17 January 2017

Maatu Pongal: 2017 Pongal Festival

From the early hours Abishekam is performed at the Temple, in order to ensure the start of the procession by 5 a.m. At which time iconic representations of the Lord (and Parvati) is carried by attendants on a palanquin with a huge sunshade. 

After Blessing the Nandhis enroute the Holy Couple find their way out through the thitti vaasal - a small entry at the east of the Temple compound, instead of leaving through the main Temple gate known as the Raja Gopuram. 

Lord Arunachaleswarar gives darshan to the Sun

The Goddess in front of the Thitti Vassal Gate

On blessing the Sun at the thitti vaasal the procession goes around the temple perimeter thrice. During which the actual staging of the Divine Quarrel is re-enacted on the streets; the first time as Brahma, second as Vishnu and the third round as Rudra. 

The third day of this Festival is known as Mattu Pongal and is meant to offer thanks to cows and buffaloes, as they are used to plough the lands. 

A legend associated with the Festival and particularly connected with Mattu Pongal goes like this. 

The Banishment of Basava 

The third day of Pongal known as Mattu Pongal involves Lord Shiva and his mount, Nandi (Basava), the bull. According to legend, Lord Shiva once asked the bull to go to Earth and deliver this message: "have an oil massage, bathe daily and eat food once a month". Basava mixed up the message, and mistakenly told the people; "have an oil massage, bathe once a month and eat food daily". Enraged Shiva cursed Basava and said that due to his mistake there would be shortage of grains on Earth. He banished the bull to live on Earth forever in the form of cattle and help people plough the fields. 

Thus, Mattu Pongal has an association with cattle. As well as farmers and agriculturalists celebrating Mattu Pongal, the cow (buffalo) is also worshipped at Arunachaleswarar Temple. 

The Five Nandis 

During Mattu Pongal at Arunachaleswarar Temple, apart from other celebrations, the five Nandis (and Adhikara Nandi) inside the Temple are lavishly decorated with garlands and foodstuff. 

The Five Nandis: 

Pradosha Nandi in Moolastanam
Ratha Vilaku Nandi in Second Prakaram
Kodi Kampathu Nandi in Third Prakaram
Chinna Nandi in Fourth Prakaram 
Periya Nandi in front of Vallala Gopuram, Fifth Prakaram

Ratha Vilaku Nandi, 2nd Prakaram
Kodi Kampathu Nandi, 3rd Prakaram

Chinna Nandi, 4th Prakaram

Periya Nandi, Vallala Gopuram 5th Gopuram
Gods giving darshan to Periya Nandi at 5th Prakaram

Adhikara Nandi

Uthrayana Puniyakalam 2017: Thamari Kulam

Pongal’s astronomical significance is that it marks the auspicious beginning of Uthrayana, the Sun's movement northward for a six month period. All important events are scheduled during this season. The festival celebrates leaving behind old way of doing things, be it relationships, money matters or health habits. 

The below photographs are of Uthrayana Puniyakalam performed at Thamarai Kulam, Tiruvannamalai on January 14, 2017 in observance of the auspicious beginning of Uthrayana. 

The Gods from Arunachaleswarar Temple carried to Mandapam at Thamari Kulam

Lord Chandrasekhara at Mandapam

Immersion of Sulam outside Mandapam

Abhishekam of Sulam outside Thamari Kulam Mandapam

Consecrated water bathing Sulam

Aarti of Sulam outside Thamari Kulam Mandapam

2017 Pongal Preparations

Hope to make a sequence of postings elaborating on the various functions and observances of the 4-day Pongal Festival, which in fact ends today with what is known as Thiruvalluvar Day or Kanum Pongal. 

But to begin with below are photographs of some of the preparations in town previous to the Pongal celebrations.

A welcome sight during all festivities at Tiruvannamalai, is Rukku

Particularly popular at this time of Sunny Celebrations is the purchase of "special protection" for the outside of front doors to ward off negativity

Market in town that makes and sells flower garlands

As its customary during Pongal to give new clothes to friends and family, clothes stalls are abundant on the Temple perimeter streets

Hardware stores doing a roaring business selling paint and accoutrements for Maatu Pongal, and the rural celebration of the cow and bullock

Huge selection of coloured kolam powders for householders to use on Pongal displays at their front gate

Originally would only see sugarcane cradles during the Deepam Festival. Nowadays the custom of carrying one's child around the Temple is becoming commonplace during other Festivals

Shops throughout town making special Pongal discounts

Pongal a peak-time shopping for clothes, electrical items and household appliances

Yearly shop decorations are getting more elaborate!!!

