Athi Varadar festival: All you need to know about the eventhttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/chennai/athi-varadar-festival-all-you-need-to-know-about-the-event-5854090/

Athi Varadar festival: All you need to know about the event

The 48-day festival has gained a lot of traction following the visit of high profile political leaders who visited Kancheepuram to offer prayers to Lord Athi Varadar.

Athi Varadar, Kancheepuram,
The Athi Varadar festival, which takes place once in 40 years is being held from July 1 to August 17 this year.

August 17 Update: The 48-day Athi Varadar festival is set to conclude today, with preparations underway at the Devarajaswamy temple in Kancheepuram district to immerse the idol into the Anantharas tank at the Varadaraja Perumal temple on Saturday evening. With public viewing barred today, devotees were given darshan of the deity until 9 pm on Friday.

The priests at the temple will be applying a concoction on the deity to protect the fig-tree idol from fungus underwater, following which Lord Athi Varadar will be clad in plain silk robes before being placed inside a granite tub in the tank late today evening.

Close to one crore devotees have visited Kancheepuram district from July 1 to August 16 this year to offer prayers to the deity. Lord Athi Varadar will be brought out from the Ananthasaras tank again in the year 2059.

Further, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami lauded the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HRCE) Department, Kancheepuram temple management, priests, volunteers, sanitary workers, state revenue officials, Tamil Nadu Police force, Kancheepuram District administration, Kancheepuram Municipal administration, Annadhanam donors for their hard work and local residents for their hospitality during the 48-day festival.

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August 16 Update: Darshan of Lord Athi Varadar at the Devarajaswamy temple in Kancheepuram district will come to an end today, with the 48-day festival drawing to a close on August 17. All VIP darshans have been cancelled for the day, with darshan of the deity only available under general darshan on Friday.

the Director General of Police (DGP) in Tamil Nadu, J K Tripathy lauded the State police for their tireless and efficient work during the Athi Varadar festival in a circular which was issued on Thursday and urged them to ensure that the festival concluded peacefully on Saturday without any untoward incidents.

August 15 Update: The Madras High Court on Wednesday dismissed a writ petition that had been filed by a senior citizen, requesting the ongoing Athi Varadar festival to be extended by 48 days. The idol will be immersed into the Ananthasaras tank on August 17.

Meanwhile, a woman gave birth to a boy at the Padhinaar Kaal Mandapam medical camp in Kancheepuram on Tuesday morning after offering prayers to the deity during the last three days of the Athi Varadar festival. The child was later named Athivaradhar by the parents.

August 14 Update: The Madras High Court will be hearing a plea filed by a senior citizen in Chennai today, over extending the ongoing Athi Varadar festival in Kancheepuram district for another 48 days. According to the petitioner, several senior citizens, pregnant women and the differently abled were unable to offer prayers to the deity despite waiting in the queue for over six hours. The petitioner requested the HC to direct the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HRCE) Department to not immerse the deity into the Ananthasaras tank at the Varadaraja Perumal temple in Kancheepuram on August 17.

August 13 Update: Officials from the Kancheepuram District Administration and Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HRCE) Department have created facilities at hold-up places at the Devarajaswamy temple in Kancheepuram, with four more days to go before the Athi Varadar festival concludes on August 17. Officials have asked devotees to prepare themselves for a two-day waiting, with an estimated crowd of over four lakh devotees expected to throng the temple over the next few days.

The state government has introduced over 350 additional buses in Tamil Nadu, to help devotees commute to and from Kancheepuram from other districts of the State until August 17. This fleet is in addition to the 70 small buses in Kancheepuram, which help commuters reach their destination in various parts of the district.

August 12 Update: A few devotees were injured at the Devarajaswamy temple in Kancheepuram district today, after a scuffle broke out among devotees following congestion in the VIP darshan queue.

August 9 Update:With the 48-day Athi Varadar festival set to end on August 17, Kancheepuram district Collector Ponnaiah announced on Thursday that there be no darshan at the Devarajaswamy temple in Kancheepuram district on August 17. Further, VIP darshans have been cancelled on August 16. Earlier, it had been announced that darshan will be granted to devotees until 12 pm on August 17, before the idol is placed inside the Ananthasaras tank at Varadaraja Perumal temple in Kancheepuram for the next 40 years.

August 8 Update: A senior citizen suffered a cardiac arrest and succumbed to his death while waiting in the queue to catch a glimpse of Lord Athi Varadar at the Devarajaswamy temple in Kancheepuram district on Wednesday. Lakshmanan and his wife, both in their sixties, were residents of Pollachi. They had gone to Kancheepuram to offer prayers to Lord Athi Varadar on August 7. While waiting for their turn in the queue for the differently-abled, Lakshmanan collapsed and was rushed to the Kancheepuram government hospital where he was declared brought dead.

