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  • Writer's pictureSri Loganathan

Festival of Nine Nights

The secluded coastal town of Kulasekharapatnam in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu is peaceful for most of the year. Kulasai, as it is often called, does not draw a large number of foreigners or interested visitors from other regions of the nation. However, every October, more than 1.5 million tourists come to observe the last day of Navratri — the Hindu "Festival of Nine Nights" honoring the victory of Durga, the goddess of war, over the shape-shifting monster Mahishasura.

On the 10th day, known as Dussehra or Vijayadashmi, revelers of all ages and genders set off in a procession that seems both modern and ancient towards the 300-year-old Sri Mutharamman Temple in the center of Kulasai. They offer prayers to the presiding goddess, Mutharamman, collect alms from devout residents to compensate for spent expenses, and engage in ritual and celebration far into the night, dressed in costumes ranging from the simple to the amazingly elaborate.

Something that struck me as remarkable is that the devotees are all charged up within. The majority of them will never react to your request for a click. They appear to be in a trance. Also, not everyone finds the prospect of being photographed amusing.

I started following the devotees to see where they were going, which was about 1 kilometer away from the temple. When I arrived, I was able to see hundreds of devotees who were truly in a possessed state to perform their final prayer and take a bath in the sea to mark the conclusion of their trip. It was fascinating to witness hundreds of followers dressed as Kali walking towards their climax all around me. I stayed till the sun went down and then left at 7 p.m. I am sure that new stunning recollections will stay with me for the rest of my life!

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