A few flights were rescheduled, some cancelled as the international airport in Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram halted its operations for five hours Wednesday night to enable the bi-annual centuries-old ceremonial procession of the famous Padmanabha Swamy temple to pass through the runway.
At least four flights were rescheduled, two cancelled as the take-off and landing operations came to a halt at the airport here between 4 pm and 9 pm to allow the traditional "Aaratu" procession of the temple, airport sources said.
The processional idols of the temple deities are carried to the sea behind the airport for a holy dip twice a year in a ceremonial march, which has been taking this route even before the airport was established in 1932.
The airport issues a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) twice every year before the runway is closed during the bi-annual Alpashy festival which falls in October-November and the Panguni festival in March-April.
The present head of the royal family of erstwhile Travancore, Sree Moolam Tirunal Rama Varma, carrying the ceremonial sword and wearing the traditional green cap, symbolically led the procession, which began from the temple at around 5 pm.
Vehicular traffic was also stopped along the procession route.
Priests in Garuda Vahanas carried the "utsava vigrahas" of Padmanabha swamy, Narasima Moorthy and Krishna Swami, accompanied by hundreds of people, including women and children and 4 caparisoned elephants walked through the 3,398m long runway to the beach under the watchful eyes of the airport security personnel.
After a dip in the sea off Shankumukham beach, the idols were then taken back to the shrine in a procession lit by traditional torches which marks the conclusion of the festival.
Four Air India flights to Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Sharjah were among those which were rescheduled Wednesday due to the ceremonial procession.