Kumbakonam, In The Midst Of Masimagam

The husband and I mostly travel during festivals, when he manages to get considerable time off work. Lately, we seem to be walking into places only to find ourselves in the midst of big celebrations, surrounded by throngs of people wherever we go. While we are planning our trip, we never know that our destination is a hot-spot for such a major event, and are always taken by surprise. Not good in some ways, but great in some other ways.

For instance, we landed in Calcutta in the thick of Kali Pujo, without ever expecting it. Now, recently, we ended up in Kumbakonam in the midst of Masimagam, quite by chance. We planned the Kumbakonam trip around the Hindu festival of Shivratri, and happened to be there right on the auspicious day of Masimagam, when thousands of devotees from across India visit the place, too.

Wondering what on earth is Masimagam? Here you go!

Masimagam is considered to be a highly auspicious day, particularly in South India. This day is when the planets align a certain way, an incidence that occurs only once annually, generally during February-March, when the Magam star is prevalent during the Tamil month of Masi. On this day, it is believed that all the rivers of India meet at the Mahamagam tank in Kumbakonam, and a dip in the waters of the tank is supposed to cleanse one of all sins. Grand poojas are conducted in all the major temples of Kumbakonam on Masimagam, with processions being carried out on the streets throughout the day. Devotees and holy men from everywhere, as well as tourists, visit Kumbakonam on this day, either to be a part of the bathing ritual or witness and record all of it.

Once every 12 years, this day becomes even more special, because of certain planetary alignments. This day is then called Mahamagam, or ‘the great Magam‘ in Tamil, when there are literally millions of people thronging Kumbakonam and clamouring for a dip in the waters of the tank. A few incidences of stampede have been recorded, in Kumbakonam during Mahamagam. The last Mahamagam was in the year 2016.

(Check out this Wikipedia link for more details)

Soaking in the spirit of Masimagam in Kumbakonam

The husband and I had booked a hotel in Kumbakonam very near the Mahamagam tank, quite by chance again. We were in for a big, big, big surprise the minute our auto guy turned towards the tank. There were hundreds of people on the street, many dripping wet from their bath in the tank, with pooja paraphernalia in their hands.

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Processions from temples across Kumbakonam, making the rounds of the streets on Masimagam day

Our auto neared the tank, and we were in for an even bigger surprise – the atmosphere there was not unlike a fair!

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The Kasi Viswanath temple, adjacent to the Mahamagam tank in Kumbakonam. A visit to this temple, especially on the day of Masimagam or Mahamagam, is believed to open the gates of heaven to one.

Fruit and vegetable vendors, loudspeakers, police patrolling, flower sellers, people distributing free water and buttermilk, beggars asking for alms, balloon and toy sellers, processions from various temples around town, tourists wanting to photograph every bit of it, devotees vying to get a dip in the tank.. it was BUSY, for sure. And, it was super-duper hot!

A rangoli on the street, near the Mahamaham Tank

DSC03542 Devotees taking a dip in the holy waters of the Mahamagam tank. Can you see how dense the crowd is?
We walked around with the bub, slowly, soaking in the atmosphere around us, taking pictures, committing things to memory.

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Selfie with the Gods?

We didn’t dip ourselves in the holy water, but enjoyed every bit of the looking around we did, getting to know more about this important cultural event in South India.

PicMonkey Collage
On the left: Prasadam being distributed from one of the many chariots making the rounds of the Mahamagam tank; On the right: A close-up of one such chariot

What saddened us a whole lot, though, was the piles and piles and piles of garbage left around the Mahamagam tank, by evening, when the rituals had slowed down and the streets had started emptying. I heartily wish this could be changed, for the better, about ceremonies like this.

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Have you read my other posts about our visit to Kumbakonam? I hope you have! If you haven’t, though, here you go!

Acquainted finally: Degree coffee in Kumbakonam

What dining at a 100-plus-year-old eatery feels like: Sri Mangalambiga Vilas, Kumbakonam

Travel shot: The man and his friend, the beast

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