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CHITRAI FESTIVAL IN MADURAI
CHITRAI FESTIVAL IN MADURAI
Chitrai festival of Madurai is one of the most colourful festivals celeberated in most part of the country. It may be regarded as the second greatest festivals in India.Chitrai festival dates its origin from the great sangam age. The tamil epics like Silappathikaram and Manikemakalai contain references in honour of lord Indra, the God of rain with the expectation of prosperity and splendour.
The present system of the festival marks its beginning during Thirumalai Nayak’s period. Prior to his reign it has been celebrated as the Meenakshi Sundareswarar wedding festival in the month of chitrai. The first one was considered as assort of harvest festival just after the harvest and the second one was conducted in the time of terrible heat. He combined both the festivals and began the festival as Brahmotsavam of the full moon day of chitrai month.
The hoisting of the flag in the staff erected inform the Sundareswarar shrine inaugurates the festival. The wedding festival lasts for twelve days. As per the tradition no other festival was permitted during these days and also no one was allowed to go out of the city before the end of the festival.
The most auspicious part of the festival is wedding of goddess Meenakshi the powerful presiding deity of Madurai and also the sister of Alagar, the incarnation of Vishnu with Sundareswar the embodiment of lor Siva. Several millions of people from different parts of South India assemble at Madurai to witness the ceremony. Women folk consider ti as the festival of their own marriages, and it is the most virtuous day in their matrimonial life. On that day they usually add one yellow thread along with their tail or sacred marriage ornament as a mark of prosperity in their wedded life spinsters consider it is a gold opportunity to find out meritorious husbands. Thus it is aimed to strengthen the existing alliances and also to find out prospective matches.
The marriage functions are conducted according to the agamic prescriptions. The marriage ceremony takes place on the 10th day on the festival. After the formal marriage, the couples moves in a procession at 7 p.m. in the four masi streets. They are consecrated with rich costumes.
Lord Siva is seate3d on an elephant and Goddess Meenakshi in a flower decorate Anandarayar palanquin. Throuhout the procession, the devotees offered pujas and various kinds of flowers and cloth at large
Number of mandabas and temporary halting places.
In the next day morning, on the 11th day of the festival the grandest of the procession takes place on the same masi streets. The god and goddess are carried in a massive temple car in which the goddess ride is presented by the Rajah of Ramanad. It is fifty feet hight the wheels are solid wood, eight feet diameter and over a foot thick. The bridal car is pulled by thousands of men. Long ropes of coconut fibres, three inches thick and two hundred feet long are attached to it and men and boys pull with great enthusiasim.
The gods are installed on a pedestal under the centre of the canopy surrounded by dancing girls priests. The gods in of the neighboruign villages like subramaniya, the lord of Thiruppuramkundara and Lord Ganesa also arrived at Madurai on the day. The colourful grand festival ends on 12th after a royal bath of the deities in the Lotus tank inside the temple. .
Among the nine days of the Alagar’s journey festival, the festival, the first three days of the festival take in a mandapa with in the alagar temple, twelve miles east of Madurai. It is not as colourful as the marriage festival at Madurai. On the 4th day at 2 p.m. Alagar, the incarnation of Vishnu starts the journey to Madurai accompanied by thousands of his devotees to receive the garland from Andal. After receiving all the honours from his devotees and believers, he reaches at Tallakulam and spends the night there itself. On the 5thj day morning he received garland from andal and he enters into the Vaigai river banks mounted on a golden horse.
On the same day evening Alagar proceeds to vandiyur village in a small Sri Vaishnavite temple. On the 6th day morning he leaves vanbdiyur temple on a adisea, five headed cobra vahana andmoves to thenur mandapa. On that day night the display seven of incarnations of Vishnu. On the day he returns to Tallakulam in golden ramalrayar palanquire. On the 8th day starts the journey to his own temple accompanied to kallar people. After a night halt at the maravar mandapa on the 9th day he reaches his own temple.
The marriage festival and the journey festival attract several millions of people to Madurai every year in the month of chitrai. In respective of the socio religious, political, economic and cultural differences, the entire population of the area active part in the celebrations.