26 November 2014

Day One 2014 Deepam Festival -- Panchamoorthy Silver Vimana procession

This first day of Karthigai Deepam Festival (November 26, 2014) began this morning with the hosting of the flag (Dwajaroghanam) outside the Siva Sannidhi, signifying the commencement of the Festival. At the ceremony, the flag was hoisted amongst Vedic chanting and nagaswara music (drums and cymbals). The priests then invited the sacred rivers, deities and rishis to come and witness the occasion. 

Rukku -- Our Prized Temple Elephant leading the Panchamoorthies

After conclusion of the ceremony the Panchamurtis were taken around the perimeter streets surrounding the Temple (Vetthis Mada) and then installed in the Kalyana Mandapam located in the third prakaram of Arunachaleswarar Temple where Deeparadhana took place. 

Carrying the Gods through the Temple

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

Exiting Temple through gate next to Rajagopuram

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

Panchamoorthies Darshan

”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

Procession of Panchamoorthies around Temple

Flag Hoisting, 2014 Arunachala Karthigai Festival

Early this morning (Wednesday, 26 November, 2014) the Flag Hoisting ceremony at Arunachaleswarar Temple took place, marking the first day of the 2014 Deepam Festival at Arunachala. 

A permanent Dhvaja Stambha (flagstaff) is believed to be a later addition to the Hindu Temple. Initially, it was temporary and was primarily used to indicate the beginning of a Festival or other auspicious days and occasions. Whatever its history may be, the Pancharatra scripture states that a Temple without a Dhvaja cannot be said to be a Temple! 

Temple priests in charge of the elaborate ceremony

The Dhvaja Stambha, or Flag Staff, which is an important feature of the Temple, is located in front of the Siva Sannidhi. A Dhvaja Stambha usually represents the prosperity and pride of a Temple. But some texts suggest that the bottom of a flag post symbolizes Shiva, middle portion Brahma and the top portion Vishnu. 

Hoisting the Flag at Arunachaleswarar Temple

Today, Dhvaja Stambhas are permanent and in the case of Arunachaleswarar Temple it is plated with a precious metal. The top portion of the flag staff has three horizontal perches or three branches pointing towards the Sanctum Sanctorum. It symbolizes righteousness, reputation and propriety; or the Trimurtis – Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva. At the base of the Flag Staff is located the Bali Pitha (sacrificial altar for one’s malas, sins). One who hoists the Dhvaja (flag) aloft a Hindu Temple attains a divine body and enjoys the company of gods." So declares the treatise Deeparnava. 

There is a widespread belief that the Dhvaja Stambha gives an idea to a devotee from a long distance about the idol installed in the Temple and about the Vahana or Vehicle used by the deity. It is hoisted when there is an auspicious ceremony or Festival in the Temple. 

Lord Annamaliyar and Goddess Unnamulaiyar

Symbolically, hoisting the flag suggests setting out to conquer, and a devotee comes to the Temple to conquer his ego and gain control over the 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. The Temple visit invigorates the devotee, recharging him with strength and bravery to face the hardships of daily life knowing full well that in the ultimate those who have surrendered to the will of God find victory. 

The God and Goddess being carried out

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 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. 
Large crowd gathered for official beginning of the 2014 Deepam Festival

God is seen as the King of Kings, an Emperor above all emperors. He is the Supreme Power, not just on earth but in the entire Universe; which is, after all, His creation. The Hindu mind thus thinks it only befitting that tribute be paid to this all-powerful Master - the Dhvaja is thus sent aloft. If an ordinary citizen pays tribute to his king and receives favour, why the surprise when a devotee pays tribute to his King? 

Flagstaff with Arunachala in background

Sometimes the flag or banner hoisted in the Temple acts as a message board and gives an idea about the deity worshipped in the Temple. It also suggests which particular incarnation or manifestation of the God is given importance in the Temple. An interesting minor function of the Dhvaja is its use as a warning. Just as a city without the king's flag is a city 'without owner', a mandir without a Dhvaja is open to harassment by evil elements. The Dhvaja warns, "Beware, your entry is prohibited!" 

