Sunday, June 12, 2016

Kallazhagar Temple, Alagarkoil, Madurai - Religious Practises & Festivals

Kallazhagar Temple, Alagarkoil, Madurai - Religious Practises & Festivals
The temple follows the traditions of the Thenkalai sect of Vaishnavite tradition and follows Vaikhanasa Aagama. In modern times, the temple priests perform the pooja (rituals) during festivals and on a daily basis. As at other Vishnu temples of Tamil Nadu, the priests belong to the Vaishnavaite community, a Brahmin sub-caste. Six daily rituals are held at various times of the day and many yearly festivals are held at the temple, of which the float festival during the Tamil month of Masi (February – March), Navarathri during September–October and Vaikunta Ekadasi during Margazhi (December–January) being the most prominent. There are weekly, monthly and fortnightly rituals performed in the temple.
Every year during the Tamil month of Chithirai, Chithirai Thiruvizha is celebrated. Chithirai Thiruvizha is about Meenakshi's (Azhakar's Sister) Marriage and Azhakar itself. First 15 days is about Meenakshi and her marriage and next 15 days is about Azhakar. The main event is Kallazhagar Crossing the Vaigai River. Millions of people gather in Vaigai River to see this event. While Kallazhagar enters the river he comes to know that his sister marriage has been ended already, he returns to Karupparayar Mandapam and then he takes ten Avatharam then returns to Azhakar Kovil. This temple got a new Car, after 300 years, built with a team of 15 artisans using Vengai tree wood for the structure and Burma teakwood for sculptures. The trial run was held on 6 July 2015.
Chithirai Festival:
It is said that a Vaishnava Nayak King Thirumalai Naayakkar, a great devotee of Goddess Meenakshi, had a wish to affiliate the Brahmotsavam Celebrations of Meenakshi Amman temple and Sri Kallazhagar Perumal Temple. And with this fusion, he aimed to develop communal geniality between the two different tradition peoples Saivites (Who worship Lord Shiva as the Supreme Being) and Vaishnavites (Who worship Lord Vishnu as the Supreme Being).
This affiliation was happily accepted by both the sects and regarding this, the king Thirumalai Nayakkar built a Ship shaped Mandapam (hall) on the Vaigai River, located at the place Vandiyur, named as Thenur Mandapam where the Mandooga Rishi celebration takes place even today. The famous ‘Madurai Chithirai Thiruvizha‘(Madurai Chithirai Festival) celebrated with a great grand manner once in a year during the Tamil month of ‘Chithirai’ (April – May) in the ancient city Madurai, also named as ‘Temple City’ of Tamilnadu.
Chithirai festival of this temple celebrated for ten days is one of the declared festivals of Tamilnadu Government. This festival day is declared as Local Holiday. During the Chithirai Festival celebration, when the celestial wedding ceremony of Goddess Meenakshi to Lord Sundareswarar is celebrated in the Madurai City, Lord Kallazhagar travels to Madurai. A gold processional idol of Lord Kallazhagar is carried by devotees in procession from Azhagar Kovil to Madurai for wedding ritual.
This Chithirai Festival is celebrated with two separate events. First event is for Goddess Meenakshi (Goddess Shakthi) and the continuous event is for Lord Kallazhagar (Lord Vishnu). These events are called by ‘Meenakshi Sundareswarar Thirukkalyanam’ (Celestial Wedding Ceremony of Goddess Meenakshi) and ‘Kallazhagar Vaigai Aatril Ezhuntharulal’ (Lord Kallazhagar enters into the River Vaigai).
In Chithirai, Lord Kallalagar starts from Alagar Kovil in the form of Kallar and reaches Madurai on Pournami (Full Moon day). Here he steps into river Vaigai in his horse Vaganam. Lakhs of devotees flock to river Vaigai to see this event. “Ethir Sevai” festival is celebrated on the day before Alagar steps into river Vaigai. It is a tradition for the people of Madurai to welcome Alagar. A legend is that ‘Lord Kallazhagar’ (Lord Vishnu) came ride on a golden horse to Madurai from Azhagar Kovil to participate in the Celestial Wedding Ceremony of His Sister ‘Goddess Meenakshi’ (Goddess Shakthi) and ‘Lord Sundareswarar’ (Lord Shiva).
Kallazhagar arrives to Madurai late and while gets into the river ‘Vaigai’, He was instructed about the wedding ceremony that has been ended. He gets angry and decides to proceed back to home. As Alagar returns from Vandiyur, Dhasavatharam festival is celebrated throughout the night at Ramarayar Mandapam in the Northern part of river Vaigai. Before He starts for the Utsavam, a garland of Tulsi from Srivilliputtur Sri Andal is weared to him. This is done every year showing and expressing the love of Sri Andal towards Kallazhagar. After this event Alagar is taken to Mysore Veera Mandapam on decorated Anantharayar Palanquin. The next morning Alagar in the form of Kallar returns to Alagar Kovil in ‘Poo Pallakku'(Palanquin decorated with flowers).
However, He gives the Gifts to the representatives of Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareswarar that has been already brought from Azhagar Kovil by him. While Lord Kallazhagar returning back to Azhagar Kovil, He was pleased by the prayers of ‘Mandooka Rishi’. So he went to Vandiyur Thenur Mandapam (A Hall with Pillars) to cure the curse of Mandooka Rishi. As per Mandooka Rishi’s wish Lord Kallazhagar showed him the ‘Dasavatharam’ (All the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu) postures in Ramarayar Mandapam (A Hall with Pillars) and blessed him.
‘Lord Kallazhagar Event’ is an important part of ‘Madurai Chithirai Festival’ celebrated by his devotees in a great grand manner in a time span of four days in the Madurai City. In the month of April and May, each year the great Chitra festival is celebrated on Pournami (full moon day). The Festival dramatically reenacts the visitation of Lord Kallalagar to Madurai from Alagarkoil. Lakhs of devotees flock to river Vaigai to personally witness the event of lord Alagar stepping down into the river and to get his blessings.
During the months of July and August the festival of Aadi Brahmorchavam is being celebrated for 10 days. This festival occurs within the precincts of the shrine. Devotees from different parts of Tamilnadu throng to participate in this festival. The temple car ‘Amaiththa Narayanan’ is taken in procession during Pournami (Full-Moon day) of Aadi (Brahmorchavam).
Unique Pilgrim Center:
The Azhvaars have sung in praise of the stories of Lord Vishnu who gives ‘Darshan’ in 108 temples. Divya Prabandham’. Though there are more than 108 temples, only those temple which have been glorified in the songs of Azhvaars are referred to as Divya Desams’. Moolavar of this temple is seen carrying five different weapons. Among them chakra is in launched position.
Other Festivals:

Chithirai grand festival
Vasantha festival
Muppala festival
Aadi grand festival
Thiru Pouthira festival
Navarathri festival
Thailakappu (Sri Perumal visiting Noopura Gangai)
Karthigai Deepa festival
Thiruvadhyayana festival (Pagal Pathu Rappathu festival)
Kanu festival
Gajendra Motcham festival, Float festival
Thirukalyana Festival