Theru Festival, symbol of unity among religions | Sunday Observer

Theru Festival, symbol of unity among religions

The annual ‘Chariot Festival’ and the preceding 26 day religious celebrations of the historic Matale Sri Muthumari Amman temple commenced on February 1, with the ‘flag hoisting’ ceremony and the the grand ‘Theru’ festival – the five chariot procession of the Hindu deities - to be held on March 1, on Medan Full Moon day, during day time.

The five chariots, beautifully illuminated and decorated are drawn by devotees, both Hindus and Buddhists, and taken along the streets of the Matale town with the usual Hindu traditional ‘nathaswaram’ flute playing, drum beating and other pomp, and pageantry, to bless the thousands of devotees who flock from all parts of the country. Fire-walking is to be held in the vicinity of the temple premises on February 28, while other religious rites and ceremonies will be held on a daily basis with processions of the deities, in the temple interior streets.

The temple is situated about 1 km to the far north end of Matale town, and there stands the magnificent 108 foot ‘Kopuram’ – the ornate gateway tower- with nine pinnacles and artistically carved statues. The temple was established over 200 years ago during the colonial period, by Indian migrant settlers, especially, the business community.

According to legend, the goddess appeared in the dream of a man and wanted Her temple built near a particular ‘ ‘beli’ tree (vilva maram). During the festival season the daily early morning ‘poojas’ start at dawn after the hoisting of the flag. The morning ‘poojas’ go on till about noon. The evening ‘poojas’ start at six and continue till midnight.

Thousands of devotees flock to this kovil to offer ‘poojas’. Long ago, before the chariots were made, the statues of gods were taken around the kovil premises on the shoulders of the devotees.

The Hindus, with the help of Buddhists, Muslims and Christians collected funds to build a chariot to take the Goddess along the streets. Eventually, three more chariots were added and now there are five chariots.

The Hindus and Buddhists in the town decorate their homes and shops with traditional decorations, such as, banana trees, mango leaves and tender coconut leaves.

The ‘Theru’ festival of Muthumari Amman Kovil in Matale is a symbol of unity among Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and Christians.