PERUVIZHA - FAIRS & FESTIVALS IN TAMILNADU, INDIA
Arunachaleswarar Temple at Tiruvannamalai is one of
the grandest in India, and is considered to be among
the most revered of the 275 Shiva Temples glorified
by the Tamil Tevaram hymns of the 7th through the 9th
centuries. This temple has a great tradition of festivals,
the Kartikai Peruvizha being the grandest. Kartikai
Deepam marks the conclusion of the 10 day long festival
in the Tamil month of Kartikai (Scorpio), a festival
that is marked by grand processions in which images
of Annamalaiyaar and Unnamulaiyaal are taken out on
decorated mounts, through the processional streets of
Tiruvannamalai. This complex festival involving a multitude
of festivites and hundreds of thousands of participants
happens with amazing regularity, each year - and can
be described as a case study in effective operations
management. C. Suresh, originally from Tiruvannamalai,
currently stationed in Pune, India describes with ample
illustration, some of the features of this grand festival.
festival starts on the Panchami before Pournami (fifth
day of the brighter half of the month of Kartikai ie.
Nov 15 - Dec 15) early in the morning with a brief flaghoisting
ceremony (Dwajaarohanam).From that day onwards for the
next ten days,processional images of the Panchamurthys
comprising of Vinayakar, Subramanyar with his consorts,
Lord Somaskanda (the processional image of Annamalaiyaar)
with his consort Devi and Skanda, Goddess Appetha Kuchambal
and Chandikeswarar are decorated with ornaments and
garlands carried out in procession through the main
four streets (Raja Veedis)around the temple twice a
day in various vahanams (mounts) such as Karpaga Vriksham,
peacock, Kamadhenu,,silver Rishabham(Bull) , horse,
Lion, swan, and in decorated chariots.
The entire procession can be classified into three parts.
The first part involves festivities inside the kalyana
mandapam within the temple precincts where images of
the Panchamurthys are kept for this ten day period.
The second part involves processions inside the temple
complex on the way to temple entrance and the third
the actual procession around the temple.(Veedhi Ula).
Significance of Veedhi Ula : These festivals have been
in existence for several centuries. It is interesting
to note that they involved the participation of several
sections of society - in creating a magnificient visual
treat, and a collossal parade involving much of the
town and the environs. Say for example the chariot festival
would not be possible without the collective efforts
of the town's populace; for centuries, the mammoth chariot
has been pulled by human power alone without the aid
of any modern devices that we take for granted today.
The entire town comes together to pull the chariot.
So do an entire range of artisans, depicting their skills
in music, dance, garland making and so on and so forth.
Also, during the time of these festivities, merchants
gather from far and wide to display their wares.
A few of the festivities involved in this 10 day festival.
Fifth day Morning Festival : During Fifth day
morning Vigneswara and Lord Chandrasekara are taken
out on the Silver mooshika vahanam and the silver small
Rishaba vahanam around the temple..The temple elephant
deceorated with silk cloth leads the procession.Then
follow the drummers. The nadaswaram players follow the
image of Vinayaka, while the utsavamoorthy Chandrasekharar
(processional image) decked in ornamental finery - the
central point of the procession follows. This is not
the end of the procession. A group of priests reciting
the vedic hymns, and a group of Oduvaars singing the
celebrated Tirumurai hymns follow. The procession is
accompanied by a sea of humanity, as it winds its way
around the temple, arriving back at the temple at around
1pm in the afternoon.
Night Festival - Silver Rishabha Vahanam :
In the first phase of the fifth night's festival, the
pancha moorthis are decorated with arnoments and flower
garlands and are readied for the festivities at around
8.30 pm. Somaskandar is decorated with a diamond crown
with elaborately prepared garlands.
Then follows the deepa aradhanai, or the waving of lamps
accompanied by the chanting of the vedic hymns. All
the moorthis are affered archana and deepa aradhana
simultaneously. After the deepa aradhana Vinayaka and
Chandikeswara are placed on the silver mooshika vahanam
and silver rishabha vahanam inside the mandapa itself.
In the second phase of festivities, all of the five
images are carried out and taken in procession in the
third prakaram (courtyard) of the vast temple. The images
are carried by bearers who dance to the tune of indigenouspercussion
instruments such as the oodal.
A unique feature seen in Tiiruvannamalai is that Somaskandar
stands before Ambal shrine and symbolically and takes
her permissionto go on his procession. Several deeparadhanas
are performed at different points within the temple
as the procession winds its way to the temple entrance,
led by the royal elephant.
In the next stage of festivites, the processional images
are mounted on their vehicles, (silver peacock for Subramanya,
silver rishabham for Somaskandar (Annamalaiyaar), and
another silver rishabham for Ambal (Unnamulaiyaar))
placed in a state of readiness in front of the temple.
They are then decorated further with brightly caprisoned
umbrellas, an arch of lamps and so on.
These decorated mounts are fixed to chariots (chapparams)
which are pulled with the aid of motors. Prior to the
advent of the modern age, these wheeled mounts were
pulled by oxen. Thousands of people throng the four
streets all along the route and stand both side of the
streets to have a darshan of the Arunachaleswarar on
the siver rishabham.
The procession is led by a colorful array of dancers
performing traditional folk dances such as Karagam,
the snake charmer's dance, the peacock dance etc. The
temple elephant leads the entiere procession. Vinayakar
and Subramanyar lead the five Panchamoorthys. Nadaswaram
artistes precede Annamalaiyaar and Unnamulai Amman.
the procession winds its way into the Thiruvoodal street
(South raja veedhi)there is a grand display of fire
crackers. It is considered auspicious to view the procession
as it comes down the slope of the Big Street (the Northern
Raja Veedhi). The Nagarathaar community which donated
the Big Silver Rishabha vahanam to the temple, offers
a special archanai, in the East Car street, as the images
of the Pancha Moorthys in their decorated mounts, stand
side by side, in a spectacular sight. The grand procession
comes to an end at dawn.
The sixth day witnesses the procession of the 63 nayanmars
during the day, while the nights celebration witnesses
the colorful silver chariot procession.