Thursday, April 9, 2015

Time for music as agni nakshatram dawns

And now, it is time for music and dance at the Navaratri Mantapam at the temple. Post-panguni religious celebrations that take their toll on man and god, and as agni nakshatram breaks out in the city and peaks at summer time, music helps to unwind.

The concerts, by top ranking artistes are drawing large crowds. The top photo was taken at Sanjay Subramanyam's concert and the second one shows Vijay Siva in concert.

The concerts are on till April 17, every evening.

The Panguni tradition that Mylaporeans keep

Dozens of Mylaporeans keep a Panguni festival tradition to this day.
Providing food to guests and people who head to Sri Kapali temple in Mylapore.

At Balasubramaniam's residence, this year marked the 101st year of this Panguni tradition. This Mylaporean is 92 years old and his daughter Revathi made arrangements to feed 750 people on Arabathumoovar day. 
Helping them is caterer N. S. Anandan who lives down the road.
The elai sapad menu included badhusha, medhu pakoda and jav-arisi payasam. Also on each banana leaf was a two-rupee coin.
"In the old days we used to feed over one thousand people and left a one-rupee coin for our guests," said Revathi, resident of Chitrakulam North Street.

S. Jamuna's family also keep this tradition at festival time. This East Mada Street resident, now 65 invited about 80 youths who carry the vahanams from the temple around the mada streets to a  special lunch at her residence.
Joining her were sisters Indira and Padma and sister-in-law Kalpana and others - to make and distribute 11 kilos of kesari  and 60 litres of buttermilk on Arabathumovar day.
"This is a tradition we love to carry on," says Jamuna.

Down the same street are this trio - Gomathi Mangalam, Jaya Gomathinayagam and Rajendran - want to expand their 15-year-old tradition.
One afternoon is reserved for Sri Kapali Temple priests - a puja and elai sapad during penguin fest. 
For arbathumoovar day, the trio arrange to cook puliogare and sweet and ven-pongal which is served to devotees from 8 am to 8 pm.

The biggest service is provided by late flutist Narayana Iyer's family of Mathala Narayana Street, off the Mangolai junction.
The menu list is much like the one you would want at a big, fat wedding - sweet and ven-pongal, brinji, sambhar and tomato rice, vegetable biryani, idli and sambhar, mixture and sweets and bread -channa. Cooked in parts over the whole day, spaces on the street are used for storing, slicing and cooking.
'This is a 110-year old tradition that Narayana Iyer's wife began in a small way, " said one family member. "Funds keep flowing from February onwards."
Their estimate is that 25,000 people line up at their food window on this small street on Arbathumoovar day.

The food is great and available in plenty. People need to avoid waste and dispose the leftovers and plates properly. This would make the celebration wow.

- Info inputs by R. Saravanan.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Snapshots of the 'ther' event

Photos by Madhan, Saravanan, Vincent D' Souza.

< You too can share your photos - unique shots - at -

Day of the chariot; seen, heard and seen again

The sun was up, there was stillness in the air and sweat began to trickle down many foreheads of men and women, some 3000 of them who had gathered on East Mada Street to witness the roll of the ther on April 1 morning as part of the Panguni Fest of Sri Kapali Temple.

It took three big efforts to get the iron wheels of the chariot, heavily decorated and carrying the Lord of Mylapore moving. The crowd cheered, gasped, kept silent and then 'Kapali Kapali' rent the air - the chariot had moved out of the shed and in 5minutes rolled in front of the gate of BVB.

Many people quickly dispersed - this is a working day for many, As they scurried they bowed before the chariots of the Ambal, Singaravelar and Chandikeswar.
As sweaty bodies and khaki clad police found refuge or got into Karpagambal Mess for breakfast ( bill for two Rs.180 plus), Narikuravas and nomadic hawkers spread their wares - light pink lotuses fresh from suburban ponds, plastic mallipoo, Bombay bags and the staple beaded-chains.

