20 December 2014

Pradosham Arunachaleswarar Temple -- December 20, 2014

Now that the 2014 Karthigai Deepam Festival has completed, life at Arunachaleswarar Temple is back to its normal schedule. This includes its twice monthly observance of Pradosham. 

Below are photographs of Pradosham from this morning; Saturday, 20 December, 2014. 

Siva Sannidhi Flagpost, Arunachaleswarar Temple

Aarthi at the Big Nandi statue

Each month increasingly large crowds attend the Pradosham function

Circumambulation of the Siva Sannidhi, Big Temple

17 December 2014

Arunachala Deepam Cauldron Puja

Individual devotees, organisations and Ashrams donated to Arunachaleswarar Temple towards the purchase of ghee for the recently completed 2014 Karthigai Deepam. In addition individual devotees climbed Arunachala over the duration of the Karthigai Festival to personally deliver their own ghee offerings, often in the form of small packets and bottles. 

This year the flame on top of Arunachala, remained alight continuously for 11 days and at no time was the flame allowed to go out. Each day over 150 kgs of ghee (clarified butter) were fed to the flame. 

Puja before the pot is put into storage at Big Temple

The giant cauldron took 10 men (from the fisherman caste) more than three hours to haul to the top of Arunachala. Women are not involved to carry the Cauldron or tend it whilst it's on the Hill. However women are always welcomed on the Hill during the Deepam Festival. 

Each Cauldron is used for about 10 years before being replaced. The current one was first used in 2004. When it is time to create a new Cauldron, the old one will be taken to metal workers to be broken up and recycled in the production of the new pot. Each pot takes around Rs.10,000 to make. After Deepam the Cauldron was taken down the Hill by the same fisher-folk and after puja at Arunachaleswarar Temple, is kept in storage there until the next year.

16 December 2014

2014 Karthigai Deepam Cauldron back to Temple

The amount of time the Arunachala Deepam stays alight depends on calculations made by the Temple priests. This year the jyothi on the Hill stayed alight for 11 days. Today the cauldron, with its duty complete was carried down by men from the family of the fishing caste in charge of the cauldron for 2014. 

There are two lines of the family of the fishing caste assigned this yearly duty of lighting and maintaining the Deepam Cauldron -- these two lines alternate each year in taking up this responsibility. 

The Deepam Cauldron is carried back to Arunachaleswarar Temple, where it will be stored until the 2015 Arunachala Karthigai Mahadeepam Festival.

2014 Deepam at Yogi Ramsuratkumar Ashram

The bottom photographs are of the very nice Deepam display created by Yogi Ramsuratkumar Ashram. The flame on their own Arunachala hill was lit every evening from December 5 until last night December 15 -- coinciding with the 11 days of Deepam on top of Arunachala. 

During the 2014 Navaratri this Ashram also put on a wonderful Kolu (doll) display which you can view at this link here.

Mandir at Ashram

Display with 3 peaks

Arunachala with Shiva, Parvati, Temple (Yogi Ramsuratkumar front)

First Peak: left Dakshinamurti and right Lord Karthikeya

Third Peak: left Lord Ganesha and centre Yogi Ramsuratkumar

Flame lit at dusk for 11 days coinciding with Arunachala Deepam

Flame at Yogi Ramsuratkumar Ashram front of Arunachala Deepam

15 December 2014

Rukku Goes on Vacation

Now that her onerous 2014 Mahadeepam Festival duties are complete, around December 6th our girl Rukku happily left Arunachaleswarar Temple by the Peyogopuram Gate. She is on her way by lorry to the annual 48-day rejuvenation camp for Temple elephants held in Tamil Nadu. 

Watch those ears going through the Gate Rukku


Some friends at the Camp

Photographs -- Arunachala Karthigai Mahadeepam: December 5, 2014

2014 Deepam Festival. Day Nine—Night: Kailasha (Ravana) Vahanam

Due to a delay with photographs and to complete this full pictorial record of the 2014 Festival, I am only now posting Day Nine of the Karthigai Deepam Festival celebrated here at Tiruvannamalai. 

Kailasha (Ravana) or Ravananugraha-murti ("form showing favour to Ravana") is a benevolent aspect of Lord Siva who is depicted seated on his abode Mount Kailash with the Goddess Parvati while the rakshasa Ravana tries to shake the mountain. 

The legend recorded in the Ramayana goes like this: 

The ten-headed, twenty-armed mighty King Ravana defeated and looted the city of Alaka (which belonged to his step-brother and God of wealth, Lord Kubera). After the victory, Ravana was returning to Lanka in the flying chariot stolen from Kubera, when he spotted a beautiful place which his chariot could not fly over. 

Ravana met Shiva's bull-faced dwarf attendant Nandikeshvara and asked the reason for his chariot's inability to pass over the place. Nandi informed Ravana that Siva and Parvati were enjoying dalliance on the mountain and no one was allowed to pass. 

Ravana mocked Siva and Nandi. Enraged by the insult to his Lord, Nandi cursed Ravana that monkeys would destroy him. In turn, Ravana decided to uproot the mountain Kailash, infuriated by Nandi's curse and his inability to proceed further. He put all his twenty arms under Kailash and started lifting. However, the omniscient Shiva realized that Ravana was behind the menace and pressed the mountain into place with his big toe, trapping Ravana beneath it. Ravana gave a loud cry in pain. Advised by his ministers, Ravana sang hymns in praise of Shiva for a thousand years. Finally, Siva forgave Ravana and granted him an invincible sword. Since Ravana cried, he was given the name "Ravana" – one who cried. 

