Float Festival is one of the main festivals celebrated in Madurai. It takes place on the full moon night of the Tamil month, Thai, which falls between mid January and mid February. The concept of the festival dates back to the 17th century, when it was celebrated for the first time by King Thirumalai Nayak. He constructed an artificial tank and then, built a temple of Lord Vigneswara on the island in the middle. He started the custom of taking the idols for a boat ride in the tank, on his birthday. This is how the Float festival came into existence.
At dawn, the procession of the idols of Goddess Meenakshi and Lord
Sundareshwarar starts from the main temple. The deities are taken to the
tank in golden palanquins escorted by elephants, horses, musicians and
thousands of devotees. They are then placed in a 'Mandapam' on the banks
of the lake. Here, the devotees worship the God and Goddess. After this,
the idols are again carried in palanquins and placed on a raft-like
structure. The raft is colorfully decorated with varieties of flower
garlands, silken buntings, paper lanterns and variety of flowers.
After being placed on the float, the deities are taken for rounds in
the lake with the help of ropes. The decorated float is then taken back
to the central island and stays there till the evening. Devotees throng
the island and reach there by boats. In the evening, the island temple
is illuminated with colorful lights are looks mesmerizing. Thousands of
little oil-lamps are also lighted near the lake. All these lights are
brightly reflected in the water. This gives the impression as if the
lake is glowing with its own light. The float is then illuminated with
colored electric bulbs, fluorescent tubes and a flood lights.
The ornamental raft is converted into a scintillating object. This is
followed by a display of fireworks on the shore. In this divine setting,
the float is again put to water. It makes its way through the sparkling
water amidst fireworks, cheers and prayers of the devotees. After
completing a full round, the float is brought to the shore. Finally, the
idols are placed on a beautifully decorated golden horse and are
returned to the main temple in a procession with great pomp. Float
Festival also celebrates the birthday of King Nayak. This festival is
unique in its celebration and attracts large number of tourists and
Float Festival of Madurai is celebrated on the birthday of King Nayak. Get information on the Float Festival of Madurai, India.