6 December 2017

2017 Arunachala Karthigai Festival: Mahadeepam Day on Arunachala

This year certain restrictions were put in force regarding people climbing the Hill on the day of Mahadeepam (i.e. December 2, 2017). Specifically only 2,500 devotees were given ticketed access to climb the Hill in order to make their offerings of ghee directly into the Deepam Cauldron. Tickets were issued from 6 a.m. that morning and devotees were allowed access to climb Arunachala from 10 a.m. via the pathway opposite Arunchaleswarar Temple Pey Gopuram. Ticketed devotees had to return down the Hill and be back at the ingress point by 6 p.m.

To find out more about the reasons why such unique restrictions regarding climbing the Hill on Mahadeepam Day were implemented this year, go to this earlier link here.

Every year during Deepam five earthen-pot lighted lamps, representing the five elements, provide the flame for the single Bharani Deepam which fisherman carry to the top of the mountain for use as the source-light for the Karthigai Deepam. It is also they who are entrusted with carrying the Deepam Cauldron up to the top of the Hill prior to the day of Mahadeepam.

Carrying the 2017 Cauldron up Arunachala prior to the day of Mahadeepam

The Deepam cauldron is hauled up the slopes of Arunachala supported by poles inserted into the cauldron’s rings. The unique privilege for taking the flame (source-light) and cauldron up the Hill and also for the actual lighting of the Deepam Flame is always given (for as long as the Hill’s recorded history) to men of the fishing caste.

Members of the Parvatha Raja light the cauldron on the summit of Arunachala. According to local belief, the Parvatha Raja clan are descendants of a king who had been blessed by Lord Shiva to light the cauldron in order to ward off a curse. The clan has three sub-divisions: Unnamulai Priyan, Pennattu Priyan and Vathathi Priyan. The menfolk from the three sub-classes take turns every year to light the cauldron.

The clansmen are honoured with ‘Parivattam' on the morning of Karthigai Deepam Day at the temple.They use `Ezhalal' (a long bamboo stick with the wick at one end) to light the cauldron. The lamp is lit at 6pm when the idol of Arthanareswarar is taken on a procession around the sanctum of the Arunachaleswarar temple. Around 600kg of ghee, 100 metre of cloth and over 4 kg of camphor will be used each day for the 13 days of 2017 Deepam.

The reason for the extraordinary grace shown to the fishing clan is explained by a famous legend of the time the Goddess Parvati was adopted by the king of the fishermen. A version of the story appears below.

Becoming a Fisherman 

"Once, the Lord was explaining to the Goddess the secret import of the Vedas. However, the Goddess who was listening to the Lord, seemed to be beset with some anxiety and was otherwise engrossed. It was, therefore, apparent that She was listening in name only. The Lord noticed this and said that as She was not paying full attention to the important things discoursed by Him that in retribution She should be born in the fisherman’s community.

The Goddess lamented and the Lord assured Her that She would be born to the king of fishermen and that He (The Lord) would in due course come to wed her.

Ganapathi and Subrahmanya, the sons of the Lord were greatly perturbed by this and in their frenzy, considering the books of the Vedas to be the cause of the trouble, threw the offending books into the sea. The Lord took Nandikeswara to task for having allowed Vinayaka and Subrahmanya to go to Him without knowing His convenience and cursed him to become a shark in the sea. Any curse on Ganapathi would recoil on Him (the Lord) and hence the Lord did not impose any curse on the elephant God, however, Subrahmanya was cursed to become the dumb son of a merchant.

There was a place called Pakam on the eastern seashore of the Pandya Kingdom which was inhabited by fishermen and their king of the great fisherman clan of Paravar, was a great devotee of Lord Siva. The king had no children and one day, when he went to the sea for fishing, found a crying female child lying under a Pinnai tree (or Punnai, Calophyllam Inophyllam) on the seashore. He picked the child up with great joy and handed it to his wife saying that it was a gift of the Lord. His wife brought up the child very affectionately and adorned it with various jewels. The child grew to be a girl who constantly meditated on Lord Siva.

As ordained by the Lord’s curse, Nandikeswara became a shark and caused havoc to the fishermen’s boats sailing in the sea. The king of the fishermen took considerable pains to catch the shark—but all was in vain. The king therefore announced that he would give his daughter in marriage to any person who would catch the shark.

