FRAME THE FAIR:
KULASAI DASARA 2019

A GLIMPSE OF KULASAI DASARA

“Boarding Pass of Kulasai Dasara From Chiiz”

The Sri Mutharamman Temple aka Kulasai Mutharamman Temple is located in the Kulasekharapatnam, near Thiruchendur in Thoothukudi District, Tamil Nadu. It is the place where the festival starts. The 300 yrs old temple celebrates the grandest festival Navarathiri, with more than 15,00,000 devotees all around the world.

ABOUT KULASEKHARAPATNAM

Kulasekarapandian, the Maharaja of the town once had a darshan of the Goddess directly, while Pattinam means town. By adjoining these words, the word Kulasekharapatnam came into existence. After that, the town is renamed as Kulasekharapatnam because of the ruling Maharaja.

ABOUT SRI MUTHARAMMAN TEMPLE

“Road-Rally of Gods near the Temple”

Sri Mutharmman temple is located at Kulasekhara pattanam village near Tiruchendur 55 km south of Tuticorin (Tamil Nadu, India) on the East coast Road en route to KanyaKumari. One of the special features of this temple is the combined version of the Goddess and the Priest altogether. The Goddess Muththaramman and Swami Gnanamoorthy Swarna vigraham were installed together in this temple that specialises the temple around the world. Such a combined vigraham is not found elsewhere. There is a Garbhgriha in the temple where Swami & Goddess shower their blessings to the devotees as Swayambhu Moorthigal.

HISTORY BEHIND KULASAI DASARA FESTIVAL

“Lord Shiva, investigating the talks of Laymans”

Once upon a time due to the curse of saint Agathiyar, The saint Varamuni became a man with a buffalo head. The term “Magisam” means buffalo. Since he had a buffalo head he was called Magisasuran. With his continuous meditation and strenuous effort, Magisasuran gained more power and dominated all over the world. To condemn the domination of the Magisasuran the saints approached the Goddess and informed the hardship done by Magisasuran. Then with the power of Goddess, there appears a female baby. The baby was named Lalithambigai. The baby grew up within 9 days and on the 10th day, she grew as Annai Parasakthi Lalithambigai with lots of anger came strongly and destroyed Magisasuran and this day (i.e.,) the 10th day is being celebrated as Dasara. This was the insight of the Dasara festival. Well, Dasara is celebrated all over India in different places. 

“Excitement before celebration”

LOCATION

In the Mysuru Dasara, the elephants carrying the goddess Chamundeshwari on their backs, walking triumphantly on the streets with the backdrop of the royal palace is a great sight. Likewise, people pandal-hopping, admiring the idols of the Goddess Durga, savoring the finest of sweets, are common to the Dasara in Kolkata. As we go down to South-India, to the quaint village of Kulasekarapattinam, Kulasai Dasara comes to life in its most authentic form.

“Make-up Before the Performance”

“Everyone can enjoy at god’s place”

Even in the wildest of dreams, one can never imagine the exquisiteness of the Kulasai Dasara of Kulasekarapattinam. It is celebrated with great fervor and gaiety at the Muttaramman temple premises for 12 long days, unlike the other regions where Navratri and Dasara are observed for only ten days. Everything at the temple, right from the rituals, traditions, the costumes, and the celebrations might seem bizarre to the naked eyes but only when understood completely, does all of it start to make sense. The Muttaramman temple is flocked with a lakh and half devotees every year during the Navratri festival. As one walks inside the temple, one should be prepared to be stunned at the sight of the devotees dressed in different costumes that range anywhere from being the goddess Kali to a vampire!

KULASAI DASARA CELEBRATION

“Goddess Kali- Showing her power”

The pulsating rhythm of the drums, devotees energetically tapping their feet, some in a trance, others cataleptic of the surroundings entirely, with emotions parading at their peak. Everything appears inimitable and vivid. At times like this, it is hard to digest the scenes around, especially when the Goddess Kali, with her ten hands and her tongue sticking out, is seen walking around in the middle of the crowd. One can also see people walking around wearing costumes like that of policemen, soldiers, doctors, etc. Devotees dressed in tattered clothes and running around the other devotees beseeching for alms is yet another common sight. There is a belief that such costumes are worn to wash away the sins by surrendering to the Goddess Muttaramman.


