Chitirai Festival is an all encompassing event that brings good cheer to the people wherever it is celebrated coinciding with the full moon day. One could ask why is it all the more special in Madurai, which is also known as the Temple City in Tamil Nadu?
Madurai with the iconic and legendary Sree Meenakshi Amman Temple is probably the all happening place, where one could be immersed in the thickness and richness of colour, tradition, heritage, music, dance and performing arts. The people of the city from far and near places flock in groups not merely by the hundreds, but actually goes beyond the thousands and even surpass the lakhs to participate in what could be termed as a “Mother of All Festivals.
The cultural festivities associated with the Chitirai Festival in Madurai is mindboggling as the entire city comes alive with sound and light, dance and songs, prayers and offerings, divinity and affinity, love and joy etc. There is so much of love and warmth in the air with celebrations taking place in every nook and corner involving all segments of people. One significant reason for this mass celebration can be that two major events like the Meenakshi Thirukalyanam and Lord Kallazhagar’s entry into the river Vaigai takes place during the same period. Both the events have a legendary legacy attributed to it, but yet in modern day times, it is almost getting more significancant due to the large crowds who are emotionally, spiritually and culturally blended to a tradition that is almost owned and expressed by the people of Madurai.
Every year, I used to watch the newspapers for a big size photograph of the Thirukalyanam, Therottam and Alagar’s Entry into River Vaigai and then forget about it after a few days. But this year was something special and spectacular, since I got into the thick of the things and ventured into the city to have a feel of what the Chitirai Festival was all about. The other important or rather main reason for me to get into the crowds was my Canon DSLR Camera that I carried to shoot some photographs of the happenings.
I must honestly confess that I was awestruck with the lively energy and electrifying atmosphere around the city during festival. People came wearing their best dress and accessories, children with play items were seen having fun all around. The Women kept pace with the crowd in moving swiftly in waves to have a look at the deity and offer their prayers. The elderly were seen in the crowd sitting on the pavements and on the staircases of the shops and establishments and praying to the lord from a comfortable distance. The Youth were exuberant and making their presence felt in a huge crowd. So much of crowd assembling on their own, staying with the festivities and dispersing peacefully without any issues is something that needs to be appreciated.
The most striking feature of the Chitirai Festival is the procession of Sree Meenakshi Amman along with other deities in various forms along the much famous Chitirai streets in Madurai. The spectacle is truly colourful and soulful when the procession goes past you, as you can witness young Children dressed up like the Lord in appropriate attire with jewels. Meenakshi Amman is the most common dress that children wear, and no surprise you can witness the charm and beauty of Meenakshi Amman through the young children who do not get tired in a grueling route spanning atleast 20 Kms. Children are also dressed up like other god and goddesses and are accompanied by their parents along the entourage. Folk artists break the noise barrier with their thunderous performance of Oiyilattam, Mailyattam, Kollattam, Thappattam, Kaavadi Attam etc. Cartoon Caricatures comes alive with many sporting huge faces of animals and famous historical personalities to draw the attraction of the crowd.
I was completely swept with the colourful pageant that passed across and started to click some fantastic photos, which made me happy. The interesting aspect is that many would come forward and voluntarily ask for a photograph to be taken. On the contrary, I would approach many to take a photo of them as they sing and dance along the procession which is a representation of a rich culture and tradition that is customary with the soil. The photos which were shared through private messages with my friends have got a great response. Many acclaimed that I am an avid photographer and sent their comments in many other ways, much to their choice of words and sentiments.
But honestly, I would very humbly submit that I let my passion out for a walk down the streets of Madurai……what I got in return was a splendid opportunity to capture the colours of Chitirai Festival. I am sure, it would take many days to sink in going by the fabulous feedback that my photos have managed to bring in for me.