3 December 2016

2016 Arunachala Karthigai Festival: Day 1 Morning—Panchamoorthies Utsavam

After the Flag Hoisting ceremony, the Panchamoorthies each on their own palanquins are carried around the Flagpost five times in the order: Vinayaka, Murugan, Arunachaleswarar, Shakti and Chandikeswara. After their circumambulation, each of the Gods are carried through the Temple which they then leave through the Thitti Vassal Gate, adjacent to the Raja Gopuram on the east side of the Temple. 

Lord Arunachaleswarar and Goddess Shakti

Arunachaleswarar being carried around the Flagpost five times

Arunachaleswarar being carried on Palanquin, Shakti Goddess on left back of photograph

As the Gods are carried around the Flagpost, they are rocked by the palanquin bearers

The front of the Shrine was beautifully decorated for the function

Arunachala in background of a very colourful scene

Lord Arunachaleswarar in front of the 1000 Pillar Hall

Photo divided: left side Lord Arunachaleswarar and right side Shakti Goddess

The Panchamoorthies giving darshan to devotees in front of the Alankaram Mandapam

After having circumambulated the Temple on the Mada Veedhis (perimeter streets) the Gods return to Car Street completing their procession

Nearing their destination, Arunachaleswarar Temple  

2016 Arunachala Karthigai Festival: Day 1—Flag Hoisting

The Flag Hoisting ceremony which took place at Arunachaleswarar Temple early this morning (Saturday, December 3rd, 2014) marks the first day of the 2016 Karthigai Deepam Festival at Arunachala.

Symbolically, hoisting the flag suggests setting out to conquer, and a devotee comes to the Temple to conquer his ego and gain control over his baser nature with the help of the Supreme Being. The Sanskrit word for the flag is ‘Dhvaja’ and it means whatever is raised. In the religious sense, whatever raises man to a higher level of understanding and activity is a ‘Dhvaja.’ The flag also suggests hope and desire to overcome ignorance. A Temple visit invigorates the devotee, recharging him with strength and bravery to face hardships knowing that ultimately those who have surrendered to the will of God find victory.

Kings of old in order to exhibit their Lordship over their kingdom and proclaim their continuing rulership would hoist a flag above their battlements or palace. The Dhvaja which suggests the victory of good over evil is a symbol of victory and superior wealth. It signifies commanding respect, patriotism and kingship. The flag nowadays is raised to honour God who is seen as the King of Kings—the Supreme Power.

The history of a Temple flag on the Dwajasthambam (Dwajasthambam—Flag Pole) is that it marks an inauguration of a major Utsava at the Temple. The flag also serves as a signal to indicate to the people of the town and visitors that an Utsava is on. Dhwajarohanam is a public act of sankalpa (an action made to impress an idea on the mind) which indicates a vow undertaken (in this case) by the people of the town to celebrate Brahmostavam.

Old customs dedicated that no-one present within the town limits on the occasion of the Dhwajarohanam was expected to leave the town or do any other thing such as marriage etc., until after the end of the Festival. The close of the Festival is marked by the Dhwajavarohanam or the lowering of the flag.

Inside Temple looking out at Flagpole

To the right Gods under Pandal watching the ceremony

Raising of the Flag, 2016 Arunachala Karthigai Festival commences

The Gods under Pandal near flagpost

Large crowd attended the commencement of 2016 Deepam Festival

Crowd watching ceremony in 3rd Prakaram

Vinayakar and Chandikeswarar Utsavam: Pre-2016 Karthigai Deepam Festival

There are three days previous to the beginning of the 10 day Karthigai Deepam Festival. The first pre-day celebrates Durgai Utsavam, the second day Pidari Utsavam and the third and final day observes Vinayakar and Chandikeswarar Utsavam. 

The panchamoorthies taken in procession throughout the celebratory Karthigai Deepam Festival are: Vinayakar, Arunachaleswarar-Unnamalai, Amman, Kartikeya and Chandikeswarar. Below is information about Chandikeswarar (who represents all devotees) and and explanation why he follows the other murtis (idols) as their steward. 

“Chandikeswarar, a devotee of Lord Shiva was born in the village of Seynalur on the banks of the river Manni in the Chola country, as a young lad named Vicharasarman. 