East Mada Street fell quiet and the excitement grew on South Mada Street. Pandals opened and the first one began to serve sambhar and curd rice; hawkers were assured of food now. Elsewhere, volunteers offered thick buttermilk but people who gulped it dumped the plastic on the street leaving civic workers rot bend twice to clear the waste.
"Tell them to regulate the food dhanam, people waste food and dump it on the street, " said Lakshman Kumar and Suganthi who settled here after a Mumbai stay. They reside at Mundagakanni Amman Koil Street.

As the sun beat mercilessly and the sea breeze remained feeble, the chariot rolled past Sangeetha on South Mada Street and into R K Mutt Road.

It is expected to return to its space in Sannidhi Street by noon, even earlier since the crowds are thin. More people are expected to head to the temple zone after 4 p.m.
Mylapore's mada streets looked a bit like a village in celebration.
Elsewhere, the pandals for water, buttermilk and rice got going. On C V Raman Road, senior citizen 'Maiji' stepped out to launch the panda's service outside the residence of the Muthukrishnans.

Beyond Mylapore, there is as much celebration as there is around the temple zone.

Ther; set for the procession

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Midnight musings; rishabha-vahanam

I walked from home in Alwarpet at 10.40 for the rishaba vahanam procession at Sri Kapali Temple. The roads were deserted save for an auto near Sai Baba Temple.

I saw women drawing kolams on the road in front of Vasantha Bhavan restaurant in South Mada Street. ’Kabali kaga kolam podaren’, one said. The other replied ‘Kabali nu summa sollade; Yaro rowdy ya sollara madiri irukku. Kabaleeswar vararu nu sollu’

Sri Veleeswaran Koil also had lighting decoration on the gopuram.

We reached the gopuravasal by 11.05 p.m. and could get only a glimpse from sideways.  So we walked through Piuchu Pillai Street and came to East Mada Street.  Petty shops lined Pichu Pillai junction.  Here too, people were drawing beautiful kolams on the road.  East Mada street looked as though the time was 6 p.m..

There were thousands of people -  from the theradi point, Sannidhi Street was jam packed.  It was suffocating because of the asbestos shed that has been raised.  We squeezed in and reached near 16 pillar-mantap where Lord Kapali was seated on silver rishabha vahanam.

Goddess Karpagambal joined the lord later.  (Karpagambal was on a golden Rishabha). Lord Muruga was on a ‘mayil’ vahanam.

The crowd got bigger as the procession began. We left the sannidhi square and got away - a cool drinks shop was busy.  Further down, we saw free distribution of hot bad am milk.

It was [ast midnight. People were coming in. Autos were available.
So getting back home was not a problem.

( The second photo was taken when the procession got back to the temple at about 6 a.m. on March 31, about six hours after it began)

- Report by V. Vasantha.

Street shopping, silambam and Bharatanatyam, and a long night

Tuesday evening signaled that summer and stickiness was with us in Chennai - the gentle breeze made it good for hawking and window shopping in the mada streets. The stuff on sale may be utility - from water pumps and mosquito-swatters - to narikurava-made chains and wrist bands. But they found their buyers.

At about 7.30 p.m. two young drummers got into the act on Sannidhi Street, and as they belted out the trummm-trummmm-trum, young men got into the act of silambam and fire drills and soon gathered a small crowd to watch the sidelight.

Metres away, young dancer R Rukmani, a sishya of Himaja Ramsharan glided on the floor of the 16-pillared mantap to perform. A first in a three recital series of dances at penguin fest time ( the other two will be held here on April 1 and April 4, the former at about 5 pm and the latter at 6.30pm ).

The music clashed but each found its rhythm.

Inside the temple, volunteers, the big-made men in blue Tees took position near the vahanam and priests set in motion the rituals in the yagam hall on the north eastern side for the rishaba vahanam procession.

Pink, flowery wheels for the chariot!

Numerous people offer their services free at festival time. It is their way of prayer and thanks. So if you walk into the campus you will find people deep in a variety of works. Like this man who ensures he and his men clean up all the vahanams.

