1000 police officers are deployed to ensure safety, with drones used to monitor the crowd and prevent any untoward incidents. Devotees use special thick and long ropes made of coir or jute, stretching roughly 100 feet, to pull the heavy ratha forward. The festival attracts lakhs of devotees from Tirunelveli and neighboring areas, making it a highly anticipated event in South Tamil Nadu.