Divine wedding under lockdown: Chithirai festival at Madurai Meenakshi temple

Published on May 04, 2020 01:38 PM IST

Most rituals and ceremonies related to the festival have been cancelled as well. But, the celestial wedding will be performed in a simple way in the first corridor of the sanctum sanctorum by four priests.

Madurai: Devotees witness the entry of Lord Kallazhagar to the Vaigai River as part of Chithirai festival of the famous Meenakshi Temple, in Madurai, Friday, April 19, 2019.(PTI)
Madurai: Devotees witness the entry of Lord Kallazhagar to the Vaigai River as part of Chithirai festival of the famous Meenakshi Temple, in Madurai, Friday, April 19, 2019.(PTI)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByHT Correspondent | Edited by: Meenakshi Ray

The temple town of Madurai in Tamil Nadu celebrates the Chithirai festival, which includes the coronation and divine wedding of its presiding deity, goddess Meenakshi with Lord Sundareswarar, every year.

Spread over a month, Madurai decks up to celebrate its annual flagship event — the Chithirai Thiruvizha— which also marks the visit of Goddess Meenakshi’s brother, Lord Azhagar or Vishnu.

This year, however, the Chithirai festival which was scheduled to begin last week at the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai has been cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Most rituals and ceremonies related to the festival have been cancelled as well. But, the celestial wedding will be performed in a simple way in the first corridor of the sanctum sanctorum by four priests.

And, the ceremony was telecast live on www.maduraimeenakshi.org for devotees.

How is the divine wedding held?

The wedding of Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareshwarar is performed by the chief priests of the Madurai Temple. The rituals after that include a procession of Meenakshi and Sundareshwarar in a chariot pulled by devotees and then Lord Vishnu gives away his sister in marriage to Shiva.

A grand feast is held after the wedding.

What are the rituals of the Chithirai festival?

Kodi Yetram: Meenakshi Temple’s chief priest hoists the holy flag on the dhwajasthambam.

Pattabisekam: The coronation ceremony in which Goddess Meenakshi is crowned as the queen of Madurai for four months and after that her husband Lord Sunderaswarar is crowned as the city’s king for the next eight months.

Dikvijayam: After the coronation, Goddess Meenakshi is believed to have conquered the whole world and also goes to the Kailash to conquer it. However, when she sees Lord Shiva, she falls in love with him.

Meenakshi Kalyanam: The wedding of Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Shiva in Madurai.

Ther Thiruvizha: The chariot festival is performed a day after the divine wedding and Lord Sunderaswara and Goddess Meenakshi taken through the streets in a decorated chariot

Ethir Sevai: It is a part of the Chithirai Thiruvizha of the Kallazhagar temple at Alagar Koyil and begins on the fourth day. On this day, Alagar or Lord Vishnu changes his appearance as Kallar and travels via Kallar Nadu and enters Madurai and the city’s residents welcome him.

Alagar Vaigai Elenthuarulal: Lord Alagar leaves Alagar Koyil for Madurai but gets delayed and misses the wedding. Legend has it that he hears that the wedding is over near the Vaigai River’s bank and he gets angry. He returns to Alagar Koyil after giving gifts to Meenakshi and Sundereswarar after getting into the river.

What is the worship schedule?

The 16th-century magnificent temple has about 50 priests, who conduct the ceremonies six times a day during the festival. But the Meenakshi Temple was closed on March 19 and two priests at a time have been allowed to carry out six daily pujas behind closed doors.

* 5am to 6am - Thiruvanandal puja

* 6.30am to 7.15am: Vizha pooja and Kalasandhi puja

* 10.30am to 11.15am: Thrukalasandhi and Uchikkala pujas

* 4.30pm to 5.15pm: Maalai puja

* 7.30pm to 8.15pm: Ardhajama puja

* 9.30pm to 10pm: Palliarai puja

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