17 January 2015

2015 Maruvoodal -- Arunachaleswarar Temple

The below photograph is of the part of the Thiruvoodal Festival known as the Maruvoodal . . . which marks the reunion of the Divine couple in their abode at Arunachaleswarar Temple. 

When Lord Shiva completes his pradakshina he returns to Arunachaleswarar Temple early the next morning. He wishes to have reunion with his consort. This part of the Festival is known as Maruvoodal. The point of the Maruvoodal myth is to show the world that even a Celestial Couple has differences between them. But in the end there should only be reunion, even at the cost of a loss in finances which is represented by the loss of the jewels the night previously. 

Returning to his residence, Shiva knocks at the door but it has been bolted by Parvati. Lord Shiva asks, 

‘Oh my darling why have you locked the door?’ 

‘Sir after we came to an understanding still you went without me. And see now look you have lost everything there is no ornament or clothes. Not, only that but you went and gave darshan to all kinds of people. So, I am now requesting you must establish your manliness to me and retrieve everything that is lost and give the special one-legged dance.’ 

 Shiva starts the dance, Parvati forgets everything and opens the door. Their reunion is complete. 

16 January 2015

2015 Arunachaleswarar Thiruvoodal Enactment

The below two photographs are of the enactment of the 2015 Thiruvoodal (petty quarrel) between Lord Shiva and the Goddess which partly takes place on the mada veedhi (perimeter streets) of Arunachaleswarar Temple here at Tiruvannamalai. 

Thiruvoodal is enacted by Shiva and Parvati to convey social truths to their devotees. It takes place; inside the compound of Arunachaleswarar Temple, on the streets delineating the perimeter of the Temple, and on the girivalam pathway itself; by iconic representations of Shiva and Parvati. Thiruvoodal Festival is regarded in such high esteem that one of the perimeter roads has earned the special name Thiruvoodal Street by this convention. 

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

The palanquin first visits the Kodi Kampathu Nandi and gives darshan as Viratswarupa and afterwards separates into three parts representing; Brahma, Siva and Vishnu before leaving the compound of Arunachaleswarar. 

After Blessing the Nandhis en route the Holy Couple of Periya Nayakar (Protagonist Of the Universe) and His Consort 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. 

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 Gods "quarrelling" on the Tiruvannamalai streets

To support the enactment of the 'tiff' between Shiva and the Goddess, emissaries are employed by both to convey messages between the deities and participate in 'brokering a deal' between the feuding couple. The emissary used by Shiva on his behalf is Sundaramurthi Nayanar – a saint feted as a great devotee of Lord Siva and one of the Tamil Samaya Acharyas (four Tamil religious Teachers). His story is included in the famous book entitled Periapuranam. Saint Sambandhar is the other emissary engaged to help conciliate the Divine couple. 

A Tamil Poem "Thirukkutraala Voodal" narrates how Devi and Swami sing mockingly against each other’s courting. Thiruvalluvar has stressed in his verses the fact that such play between the couple enhances love and affection between spouses especially in making love which is described as the supreme form of "understanding" each other. 

Parvati complains about Shiva in the presence of Saint Sundarar. She talks of her unhappiness about the unkempt ways of Shiva; about his matted hair and having the Goddess Ganga in his disheveled locks, about his naked body smeared with ashes, his reclusive nature and his way of wandering about in cremation yards, His liking for wearing bones and dried skin, the carrying of a skull and his other strange behaviour. The Goddess also complains of Lord Shiva appearing in the minimal clothing of a Kaupina (loincloth) in front of the Rishi’s wives to whom he gives mouna darshan. Parvati also criticises that she is unable to get her Lord to work as he is immersed in meditation most of the time. 

Saint Sundarar is nonplussed and does not know what to do. Shiva, for his part, knowing full well that Parvati is more concerned with 'this and now' while he dwells purely in the eternal, pleads with her to reconcile. Parvati is implacable and stops talking to Shiva. She enters the temple without him. In order to placate her and as night is approaching, Shiva agrees to circumambulate Arunachala. During his circumambulation, he meets Bhringi Rishi and grants him liberation. The Lord loses all his Jewels during his hill round. 

