The unique spirit of an unique Festival…
Anyone who knows Madurai would be able to tell you that Madurai is famous for Maligai(Jasmine), Temples, Idly and dharuma adi (loosely translated as free hits…). The temples and its culture in Madurai is so unqiue that no place in the world one would be able to locate similar spirit and dedication.
Madurai Temples have festivals and functions which have been in practice for centuries and have been practiced with the high level of enthusiasm, fun and frolic. The world famous Alanganallur jallikattu, Thiruparankundram Vaigaasi Visagam, Mariamman Temple tank float festival are just a tip of the iceberg in the list of world famous Madurai Festivals. Toping this list is the Annual Chithira Pournami grand festival.
This is a festival of 2 major temples and a multitude of smaller temples. This spans for about 15 days. The first 10 days its Meenakshi Amman’s crowning and celestial marriage. This is followed by the 5 days festival when Alagar from Alagar Kovil visits Madurai. The story is that Alagar being the brother of Meenakshi comes to Madurai for her marriage. But is delayed by the love and affection of the people on his way. When he finally arrives, the Marriage is over. So he is disappointed and just takes a dip in Vaigai River and returns back to Alagar Kovil. But almost whole of Madurai population know that this story was made up by Thirumalai Nayakar, who once upon a time ruled over Madurai. The 2 temple functions are completely independant and to pull more crowd from nearby villages, Nayakar came up with the story and thus The Annual Chithirai Thiruvizha came into existence.
When it is more than obvious that this is a fabricated story, still why do people celebrate the festival? The festival is celebrated with so much zeal and hype that it appears that 15 days of Diwali or Pongal is being celebrated in Madurai alone. People from far and near make it a point to come to Madurai and be a part of this mega event even though they make their living elsewhere. Madurai citizens celebrate the Celestial wedding as though its a wedding in their own house. They welcome Alagar into Madurai like they welcome a close relative into their house. No caste/creed bar, everyone is in celebration mode. But why all this for a fabricated story?
The question remains unanswered. No one can answer this. It is like trying to define space or draw boundary to love. I wouldn’t call it faith or just prayers. Faith. prayers or offerings can be practised at home or in the temple. But the core reason behind celebrating the function for 15 days is still unexplained.
I have been to many places, Celebrated many festivals, heard and read about people around the world and their culture. But to my knowledge nothing comes to close to Madurai and Chithirai Thiruvizha. If you are still not convinced, try and tell me one place / festival which satisfies all the following characteristics.
- 10 days of celestial marriage celebrated. 5 days of celestial visit celebrated.
- 24 hours of all 15 days, some activity or other with respect to this festival is on the run.
- God / Deity’s idol visits almost the entire city.
- The festival being celebrated in all nooks and corners of the city.
- Devotees helping other devotees to participate in the festival by offering water, buttermilk, juices and food to beat the heat.
- (Touchwood) In all the years of celebration not a single major untoward incident has been reported.
- Devotees thronging the streets like mad persons chanting the name of God and being drawn towards him like a magnet.
- Money spent throughout the festival is not out of a single pocket or account. But its the money from every single person associated with the city.
- 6 years old to 60, everyone is on celebration mode.
- “Rich or poor, God is one” being practiced and promoted.
- Ancient laws and methodologies followed without a single slippage.
- No body complains that this festival is disrupting their normal life. Nobody…
Well, if you find a valid answer for my question, I will accept my defeat. But for time being, the challenge is on!