Tamil Nadu

COVID-19 breaks Boyar community’s tradition of pulling Tiruvannamalai temple car

For many generations, E.D. Vijay and over 1,000 members of the Boyar community, living in the temple town of Tiruvannamalai, are involved in ensuring the safe running of the ‘Pancha Ratham’ during the Karthigai Deepam festivities.   | Photo Credit: C. VENKATACHALAPATHY

For the past 25 ears, 48-year-old E.D. Vijay and over 1,000 members from the Boyar community have been involved in the safe running of the ‘Pancha Ratham’ (temple car festival) during the Karthigai Deepam festivities here. However, this year he and others of his ilk have been deprived of the opportunity as the district administration has cancelled the Tiruvannamalai car festival due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ‘Pancha Ratham’ is conducted on the seventh day of the 10-day Karthigai Deepam festivities. Five cars, including the ‘Maha Ratham’ (big car), is taken around the ‘mada’ streets running to four km. For many generations, the members of Boyar community, living in the temple town, are involved in ensuring the safe running of the cars. They do it as a passion and not for money. Though they get hurt in the process, they make sure that the car does not go astray and injure the public or damage property in the route.

“First we place a square block of wood, weighing close to 50 kg, beneath the giant wheel of the temple car. Then we place on it a log which is 15 feet and weighing close to two tonnes, and 15 men stand on it. Using it as a fulcrum we propel the vehicle,” explains Mr. Vijay.

As the car ascends or descends a slope in the route, its speed is controlled using heavy iron chains. “In other temples, woven coir ropes are used to pull the car, but here we use iron chains. More than 100 people are used to lift it,” explains N Velmurugan, another member of the community.

The ‘Maha Ratham’ is close to 140 feet high and weighs 200 tonnes, claims Mr. Vijay. “Making it turn safely using the logs is a challenge and it is also vital to ensure that the car does not change direction and cause an accident. Every year one sustains a fracture while placing the logs,” adds Mr. Vijay.

It takes hours for the cars to complete the circumambulation of the ‘mada’ streets which have both steep and flat surfaces. “Days before the festival, we identify the obstacles in the path of the car and inform the local administration and temple management about it during a meeting. They remove it to ensure smooth running of the cars,” adds S. Jayashakti.

This is one festival the entire community looks forward to. “People from our community living in other States and even abroad come to Tiruvannamalai and take part in the event. The police give us security while we place the logs and an 108 ambulance also accompanies us,” he adds.

Since the car festival was not conducted this year, the entire community is sad. “We have requested the temple and local administration to at least clean the big car and maintain it,” adds Mr. Vijay.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2021 1:52:24 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/covid-19-breaks-boyar-communitys-tradition-of-pulling-tiruvannamalai-temple-car/article33204615.ece

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