“Colorful Legs of the Nautanki Participants. They are playing gods characters in the festival”

ABOUT COSTUMES

According to folklore, the Goddess Muttaramman had once slain the demon king Mahishasura to protect the land of Kulasekarapattinam from the evil spirits. The Kulasai Dasara is celebrated as an offering to the goddess with the faith that the goddess would fulfill the wishes of all the devotees who come to seek her blessings during the Navratri festival.

The costumes related to the professions are worn to accomplish success in their career. Likewise, the costume that depicts a beggar or a diseased person is worn to get rid of misfortunes. The ones who are dressed like the goddess Kali are expected to observe 41 days’ strict ritual as per the temple guidelines. The devotees believe that the goddess Kali herself comes down to the earth in the form of these people during the festival and thus, approaches them to seek blessings. 

“A Portrait of an artist of Kulasai” 

Hence, staying away from alcohol and other addictions become pretty important for those who choose to dress like the primordial mother. Men walking in glee dressed like fortune tellers, the Mother Kali, fisher-women, etc, with their faces transformed to resemble the goddess by smearing turmeric and vermilion on themselves is unique to this celebration and is hard to come across elsewhere.

The thick anklets and the toe-rings show the unity of the Yin and Yang, the Shiva and Shakti. Dozens of bangles adorn their hands showing the acceptance of womanhood. The women are found to be dressed up like Lord Krishna and Lord Muruga, thus, symbolizing the acceptance of their masculine side.

The children also enjoy the occasion completely as they too get dressed up as little Krishna, Radha, Muruga and Hanuman. One can also see the Mangalamukhis walking around the temple bantering away to glory with the devotees and the tourists. As they walk flaunting their beauty in various costumes, they bless the crowd and demand for photographs as well.

“Playing the role of Lord Shiva to defeat the demons”

ABOUT TEMPLE

The temple premise is filled with homes of costume designers from where the participants rent their costumes. Devotees from Kanyakumari, Tiruchendur, Nagercoil, Tuticorin, etc. come to take part in this splendid affair every year. Some devotees even walk barefoot from their homes till the temple as a part of the temple traditions.

While everyone might look and come across as the most colorful people during these twelve days, we must know that behind every masquerade, there is an untold tale; behind every charade, there is a prayer in silence and behind every facade, there is a hope of getting answers from the goddess they believe the most in. To some, this place might seem like a stage and the devotees like the artists; but here, the artists are connected with the goddess not just in devotion but also spiritually and emotionally. 

“Act of God Kali”

Generally, during Navratri, the other parts of the country burn down the effigy of the demon king- Ravana who symbolizes ego and bad deeds. But, the Kulasai Dasara makes us more humane by burning the ego in us into ashes and teaches us the greatest lessons of not just humanity but also of the acceptance of everything and everyone for what and who they are.

“Combination of Drama & Lightning”

A climactic day, coastlines of waterfront town transforming into a festival, societal music, and extravagant dresses requesting the beauty of people, crowd tapping its feet, some in a daze, others becoming cataleptic of the environment, with feelings marching at their pinnacle. Everything seems supreme and striking at Kulasai Dasara. 

VIJAYADASHAMI

Vijayadashami is one of the most significant Hindu celebrations celebrated toward the finish of Navratri consistently throughout India. Commending the fair is no particular case a glory occasion at The multi-year old Sri Mutharamman Temple situated in Kulasekharapatnam close Thiruchendur in the Thoothukudi region of Tamil Nadu. Aficionados above 1,500,000 originate from great distances abroad as they stroll by walking wearing outlandish outfits as though they were the manifestations of divine beings, god, and Goddess. For them, it is not only a beautiful festival; yet, a whole occasion to offer gratitude to the Goddess for noting their supplications.

“Black N White- They are watching you in different characters”

And this is a perfect reason why Chiiz took the opportunity and organized the Frame the Fair: Kulasai Dasara 2019. Here is all that our photographers felt and captured. In every picture taken by our photographers, there is a story, an emotion, an unrevealed identity is hidden.

