KUMBAKONAM:The once-in-12 years Mahamaham, considered Kumbh Mela of South, began on Saturday with the hoisting of the ceremonial flag at six Shiva temples, including the Aadhi Kumbeswarar temple.
Immediately after the flags were hoisted, heads of two Saivite mutts took a dip in the Mahamaham tank to mark the inauguration of the event, which would go on till February 22, when the main ceremony of Teerthavari would be performed.
At 12 noon, flags were hoisted at Aadhikumbeswarar, Nageswarar, Kasiviswanathar, Abimugeswarar, Kalahastheeswarar and Someshwarar temples. Following this, mutt heads Shanmuga Desiga Gnana Sambandar (Dharumapuram), Ambalavana Desigar (Tiruvavaduthurai) took a dip in the northern bank of the Mahamaham tank. Jayendra Saraswati, head of the Kanchi mutt took part in the flag hoisting ceremony at Kasiviswanathar temple and also took a dip.
Union Minister of State for Surface Transport Pon Radhakrishnan, State Ministers R Vaithilingam (Housing and Agriculture), R Kamaraj (Food), M Veerashanmugha Moni, Commissioner of HR&CE , Dr. N Subbaiyan, Thanjavur Collector were among those who took a holy dip.
Though Mahamaham was deemed to have begun formally only after the flags were hoisted and mutt heads took a dip in the tank around noon, hundreds of devotees started taking a holy dip right from the early hours of the day.
Many of them were seen collecting water from all the 20 wells inside the tank, designated as 20 theerthas like Ganga theertham, Yamuna Theertha, Cauvery theertham, Godavari theertham, Narmada theertham, and sprinkled it on themselves.
Devotees would be allowed to take a dip in the Mahamaham tank from 6 am to 10 pm till February 22 when the main function of Theerthavari will be held and lakhs of people are expected to take part.
N Sriram, an executive with a MNC in Chennai, was happy to have taken a dip in the Mahamaham tank on Saturday, the first day of the festival. “I came with my wife on the first day itself as there will be huge crowd for Teerthavari”, he said adding that this is the first time he is participating in the festival. Rajagopalan of Mayiladuthurai accompanied his elderly father and uncles from Chennai to the Mahamaham tank. “The elderly people would have difficulties in navigating the crowd on Theerthavari day, therefore we came on the first day”, said Rajagopalan, who was visibly pleased at the arrangements for bathing.
Dakshinamurthy (69) of Neelathanallur near Kumbakonam said he would again come on Theerthavari day. This is the fourth Mahamaham for him. A group of school children in Cuddalore district were brought by their teachers to give them an exposure to the festival.
The Health department officials are continously monitoring the quality of water being released in the tank. They are measuring the Chlorine level and If the level goes below 2 pm, additional chlorination is being done. S Asokan, Chief Engineer of Water Resources Organisation (WRO) of Public Works Department said water from Arasalaru would be released at the rate of 400 litres per second continuously.
“Water is pumped out at the same rate and let into Cauvery river through a canal,” he added.