Festival of Shivaratri from a Traditional Tamil Nadu Village - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Festival of Shivaratri from a Traditional Tamil Nadu Village

Shiva Utsava murti all decked up for temple pradakshinam on Shivaratri night

There is so much more to India’s rich festivals than wearing new clothes, eating good food and catching up with family and friends. While all of these are feel good factors of our festivals, there is so much richness and culture in our festivals. And unfortunately, this culture is not easily seen in our cities. To see this, we have to head to rural India where the people still keep this richness alive. 

Lighting the traditional lamp at the Kallidaikurichi Shiva temple on Shivaratri night

Luckily for me, I was at a traditional village called Kallidaikurichi in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu a few weeks back during the festival of Shivaratri. Unlike the festival of Pongal which is very vibrant in the villages of Tamil Nadu, the festival of Shivaratri is more subtle or at least that is the case during the day time. The day starts as usual with a bath in the Thamarabharani river, offering prayers at the nearby temple and then heading home. Most people either opt to keep a full fast or at least stay on a liquid diet. The whole day is spent chanting hymns of Lord Shiva, chanting Om Namah Shivaya, writing Om Namah Shiva or just reading his stories of Lord Shiva. The idea is to celebrate Lord Shiva in any way they deem appropriate.

Shivaratri celebrations that are muted during the day, pick up speed post 8 pm. The people take their evening shower, dress up in traditional attire and head to their nearest Shiva temple. Between 9 and 10 pm, the main festivities begin. The gods, shrines and the temple is well decorated. The devotees light up the temple lamps for the night long festival.

Shiva lingam all decked up for Shiva ratri night at Kallidaikurichi Shiva temple

The festivities begin with the alankaram and mangalarti during which the priest and devotees sing hymns and the temple bells keep gonging. Then, the utsava moorthy is loaded on to a chariot for a procession around the temple for 3 pradakshinams (circumambulation). Devotees follow the chariot of the utsava moorthy and sing praises to Lord Shiva. This process repeats every 2 hours till sunrise the next day, when the last mangalarti signifies the end of the Shivaratri festivities.

Ambal statue at Shiva temple, Kallidaikurichi

The whole night, the villagers stay inside the temple, reading holy verses or singing hymns dedicated to Lord Shiva. In spite of the lack of food and sleep, people are buoyant and feel joyous. There is a sense of elation after spending the entire night awake and most people who stay awake on Shivaratri at the Shiva temple have been doing it for many years.

To experience the Shivaratri festive fervour, you should spend at least a couple of hours inside the night, if not the entire night.

Utsava murthy Shiva all decked up

In addition to understanding the culture and traditions behind the festival of Mahashivaratri, you can also get to feel the energy of praising Lord Shiva, even if it is for a short while. Such is the charm of celebrating the festival of Maha Shivaratri at a traditional Tamil Nadu village. The rustic ambience, the rich culture on display and the energetic local people are just an icing on the cake.

How to reach there:

The nearest airport would be Tuticorin international airport, about 75 kms away. You would need to hire a taxi in advance to pick you up at the airport and drop you at Kallidaikurichi.

The nearest long distance railway station would be Tirunelveli, about 35 kms away. One can either take a connecting passenger train to Kallidaikurichi or travel by road (car or bus) to Kallidaikurichi. Tirunelveli is well connected with other large Indian cities like Chennai, Bangalore and Mumbai.

Kallidaikurichi is well connected by road. The 4 lane Bangalore – Salem – Kanyakumari highway is just 30 kms away. About 50 kms towards West is the Kerala state border. Volvo sleepers, AC buses and state government buses ply these highways every day connecting major cities.

Where to stay:

It would be ideal to stay with a local family in their traditional home. If you do not have that option, try staying at Hotel Bhaskar Lodge, just a kilometer away from the Shiva temple, at the hotels in Ambasumudram a few kilometers away or at the much nicer hotels at Tirunelveli, about 35 kms away.

Preparing the temple lamp on Shivaratri night for Mangalarti 

Where to eat:

If you stay with a local family, you will definitely get treated to delicious local food. If you don’t have that option, there are a few small restaurants in Kallidaikurichi that dish out local tiffin items in the morning and evening. For a much better local dining experience, head to Hotel Ramanas at Ambasamudram a few kilometers away. They offer delicious traditional lunch and a wide variety of local snacks that change every day of the week.

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) 1000 year old Papanasanathar Temple: Where you can wash all your sins away

2) Karaiyar Dam: Offbeat wildlife and nature holiday destination in India’s deep south

3) The hidden gem called Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve

4) Nellaiappar Temple: A 7th century cosmic dance wonder

5) Thamirabharani river delta: A motorcycle route full of rustic gorgeousness

6) Tiruchendur Murugan Temple: Sea Shore Magic

7) Courtallam: The herbal bath holiday destination of Tamil Nadu

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