Circling the Madras airport twice after take-off the Beech Jet400 craft landed much to the releif of the bridesmaids, who only minutes before had sent the brides off to a quiet wedding ceremony to be performed at the Amrithaghateswara Temple near Nagapattinam.
The occasion was the sasthiabdapurthy celebrations of Selvi Jayalalitha and her long standing consort, err, consentee live-in partner Sasikala, referred to fondly by the former as Sasi-chellam.
The pilot had cited a technical snag and Karuppannan, a bridesmermaid, who had offered prasadam from Saibaba was alternating between grief and happiness. Grief because the sasthiabdapurthy function would not take place during the auspicious muhurat time that began at 6.45 pm, Feb 21st and happiness that the gushing brides were safely ensconced in the big Amma's embrace.
Sobbing happily he further said that, "According to legend, this, Amrithaghateswara Temple, 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. And as per the star calender, Jaya Amma's birthday is today. Now what will happen?"
Thirukkadaiyur appeared to be very distant now in its 400 km. Another plane was offered. But Sasi turned up her nose, when the pilot politely refused to load the huge suitcase containing varieties of colored rubber-bananas and leather underwear and whips citing the 'imbalance of the plane' factor. She pouted and looked at the worried faces of the gathered bridesmaids and bridesmermaids.
So Jaya Amma decided to drive down along the ECR to reach Thirukkadaiyur, about 400 km from Chennai, by evening, much to the relief of everybody. And she offered her prayers during the auspicious hour.
Returning early, the next day at 5am along with Sasi-chellam to perform the next set of rituals, the 'ayusha homam'. Speaking to our correspondent, Mr Ganesh Gurukkal, who led the homam along with 15 other priests, told us that he had asked Ms Sasikala to garland Ms Jayalalithaa during the ritual because he could not carry out that part of the ceremony.
"The shastras require exchange of garlands during the shastiabdapoorthi ayush homam. As a male pujari cannot garland a female devotee, we asked Ms Sasikala to stand in," he explained. Ko (cow) puja and kaja (elephant) puja were also performed in her name, according to sources in the temple.
Ms Jayalalithaa made an offering of a diamond necklace worth Rs 30 lakh to Abirami Amman, the female deity of the temple. Selvi Jaya Amma donated a garland worth Rs 13 lakhs to the deity, apart from cows and silk saris to the poor.
Pointedly, in consideration to the World's poor no feast was organised.
After, the wedding, the joyous couple drove off to Chennai to plan for their honeymoon as dictated by the stars.
Accordingly on April 8th they reached their summer retreat, Kodanad bungalow, at Keradamattam village and were enjoying a quiet period of bliss during their star-blessed honeymoon period.
When sasi-chellam got her monthly 3-day time, poor Selvi Jaya Amma was reduced to look at the sprawling village and a temple from the top floor of her Kodanad bungalow.
Keradamattam village, was four km from her summer retreat in the Nilgiris and the small temple was Keradamattam village, four km from her summer retreat Kodanad in the Nilgiris and the small temple was the Aalamalai Aranganathar temple in the village where the Padugas worshipped.
Now Jaya Amma was influenced by the Black Cats who constantly guarded her and their curiosity rubbed off on her. She wanted to surprise her chellam and so on Full moon day on 19th May, she charmed sasi-chellam to accompany her to the temple.
Unbeknownst to Sasi-chellam, Jaya Amma used her weighty influence and was invited by the Sundatti panchayat chief to the special pooja, being performed as part of Vaikasi Visakam and full moon day celebrations, at the temple on 19th May.
The couple were received by the Padugas in their traditional style. They garlanded her with a long white cloth. She worshipped the deity along with Sasi, Aalamali Aranganathar, for more than five minutes and took a short break at a specially erected platform near the shrine. After the pooja, Paduga women danced in joy and Jaya Amma joined them. She danced for nearly two minutes while Sasi-chellam who was sore because of a polka-dotted rubber-banana, observed it from a short distance.
Moved by the former chief minister's gesture, the tribals gave her a tearful farewell after the performance and blessed her with the time immemorial words, " Give birth to 16 and live healthy for a long time to come" while Sasi blushed a beet red and drew pictures of babies on the dance floor with her gold-ringed big toe. They then earnestly began to plot ways and means to adopt Sottai-Karuna after his 85th birthday in June.