He was the son of a pious and learned Brahmin named Yajnadatta. Vicharasarman was of great intelligence. One day when the lad was going to school, he saw a cowherd brutally assaulting a cow. Angry at the behaviour of the cowherd, young Vicharasarman took upon himself the duty of tending the cows of the village, to which the villagers acceded. From that day the cows looked happier and yielded more milk. More than the cow’s udders could hold. Vicharasarman, seeing that the milk was being wasted, collected it in vessels, set up lingams made of sand and poured this excess milk to bathe the lingas with intense piety for Shiva.The cowherd who had lost position on account of this Brahmin boy, saw him in this act and found this a good cause for denouncing him. He immediately brought it to the notice of the village elders as well as Yajnadatta, Vicharsarman’s father. The father saw his son pouring milk on small sand mounds and without investigating, kicked one of the lingas in anger. Young Vicharasarmana came out of his reverie and cut off the leg of his father with an axe with which he had kicked a linga. 

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 Chandikeswarar.” 

Chandesa is the embodiment of devotion and piety and the place he attained is considered the highest a devotee of Siva is privileged with. 

Lord Vinayakar

Lord Vinayakar on rat vahanam, Chandikeswarar on cow vahanam

Giving darshan at Alankaram Mandapam in front of Raja Gopuram, Big Temple

Moving away from the Alankaram Mandapam on way to perform circumambulation of the Mada Veedhis (Temple perimeter streets)

Chandikeswarar following Lord Vinayakar at beginning of procession

Performing circumambulation of Mada Veedhi Streets

2 December 2016

2016 Karthigai Deepam: Presentation of Flag and Umbrellas

Each year the Devanga Kula Community of Tiruvannamalai presents a Deepam Flag to Arunachaleswarar Temple which is thereupon used throughout the Festival. 

Today at their Temple, the "Sri Ramalingaswara Sowdeswari Ambal Temple" on Raja Rajan Street (near Thiruvoodal Street), puja was performed to consecrate the Flag. Afterwhich Rukku, our gorgeous Arunachaleswarar elephant came in state accompanied by a representative from the Big Temple to receive the Flag from the Devanga Kula community. 

Gorgeous Rukku at the community Temple

Puja performed at Temple to consecrate Flag

Representatives from Arunachaleswarar Temple receiving the Flag and thereafter carrying it in procession (accompanied by Gorgeous Rukku) on the Mada Veedhis (Temple perimeter streets)

Presentation of Ceremonial Umbrellas for the Gods 

For the last 12 years, the Arunachala Seva Sangam of Chennai has donated God Umbrellas to be used during Arunachala Karithigai Deepam Festival processions. 

This year the Seva Sangam travelled from Srinivasa Temple, Kanchipuram to Tiruvannamalai. On arrival on Friday (December 2, 2016) the group performed circumambulation of Arunachaleswarar Kovil and then donated the umbrellas to Temple authorities. 

Backdrop of new umbrellas donated by the Arunachala Seva Sangam, Chennai to Arunachaleswarar Temple for 2016 Karthigai Deepam Festival

Bringing the umbrellas into Arunachaleswarar Temple for an official presentation

Pidari Utsavam, Pre-2016 Karthigai Deepam Festival

The Pidariamman Shrine is located at the Third Prakaram of Arunachaleswarar Temple. In front of the Shrine stands a huge stone trishul (Trident). Yesterday evening, Thursday 1st December, 2016, Pidari Utsavam was observed at the Shrine. 

Goddess Pidari is an aspect of Kali in a rural setting and regarded as being a consort of Siva. Pidari is the ferocious aspect of Amman. The Mother Goddess gives life but Kali takes life. Goddess Pidari is the feminine form of Kala – time. Kali is the energy or the power of time. Her blackness swallows all that exists and the emptiness of space is her clothing, for when the Universe is dissolved, the power of time remains without maya (veil). 