In the past few hours, the chariot has been getting a new coat of paint. The wheels looked bright in pink and white. Now not everyone will appreciate this paint-paint-paint business especially on vintage pieces like the chariot whose images have been dented, corroded and chipped.

But then color and sound make a festival!

Buddhan vahanam

 Buddhan vahanam that was taken out in procession oN March 28 evening.

Dancing before the nandi . . .

Sugathan Mohandass, Secretary of Sri Sumukhi Rajasekharan Memorial Foundation and fostered by “The Mylapore Trio” – S. Amarnath, S. Surendranath, S. Aparna, performed in front of “Adhikaara Nandhi Vahanam” on [27-3-2015] for the famous song “Kaana Kankodi Vendum… Adhikaara Nandhi Sevaithanai” (a Tamizh Keertanam composed by Papanasam Sivan, specifically on this “Adhikaara Nandhi Utsavam” on the 3rd day of Panguni Brahmotsavam of Lord Kapaleeswara - Mylapore).

A special Pooja is organized on the previous night of the “Adhikaara Nandhi” Festival every year by the “Thandarai Vaidhyar” Family – donors of the silver kavacham of the Adhikaara Nandhi Vahanam (1917).

 This family has been closely associated with The Mylapore Trio’s foster parents Late Sumukhi, Rajasekharan and their grand mom, Nagammal for many generations. All the girls of the donor’s family were the students of Sumukhi, who was the Headmistress of the Lady Sivaswami Aiyar Girls High School, Mylapore. 

The present Grand Old Lady of this family Parvathi Ammal is a nonagenarian. The family hosted Sugathan to perform on this auspicious occasion. This is the third consecutive year he is performing in front of this Adhikaara Nandi.

Sugathan holds a masters degree in communication from the University of Madras. He is Bharatanatyam dancer, also well versed in Mohiniyattam and Kathakali. He hails from a family of Mohiniyattam dancers and is also an alumnae of Kalakshetra.  

He felt that it was a divine experience to perform in front of “Adhikara Nandhi”, more so for that very apt song.
Jayanthi Swaminathan, another member of the Foundation sang this beautiful song with her mellifluous voice on this occasion.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Suryan and kili; day 2 of the fest

Photos shot on March 27. In the morning, it was time for Surya vattam and later that night, for chandran vat tam and for killi and aanai vahanams, processions that went around the mada streets.

Green theme and colorful rangolis . .

Photos shot on March 26 late evening, when the rituals were around the punnai, karpaga and vengai trees. The procession of the gods took place after 10 p.m. and people drew kolams and rangolis on the mada streets to welcome the procession.

This woman contributed her creativity on behalf of the famed Mami's Mess on Pitchu Pillai Street.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Gas lights, flower decor and a Kerala log . . .

Lots of people get involved in the Panguni fest - and their stories lie in the background. They though are not looking for the stories to be told and shared.

Take G. Babu the gas light supplier from Ponnambala Vadyar Street, alongside the temple. He has been supplying gas lights for all processions for close to two decades. He still does - that practice of having gas lights light up the gods continues though fewer lights are used.

S, Baskar, sells flowers and puja stuff also in this zone. For many years he and his team create the flower decked space for the gods to reside in while watching the kodiyetram.

This year a new thandu was donated by well-wishers via a supplier in Kerala. This is made from the side root-trunk of banyan tree. The photo here shows volunteers holding it up.

- Photos and report by R. Saravanan

Procession on March 26 evening

The pavazhakaal vimanam procession on March 26 evening.

The flag goes up . .

The flag hoisting function started at 5 in the morning and the kodiyetram completed on the dot at 5.40

Women devotees were in colourful semi silk sarees and men in dhotis. 

After the main arathi, simultaneously to the kodi and the Kapali in the Navarathri mantapam, people started disbursing. Those who had come from far exclusively for this event greeted their friends and relatives whom they meet only on occasions like this.

Women of the area who were in madisars, took a break - sitting on the steps of the mantapam and making light talk.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Seer, nagaswaram and blessings . . .

