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With prayers for good rain and crops, Srirangam turns epicentre for spirituality

Every 12 years, the small island town of Srirangam turns into an epicentre of spirituality with thousands of devotees thronging the place to celebrate the Cauvery Pushkaram - a 12-day-long festival that is believed to have been celebrated by locals for the past 1,000 years to pray for good rains and crops. This year the crowd is thicker and preparation top-notch with the city braced to celebrate the Cauvery Maha Pushkaram - a moment that occurs once in 144 years due to rare planetary movement - on Tuesday near the Amma Mandapam.
Officials of the Srirangam temple say around 20,000 people have already arrived in Srirangam and more are expected in the next couple of weeks. With the festival having its roots in Andhra Pradesh, a major chunk of devotees are from the state. Among them are the followers of Sri Sri Thridandi Sriman Narayana Ramanuja Chinna jeeyar swamy, who have arrived in large numbers from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

The word Pushkaram refers to the 'worship of sacred river' and is also known as Pushkarulu in Telugu. While such festivals are celebrated at shrines along the banks of 12 major rivers in India, ancestor worship, devotional music and cultural programmes are integral part of these events. Priests of Srirangam temple say the festival has been in existence for over 1,000 years. Historians, however, say that no there no significant archaeological evidence has been found to corroborate the claim. They say the festival has gained popularity in the recent decades especially after 1990s.
The Pushkaram is celebrated every 12 years along the banks of 12 major rivers by rotation, the last being celebrated along the banks of Godavari at Bhardrachalam in Telangana. Notwithstanding the rotation system, the festival is religiously observed every 12 years along the banks of Cauvery in Srirangam. "Each river is associated with a zodiac sign and the river for each year's festival is based on the position of Jupiter at the time. This year it is declared as Cauvery Maha Pushkaram as it is the 12th instance on which Jupiter enters," says treasurer of Cauvery Pushkaram Brahma Yajna Committee C Ramachandran. The committee is organizing the event with assistance from the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment department.
Various 'homams' and 'yajnas' by Vedic are conducted during of the 12-day-long festival. Temple priests say it is believed that whoever takes a holy dip in the Cauvery during this time will be absolved of all sins. An added attraction of this year's festival is that it coincides with the 1,000th birth anniversary of the Vaishnava ascetic Acharya Sri Ramanuja.
Some, however, say that unlike earlier days, the festival in Srirangam has lost its charm as some temples tend to celebrate it simultaneously along other banks of Cauvery. "A place called Allur near Jeeyapuram, about 15 km off Trichy, is simultaneously observing the pushkaram on the banks of the Cauvery this year," says Alagiya Manavalan from Srirangam. He says organisers of one such festival in Mayiladuthurai in Nagapattinnam district have invited chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami to attend the festival.


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