Meanwhile, a few devotees in the VIP darshan queue were electrocuted after coming into contact with an overhead live wire. According to reports, a few devotees had accidentally pulled on the overhead wire, which electrocuted a few people after coming into contact with an iron barricade below. The devotees were rushed to the government hospital where they are receiving treatment.

With less than 10 days left for the conclusion of the festival, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami issued a series of instructions to the Kancheepuram district administration to ensure smooth darshan for the devotees. EPS directed the management to strengthen security and increase the facilities being offered to devotees, especially the elderly and differently-abled.

August 7 Update: With crowds expected to swell on August 13, 14 and 16, the government has declared a holiday for schools and colleges in Kancheepuram on those three days, in a bid to cut down the difficulties faced by the students in commuting to and from the educational institutions in the district during the Athi Varadar festival.

Owing to the growing crowds at the Devarajaswamy temple in Kancheepuram for the ongoing Athi Varadar festival, Kancheepuram district Collector, P Ponnaiah announced that an additional 12,000 police personnel have been brought in to manage security at the temple. The Collector added that three waiting halls have been provided for devotees in the general darshan queue and cautioned pilgrims that they should be prepared for a two-day waiting period before darshan.

Indian Overseas Bank (IOB) has set up a mobile banking facility, called Bank on Wheels at the Devarajaswamy temple’s East and West Gopuram entrances, to provide easy access to banking facilities for devotees visiting Kancheepuram to have a glimpse of Lord Athi Varadar. The facility will be available until August 17, the day the 48-day festival draws to an end.

Rathinam, senior citizen from Nilgiris, who was one her way to the Devarajaswamy temple succumbed to a heart attack at the Olimohammedpettai bus stop near Kancheepuram on Tuesday. Rathinam was rushed to the Kancheepuram government hospital where doctors declared her brought dead.

Meanwhile, a head constable who on duty at the temple was rushed to the Kancheepuram government hospital after he fainted on duty amidst the crowd on Tuesday. Complaining of breathlessness, the constable had collapsed at the temple and was administered first aid by a medical team at the Devarajaswamy temple. He was later admitted to a hospital for treatment.

August 6 Update: The Madras High Court today directed two lawyers to inspect the temple tank at the Varadaraja Temple in Kancheepuram district and check whether the pond had been cleaned before the festival. The lawyers have been directed to submit a report about the same on August 7.

August 3 Update: Darshan at the Devarajaswamy temple to offer prayers to Lord Athi Varadar was stopped from 2 pm to 8 pm by the temple management to make arrangements for observing the marriage of Andal to Lord Vishnu(Andal Thirukalyanam) on the occasion of Aadi pooram (Andal’s birthday) at the Varadaraja Perumal temple in Kancheepuram today. As per the festivities, the priests at the temples will exchange garlands between Lord Vishnu and Andal in the traditional swing ceremony (oonjal in Tamil), following which the idols will be taken out in a procession to the nearby Anjaneya temple. After this, the priests will perform the marriage ceremony between Lord Vishnu and Andal at 5 pm.

Darshan for Lord Athi Varadar will resume at 8 pm and will continue until 10 pm today.

District management authorities informed today that over 43 lakh people have visited Kancheepuram district till date to offer prayers to Lord Athi Varadar.

August 1 Update: Lord Athi Varadar will be granting darshan in the standing posture (Athi Varadar Nindra Kolam) from August 1 to August 17. Devotees can have darshan from 5 am to 09:30 pm under the general queue and 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm with the Rs. 300 ticket. While VIP and Donor pass darshans are granted from 5:30 am to 5:30 pm, Saharanama darshan can be viewed from 6 am to 8 am during the morning session and 6 pm to 8 pm during the evening session.

July 31 Update: Deputy Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, O Panneerselvam visited the temple today to offer prayers to Lord Athi Varadar.

With deity to be kept in a standing posture from August 1, the temple management will be closing general darshan at 12 pm and VIP darshan at 3 pm today. The crowds are expected to be bigger from Thursday, since the Lord Athi Varadar will be placed in a standing posture from August 1 to August 17.

July 30 Update: Following Chief Minister Eddapdi K Palaniswami’s announcement on July 23 that the idol of Lord Athi Varadar will be kept in a standing posture from August 1, the management and police officials at the temple are bracing themselves to manage the huge crowds that are expected to throng the Devarajaswamy temple in Kancheepuram district, Tamil Nadu from August 1.

