Kapali Brahmotsavam History & Culture

Today is Arubathu Moovar

File picture of Kapaliswarar Arubathumoovar festival, Mylapore

File picture of Kapaliswarar Arubathumoovar festival, Mylapore   | Photo Credit: M_PRABHU (Archive)

It is difficult to imagine Panguni without the Kapaliswara festival. Taking comfort in memories

Today is Day 12 of lockdown. Everyday has been Sunday, well kind of, for the past two weeks. Those who wish to relieve the monotony may follow the Prime Minister’s directions late this evening. But this is not about passing time on a real Sunday. This is about a looked-forward-to event that will not take place.

The residents of Chennai, especially those of Mylapore, will miss what has been a part of heritage, for centuries, heralding Spring, the arrival of the Tamil New Year. In normal circumstances, today, April 5, they would have geared for Arubathu Moovar, the famous festival of Kapaliswarar temple, which draws lakhs of people from far and near. With the Panguni Brahmotsavam deferred, it is not happening this year - for the first time, in 90 years, according to temple sources. The festival should have started on March 29.

It is difficult to stem the flood of memories, which have been revolving round the Mada Streets this past week - the puja at the Kolavizhi Amman temple, Gramadevatha of Mylapore, which once was a sprawling village, flag-hoisting, Adikara Nandi… Rishabha Vahana, the majestic car (yesterday, April 4)... The roll of the 13-metre tall chariot, richly decorated and festoons swaying, is a sight to behold. People, who line the Mada streets from dawn, jostle and push to catch a glimpse of the deity atop, incessantly chanting Kapali...Kapali. The more determined manage to touch the ropes. For families, the outing is not complete without the purchase of nicknacks from the pavement hawkers. Those with children gravitate towards colourful balloons.

Car festival of Kapaleeswarar Temple

Car festival of Kapaleeswarar Temple   | Photo Credit: G_SRIBHARATH (Archive)

The crowning glory, however, always is Arubathu Moovar, on Day 8. This iconic event is not actually unique to the Mylapore temple, since several Siva temples observe the ritual as part of their annual festival. So what makes it special at Kapali? Apart from the legend of the peacock and the punnai tree (Calophyllam inophyllam), this is where Tirugnanasambandar is said to have revived the dead daughter of the merchant Sivanesar by singing hymns, all of which describe the festival of Kapaliswara temple. The Angam Poompavai episode is enacted on the morning of Arubathu Moovar, which actually is the grand procession of the 63 Saivite saints, who sang hymns and served not only their favourite deity but those who worshipped him.

All the roads on that day lead to Mylapore, people starting the journey early in the morning although the procession starts in the afternoon. It is a trek with vehicles stopped after a point. Walking along the streets dotted with watersheds and food stalls is not considered a strain. Invariably, the trekkers stop to marvel at the beautiful pottery and baubles heaped for sale. It is the old-world charm of a village temple festival, which gives the Panguni Brahmotsavam of Kapali that aura.

Slowly, the floating population wends its way towards the temple and it is a sea of heads, around 3 p.m., the surging crowd going into an ecstasy when the deities, led by Vinayakar chariot, make their appearance. Kapali-Karpagambal with the attendant pantheon and the 63 small beautiful palanquins bearing the images of the Nayanmars make their way through the massive crowd. The sun has dipped in the horizon and the stars have started winking when Kapali's entourage returns to the temple.

The crowd reluctantly wends its way back home, the night echoing with their footfalls and sounds of the whistle and rustic pipe, purchased from the pavement vendor. The festival may take place later this year but will Spring come back?

Meanwhile the two Odhuvars of the temple have been reciting Thiru Neelakanda Pathigam — Avvinaikku Ivvinaiyaam — of Tirugnanasambandar, a hymn he sang to relieve devotees from viral fever. Devotees may recite this hymn at homes daily, as often as possible, they recommend.

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Printable version | Jul 8, 2020 5:07:22 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/today-is-arubathu-moovar/article31258856.ece

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