Soak in the spirit of Chithirai festival

It’s that time of the year when the temple town comes alive with myriad hues and moods. A sea of people from all over the world throng to witness Madurai’s magnum opus, the Chithirai Thiruvizha. , a carnival that's unique in many ways. From the glittering procession of deities, cheerful folk performances, fun-filled melas and decked-up temple streets to the tasty varieties of street food and the very experience of jostling through the crowd, it is the city's numero uno event. Bhakti and entertainment blend during this carnival that’s unique in many ways. Here is a list of 10 things to do in the city during the 15-day festivities that start this Friday.

April 26, 2017 01:34 pm | Updated 01:36 pm IST - MADURAI:

Lord Kallazhagar entering the Vaigai river in Madurai, as part of the Annual Chithirai festival.

Lord Kallazhagar entering the Vaigai river in Madurai, as part of the Annual Chithirai festival.

Shopping at Pudumandapam

Madurai, Tamilnadu, 16/04/2015 : Tailors at 'Pudhu Mandapam' readying garments to be worn by devotees of Lord Azhagar to celebrate the Chithirai festival, in Madurai. Photo: S.  James

Madurai, Tamilnadu, 16/04/2015 : Tailors at 'Pudhu Mandapam' readying garments to be worn by devotees of Lord Azhagar to celebrate the Chithirai festival, in Madurai. Photo: S. James

The iconic Pudumandapam, a 17th Century monument in the heart of the city is often dubbed as the 'oldest shopping mall'. During Chithirai, it's an explosion of colours inside with stalls selling a wide range of wares from glass bangles, printed kurtis, dress materials and chunky jewellery to kitchen utensils. The tailors here are known for their speed and skill and can stitch a dress in no time.

Stall-hop at the Chithirai expo

MADURAI, TAMILNADU, 24/04/2013: Visitors throng the joy rides at the Government Chithirai Exhibition, in Madurai.
Photo: S. James

MADURAI, TAMILNADU, 24/04/2013: Visitors throng the joy rides at the Government Chithirai Exhibition, in Madurai. Photo: S. James

The annual Chithirai exhibition, organised by the Government, is perfect for budget shopping. Decked in bright lights, the Tamukkam grounds, the venue of the expo in the city's northern side, is swarmed by the entertainment-starved denizens. From home needs, toys and fashion accessories to lifestyle products that come with festive discounts, people can shop till they drop and follow it with the customary fun ride on the giant-wheel.

Beat the heat with ‘neer mor’

Mysuru Karnataka: 05-04-2017: BEAT THE HEAT...... Butter milk and paanaka being distributed by Spandana Balaga,in Mysore on the occasion of Sri Ramanavami on wednesday. PHOTO: M.A.SRIRAM Mysuru Karnataka: 05-04-2017: BEAT THE HEAT...... Butter milk and paanaka being distributed by Spandana Balaga,in Mysore on the occasion of Sri Ramanavami on wednesday. PHOTO: M.A.SRIRAM -

Mysuru Karnataka: 05-04-2017: BEAT THE HEAT...... Butter milk and paanaka being distributed by Spandana Balaga,in Mysore on the occasion of Sri Ramanavami on wednesday. PHOTO: M.A.SRIRAM Mysuru Karnataka: 05-04-2017: BEAT THE HEAT...... Butter milk and paanaka being distributed by Spandana Balaga,in Mysore on the occasion of Sri Ramanavami on wednesday. PHOTO: M.A.SRIRAM -

Get into one of the 'Neer mor pandals' dotting the road-sides to gulp down glasses of buttermilk and panagam (a refreshing drink made of jaggery and tamarind extract). When you tire out roaming the streets in this heat, stop by these pandals to re-energise.

Treats from the street

Madurai, 23/04/2013. : These bubbles decide the quantity of his daily bread. A scene near the Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple in Madurai.- 
Photo: S. James..( FOR METRO PLUS)

Madurai, 23/04/2013. : These bubbles decide the quantity of his daily bread. A scene near the Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple in Madurai.- Photo: S. James..( FOR METRO PLUS)

Makeshift sweet stalls mushroom along the streets selling the local varieties like the Bheema bhushti halwa, javvu-mithai and kamarkat. There are also eateries that serve hot and fresh tiffin items like idlis, vadas, sweet pongal and puliyodhare. The festival is a robust platform for small time vendors.

