Residents, playing host to friends and relatives, make it a point to visit the fair

Come summer, all roads in Madurai lead to the Tamukkam Ground, the venue of the Government Chithirai Exhibition. It will be the entertainment zone for Maduraiites for more than a month.

The annual exhibition, which was declared open on April 20, is expected to draw a huge crowd this year too. Since schools have closed for the summer holidays, parents with their children in tow have been thronging the fair, despite the harsh summer heat. Madurai residents, playing host to friends and relatives, who have come from different cities to witness the Chithirai festival, also make it a point to visit the exhibition in groups.

The State Information and Public Relations department has earmarked space for government departments to put up stalls. The government has allotted Rs. 60,000 for each pavilion, said Assistant Public Relations Officer (Madurai district) K. Pavendan.

Fifteen departments, which include Information and Public Relations, PWD, Agriculture, Police, Social Welfare, Cooperation, Health and Family Welfare, have put on display their activities and achievements with photographs. The Social Welfare department has information on the ill-effects of child marriage and the punishment for the offenders.

Details of Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s ambitious ‘thaalikku thangam’ (gold for marriage) scheme, free laptops for students, green house project, among others, have been displayed to make people aware of the State government’s popular schemes.

A Revenue Department official at the stall said that about 50,000 students had received the free laptop, valued at Rs. 13,099 each, in Madurai district. Under the ‘gold for marriage’ scheme, the district had given away four-gram gold coin to 1,674 persons and a nominal cash assistance for performing the marriage — all valued at Rs. 5.25 crore. Space has been allotted for self-help-groups (SHG) and differently abled persons to display their products. When the SHG women asked Collector Anshul Mishra to give them space free of cost, he yielded to their request and provided eight stalls.

An incentive for people to visit the exhibition is that Tangedco officials have given an assurance that they will provide uninterrupted power supply to the exhibition ground. The expo opens at 4 p.m. and closes at 10 p.m. on all days.

Peak period

Every year, the public turnout at the exhibition reaches its peak on the eve of Lord Kallazhagar’s entry into the Vaigai river and on the night of ‘poo pallakku’ (an event where the public offers darshan to Lord Kallazhagar) when the exhibition is open round-the-clock.

According to Mr. Pavendan, last year’s collection through sale of tickets was Rs. 39.38 lakh and a whopping 4.30 lakh people visited the exhibition. To encourage the government departments, a contest would be held and the best stalls rewarded at the valedictory function. Last year, the Agriculture Department bagged the first prize, followed by the District Rural Development Agency. The Cooperation and Social Welfare departments shared the third prize.

Educating children

Though the highlight of the Chithirai festival is the celestial wedding of the presiding deity Goddess Meenakshi with Lord Sundareswarar and the entry of Lord Kallazhagar into the Vaigai, the month-long Chithirai exhibition is an equally unforgettable event, said Arul Prakasam, a resident of North Masi Street who visited the fair with his family. “The festival is an occasion not only to spend time leisurely and do some window shopping, but a good opportunity to educate the children about the culture and traditions of this ancient city,” he said.

Since the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation operates Chithirai special buses beyond 10 p.m. to many places, the exhibition, no doubt, will be the place for one and all, till schools reopen in the first week of June.

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