An array of purse-friendly goods provides a sideshow for devotees during Panguni Thiruvizha.Lalithasai and Deepa H. Ramakrishnan visit two iconic temples and compare their purchase lists

Devotees thronged the Marundeeswarar Temple for its annual car festival, making for a spectacular sight. Equally striking was the array of products on sale during the entire length of the Panguni Thiruvizha.

Banking on the huge crowds, numerous vendors had parked their wares, wangling whatever little space they could find.

Palm leaf fans, toys, bangles and stands and plastic kolam design were among a caboodle of interesting items that drew visitors. And, of course, fortune tellers were found in large numbers. And they appeared to be having a busy day.

The scene was no different at Mylapore, which witnessed the Brahmotsavam festival at Kapaleeswarar Temple. On all days, vendors coming from far and near had parked their goods on the pavements of R.K. Mutt Road and North and South Mada streets.

Roadside shops offered a variety of products, including ceramics, toys, earthenware, whistles, bangles, cutlery and bamboo baskets.

Vasudevan from Melnallathur, near Thiruvallur, was seen selling clay pots, flasks and other clay kitchen items, whose cumulative worth amounted to around Rs. 25, 000. He was trying his luck at the festival, encouraged by a friend of his.

“This is my first time at the festival. I hope to make good profit,” said Vasudevan. Preserving ice bars in summer is hard and expensive work. But Kumar Mani and his allies, who had ‘established’ themselves opposite R.K. Mutt, took on this task. With sawdust, sacks and plastic covers, they tried to preserve huge blocks of ice, valued at Rs. 40,000. Said Kumar: “There is a huge demand for ice as it is used to cool rose milk and butter milk, which is being distributed free all through the day.” Kumar comes from a family that has done this job at the festival for three decades. Colouful hand-made fans, each priced at Rs. 15 to Rs. 20, were sold by artisans from Tiruttani.

“We are a large group of smalltime vendors looking forward to this fair every year. For almost twenty years, we have traded at this festival. During its last four days, we do roaring business and return home with handsome profits,” said Deivanayi, who manages to make 100 of such fans in two days.

Women were attracted to the stall put up by Raj, a trader from Washermanpet, because it stocked sickles, scythes, knifes, coconut graters and many more household items made of iron . The artistry of some businessmen enthralled the crowds. For instance, Sultan and Murthy, who wove bamboo baskets and cut nylon roses, wowed people. “I was awestruck by Murthy's weaving skills. Deftly and quickly, he rolled over bamboo twigs and made boxes and baskets. I went ahead with the purchase just to encourage him,” said Vasanthi, whose fascination for traditional handicraft had brought all the way from Kilpauk.

Most items came cheap, but that did not prevent buyers from driving a hard bargain.

Service is worship

For thirty years, G. Singaravelu Gramaniyar’s family has been distributing butter milk at the annual Panguni Thiruvizha of the Marundeeswarar Temple in Thiruvanmiyur. “It was started by my father… thousands of devotees come for the car festival and it is very hot… supplying buttermilk is a small service, which we have continued even after his demise,” said D. Senjilakshmi, his daughter. Their house is on one of the mada streets and on the route taken by the temple car.

According to Marundeeswarar temple executive officer Lakshmikantha Bharathidasan, a team of local youths and devotees helped keep the temple and surroundings clean during the festival. He said: “We had estimated at least 50,000 devotees on the car festival day alone. The temple has been witnessing large numbers of devotees on all 11 days.”

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