Madurai Float Festival
Madurai Float Festival is one of the major festivals in Tamilnadu. Madurai Float Festival is celebrated on the full moon night of the Tamil month Thai and this generally falls between January and February. The entire Madurai gets crazy during this festival. The Madurai Float Festival tradition is quite old. In fact the concept of Madurai Float Festival will lurk as back to the seventeenth century when it was first observed by King Thirumalai Nayak. Thirumalai Nayak had constructed an artificial tank, and constructed a shrine of Lord Vigneswara on a island in the middle of it. The idols were taken out for a boat cruise in that tank on the birthday of Thirumalai Nayak. So if you are asking when is Madurai Float Festival celebrated, the answer is it is celebrated on the birthday of King Thirumalai Nayak. This was the beginning of the tradition.
Madurai Float Festival Celebrations
Madurai Float Festival Celebrations are quite grand and befit the glory of the Athens of India. No sooner than the dawn breaks, a procession headed by the idols of Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareshwarar sets out from the temple. Next, the deities are mounted in golden palanquins, escorted by elephants, bands of musicians, and devotees unnumbered. Thus, amidst great pomp and grandeur, they are taken to the aforesaid tank. Arriving there, the deities are placed in a Mandapam and the devotees worship them. Then, the idols are once again mounted in palanquins and then seated on a raft, or rather a raft like structure. The raft is nicely decorated with colourful garlands, silken buntings as well as paper lanterns.
Nicely seated on the raft, it is time for the deities to take a round in the lake. This is done with the help of ropes. After floating on the water for some time, the raft returns to the central island to remain there till the evening. Meanwhile, devotees flock to the island by boats and worship the gods. As the evening approaches, colourful and mesmerizing lights illuminate the island temple while tiny oil-lamps lit here and there around the lake gives the place a divine ambience. The reflections of those lights in water creates a glazing beauty, and the lake itself seems to be glowing in light.
Next, the decorated and ornamented raft is changed into a scintillating thing. Fireworks begin on the shore. The float is then again set to take the gods back; and after a full round all around the lake it is taken back to the shore. Then the deities, on golden horseback, find their mazy ways through cheers, fireworks, and the prayers of the devotees, back to the temples. Float Festival in Madurai comes to an end.
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