15 January 2017

Photographs of Repairs, Renovation and Painting at Arunachaleswarar Temple

Below sequence of photographs show how smart Arunachaleswarar Temple is looking now that nearly all repairs, cleaning, renovation and painting have been completed in time for Monday, February 6, 2017 Mahakumbhabhiskeham. 

Cracks on Raja Gopuram have been repaired by Civil Engineers

Statues on all Gopurams cleaned and whenever necessary repaired

All gopurams cleaned, repaired and whitewashed

Vimanas on all shrines repaired and painted

Finishing up all work before February 6 date of Mahakumbhabhishekam

Both theerthams with surrounding statues, cleaned and painted

Wherever necessary repairs made on stonework

Statues on top of shrines cleaned and painted

All clean and ready for upcoming function

Shrine at 4th Prakaram showing column of fire legend

Shrine back of 4th Prakaram fully painted

Statues in front of Mother Shrine cleaned and painted

Photograph taken from 2016 Deepam Flag Hoisting showing smartly painted statues front of Arunachaleswarar Shrine

14 January 2017

Arunachala Pongal 2017

H  A  P  P  Y     P  O  N  G  A  L 

Best Wishes for a joyous and abundant 2017

13 January 2017

Arunachaleswarar Temple Mahakumbhabhishekam 2017: Full Programme

The below diagram of Arunachaleswarar Temple shows the location of the venue for the upcoming Mahakumbhabhishekam Yagasalai. The venue is located top left of the diagram.

Tiruvannamalai Arulmigu Apeethakuchambal Samaida Arunachaleswarar Temple 

Ashtabundana Swarnabundana Mahakumbhabhishekam Invitation Festival 

Arunachaleswarar is one of the most famous temple in India with Annamalai and Unnamulai and other murtis in the temple. 

To this Ashtabunda, Swarna Kumbhabhishekam will be done to all gopurams and all renovated vimanas. 

On February 6, 2017 Monday morning from 9.05 a.m. to 10.30 a.m. Mahakumbhabhishekam will be observed. On that same day in the night, Swami’s marriage and procession of the panchamoorthies will occur. God’s vahana will be the Silver Rishaba. 


January 26, 2017 Thursday 
Mangala music and Sridurgai Amman Utsavam at 6.15 p.m. 

January 27, 2017 Friday 
7 p.m. Sri Pidari Amman Utsavam 

January 28, 2017 Saturday 
7.30 a.m. Sri Vighneswara puja. Dhana puja. Sri Ganapati homam. Lakshmi Homam. Navagraha Homam. Gaja Puja. Go Puja. Annam Puja. 
Saturday Night 7 p.m. Rakshana Homam. 

January 29, 2017 Sunday 
8.30 a.m. Srimoorthi Homam. Skanda Homam. Purnaharti Deeparadhana. 
Sunday evening 7 p.m. Vastu Shanti 

January 30, 2017 Monday 
9.05 a.m. Dhisa homam. Samhita homam. Purnaharti Deeparadhana. 
Monday evening 5 p.m. Miruthsangkirahinam 

January 31, 2017 Tuesday 
8.30 a.m. Shanti Homam. Agni Homam. Theerthavari for moorthies. Ashtabundanam. Purnaharti Homam. Deeparadhana. 
Tuesday evening 5 p.m. Kumbha Alangaram Yartra Homam, Yatra Dhanam. Yagasalai Pravesum. 1st Kala Yaga puja. Purnaharti Deeparadhana. 

February 1, 2017 Wednesday
2nd Kala Yaga puja. Purnaharti Deeparadhana. 
Wednesday evening 4.30 p.m. 3rd Kala Yaga puja. Purnaharti Deeparadhana. 

February 2, 2017 Thursday 
5 a.m. Parivara Yagasala Puja 
8.05 a.m. Kala Yaga Puja. Purnaharti Deeparadhana. 
9-10.30 a.m. Parivara Devathas Kumbhabhishekam. 
Thursday Evening 4.30 p.m. 5th Kala Yaga puja. Purnaharti Deeparadhana. 