When Lord Shiva completes his pradakshina he returns to Arunachaleswarar Temple early the next morning. He wishes to have reunion with his consort. This part of the Festival is known as Maruvoodal. The point of the Maruvoodal myth is to show the world that even a Celestial Couple has differences between them. But in the end there should only be reunion, even at the cost of a loss in finances which is represented by the loss of the jewels the night previously. 

Returning to his residence, Shiva knocks at the door but it has been bolted by Parvati. Lord Shiva asks, 

‘Oh my darling why have you locked the door?’ 

‘Sir after we came to an understanding still you went without me. And see now look you have lost everything there is no ornament or clothes. Not, only that but you went and gave darshan to all kinds of people. So, I am now requesting you must establish your manliness to me and retrieve everything that is lost and give the special one-legged dance.’ 

Shiva starts the dance, Parvati forgets everything and opens the door. 

To learn about the sagas concerning the Gods which are used to create the scenario of the 'petty quarrel' (Thiruvoodal) that needs resolution go to this link here

Happy 2015 Pongal from Arunachala

Pongal was originally a Harvest Festival for the farming community but today it is celebrated by all. It follows the solar calendar and is celebrated on the same days each year. With the end of the wet month of Margazhi (mid December to mid January) the new Tamil month of Thai heralds a series of festivals.

According to the calendar based on the solar system the year is divided into two halves following the apparent movement of the Sun northwards and Southwards. The former is termed Uttarayanam and the latter is Dakshinayanam. Uttarayanam marks the Sun’s movement northward for a six month period and all important events are scheduled during this time. On the first day of Thai, the Sun leaves the zodiac sign of Sagittarius and enters that of Capricorn, the latter is known as Makaram. The event thus is celebrated as Pongal.

There is a Tamil saying; "Thai peranthal Vali Perakum" – which means - with the dawn of the month of Thai, there will be peace, happiness, prosperity, brightness and harmony in the life of everyone.

Four festivals are celebrated at Tiruvannamalai (and throughout Tamil Nadu) for four consecutive days during Pongal Festival. Bhogi Pongal on January 13th, Surya Pongal on January 14th, Maattu Pongal on January 15th, and Thiruvalluvar Day (Kaanum Pongal) on January 16.

On Bhogi old clothes and materials are thrown away and set on fire, marking the beginning of a new life. The second day of Pongal, is celebrated by boiling fresh milk early in the morning and allowing it to boil over the vessel - a tradition that is the literal translation for Pongal. The third day, Mattu Pongal, is meant to offer thanks to the cows and buffaloes, as they are used to plough the lands. The fourth day of this Festival is called Kaanum Pongal. In a few places this day is also known as Karinaal or Thiruvalluvar Day.

Decorated Nandi at Arunachaleswarar Temple, Pongal 2015

Today the third day is known as Mattu Pongal, on which we offer thanks to the cows and buffaloes. To look at an earlier cow pongal at Tiruvannamalai, please go to this link here. As well as farmers and agriculturalists celebrating Mattu Pongal today, 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 inside the Temple are lavishly decorated with garlands and foodstuff.

The five Nandis are; Pradosha Nandi, in the Moolastanam, Ratha Vilaku Nandi in the Second Prakaram, Kodi Kampathu Nandi in the Third Prakaram, Chinna Nandi in the fourth prakaram and the Periyar Nandi that stands in front of the Vallala Gopuram in the Fifth Prakaram.

Mattu Pongal Arunachaleswarar Temple 2015

The Gods giving darshan at Thitti Vasal Gate, Big Temple

Also on this day and unique to Tiruvannamalai, we observe the Tiruvoodal Festival. Legend has it that the Lord in answer to a promise given to Parvati appears on this holy day (Uttarayana) to dance on one foot. He says; ‘On Uttarayana holy day, I will do the dance when the sun rises.’ 

