Madurai is the third largest city in Tamil Nadu and is closely associated with Tamil language. It is an ancient city and is mentioned in some of the literary works in the 3rd century. The Menakshi Amman Temple here is one of the landmarks here, around which the city is built. It is a large temple complex and is dedicated to Shiva and Parvati, known as Sundareswarar and Meenkshi here. The Rath-Ytra festival here is one of the important festivals when a large number of devotees come together and pull the chariot.
Rath-yatra means chariot festival and we see this at many temples. The Rath-Yatra at Puri Jagannath Temple is the most famous among them. Rath-yatra at Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple is called Ther Thirivizha in Tamil. It is one of the events that is celebrated during the Chithirai Thiruvizha, in the month of April. Here we celebrate the marriage of Goddess Meenakshi with Sundareswarar. It lasts for one month in which the first 15 days are for Goddess Meenakshi and the other 15 days are for Alagar. Alagar is Lord Vishnu and considered as the brother of Goddess Meenakshi.The festival starts with the chief priest of Meenakshi Amman Temple hoisting the holy flag. It remains hoisted till the end of the festival. The first event in this chain is the crowning ceremony of Meenakshi.
After this is the Dikvijayam, where Meenakshi goes and conquer all the countries and then goes to conquer Kailash also. But on seeing Lord Shiva she falls in love with him. The next event of the festival is Meenakshi Thirukalyanam, the marriage celebration of Meenakshi and Lord Shiva. This is followed by Ther Thiruvizha or the Rath-Yatra, where Lord Sundareswarar and Maanakshi visit their subjects in a chariot, which is beautifully decorated. A lot of people gather on the way that the chariot goes and pull the chariot. It is a magnificent procession and is attended by thousands of people irrespective of caste. Then is the arrival of Alagar for the wedding, but on seeing that the marriage is over, he gets angry and goes back, after giving the gifts to the newly married couple.