There was an apprehension that the three-day festival might be ‘hijacked” by political elements

Several weeks of suspense over the programmes scheduled for ‘Maamadurai Potruvom’ finally came to an end on Tuesday.

After the initial apprehension that the event might be ‘hijacked” by political elements, the district administration and the organising committee released the programme agenda of the three-day festival, barely three days before the event, which is being organised at a cost of Rs. 1 crore.

Karumuttu T. Kannan, chairman of the organising committee, told The Hindu on Tuesday that the run up to the event had evoked a good public response. He was quick to deny that there was a conscious effort to keep the event a low key affair in its initial stage. “We have invited a minister from the State government to be a part of the celebration. So there is no question of wanting to keep it a low key affair.”

However, one of the members of the organising committee contradicted the chairman’s stand. “The core committee wanted to keep it a low key affair during the initial meetings fearing that political elements might hijack the event. What they did not realise is that at some point of time, may be this year or in the coming years, based on the success of the event, it might be taken over by the political elements anyway. Only the core committee knew what exactly was happening. Lapse in communication among the sub-committees was also one of the reasons many of us did not know what exactly was happening,” the member, who did not want to be named, told The Hindu.

The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), which was an integral part of ‘Madurai Vizha,’ the forerunner to the ‘Maamadurai Potruvom,’ is not actively participating in the programme.

“It is great to see the involvement of the government and district administration in the event, because something substantial could be done for the city”, said Aravind Kumar Sankar, Convenor, INTACH Madurai Chapter. “Because the festival is on its transition stage, we are extending support from outside, and are waiting to see how it shapes up,” he added.

After ‘Maduraikaagathan,’ a marathon in which nearly 7,000 people participated, and heritage tours for 1,500 school students, the focus has shifted to art and culture.

The programme agenda features a list of literary events such as a series of seminars on Madurai’s heritage, cultural performances and literary discourses. The organising committee has ensured the secular credentials of the festival by announcing that the ‘Madurai Deepam’ will go to Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple, St Mary’s Church and Goripalayam Mosque.

Managing the traffic will be a challenge, especially during the carnival, the highlight of the three-day festival, estimated to cost Rs. 50 lakh. “We will have eight tableaux designed by art directors from Chennai and at least 1,000 folk and martial artistes from all over Tamil Nadu will perform,” S. Rethinavelu, senior president of Tamil Nadu Chamber Commerce and Industry, who is overseeing the carnival arrangements, told The Hindu.

Scheduled for February 9, the carnival will be flagged off by Governor K. Rosaiah at the Madura College and will end at Tamukkam Grounds.

“There might be a few shortcomings. But this is only a beginning and the effort itself is laudable. The shortcomings of this year can be rectified next year,” said Bobby Thomas, former secretary of INTACH’s Madurai Chapter.

He disapproved of spending a large amount of money on temporary three-dimensional models, while several prominent places in Madurai wait for cleaning and revamping.

Students of Thiagarajar College of Engineering held workshops and took part in the making of the three-dimensional model tracing the course of the Vaigai river, whereas the role of students from other colleges have been limited to guiding the public at exhibitions and students on heritage tours.

Several lakhs have been spent on the 3D models positioned at the western gate of the Nayak Fort near Palanganatham and Vilakuthoon. According to the organisers, art directors from Chennai were brought in to create the models at a cost of Rs. 5 lakh each. Made of fibre and plaster of paris, the models are temporary and are likely to stay intact only for a few weeks. More than Rs. 4 lakh is being spent on the 100-metre three-dimensional model of the Vaigai, which is nearing completion.

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