It was close to midnight on Thursday (March 11) when Sri Kapaleeswarar was back at the temple after a three hour mada streets procession.
For the next few hours Hereditary Priest Venkatasubramanian Shivachariar was at the alankara mandapam with his team members decorating Sri Kapaleeswarar ahead of the popular Adhikara Nandi procession on Friday morning.
Roping in Guest Priests . . .
Specifically for the festival, he has roped in over 20 priests from Chennai and outside including from Tiruvannamalai, Chidambaram, Madurai and Sirkazhi to help him with alankaram, abhisekam and the street processions.
He provides accommodation for all of them and a handsome sambhavanai for their support at the festival. His wife turns a full time cook through the festival days, cooking morning and evening for these ‘guest’ priests.
Management of Moolavar Sannidhis
Between the three hereditary priests, Balaji Gurukal, Kapali Vaidhyanathan Gurukal and Venkatasubramanian Shivachariar, they split their daily tasks between alankaram, abhisekam and the street processions.
While the Panguni festival is the big focus area, the daily pooja in each of the moolavar sannidhis too has to be taken care of during these 10days.
In a display of smart event management, they assign the priests for each session for each of the moolavar sannidhis as well as the priests to go along with each deity in each of the street processions. Priests are also assigned to support the abhisekam and alankaram. Jewels Management is another important aspect of the festival.
For the outstation priests who are here to play a support role, it is a nice experience to be part of such a big festival, something that they believe will help them greatly when they anchor the annual festival in their temples back home.
Jayakanthan Shivachariar says that on Tuesday and Wednesday (March 15 and 16), the days of the Chariot procession and Arubathumoovar will be particularly hectic for the priests at the temple and the 48 hours starting Monday night will be one of the most tiring days of the year for them.
The task of managing the daily pooja at the sannidhis, the challenge of ensuring that the deities are ready for every procession on time during these 10 days and the high expectations of devotees looking forward to a beautiful decoration of Sri Kapaleeswarar at each vahana procession brings out the best out of three hereditary priests.
During these ten days, the teamwork of these priests is at its best as they constantly co-ordinate amongst themselves to ensure that everything goes as per plan and the devotees are presented with a special devotional experience each day of Mylapore’s biggest temple festival.