The Lord appeared in the guise of a young fisherman and the king was struck with the personality and bearing of the young newcomer. To the king’s enquiry the young man replied that he was a fishermen and could net any big fish or shark. The king told him of the prize offered for netting the shark infesting the area. The newcomer went to the sea and in no time netted the shark.

The king and his men were astonished at the feat. And happily gave to the newcomer his daughter in marriage and celebrated the wedding immediately. The bride and bridegroom immediately appeared as Siva and Parvati on their Vrishabha mount and the shark also appeared as Nandikeswara.

The king of the fishermen extolled the God for the great kindness shown to an ordinary and illiterate man. The Lord told him that as he had been yearning for a child, He sent Parvati to be his daughter and He came himself came to wed Her. The Lord also blessed the king to have all prosperity and at the end of his life to become a denizen of Sivaloka. Then the Lord instructed Parvati about the secret import of the Vedas and She eagerly and earnestly listened to the discourse."

Ticketed devotees climbing Hill

Many are carrying ghee offerings to put directly into the Cauldron

More ambitious devotees bypassing the single-file ascending the Hill

Ropes in particularly difficult areas to climb were added for this year's Deepam

Almost symbolically the soldier has his hand over the muzzle while next to the Bonnet Macque

Devotees at the top of the Hill with their ghee offerings

Medical assistance was available on the Hill

Arunachaleswarar Temple from Arunachala as dusk slowly emerges

Lighting the 2017 Arunachala Karthigai Cauldron

Some devotees were allowed to remain on the Hill summit during the lighting

Arunachala Karthigai Deepam will remain alight for 11 days this year. The last day being Wednesday, December 12, 2017.

2 December 2017

2017 Arunachala Karthigai Festival. Day Ten—Early Morning: Bharani Deepam

As these five flames loom up with red-yellow light, the famous South Indian festival of Karthigai Deepam officially begins. A single flame is then taken from the pots and kept burning in the Temple throughout the day as a symbol of the merging of manifestation back into God, the one source of all. This single flame is referred to as the Bharani Deepam.


"There is immense significance in this ceremony called Bharani Deepam. At this time, the Universal Lord manifests as the five elements, which will later fully merge to become one when the Krittika Deepam flame is lit in the evening. From one to many and many to one. This is the whole essence of Saivism and the meaning of Krittika Deepam."

1 December 2017

2017 Arunachala Karthigai Festival: Online Streaming and Live TV Coverage—December 2, 2017

Karthigai Deepam will be lit on the top of the holy mountain Arunachala at Tiruvannamalai around 6 pm on December 2, 2017 and be visible from a radius of about 35km.

Live online streaming of the 2017 Arunachala Karthigai Deepam can be viewed on the links listed below:-

Thanthi TV:        www.thanthitv.com 
Jaya TV Newswww.jayanewslive.com 
Sun News:         www.sunnewslive.in 
News7 Tamil:    www.ns7.tv
Polimer News:  www.polimernews.com 

Live coverage of the 2017 Arunachala Karthigai Deepam can also be viewed on the below Tamil TV stations:- 

Jaya TV 

DD Podhigai 
Thanthi TV 
Sun News 
Vasanth TV 
Polimer News 
News7 Tamil 
Sri Sankara TV 
Kalaignar Seithigal 
Captain News 
Makkal TV 
Mega TV 
Raj News 
Lotus News
Zee Tamil

2017 Arunachala Karthigai Festival: Day 9. Day—Lord Chandrasekhara on Purusha Meruga Vahana

On the morning of the 9th day of the 10-day Karthigai Deepam Festival Lord Chandrasekhara is mounted on the Purusha Meruga Vahana.

This vahana known in Tamil as “Purushamirugam” (man-beast) has the body of a lion and the head of a human being. The sphinx-like creature supposedly has the power to avert evil influences and bad luck. It is also believed to be able to take away the sins of devotees when they enter a Temple and for this reason is often found in a strategic position at Temple gateways and near entrances to the inner shrine.

The form of the “purushamirugam” adorns lamps used in puja ceremonies (deeparadhana) and plays an important role in daily and yearly rituals in Shiva temples.

