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PHOTOS: When the gods marry on earth

Last updated on: April 23, 2013 18:01 IST

PHOTOS: When the gods marry on earth

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Over one million devotees visit the Meenakshi Amman temple in Madurai for Chitirai Thiruvizha which also celebrates the marriage of Lord Shiva to Meenakshi.

The Meenakshi Thirukalyanam (the divine marriage of Goddess Meenakshi) is a special event for Madurai residents.

On this day, several devotees throng the Meenakshi Amman Temple in the city to witness the celestial wedding of Goddess Meenakshi also known as Parvathi with Lord Sundareswarar or Shiva.

Every year, in the Hindu month of Chaitra (or Chitirai in Tamil) the temple authorities convert the shrine's premises into a wedding hall decorating it with colourful festoons, light arrangements, banana trees and mango leaves.

The celestial wedding ceremony is part of the annual Chitirai Thiruvizha (thiruvizha meaning festival in Tamil) which attracts huge crowds from all over the state.

Additional inputs from PTI

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Image: TherTiruvizha (a chariot festival) at Madurai is a part of Chitirai Tiruvizha
Photographs: Military karthick/Wikimedia Commons

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Post the twin Hyderabad blasts in February 2013 this temple has been put under high alert by the Tamil Nadu police.

For the Chitirai festival, the state police makes tight security arrangements and devotees are frisked before being allowed in.



Image: Pandits perform the celestial marriage in Madurai's Meenakshi Amman temple
Photographs: Sree/Rediff Archives

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The Chitrai festival at the Meenakshi Amman temple which usually commences on the Tamil New Year (April 15 this year) lasts for nearly a fortnight.

It begins with the dhwajarohanam or kodiyettam. And, for the next eight days, the panchamoorthis (five deities) - (Vinayaka, Chandikeswara, Subramanya, Meenakshi and Sundareswara) tour the city on different vahanas (vehicles).

Image: An iconic statue inside the temple which depicts Lord Vishu handing over his sister Meenakshi in marriage to Shiva
Photographs: Suresh/Wikimedia Commons

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On the eighth day a procession of elephants and chariots transport the nuptial pair through the town streets and to the banks of the Vagai river to meet Meenakshi's brother Lord Kallalagar (an avatar of Vishnu) who is transported there from his hilltop abode at Algarkovil, outside Madurai.

Festivities include a spate of dramas depicting Meenakshi's life history.


Image: The Porthamarai Kulam (pond with the golden lotus) inside the temple is both sacred and significant for Hindus
Photographs: Mohan Krishnan/Wikimedia Commons

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The Meenakshi temple located on the southern bank of the river Vaigai attracts over 15,000 visitors a day and around 25,000 on Fridays.

However, during the celestial wedding festivities, it attracts over one million visitors.


Image: Shops selling idols and accessories inside the temple make good profits this season
Photographs: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com
Tags: PHOTOS , Vaigai

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Close to 50 priests perform pujas and attend to the rituals during the festive season.

The celestial marriage ceremony also known as Meenakshi Thirukalyanam is performed inside the temple.


Image: A sculpture on the temple's gopuram
Photographs: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com

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During the one month Chitirai festival a number of events are celebrated here including the Ther Thiruvizha (chariot festival) and Theppa Thiruvizhah (float festival).


Image: A view of the Thousand Pillar Hall inside the Meenakshi Amman temple
Photographs: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com

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Besides it religious significance, the Meenakshi Amman temple has also been a centre of education where Tamil culture, literature, art, music and dance thrive in harmony.



Image: A statue inside the Meenakshi temple
Photographs: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com

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The heritage temple is an important landmark that defines the 2,500 year old city of Madurai.

The Meenakshi Amman temple was also among the top 30 structures from India that were nominated for the New Seven Wonders of the World.

It is estimated that the temple's annual revenue is over Rs six crore (Rs 60 million).



Image: Devotees outside the Meenakshi Amman temple in Madurai
Photographs: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com

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