Madurai: The entire country celebrates the navaratri festival but every region has its distinct flavour to the celebrations.
In the rural south India, it has its own signature style.
In Madurai, shrouded in mystery is the temple of the 'Saptakannimar', the seven goddesses that is located in the remote hills.
Every year thousands of villagers throng to this temple with a special offering that is called ‘Sundal’ and is cooked over a wooden fire.
There is a mythological tale that is associated with the temple. It is believed that more than half a century ago at this very hill, a villager named Vadivelu Asari heard a voice.
Asari, who lived on the outskirts of Madurai raised a rectangular block of stone according to the instructions of the deity.
When he did so, the seven goddesses revealed themselves to him.
The seven goddesses are left to the elements atop this obscure hill, under the shade of a banyan tree.
It is believed that the deities grant the boon of a long lasting marriage and bless childless couples with progeny.
The worship rituals are done only on Sundays. The navaratri festival, followed by the Dussehra festival witnesses many special ceremonies at the temple.
The locals prepare a special offering called the Sundal. It is made out of nine different grains that are soaked overnight in water, boiled, and then sautéed in mustard and oil.
But, chief among the offerings for the goddesses is Pongal, a simple dish of rice boiled in milk and jaggery.
Devotees make a wish or seek blessings as they make an offering of the Sundal and also distribute it around.