Society

Gods and gopurams in full glow

VISUAL TREAT:The illuminated decorations at Meenakshi Temple for Navaratri. Photo: S. James   | Photo Credit: S_James

Illuminated figures of Goddess Meenakshi, Lord Muruga, Ganesha and Shiva stand in line atop the outer prakaram, overlooking the lotus tank. The still waters of the tank bear a resplendent reflection of the Gods in glittering pink, green and red. The Rajagopuram with giant strings of serial lights lining its edges forms the perfect background. The mood on the city roads may have been sombre in connection with the recent political occurrences, but the fervour of Navaratri is intact in and around the sacred heart of Madurai.

The evening puja is chanted into the mikes and, devotees make a beeline to catch a glimpse of the famous Golu. Some sit by the tank-steps and gape in awe at the dazzling decorations. “It feels like Diwali is already here. The temple looks beautiful in these lightings,” says Brinda Gopalan, a visitor, taking a selfie with her family. “Against the backdrop of the night sky, the figures are a visual treat to the eyes. It’s as if the Gods have alighted from the heaven,” says Vijaya, a devotee.

The man behind the huge life-size cut-out of the Gods is Mani. He operates the wires to keep the lights glowing. With a screw driver and tester in hand, he runs around the prakarams and mandapams all night, attending to loose connections, faulty plugs and flickering bulbs. “I learnt the job of an electrician when I was just a boy. I have been making light-illuminated cut-outs ever since they became a trend in the early 70’s,” says Mani, who has also done similar cut-outs of politicians and actors.

Mani holds the distinction of decorating Meenakshi Temple during Navaratri for the past four decades. From stringing serial bulbs, laying them aesthetically over the walls and pillars to making creative figures out of them, the entire work is supervised by Mani. A group of 25 electricians begin the job a fortnight before the start of the festival.

There is no dearth of innovations, as Mani and his team come up with new ideas every year. “Earlier the Gopuram was decorated with two strings only. Now six strings are used to illuminate it in detail. Like wise, the figures of the Gods are also changed,” explains Subramanian, Mani’s boss and the owner of S.S.K. Radio and Electricals, the company that has been doing the decorations. He recalls how last year, the figure of Meenakshi was set inside the temple tower and the current one is a stand-alone with just a tiruvachi in the background. Subramanian owes it all to the grace of Goddess Meenakshi.

“The authorities changed several times in these 40 years but I have been continuously bagging the contract for the work. I take nominal charges because I consider it a gift from God,” he says. He has also done the light decorations for other temple festivals including the Chithirai festival and Teppam float festival at Teppakulam and the ‘ Maa Madurai Potruvom’ event two years ago.

Mani explains the process of making the illuminated cut-outs. Depending on the required size, the figure of the God is chalked out on the floor. The scaffolding is done by tying bamboo sticks together and is placed on the drawing. Serial bulbs are studded on to the frame along the lines of the figure underneath. “One can also create running or blinking figures with these lights. These days, LED lights are used instead of serial bulbs. They consume less power and give a fluorescent glow,” says Mani. Earlier transparent colour papers were wrapped around the bulbs.

“I have made figures of MGR, Kalaignar and Amma,” says Mani, “but making the cut-outs of Gods gives me immense satisfaction.”

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2021 10:08:56 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/gods-and-gopurams-in-full-glow/article6465343.ece

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