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Chithirai Festival –Madurai, India

Madurai is one of the oldest cities in southern India, which regarded as the cultural and sacred centre of Tamilnadu. Madurai has at its centre the world renowned Meenakshi Sunderaswarar Temple Once a year, Madurai celebrates Goddess Meenakshi’s sacred marriage, as Chithirai Festival with huge 12 day festival. It attracts thousands of pilgrims to the already crowded city. On the 10th day of the Festival, the Celestial wedding of Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareswarar is performed. Though the wedding ceremony proposed to take place between 8.17am – 8.41am, people will started to make beeline for the Chitirai Streets from around 4.30 am. The crowd would be so huge that entry had to be barred hours before the event resulting in even those with valid passes may not able to enter the temple. The North and West Aadi Street will got filled up before the deities could reach the Thirupugazhmandapam where the wedding will be performed.

On the 11th day of the Festival, the Car festival ,the very next day of celestial marriage of Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareswarar is happening in the midst thousands of people. This Madurai Meenakshi amman temple car is one among largest top 5 temple cars In Tamilnadu, beautiful with ornamental work sculptures.The invention of wheels not only significant the birth and advancement of civilization but also paved the way for modernity. Wheeled chariots also found its presence in a lot of mythological representation in India where Gods and Kings could be seen riding chariots. The pulling of temple car promotes harmony among the people and demonstrates the power of collaboration and team work to undertake huge tasks

Every year the second part of the Chithirai Festival is, more popularly, known as Vaigai River Festival fall on the full noon day of the Tamil calendar month Chithirai. According to a tradition perpetuated since the seventeenth century, Alagar (Lord Vishnu) is the elder brother of Meenakshi (Goddess Parvathi). Alagar is located in Alagar Hills which is approx 20 KM from Madurai. Alagar was invited to attend the wedding of Meenakshi and Shiva in Madurai city. He started from Alagar Hills which is a dense forest even these days. In order to protect him and his belongings from robbers he decided to dress himself as a robber and travel to Madurai. So he was late by one day to his sister's wedding. When he was crossing the river Vaigai people told his that His sister got married without his presence. He got angry on this and knowing this Lord Meenakshi and Shiva also came to Vaigai River to explain him about the situation. He gave all the gifts he brought to Meenakshi and Shiva for their wedding to them in a Mandabam (A Small building) in the middle of river vaigai and returned back to Alagar Hill without entering Madurai.

Interestingly, there is said to be an economic reason as well behind these moves. Wanting to make this the biggest festival of Madurai, Thirumalai Nayakar was of the belief that the move to bring the big Saivite festival alongside the Chitrai Azhagar Vaishnavite festival would make the Madurai economy flourishing and thrive. Several centuries later, the vision of Thirumalai Nayakar has definitely come true. This certainly is by far the single biggest festival of Madurai and the roads of the city were buzzing with brisk activity over the fortnight of the Chitrai Thiruvizha with shops and stalls making their best business of the year. Exhibitions and fairs also marked the Chitrai Thiruvizha. The experience of the Chithirai festival

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