Throwing mangoes is no child's play here. It is a highly revered event held as part of the unique annual 'mangani' (mango) festival of the temple of Karaikal Ammaiyar, the only woman saint among the 63 Saivaite 'Nayanmars', ardent devotees blessed by Lord Shiva.
Devotees throw mangoes when the utasav idol of “Pichandavar” (Lord Shiva) is taken out in a procession through the streets, the main event of the festivities, believing the fruits would reach the God.
Legend has it that Karaikal Ammaiyar was a pious young woman named Punithavathi who lived in this town, now part of union territory of Puducherry, in 5th century AD.
One day Lord Siva disguised himself as a Saint and appeared before her seeking food. She offered him food along with one mango which was kept for her husband.
Later when her husband asked for the mango, the woman was in a quandary and prayed to God after which the fruit fell on her hands from nowhere. Baffled, her husband concluded she was a supernatural being and left her.
Punitavathi then prayed to Lord Shiva to take away her beauty. Her flesh dried up and she became an old woman and an attendant of the God.
She then came to be known as Karaikal Ammaiyar and went on to sing several sacred hymns, becoming one among the 63 Nayanmars.
It is believed that Punithavathi gave the mango to the saint on the full moon day in the Tamil month of 'Aani' (June-July) and symbolising it, devotees throw mangoes on the day during the celestial procession, held yesterday this year.
The mangoes are considered a 'prasadam' (offering) to the God, symbolysing the salvation attainment of Ammaiyar through the medium of the fruit.
This year, the four-day festival commenced with Vigneshwara Pooja on Thursday and concluded today.
The main event of the “Pitchandavar” procession was held yesterday when the utsav idol of saint incarnation of Lord Shiva is taken out through the streets of the town.
Alarge number of devotees threw mangoes on the idol. The streets were filled with mangoes and its juice and wore a bright yellow colour.