Arupatthumoovar at Kapaleeswarar Temple

After seeing the grand Arupatthumoovar at Kapaleeswarar temple, I had to ‘unblock’ the blogger’s block somehow and write this post. This is a very long post! Read it when you find time.

Despite living very near Mylapore for almost 15 years now, I had never been to Arupatthumoovar even once! When I was studying in school, festival time at Kapaleeswarar temple always meant getting a holiday or two and that was all. This year’s Arupatthumoovar was on last Saturday (27th March) &, initially, I wasn’t planning on going for it. My mom having gone for Arupatthumoovar for the first time last year, tempted me to go and, here I am now, all set to relive the grandeur of the fest which left me awe-struck.

It was around 4:45pm. I had just returned from my music class and was looking forward to spend the evening lazing around when my mom told me that it would be the perfect time to go to Arupatthumoovar. I immediately decided to go. My mom didn’t want me to have any valuables with me, especially, when I told her that I was going to take my camera, so that I wouldn’t have to worry about those in the crowd. On hearing this, I didn’t even want to have my Scooty key with me. So, with Kapaleeswarar temple being about a 25 min walk away from my home, I decided to walk. And all I had with me was my camera and two 10-rupee notes tucked away inside the camera pouch. No mobile and no watch either. I was all set to lose track of time taking in the sights and sounds of the famous thiruvizha that Arupatthumoovar is!

Though thaNNeer pandals and food distributions had started in areas in and around Mylapore in the morning itself, I didn’t see much activity on the way. But as I entered Venkatesa Agraharam from Alamelumangapuram, I was greeted with the typical thiruvizha atmosphere.

There were people walking in all directions. Small shops had cropped up on both sides of the road. Vendors were busy selling stuff. Groundnuts, sweets, coconuts, bananas, beetle leaves, bead jewellery (paasi maNi, oosi maNi 😉 ) being sold by kuravan/kuratthis, balloons, toys, kaatthADis, handicrafts, slippers,… You name it and it was all there! And not to forget the free food and other freebies that were being given away. In fact, people thronged those places more than any other.

When I reached the end of Venkatesa Agraharam, I could see the idols in procession kept somewhere near the other end of the tank, near Velliswarar temple. There were groups of people just sitting/standing at the end of Venkatesa Agraharam. It was difficult to make a way to South Mada Street through this crowd.

As I reached the place surrounding the first of the many idols in procession, I found that the crowd, surprisingly, was comparatively less near the idol! It was that of some Amman. People were giving their children to the priest who kept the child near the Goddess and gave them back. Some kids were crying as they were passed from their mother to the priest and back. I later came to know that it was Kolavizhi Amman.

Kolavizhi Amman was followed by Vaaleeswarar and Periya Nayaki:

Next deity in procession was Vinayaka:

Poombavai and some idol couldn’t recognize were the next:

After this were the rows and rows of idols of the 63 nayanars. Unlike the previous deities in procession, the nayanars were all facing the other side since that’s where Kapaleeswarar and Karpagambal are. While Gnanasambandhar, Appar, Sundarar and Manikkavasagar, who are popularly known together as the ‘naalvar’, were carried in separate palanquins, the remaining nayanars were carried in groups of three or four in different palanquins.

A placard having the name of deity was kept near it for all the idols. Thanks to the crowd, I wasn’t able to see most of those.

The crowd had been manageable till I reached the idols of the first few nayanars. It was signalled that all the deities which were resting till now will be carried again. As the police started asking the people to move and give way for the procession, the crowd became a bit chaotic. I walked to the last of the nayanars and waited.

The three lady nayanars, Mangaiyarkarasiyar, Karaikkal Ammaiyar and Isaignaniar at the end:

The colourful palanquins of all the nayanars being carried and led in procession presented a beautiful sight!

Once the procession stopped again, I walked back till the idol of the nayanars I had already seen, taking photos all the while. The vivid colours of the palanquins and the lotus garlands which the nayanars were decorated with looked very beautiful.

Gopuram of VeLLiswarar kovil:

By now, the crowd had increased. Walking back to the end of the rows of nayanars became very difficult, since a major part of the crowd was walking in the opposite direction. Free food was being given in so many places and people gathered in those places were blocking the way.

