Puducherry

Reliving a 500-year-old tradition

ANNUAL AFFAIR:Devotees at the car festival of Sri Sengazhuneer Amman temple in Veerampattinam in Puducherry on Friday. (Right) Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi and Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy at the festival. —Photo: S.S. Kumar

ANNUAL AFFAIR:Devotees at the car festival of Sri Sengazhuneer Amman temple in Veerampattinam in Puducherry on Friday. (Right) Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi and Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy at the festival. —Photo: S.S. Kumar  

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Annual car festival of Sengazhuneer Amman temple held at Veerampattinam.

A tradition traversing back over four centuries came alive at the biggest coastal village of Veerampattinam, about seven km from Puducherry town en route to Cuddalore.

Devotees started congregating before dawn on Friday for the annual car festival of Veerampattinam. The road leading to the Sengazhuneer Amman temple was dotted with shops selling sweets, dolls and vessels. Flaunting their silk sarees and with utensils in hand, women geared themselves to cook fish and rice on mud stoves. Once the delicacy was ready, the families gathered around a small brick smeared with turmeric and vermilion (deity) to offer the cooked fish curry and rice on a plantain leaf. “We come here every year on this day. This is the festival of our family deity. My mother came here when she was a child, I continue the tradition and so will our children, ” says Adilakshmi, a resident of Muthialpet.

Popularly called ‘Veerampattinam Car Festival’, it falls on the fifth Friday of Aadi month in Tamil calendar (July to August). The government declares a local holiday for this festival.

Story behind festival

“Legend has it that more than 450 years ago, a fisherman Veera Raghava found a log while fishing in the Sengazhuneer canal. He kept that log in the backyard of his house. When his wife tried to chop it, blood oozed out of it. The couple were shocked and performed a pooja to the log. Shortly, Goddess Ambica appeared in Veera Raghava’s dream and said that the log indicated her arrival. The myth goes that the goddess asked him to place an idol of her on the log and begin worship,” says Shanmugam, a local political leader in Veerampattinam.

National Fishermen’s Forum Chairperson M. Ilango says that the Veeerampattinam car festival is the only one where the head of the state pulls the temple car. Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi and Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy held the rope of the temple car before it was taken out for a procession. “There is a historical significance attached to this custom. During the French colonial period, when the British were trying to invade this coastal village, it is said that the fishermen here supported the French to drive them away. When the French government asked what they could do to return the favour, the fishermen requested the Governor to inaugurate the temple car festival every year. After the French left, the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry continued the tradition,” said 90-year old Manjini of Veerampattinam.

Hundreds of devotees participated pulled the temple car. All the visitors were given free food and butter milk that were served in shelters set up along the road from Mudaliarpet to Veerampattinam. This small folk deity in the nondescript village remains an element of continuity in the history of Puducherry, bringing together people across entire Puducherry. On the instructions of Collector Satyendra Singh Dursawat, a host of departments collaborated to ensure smooth conduct of the festival.

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Printable version | Dec 16, 2019 10:14:24 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/Reliving-a-500-year-old-tradition/article14580355.ece

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