When was the last time the streets of Mayavaram recorded so many footfalls? The path leading to Tula Ghat, in particular, has not gone to sleep since September 12, the day of Cauvery Mahapushkaram. People are streaming in endlessly, making their way to the bathing ghat to have a dip in the water. Some stay overnight to have snanam twice. Mayiladuturai is witnessing a confluence in many ways — if at one level it is a sangam of all the rivers in the Cauvery, at a more mundane plane, it is now the point where people from all strata of society and across the country are converging. An added significance is the presence of both Acharyas of Sri Kamakoti Pitam, who have camped here to participate in the events and guide the organising committee.
The sluice gates have opened at Mettur and water has filled the river bed — a sight to behold. “I literally wept,” messaged a friend from Tiruvaiyaru. “The river is flowing to her full capacity, the level touching the Tyagabrahmam Padithurai,” she said.
The town of Mayiladuturai wears a festive look with banners and cut-outs beckoning visitors to be part of Pushkaram, which is special this year, happening after 177 years. The festival committee with Sri Ramananda as the head and Mahalakshmi Subramaniam as the coordinator is working round-the-clock to attend to the needs of the pilgrims and make sure the programmes follow one another seamlessly.
“Once upon a time, the river used to be in spate during this month,” reminisced a septuagenarian resident. “We have been looking forward to the event for months. It has put our town on the map and we are happy to receive pilgrims from all over South,” she added. “The Cauvery I knew when I was a bride gradually vanished and I’m so happy and moved to see the streets come alive with the laughter and chatter of visitors,” she said. Many have thrown their doors open to travellers, especially to groups having children and elders, letting them relax after a bath in the river.
“Rivers are the soul of our country and we don’t miss pushkarams, wherever they happen,” said a couple from Bangalore. With two small children to take care, it is not a comfortable proposition. “May be not. But children should learn about our tradition and culture. What better way than take them to these festivals, which combine culture and religion,” they asked. A family of eight had come all the way from Mumbai to bathe in the river and perform ablutions for their ancestors — a ritual which almost everyone has been doing there.
Tula Ghat reverberates with music and mantras, which waft in the cool air of dawn. The Yagasala, set up on a platform, is the centre of activities with a band of priests attending to the various pujas and rituals, conducted in front of huge images of deities, beautifully decorated. On the other side of the river stands a massive statue of Mother Cauvery, which was unveiled on the inaugural day.
The entire town gathers on the steps in the evening, to witness the proceedings, which culminate in the grand Arati. Salutation to the river is recited in Tamil and prayer offered. The chanting reaches a crescendo as shining multi-tiered brass lamps are held aloft by priests. Flames dance in the breeze as camphor is lit on huge brass plates. Simultaneously, pilgrims lining the banks gently move their palms holding small earthen lamps, which sparkle like jewels in the darkness.
The Aarti is repeated, this time to the Ganga, the song played in the background. These are moments when the river, the surroundings she nourishes and the people who worship her are connected by an invisible chord of faith and love.
Tracing the Cauvery
Cultural Cultural programmes await the crowd, which moves to the pandal , close to the ghat. Group singing or Namasankirtan is followed by a concert or a dance presentation. ‘Charanam Devi Kaveri,’ presented by Shri Rajarajeshwari Natya Kala Mandir of Mumbai, stole the show. The lyrics were chosen to trace the journey of the river from Talaicauvery to Mayuram through Tiruvidaimarudur, Tiruvenkadu, Tiruvaiyaru and Srirangam. “I’m blessed to have been asked by Balaperiyava to prepare the dance musical for this occasion. He was present for the entire programme to bless the troupe. An unforgettable experience in my lifetime,” said Guru Kalyanasundaram Pillai.
The town has admirably risen to the occasion, coping with the sudden tourist influx and traffic diversions. The police and the Public Works Department are making their presence felt too. With the crowd peaking on Saturday (Ekadasi)-Sunday and Mahalaya Amavasya, and two more days left for the curtain to come down, the Pushkaram Organising Committee has been on its toes.
The festival is marked by the release of a stamp and souvenir. Satachandi homam is taking place today. Yagasala pujas come to an end tomorrow with Maharudra homam.