Chithirai festival - Madurai

Chithirai festival, or Chitra festival, is one of the most important annual festivals held at the world famous Madurai Meenakshi Sundareshwar Temple at Madurai temple, 500-km from Chennai Tamil Nadu, South India. It is celebrated for 12 days during the Tamil month of Chithirai or Chitirai (April – May). In 2010, the date of commencement of Chithirai festival is April 16. Celestal Wedding or Thirukkalyanamof Lord Sundareswarar with Goddess Meenakshi is on April 25, 2010. The Car festival is on April 26.

The highlight is the procession of Lord 'Kallazhagar' (Lord Vishnu) the elder brother of Goddess Meenakshi, who proceeds from his abode - Azhagarmalai 30-km from Madurai, to give away his sister in marriage to Lord Sundareshwar. One can witness an ancient legend unfold right before your eyes as Lord Vishnu rides to his sister's wedding on gleaming real-gold horse chariot. The 'Kallazhagar' entering the river Vaigai is indeed a spectacular sight.

Legend has it that Lord Vishnu as Azhagar rode on a golden horse to Madurai to the celestial wedding of Goddess Meenakshi (Parvati) with Lord Sundareshwar (Lord Shiva).

On the occasion, a decorated chariot carrying the two idols of the couple is taken around the town to the tumultuous notes of Nadaswaram and beats of drums. A spiritual ambience descends on Madurai. As the procession passes through the streets and in the vicinity of the 'Devasthanam', devotees make offerings of coconuts, flowers, camphor and Agarbattis (incense sticks). A spirit of devotion marked by pomp and gaiety pervades right through the day. The festival draws a mammoth crowd. A trade exhibition and fairs organized here lend festivity to the occasion.

The Chithirai festival begins with flag hoisting ceremony.

The most important rituals associated with the festival are

the coronation of Meenakshi Amman on the eighth day, procession of Goddess Meenakshi on the ninth day,

Thirukalyanam or celestial wedding of Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareswarar on the tenth day, the car festival on the 11th day and the Theertha festival is celebrated on the 12th day with the Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi going round Masi streets and blessing the devotees.