Kulasekarapattinam The Night of Shakti
Isn’t spiritual India an enigma? We think we know about the four Kumbh melas. Perhaps, we’ve figured out the Durga pujo frenzy in Bengal. Maybe we’ve heard about what a big deal they make of the Ram Leela. But, out of sight of the mainstream, there’s a world thrumming at fever pitch.
Truth is, each state, each region, each district in this incredible land of ours… every local patch has its own deity, its own stories, its own peculiar, particular brand of worship. Local melas, jataras (plays) and temple fairs that come with tailormade customs and preparatory vrats/vrathams. Leading up to the festival, people fast, abstain from all manner of distractions, chant prayers in certain counts. Close to culmination, everyone makes their way to the designated temple town, laden with all the arrangements needed for rough-and-ready camping. The main festival day is a whirlwind of rituals and social activity, climaxing in a grand crescendo with a mere million people in attendance.
Welcome to Kulasekarapattinam!
On most days of the year, Kulasekarapattinam in Thoothukudi district, Tamil Nadu, is a sleepy seaside town. A place that used to be famous once – it was a significant port so far back as the 1st century CE. The hub of trade under the Pandyan rulers, and named after King Maravarman Kulasekara Pandyan I. There is yet another badge of honour: it finds mention in Marco Polo’s diaries dating 1,250 CE.
The holy period of Navratri or Dussehra comes about in September or October. A time when all of Bharat genuflects to Shakti, the Divine Feminine, worshipping her in myriad forms of their own choosing. Kulasekarapattinam invokes her as Lalitambika or Mutharamman. The Goddess who slayed the dreaded Mahishasura.
For its colour and fervour, for its crowds and chaos, for its outrageous cosplay, for its devotion, and for an exhibition of that devotion… The 14-day Kulasai Dasara is stunning beyond words.
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