Madurai Alagar Temple- Festival of cultural Identity

The Madurai Alagar Temple, is a significant Vaishnavite Hindu temple located in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India. A religiously and historically important temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu in his form as Alagar, it is situated in the midst of the picturesque foothills of the Alagar Hills.

The ancient history of the temple can be learned from the centuries old inscriptions and ancient Tamil literature. It is believed to have been built by the Early Pandyas with later additions made by Vijayanagara kings and Madurai Nayakas. Literary mentions show that the temple is more than 1000 years old. The temple is one of the 108 Divya Desams on which Azhwars did Mangalasasanam(singing the greatness of the deity). The temple has an unique aspect of being surrounded by a fort. While the inner part is known as Iraniyan Fort the outer part is called the Alagapuri port.

In recent times Azhagar Kovil is best known for the famous Chithirai festival during which lakhs of devotees throng the streets of Madurai to get a glimpse of Lord Vishnu in the form of a hunter with the name Kallazhagar. Legend says that Manduga Maharishi was cursed by Sage Durvasa when the former failed to properly welcome the latter as he was meditating on Maha Vishnu. Due to the curse he transformed into a frog and was given relief by Maha Vishnu in the form of Kallazhagar when he did penance in the Vaigai river.

மதுரையின் சிறப்பு- அழகர் கோவில்!

It is said that the Kallazhagar festival and Meenakshi festival used to be held at different times and it was Thirumalai Nayakkar, who combined both in his tenure as the ruler of Madurai. With the festivals being combined a new legend was born. It goes that, Kallazhagar, as the brother of Meenakshi, came to attend her marriage, but couldn’t due to unprecedented floods in the Vaigai river, and had to return after giving relief to Manduga Maharishi.

Devotees throng the streets of Madurai as Kallazhagar leaves from Azhagar Kovil to attend his sister’s marriage and welcome him with jaggery. Emotions run high as people get a glimpse of Kallazhagar as he passes through their houses, an once in a year phenomenon. As the festival is held during the peak of summer, devotees offer water, buttermilk, panagam, chitrannam and other kinds of edibles to keep the energy high and beat the heat. It is truly a festival of equality as people from all walks of lives stand shoulder to shoulder craning their heads to look at the beautiful idol of Kallazhagar.

The festival lasts for 15 days with Kallazhagar returning to his abode on the last day. One can see devotees literally tearing up, already looking up next year’s calendar to look forward to his arrival, sending him back half-heartedly. Kallazhagar will be leaving Azhagar Kovil on April 21 this year and will relieve the curse on Manduga Maharishi the next day. Madurai has already decked up itself for the double dhamaka of Meenakshi Kalyanam and arrival of Kallazhagar and eagerly awaits the centuries old historical moment.

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