DatesTo be Announced
LocationTamil Nadu, India
With India’s immense cultural, religious and historical diversity, it is quite easy to overlook many of the country’s festivals, especially with occasions like Holi, Christmas or Eid attracting most of the spotlight. But if one were to know why India is one of the most diverse nations in the world, it is necessary to look at all the regions (or at least attempt to do so!). And the Chithirai festival of Madurai, Tamil Nadu is one to attend.
This festival owes its name to the fact that it is celebrated in the month of Chithirai according to the Tamil calendar (the month of April). Historically, celebrated as 2 different festivals; the Meenakshi festival and the Alagar festival, they were combined by King Thirumalai Nayakar to bring together the Shaivites and the Vaishnavites. One observes Goddess Meenakshi’s coronation during the first 15 days, while the other 15 commemorate Lord Alagar’s journey to Madurai from the Kallazhagar temple in Alagar Koyil.
The Meenakshi festival: It is mainly celebrated by the followers of Lord Shiva (Shaivites). The legends state that King Malayadhwaja Pandian and Queen Kanchan Malai prayed and performed poojas to be blessed with a child. During one of the poojas, a little girl, later known as Meenakshi, came out of the fire and sat on the King’s lap and was said to be an incarnation of Shakti, Lord Shiva’s wife. The couple were told that when the time was right, Lord Shiva himself would come and marry her. She was trained in warfare and soon became the Queen. And sure enough, Lord Shiva married her not long after, once she realised that she was indeed the incarnation of Shakti.
The Alagar Festival: Once Mandooka rishi (a saint) failed to notice Durvasar Maharishi while taking a bath in the waters of Aagaayagangai in Alagar hills thus unintentionally insulting the Maharishi. He was cursed as part of his punishment and was made to live as a frog in the river Vaigai. Upon asking for forgiveness, Mandooka rishi was told to go to Vaigai and pray to Lord Alagar, which he did and also succeeded in having his curse lifted.
The celebrations unfold as follows:
YETRAM- The festival commences with the hoisting of the Holy flag on the KodiMaram, by Meenakshi temple’s chief priest.
PATTABISEKAM- Meenakshi is crowned as the queen and Lord Sunderaswarar as the king, destined to rule the Pandya kingdom for the next four and eight months respectively.
DIKVIJAYAM- The queen goes to war and falls in love with Lord Shiva
MEENAKSHI TIRUKALYANAM- Meenakshi and Lord Shiva’s wedding is celebrated with grandeur.
THER THIRUVIZHA- The King and Queen come to see their citizens in an ornately decorated chariot.
ETIR SEVAI- Alagar enters the city and is welcomed by the people.
ALAGAR VAIGAI ELENTHUARULAL- Taking place in the middle of river Vaigai, Lord Alagar arrives for his sister’s wedding and presents Meenakshi and Sunderaswarar with gifts.
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