|Aerial View of Sri Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple, Madurai (Wikimedia Commons)|
|10th Day: Meenakshi - Sundareswarar Celestial Wedding|
|11th Day: Therottam Early Morning (Ratha Utsavam, Chariot, Car Festival) (Wikimedia Commons)|
The Chithirai Festival or Chithirai Thiruvizha or Chithirai Brahmotsavam of Sri Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple, Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India is considered as the most significant festival celebrated at the temple capital in a grand splendor. The southern districts of Tamil Nadu attach much importance to this festival.
|Sri Meenakshi Amman|
The first day of the festival commences with Dwajarohanam or the conventional hoisting of the temple flag. Thousands of devotees witness / participate in the specific pooja performed after flag hoisting. The festival comes to a conclusion on the full moon day of the Tamil month Chithirai (April 14 - May 15). Therefore the festival is named as Chithirai festival. The main event of Sri Kallazhagar (Lord Vishnu) Darshan at Vaigai river takes place on the full moon day of the Tamil month Chithirai or Chithra Pournami.
The Pandiya King Kulasekhara Pandiyan established his Pandiya country and founded Madurai. King Malayadwaja Pandiyan is his successor. The royal couple King Malayadwaja Pandiyan and Queen Kanchanamala did not have children. They prayed and appealed Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva made goddess Parvati to incarnate herself as Meenakshi. Goddess Meenakshi miraculously appeared as a child at the sacrificial altar.
The child was named as Tataatakai. The child was found with three breasts. The King got worried and prayed Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva with his divine prophecy consoled the King and told that the third breast will disappear at the mere sight of her would be bridegroom / prince.
Tataatakai became a grown up girl and as a valorous princess of Pandiya Kingdom. She was also called as Meenakshi since eyes resembled the shape of the fish. The princess proceeded on Dig-Vijaya (waging war across the length and breadth of the entire countries). She reached Mount Kailas, the abode of Lord Shiva. She was fortunate enough to have Lord Shiva’s grace and at the sight of Lord Shiva her third breast disappeared. She also blushed on seeing Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva promised her that he would come to Madurai and get her married. After this Princess Meenakshi returned to Madurai.
Lord Shiva (Lord Sundareswarar), descended down to Madurai with the purpose of marrying his consort goddess Parvati (Princess Meenakshi). Lord Vishnu (Lord Kallazhagar) also descended down to Alagarkoil in order to get his sister married to Lord Sundareswarar.
Importance of Celestial Marriage
This Chithirai festival was started by King Thirumalai Nayak (Nayakar Ruler circa 1623 to 1659) with an intention to unite four (Saivism, Vaishnavism, Saktham, Skandam) of the six-important faiths or Hindu religious sects (Shanmatha) i.e. Saivism (Lord Shiva), Vaishnavism (Lord Vishnu), Saktham (Goddesses), Souram (Lord Surya or Sun God), Ganapathyam (Lord Ganapathy) and Skandam (Lord Subramanya). The celestial wedding anniversary of Goddess Meenakshi (Parvati) and Lord Somasundareswarar (Lord Siva) is an important occasion of this festival. Lord Subramanya, (Thirupparankunram Devasthanam – near Madurai), the younger child of Lord Siva, participates in this festival.
|14th Day: Sri Kallazhagar at Vaigai River|
Lord Kallazhagar of Sundararaja Perumal Temple at Alagarkoil (located 21 km from Madurai), the brother of goddess Meenakshi, takes a long procession Madurai to participate in his sister’s marriage. Before he reaches Madurai, the celestial marriage takes place in the absence of Lord Kallazhagar. Therefore he gets angry and enters in to the holy river Vaigai. Afterwards the Lord bestows his grace to the devotees at various places at Madurai. Thereafter the Lord returns to Alagarkoil.
