Avani Festival: Tirukkolur

Today was Day 9 of the Annual Avani Festival at the Tirukolur Temple in Tirunelveli. Tirukolur is the purported birth place of Madurakavi. On Day 9 of the festival, the teacher, Nammalvar, visits the student. He arrives with great pomp and circumstance–an elephant leading the way, trumpets and drums heralding his arrival. When he gets to Tirukolur, his student is waiting, eager to see his beloved teacher and to welcome him home. Watching this festival brought alive to me, not for the first time, the intersections of hagiography, festival, alankara, gesture in such a way as to invite you into a world of imaginative hyper-reality. As I watched the rituals of greeting unfold, and the verses of Madurakavi filled the morning air, mingling with the elephants quiet huffs, the bleating of the goats, the sighs of liquid feeling in the women gathered so tightly around, it seemed like I was watching two old friends meet after a long time. So much love passes between them, between, behind, in the words that are said and unsaid, sung and unsung, heard and unheard. Simply marvelous stuff is this world of temple festivals.