One of the advantages of living in Mylapore (also known as centre of universe) is that the Kapaliswarar temple is just a short distance away. And so this evening I set out by walk after dinner, to resume a practice I must have left in 1976 – seeing the alankaram of Karpagambal during Navaratri. There was a time when I could recite the order at the bat of an eyelid but all I can remember is that you don’t get Saraswathi on Navami and that on Ashtami you get a magnificent Mahishasuramardhini.

Navaratri Mandapam at Kapaliswarar Temple
Navaratri Mandapam at Kapaliswarar Temple

The Mada Streets are choked at all times of the year but during Navaratri this reaches a peak of sorts with traffic, and parking, and pedestrians, and animals (those in cars and those on four feet) and carts fighting for space with doll sellers (whose wares are of sadly uniform ugliness) who have set up makeshift shops on the sidewalks (yes, these do exist).

In contrast the temple presented a picture of orderliness, with people queuing patiently to have darshan at the sanctums. The Navaratri Mandapam did not have much of a crowd (it was 8.30pm) and so I could get up close to the Goddess. The alankaram intrigued me – the icon seated with legs crossed, one arm holding a parrot, two others wielding pAsham and ankusham while the fourth dangled on a knee. A silver serpent at the rear made me assume it was Vaishnavi alankaram but the priest said it was Bathmasini (Padmasini). Sure enough, supporting the right foot were real lotuses. This alankaram appears to be a new development. But it was really aesthetic.

As always the gopuram was an inspiring sight.

And there was a huge Kolu on display in the mandapam leading to the sanctum.

The four-pillared oonjal mandapam is festooned in light.

There is also a fairly hideous display on the life of Thirumular. Hope to be back here a few more times before Navaratri ends.

Join me on my tour of some parts of Tirunelveli between Nov 22 & 24, 2019. Click here for details