The Seventeen days Chithirai Festival Program is shown below:
Venue: Sri Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple, Madurai
First Day - Flag hosting and Start of the Festival - Karpaga Vriksha, Simha Vahanam (Vehicle)
Second Day – Bootha Vahana (Vehicle), Anna Vahanam (Vehicle)
Third Day – Kailasa Parvadham, Kamadhenu Vahanam (Vehicle)
Fourth Day – Golden Palanquin (Thanga Pallakku)
Fifth Day - Vedar Pari Leelai - Golden Horse (Thanga Guthirai) Vahanam (Vehicle)
Sixth Day - Saiva Samaya Sthabitha Varalatru Leelai -
Seventh Day - Nantheekeshwarar, Yaali Vahanam (Vehicle)
Eighth Day - Goddess Sree Meenakshi Pattabhishekam (Coronation) Evening - Velli Simhasana Ula
Nineth Day - Sree Meenakshi Digvijayam - Indra Vimana Ula
Tenth Day - Sree Meenakshi Sundareshwarar Thirukalyanam (Celestial Wedding) Forenoon - Yaanai Vahanam (Elephant Vehicle), Pushpa Pallakku (Flower Palanquin)
Eleventh Day - Thiru Ther - Therottam Early Morning (Ratha Utsavam, Chariot, Car Festival) - Sapthavarna Chapram (Trolley)
Twelfth Day - Theerthavari, Festival Ending at Madurai Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple, Madurai; Rishaba Vahanam (Bull Vehicle)
Venue: Lord Kallazhagar of Sundararaja Perumal Temple at Alagarkoil (located 21 km from Madurai).
Twelfth Day - At Arumigu Kallazhagar Thirukoil, Alagarkoil - Velli Virutchaba Sevai Kallazhagar (Kallazhagar)
Venue: En route Madurai - Sri Prasanna Venkatachalapathy Temple in Tallakulam
Thirteenth Day - Sri Kallazhagar Thallakulathil Edhir Sevai
Venue - At the North Bank of Vaigai River - under Albert Victor Bridge
Fourteenth Day - Sri Kallazhagar Vaigai Aatril Ezhuntharural (Presence of Sri Kallazhagar at Vaigai river) - 1000 Pon Chapram (trolley) - Night Saithyobacharam at Vandiyur village
Venue - Thenur Mandapam - Tenur Village near Madurai & Ramarayar Mandapam, Northern part of river Vaigai
Fifteenth Day - Sri Kallazhagar Vandiyur Thenur Mandapam - Sesha Vahanam (Vehicle) in Morning - Garuda Vahanam (Vehicle) in the afternoon - Moksham for Manduga Maharishi - Dasavathara Katchi at Ramarayar Mandapam in Night
Sixteenth Day - Morning Mohanaavatharam - Night Kallazhagar Thirukollam in Pushpa Pallakku (Flower Palaquin) at Mysore Mandapam, Northern part of river Vaigai
Seventeenth Day - Sri Kallazhagar Thirumalai Eluntharural (Returning back to Arumigu Kallazhagar Thirukoil, Alagarkoil).
Highlights of the Festival
- In the year 2011 the temple authorizes have made a gold ‘Rishaba Vahanam (Bull vehicle) at a cost of Rs. 90 lakh with over 3.5 kilograms of gold. The procession on Bull vehicles will takes place on the 12th Day of the Festivals.
- The coronation (‘pattabhishekam’) of Goddess Meenakshi will be performed on the eighth day
- Celestial marriage is a colorful festival. The idols go on procession. You can witness colorful umbrellas and multi-colored huge fans. The hymns of Thevaram will be sung by temple staff.
- The celestial wedding will take place at the temple premises – the wedding hall (‘Tirukkalyana Mandapam’) at the junction of West-North Adi streets on the 10th day of the festival.
- You will see thousands of devotees assemble at the hall to view the beautifully decorated idols of Lord Sundareswarar and goddess Meenakshi and to witness the Thirukkalyanam rituals.
- There will be two temple priests assuming the role of Lord Sundereswarar and goddess Meenakshi. Both of them will put flower garland to the idols and exchange them thrice. There will also be tying of mangalsutra
- The Religious Endowment Trust will arrange and offer the wedding feast to 50,000 devotees after the wedding.
- The devotees were given Prasadam which included Mangalsutra.
- It is believed that the celestial couple is ruling Madurai.
The eleventh of the festival will be the car festival. There will be huge procession all over the four main roads of Madurai (Four Masi Streets). Lord Sundareswarar and goddess Meenakshi will go on procession in a well decorated huge wooden car with large wheels. The car will be pulled by devotees using thicker ropes. People will throng at their front courtyard of the houses or at every corner of the streets to have the glimpse of the prime deities.
Nb: Masi is the 11th month according to Tamil Calendar.
- Arulmigu Meenakshi Sundareshwarar Thirukkovil (Website)
- Chithirai Thiruvizha, Wikipedia
- Meenakshi Amman temple, Wikipedia
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