The word 'Thiru' signifies; deity, sacred, holy and wealth and the word 'Voodal' actually means 'tiff' or 'petty quarrel', and represents the friction between the male and female in a love relationship which is consciously exacerbated. The distinguishing mark of Voodal is that it should arise and stay only for a brief period and not be prolonged as its focus is the bliss when the Voodal is withdrawn. 

The poem Thirukkural says in the chapters dedicated to 'kama' which is concentrated on the relationship between man and woman and the establishment of household and children, that; 'The way to amplify bliss through desire or relationship is through voodal. That ever present bliss you can only see when the tension comes and is withdrawn. It is like salt to food – beyond a certain limit it is lost completely.' Thirukurral explains the tiff as 'creation of a tension, which when released you have a bliss that is always present. It is the Voodal that helps one focus upon that.' 

Thus Thiruvoodal is enacted by Shiva and Parvati to convey social truths to their devotees. It takes place; inside the compound of Arunachaleswarar Temple, on the streets delineating the perimeter of the Temple, and on the girivalam pathway itself; by iconic representations of Shiva and Parvati. Thiruvoodal Festival is regarded in such high esteem that one of the perimeter roads has earned the special name Thiruvoodal Street by this convention. 

To read more of this narrative please visit my website at this link here, and an earlier posting on Arunachala Grace at this link here.

5 January 2015

Thiruvathira Festival and Saint Manikkavacakar

For the previous nine days the statue of Manikkavacakar has been taken from its place near the Siva Sannidhi Shrine, and brought out in procession around the Big Temple’s maha veedhis (four perimeter streets). 

Manikkavacakar was a poet of the Hindu bhakti revival movement and his work forms one volume of the Tirumurai, the key religious text of Tamil Shaiva Siddhanta. His poems are a poetic expression of the joy of God-experience and the anguish of being separated from the Lord. This great saint aided the spiritual and religious revival of Hinduism and is revered as one of the four Samayak Kuravarkal (nalvars) of Shaivism who took birth in the world to show the path of elevating oneself to the Supreme Shiva. 

For more information about his life go to this link here, and to read two of his more famous works with English translation and audio go to his poems: Thiruvammaanai (Exulting Bliss) and Thiruvepaavai

On this the 10th day of his Festival and in conjunction with the Thiruvathira Festival, Lord Nataraja and the Goddess join Manikkavacakar in a procession around Arunachaleswarar Temple. 

Lord Nataraja and the Goddess

Gods coming from the 1000 Pillared Hall after worship

Lord Nataraja

The Goddess accompanying her Lord
Saint Manikkavacakar

Nataraja Abhishekam during 2015 Arudra Darshanam

Arudra (Arudra is the name of a star and there are 27 stars in the Hindu calendar) Darshan, also known as the Thiruvathira Festival, is an occasion celebrated in a grand manner during the Tamil month of Margazhi. The month of Margazhi is known as ‘Twilight’ in Heaven (the time the sun is in Sagittarius), and is considered the most appropriate time in which the Gods can rest and rejuvenate. This year Arudra Darshan fell on January 5th. 

In this festival Abhishekam of Lord Nataraja takes place early in the morning and then He comes outside amongst his devotees. 

Abhisekham of Lord

Legends of Arudra Darshan 

Once while Lord Vishnu was lying on the serpent Adisesha, the serpent felt the Lord was getting heavier. On asking the reason, Vishnu responded that He was remembering and enjoying the great dance of Lord Siva. The answer developed the desire in the serpent to see the great dance of Lord Shiva. 

There was also a sage named Viyaagara Paadha, who prayed to God for the legs of tiger, in order that he could pluck flowers early in the morning (before any bee touched and spoilt the blooms). This sage also wished to see the dance of the Lord. Pleased with their prayers the Lord appeared to them on Thiruvaadhirai day in the form of Nataraja. 

