MADURAI: Madurai's magnum opus event -- Chithirai Festival has been cancelled due to the lockdown measures taken to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic. The celestial wedding (Thirukalyanam) of Meenakshi - Sundareswarar is to be live-streamed on May 4.
In a statement issued by the Joint Commissioner of Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple N Natarajan, he stated that the Chithirai Festival which was scheduled to commence on April 25 has been cancelled due to the present pandemic situation. Consequently, the flag hoisting ceremony, coronation ceremony, Dig Vigayam and the temple car festival would not be held, he added.
However, besides the daily rituals being performed, the celestial wedding of the temple's presiding deities - Meenakshi and Sundareswarar would be conducted on May 4 between 9.05 am and 9.29 am, mentioned the Joint Commissioner.
The statement further read, "Adopting adequate precautions, only four priests are to conduct the celestial wedding at the temple's Sethi Mandapam where the Utsavar deities have been kept. The ritual would be live-streamed on the temple's official website - maduraimeenakshi.org."
Speaking to TNIE, Natarajan said, "This is not the first time that the Chithirai Festival is being cancelled. Although we couldn't verify historical records, it is said that the festival was cancelled earlier in the times of Second World War, plague outbreak and during the Delhi Sultanate invasion during the 13th century."
He further noted that, the annual festival that is held for fortnight witnesses a footfall of 5 to 10 lakhs, with nearly 1.5 lakh devotees including 100-150 foreigners attending the celestial wedding ceremony alone.
"Usually, nearly 20 priests perform the celestial wedding as priests from Tirupanrankundram Subramaniyaswamy temple who bring Lord Subramaniasamy with his consort Dheivanai and Lord Pavalakanivai Perumal to accompany the divine couple during the wedding rituals, too take part. Now, the number of priests have been restricted to only four."