The blessings of grama devatha of Mylapore town, namely the Kolavizhi Amman, are invoked before the start of the grand Panguni Peruvuizha of Lord Kapaleeswara Temple every year.

Today at 11.30 a.m. the ‘seer’ from Kapali Temple arrived at Kolavizhi Amman Temple. The seer contained, one Red, Brown & Yellow checked saree with blouse piece, manjal, kumkum, fruits, flowers, garlands, coconuts and neivedyam of swwet pongal prepared by devotees. 

These were taken out in a procession round the temple and then into the sanctum.  (The nagaswaram played “Bhavamulona” song during parikrama)

The Jt Commissioner of Kapali Temple came by 11.45.  

The abhishekam started with devotees singing special songs on Kolavizhi Amman.  The main deity was decked with the checked saree and the garland.  The utsava murthis of Kolvizhi Amman/ Badrakali Amman also were decked with red sarees brought from Kapali Temple. (While abhisekam was going on for utsava murthis the Nagaswaram played ‘Devi Neeya Thunai’ in Keeravani). 

After the main harathi, the prasadams in form of flowers, fruits, coconuts and manjal/kungumam were brought in a big tray. (The hagaswaram played Bhagyada Laksmi Baramma).   

At around 12.40, this was handed over to the officer from Kapali Temple - Kaveri in the presence of the Uthsava Murthi of Badrakali Amman as a gesture of having bestowed the blessings to start the 10 days’ Panguni Festival with ‘Kodiyetram’ tomorrow (26.3.15)

- Report and photo by V Vasantha

Blessings of the goddess . . .

It was well past noon when temple priest Sekar, in a symbolic gesture handed over fruits and flowers to the officer of the Sri Kapali Temple, Kaveri to flag off the annual Panguni Festival at Mylapore.

About 100 devotees, mainly women took part in this ceremony at Kolavizhi Amman Temple, located north of Kutchery Road. It was a time to pray and receive the blessings of the grama devathai for the big fest.

Later tonight, Lord Vinayaka will be taken in procession after rituals to be performed inside the Kapali Temple.

- Report, photo by Madan

Devotion on display at Amman shrine

Less than one hundred people gathered at the Kolavizhi Amman temple this morning to take part in the rituals that flag off the Panguni fest at Sri Kapali Temple.
The protector of the neighborhood is given her rightful place in the celebrations - the first place to pray for goodness and blessings for the fest that ends with the kalyanam.

But those who had gathered were close devotees.

Seetha from Ponnambala Vadyar Street, Mylapore was here with her family members. The fifty-year-old told us that she keeps this date here and has been doing so for 20 years. The family sat around to cook ven-pongal and sakkarai-pongal to be given to the priest for the rituals. Some for the Kolavizhi Amman and some for the Bhadrakali Amman.

A pot-ful of each variety was prepared this morning and brought here as offering.

There was also a man from Teynampet, preferring to remain anonymous who brought about 8 to 10kilos of pongal and made an offering. He said a prayer and left the place, saying he would do this henceforth every year for this occasion.

The fest has its devout followers.

- Report and photo by R. Saravanan

Monday, March 23, 2015

Collector's item!

These are the front and back pages of the formal invite to Panguni Fest 2015.

Taste of illumination and some creativity

On Monday, as dusk fell the decorative lights and illumination were tested. The last picture here gives you a feel of the nature of illumination. Look at some small and deft creative touches - at the lights on top of the tall gopuram on the east side.

The pandal-s on all the mada streets have been illuminated too - they look imaginative at night as you look up.

Idea; dances at 16-pillar mantap

A few dancers are tossing the idea of hosting  one-hour long recitals at the 16-pillared mantapam in Sannidhi Square on key days of the festival.

The idea is to add to the color of this celebration and to use of the spaces around the temple.

The temple organizes music and dances as part of the vidaiyarti, once the religious days are over.

Would you welcome the idea?

