Hundreds of Indians celebrated the ancient Hindu religious festival of Mahamakam on Sunday (2 March).
SV & GV People arriving by bus for festival at Kumbakonam (2 shots)
SVs People arriving on foot carrying belongings (2 shots)
GT TV PAN People bathing in lake
SVs People bathing in water of lake (2 shots)
SV Woman devotee putting 'kumkum' red powder on forehead after bathing in holy water
SV Women performing 'puja' (worship) with the help of priests with coconuts and red clothes and other materials on ground
SV Temple elephant blessing devotees by raising trunk and placing it on their heads
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Background: Hundreds of Indians celebrated the ancient Hindu religious festival of Mahamakam on Sunday (2 March). It took place in the town of Kumbakonam, about 650 kilometres from Madras in southern India.
SYNOPSIS: The festival of Mahamakam occurs only once every twelve years for astrological reasons. On this occasion there's an auspicious planetary conjunction when the planet Jupiter travels through Leo, one of the signs of the zodiac.
Pilgrims travel hundreds of kilometres to attend the festival, which is considered one of the most important in the religious calendar. And when they arrive in the temple town, the first part of a complex ceremony performed by the pilgrims is bathing in Kumbakonam's holy waters.
It's believed that, on the sacred occasion of Mahamakam, the main rivers of India flow underground to this spot. The water carries with it the 'deposits of sin' which bathers have left on them during the previous twelve years.
After bathing in the waters, married women replace the red mark on their foreheads which indicates their marital status , and then go on to perform 'puja' -- worship -- with the help of priest from the temple. Coconuts and red garments are significant parts of the rituals, and pilgrims make offerings of betel leaves and turmeric seeds to the priests.
There's also a temple elephant which blesses the pilgrims by placing its trunk on their heads. Like many other Hindu festivals, Mahamakan is intended to purify, avert evil influences, renew society and stimulate or revive the vital powers of nature.