TAMIL NADU

Mahamaham begins with flag hoisting in temples

KUMBAKONAM, FEB. 26. The ten-day Mahamaham festival, celebrated once in 12 years, began with flag hoisting in Saivite temples here.

The flags were hoisted in the Kumbeswaraswamy, Kasi Viswanathar, Abimukheswarar and Nageswaraswamy temples in the presence of Sri Jayendra Saraswathi, Kanchi Sankaracharya.

Navakannika pujas were also performed in the Kasi Viswanathar temple.

The Sankaracharaya, along with the heads of the Dharmapuram Adheenam, the Madurai Adheenam and the Thirupanandal Mutt, took a holy dip, marking the beginning of "Punya snanam" in the Mahamaham tank. The Acharya then sat on the steps and performed pujas.

After this, devotees, in their hundreds, started taking a holy dip. They then sprinkled on themselves water from the 20 `theerthavari' wells in the tank. Enthusiasm and religious fervour marked the occasion with the devotees chanting "Jaya Jaya Sankara, Hara Hara Sankara" on seeing the Acharya.

People can take a dip in the tank till March 6. Flags will be hoisted in Vaishnavite temples here tomorrow. Idols from all temples will be taken in procession all 10 days. On March 6, the idols from the Saivite temples will be brought to the Mahamaham tank for `theerthavari,' and idols from the Vaishnavite temples will have `theerthavari' in the Cauvery.

Today, the Mahamaham tank was virtually under police cordon. According to K.C. Mahali, Deputy Inspector-General, Thanjavur range, 3,000 policemen have been deployed in the tank to provide security to the devotees. "Z" category security has been provided to Sri Jayendra Saraswathi. In the four corners of the tank cameras were fixed to watch crowd movement.