Maha Ratham – The Great Chariot
Thursday 18th November is the day of the Maha Ratham or the Great Chariot in the Karthigai Deepam Brahmotsavam. Today, the great wooden chariot which is supposed to be the largest temple chariot in Asia was taken on procession around the four streets of the temple. The main great chariot carried the stately figures of Lord Arunachaleswara and his consort Goddess Unnamulai whereas the smaller chariots carried the deities of Lord Muruga, Lord Ganesha and Goddes Durga respectively.
Early in the morning, thousands of men and women flocked the venue of departure in front of the Raja Gopuram, eager to pull the chains of the chariot thus having the honour of drawing their Lord’s vehicle.When the signal was given, men and women with great enthusiasm and crying loudly “Hail to Annamalaiyar” started to draw the great chariot with all their might. Slowly, inch by inch, the huge chariot moves and as the pull force increases it gains momentum and moves faster.
It is indeed impressive to see the gigantesque enormous wooden chariot move forth slowly and majestically, drawn entirely by man power. The chariot is made of rose wood and has beautiful carvings of divinities on its sides. The top is decorated attractively with silk canopies, banana and coconut fronds and flower garlands. The Temple Sivacharyas in royal attire are seated on either side like footmen to the Gods and they wave lovely peacock feathered fans to keep the Gods cool and airy during their procession.
And thus the great chariot winds its way down the temple streets. By the time it has reached the western street, it is evening and the sun has started to set. The golden rays of the sinking sun shine through the peaks of the Hill. With the Hill view, the golden sunset, the soaring temple towers and the Lord majestically riding on his great chariot in the centre, it makes a spectacular sight and one feels that the gods themselves are down there admiring the show!