It is 3pm on Tuesday (Nov 23).
All the sannidhis at Sri Kapaleeswarar Temple are open, an hour earlier than all other days of the week. A steady stream of devotees are seen heading to the Durgai sannidhi, north of the Kapaleeswarar sannidhi for the Rahu Kaalam Pooja.
An archaka walks into the moolavar sannidhi just after 3pm and he is immediately directed by chief priest E Venkatasubramanian Shivachariar to the Durgai sannidhi. For the next 90 minutes, devotees continue to make their way to the Durgai sannidhi and it is only at 4.30pm does the crowd thin out.
Venkatasubramanian Shivachariar explains the background to this trend that caught up in the 1980s. “To trigger the Bhakti movement that had slightly dipped in the 1970s, the concept of Rahu Kaalam Pooja was initiated around 40 years ago. Till about a decade ago, the crowd was so overwhelming that we had assigned two exclusive priests for the Durgai sannidhi on Tuesday between 3pm and 4.30pm. It was a phase when devotees would come with a lemon and light the ‘lemon lamp’ at the Durgai sannidhi.”
While Rahu kaalam pooja has not been prescribed in the agamas, this concept has definitely caught up at this temple since the 1980s. He says that the devotees believe that performing a pooja during the Rahu kaalam for Durgai will be good for a happy married life and also in child birth.
Interestingly, when it was decided to allow devotees into the sannidhis after the lockdown restrictions were lifted a couple of months back, the authorities at the temple chose Tuesday as the only day in the week to allow devotees in to facilitate the rahu kaalam pooja for Durgai.
Only subsequently, a few weeks later, were the devotees allowed entry into the Moolavar sannidhis on all other days of the week: such has been the importance given to the Rahu Kaalam Pooja for Durgai in recent times.
- Report by S. Prabhu