It is during this auspicious period that Lord Shiva’s birthday is celebrated and it is when it is believed that Lord Shiva’s energy is closest to earth. Lord Shiva is worshipped in the cosmic dance form as Lord Nataraja, and the full moon night of Margazhi is also the longest night of the year. After this date, days get longer and nights get shorter. 

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. It is in the form of light the lord performs his function of five activities which are Creation, Protection, Destruction, Embodiment and Release. 

The term 'Nataraj' means 'King of Dancers' and 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. To read more about Shiva as Nataraja, go to this link here

“Modern physics has shown that the rhythm of creation and destruction is not only manifest in the turn of the seasons and in the birth and death of all living creatures, but is also the very essence of inorganic matter . . . For the modern physicists, Shiva's dance is the dance of subatomic matter . . . Hundreds of years ago, Indian artists created visual images of dancing Shivas in a beautiful series of bronzes. In our time, physicists have used the most advanced technology to portray the patterns of the cosmic dance. The metaphor of the cosmic dance thus unifies ancient mythology, religious art and modern physics." 
[Fritjof Capra] 

Shiva's dance overcoming dwarf-demon, who symbolises ignorance

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 Subrmauniyaswami] 

3 January 2015

January 2, 2015 Pradosham -- Arunachaleswarar Temple

Below is a very nice sequence of photographs of the recently completed Pradosham at Arunachaleswarar Temple. In the photographs, abhishekam and aarti are being performed on the Nandi next to the Flagpost in front of the Siva Sannidhi. Thereafter the photographs are of the Gods being carried on pradakshina around the Siva Sannidhi.

For those interested in learning how to correctly perform Somasutra Pradakshinam, please check on my Blog Arunachala Mystic, at this link here and here

Tumeric (Manjalpodi) being applied during Abhishekam Puja

Waiving of Aarti

Large crowd accompanying the Lord

Wonderful photograph of the Gods on the golden Rishbaba

Completing their circumambulation of the Siva Sannidhi

1 January 2015

Sorgavasal Thirappu 2015

Vaikunta Ekadasi (Ekadasi is synonymous with fasting and abstinence) is an auspicious day dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It occurs in the month of Margashirsha and this year has fallen today, Thursday, January 1, 2015. In Tamil Nadu the festival is known as Mukkoti Ekadasi or Sorgavasal Thirappu. 

Fasting is an important aspect associated with this Festival. The austerity is associated with much deeper aspects associated with the below legend: 

Lord Krishna Shrine, Arunachaleswarar Temple

During the Krita Yuga, also termed the golden age, an asura called Muran harassed both devas and mortals. Unable to bear his tyranny, the devas sought refuge in Shiva. He directed them to approach Vishnu. Vishnu agreed to help the devas and went out to battle with Muran. During the long battle, which lasted one thousand celestial years, Vishnu needed to rest for a while. He entered a beautiful cave called Himavati in Badarikashrama to sleep. 

Muran wanted to strike Vishnu while he was sleeping. However, Shakti (Vishnu's female energy) emerged out of his body and assumed the form of a beautiful damsel who fought Muran and vanquished him. When Vishnu awoke he was very pleased and named this maiden as Ekadasi and granted her a boon. The maiden said, "O Lord, if You are pleased with me and wish to give me a boon, then give me the power to deliver people from the greatest sins if they fast this day". Vishnu granted her the boon and declared that people worshipping her would reach Vaikunta. Thus, it is said, the first Ekadasi originated and devout people have since observed the Ekadasi fast. 

Outside Krishna Shrine, Arunachaleswarar Temple

The esoteric implication of this legend signifies that the demon Muran represents the tamasic and rajasic qualities in us. The import of the Ekadasi vrata is that one can conquer rajasic and tamasic tendencies through fasting (fasting means abstaining from anything that feeds the senses). This helps us reach our ultimate destination, Vaikuntha, which is the place or stage of no 'kuntitha'—which means to have no dullness, stupidity or misery. 

