May 23, 2018

The Chariots of Nagarathars

If you call Madras as a historic city, I would say Black Town locality is more historic. And, the Coral Merchant Street (Pavalakkara Street) in Black Town is no less historic.

In this narrow street, the foundation for Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party was laid. It is said that the first synagogue was located in this street. During the 18th century CE, the Jews had a settlement here. They imported coral beads and hence the street is named as Coral Merchant Street.



Towards the end of the 19th century CE, the Nattukottai Chettiars a.k.a. Nagarathars started occupying the street. They built their mansions and chattirams, which are known for their unique style of architecture (Chettinad architecture). The street became the head quarters of this community, who were the private bankers or financiers.



Currently, there are three Nagarathar Chattirams and very few old Nagarathar houses alone survive in this street. The chattirams are called as Rangoon Chattiram, Karaikudi Chattiram and Devakottai Chattiram. The metal (utsav) images of Muthukumara Swami along with his consorts Valli and Devasena are found in Karaikudi and Devakottai chattirams. The ground floor in both the chattirams have the sanctum for these deities. Regular poojas are conducted throughout the year.



The chattirams have interesting Chettinad architectural features such as long thinnais, intricately carved wooden roofs, circular pillars, the open courtyard called Muttram, etc. Every year during Masi Maham (which falls in Feb or Mar), two chariots carry the deities from these two chattirams and travel for about 9 kms to reach the Chettiar Chattiram in Tiruvotriyur.



The chariots have notable wooden carvings that depict the girls in different postures and few paintings and small carvings of various deities. The upper portion of the chariots are covered with sliver shields. The deities that are kept in these well decorated chariots travel via Royapuram, Vannara Pettai, Tondaiyarpettai and Pudhu Vannarapettai to ultimately reach Tiruvottriyur Chattiram on the same day. Thousands of people accompany these chariots till the destination. Perhaps, no other chariot in any other site travels such a long distance.



In Tiruvottriyur, these deities take part in the ritual of the divine wedding of Tyagaraja and Vadivudai Amman. They are kept in Tiruvottriyur Chattiram for five days and then they come back to their original place.

This annual mega event conducted by Nagarathars is a not to be missed festival of Chennai.

Happy travelling.

Click here to view all the videos related to this festival.

Thanks to Mr. Venkatesh Ramakrishnan, the historian and author, who introduced me about this festival and also took me to Devakottai Chattiram during this event.








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