Continuing my post on Kochi Tirumala Devaswom temple I would like to take you through few glimpses of the Chaitra masa Festival held this March which I was fortunate enough to attend..
The Aaratt ( festival) is for 8 days and it starts with the flag hoisting ceremony. Every temple has a dwajasthambha but in this temple a flag pole,( stem of an arecanut tree) is erected on the first day and a flag with Garuda as the emblem is hoisted reciting Vedas.On all days there is Seeveli (Procession carrying the deity on elephant accompanied by percussion instruments) in the morning and evening and the temple gets crowded with devotees.. Mahaprasad(Feast) is served to the devotees and it is known as samaradhana. Samaradhana means all are considered equal here and every body sits together and partakes the Mahaprasad provided by the temple. The food is served on banana leaves and devotees sit on the floor for this. Enthusiastic youngsters vie with each other to serve food as they feel it is equal to serving the God Himself. The process starts with a kadina (fire cracker) and ends with the same. The whole process is completed with in half an hour and it is really a sight to see this samaradhana as more than ten thousand people are fed in this short period.
There are Yagnas for the welfare of the humanity and for peace These are conducted in the afternoons and evenings. The Lord Venkatachalapathy is taken around the temple in his golden palanquin.There are also vahana poojas i.e the deity is worshipped on different mounts like Hanuman, Aswa (Horse), Aadisesha,( serpent God) Surya( Sun ) and Chandra ,( Moon) Airavata the elephant) Garuda (The Eagle).etc.
From fourth day onwards the Lord starts visiting the house holds of His devotees and blesses them..He is taken around the temple streets and devotees welcome Him with fruits, flowers and various offerings they can afford. The grand procession carrying the deity comprises of priests, people carrying torches and lights, symbolic arms for protection, flag bearers , group of people playing on the drums- Pancha Vadyam and the majestic elephant in the lead. The seventh day is called as Nayattu ( Mrigaya,- royal hunt)and God ,Goddess and the Chakra are brought in Aswa, Surya and Chandra Vahanas. The Lord visits the nearby Udyaneshwara temple where Nayattu takes place.The Visits go on till the eighth day .
The last day thousands converge in this temple and seek the Lord's blessings. Avabrata snanam (abhishekam) is performed for the main deity of Venkatachlapathy . After that the Utsava Moorthy and the Sudarshana Chakra of the deity leave for the temple pond in a grand procession .Then deity is taken around in a decorated float and then the Chakra is given a Holy bath by the priest. The deity is kept in the mandapam there till the evening and after that the Samaradhana takes place. In the evening the deity comes out in a palanquin goes around the pond with the accompaniment of Seeveli and reaches the temple . Fire works are a part of this evening ritual. After that the Garuda vahana pooja takes place. The deity sitting atop the Garuda, blesses all his devotees and special aarti know as Khamba aarti is offered to the God. This Pooja goes on till 2-3 a.m the next day. By around 6 clock in the morning the flag is brought down which marks the culmination of the aaratt.
There are two aaratts in a year in this temple , one in March- April and the other one in November- December. The Gowda Saraswath Community scattered around the world try to come back to their roots to participate in this grand occasion which is a socio -religious affair .In fact many marriages get finalised during these eight days and it is really a treat to see boys and girls of marriageable age come decked up with new attractive attires of various hues and colours.
I would like to acknowledge S. Krishna Kumar Pai, Kochi for his photographs on float festival and the Holy bath. As seeing is believing I have a few photographs for your viewing.