Chithirai Thiruvizha (Festival celebrated during the Tamil month of Chitirai) is an annual celebration celebrated in Madurai during the month of April. It is one of the longest celebrations of the world and lasts for one month. The first 15 days of the festival is celebrated for Meenakshi, and the next 15 days are celebrated for Alagar (A form of lord Mahavishnu).
Historically it was two separate events. The first is Meenakshi festival that was celebrated on a different month and Alagar festival celebrated on a different month as two separate celebrations.
Meenakshi is the daughter of Pandya king Malayathuvaja Pandian and his queen Kanchanamalai, The royal couples didn't have a child for a long time. So, he did special pujas and offered his prayers to the God. During the puja a small girl came out of the fire and sat on the lap of the king. At that time a divine voice from the sky told them that this child is avatar of Sakthi (Wife of Lord Shiva) and Lord Shiva will come to marry her at the right age. Meenakshi became a young woman and was trained in all warfare and she was crowned as Queen of Pandya kingdom after her father. She conquered the whole world with her extraordinary war skill and at last she went to Kailayam (The Place of Lord Shiva) to conquer it. When Meenakshi meet Lord Shiva at the battlefield she fell in love with him and realised that She is an avatar of Sakthi, (Lord Shiva's wife).
Lord Shiva assured Meenakshi that he will come to Madurai to marry her. As promised Lord Shiva along with all the Devas and rishi's came to Madurai to attend the holy wedding. Lord Shiva married Meenakshi and ruled the Pandya kingdom under the name Sundara Pandyan.
Mandooka rishi (a saint) was taking bath in the holy waters of Aagaayaganga in Alagar hills. At that time the most powerful and tempered Durvasar Maharishi came by the way. Mandooka rish haden't noticed his arrival, But durvasa thought that Mandooka rishi is insulting him by not welcoming him. So he cursed Mandooka to became a frog and live in river vaigai. Mandooka was worried by the curse and pleaded for mercy. Durvasa told him to go to Vaigai and pray Lord Alagar to get out of his curse and get back his human body. As advised by Doorvasa he went to river vaigai and lived in the river as a frog and pray lord Alagar.
Alagar was pleased by the prayers of Mandooka rishi and he himself went to river vaigai to cure the curse of Mandooka rishi. And, as per mandooka's wish he showed him All the ten avatars of Lord vishnu and blessed him.
During the rule of King Thirumalai Nayakar both the festivals were merged as one single event to unite the peoples of two groups (Saivism and Vaishnavite). Since then this is celebrated as one grand event during the Tamil month of Chitirai and this gives the celebration its famous name Chitirai Tiruvizha..
People in and around Madurai tell this story as the history of Chitirai Tiruvizha.
Alagar (Lord Vishnu) is the elder brother of meenakshi (Goddess Parvathi). Alagar is located in Alagar Hills which is approx 20 km from Madurai. Alagar was invited to attend the wedding of Meenakshi and Shiva in Madurai city. He started from Alagar Hills which is a dense forest even these days. In order to protect him and his belongings from robbers he decided to dress himself as a robber and travel to Madurai.
Alagar is travelling to Madurai by hiding himself from the robbers and also the security persons (Because he have dressed like a robber). So he was late by one day to his sister's wedding. When he was crossing the river Vaigai people told him that his sister got married without his presence.
He got angry on this and knowing this Lord Meenakshi and Shiva also came to Vaigai river to explain him about the situation. He gave all the gifts he brought to Meenakshi and Shiva for their wedding to them in a Mandabam (A Small building) in the middle of river vaigai and returned to Alagar Hill without entering Madurai.
List of events
The following are the list of events in Chithirai Thiruvizha.
During this event the chief priest of Meenakshi amman temple will hoist the holy flag on the KodiMaram (Flag post) of the temple. This event declares the long event open. The flag will stay on the flag post until the end of the festival.
Pattabisekam is coronation ceremony. Meenakshi is crowned as the queen of Madurai on this day and she will rule the Pandya Kingdom for the next four months and after that her husband Lord Sunderaswarar will be crowned as the king of Madurai for the next eight months.
When Meenakshi amman is crowned as the queen of Pandya kingdom she went into war with all the countries in the world and conquered the whole world and she went to Kailaayam (The Place of Lord Shiva in Himalayas) to conquer that. But, on seeing lord shiva on the battlefield she fell in love with him and married him..
Meenakshi Tiukalyanam is the great grand wedding celebration of Meenakshi amman and Lord shiva in Madurai. Lord shiva come to Madurai to marry Menakshi is a grand wedding celebration. This tradition is still followed today.
The day after Meenakshi Tirukalyanam is Ther Thiruvizha (Car Festival). The King and Queen of Pandya Kingdom Lord Sunderaswarar and Meenakshi will come to see their citizens in a well decorated chariot which is a huge and Magnificent wooden structure. Thousands of peoples will gather at the streets of Madurai to pull the chariot and to witness the celebration.
Part of the Chithirai brahmotsavam of Lord Kallazhagar Temple at Alagarkoil, the ‘Ethir Sevai' began on the fourth day of the festival. Alagar enters Madurai city and the peoples of the city welcomes him.
Alagar Vaigai Elenthuarulal
After the holy marriage of Madurai Meenakshi Amman her brother tries to come to the marriage. Lord Alagar comes from Alagarkoil to Madurai slowly and by making couple of stops on the way. It is considered that when reaching the vaigai river bank, he hears that marriage is over, so he gets angry and returns to Alagarkovil after giving the gifts to Meenakshi and sundereswarar and this event happens in a mandapam in the middle of river vaigai.
- Poopalaku (Alagar come in a Palanquin decorated with flowers)
- Dasavatharam (10 Avatars of Lord Vishnu)
Alagar Vaigai attril Elunthuarulal