Jayalalitha exchanges garlands with Sasikala on 60th birthday

February 22nd, 2008 - 7:11 pm ICT by admin  

Nagapattinam (Tamil Nadu), Feb 22 (IANS) AIADMK leader J. Jayalalitha visited temples and took part in several rituals, including garlanding her aide N. Sasikala, as part of her 60th birthday celebrations, or ’sashthiabdapurthy’. But the week began with what AIADMK cadres believe was a “life-saving” incident as the aircraft Jayalalitha was to fly in returned to base after take off.

On Wednesday, Jayalalitha and her aide Sasikala were to take off for Tiruchirapally in a hired eight-seater from Chennai airport and then continue their journey to a temple further down south.

The Beech jet 400 plane, belonging to the Orient Flight School in Puducherry, took off at 11.05 a.m.

But within minutes of takeoff, the pilot sought permission to return to Chennai, reporting a “technical snag”, and causing considerable anxiety to the party cadres and leaders.

Jayalalitha had to reach Thirukkadaiyur in Nagapattinam district before 6.45 p.m. to offer the first part of a series of prayers for her birthday Thursday, though it falls on Feb 24 according to the English calendar.

The ritual had to begin at the auspicious time according to the Hindu calendar when the star of her astrological configuration rose in the night sky, along with the full moon.

Flight authorities said the “snag” could be fixed in half an hour. But to avoid any risks, an Indian flight to Tiruchirapally was offered to her that was to take off from Chennai at about 1 p.m. This flight got delayed by 45 minutes.

By then, Jayalalitha decided not to go by plane and instead drove down along the east coast to reach Thirukkadaiyur, about 400 km from Chennai, by evening.

Apparently one of her fans had given them some ‘prasadam’ (holy offering) from Sai Baba before she boarded the plane, an AIADMK cadre said. “This is what saved Amma’s life that day,” he told media persons.

Jayalalitha reached the Amrithaghateswara Temple by evening and offered prayers. According to legend, this was the place where Lord Shiva rescued his devotee Markandeya when the god of death Yama came to take him.

Many people in Tamil Nadu visit the temple to seek the deity’s blessings on their 60th and 80th birthdays.

The former chief minister returned to the temple at about 5 a.m. Thursday to take part in another set of rituals. It included an ‘ayusha homam’ - performed to seek a long and happy life - that saw Jayalalitha garlanding her aide Sasikala.

The chief priest later told reporters that “it was ritualistically required to exchange garlands with another person as part of ’sasthiabdapurthy’.”

Usually men exchange garland with their spouses and the day is celebrated as a symbolic second marriage.

“But in Jayalalitha’s case, we asked Sasikala to stand in,” said Ganesh Gurukkal, the priest.

Jayalalitha donated a garland worth Rs.1.3 million to the deity, apart from cows and silk saris to the poor.

Rituals completed, she returned to Chennai Friday.

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