Float festival in Madurai attracts thousands of visitors

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Blankets of colour surrounded Mariamman Teppakulam on Saturday during the annual float festival, as thousands thronged the temple tank hoping to catch a glimpse of the presiding deities of Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple, Meenakshi and Sundareswarar.

The 12-day festival reached its crescendo as the decorated temple float wafted through a brimming tank, on Thai Poosam, the birth star of King Tirumalai Nayak. The 22-acre tank housed a bright temple float, a replica of the interiors of the Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple.

Joint Commissioner of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR and CE) Department and Executive Officer of the temple, N. Natarajan, said that they had specifically made arrangements to ensure that the images printed on the teppam or the float were similar to the insides of the sanctum sanctorum of the temple as they wanted to recreate the experience for those visiting from far away places. “With enough water this year, people from afar can see the gods as the float is buoyant. Floral arrangements and the decoration on the tank have been made by experts in Tiruchi,” he said.

The float was taken around the tank twice starting 11.15 a.m. As per convention, youth from the Devendrakula Velalar community from nearby Anuppanadi pulled the float around the central mandapam of the tank using nylon ropes. The group was led by Agniveeran, who said that his family has been participating in the process of pulling the float since the tank was first built. At the central mandapam, priests performed special pujas.

Earlier in the day, the deities were taken in a procession through the Chithirai streets, East Masi Street, Yanaikkal, Nelpettai and Kamarajar Road to Muktheeswarar Temple near Teppakulam.

Foreign tourists clicked pictures of the festivities and vendors selling treats saw brisk business.

Two boats filled with fire and rescue personnel surveyed the premises and stayed close to the float to ensure that no untoward accidents took place.

Traffic flow on the Kamarajar Road was blocked from 10.30 a.m. to 12 p.m.

The festival is expected to see larger crowds in the evening when the float completes its last round around the temple tank.

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