This year the Ani Thirumanjanam Festival (Utsavam) of the Shri Shiva Nataraja Temple of Chidambaram is scheduled to take place in the first eleven days of July.
July 1st, Friday, Flaghoisting ceremony in the early morning. The official start of the Festival. In the evening the Pancha Murti, which means Somaskanda, Parvati Devi, Murugan with Devasena and Valli, Ganesha and Chandikeshvara are taken for the first procession. With Lord Somaskanda decorated with flowers and jewelry in the lead will circumambulate the four Carstreets. The Navasandhi Murti (Nine Lords of the Directions) will be invoked by the Deekshithars with Vedic Chants and Tamil Hymns.
July 2nd, Saturday, during the evening procession Lord Somaskanda with alankara will be seated on Chandra Prabha, the Silver Moon vahana.
July 3rd, Sunday, Lord Somaskanda is seated on Surya Prabha vahana, at the center of the Sun.
July 4th, Monday, this day Lord Somaskanda is seated on Bhutapati, who controls the Elements.
July 5th, Tuesday, on the fifth day Lord Somaskanda heads the procession seated on Vrishabha, the divine bull. Somaskanda and his bull are placed in a replica of the grand gopuram, and this is actually his vahana for the procession on this day. The procession will be slow going as the devotees move this elabrate construction around the four car streets and go on till the early morning.
July 6th, Wednesday, the sixth day the processional vahana for Lord Somaskanda is the Elephant.
July 7th, Thursday, this day sees Lord Somaskanda, that is Shiva with Uma and Skanda seated in Mount Kailasha, as Ravananugraha-murti. Ravana tried to shake the sacred mountain in frustration of being ignored. Siva subdued him with his big toe. Ravana took one of his ten heads and turned it into a veena and started playing and singing Shiva’s praise. This day too the procession will be late.
July 8th, Friday, on this eight day of the festival Shiva comes as Bhikshatana. It refers to the mythology of the Daruvana, the Daru Forest, where Shiva taught the rishis about devotion and advaita. And where He started his Cosmic Dance in reaction to the magical attacks by the rishis. As a naked mendicant He begs us to surrender our Ego in his begging bowl. After reaching the East Car street the Lord will be paced in the beautiful Golden Chariot for the procession around the four car streets. Late at night, after Bhikshatana has returned, Somaskanda rides on a horse vahana around the city.
July 9th, Saturday, this is the great day of the Chariot Festival. Lord Nataraja and Mother Parvati are carried from the Golden Sabha to the pavillion in the East Car street where the chariots are waiting. Pulled by devotees from all around the world the will circumabulate the streets. The procession is a wonderful divine experience for all. After returning to the starting point in the late afternoon puja with diparadhana is performed by the Deekshthars. Later Lord and Mother are carried by the devotees to the Raja Sabha or Thousand Pillar Mandapam in preparation for the Maha Abhishekam in the night.
July 10, Sunday, Ani Thirumanjanam, Maha Abhishekam from around 2 AM till just before sunrise. Later that day devotees can have Darshan of Lord Nataraja dancing with Parvati witnessing in the Raja Sabha. Late in the afternoon Nataraja and Goddess return to the Chit Sabha within the temple. Afterwards the flag is brought down and the acharya is released from his duty with the removal of the bandhana. It is the official conclusion of the festival.
July 11, Monday, concluding procession with Lord Somaskanda and the other Panchamurti seated in the Pearl Palenquins decorated with flowers. This day there is a carnival atmosphere.
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