“Goddess Kali Artist getting ready for the festive”

Kulasai Dasara will wake up in its most bona fide structure. Indeed, even in the most out of control dreams, one can never envision the loveliness of the Kulasai Dasara of Kulasekarapattinam. It is commended with incredible enthusiasm and mirth at the Mutharamman sanctuary premises for 12 long days, not at all like the different areas where Navratri and Dasara are being watched for just ten days. Elephants conveying the Goddess Chamundeshwari on their backs, strolling triumphantly on the crowded streets, is a delight to the eyes. Everything at the sanctuary, directly from the customs, conventions, the outfits, and the festivals may appear to be odd to the unaided eyes; however, just when seen totally, every last bit of it begins to bode well.

ABOUT MUTTARAMMAN 

The Muttaramman sanctuary is run with a lakh and half lovers consistently during the Navratri celebration. As one strolls inside the refuge, one ought to be set up to be shocked at seeing the aficionados wearing unique ensembles that range anyplace from being the Goddess Kali to a vampire! 

Fans wearing worn-out garments and going around different enthusiasts importuning for donations with the callings worn to achieve accomplishment in their vocation. In like manner, the outfit that delineates a hobo or an ailing is worn to dispose of incidents that such ensembles were worn to wash away the wrongdoings by giving up to the Goddess Muttaramman. 

“Performance did by a street performer”

The Kulasai Dasara praised as a contribution to the Goddess with the confidence that the Goddess would satisfy their desires of all the aficionados who come to look for her endowments during the Navratri celebration.  The devotees arriving for the festival undergo fast for 41 days. During the last ten days, which includes the Navarathri days, the devotees dress up emulating the gods and goddesses. Some devotees even assume the guise of Goddess Kali. Some others believe the garbs of local gods like Chudalamadan, Kariyila Madan, Changala Madan, Asuran, and others.

 
“Well, show off isn’t a bad thing”

Many devotees come dressed as local pantheons. They are supposed to stay away from intoxication, violence, sinful acts, and other indulgences. Men strolling in merriment dressed like a soothsayer, the Mother Kali, fisher-ladies. Forth, with their appearances, changed to look like the Goddess by spreading turmeric and vermilion on themselves is remarkable to this festivity. Many people come dressed as devotees and Seek their blessings.

PARTICIPANT’s FEEDBACK

Our photographers also enjoyed one of the best homestays, living with strangers capturing their culture, their way of living, food, lifestyle, their preparation, and got their hands on the exclusive behind the scenes transformation of devotees to their beloved local pantheon.

CHIIZ’s EXCLUSIVE PHOTO TOUR TO KULASAI DASARA

“Frame The Fair:Kulasai Dasara 2019 Team”

This holistic photography experience for 4 nights and 5 days capturing immerse and unique photographs satisfied our soul. While everybody may look and seem to be the most brilliant individuals during these twelve days, we must realize that behind each disguise, there is an untold story; behind each act, there is a supplication peacefully, and behind each veneer, there is a desire for finding solutions from the Goddess they accept the most in. To a few, this spot may appear to be a phase and the fans like the artists, but here, the craftsmen are associated with the Goddess in commitment as well as additionally profoundly and inwardly. 

“Fake tongue to show the vulnerable look to the demons”

For the most part, during Navratri, different pieces of the nation torch the representation of the evil presence ruler Ravana who symbolizes a sense of self and awful deeds. In any case, the Kulasai Dasara makes us increasingly sympathetic by consuming the self-image in us into remains and shows us the best exercises of mankind as well as of acknowledgment of everything and everybody for what and what their identity is.

The exclusive photo tour was organized from 5-9 Oct 2019 with an amazing itinerary. The pronounced colors and activities of the devotees offer photographers an exceptional opportunity to capture the soul of South India. 

ACCOMMODATION

  • Chiiz booked some rooms in the only hotel available in town. It was on a 4 member shared basis (double occupancy with 2 extra beds).
  • If not hotel rooms, then we did arrange for a homestay in a traditional home with basic amenities like bathrooms, fans, and beds on the floor.
  • The only eatery in town was about 5 mins from the hotel and 10 mins from the homestay. So we prepared to travel by car for all meals. We encourage our participants to carry some snacks with them so for a quick snack-chat 🙂

HOW DID WE ALL MEET-UP

  • The trip starts and ends at Madurai Railway Station. We picked up all participants on 5 October 2019 around 13:00 and dropped them back there on 9 October 2019 post 15:00.
  • Our team was available there with cars (Force Traveler) to take the excited participants to the hotel/homestay from this point.
  • As communication in the local language is a challenge. So, we had arranged a guide who had considerable experience in supporting photographers. He could converse in both English/Hindi and the local language.
  • For Non-Indian Photographers, there were additional charges incurred on online transfer.