On this day, the Vaikunta Dwaram or the Swarga Vaasal, ‘The Gates of Heaven’ are believed to be kept open. The area encircling the sanctum is referred to Swarga Vaasal and devotees throng to gain entry into the Temple, to seek the Lord. The day of Ekadasi is to be spent in prayers and japam and visits to Temple. 

Walking through Gates of Heaven

As Lord Vishnu is celebrated as the founder of Arunachaleswarar Temple and Lord Brahma as the founder of Adi Annamalai Temple, this Vishnu Festival is celebrated in grand style. 

There is also a fascinating story connected to the idols of Venugopala (with Rukumini and Satyabhama) whose shrine is immediately behind the Siva Sannidhi. It is believed that the statues were originally installed in a small Vaisnava temple near Samudram Eri (lake) some 2 miles southwest of Arunachaleswarar Kovil. During certain festival, villagers used to carry statues of their God to the large Vishnu temple at Tirukoilur (20 kms). 

However whenever Saiva idols from Arunachaleswarar Temple passed the Samudram, Vishnu devotees from Samudram Village consistently created a disturbance. In response to continuous complaints, the King ordered the people of the Vaisnava village to go in procession to Tirukoilur. When they were gone, he had the images of Venugopal (Krishna with flute) and his wives removed from the Samudram Temple and installed in a shrine immediately at the back of the Siva Sannidhi at Arunachaleswarar Temple.


Early morning set out in the drizzle with my doggies on our daily walk. To begin with Arunachala was almost totally obscured by mists. As we progressed further on our walk the mist lessened and we were able to clearly discern the shape of the Hill. 

By the time we got home, normal service was resumed and we were able to enjoy a truly magnificent darshan from the roof of our house. 


31 December 2014

Postings on my Arunachala Blogs from Tuesday, November 4, 2014 to Wednesday, December 31, 2014

This year I spent a lot of time on Deepam postings for Arunachala Grace and absolutely neglected my other Blogs: Arunachala Mystic, Arunachala Birds, Arunachala Land and Arunachala Satsang and website Arunachala Samudra. However just because I have neglected postings on my other sites doesn’t mean that I don’t have lots of fascinating narratives to upload . . . so keep checking in to all of the above. 

Regarding the Deepam postings, sometimes there was a delay in preparing photographs for each day’s functions – thus the list below which appears on Arunachala Grace, is not completely in chronological order. In the coming month, the 2014 Arunachala Mahadeepam calendar and pictorial galleries will be uploaded onto my website Arunachala Samudra. In that upload day and night functions of each day of the 2014 Karthigai Mahadeepam will be in the correct order. 

Anyhow to finish off 2014 rightly, below are links and short extracts of postings on my various Arunachala Blogs from Tuesday, November 4, 2014 to Wednesday, December 31, 2014. 

Best wishes to all the readers of my Blogs and Website for a joy-filled, auspicious 2015. 

Arunachala Grace 

Annamalai Swami Quotes -- Advaita app: Narrative on life of Annamalai Swami and link to an app connected with this great Saint. 

Pradosham Arunachaleswarar Temple -- December 20, 2014: Photographs of Pradosham at the Big Temple on December 20, 2014.

Arunachala Deepam Cauldron Puja: Puja on the Deepam Cauldron at the end of the 2014 Karthigai Deepam celebrations.

Karthigai Deepam Cauldron back to Temple: Photographs of the Cauldron coming back down Arunachala to the Big Temple.

2014 Deepam at Yogi Ramsuratkumar Ashram: Photographs of a very nice Deepam display created by Yogi Ramsuratkumar Ashram.

Rukku Goes on Vacation: As is becoming customary, at the end of Karthigai Deepam, our precious Rukku who is the Arunachaleswarar Temple elephant, goes on a 48 day rejuvenation camp to the forest.

