Every 40 years, the silk town of Kancheepuram in Tamil Nadu, India, welcomes devotees from around the world who come to pay their respect to Athi Varadar. Catching a glimpse of Lord Vishnu in this incarnation is a vignette of memory to be cherished, as it is such a rare experience.
The wooden idol of Athi Varadar, which translates to “Fig God,” is carved from the fig tree. Once every four decades, it’s restored to the water bed at the Varadharaja Perumal Temple.
This nine-foot-long idol is wrapped in silk cloth along with some organic preservatives to protect the wood from corrosion from the water’s salt content. The tank is completely drained, and the idol is then placed within a wooden box and lowered into a nine-foot tub brimming with water. To ensure the box remains fixed to the bottom of the tank, nagabasams, serpent-shaped clamps, are placed on various corners of the box to secure the lock and prevent the box from floating to the water’s surface.
The idol is initially dark brown in color when it’s taken out from the water, but turns into a reddish-brown as the days pass by due to oxidation. Millions of people visit the Vasantha Mandapam for a public viewing, called darshan, to see where the idol is kept. For the first 24 days, the figure is put in a sleeping position. For the remaining 24 days, Athi Varadar is repositioned so he can stand and bless his devotees.
Know Before You Go
This phenomenon occurs every 40 years and will occur next in 2059.