Car festival

MADURAI, TAMILNADU, 01/05/2015 : A section of devotees at the annual Chithirai Car festival of Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple, in Madurai. 
Photo: S.  James

MADURAI, TAMILNADU, 01/05/2015 : A section of devotees at the annual Chithirai Car festival of Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple, in Madurai. Photo: S. James

The Meenakshi Temple's car festival is a grand spectacle. Plonk yourself atop a tall building on the Masi Streets to get a bird's eye view of the streets bursting at its seams and the beautifully decorated colossal temple car, wading its way through the crowd. For an adrenalin rush get into the crowd and try your hand at pulling the car.

Experience the Bhakti wave

For Daily, Madurai, 05/05/2012. : Lord Kallazhagar proceeding at Alagarkoil Road part of ' Ethir Sevai ' event of annual Chithirai festival, in Madurai on May 05, 2012.-Photo:S_James

For Daily, Madurai, 05/05/2012. : Lord Kallazhagar proceeding at Alagarkoil Road part of ' Ethir Sevai ' event of annual Chithirai festival, in Madurai on May 05, 2012.-Photo:S_James

The 10-day festival culminates with Lord Kallazhagar's entry into river Vaigai. The heroic figure of Lord Kallazhagar, mounted on a galloping golden horse is taken into the river amidst a sea of humanity and is the star attraction of the festival. It's a visual treat to witness the grand event and experience the bhakti wave.

Stroll the streets at night

Madurai; Tamil Nadu; 26/04/2015.Lord Sundareswarar and Goddess Meenakshi mounted on the Rishaba Vaahanam, are taken on a procession at the Masi streets as a part of the Chithirai Festival on Sunday. Photo; G. Moorthy

Madurai; Tamil Nadu; 26/04/2015.Lord Sundareswarar and Goddess Meenakshi mounted on the Rishaba Vaahanam, are taken on a procession at the Masi streets as a part of the Chithirai Festival on Sunday. Photo; G. Moorthy

The city never sleeps during the festival days. People descend on the streets, enthusiastically taking part in all festivities, celebrating camaraderie and immersing themselves in the festive spirit. Colourfully illuminated and decked up pavillions of Gods and Goddesses are taken out in a procession on the streets. And there's dance, music, talks, banter and laughter all through the night. Watch Karagattam and Mayilattam performances at Mandapams.

Check out the mega feast

Madurai; Tamilnadu; 10/05/2014.Devotees savour the 'Thirukalyana Virundhu' or wedding feast after the Meenakshi Sundareswarar Thirukalyanam on Saturday.Photo; G_Moorthy

Madurai; Tamilnadu; 10/05/2014.Devotees savour the 'Thirukalyana Virundhu' or wedding feast after the Meenakshi Sundareswarar Thirukalyanam on Saturday.Photo; G_Moorthy

The mega feast following the celestial wedding of Goddess Meenakshi is a scrumptious experience. A three-course meal, cooked in batches throughout the day is served to lakhs of devotees. Hundreds of volunteers pool in money and take part to make the feast a grand success every year.

Dress up as Gods

Madurai: 25/04/2013:  Devotees dancing to drumbeat on the occasion of the Lord Kallazhagar entering the Vaigai river in Madurai, Tamilnadu on Thursday.Photo:R. Ashok

Madurai: 25/04/2013: Devotees dancing to drumbeat on the occasion of the Lord Kallazhagar entering the Vaigai river in Madurai, Tamilnadu on Thursday.Photo:R. Ashok

Dress up as Gods and mythical characters and take part in the paraphernalia of the processions. Young children are dressed up in colourful attires to resemble various Gods and taken around the streets in the evening. People wearing Salladam - the applique-work Azhagar dresses - and carrying leather bags filled with water are also a common sight.

Movie at midnight

For City:Cinema Hall Crowd at Satyam Complex.Photo:S_Thanthoni.26-10-03

For City:Cinema Hall Crowd at Satyam Complex.Photo:S_Thanthoni.26-10-03

The fun of Chithirai festival is incomplete without films, especially in a cinema-crazy town like Madurai. Theatres run midnight shows of popular movies and sometimes even new and recent films to pull crowd. To watch a movie at 1.30 am is an integral part of the Chithirai experience. It helps people to keep themselves awake to be on time for the next day’s festivities.

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