A policeman patrolling in his car was announcing something like, ‘ilavasa poruLgaLin madippu oNRu alladu iRanDu roobAi. adarkku aasai paTTu ungaLin nagaigaLai tholaitthu viDAdheergaL’. (The freebies will just be 1 Re. or 2 Rs worth. Don’t run behind those and lose your jewels/valuables.) Good one, isn’t it? Talking about policemen (& policewomen too), they definitely deserve an appreciation for doing a good job in managing the crowds and keeping the area under constant surveillance in a festival of this magnitude.

If you had thought there were people only on the road, you had to just look up and you would find hundreds of people on the terrace of all the buildings on both sides of the road. Aerial view must have been nice too.

In front of the nayanars, some Tamil compositions were being performed by a group. A nAdaswaram, tavil ensemble was performing and there was an audience gathered around them.

Gopuram of Kapaleeswarar Temple from South Mada Street & the crowd:

Kapaleeswarar was the next deity after the nayanArs. Just as I reached Kapaleeswarar, the procession of idols again started. Though I wanted to go back and see Kapaleeswarar again, the crowd stopped me from doing so.

Kapaleeswarar and the rear of Kapaleeswarar:

Behind Kapaleeswarar was Karpagambal. Look at Her plait/jaDai:

Karpagambal was followed by Lord Subramanya:

Next was Chandikeswarar:

After Chandikeswarar, came Tiruvalluvar and Vasuki:

By now, I had reached East Mada Street. There were lots of vendors in this street.

The ther/chariots that had gone on procession the previous day were parked here. One of the thers:

Since most of the deities had left this street, the crowd was a little less. Some typical Amman songs were being performed by some people.

Next in procession was was this huge idol of Mudagakanni Amman!

The rear of the Amman decorated with neem leaves:

And then, the last in the procession was some Amman. This was near Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.

I had reached the road leading to the entrance of Kapaleeswarar temple now. One glance towards the temple made me realize that the crowd I had seen till then was nothing compared to what I was seeing now! I don’t know how so many are able to manage their kids in this crowd!

The main thEr parked at the thEraDi still had the decorations done on the previous day and it looked so colourful!

Kids were happily playing in the main thEr:

Seeing many people moving in and out of the mandapam opposite the thErADi, I too went in and saw that there were some deities here too.

The pandal outside the mandapam was decorated with lights:

Having seen so many idols, I was wondering if any more idols would be there somewhere. After confirming with a policeman that there were no more idols in procession, I continued walking towards North Mada Street.

East Mada Street sporting a typical thiruvizha atmosphere:

panju miTTAi, vEr kaDalai, balloons, koDai rATnam – takes you back to your childhood days, doesn’t it? 🙂 I loved the colourful balloons. 🙂

Announcements from the speakers about people lost, somebody waiting for someone, police’s reminder to people keep an eye on their valuables, filled the air of North Mada Street as I entered it.

Gopuram of Kapaleeswarar Temple from North Mada Street:

Halfway through North Mada Street, I saw an idol of Amman taken in procession coming from the opposite direction. I thought that this might be the very first deity that I had seen. But this was a different Amman.

With this, I had seen all the deities taken in procession for Arupatthumoovar & I was so happy that I too had finally been to Arupatthumoovar. 🙂

Reaching the end of North Mada Street, seeing the crowd, I decided to take the right towards Luz instead of going back towards Venkatesa Agraharam. As I took the road next to Nageshwara Rao Park, I saw the festive atmosphere slowly fading away. It was only when I reached Dr.Rangachari Road that it was back again. Lots of people were walking towards Venkatesa Agraharam. People were thronging the free juice stall set up by some Sai devotees.

The air was again devoid of all the festivity as I left Rangachari Road. I reached home feeling very happy. 🙂 It was an evening to remember, indeed!

P.S.: Click here for the entire set of photos.