The Deities stopping at the Yagasala Shrine for pottu adornment

Lord Chandrasekhara on Purusha Meruga Vahana

Lord Vinayakar on Rat Vahana

Lord Chandrasekhara on Vahana in procession around the Temple mada veedhis

2017 Arunachala Karthigai Festival: Day 9. Early Morning—Cauldron Puja

Early this day—Friday 1st  December 2017, Puja was performed on the Deepam Cauldron in the 4th Prakaram of Arunachaleswarar Temple. Rukku was in attendance. After the Cauldron was blessed, it was lashed up to poles and then carried out of the Temple by (as tradition dictates), men of the fishing caste.

Ghee and consecrated cloth for wicks have already been taken to the Hill Summit and will continue to taken up regularly to the top of the Hill (throughout the days the Deepam is alight) to replenish the Cauldron.

Repair and painting completed on the Cauldron

Early this morning 9th Day of Deepam (December 1, 2017) puja was performed of the Cauldron with our Rukku and a Cow from the Goshala in attendance

Rukku at morning Puja

Some of the consecrated cloth to be used as wicks in the Cauldrons (on the Hill and in the Temple)

2017 Arunachala Karthigai Festival: Day 8. Night—Lord Somaskanda on Big Horse

In Hindu iconography, positive aspects of the vahana (vehicle) are emblematic of the Deity that it carries. In this procession as well as the Lord having the horse as his vahana, each of the panchamoorthies also carry a whip in their hand.

The main characteristic of the horse is its loyalty, industriousness and swiftness. It is symbolic of energy and effort and also symbolises the air or prana which runs through the channels of the body and is the vehicle of the mind. That means, with God as driver, there is the possibility of controlling the mind and guide it in any direction and at any speed. The neigh of a horse is also symbolic of the power to awaken the tamasic mind for the practice of sadhana and righteousness.

Throughout the Deepam Festival preparations for decorating Temple Shrines, Deities and Vahanas continue

Banana Trees for decorating a Shrine

Alangaram Aarti on Day 8. Night of the Panchamoorthies

The Panchamoothies being carried on palaquins around the Siva Shrine (3rd Prakaram)

Lord Somaskanda at the Yagasala Shrine (3rd Prakaram) for adornment of Pottu

The Panchamoorthies giving darshan at the Alankaram Mandapam in front of the Temple and adjacent to Car Street

Lord Somaskanda on Big Horse

30 November 2017

2017 Arunachala Karthigai Festival: Day 8. Day—Lord Chandrasekhara on Horse

The morning of the 8th day of the 10 Day Karthigai Deepam Festival belongs to Lord Chandrasekhara on horse vahana accompanied by Vinayaka on rat vahana.

After giving darshan in front of the Alankaram Mandapam Lord Chandrasekhara visits the Maharadham (His wooden chariot vahana of the previous day). During His visit puja is performed in the front of the Maharadham by Brahmin Priests. After completion, paste is taken from the puja residue, and a priest thereupon climbs onto the horse vahana platform and applies it to the forehead of Lord Chandrasekhara. After which a transfer of Darba Grass is made from the Maharadham to Lord Chandrasekhara on horse vahana.
Significance of this ritual is that power accumulated in the vast Maharadham the previous day is transferred back to its originator—Lord Chandrasekhara.

Lord Chandrasekhara and Lord Vinayaka stop at Yagasala Mandapam for adornment and aarti

Lord Chandrasekhara on Horse Vahana

2017 Arunachala Karthigai Festival: RESTRICTIONS climbing Arunachala on Deepam 2 December, 2017

This is unedited, unformatted feed from the Press Trust of India wire

The Madras High Court today directed authorities to permit only 2,500 devotees atop the Annamalai Hill in Thiruvannamalai during the December 2 Karthigai Deepam festival. 

Justice K Ravichandrabaabu said passes for the devotees will be distributed at special counters on first come first serve basis from 6am on Saturday. The judge passed a direction to this effect on a petition filed by devotees assailing the district collector's decision not to permit any devotee to climb atop the holy hill this year. 

Justice Ravichandrabaabu commended advocate-general Vijay Narayan for coming out with a suggestion to allow 2,000 devotees and then revising the number to 2,500. 

It, however, laid down conditions for pass holders undertaking the uphill trek during the festival. 

One of the conditions was that they should not light the deepam in any place atop the hill, except pouring the ghee at the designated Kopparai where the Karthigai deepam is lit. 

The devotees should not carry camphor, crackers and other inflammable materials. 

The 2,500 passes will not include VIP passes, the judge said, adding that the district administration should open special counters to distribute them to devotees who must come in queue. 

