The grand ‘ther’ procession of the Panguni festival of Sri Kapali Temple has taken place this Sunday and thousands of people from Mylapore and across the city took part in it.
The rituals were held from 6 a.m. onwards at the temple and the green flag was waved at at 7.04 a.m. to signal the first roll of the chariot’s giant wheels.
After a pooja at Sri Kapali temple volunteers placed the Pancha murthis – Sri Somaskandar, goddess Karpagambal, Sri Vinayagar, Sri Murugar and Sri Chandikeshwarar inside their respective chariots, grand decorated too.
A few hundred people had crowded around the chariot on East Mada Street to witness the spectacle and though daytime temperatures are hitting 29/30 degrees, the morning was cool.
There have been occasions in the past when people used to throw water on the volunteers who push the chariot to cool them.
The big gathering of devotees called out ‘Kapali! Kapali!!’ as the ther started moving from its shed.
In order to lubricate the wheels of ther, crystal salt (kal uppu) and black pepper (melagu) were spread on the road under the wheels.
Students of Natyanjali dance school followed the ther and performed Bharatanatyam when it stopped at the pandals for archanai. They danced to music on stories related to Sri Kapali Temple through their short recitals, gamely dancing even as the sun beat down as the morning passed.
The performance was organised by Mylapore Kapaleecharam group. A volunteers of the group managed the crowd when the students were performing.
Devotees were seen talking about and praying to their favourite deities as the chariots passed. A senior devotee says, “Kapali is my son.” And an 11-year-old boy added, “Kapali is my friend,” and called out his name with the hope he would get a clear view of the deity.
Many devotees rushed towards the ther when it was taking a right turn at South Mada Street – this is a challenging turn to take, but there were no hiccups ( a large JCB followed the chariots – kept in attendance in case help was needed to nudge the biggest chariot).
“It’s very auspicious to see the ther while it turns near Chitrakulam,” Y. Uma told us; she was here from Purasaiwalkam.
As the ther rolled down South Mada Street donors offered varieties of pongal, buttermilk, rose milk, theradi manjal-kumkumam to the devotees.
And the crowd began to to swell. When it joined R. K. Mutt Road there were many thousand people and the procession was expected to reach the temple precinct past 1 p.m.
Scores of contract civic workers kept sweeping the road once the procession passed and thus, the area was spic and span. However, people manning some stalls offering buttermilk and water did not provide enough bins to contain the refuse.
All the hawkers who had set up shop the previous days were told to vacate.
A large contingent of city police, men and women were deployed. From the Vanniyar Sangham hall on East Mada Street, women sang religious verses which were broadcast publicly and by 9 a.m., a team of doctors and medical aid volunteers descended her to set up a medical aid centre to cater to people who may be injured, exhausted or sick.