Chitra Pournami, or Chitirai Purnima, is a unique Tamil festival observed on the full moon day (Poornima) in the month of Chitirai (April – May). In 2016, the date of Chitirai Pournami is April 22. The day is dedicated to Chitragupta, the official keeper of deeds in the abode of Yama. It is believed that bathing in holy rivers and temple ponds on the day will wash away the sins committed.
In Hinduism, Chitragupta, the first assistant of Lord Yama, is the one who keeps record of the good and bad deeds of human beings on earth. After death, when one reaches the abode of yama, it is he who tallies the good and bad deeds and declares it to Yama. Therefore, the day is dedicated to Chitragupta and devotees pray to him to forgive their sins.
Another important legend associated with Chitra Poornima, involves Lord Indra, the king of Gods, and his Guru Brihaspati. Once Indra and Brihaspati had an altercation, and the Guru stopped advising his pupil. Without the sound counsel of his Guru, Indra committed numerous sins.
Finally, when Brihaspati relented and took up his duty. He then advised Indra to undertake a pilgrimage to the earth to alleviate the burden of sins committed by him in his absence.
One day during his pilgrimage, Indra had a sudden realization that he has been redeemed from his sins. He looked around and noticed a Shivling under a Kadamba tree. He was sure that it was Lord Shiva who had helped him in alleviating his sins. He decided to worship the Lingam and to his surprise he found golden lotus in a nearby pond. He prayed to Shiva by offering the golden lotus. This happened on a Chitra Pournami day and the place was
in Tamil Nadu. In remembrance of this event, in the Madurai Meenakshi temple, a Devendra Puja is observed on Chitra Poornima. Madurai
Elaborate pujas are done on Chitirai Pournami in temples and a special rice offering is made to Chitragupta.