The judge directed the district administration to deploy adequate number of police personnel atop the hill to see that no untoward incident took place during the festival. 

Suitable arrangements must be made without giving room for any complaint from any quarters, the judge added. 

The devotees took exception to the collector's order that no devotee would be allowed to climb the hill during the Deepam festival, because previous festivals had seen loss of lives, accumulation of garbage and spoiling of flora and fauna, thereby causing pollution and threat to ecology. 

In the petition, the devotees said the centuries-old practice of climbing the holy hill to light the Deepam should not be curtailed all of a sudden, that to without getting the views and opinions of devotees and general public. 

Justice Ravichandrabaabu pointed out that sentiments of devotees and threat to environment were at loggerheads and the court needed to decide the issue with great care and caution. 

The judge praised the advocate-general for having come up with a solution.
"The fair, impartial and balanced role played by the advocate-general is deeply appreciated and recorded," the judge added.

2017 Arunachala Karthigai Festival: Day 7. Procession of The Goddess and Chandikeswarar

The 7th day of the  Arunachala Karthigai Deepam Festival is probably the most popular of all the ceremonial processions of the Deepam Festival. It is the day the Radhams are hauled by devotees around the mada veedhis of Arunachaleswarar Temple.

This day all the panchamoorthies participate in the procession, each in their own wooden chariot. The first two chariots are those of Lord Vinayaka and Lord Murugan (with both His wives). The third chariot procession is that of Lord Chandrasekhara and is known as the Maharadham (Wooden Chariot). 

The last two chariots to proceed around the perimeter streets of Arunachaleswarar Temple are those of the Goddess, and Chandikeswarar (Chandesa) i.e. steward to the Gods.

The final two chariots of the panchamoorthies arrived at their starting place on Car Street just before 10 p.m. yesterday night, Wednesday 29 November, 2017.

The Giant chariots on Car Street awaiting the return of the last two Chariots of the panchamoorthies

The Maharadham returned to its spot on Car Street at the end of its procession

Large crowds of devotees engaged in bringing home the last two Chariots

Late on the night of Wednesday, 29 November, 2017

29 November 2017

2017 Arunachala Karthigai Festival: Day 7. All Day—Maharadham

The 7th day of the  Arunachala Karthigai Deepam Festival is probably the most popular of all the ceremonial processions of the Deepam Festival. It is the day the Radhams are hauled by devotees around the mada veedhis of Arunachaleswarar Temple.

This day all the panchamoorthies participate in the procession, each in their own wooden chariot. The third chariot to start on procession is that of Lord Chandrasekhara and is known as the Maharadham (Wooden Chariot). 

The last two chariots to proceed around the perimeter streets of Arunachaleswarar Temple are those of the Goddess, and Chandikeswarar (Chandesa) i.e. steward to the Gods.

The Ter (Chariot)

“Ter-pulling Festivals are to be understood as a royal progress. In Tamil Hindu Temple rites, the “ter” is at once a war-chariot, a mobile palace and a representation of the God’s Temple. During these Festivals the God (or Goddess) is enthroned on his “ter” and vested with royal trappings; the great car is then drawn in triumph along its designated procession route.

This route is the Deity’s symbolic kingdom. As He proceeds among His worshippers, He (or the priest-attendants who act on His behalf) receives the offerings which are presented by His subject-devotees; the God returns these presentations in the form of prasad. These ceremonial exchanges affirm the God’s sovereign status, and they also express the bonds of social rank and primacy which are continually being built up and recorded among his devotees.”
[Saints, Goddesses and Kings by Susan Bailey]

---  oOo  ---

The first picture below is a map of the mada veedhis (perimeter streets) of Arunachaleswarar Temple. Processions go clockwise starting at the East side. All the five wooden chariots of the 7th day are permanently stationed on Car Street close to the Alankaram Mandapam (marked on map).

The Chariots are permanently stationed on Car Street near the Alankaram Mandapam

From early morning pilgrims have crowded around the Chariots on Car Street before the start of processions

Maharadham positioned in front of the loading mandapam and ready to start off

Maharadham on Thiruvoodal Street

Maharadham with ladies; pulling on the Chariot's left and gents on the Chariot's right

The chariot has nearly come to the top of Thiruvoodal Street

The chariot has left Thiruvoodal Street and has now turned right and proceeding on the West Side of the Temple on Pey Gopura Street