Tamil Nadu

For the Boyar community, it’s a break from tradition

For 25 years, 48-year-old E.D. Vijay and 1,000 other members of the Boyar community have been involved in the safe running of the pancha ratham (temple car festival) during ‘Karthigai Deepam’ festivities. However, the district administration cancelled the car festival this year in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, depriving the community of an opportunity to celebrate.

Pancha ratham is held on the seventh day of the ten-day ‘Karthigai Deepam’ festivities. Five cars, including the maha ratham (big car), are taken around the mada streets — a route that is around 4 km-long.

Safe passage

For generations, the Boyar community, residing in the temple town, has been involved in ensuring the safe running of the cars. They make sure the car does not run astray, injuring people or damaging property en route.

“We first place a square block of wood, weighing close to 50 kg, beneath the giant wheel of the temple car. We then place a 15 ft log, weighing close to two tonnes, on it and 15 men stand on it. Using it as a fulcrum, we propel the vehicle,” said Mr. Vijay.

Iron chains

While ascending or descending a slope, the car’s speed is controlled with heavy iron chains. “At 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,” said N. Velmurugan, another member of the community.

The maha ratham is close to 140 ft high and weighs 200 tonnes, said Mr. Vijay. “Making it turn using the logs is a challenge, and it is also important to ensure that the car does not change direction and cause accidents. Every year, someone or the other sustains a fracture while placing the logs,” said Mr. Vijay.

It takes hours for the cars to complete the circumambulation of the mada streetsthat have both steep and flat surfaces. “Days before the festival, we identify the obstacles on the car’s path, and inform the local administration and the temple management about them. They remove them to ensure smooth running of the cars,” said S. Jayashakti, another member of the community.

The entire community looks forward to the festival. “People from our community living in other States, and even abroad, come to Tiruvannamalai to take part in the festivities. The police provide us security while we place the logs, and an ambulance also accompanies us,” he said.

“We have requested the temple and the administration to at least clean the maha ratham this year and make sure it is maintained well,” added Mr. Vijay.

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2021 10:45:30 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/for-the-boyar-community-its-a-break-from-tradition/article33208150.ece

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