This is one festival in the city’s calendar that I can never tire of. Each time it comes around I imagine that I will be able to attend all days, rejoicing in Kapali coming out en famille in various attires and on different mounts. I never have been able to do that but I do get to see the processions on some days.

Kapalı Adhikara Nandi 2018, courtesy Dr Vijay Sriram

A longstanding desire was fulfilled this year when I finally made bold to conduct a heritage walk during the festival itself, on the third day’s morning. That is when Kapali comes out on his awesome Adhikara Nandi, followed by Karpagambal on Gandharvi, Subrahmanya on a Gandharva, Ganesha and Chandikeswara in pavilions. There were 63 people attending the walk, a number that struck me as being Kapali’s direct blessing and approval. And it all went well though breakfast at Ratna Cafe was chaotic. Had it not been for Sarada’s gimlet eye the last named would have been a fiasco. Having done all the talking, I never paused to take photos but some of the others who came on the tour did and I am featuring a couple of those here. The tour ended with Savitha Narasimhan singing Kapali in Mohanam, that Papanasam Sivan masterpiece.

I did notice a few things about the festival this year and here are those observations:

The angel being prepared for Poochoridal. Pic courtesy K Saravanan

1. The poochoridal – showering of Kapali with flowers at various stops – was usually done with just one angel or two but now the numbers have increased and I find them suspended at the various pandals long before Kapali makes his appearance.

2. Drums, giant cymbals, and clarinets now precede Kapali. But what happened to the nagaswaram artistes? I did not see any. They were really integral to the festival and I sincerely hope they have not been pushed out to make way for percussion ensembles.

3. The streets are a lot cleaner than in earlier years and kolams appear to have made a huge comeback. They were always there but this year there appeared to be many more. The controlling of food counters appears to have helped.

4. After we saw Kapali off on his tour, we entered the temple to see the Oduvars all seated on a rug outside the Ganesha shrine. They began singing tevarams and the experience was out of this world.

Oduvars at the Kapali shrine, pic courtesy Rajee Rajesh

5. The temple has published its sthala purANam in the form of a folder and distributes it free for those who are interested. It can be had from the office.

Karpagambal on the Gandharvi

6. Karpagam is sporting a different jatai (decorated braid) each day in front. The one on Adhikara Nandi day was fabulous. As always she has several at the back as well. One more observation – her dress was usually like a churidar and top all these years but this time there have been attempts to tone this down. Is it a fallout of what happened at Mayiladuturai earlier this year? If so, I miss the old Karpagam.

Kapali on Adhikara Nandi, pic courtesy Sujatha Shankar

More in subsequent posts.