All You Need to Know About Chithirai festival
Editorials News | May-26-2019
The two-week Chithirai Festival is one of Madurai's biggest celebrations. It represents the wedding of Lord Sundareswarar (Lord Shiva) and the Goddess Meenakshi (sister of Lord Vishnu).
Traditionally, Lord Vishnu has high caste followers, while Lord Shiva is worshiped by those of lower castes. What is interesting to note is that Meenakshi's marriage to Lord Shiva unites people of all castes, therefore, uniting the caste gap.
When is the festival?
It starts on the fifth day of the bright half (crescent moon, from new moon to full moon) of the Tamil month Chithirai. This falls in April / May on the English Gregorian calendar. In 2019, the dates of the Chithirai Festival are from April 8 to 22.
Where is it carried out?
It is held at the Meenakshi temple in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. The parades took place on the streets around the temple (known as Masi streets).
How is it celebrated?
The festival starts with a flag raising ceremony on the first day. However, the most significant celebrations take place towards the end of the festival. After the heavenly wedding, the location is moved to the Kallazhagar Temple (also known as Azhagar / Alagar Kovil) in the Azhagar / Alagar Hills near Madurai, where Lord Vishnu presides over Meenakshi's elder brother, Azhagar (also known as the Lord Kallazhagar).
Legend has it that Lord Kallazhagar traveled on a golden horse to participate in the celestial wedding of his sister Meenakshi.
Unfortunately, the wedding is delayed and lost. Meenakshi and Lord Shiva come to the Vaigai River, where he arrived, to try to pacify him. However, in his fury he gets into the river to give them his gifts, and then returns home without visiting Madurai. One of the biggest shows of the Chithirai Festival is this procession, particularly at the moment when Lord Kallazhagar enters the river.
Enjoying the heavenly wedding
The wedding starts at around 9 a.m. and it takes place in a flower-laden setting within the temple precinct. It allows the entry of up to 6,000 devotees for free through the south tower of the temple. Alternatively, devotees can buy tickets of different denominations (200 rupees and 500 rupees) for entry through the north and west towers. These tickets are available online on the temple website or in person at Birla Vishram on West Chithirai Street.
There are special arrangements for foreign tourists to see the celestial wedding and the car festival the next day, including areas dedicated to viewing.
What to expect during the festival?
The Chithirai Festival is a great opportunity to experience local life in Madurai and see a traditional Hindu wedding ritual. It attracts large crowds of people, who flock to Madurai from the surrounding areas. The festival is celebrated with much excitement and enthusiasm, with the enthusiasm of a royal wedding. The celebrations spread throughout the city, and the streets are flooded with devotees.
By: Preeti Narula