Kali’s extension, Pidari and her worship; evolved as a fighter and warrior and gained importance with the influence of Tantrism where she is known as Kala Pidari. The Pidari Goddess, in line with Shakti manifestations, emphasises fierce symbolism. At times Pidari is the sole resident deity in a village. As devata, She is the all-in-all for the village from simple prayers to divine blessings. Otherwise she watches over the main deity of a temple in her role as ‘kaval deivam’ while taking her seat in a structure on the right hand side of a temple entrance. She joins the ‘kavaldeivam’ or Protection Gods’ similar to that of Ayyanar, Muniandy, Karuppana Swamy or Veerabahtra, all of whom are warrior-protection village gods. 

Pidari shares Kali’s attributes and is depicted holding a noose, trident, skull cup and a pointed knife. The noose is sometimes replaced by ankusha – the elephant goad. The damaru that she holds is entwined by a snake, thus sharing Siva’s characteristics. She has flaming hair and three eyes. Sometimes her breasts are decorated with snakes. She has a terrifying appearance with long incisor teeth to frighten off evil spirits. Her sculptures are sometimes synonymous with Goddess Mariamman and lime strung as a garland – ‘elumichai malai’ is her favourite. 

Goddess Pidari is also represented by a simple stone image called ‘veerakkal’ symbolising courage and venerating ‘veerarghal’ – the warriors. Pidari is part of many Amman temples. In rural settings, it is believed that Pidari is the combined form of Lord Shiva and Shakti. ‘Adanghaa Pidari’ is another Tamil description of Goddess Pidari. ‘Adanghaa’ means ‘one that cannot be controlled’ implying, Pidari, once provoked does not subside her anger soon. 

Yesterday evening was the second day of the pre-Deepam Festival. The first day celebrates Durgai Utsavam, the second day observes Pidari Utsavam and the third day, this evening, celebrates Ganesha Utsavam. 

Pidari Goddess

Goddess on her lion vahana

Goddess arriving at Pidari Shrine

Receiving aarti outside Pidari Shrine (3rd Prakaram)

1 December 2016

Durgai Ursavam Pre-2016 Karthigai Deepam Festival

This year the first three days of the 17 day Deepam Festival started off last night (November 30, 2016) at the Durga Amman Temple, Tiruvannamalai. The reason for the unique connection with the Goddess at Durga Amman Temple with the Karthigai Festival is believed to be because of the Goddess and her fight with the demon Mahisha. Go to this link to read ‘The Fight with Mahisasura’

In the Mahishasura legend, before fighting with the demon, the Goddess appointed four noble Bhairavis (celestial damsels) to keep watch on all four sides of Arunagiri. 

Ordering, that: 
"Admit only those who have come to worship Arunachala and are tired, hungry and thirsty. Others should not enter. She then appointed strong men to guard the boundaries of Arunachala and continued Her penance at Her ashram." 

[The Glory of Arunachala] 

In accordance with the mythology of Arunachala, Durga is recognised as Guardian of Arunachala and thus a precursor of the Deepam Festival is always a celebration of this aspect of the Goddess. 

Durgai Amman Temple, Tiruvannamalai

Aarti of the Goddess

Leaving the Shrine

After being carried around the outside of the Shrine, the Goddess on Palanquin ready to leave Temple compound

Being carried from Temple to the Goddess' vahana

Goddess on her Kamadhenu Vahana giving darshan to devotees

29 November 2016

Preparations for 2016 Arunachala Karthigai Deepam Festival

The below photographs show how busy the Temple and Tiruvannamalai are in their preparations for the upcoming 2016 Arunachala Karthigai Deepam Festival. 

Roadworks are being quickly completed in time for the crowds expected throughout the Festival days.

Roadworks throughout Tiruvannamalai being expedited in time for Festival

Much of the scaffolding throughout the Temple in preparation for next year's Mahakumbhabhishekam Festival, has either already been removed or the green cloth covering the scaffolding been taken off. 

Scaffolding on the Gopurams and Shrines throughout Temple

Chains used for pulling vahanas being sorted, cleaned and repaired when necessary

Freshly painted Gopuram being electrified for Festival

Temple workers busy with cleaning

Brahmin Priests also busy cleaning throughout the Shrines

Cleaning implements for the numerous upcoming aartis to be performed

Priests lending a helping hand

Checking lights for Temple electrification

Big job hoisting the lights up to the tops of the Gopurams

Kili Gopuram between 4th and 3rd Gopurams

Vallala Maharaja Gopuram between 5th and 4th Prakarams