There is just one day a year when I would ask you to not visit us at Lakeside. This year that day was18th July. The Sadaiyandi festival.
Just five minutes walk from us are two banyan trees. Beneath one is a statue of Durga, a mother goddess, whom women pray to if they want a child. Under the other is a statue of Sadaiyandi who is a local protector god. From the banyan grove there is a steep narrow winding footpath up the hillside to a small cave temple. Inside are some small statues to various gods including Ganesh who is always a great favourite in south India. This small cave has been a focus of worship for as long as people can remember.
On the day of the festival at least 40,000 (yes forty thousand!) people travel down our single track road to the grove, most of them climb the hillside to the cave before having a picnic in the grove or down by
the lake. To describe it as ‘chaotic’ would not be too far from the mark. Hindu worship is always lively and to have so many people in one place can lead to arguments, accidents on the hillside, pick-pockets, drunkenness – the same as anywhere in the world where huge crowds gather.
To monitor all of this 150 police officers are stationed in the area, a particular focus is down by the lake to make sure no one tries to go swimming after drinking – there have been drownings in past years. Lakeside hosts the group of 10 or more police Inspectors who have overall charge of the festival, providing them with a chicken biriyani lunch and a place to rest when off duty. We enjoy it very much as it gives us a chance to get to know them better, and discourages ‘sight-seers’ from the temple!
For us the night before the festival is the most difficult part as there are fireworks and music all night long.
No sleep for us on the night of Sadaiyandi festival!