Photographs -- Arunachala Karthigai Mahadeepam: December 5, 2014 Wonderful set of photographs of the night of 2014 Karthigai Deepam. 

2014 Deepam Festival. Day NineNight. Kailasha (Ravana) Vahanam: 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.

Deepam Festival. Day Nine—Morning: Chandrasekhara on Purusha Muni Vahanam: Chandrasekhara on Purusha Muni Vahanam. Legend of Purusha Kapila Muni. 

Day 4 Theepal - Sri Chandikeswar. Deepam Festival December 9, 2014: Fourth and final day of the Theepal observances at the Ayyankulam Tank and part of the festivities surrounding the Arunachala Karthigai Festival.

On the Streets -- 2014 Arunachala Karthigai Deepam Festival: Photographs of some of the sights at Tiruvannamalai during the 2014 Karthigai Deepam Festival.

Day 3 Theepal - Lord Subramanya: Deepam Festival December 8, 2014. Third night of Thirthotsavam (i.e. Water Festival) Lord Subramanya (with his two wives) was taken out on a float on the Ayyankulam Tank.

Day 2 Theepal - Parashakti: Deepam Festival December 7, 2014. Goddess Parashakti was taken out on a float on the Ayyankulam Tank located in front of the Arunagirinathar Temple.

Lord Arunachaleswarar performs Karthigai Girivalam: Traditionally after Karthigai Mahadeepam Lord Arunachaleswarar performs girivalam (pradakshina) of Arunachala.

Day 1 Theepal - Sri Chandrasekaran: Deepam Festival December 6, 2014 The last of the celebratory observances during Karthigai Festival is Thirthotsavam which literally means “water festival”. 

Photographs, Video 2014 Arunachala Karthigai Mahadeepam: More photographs and video of the 2014 Karthigai Deepam celebrated at Arunachala. 

Cow Festival 2014 Karthigai Deepam Festival Tiruvannamalai: Wonderful pictorial representation of the annual Cow Festival celebrated at Tiruvannamalai during the Karthigai Festival.

Arunachala Karthigai Mahadeepam -- December 5, 2014: Photographs of Mahadeepam at Arunachaleswarar Temple, significance of Ardhanarishvara worshipped at this time. Narrative of function by Swami Abhisktananda 1970.

Bharani Deepam 2014: Photograph of the flame that will light the 2014 Karthigai Deepam on top of Sacred Arunachala

2014 Arunachala Karthigai -- Bharani Deepam: Narrative describing the function and significance of the Bharani Deepam.

Festival of Lights: Photographs of lamps of every description available for sale in the steets around Arunachaleswarar Temple. 

Deepam Puja at Sri Rajarajeshwari Temple: Puja of the Goddess at Sri Rajarajeshwari Temple the day before 2014 Mahadeepam.

2014 Deepam Festival. Day Eight—Night: Arunachaleswarar Horse Vahanam. In Hindu iconography, positive aspects of the vahana (vehicle) are often emblematic of the deity that it carries. Explanation of the horse as vahanam.

2014 Deepam Festival. Day Eight—Afternoon: Pichandavar Lord Shiva in aspect of Pichandavar (beggar) and a story about a legend of this aspect. 

2014 Deepam Festival. Day Eight—Morning: Chandrasekarar on Horse Vahanam God on his horse vahanam visits the Maha Radham which has returned to its permanent spot (near the Temple on Car Street) from its previous day's Temple circumambulation.

Carrying 2014 Karthigai Deepam pot up Arunachala: Photographs of men from the fishing caste carrying Cauldron up Hill and retelling of the legend that gave this caste the honour of charge of the Cauldron.

Puja with Rukku for 2014 Arunachala Karthigai Mahadeepam Cauldron: Puja done early morning on the 2014 Arunachala Deepam cauldron before it is carried up the Hill. 

2014 Deepam Festival. Day Seven—Full Day. Maharadham: Spectacular photographs of the procession of the huge wooden Chariot around the perimeter of Arunachaleswarar Temple.

