When people generally speak of Dussehra, we get reminded of Mysore. Mysore palace is well lit and it attracts a lot of Indian as well as foreign tourists for the event. But there is one more place close to my hometown which has also awesome celebrations for Dussehra. This year I planned to check it out.
So this is what happens as far as I know about the festival. At day 1 of Dussehra, people take a set of vows like celibacy etc, and they dress up as different avatars something similar to Halloween in the west and ask for alms from different people. At the end of the tenth day, they visit the Arulmigu Mutharaman temple and offer their prayers to the presiding Goddess.
I drove to the temple from my hometown. I took the State Highway 176 from Kudankulam to Kulasekharapatnam. The roads were two-laned and they are part of the planned Chennai Kanyakumari Industrial Corridor (CKIC)
The trip was marked with cloudy sky and greenery all around. The geography here was a bit different from other roads I have driven. Since the road is along the east coast its filled with sand dunes and palm trees. The government had arranged for parking outside the village. We were made to park the vehicle outside the village and walk to the temple. One would also spot vehicles with people flooding to the temple on the way to the temple. Most of the vehicles where load auto rickshaws and lorries with devotees at the back of the vehicle.
After parking my car, I started walking along with the crowd hoping that following them will lead me to the temple eventually. At around 3 in the afternoon, the sun was high in the sky and it was really hot. The Devotees were walking in this hot sand without any footwear. I was able to overhear them talking how hot the climate is and literally, it felt like burning but they still continued on their path without any kind of footwear. A little faith can take you a long distance.
|Devotees resting under the shade of palm trees|
|I am following this crowd hoping they will lead me to the temple|
|These are the type of vehicles which brought them here|
One would all kind of devotees in the group. There were families with kids who had dressed up and families where the dad has dressed as Kali wearing a saree. Those kinds of things are not what you see daily in rural Tamil Nadu where a guy is dressed like a girl and walk in the streets.
|A village temple|
|Three devotees. One dressed as God, another as a madman and another as Kali with red paint all over him.|
|Seemed like Oasis in the desert when water was offered for free|
The landscape was so dry and not many trees to provide shade to the devotees. They had made temporary shelters with flex banners and most of them were resting under whatever shade they would find including lorries and palm trees. These devotees would have come here early and were waiting for the end of the day pooja. They were killing time lying around and some were seeing playing cards. This pilgrimage is like a yearly family trip for most of them. They had come with utensils and cooked there own food here.
As one gets closer to the temple the whole place looked like a sea of red and yellow. These were the colors worn by the devotees. The temple was surrounded by cops helping the crowd and making them take long routes to the temple. Most of the routes were blocked to maintain crowd.
One would also hear sounds from a nearby mosque and churches all around. And also from Kulasekharapatnam beach, one would see the Manapad beach and the church there. This is one of the spots in India visited by Saint Xavier on his trip to China.
I also witnessed an old guy with all grey hair beating himself with a whip and asking for alms. I was able to notice blood in his body. I quietly moved away from this disturbing scene
|Typical temple side shops selling spiritual audio cassettes|
The temple was crowded and had huge lines. So I turned towards the beach. I started following the crowd again. The beach was so filled with life. Devotees come to the beach and take a dip before they go to the temple. The path to the beach is filled with shops selling sweets and toys. In the crowd, one was not able to differentiate a guy from a girl or a sane person from an insane person. Guys had dressed up like girls and beggars.
|One of a young devotee who was ready for the pic|
|A temple festival without an elephant is never complete|
I should mention the bureaucrats had a good job for crowd control and safety of the devotees visiting the event. I would see a lot of cops with and without there uniforms doing jobs like traffic control, crowd control etc. There was one funny announcement made in the loudspeakers mentioning how if you steal in this crowd that God will never forgive you. Nice idea though. I would not believe that thieves these days would not fall for this trick. I was also able to see fire and rescue truck, ambulance and even the hospital ready in case of an emergency along with the temporary watchtowers in the beach.
The crowd is more energetic on the beach. One would literally do anything crazy and no one bats their eye. I was able to see devotees in police dress, guys in skirt and topless all kind of things which would sound so weird if it happens somewhere else.