Chithirai festival | Sea of devotees gather at Madurai’s Vaigai river for glimpse of Lord Kallazhagar

Thousands of residents participated in the annual ritual of Lord Kallazhagar entering the Vaigai river

April 23, 2024 12:52 pm | Updated April 24, 2024 02:12 pm IST - MADURAI

Devotees witnessing Lord Kallazhagar mounted on a gold horse, carried on a palanquin, as part of the annual Chithirai Festival in Madurai on Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Devotees witnessing Lord Kallazhagar mounted on a gold horse, carried on a palanquin, as part of the annual Chithirai Festival in Madurai on Tuesday, April 23, 2024 | Photo Credit: Ashok R

Thousands of devotees descended on the Vaigai riverbed in Madurai, early on Tuesday, April 23, 2024, and waited for hours to witness the annual ritual of Lord Kallazhagar entering the river as part of the Chithirai festival.

With a radiant full moon above and scores of floodlights, men and women thronged both the banks of the Vaigai river from late on Monday night, wading through the water into the middle of the river and surrounding the barricaded venue near Albert Victor Bridge. 

Devotees waiting on the banks of Vaigai river were boisterous, cheering, splashing about and dancing as they waited for Lord Kallazhagar on Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Devotees waiting on the banks of Vaigai river were boisterous, cheering, splashing about and dancing as they waited for Lord Kallazhagar on Tuesday, April 23, 2024 | Photo Credit: Ashok R

All the bridges across the river between Obulapadithurai and Sellur were packed, the crowds competing with each other to get a glimpse of the presiding deity of Lord Sundararajaperumal, of the Azhagarkoil temple.

The grand event saw devotees splashing about and dancing in the river, with a section of young people even throwing footwear and water bottles into the air, while waiting. Whenever the public address system played a truncated song from Vijayakant-starrer Kallazhagar – Vaararu Vaararu Azhagar thaan vaararu – it sent the frenzied crowd into throes of excitement.

Despite repeated pleas over the public address system, a section of youths were seen dangerously perched over the arches of the AV Bridge. After last year’s tragic drowning of three persons in the water stagnant at the checkdam near the venue, district authorities, this year, opened the sluices of the checkdams to bring down the water to a safe level of around one foot.

However, as a precautionary measure, fire-fighters placed two inflated boats at the venue. 

Scores of persons with disabilities were given passes by the authorities to gain entry onto AV Bridge to witness the event. Their three-wheeled vehicles parked along the parapet wall provided them with seating to get the best view of the event. 

At daybreak, Lord Kallazhagar, mounted on a golden horse palanquin, entered the river, to cheers of the boisterous crowd

At daybreak, Lord Kallazhagar, mounted on a golden horse palanquin, entered the river, to cheers of the boisterous crowd | Photo Credit: Ashok R

A section of the crowd near the venue of Lord Kallazhagar’s entry into  Vaigai river on Tuesday.

A section of the crowd near the venue of Lord Kallazhagar’s entry into Vaigai river on Tuesday. | Photo Credit: G. Moorthy

Despite being at a distance from the venue of Lord Kallazhagar’s entry into Vaigai river, devotees stay put on ‘Kal Palam’ in Madurai to witness to the annual event on Tuesday. 

Despite being at a distance from the venue of Lord Kallazhagar’s entry into Vaigai river, devotees stay put on ‘Kal Palam’ in Madurai to witness to the annual event on Tuesday.  | Photo Credit: G. Moorthy

At daybreak, Lord Kallazhagar, mounted on a golden horse palanquin, entered the river, to cheers of the boisterous crowd. 

Women devotees performed deeparathanas from wherever they stood as Lord Kallazhagar entered the riverbed. They also distributed sweets to fellow devotees. 

Even after Lord Kallazhagar left the venue several hundreds of devotees followed the deity to Ramarayar Mandapam (RR Mandapam) where the theerthavari event was held in which the devotees sprayed water on Lord Kalllazhagar. 

Commissioner of Police J. Loganathan said over 4,000 police personnel, including those drawn from other districts, were deployed for Lord Kallazhagar’s entry into Vaigai river. Besides, drones were put to use in four different spots to monitor and regulate the crowd.

Sixty teams for crime prevention were deployed in the crowd who had picked up 82 persons with suspicious activities. Twenty-six knives and swords were seized from them and 69 of them were arrested and sent to judicial custody.

A section of devotees near the venue of Lord Kallazhagar’s entry into  Vaigai river on Tuesday.

A section of devotees near the venue of Lord Kallazhagar’s entry into Vaigai river on Tuesday. | Photo Credit: G. Moorthy

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