At the famous Karaikal Ammaiyar temple in the Union Territory
KARAIKAL: Thousands of devotees on Wednesday witnessed the main event of the ‘Bikshadanar’ (Lord Siva) procession of the four-day ‘mangani’ (mango) festival of the famous Karaikal Ammaiyar temple here in the Union Territory of Puducherry. The devotees threw mangoes when the procession passed through the main roads and streets and these mangoes are considered as `prasadam’.
The annual ‘mangani’ (mango) festival began on Monday with the performance of Vinayaka pooja and the main ‘tirukalyanam’ (celestial wedding) of Karaikal Ammaiyar was performed on Tuesday.
The Karaikal district administration, municipality and the police made elaborate security and other arrangements, including sanitary facilities to the large number of devotees attending the festival. N.Vasantha Kumar, Karaikal Collector, along with officials, supervised the arrangements. The ‘mangani’ festival is celebrated on the ‘pournami’ day (full moon day) in the Tamil month of ‘Aani’ (June-July) in the Karaikal Ammaiyar temple. The main shrine is ‘Punithavathiar’ known as ‘Karaikal Ammaiyar’, one of the 63 Nayanmars, an ardent devotee blessed by Lord Siva sang hymns in praise of Lord Siva.
Legend says that Karaikal Ammaiyar gave food to Bikshadanar (Lord Siva) during His tour of the world begging alms. To commemorate this incident, curd rice and mangoes will be distributed to the devotees near the temple during the main day of the mangani festival every year.
Punithavathy (Karaikal Ammaiyar) was born to Danadathan, a rich merchant belonging to Vaisya family in Karaikal. From her childhood, Punithavathy had an intense love for Lord Siva. She was married to Paramadattan, who was also a wealthy Vaisya and were leading an ideal life. One day Paramadattan sent two mangoes to his house and Punithavathy kept them safely for serving the same to her husband. When a hungry Siva Yogi appeared before her she worshipped and offered him a mango as she had nothing to give him.
Meanwhile, Paramadattan came to his house for lunch and Punithavathi served him the remaining one mango to her husband. When he asked for the other mango, Punithavathy was upset and worshipped Lord Siva for help. Immediately, a mango fell on her palm and she gave it to her husband.
When Punithavathy narrated the incident to her husband that Lord Siva gave her the mango he did not believe it and challenged her to bring another mangoe. She once again prayed Lord Siva and another mango appeared on her palm and gave it her husband. But, the mangoe disappeared immediately from his hand.
Paramadattan who was thrilled by the incident came to know the greatness of his wife and felt that it was a great sin to live with her as her husband. Immediately, he left her and left for foreign trade. Later he married a Vaisya girl in Pandya kingdom and named her daughter as Punithavathy, his first wife’s name. Punithavathy understood his mental condition, and prayed to Lord Siva to deprive her of the present physical charm and wanted demon form.
Immediately, the Lord accepted her request and transformed her charming body into a skeleton. Later, Punithavathiyar went on a pilgrimage to the holy Kailash. Lord Siva and Goddess Parvathy blessed Punithavaiyar and asked her to proceed to Tiruvalangadu to witness His dance. She went to Tiruvalangadu and spent her life singing in praise of Lord Siva. From that day Punithavathiyar was called Karaikal Ammaiyar.