The Tamil version of the legend narrates that imprisoned under Kailash, Ravana cut off one of his heads and built a veena from it. He used his tendons for the strings and began singing the praises of Siva which pleased the Lord so much that he bestowed a powerful linga to be worshipped by Ravana at Lanka. 

2014 Deepam Festival. Day Nine—Morning: Chandrasekhara on Purusha Muni Vahanam

Due to a delay with photographs and to complete this full pictorial record of the 2014 Festival, I am only now posting Day Nine of the Karthigai Deepam Festival celebrated here at Tiruvannamalai. 

The morning of Day Nine of the 2014 Festival celebrates Lord Chandrasekhara on Purusha Muni Vahanam. Purusha Muni represented in the vahanam is Kapila Muni. 

Kapila Muni was an Indian sage; considered as a descendant of Manu and a grandson of Hindu god Brahma. Kapila Muni is one of the founders of Sankhya philosophy. Swami Vivekananda called Kapila Muni "the greatest psychologist of the world has ever known"and told, "there is no philosophy in the world that is not indebted to Kapila." 

A legend associated with Lord Siva and the Muni goes like this: 

King Sagara magically acquired sixty thousand sons. One day the King performed a worship for the good of his kingdom. One of the integral parts of the ritual was a horse – but the horse was stolen by God Indra. The King sent his sons to search for the horse and it was found in the underworld next to the meditating sage Kapila. Believing that the sage had stolen the horse, they hurled insults at him and caused his penance to be disturbed. The sage opened his eyes for the first time in several years, and looked at the sons of Sagara. With this glance, all sixty thousand were burnt to death. 

The souls of the sons of Sagara wandered as ghosts since their final rites had not been performed. Bhagiratha a descendant of Sagara learnt of their fate and vowed to bring Ganga down to Earth so that her waters would cleanse the souls of his ancestoris and release them to heaven. He prayed to Brahma that Ganga come down to Earth. 

Brahma agreed, and ordered Ganga to go down to the Earth and then on to the nether regions so that the souls of Bhagiratha's ancestors would be able to go to heaven. Ganga felt that this was insulting and decided to sweep the whole Earth away as she fell from the heavens. Alarmed, Bhagiratha prayed to Lord Shiva that He break up Ganga's descent. She arrogantly fell on Lord Siva's head and he trapped her in His hair and released her in small streams. The touch of the Lord further sanctified Ganga. 

14 December 2014

Day 4 Theepal - Sri Chandikeswar: Deepam Festival December 9, 2014

Brahmotsavam is intended to teach us the way to divine self-realisation. The last of the celebratory observances during Karthigai Festival is Thirthotsavam which literally means “water festival”. Four days are allocated at the end of Deepam to celebrate the water festival at Ayyankulam Tank in front of Arunagirinathar Temple (the third oldest Shiva Temple at Arunachala). The water festival is representative of the sadhaka’s plunge into the higher realms of consciousness – and typifies an entering into samadhi... an end of religious aspiration. 

The Theepal for the Gods are floating structure made up of drums and timber and decorated with lights, flowers, religious paintings and silken buntings. Lights are installed around the perimeter of the tank and focus lights placed at strategic points. When the murtis of the Gods come to Ayyakulam Tank they are placed lovingly on a float and then the float pushes off and completes an allocated number of turns upon the Temple Tank. Devotees sit on the steps of the tank to take darshan of the God on the Theepal. Thereafter the deity of that day is taken in procession around the four Mada Streets (perimeter streets) surrounding Arunachaleswarar Temple. 

Sri Chandikeswar

This (i.e. December 9, 2014) is the fourth and final day of the Theepal observances at the Ayyankulam Tank and part of the festivities surrounding the Arunachala Karthigai Festival. The below photographs are of Sri Chandikeswar (who as one of the five panchamoorthies represents us as devotee) being taken around the streets surrounding Arunachaleswarar Temple. 

In this and other processions throughout the Festival, the Panchamurthis are: Vinayagar, Lord Annamalaiyar, Goddess Unnamulaiyar, Lord Subramanya and Sri Chandikeswarar. 

Sri Chandikeswar in Mandapam outside Temple

To find out more about Sri Chandikeswar and how he was elevated to his high position: 

”Shiva was pleased with the devotion of this boy and he appeared in person along with Parvati his consort, before the boy. Shiva embraced him and made him in charge of his ganas (devotees or followers). He was also made the steward of his household, naming him Chandikeswara.” 

Visit this earlier posting at this link here.

Arunachaleswarar Temple with Arunachala Deepam background

9 December 2014

On the Streets -- 2014 Arunachala Karthigai Deepam Festival

The below photographs are a pictorial representations of some of the sights at Tiruvannamalai during the 2014 Karthigai Deepam Festival. 

Arriving at the main bus stand

Girivalam crowd taking both sides of the roadway

Crowds on Car Street

Crowd during a God procession

Girivalam crowds early in morning

Massive lamps in evidence throughout the Festival

Carrying large child in Karumpu Thuthi (sugar cane sling)

Ladies burning camphor in front of Temple

Barbers busy outside and inside Temple shaving heads

Hair shaving becoming traditional during Arunachala Karthigai Deepam

Flower sellers outside Raja Gopuram (East Gate) of Big Temple

Big Temple trying to keep up with garland demands for alangarams

Shops and stalls in Tirvannamalai full of lamps and lights

Priests during Silver Bull night at Temple

Priests and Brahmins throughout Tiruvannamalai

Sadhu inside Arunachaleswarar Temple

Sadhini with wonderful kumkum pottu at Big Temple