I went on a trip to Kulasekarapattinam, a coastal town in Tuticorin district, and the places nearby. Situated about 20 kilometres from Tiruchendur, this town attracts over a million people every year during the Dasara fest. The unique rituals and customs followed here is what triggered my curiosity to find out more.
(Photo Ravikanth K)(Photo Ravikanth K)
The fest is held in Kulasai Mutharamman Devi Temple, which was erected in this port city during the reign of the king Maravarman Kulasekaran. It’s not just the temple and its fest that makes Kulasekarapattinam a must-visit place for travel lovers. It is right beside Manapad, which is a lovely coastal village and home of beautiful churches and beaches. You get to experience sunrise and sunset views from here. One of the churches, located on the sea shore, looks majestic. The village is also known for its architecture and you realise it when you enter this church. Manapad also hosts the annual national-level surf and sail festival.
(Photo Ravikanth K)
If you ever visit this place, I suggest you also visit Kanyakumari — only 75 kilometres from Kulasekarapattinam! Mine was a three-day trip — we started off by going to Thirparappu waterfalls and spent the night in Nagercoil. The next morning, we travelled to Kanyakumari for the sunrise. From there, we drove to Manapad and spent the rest of the day there. The next day, we experienced the festival celebrations which went on till late evening.
(Photo Ravikanth K)
Coming back to the fest, I went for it with the CWC photography group. We were lucky enough to experience the festival from a native’s home. Troupes from every village travel in vans to all the surrounding areas, and perform customary dances and acts and collect money to offer at the temple. You get to experience this only when you spend time in a native’s place.
The Dasara festival celebrated during the Avani month is the most auspicious at the Muthumariamman temple. It is a 12-day celebration in contrary to the nine-days ritual celebrated elsewhere. Following an age-old tradition, devotees vow to beg for alms, disguised in various celestial forms such as Goddess Kali, kings, monkeys, beggars, etc. The money collected is offered to Goddess Mutharamman. People who portrait Goddess Kali tend to be more cautious than others, as people approach them for blessings! During the last 10 days, people in troupes dressed as their favourite gods or goddesses, travel to surrounding villages to perform different acts and collect donations to be offered at the temple.
The last day of the festival depicts the epic story of Magisasura Mardini (Goddess) riding a lion and slaying Magisasura on the shores of Kulasekarapattinam at midnight — this is known as Soorasamharam. This is followed by dancing and burning of crackers and it was amazing to watch.
I did not get the opportunity to try out any local cuisine though, as we were staying at a friend’s house. Since this festival happens during the month of September or October, I would suggest you plan a travel around this time. It’s better to pack light clothes and carry lots of water, since it’s humid and hot. If you are a photographer, try to spend at least two days at the fest. The best time to photograph would be the mornings and evenings till late night, but, make sure that you carry a lens with a large aperture! It’s worth it.
(As told to Balajee CR)