With the pandemic time restrictions coming into force on Saturday, this was to be the final street procession of April in Mylapore perhaps.
And what a grand one it turned out to be late on Friday night at Mari Street.
On Thursday evening, the trustees and the priest had taken a call to prepone the Garuda sevai of the Panguni Utsavam at the Mari Chetty Street Sri Venkatesa Perumal temple by a day to Friday evening.
The loud beating of the drums at 8pm announced to the residents that the Lord was ready for the procession. Hundreds of devotees gathered at the south corner of the Mari Chetty Street while the priest was providing the final touches to the alankaram inside the Vahana mandapam.
As firecracker rockets shot up the sky and crackers were burst, the screen opened at 8.30pm to the loud cheers of the devotees as Sri Venkatesa Perumal came out of the mandapam mounted atop a beautifully decorated Garuda.
The huge crowd that had gathered at the entrance of the temple meant there was not an inch to move around. With devotees presenting vastrams to the Lord, it was not before 9pm that the lord was able to start on the procession.
In historical temple towns, it is a practice for the Lord to stop in front of every house accepting the gifts from the devotees and offering his blessings through the shatari. This final procession of the month reminded one of the traditional practice in remote towns.
As Venkatesa Perumal went around the Norton Streets, there were devotees in scores standing outside their homes to greet the Lord with fruits, flowers and coconuts. And in several homes, devotees came out with buttermilk packets for the Sripatham, the drum beaters and the Nagaswaram artistes.
Fast Paced Voyali on Sadayappan Street
It was well past 10 pm when the Sripatham provided a grand display of fast paced Voyali on Sadayappan Street that enthralled the residents of the area. It was one of the highlights of the procession with their movements in sync with the musical presentation.
On this street too, the Lord stopped at every house with the devotees delighted at being able to get the Garuda Sevai darshan this year.
Passing through R K Mutt Road, the lord finally made his way back on to Mari Chetty street with the clock just ticking past 11pm. The firecrackers and the rockets continued unabated for this was the final leg of the last street procession for this month and the service personnel made merry.
While the conduct of the Garuda sevai procession as part of this Brahmotsavam seemingly provided much happiness to the Trustee Loganathan, who accompanied the Lord all through the two and a half hour Garuda sevai procession, there seemed to be a tinge of sadness on the face of chief priest Vasudeva Bhattachar for there would be no procession of the Lord in Mohini Alankaram on Saturday morning and the special Pattabhiramar Thirukolam in the evening.
For the next six days of the Brahmotsavam, Sri Venkatesa Perumal would provide darshan in the respective Thiru Kolam and Vahana of the day stationed at the Vahana Mandapam of the temple. And unlike Friday night, when the Lord was back at the temple after the street procession well after 11pm, for the rest of the month, the temple has to close by 8pm and hence the evening vahana darshan is likely to be at 6.30pm.
For the devotees of Mari Chetty’s Sri Venkatesa Perumal, Friday night was a truly memorable one.
- Report, photos by S. Prabhu