Tableaux procession depicts Madurai’s cultural antiquity, history, tradition, and its modernity too

As part of the Maamadurai Potruvom festival, a tableaux procession depicting Madurai’s cultural antiquity, history, tradition, as well as its modernity, was taken out here on Saturday. Artistes performing folk dances and traditional martial arts trailed each tableau.

The procession was flagged off by Governor K. Rosaiah in the presence of Collector Anshul Mishra, Mayor Rajan Chellappa and Corporation Commissioner K. Nanthagopal. A sizeable crowd turned up at Madura College where the procession started.

The tableaux juxtaposed the archaic and the modern — one depicting the maritime trade the Pandyas had with the western world, and another the barter system, carrying the famous Tamil adage Thirai Kadal Odi Thiraviyam Thedu (Cross the seas in search of treasure). Dams, described by Jawaharlal Nehru as the temples of modern India, were depicted in one tableau. The Mullaperiyar dam, built in 1899 and its architect John Pennycuick, the British engineer, were brought to life in another tableau.

Mahatma Gandhi’s connection to Madurai, which shaped the freedom struggle, was also depicted. It was here on September 22, 1921, after interacting with the peasantry in Madurai, Gandhi gave up his customary attire and switched to the loin cloth, instantly identifying himself with the struggling masses.

It reminded the colonisers of their role in the impoverishment of India.

Other tableaux were a mix of common cultural symbols such as the jallikattu, Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple tower, and Tirumalai Naick Palace.

Paraiattam, karagattam, thevarattam, silambam, oyillattam, thappattam, jikkattam, kokkili kattai aattam, Vaazh Sandai (sword fight) were performed by professionals and college students.

One of the major attractions was students carrying silambu (anklet) depicting the fury of Kannagi who burnt down Madurai, the capital city of the Pandya Kingdom, to avenge her husband Kovalan’s death.

While the performances essentially represented Madurai’s culture, there were elements from across the border as well. The ‘Chenda Melam’ brought a flavour of Kerala culture into the proceedings.

The procession started at Madura College and passed Periyar Bus Stand, Netaji Road, East Masi Street, South Masi Street, and West Masi Street, Yanaikkal, Goripalayam and reached Tamukkam Grounds. Crowds gathered in huge numbers on both sides of the roads to get a glimpse of the procession.

The first tableau was preceded by followers of Hajha Syed Sultan Alaoudeen Syed Sultan Samsudeen Aouliya Dargah in a van, burning ‘sambrani,’ and distributing sweets, and the last of the tableaux was a model of Lord Kallazhagar seated on a galloping horse — to depict the city’s secular nature, said one of the organisers.

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