2014 Deepam Festival. Day Four—Night: Karpavirutcham and Kamadhenu Vahanams: One of the most popular of the processions during the Deepam Festival at Arunachala, is that of the Kamadhenu, the wish fulfilling cow, and the Kalpavriksha (also known as Karpavirutcham), the wish fulfilling tree. Both of which emphasis the wish fulfilling aspect of Arunachala. 

2014 Deepam Festival. Day Six—Night: Silver Chariot: Beautiful photographs (click to enlarge) of the night procession of the Lord on His Silver Chariot.

2014 Deepam Festival. Day SixMorning. Elephant with 63 Nayanars: A glorious Silver Elephant leads a procession of the great Shiva devotees, the 63 Nayanars.

Live TV coverage and online streaming video 2014 Karthigai Deepam: Links to live TV and online streaming videos of the lighting of the 2014 Deepam.

2014 Deepam Festival. Day FiveNight: Big Silver Rishabam: Big Silver Rishba with beautiful narrative by Swami Abhishekananda, 1970.

2014 Deepam Festival. Day Five—Day Chandrasekhara in Rishabam: Photographs of Chandrasekhara in Rishabam (bull) Vahanam. Click photos to enlarge.

2014 Karthigai Deepam Festival -- Cultural Programmes: Photographs of the cultural programme during the 2014 Karthigai Deepam celebrations.

Crowd Scenes 2014 Karthigai Deepam, Arunachala: Sequence of crowd photographs taken during the early days of the 2014 Karthigai Deepam Festival

2014 Deepam Festival. Day Four—Day: Naga Vahanam Procession of Chandrasekhara and Naga Vahanam

2014 Deepam Festival. Day Three-Night. Shima Vahanam Simha (lion): A creature that represents lordly power in general and lordly power of wild beasts in particular. 

Deepam Festival. Day Three-Day. Bootha Vahanam. Lord Chandrasekhara on the Bootha Vahanam procession.

Deepam Festival. Day Two—Night: Lord Shiva on Indira Vahanam who as God of thunder and rain and a great warrior is a symbol of courage and strength. 

2014 Deepam Festival. Day Two—Morning: Surya Perai Vaghanam Photographs of morning procession of the Lord on Surya Perai Vahanam.

2014 Deepam Festival. Day One—Evening: Adhikara Nandi Vahana Procession of Siva with his vahana of Adhikara Nandi – aspect of Nandi in the form of a bull-head human standing on two legs.

Day One 2014 Deepam Festival -- Panchamoorthy Silver Vimana procession: This procession followed the flag hoisting ceremony marking the beginning of the 2014 Karthigai Deepam.

Flag Hoisting, 2014 Arunachala Karthigai Festival: Flag Hoisting ceremony at Arunachaleswarar Temple took place, marking the first day of the 2014 Deepam Festival at Arunachala.

Vinayagar Ursavam—November 25, 2014: Celebration in evening at Arunachaleswarar Temple of the Vinayagar Ursavam.

Pidari Ursavam, 2014 Karthigai Deepam Festival: Pidari Ursavam was observed at Shrine. This Goddess is an aspect of the ferocious Goddess in a rural setting and regarded as being a consort of Siva through being an aspect of Kali. 

Durgai Ursavam—November 23, 2014: Reason for the unique connection with the Goddess at Durga Amman Temple to the Karthigai Festival

2014 Karthigai Deepam -- Temple Preparations: Last touches of preparation at Arunachaleswarar Temple for the upcoming 2014 Karthigai Deepam Festival. 

2014 Karthigai Temple -- Arunachaleswarar Temple Illumination: Beautiful photograph of the illuminated Temple during Mahadeepam. Click to enlarge.

Take a Virtual Tour of Arunachaleswarar Temple: Links of virtual tours of Arunachaleswarar Temple and some of its shrines. 