Work apace across temple campus

Work is getting into overdrive at the temple. Work going on all over the place.

Monday morning saw a lot of buzz. Even as a group of monks from Thailand toured the temple campus led by a local guide, workers were seen working on the colorful screens which are used to cover the gods at aradhana time.

Another set of painters gave a new coat of paint to a set of palanquins of the gods and goddesses. Another group of workers were busy creating a raise floor, a temporary incline at the gate on the eastern side for easy movement of all the chariots.

The giant metallic roof over Sannidhi Square is almost in place.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Rewind; when the English directed the fest!

Lots of local histories are associated with the Panguni festival. 

In his weekly column in The Hindu this Saturday, writer-historian V. Sriram refers to the involvement of the English in the fest when controversies arose.

Here is the web link -

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Volunteering . . .

The Mylapore Academy, South Madras Bharath Scouts and Guides, and St. John's Ambulance Brigade always lend their hand at the service centres set up in Mylapore. 

On the important festival days like Adhikara Nandi. Rishaba vahanam. ther and Arubathumoovar, they distribute freely packets of food, buttermilk and water. Donations are welcome.

If you too want to be a volunteer, look out for their counters on the first day of the fest and sign up.

Rewind: when fisherfolk pulled the chariot . . .

One of the customs followed at the festival in the days past 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 Shiva. But the tradition was discontinued a long time ago.

A Sivachariar scholar said that fishermen used to drink before pulling the ther, and 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.

Preparing for smooth passage . . .

A certain listlessness comes with the onset of summer. And that is the what greets you even as a few workers complete the pandal work at Sri Kapali Temple now.
This morning, teams started walking around the mada streets - clearing loose ropes tied across the streets and stringing up cables and wires that dangled low.

The intention is to clear the overhead low lines to make it safe of the vahnams and ther to pass by at procession time.

The private agency which clears waste is also planning to increase their local force and ensure the veedhis are kept clean at festival time.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Music, dance fest follows the religious series

Music and dance are part of the festival. The vidyarti season - after all that hectic religious 10day season.

Jayshree at Apollo who also assists her boss, Vijaykumar Reddy, who heads the temple Board told us on Friday that the promos for the music and dance fest are getting ready. The fest runs from April 6 to 17 and all recitals will be held in the mantapam and open to all.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Work on massive pandal begins

A team of 15 workers on Wednesday began to erect a massive cover inside the Sri Kapali Temple campus to shied people who are expected here for the annual Panguni festival. They began work near the flag staff and will cover the entire area in the next week or so.

With summer temperature now hovering around the 32 degrees mark and bound to cross 34/35degrees in late March, the pandal will provided respite from the sun.

A massive metal cover is also erected in the Sannidhi Square zone.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Pre-festival ritual conducted

This may be a very symbolic ritual but for people who are regulars and close to Sri Kapali Temple, the February 28 evening event that opens the annual Panguni festival here was a ‘must-attend’ one on their list.  
The ‘lagna patrikkai’ reading, a prelude to the Panguni fest leading to the celestial kalyanam was held on a grand scale inside the temple this year.
Watching it and participating in it were a few hundred people. The ritual started at about 6 pm on Saturday evening in the presence of all the deities here. 
One which in many ways resembled a modern day ceremony.

Panguni Festival 2015 schedule

This is the Panguni Festival 2015 schedule at Sri Kapali temple -

Mar 25 - 10 am - Grama devathai poojai (at Kolavizhiamman   
             -  9.30 pm - Vinayakar Utsav

Mar 26 -  5.40 am - Kodiyetram ( flag hoisting)
              -  10 pm - Amman mayil vadivam siva poojai, 
              punnai tree, Karpaga tree rituals

Mar 27  - 9.30 am - Suriya vattam
             - 9 pm  - Chandra vattam
Mar 28  - 6 am - Adikara Nandhi procession
April 1  - 7.15 am - Thiruther procession
April 2 - 3.30 pm - Arabathumoovar vizha and procession

April 4  - 9 pm - Thirukalyanam