Pondicherry is home to several fascinating festivals, and one of them is the Villianur Temple Car Festival. In this Hindu festival, thousands of people throng the streets to participate in the pulling of a 15m tall chariot through the streets. Despite being a Hindu festival, people of all communities, transcending boundaries of race, religious and caste, participate in it. The Temple Car Festival is also one of the most popular festivals in Pondicherry, and is held in the Villianur Temple, also known as Sri Gokilambal Thirukameshwara Temple. This shrine is counted amongst the most famous temples in South India and was constructed in the 12th century during the Chola period.
This annual festival in Pondicherry is usually held between the months of May and June and is a privilege to witness this magnificent spectacle. It is held on the 9th day of the Brahmotsavam festival, which is held over a period of 10 days. The dates for the festival are decided after taking into account several factors, such as the sighting of the full moon and the lunar calendar. On this occasion, a 15 ft tall chariot is pulled through the streets, with the presiding deity, Lord Kameswarar, with his consort, Goddess Kokilambal, inside it. The Villianur Temple Car Festival in Pondicherry begins with a beating of the drum by the priest, which is a signal to the devotees to start pulling the chariot. As they do so, pumpkins and coconuts are offered to the presiding deity.
It is quite interesting to know that under French colonial role, the Governor of Pondicherry used to participate in the festival. That tradition continues to this day, with the Lieutenant Governor participating in this festival every year. As part of the festival, devotees also offer curd, buttermilk and sundal to the crowds that follow the chariot. Doing so is believed to reflect the devotion of the person making the offering and is considered to be a very pious act. It is a widely held belief that the wishes of the people pulling the chariot are immediately fulfilled.
The Villianur Temple Car Festival Pondicherry is held between the months of May and June every year. The dates may every every year depending on several factors such as the sighting of the full moon and the lunar calendar.
Special Highlights/Rituals of the Festival
- The Villianur Temple Car Festival is marked by the pulling of a 15m tall chariot.
- The procession commences from Villianur Temple, also known as Sri Gokilambal Thirukameshwara Temple, one of the most famous temples in South India.
- The presiding deity of the chariot is Lord Kameswarar, accompanied by his consort, Goddess Kokilambal.
- The pulling of the chariot is attended by thousands of people, and pumpkins and coconuts are offered to the presiding deity.