Undertake the run after a dip in Tamirabarani at Munchirai

The three-day Maha Sivarathri festival in 12 shrines of Siva in Kalkulam taluks began at Thirumalai Mahadevar temple at Munchirai on Sunday after the devotees from various southern districts as well as the neighbouring Kerala undertook ‘Sivalaya Ottam' (Marathon run).They started the run after taking a holy dip in the Tamirabarani at Munchirai.

Sivarthri is one of the inter-State (Tamil Nadu-Kerala) festivals celebrated in the district. People from all walks of life participated in the run to cover 12 Siva shrines, situated within Kalkulam taluk. Special pujas were also performed to the presiding deity of the temple at Thirumalai after the ‘Pradosham' puja on Sunday to mark the beginning of the ‘Sivalaya Ottam.'

The devotees then ran through Thikkurichi, Thirparappu, Thirunanthikkarai, Ponmanai, Panthippakam, Kalkulam, Melinancode (Melancode), Thirvuadaicode, Thiruvithancode, Thirupanthiyode and reached Thirunattalam by Sunday night.

Sankaranarayanar temple at Thirunattalam was the finishing point and it was the only shrine, where a separate temple was dedicated to Vishnu among the 11 other shrines, all dedicated to Siva. Both Siva and Vishnu are placed in a face-to-face position in Thirunattalam.

The purpose for undertaking the pilgrimage is fulfilled after the devotees received ‘sandal paste' from the Vishnu temple. But in all the 11 Siva shrines the devotees were distributed with holy ash as ‘prasadam.'

The devotees, who undertook the ‘Ottam,' wore saffron-coloured robes chanting ‘Gopala, Govinda.' They covered 125 km within 24 hours. The race of pilgrims on Sivarathri uttering the name of Lord Vishnu substantiated the truth that Siva and Vishnu were but two manifestations of one Supreme Being.

“Even as the old tradition of undertaking the marathon run on bare foot is still followed by a few devotees from Tamil Nadu and Kerala, many others now prefer to visit these 12 Siva temples in vehicles,” said the Melshanthi of Kalkulam Thirunainar Neelakandaswamy Temple at Padmanabhapuram, Krishnamurthy.

The one among the 12 temples, where the devotees could see both Swamy and Amman was at the Neelakandaswamy Temple at Padmanabhapuram. This temple has some unique features when compared to the other 11 shrines of Siva as it has a gigantic Rajagopuram and a car as well as float festival being organised during March and October everyear.

The district administration (Kanyakumari) had made all infrastructural facilities particularly drinking water and toilets for the benefit of devotees. As the district was reeling under acute powercut, the Department of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment had made arrangements for installing generators in all the 12 temples temporarily to ensure uninterrupted power supply on Sivarathri.

Moreover, Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation operated circuit special bus services, for the first time, for every one hour from Marthandam to cover all the 12 temples for two days starting Sunday evening.