Only Siva can worship Siva : ritual mistakes and their correction in a South Indian temple
The Great Temple at Madurai, Tamilnadu, formally known as the Arulmiku ('grace-bestowing') Minaksi-Sundaresvara Tirukkoyil ('temple'), is dedicated to the goddess Minaksi and her husband, the god Sundaresvara, who is a form of Siva. In Madurai, the goddess rather than the god is pre-eminent, and their temple is popularly called the 'Minaksi temple'. The Minaksi temple has a very complex festival cycle, but it includes only a few relatively minor events held solely or mainly for Sundaresvara; most festivals are celebrated for Minaksi and Sundaresvara jointly, or for the goddess alone. The most notable of Sundaresvara's own festivals is the Pavitra festival, the subject of this article. Although this festival is untypical of ritual activity in the Minaksi temple, it does raise questions of wider significance about ritual mistakes and the relationship between Siva and his priests, which I shall be examining.