The harmony between Muslims and Hindus turned out to be the highlight of the Chithirai festival in Madurai as Muslim women who sold ‘pooja’ materials felt proud about the annual festival in the Temple City.
While lakhs of devotees witnessed the entry of Lord Kallazhagar into the Vaigai river in the early hours of Wednesday, Hindus filled Sungam Pallivasal Street in Muslim-populated Nelpettai, where a mosque (Sungam mosque) is located.
“Annae santhanam, anchurubha vanga (brother come, sandal paste is for just `5)”, cried a five-year-old Muslim girl (A Ajira) with her toothless jaws on Sungam Pallivasal Street while selling sandal paste for devotees who tonsured their heads.
Muslim women and children were found selling ‘pooja’ materials to devotees. “When I was a child, me and my brother used to sell sandal paste and camphor to the devotees of the Chithirai festival. Still, we are continuing the ‘one day’ sale”, said A Kathija (34), the mother of the girl.
Though this one-day sale would not help them earn much, they continue to sell it. “It would always be good to witness such a large crowd. Even children were enjoying it,” said Sajathi (60) of Nelpettai.
“Selling pooja materials might just be like respecting their (Hindus) festival,” said Kathija, who was also a district executive committee member of the National Women’s Front.
“After all religious people were human beings and there may be a difference in their worship. We (Muslims) are proud of the Chithirai festival,” A Maimoon (60) said.
Muslims have also provided free food and water to the devotees who reached this tiny street with full of old cloth wholesale shops. For the past five years, a group of old cloth merchants has been providing free food and water to all devotees. “We were doing it for a good cause,” said A Sultan Samsuddhin (23) while distributing water packets to devotees.