[Reference: Indian Temple Traditions – Kalpatharu Research Academy] 

Vinayagar Ursavam—November 25, 2014

The celebration yesterday evening (Tuesday, 25 November, 2014) at Arunachaleswarar Temple of the Vinayagar Ursavam.

25 November 2014

Pidari Ursavam, 2014 Karthigai Deepam Festival

In the Third Prakaram of Arunachaleswarar Temple the Pidariamman Sannathi is located and in front of this Sannathi stands a huge stone trishul (Trident). Yesterday evening, Monday 25th November, Pidari Ursavam was observed at her Shrine. 

Goddess Pidari is Kali in a rural setting and regarded as being a consort of Siva through being an aspect of Kali. 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).

Procession to the Goddess Shrine

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.

Pidari Shrine, Third Prakaram, Arunachaleswarar Temple

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.

In the famous legend of Daksha’s yajna in which Daksha ignores Lord Siva. Dhakshayani attends the yagna and feels vexed to see her father inviting all gods including Vishnu and Brahma, but has ignored and insulted Lord Siva. For this, Dhakshayani enters the yajna fires after cursing her father Daksha. Narada carries the news to Lord Shiva and the Great Lord shakes the earth. Sweat from his body falls down and Lord Veeravhadra and Pidari Badrakali emerge from it and are ordered to destroy the yajna and kill Dakshan. Which they do but upon the intercession of the Devas and Gods (who beg for Dakshan’s life) the head of a goat is attached to Daksha’s body and he is revived and thereupon begs forgiveness from Lord Shiva.

24 November 2014

Durgai Ursavam—November 23, 2014

The Brahmmotsavam of Karthigai Deepam Festival in Tiruvannamalai is not confined to the Temple alone but involves the whole town. The rituals and ceremonies connected with it have endured for centuries. On the first 3 days of the 17 day Festival various functions occur at the Durga Amman Temple, Tiruvannamalai, and on the last four days of the Festival, functions include Theepal of various Gods on Ayyankulam Tank (Arunagirinathar Temple), and Hill rounding by the Gods on their chariots in order that they may give darshan and blessings to those who live around the Hill.

The three days of functions dedicated to Goddess Durga started last night (23 November, 2014) with Durgai Ursavam.

The reason for the unique connection with the Goddess at Durga Amman Temple to 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 Mahishasura’.

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 a Guardian of Arunachala and thus a precursor of the Deepam Festival is always a celebration of this aspect of the Goddess.

The Deepam itself which is lit on the night of MahaDeepam, depending on the advice of Priests consulting their astrological texts, can last from a minimum of 7 days to a maximum of 13 days. This year the lighting will take place on December 5, 2014.

The main Festival lasts for 10 days and will begin on Uttradam day (November 26, 2014) with flag hoisting (dhwajarohanam) marking the beginning of festivities. After this ceremony, the image of Arunachaleswarar along with other deities are installed in the Kalyana Mandapam, where they remain housed for the next 10 days so that visiting devotees may have darshan.

Processions occur both day and day inside the Temple and around the outside perimeter of Arunachaleswarar Kovil.

2014 Karthigai Deepam -- Temple Preparations

The last touches of preparation at Arunachaleswarar Temple for the upcoming Karthigai Deepam Festival. 

Cleaning Flagstaff at Big Temple

Bali Peetam cleaning at Big Temple

Ravana Vaghanam for upcoming procession

All Vagahanams have been repaired and painted for the Festival

Cow with each leg a Veda, Kamadhenu in background

Mayil, Cobra and Golden Rishaba

Preparation of Golden Naga  Vaghanam nearly complete

22 November 2014

2014 Karthigai Temple -- Arunachaleswarar Temple Illumination

The Arunachaleswarar Temple lights were switched on and will remain brilliantly lighting up the Temple until after the completion of the 2014 Karthigai Arunachala Deepam Festival. 