February 3, 2017 Friday 
8.30 a.m. 6th Kala Yaga Puja. Purnaharti Deeparadhana. 
Friday Evening 4.30 p.m. 7th Kala Yaga Puja. Moolasthanam Arunachaleswarar and Apeethakuchambal. Astabandanam. Purnaharti Deeparadhana. 

February 4, 2017 Saturday 
8th Kala Yaga puja. Purnaharti Deeparadhana. 
Saturday evening 4.30 p.m. 9th Kala Yaga puja. Purnaharti Deeparadhana 

February 5, 2017 Sunday. 
10th Kala Yaga Puja. Purnaharti Deeparadhana 
Sunday evening 4.15 p.m. 11th Kala Yaga puja. Purnaharti Deeparadhana Tatvarchana. 

February 6, 2017 Monday
3 a.m. 12th Kala Yaga puja. 
6.30 a.m. Mahapurnaharti 
7.15 a.m. Yatra Dharnam starting Kadam 
9.15 a.m. Raja Gopuram Moolasthanam other vimanas kumbhabhishekam. 
10.05 am Moolasthanam Mahakumbhabhishekam 
4.30 p.m. Mahabhishekam 
8.30 p.m. Tirukalyanam (marriage) 
10.00 p.m. Panchamoorthies procession

12 January 2017

2017 Arudra Darshanam and Nataraja Abhishekam

Arudra Darshan is observed in the Tamil month of Margazhi (December–January). It takes place on the full moon night (along with Arudra Birth Star) and is the longest night of the year. In 2017, Arudhara Darshan was observed on Wednesday, January 11. 

It celebrates the cosmic dance of Lord Shiva, which is represented by the Nataraja form. The term 'Nataraj' means 'King of Dancers' (nata = dance; raja = king). Arudra denotes a red flame and Lord Siva has also a name called "Semporjyoti" or "Golden Red Flame," and thus Nataraja is the manifestation of Siva as a Light. 

The cosmic dance of Lord Shiva represents five activities–Creation, Protection, Destruction, Embodiment and Release–thereby representing the continuous cycle of creation and destruction. It is believed that the energy from this dance of bliss (Ananda Tandavam) sustains the cosmos, and when Siva is finished with this dance, the Universe will end and a new one will begin. 

In this festival at Arunachaleswarar Temple, Abhishekam of Lord Nataraja takes place early in the morning and He and the Goddess then come outside amongst  devotees. Only a few times a year is the statue of Lord Nataraja brought out of its permanent home at the 2nd Prakaram of Arunachaleswarar Temple. 

Below are photographs of the abhishekam which was performed on Lord Nataraja and the Goddess at the 1000 Pillar Hall on Wednesday, January 11, 2017.

After completion of abhiskeham the Gods are taken out of the 1000 Pillar Hall and after turning right (in front of the Murugan Shrine) proceed through the gardens to the Thirumanjana Gate (South Side) and exit Arunachaleswarar Temple on the start of circumambulation of the mada veedhis (perimeter streets) of Arunachaleswarar Temple. 

Lord Shiva as Nataraja (Lord of the Dance) performs the Tandava–the dance in which the Universe is created, maintained, and resolved. The five places where Lord Nataraja performed His Tandavam are collectively known as Pancha Sabhas meaning Five Assembly Halls of Lord Nataraja. 

Dancing with Shiva 

"The world is seen as it truly is—sacred—when we behold Siva's cosmic dance. Everything in the universe, all that we see, hear and imagine, is movement. Galaxies soar in movement; atoms swirl in movement. All movement is Siva's dance. When we fight this movement and think it should be other than it is, we are reluctantly dancing with Siva. We are stubbornly resisting, holding ourselves apart, criticizing the natural processes and movements around us. 
It is by understanding the eternal truths that we bring all areas of our mind into the knowledge of how to accept what is and not wish it to be otherwise. Once this happens, we begin to consciously dance with Siva, to move with the sacred flow that surrounds us, to accept praise and blame, joy and sorrow, prosperity and adversity in equanimity, the fruit of understanding. We are then gracefully, in unrestrained surrender, dancing with Siva. The Vedas state, "The cosmic soul is truly the whole universe, the immortal source of all creation, all action, all meditation. Whoever discovers Him, hidden deep within, cuts through the bonds of ignorance even during his life on earth." 

[By Satguru Sivaya Subramaniyaswami]