The 12-day Maha Sivaratri festival began at the Sri Ramanathaswamy temple in this pilgrim island here with flag hoisting ceremony on Friday. Hundreds of devotees witnessed the ceremony conducted in the ‘Mesha lagnam’ during the auspicious time between 9 and 10. 30 a.m. amid chanting of mantras and rituals by the temple priests. Raja N. Kumaran Sethupathy, the Thakkar of the temple and S. Selvaraj, Joint Commissioner of the temple were present at the flag hoisting ceremony. The Maha Shivratri fete would begin on the ninth day on February 24 with the procession of Swamy and Ambal in Indira Vimanam around the four streets of the temple.

Giving the details of the festival, K. Mayilvahanan, Assistant Divisional Engineer of the temple said after the car procession on Saturday, Lord Ramanathaswamy and his consort Goddess Parvathavardhini Ambal would be taken in ‘Golden Rishaba vaganam’ in a procession with ‘Pancha Moorthis’ around the four car streets of the temple. On Masi Amavasai on Sunday, Swamy and Ambal would be taken in a procession to Agnitheertham sea for ‘Theerthavari and ‘Deepa Oli’ worship, he said. After the theerthavari, Swamy and Ambal would be brought back to the temple in the evening and the temple would remain open throughout the night for devotees to offer worship. A special ‘Annna Abishekam’ would be performed around 11. 30 p.m. on the occasion, he said.

Apart from the local people, sadhus and pilgrims from north India are expected to witness the Sivratri on the night of March 7, he said. Hundreds of devotees from across the country are expected to visit the temple for ‘Masi Amavasai,’ he said. The festival would draw to a close on February 28, he added. The temple authorities have made arrangements for drinking water and sanitary facilities. The district police made elaborate security arrangements and installed CCTV cameras at strategic points to regulate and control the crowd during the festival.