July 29 Update: The Madras High Court dismissed all cases that were against the ongoing Athi Varadar festival today. These included cases that had been filed against the poor crowd management and a request for paramilitary security  for darshan.

July 26 Update: The Madras High Court announced today that all cases pertaining to the Athi Varadar festival over poor management of crowds and paramilitary security for darshan will be heard in Chennai on July 29.

The ongoing Athi Varadar festival in Kancheepuram district in Tamil Nadu has been making headlines since July 1, with devotees from all over India thronging Kancheepuram to offer prayers to Lord Athi Varadar.

The festival, which will go on for 48 days, commenced on July 1 and is expected to continue until August 17.

The festival has gained a lot of traction from the past two weeks, given that President Ram Nath Kovind and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) offered their prayers to the deity earlier this month.

READ | Athi Varadar: Why this little-known religious event is drawing huge crowds

So, here is all that you need to know about the festival:

Who is Lord Athi Varadar?

An incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the deity Lord Athi Varadar is a 9-feet tall idol made out of the fig tree, which is brought out of Varadaraja Perumal temple tank every 40 years. The festival, which is centuries-old, is always held at the Varadaraja Perumal temple at Kancheepuram for 48 days. However, owing to huge crowds this year, the deity was shifted to a bigger temple, Devarajaswamy, to accommodate more people.

Venue

Darshan of Lord Athi Varadar is currently being held at the Devarajaswamy temple in Kancheepuram district, Tamil Nadu.

How to reach the venue?

Devotees from Chennai can drive down to Kancheepuram or take an interstate bus to the district. The journey will take approximately two hours one way. People from other states can take a train or bus to Kancheepuram and reach the temple.

Timings

Darshan of the deity commences around 5 am and goes on well into the night until 10 pm. Devotees often queue up outside the temple from 3 am for a hassle-free darshan. Darshan in the morning is held between 5 am and 12:30 pm while evening darshan is held from 03:30 pm till 10 pm. Depending on the size of the crowd, the waiting time can range between three hours to five hours on any given day.

Queues

The temple has three lines for darshan – one for elderly, pregnant women and the disabled; one for VIPs and special darshan and one for the general public.

athi varadar, kancheepuram
Devotees from across India have been flocking to Kancheepuram district for the festival.

Tickets

Tickets are offered for those who wish to have special darshan and can be purchased at the temple or can be booked online on the Department of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HRCE) website.

Tickets purchased on-site cost Rs. 50. Online tickets, which are offered for Sahasranama Archana, need to be booked four days in advance. The bookings, which commence at 10 am every day, have a limit of 500 tickets per day – 250 each in morning and evening. Tickets can be booked for two slots, one each at 06:30 am and 5 pm. These tickets are available only on weekdays.

Owing to huge crowds, the state government announced an Express Seva Scheme. Under this scheme, devotees can have a hassle-free devotion from 6 pm to 10 pm every day after paying a sum of Rs. 300. While this scheme was initially extended only for 500 devotees a day, the scheme has now been upgraded to accommodate 1,000 devotees a day. The estimated waiting time under this scheme is a minimum of three hours.

Devotees need to carry a printed copy of the tickets and a photo ID card with them while visiting the temple.

READ | Athi Varadar festival: Online booking woes and rising hotel costs irk devotees

Footfall

On average, thousands of devotees visit the temple to offer prayers to the deity. On July 1, the first day of the festival, the temple recorded a footfall of 1 lakh devotees. The government of Tamil Nadu announced on Thursday that approximately 34 lakh devotees have visited Kancheepuram to offer prayers to Lord Athi Varadar till date.

With a spotlight on the festival, devotees from all over India have been visiting Kancheepuram to catch a glimpse of the Lord and the footfall is expected to increase in the coming weeks.

Facilities

Authorities at the temple have provided visitors with drinking water, parking and e-toilet facilities. However, devotees have complained that the parking is situated about 6 km away from the temple, with the e-toilets not located anywhere near the temple premises.

Precautions

Given that the waiting time is a minimum of three hours, the government has issued a warning advising senior citizens, pregnant women and people with health ailments to avoid visiting the temple.

Express Opinion

While the temple has provided facilities at the temple, it is advisable for devotees to carry water bottles along with them to stay hydrated throughout the day. Despite adequate security personnel having been put into place, six people have died and hundreds of people have collapsed at the temple until now over poor management, lack of adequate ventilation and alleged police handedness.

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With suffocation a pressing problem while negotiating huge crowds, it is advisable to wear clothes that allow you to breathe freely and comfortably. Devotees have been advised to request the nearest police personnel for help at the first sign of breathing difficulty.