Saturday, March 24, 2012

Festival Sidelights

When the utsava moorthy comes out of the temple, He rests in the 16-pillar mandapam, in the eastern side of the temple. This mandapam, which is locked up most of the year, is opened and cleaned for the Brahmotsavam. Women of the area, wash the street, and decorate them with beautiful kolams .

The last day's festival, Bhikshatana, is truly appropriate, as the idol of the lord as an ascetic with a skull bowl in hand is taken around.
Kapaleeswarar means 'King of Ascetics'. At Pralaya, Siva alone exists with the ascetic's bowl of a skull (Kapala) in hand, ready to take on the role of creator.
The Goddess Karpagambal is named after the wish-yielding Kalpaka Vriksham that fulfills the devotee's wishes. But the Goddess is believed to grant only those wishes that she deems appropriate and not all that the devotees wish for.

 One of the customs followed at the festival was that of fishermen pulling the ther. It is believed that the temple may have invited fishermen to help with the pulling of the ther because of their association with Lord Siva.
But the tradition was discontinued a long time ago.
Viswanatha Sivachariar, a Mylapore-based scholar and former head priest of the Sri KapaliTemple, once told us that fishermen used to drink before pulling the ther, but sometimes, they would run amok, and even leave the 'ther' somewhere along the way.
Today, the ther is pulled by devotees. Irrespective of caste, or creed, thousands of devotees pull the ther around the four Mada streets. The idol of Lord Siva inside the ther bears a bow and arrow. This is the Swami Thripura Samaham.

Nadaswaram vidwans of the stature of Thiruavaduthur Rajarathinam Pillai, Thiruvidaimarudur Veeraswami Pillai and Thiruvizhimamizhilai Brothers, Nataraja Sundaram Pillai and Subramaniam Pillai, used to play at the festivals. Thavil supremo Neeramangalam Meenakshisundaram Pillai, used to be hired specially, and not as a part of the nadaswaram ensemble.
The band, at the end of every night after the procession, as the deity moves back into the temple, plays the tune 'For he is a jolly good fellow'.
Papanasam Sivan sang of the Adhikara Nandi in his song 'Kaana Kan Kodi Venum' 
The return of the procession of Rishaba Vahanam ( this year it starts on April 1, 10.30 pm and end the next morn by 7 a.m.) is also a must-see ritual - turn up by 5.30 a.m. on Sannidhi Street.

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