15 thoughts on “Arupatthumoovar at Kapaleeswarar Temple

  1. Dandilsa

    Lovely pictures Aparna. My grandparents lived in Mandaveli and I have lovely memories of the Arupathumoovar and the Adikara Nandi processions and my paati buying me glass bangles at the theradi every year 😀
    P.S – I always thought the amman was called Mundakanni and used to laugh at it!

  2. Sathej

    Thats indeed a detailed write up. Shall comment in detail later after reading through entirely 🙂 Btw, there was a heritage walk from the temple (around the Mada Streets I presume) on Sunday, a day after the fest, I heard. Did you manage to attend that? Don’t know who organized this, just heard about it a day before. However, I think there are similar walks sometime in December every year by Sriram..


  3. Madhusudhanan.J

    Awesome’s the Word! Kabaleshwara temple in Mylapore is the only temple i’ve been in for a long time now.. And I love the whole area around the Tank.. Not to forget the hotels 😛 but these pictures looks amazing..Nice post.. Thought it was another post on temples and was gonna give it a miss.. I’m missing the mylapore maami kadai.. the crowd.. the chennai Sun.. the MMTS or parakum rail..

  4. R Sathyamurthy

    I have never seen Arubaththumoovar procession, but your post makes me see it the next time around with my family.

    Your photos have come out very clear. I wonder how you managed such clear photos in that crowd. Which camera did you use?

  5. Aparna

    Thank you 🙂 Weren’t glass bangles, balloons, etc. the only things that made us go to all these fests as a kid? 😉

    I recently visited the temple & saw that the board said ‘Mundagakanni Amman’.

    I went for the walk 🙂

    Thank you 🙂 From now on, don’t skip reading any of the temples post 😛

    Thank you 🙂

    You should definitely see it sometime. I have a Canon SX120 IS.

  6. bindu

    Sigh… Feels like a blast from the past!! since I have grown up in similar surroundings 🙂 Thanks for the wonderful recount of the festival.. makes me think I have not missed out much of it 😉

    P.S: Would have liked to know a little history about the festival

  7. Sathej

    Oh ok..thought you would definitely have if you got to know about it 🙂 a friend told me only the previous evening when I had been to her house.

    Read the post in detail..nice description, the ‘thiruvizha’ atmosphere conveyed well 🙂 Have never been to this myself, but would very much like to, seeing your post, unfortunately don’t know when I’ll get the chance now 🙁

    Can imagine how it would have been in olden days, how would it have been to listen to all night Nadaswaram Thodi by TNR amidst this..hmm..

    Leaving for a short vacation for Kerala shortly, a few temples on the agenda. To be honest, am not a big fan of temples or anything, but would be keen to examine architecture, historical facts et al, have learnt a few issues from your posts 🙂 Interesting to know such details..


  8. Aditya R

    Very nice article. I was reading a book called the ‘Periya Puranam – The story of 63 saivaite saints’ . It was really nice to read this article. Will try to participate in the festival next year. Looking forward to more such stuff from you.

  9. Rathi

    Nice post Aparna. I love Mylapore and cannot think of living anywhere else in the world!! Arupathi moovar festival is my favourite time of the year (at par with the Music season). The place transforms to a real village during this time. I could not step out of my home in the evening and later went to see the oorvalam after 8:30 pm. The roads were still crowded and it was wonderful!!
    The amman is called Mundagakanni (mundagam supposedly means lotus petal).

  10. Aparna

    🙂 I don’t know anything about the history of the festival.


    Welcome to my blog! Thanks.

    Welcome to my blog! Thanks. Same pinch on the cannot think of living anywhere else part 🙂 Thanks for the meaning.

  11. ushakannan

    hi aparna
    yr article brought back the nostalgic moments of yester years
    my grandparents lived in venkatesa agrharam vijaya stores where

    stops for a while ) VAIRSAMY covered totally with diamond all through from
    a temple if i remember correct karaneeswaran from paris corner
    used to be in the procession at the end
    i beleive they stopped FEW YEARS BACK
    thanks for bringing back the memories

  12. udayakumar

    hi. aparna…….
    whenever i came through ur blog (especially those chennai related posts) i had feelings like roaming in chennai……..ur narrating style is very nice…..keep posting new stuff


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