Lakhs converge on the riverbed to witness ceremony

Lakhs of devotees congregated on the Vaigai riverbed in the city early on Wednesday morning to witness the ceremonial entry of Lord Kallazhagar into the river as part of the annual Chithirai festival.

Devotees started thronging the riverbed from Tuesday night and the area was packed from as early as 3.30 a.m. on Wednesday. Many devotees had also occupied rooftops of buildings near Albert Victor Bridge to catch a bird’s eye view of the proceedings.

The presiding deity of Kallazhagar Temple at Alagarkoil, Lord Kallazhagar, arrived near the riverbed at 5.55 a.m. from Tallakulam Perumal Temple amidst thunderous applause and loud chants of “Govinda Govinda.”

Mounted on a ‘golden horse,’ the deity had been adorned with a green silk attire.

Temple priests said the colour was believed to bring prosperity to the region and a good yield for farmers.

He was received by Lord Veeraraghava Perumal who came on a ‘silver horse,’ as is the custom.

Lord Kallazhagar entered the riverbed at 6.15 a.m. and was taken in a procession around the ‘mandapam’ erected near AV Bridge.

History

It was king Thirumalai Nayak, who had combined the celestial wedding of Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareswarar with Lord Kallazhagar’s entry into the Vaigai, which were performed separately in different ‘Chithirai’ festivals.

Legend has it that Lord Kallazhagar comes from Alagarkoil to witness the marriage of his sister Goddess Meenakshi and is stopped by Lord Veeraraghava Perumal who tells him that the marriage has already been solemnised.

Dejected over this, Lord Kallazhagar chooses not to cross the Vaigai.

“Before the integration of the Chithirai festivals, it was believed that Lord Kallazhagar went to the Vaigai to redeem Mandooka Maharishi who had been cursed by Durvasa Maharishi and turned into a frog,” said D.K. Subramanian, a retired professor of The Madura College.

Staying true to its spirit, the festival saw an amalgamation of communities and people from the rural and the urban areas to add to the religious and cultural fervour.

“On His way to Madurai, Lord Kallazhagar wears a ‘thalapa,’ (headgear) implying that he is one among the people,” Mr. Subramanian added.

After the ceremonial entry into the Vaigai, Lord Kallazhagar proceeded to stop at ‘mandahapadis’ which had been erected along the riverbank and reached Ramarayar Mandapam at 10.45 a.m.

The deity finally arrived at Vandiyur Veeraraghava Perumal Temple at 11 p.m.

A large posse of police personnel had been deployed on the riverbed to help regulate the crowds.

Though there were many policemen surrounding the ‘mandapam’ erected on the riverbed, there were instances of devotees trying to get closer to catch a better glimpse of the deity.

There were a few instances of persons trying to break the barricades and cross over to the enclosure of devotees closer to where the ceremony was performed, prompting swift police action.

Barring these incidents, the police did not have to face instances of people fainting as the ceremony was held well before the heat set in.

All roads leading to the Vaigai near Albert Victor Bridge played host to festivities throughout Tuesday night. Devotees had gathered at Goripalayam Junction and danced in groups and played various instruments.

Devotees, who had come from the nearby districts to witness Lord Kallazhagar entering the Vaigai, had made the pedestrian platforms along the roads starting from Anna Bus Stand their home for the night.

The Chithirai Exhibition at Tamukkam Grounds which was kept open through the night also proved to be a huge hit among the masses.

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