On Arubathumoovar Mylapore Kapaleeshwarar temple festival |Times of India

March 22nd, 20167:38 am Published by


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Mylapore Arubathumoovar festival


Mylapore Arubathumoovar festival is unique in the sense that it celebrates not an abstract god but a god who manifests in the actions of devotees, the Nayanmars who number sixty three. Saiva Agamas do prescribe celebrations of devotees bhaktorsavam but their prescription is restricted to celebrating a festival for Chandikeswarar, the foremost devotee of Shiva who finds a place of sculptural honour in the inner prakara of the Shiva temples. The first of the sixty three nayanmar Chandikeswarar could be the earliest devotee who earned Shiva’s blessings for his focused meditation. Periyapuranam narrates that Chandikeswarar was deep in meditation in front of a sand linga pouring milk over it and he did not see his father, enraged over the wastage of milk, was about to kick the linga. He struck his father’s leg with a stick and the stick turned into an axe and severed his father’s leg. Shiva manifested himself, restored the father’s leg and appointed Chandikeswarar as the guardian of his wealth. In the Shiva temples of Tamilnadu the devotees snap their fingers or clap their hands in front of Chandikeswarar to wake him up from his meditation and inform him that they are not taking any of Shiva’s wealth home. Richard Davis’ translation of twelfth century Agama text, the Mahotsavavidhi authored by Aghorasivacharya mentions only Chandikeswarar among the nayanmaras a processional deity in the festivals of Shiva temples.

So the celebration of all the sixty three Nayanmar in procession must have started at the Kapaleeshwarar temple and elsewhere in Tamilnadu after the compilation of the life histories of Nayanmar by Sundaramurthy in Thiruthondathokai, Namaniyandar Nambi’s Thiruthondar thiuvanthathiand Chekkilar’s Periyapuranam. The compilations of the life histories of the devotees at the height of bhakti movement not only started the festival but also brought in several caste groups and geographies into Saivism. Kapaleeshwarar temple’s Arubathumoovar festival is an enactment of its talapuranam, assertion of the temple’s relationship with the village deities, and a recognition of its social network of devotees and patrons spread across the villages surrounding Chennai. Arubathumoovar is also reminder that the city of Chennai has not forgotten its rural roots of being a collection of villages, being part of a precolonial agrarian order, and being a society of small communities within the larger urban structure.

The eight day festival of Arubathumoovar appropriately begins with the puja to the village goddess and hoisting of the flag. The last day of the festival needs to coincide with Panguni Uthiram a day that is meant for kuladeiva worship for most of the castes in Tamilnadu. On the morning of the Nayanmar procession in the western bank mandap of the Kapaleeshwarar temple tank the enactment of the temple myth of Thirugnanasampanthar giving life to Angampoompavai (who has been reduced to ashes and bones after death by snake bite) takes place. Poompavai is kept behind the screen on a palanquin, Sivanesan Chettiyar welcomes the Sampanthar, and the Othuvar sings the Thevaram beginning with the lines, mattitta punnai. After the singing of the full Thevaram, passages from Periyapuranam are recited. Angampoompavai, Sampanthar, and Sivanesar in a procession through the north mada street reach temple entrance. In the afternoon Kapaleeshwarar grants them his dharshan.

In the evening the deities from other temples gather in their palanquins just like the devotees who gather from all over the neighbouring villages. Mundakakanni Amman, Kolavizhi Amman, Vasuki with Thiruvalluvar, and Draupadi amman join the procession. From Chindaderipet Lord Murugan joins them in his palanquin. Even with the flag hoisting for the festival, Mylapore has begun to transform to a village it once was. The pavements are filled with shops that sell earthenware, plastic toys, fruits, vegetables, and trinkets of all kinds. Balloons and Kurava gypsy sales women dot the streets. Suddenly the four streets surrounding the Mylapore tank gains prominence with its rows full of little shops and fathers carrying their children on their shoulders.Pandals serving buttermilk to ice-cream, brinji to pongal spring all over. The police loudspeakers scream warnings of safety. A sea of humanity, about ten lakhs people converge into these four streets.

In the picturesque procession Chandikeswarar, Appar, Sundarar, Sampanthar, and Manickavasagar are given separate palanquins. Eighteen other palanquins accommodate the other nayanmar. With the Vinayaka palanquin leading in the front Kapaleeshwarar comes in the silver float with thousand wearing rudhrakshas and singing Thevaram If you forget the sweat, crowd, and heat the sight is incredible and photogenic as it is also a telling visual of the rural folks asserting themselves over the metropolitan façade of Chennai.