Sunday, March 24, 2013

Kapali! Kapaleee!! The day of the ther

Kapali! Kapalee!!
Kapali! Kapalee!!

The people roared. And the roar rolled as the 'ther' rolled out of its permanent shed on East Mada Street and headed south.
It was a shade after 9 a.m. and a young man standing on top of the ther, waved the green flag to tell his team of volunteers below that it was time to roll the chariot.

What was a mere wooden shell now looked colorful and decorated, with the Lord in his seat, scarcely seen by the crowds below. This is not the biggest and most impressive ther in this part of the world but when it is decorated, it catches everybody's eyes.

This being Sunday, the crowd was large but mainly crowded around the ther. The mada veedis, shut from traffic of all kinds and a huge posse of policemen made it easy for people to double down to Sannidhi Square.

The hawkers were here early - men and women selling sweetmeats like cumaracut, kolam designers and shiny bow and arrows . . .

A earth digger of the city's civic body moved behind the ther - it looked out of place. The driver then told us that it would be around to help if the wheels of the ther got stuck in  loose tar on the veedhis

Excited women chose to push the ther carrying the ambal; some took turns to place their kids on the ther.

A loud commentary ran on the public address system but it jarred the solemnity of this occasion.

Families and friends of residents who live on the veedhis had picked sweet spots on their balconies and terraces. As the ther rolled down to the junction of Pitchu Pillai Street and Sundareswarar Street, we moved out to the pavement - people from terrace tops usually throw bucketsful of water on the processionists - to keep them cool!

Yes, Chennai's temperature at 9.30 a.m. would have been closer to 30 degrees. The diehard followers of the ther wouldn't mind the shower at every stop!

Families who live closeby stepped out to make their offerings when the chariot stopped. On their faces, real devotion and eyes closed in prayer.

It will be late evening when the procession returns to the temple today. But through the day, people will head to various spots on the veedhis to offer prayers and watch what is Mylapore's biggest religious fest.

In the by-streets - Mathala Narayana Street - groups had put out tables and receptacles - to serve buttermilk to people returning from the there. Further down, a huge vessel with hot kesari got hauled up on a table. And the spicy flavours of sambar sadam cooking inside a house wafted in the air.

Traffic jammed on Kutchery Road - AIADMK Member of Parliament Maithreyan jumped into his car and sped away. Justice Prabha Sridevan got out of her car and walked down to the temple side.

And at Luz Circle, we saw Catholic families who had attended the Palm Sunday Holy Mass at the start of the Holy Week that leads to Good Friday and Easter. They were going home after Mass at Our Lady of Light Church, popularly called Luz Church, some 100 metres west of the Circle.

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