Pradosham November 19, 2014: Photographs of the recently observed Pradosham at Arunachaleswarar Temple on Wednesday November 19, 2014.

2014 Major Karthigai Deepam Functions: Major functions with photographs that will be enjoyed over the 2014 Karthigai Deepam Festival.

2014 Deepam Preparations Underway: Photographs of spring cleaning at the Arunachaleswarar Temple. 

2014 Arunachala Deepam Preparations: Photographs and preparation for Deepam with illuminations and new Theepal.

Significance of Rice Puja: During the month of Aippasi on Ashwini Star, as declared by Lord Shiva puja is performed with cooked rice and rice food items. 

Pradosham -- Tuesday November 4, 2014: Photographs were taken on Pradosham as observed at Arunachaleswarar Temple, Tiruvannamalai.

New Arunachala Blog: New Blog starts authored by an Australian lady (Apeetha Arunagiri) who lives in India each year from July to December

Sadhus and Sannyasins at Raghavendra Shrine: Arunachala Feeding of sadhus at Sri Raghavendra Shrine, Girivalam Roadway.

2014 Karthigai Deepam Arunachala Programme: Arunachaleswarar Temple Programme for 2014 Karthigai Deepam.

Arunachala Mystic 

Shirdi Sai Baba at Arunachala: Beautiful photographs of the Shirdi Sai Baba shrines at Arunachala. Narrative entitled ‘Complete surrender to Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi.’

Meeting of Ramana Maharsi and Paramahansa Yogananda: Information about the meeting of these two great saints.

30 December 2014

Annamalai Swami Quotes -- Advaita app

Annamalai Swami was a direct devotee of Ramana Maharshi. He moved to Tiruvannamalai at a young age to be with the Maharshi and helped construct Ramanasramam whilst serving as Bhagavan’s personal attendant for many years. 

Annamalai Swami showed a strong spiritual interest from a very young age and he pursued bhakti and other devotional practises on his own. At the age of 19, he encountered a wandering sadhu who showed him a picture of the Maharshi and also a copy of Upadesa Saram. He was instantly drawn to the Maharshi's photograph. That night he had a dream of the Maharshi, and the very next day (which happened to be a full moon) he set off for Tiruvannamalai. 

His realisation experience happened in an unexpectedly humorous way. One of Maharshi's attendants asked Ramana about the spiritual experience of hash-using sadhus. The Maharshi burst out laughing on hearing the question and began impersonating a hash-using sadhu and whilst repeating the word Ananda, Ananda gave Annamalai Swami a big hug. 

In that very moment, Annamalai Swami lost all sense of his body, mind and the world. He remained standing in this state like a statue for about 15 minutes. When he finally came to, he realised he was standing by himself. He searched for the Maharshi on Arunachala as he was returning from his daily walk. When he found Bhagavan, Annamalai Swami asked permission to leave Ramanasramam and move to Palakottu (a small forest grove next to the Ashram) to meditate in solitude, to which the Maharshi immediately gave his blessing. 

Annamalai Swami would never return to live at Ramanasramam. The few occasions where he did try and meet the Maharshi, Sri Ramana discouraged his contact. The Master wanted him to lose even his attachment to the physical presence of the Guru, and devote himself completely to practising Self-inquiry so that he would attain complete liberation. 

Many devotees visiting Tiruvannamalai used to visit Annamalai Swami to ask him questions about how to practice Self-inquiry. There are two extensive video interviews filmed with Annamalai Swami in English (both run for over an hour and can be watched on either YouTube or Vimeo). Ramansramam has also published two books (edited by David Godman), including ‘Annamalai Swami – Final Talks’ and ‘Living by the Words of Bhagavan’. 

Below is a link to an ‘Annamalai Swami Quotes Advaita app’ that has recently been developed for Android. It contains quotes from Annamalai Swami about self-inquiry and advaita, as well as a collection of his photographs. Favourite quotes can be saved and transposed onto the photographs you select. 

For more information about the app click on the link here

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