APART FROM EXCITEMENT, WHAT ELSE DID THEY CARRIED

  • That was a backpacking tour. It means that everyone was mindful of the luggage they carried as the amenities available there were basic and they might need to carry their valuable possessions along with them at all times. So travel light and carry only things you absolutely need.
  • We recommended our participants to carry their own basic toiletries (small packs), a thin bed sheet, some snacks, and minimal clothes.
  • The temperature was above 40-degree centigrade with high humidity. So choose your clothes appropriately.
  • There were no places to wash and dry your clothes. So carry enough for your stay.
  • Keeping the crowd in mind, we strongly recommend all of the participants to not carry any precious jewelry.
  • On 8th October 2019, we strongly recommend everyone to carry only their cameras to the shoot as the day will be long and tedious. Backpacks or camera bags were not allowed.
  • Participants need to carry their own power bank, extra batteries for the camera and water bottle.

EXCITED GUIDELINES BEFORE HITTING “BOOK NOW” BUTTON

  • All breakfast/Lunch/Dinner was south Indian food like Idli/ Dosa/ Meals and subject to availability. The place we stayed at was a very small town with few eateries/restaurants and food was not readily available all the time due to the tremendous crowd for the festival. In case of non-availability of restaurant food, we managed any available food like biscuits during the shoot.
  • We did not provide lunch on 7th October 2019, because if all the participants had come so far, they must eat free & tasty meals at any temple as a token of South-India’s welcome. 
  • Any expenses such as for tea/coffee/snacks/any other personal requirements had arranged for and financed on their own. #AvTvISO/ THREEDOTS/ Chiiz/ Our Mentors/ Guide did not took responsibility to provide additional facilities apart from the said package inclusions.
  • 8th October was an extremely difficult & hectic day. We did photography continuously for more than 20 hours. We came back only the next morning. Interesting Huh?. If anyone felt sleepy or tired, they had to sleep on the open beach, which was extremely hot and humid in the daytime and there was not any place with shade.
  • It was priorly advisable for all the participants to do a health check-up before they leave for the tour. It was a highly dry area with extreme temperatures and a very stressful environment.

ABOUT MENTORS

  • UDAYAN SANKAR PAL

Udayan Sankar Pal is an internationally acclaimed, award-winning photographer from Chennai. Since the time he started working with his first camera at the age of 13 years, he has explored the myriad images that India has to offer, its street life, its villages, its landscapes, and culture. His relentless pursuit of the craft led him to establish the only International Archive of Photography Exhibition in the world. He believes photography is all about the eye.

 

 

  • MAHESWARAN KARTHIKEYAN

Maheswaran Karthikeyan is a photography enthusiast based in Chennai, India, and currently working in a leading IT organization. He is fond of many genres of photography with a focus on Portraits, Street, Landscape, High-Speed, and Macro. His work is featured in various newspapers and social media groups around the world and his work has also been exhibited at art galleries across India. His contributions to the field of photography have earned him several awards as well. He also leads the photography club at his workplace and has mentored many budding photographers in the last 4 years.

  • Mohan

Mohan is a professional travel and lifestyle photographer based out of Chennai who explores the world documenting travel, culture & life. Apart from being the photographer, he is also a professional athlete and cyclist and he has run marathons cycling for a cause.  He has received many awards from prestigious organizations, newspapers, and magazines of repute. He has been one of the pioneers to explore the culture of Kulasai Dasara from the perspective of creative photography in India. His works on Kulasai Dasara is featured and interviewed in renowned photography magazines. 

CONCLUSION

Chiiz conducted this amazing Photography Fair with a bunch of photographers with a lot of memories and award-winning photographs. Well, some photographers clicked breathtaking photographs and some have lifetime memories of moments they live by heart. Some enjoy the moment by the camera and some feel it in their heart. Chiiz will be organizing these Photography Fairs regularly to make the audience know about our culture and belief system with love. You can have a look at events.chiiz.com for upcoming events.

About the Author:

Maushi Journal is a writer and an amateur photojournalist. She writes poems, poetry & short stories. She loves to work for society, in society & with society. “Love is what’s important to me. I want to spread love in the universe”, she quoted her aim passionately.
Instagram Handle: maushi_journal.

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