For 12 days from September 12, Mayiladuturai in Tamil Nadu will be a hub of activity with spiritual and cultural programmes taking place on the banks of the Cauvery. The occasion is Pushkaram, an event that happens every year, when Jupiter (Guru) shifts house. The river associated with the zodiac sign will be propitiated in an event called Pushkaram.
This year Jupiter has entered Tula Raasi and the river to be propitiated is the Cauvery, whose zodiac sign is also the Scales. “The significance of Mahamakham is well-known. Magnify it several times and you have this Mahapushkaram,” says Sri Vajpayee Sengalipuram Sundara Rama Dikshitar. “The Cauvery Pushkaram will happen again after 12 years but the speciality this year is that the planets have come back to the same positions after 177 years. The same alignment was found during the event on September 8, 1840 — Sun, Venus and Mercury in Kanni Raasi, Jupiter in Thula, Saturn in Vrischikam, Mars in Katakam and so on,” he explains.
“Hari Varsha Puranam refers to the Cauvery as the Ganga of the South and a dip in the river during this period of 12 days is highly auspicious,” he adds. According to him, participating in the yagams to be performed on all the days, performing rituals and engaging in acts of charity are recommended.
The rare event, conducted with the support of the Tamil Nadu Government, has been organised by the heads of all the Maths — Dharmapuram, Tiruvavaduturai, Tiruppanandal, Velakurichi, Koonampatti, Sengol and so on. Although the festival belongs to the entire stretch of Cauvery, Tula Ghat in Mayiladuturai will be the centre.
The story goes that Guru did a long penance seeking the favour of Brahma. The God of Creation promised to fulfil the planet’s need. Guru replied that he wanted Pushkaram — an aspect in Brahma’s kamandal. But Pushkaram was unwilling to part with the ‘Master.’ Brahma solved the problem by making the two strike a compromise, according to which, when Jupiter makes his annual transit, Pushkaram will enter the river and stay there for twelve days after which it will return to its original abode. The first 12 days is called Aadi Pushkaram and the last 12 before Jupiter moves again is Andhi Pushkaram.
There are many stories linked to the Cauvery but the common thread is that she is not just the Ganga of the South but even holier than her. Even Ganga and Yamuna are supposed to take a dip in the Cauvery to wash off the sins deposited by human beings. Sage Agastya walks towards the South with the river in his Kamandala to be released. He places the Kamandal on the ground to do his ablutions, when a crow (Vinayaka) tips it and out flows the river. Agastya is taken aback but reconciles that it is the Almighty’s wish. The river gets her name — Ka (crow) and Viri (expanse).
“All the rivers are sacred for the people of this land and Cauvery, which wears the hundreds of temples on her banks as a garland, is as holy as the Ganges. It is a blessing that the Pushkaram, which by itself is sacred, happens to be Mahapushkaram and Cauvery is the associated river. It gives us an opportunity to worship the river, wherever she flows — from Talaicauvery to Kaveripoompattinam. Since Guru enters Tula raasi, a dip in Mayavaram’s Tula Ghat gains special significance,” says Sri Vijayendra Saraswati of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Pitam in his message for the Pushkaram.
The State Government machinery is gearing to receive the huge influx of pilgrims during the 12 days of Pushkaram. From releasing water from Mettur on September 8 to providing round-the-clock medical aid, the administration has put in place amenities to meet the needs of the public. Food will be served at specific points, special buses will be pressed into service and water will be made available. Vehicles will not be allowed close to the river or the place of the event but pilgrims would need to walk not more than a km.
For the past several months, the organising committee has been conducting pujas at the important ghats of the Cauvery for rain. “With the blessings of all the heads of Maths and cooperation from the State Government and local administration, the Cauvery Pushkaram Trust started the preparations as early as February,” says Mahalakshmi Subramaniam, Overall Coordinator. “Funds for the multi-crore event is being mobilised through donations from philanthropists, sponsors and devotees,” she adds.
Water from the 12 rivers will be collected and puja done to the kalasams on September 11. The flag will go up at 8 a.m., to mark the start of the festival. Heads of religious Maths will enter the waters (Pushkarapravesam) at around 8.30. and public entry shortly after.
The agenda includes a conference of ascetics on September 12, at Jain Marriage Hall. Another highlight is that priests of temples in the villages of Mayiladuturai will go in a procession with the deities. This procession will be flagged off by Sri Sankara Vijayendra Saraswati at 3 p.m. on September 16. Cauvery Aarati will take place in the evening daily. The festival comes to an end on September 23 and the flag will come down after Vidayetri on September 24. The special editions brought out by journals and a souvenir by the Pushkaram Trust will be released. Contact Mahalakshmi Subramaniam-9940053289, Muthukumaraswami- 8825647001, Babu-8300100207, Jayaraman-9444279696 and Appar Sundaram-9488923956
Jupiter and the rivers
Mesham-Ganges; Rishabam-Narmada; Midunam-Saraswati; Kadakam-Yamuna; Simham-Godavari; Kanni-Krishna; Tula-Cauvery; Vrischikam-Tamiraparani; Dhanur-Sindu; Makaram-Tungabhadra; Kumbham-Brahmaputra and Meenam-Bharanita (Godavari’s tributary).
The Pushkaram celebration offers a rich fare of dance, music, discourses and more. The events scheduled September 12-24, 5-9 p.m., includes devotional songs by Dr. Ganesh, Veeramani Raju, Prof. Anantaraman and Hariharan-Kalakkadu Balaji, Thevaram singing by Tiruvanaikkaval Oduvar Sri Sivasambavar and Karaikkudi Sri G.S. Bhairava Gurukkal, dance presentations by Mumbai Sri Raja Rajeswari Bharatanatya Kala Mandir, Lakshmipriya’s troupe, Madurai layakshetra, bhajan sessions by eminent Bhagavatas, Carnatic vocal recital by Suryaprakash and veena recital by Jayalakshmi Sekar. Cauvery Arati will be followed by a poetry symposium, ‘Nadanthai Vazhi Kaveri,’ will bring the curtain down on the programmes. The Mumbai troupe, led by veteran guru Kalyanasundaram Pillai, will present ‘Charanam Devi Kaveri,’ which will trace the course of the river from Karnataka (Talai Kaveri) through Srirangapattinam, Srirangam, Swamimalai, Kumbakonam, Tiruvidaimarudhur, Mayiladuturai, Tiruvaiyaru and finally Poompuhar.