The Kodiyaetram Festival Celebrated at Sri Kandaswamy Temple

The Eve of the Festival: The festival starts from the eve of the kodiyaetram day. In the morning of the eve, the auspicious erection of the staff / muhoortthakkaal will take place after the morning poojaa; after the evening poojaa, the Presiding Priest will be ritualistically invited to conduct the ceremonies of the festival. Obeisance to Sri Vinaayahar will take place first; the presiding priest will seek permission from the Brahmins and the deities to conduct the ceremony; following this, the cleansing rituals, Giraama saandhi and vaasthu saandhi, will be performed.

Giraama saandhi is performed to appease the negative forces prevalent in the locality of the temple by offering oblations to them, and beseeching the help of the guarding deity, Vairavar, by means of prayers and the offering of oblations to Him. This ritual is done at the outer courtyard, opposite the theppakkuLam.

Vaasthu saandhi is done to remove any negativity present in the earth, on which the temple is built. Let us briefly see the episode found in puraaNaas with regard to Vaasthu purusha: ‘In the war with Andhagaasooran, a ghost appeared from the fury of the Almighty. It drank Andhagaasooran’s blood. It obtained many boons from Lord Siva and started ruling the world in a very cruel manner. The celestials, not withstanding it, prayed to Lord Siva to save them. Lord Siva brought forth a Rudhra, Adhibalar, and asked him to subdue the ghost. Adhibalar subdued the ghost with his noose (cord), and made Brahma and other celestials to live in his body. This body is known as vaasthu. Vaasthu saandhi is the ritual by which vaasthu purusha is purified by burning him. Brahmah is the presiding deity of the earth and Indra makes the earth fertile by bringing down the rain; hence, in vaasthu sandhi, prayers are offered to the celestials. The celestials who are worshipped will remove the negative effect of the earth and impart auspiciousness to it.

The last ritual for the eve of the festival is the ritualistic collection of earth for spreading the nine grains at the beginning of the festival. This ritual is done in the temple garden.

The next day, after the morning poojaa, the nine grains are spread for sprouting; this is done at the yaaga saalai and in front of the flagpole. This is followed by tying the sacred string for the priests as well as the deities. The sacred string is tied for the deities, mainly, for the safety of the souls who are contained within the Supreme Power. Special poojaa is performed at the vasandha mandabam, after which Sri Vinaayahar. Sri Mutthukkumaasvaami along with his consorts and Sri Sandaesvarar are brought out and made to be seated in the strategic position to witness the flag-raising ceremony.

The flag-raising ceremony comprises of quite a few rituals. After performing the necessary prayers, the Presiding Priest will sanctify the thavil and strike it to invite all gods and celestials to come and be present at the flagpole for the entire great festival for the ten days. The priest gets the musician to undergo some ritual and makes him play the drum for the Ganapathi thaaLam, to get the blessings of Vinaayahar. The whole of this ritual is known as paereethaadanam. The first of God’s fivefold functions, creation, is depicted by the rituals until paereethaadanam.

The spreading of grains for sprouting overtly indicates creation. The primordial sound, OM, is said to be the source from where creation starts; Lord Nadarajah holds the thudi, a small drum in one of His right hands, indicating His function of creation. The ritual, paereethaadanam, produces the divine sound, reminding the beginning of the festival and the function of creation as well.

When the flag is raised with great piety and commitment, the necessary prayers are done to Sri Vinaayahar at the kodimaram, and asthiradhaevar. The asthiradhaevar is in the form of Muruhan’s Vel; the Asthiradhaevar will be deputed to go on procession and witness the rituals, whenever required. The meaning of the word, asthiram, is ‘weapon’.

Sri Vinaayahar, Lord Mutthukkumaarasvaami with His consorts and Sri Sandaesvarar will be taken on procession around the outer court yard, as the guarding deities in the nine directions will be given oblations and invited to take position at their respective places throughout the festive season to ensure the safety of the premises and people. Brahmah is invoked at the main entrance of the temple. The other eight guarding deities and their respective directions are as follows:

Indra – East; Agni – South East; Yama – South; Nirudhi – South West; Varuna – West; Vaayu -North West; Kubera – North; Eesaana – North East.

The asthiradhaevar will also be taken along on procession on a sacrificial platform. The procession will be brought to a halt at these nine junctions. At each junction the respective guarding deity will be given the oblation and invoked to take his position there and guard the place for the period of the festival. On the first day, the respective attributes, rhythm, manthra, paN and raagaa will be offered to the respective guarding deity. This is called navasandhi aavaahanam; aavaahanam means ‘invocation. Giving of oblation to the guarding deities will be performed two times a day for the entire festive days. In the evening of the tenth day, when the utchava moorthi and Sri Sandaesvarar are taken on a procession after the lowering of the flag, the final oblations will be given to the guarding deities along with the offering of their respective attributes, rhythm, manthra, paN and raagaa. This is known as navasandhi visarjanam; visarjanam means ‘setting free’ (or sending off the guarding deities).

During the navasadhi aavaahanam (during the procession in the afternoon of the first day) and navasandhi visarjanam (during the procession in night of the last day), the musician playing the drum will be seen to hop on one leg around the deity and asthirdhaevar, at the gateway near the priest quarters. The guarding deity at that point, the eesaanam (north east section), is an aspect of Siva Himself. Therefore, special prayer must be performed at that point. The percussion musician must hang the thavil on his shoulder and go round the deity and asthiradhaevar hopping on one leg, playing the thavil, to please the deity. This is known as boodha naattiyam.

Before the God goes on procession, a priest will carry a sceptre and announce to the celestials and everybody that God is going to go on a procession; while doing this he will say words of praise of God. The same thing will be done before the God is going to go back to His original place in the shrine. This kind of a ritual, known as kattiyam kuRudhal, had been used for kings in the ancient Tamil Nadu. Kattiyam means ‘panegyric (or words of praise) of kings.

The yaaga poojaa will commence in the evening of the first day. This will be followed by the evening poojaa, sthamba poojaa, vasandha mandaba special poojaa and the procession of the deity. During the procession in the inner courtyard, Sri Mutthukkumaarasaami will halt in front of the yaaga saalai to witness the yaaga poojaa.

This set of rituals will be performed in this manner, at the rate of two times a day, until the noon of the tenth day. The difference will be that, in the mornings the deity is taken on procession only around the inner courtyard whereas the deity will go round the inner as well as the outer courtyards in the evenings.

Kodiyaetram, the procession of the deities, yaaga saalai poojaa and the offering of the oblation to the guarding deities are rituals depicting the function of sustenance of the Almighty.