Thousands of people occupy northern and southern riverbeds
MADURAI: A large numbers of devotees cutting across age and gender thronged the Vaigai to witness Lord Kallazhagar’s entry into the river here early morning on Saturday. Thousands of people occupied the northern and southern riverbeds, bridge and almost all vacant spaces available to get a glimpse of the deity, attired in green silk, mounted on a golden horse in a galloping posture.
It was a sea of people all along the roads that led to the riverbeds and as the clock ticked 7.05 a.m. the Lord with all the ritualistic accoutrements entered the river amidst chanting of hymns.
Lord Kallazhagar, at around 8.10 a.m., turned around and proceeded towards ‘Ramarayar Mandapam,’ south east, alongside the northern bed of the river before moving to Vandiyur in the evening.
Reaching the Mandapam at noon, the Lord was given a rousing reception as enthusiastic devotees dressed as Azhagar performed ‘theerthavaari,’ splashing of water from leather bags on the divine and devotees. A lot of devotees in the crowd got hold of spiritual possession.
The festival, indeed, provided space for many to witness the forms of popular worship in its myriad forms through the dress code, headgear, cows and bulls decorated with small seashells, kids getting their heads tonsured as part of the ritual on the riverbed as well as streets.
Lord Kallazhagar, the form of Lord Vishnu, is the presiding deity of Alagarkoil, which is in the northeast direction of Madurai. Legend has it that during the Tirumala Nayak’s period, the celestial wedding of Goddess Meenakshi and Sundareswarar and Lord Kallazhagar’s festival was combined. This, in fact, has made the common people see Meenakshi Temple’s Chithirai festival as inextricably linked with the nine-day festival celebrated for Lord Kallazhagar.
According to tradition, Kallazhagar is the ‘Azhagar of Kallars’ a predominant caste in and around Madurai and southern districts and during the third day of the festival, Lord Kallazhagar sets out in procession from Alagarkoil dressed as a Kallar and guarded by a large numbers of Kallar men and reaches north Madurai.
During the fifth day (full moon day), Lord Kallazhagar, no longer dressed as Kallar, enters the Vaigai and meets Veeraraghava Perumal, a form of Lord Vishnu, from a temple in the city.
The next day He returns to the riverside to display the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu to his devotees. On the seventh day, he stays in north Madurai and during the last two days journeys back to Alagarkoil dressed as Kallar. The return journey of the God assumes importance at Appan Tirupati, where the villagers organise various functions, including the ‘cock fight.’
A lot of devotees complained about lack of adequate arrangements by the police.