Grand prelude to Mylapore's biggest festival
For CITY: The annual car festival at Mylapore Sri kapaleeswarar Temple. Photo: K_V_Srinivasan | The Hindu

Be it picking up seven plastic toys for Rs. 50 from a pavement vendor or choosing from a bundle of ‘kolam' stickers outside Indra Stores or buying liquid soap-filled containers to blow bubbles from, it's fun choosing stuff you don't really need. And this week, with the shops that have sprung up in Mylapore for the Arubathu Moovar festival at the Sri Kapaleeswarar Temple, there's no better time to indulge in unnecessary shopping.

D. Thilagavathy, a resident of Mylapore, was one of the thousands of devotees who had come to watch the car festival here on Tuesday. “Ours is a joint family and we bring all the children to the festival,” she said. “We are here for every occasion, including the Ther (Chariot), ‘Arubathu Moovar', ‘Panguni Uthram', and ‘ Adhikara Nandi'. The children ask for everything that they see. Each child will spend at least Rs. 100 on toys. We also enjoy buying them these things,” she added. Each time the chariot moved with the ‘uthsava' idols of Lord Kapaleeswarar and Karpagamabal, the four Mada streets resounded with the shouts of devotees. Water was sprinkled on the path of the chariot and several philanthropists distributed food, water, buttermilk and ‘paanagam' to the devotees.

When the temple car finally came to a halt, a winding queue of devotees waited to clamber onto it to get a better glimpse of the idols. I too, got onto the chariot along with my mother.

Two five-rupee tickets allowed us a few seconds of “proximity” to the gods. But it was a dangerous ride as there was hardly any space and one small misstep could lead to your hurtling down several feet to the ground. Able volunteers in the chariot stood minding every devotee who stepped onto it. After over four hours of following the temple car, the attention of the crowds turned to the vendors.

Adults too were enjoying the shopping.

With such variety on offer, it is hard to resist spending everything one has. You can pick up fake Kundan jewellery sets for Rs. 50, toy watches for Rs. 20 or Rs. 30 , Indianised Vuvuzelas that emit a deep booming sound when blown for Rs.10, and even earthen pots and pans. Visiris (handheld fans made of palm leaves), kumkum and thali charadu — considered auspicious sold the most, said a lady at the Srividya Manjal Kumkum shop.

Scholar Sudha Seshayyan says that the Panguni Uthiram Thiruvizha festival celebrated in most temples is very auspicious. “It is said that it was on that day that Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi married, Lord Muruga and Devayani married and Goddess Mahalakshmi was born. The Arubathu Moovar festival is of special significance to the Kapali temple as of the 63 Nayanmars, Thirugnanasambandar is very important. He is said to have brought to life the daughter of Sivanesa Chettiyar of Mylapore.

The girl was called Poompaavai. She came to life after he finished singing a pathigam where he describes all the festivals associated with the Kapali temple. This festival also shows the importance given to devotion and devotees. The Lord will be pleased if his devotees are happy,” Dr. Seshayyan explained.

Somehow Mylapore seems to have become livelier and merrier. Perhaps it is in anticipation of Wednesday's festival when the 63 Nayanmars of Lord Shiva are taken out in a procession. On Wednesday, festivities at the temple will begin at 9 a.m. The procession of the idols will be at 3 p.m. and it will take at least four hours to end.

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