The chariot festival at the
colossal Mahalinga Swami temple at Tiruvidaimarudur to be
In brief: The grand
chariot festival at the ancient
Tiruvidaimarudur temple in
Tamilnadu is to be revived
after a gap of 74 years thanks to the initiative of
Swami Dayananda Saraswati.
This chariot festival on Jan 19th is one with a
difference. It represents the will to restore ancient
traditions; the entire process of renovating the chariots
and creating the buildup to the festival literally is a case
study in mega-event-management.
The clichéd statement It
takes a village to raise a child can be extrapolated to state
that it takes an entire village to pull a chariot.
This statement indeed rings
true during the bhrahmotsavam in each and every temple in South
India where hundreds if not thousands gather to pull a chariot
through a village or a town.
The statement tiruvarur terazhagu refers to the beauty of the chariot in the temple
town of Tiruvarur as it sways gently and makes its round around
the processional streets of this temple town. The rath yatra in
Puri bearing the image of the presiding deity Jagannath is the
source of the British word juggernaut!
Chariot festivals have been
going on in India for centuries. Rathotsava (ratha chariot,
utsava celebration) is not a mere religious ritual. It is a
season for great rejoicing. It is a social event that brings
together people from all communities and walks of life.
The city dwellers of
Chennai must be familiar with the Kapalisvarar festival which
draws lakhs of people particularly during the two day period
where the rathotsavam and the arupattumoovar celebrations
happen. Everyone becomes a contributor and there is so much of
hospitality, food and goodwill all over the place.
It is clear that such
occasions generate mutual love, respect and goodwill among
diverse communities of the ancient land.
Thanjavur (Kumbhakonam) houses an ancient temple dedicated to
Shiva. This mammoth structure is an awe inspiring temple that
has been venerated for over a millennium. This temple used to
host a grand chariot festival with five rathas.
However, this festival came
to a standstill some 74 years ago and the five wooden chariots
disintegrated with time.
A historic occasion:
This festival is just about to be revived on the 19th
of January this year thanks to the initiative of Swami
Dayananda Saraswati with the consent of the
Gurumahasannidanam of the Tiruvavaduturai Adhinam mutt.
The revival of this
festival is a mammoth task. All of the five rathas had to be
renovated. It is to be kept in mind that such renovation is not
a mechanical process but one that requires specialized skills.
Yet, it is a tremendous opportunity to revive a dying art.
In the words of Swami Dayananda Saraswati, The
construction of the five rathas generates job opportunities for
these artisans and also accomplishes the significant feat of
preserving this art culture by providing a great opportunity for
the artistically talented youth in the town to get trained in
the fine art of wooden sculptures.
It is more than
renovating wooden structures.
regarding the renewal of a tradition and the leadership are the prime factors
behind the revival of this festival.
The vision was
communicated; an organization was formed to carry out this seva
(service). The Tiruvavadutrai Adhinam which manages the
Tiruvidaimarudur temple put its best foot forward towards the
realization of this dream. Funds were raised. Artisans were
trained. The brick and masonry structure ther nilai
adjacent to the resting point of the chariot was renovated.
With an eye on
detail, a trial run of this chariot was carried out in November
2010 after affixing mammoth steel wheels specially manufactured
by Bharat Heavy Electricals to the wooden structre.
The State of
Tamilnadu has offered its cooperation through its renovation and
repair of the roads through which this procession will pass.
Now the stage is
set for the main chariot to roll out on the 19th of
this month, on the full moon day in the asterism of Pushya. (tai
We hope that
this historic event sets the wheels rolling for many such
revivals across the nation.