Take a Virtual Tour of Arunachaleswarar Temple

Arunachala Grace has a link on the left column of this Blog entitled Arunachaleswarar Temple inviting readers to right click to take an amazing virtual tour of the Temple. For those that haven’t taken the 360 degree online tour, please do, its excellent. Click at this link here.

There is also another site that offers 360 degree views of the following at Arunachaleswarar Temple:-

Amman Sannathi
Moolavar Vimanam
East Rajagopuram
Urchavar Mandapam
Nanthi Mandapam
Parrot Gopuram
Perumal Sannathi
Sivagangai Teertham
Shivan Sannathi

To begin with take a tour of Mother's Shrine at this link here.

Amman Sannathi

Pradosham November 19, 2014

Below are four photographs of the recently observed Pradosham at Arunachaleswarar Temple on Wednesday November 19, 2014. 

17 November 2014

2014 Major Karthigai Deepam Functions

Below is the programme of the upcoming 2014 Karthigai Deepam at Arunachala listing just major functions over the Festival period. To view the complete programme of the upcoming 2014 Karthigai Festival as celebrated at Tiruvannamalai please go to my earlier posting at this link here.

All the photographs below are of a previous Deepam and taken from my website Arunachala Samudra, to give readers an idea of the size and energy of the crowds attending these major functions. 

To view more photographs and to read in-depth about the Arunachala Deepam Calendar go to to these link here and here.

Major functions over the upcoming 2014 Karthigai Arunachala Deepam

The below photographs are of an earlier Deepam Festival at Arunachala

Holy Flag Hoisting

Wish Fulfilling Tree (Virutcham)

Wish Fulfilling Cow (Kamadhenu)

Wish Fulfilling Tree and Kamadhenu outside Temple

Silver Rishaba

Huge Crowds for darshan of the Gods on Silver Rishaba

Maharadham being pulled around perimeter of Big Temple

Mahadeepam inside Arunachaleswarar Temple Compound

It is advised to all who intend being part of these wonderful, huge celebratory crowds that there will be people present who are not devotees. PLEASE DO NOT TAKE VALUABLES OR MONEY WITH YOU. 

16 November 2014

2014 Deepam Preparations Underway

Preparations are underway through Tiruvannamalai in connection with the upcoming 2014 Karthigai Arunachala Deepam. 

Ladies cleaning Temple lamps

Goldplating the Nagavagnam

Cleaning the Pali Peedam and fire holder

Pali Peedam in front of the Flagpost

Special Bus Services Announcement

It has been yearly practice to run special buses to Tiruvannamalai for the occasion of Karthigai Deepam. 

This year also, special buses will be run from Villupuram, Cuddalore, Pondicherry, Trichy, and other places to Tiruvannamalai. 

A total of 1100 special buses will be in service. 

Out of this, 500 are to be operated from Chennai. 

The buses will run from 4th December till 6th December. 

15 November 2014

2014 Arunachala Deepam Preparations

Preparations for Deepam begin long before the start of the Festival. This year a new Theepal has been created -- i.e. a float for the Gods to enjoy the last four days of the Festival on the waters of the Ayyakulam Tank (in front of the Arunagirinathar Temple). 

There are also lights to put up all around the Arunachaleswarar Temple and touch ups and repaintings of the various Gods and Vahanas that will be used during the upcoming Festival.

Preparing for the new Theepal, Ayyakulam Tank

Ayyakulam Tank in front of Arunagirinathar Temple

Blessings of new Theepal at Ayyakulam Tank

Completed Theepal for 2014 Karthigai Arunachala Deepam Festival

Decorating the Gopurams with electric display

Installing Lights throughout Arunachaleswarar Temple

Painting and touch-ups of the Gods and their Vahanas

Statues stored, newly painted; awaiting the 2014 Deepam Festival