22 July 2006

Cauldron Facts

Last year during Karthigai Deepam, 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, the ghee was donated by Arunachaleswarar Temple, although pious devotees continuously ascend the Hill to submit their ghee oblations.

Only on the first day are there cloths in the cauldron (in the form of a wick), on the second day the cloth remnants are taken out of the Cauldron and thereafter the pot is filled only with ghee. Other than the original cloths (wick), camphor and ghee, no other oblations are ever put into the Cauldron.

The giant cauldron takes 10 men (from the fisherman caste) more than three hours to haul to the top of Arunachala. The Temple of Arunachaleswarar plays no part in the proceeding. Women are not involved in carrying the Cauldron or tending 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. The old Cauldrons are 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 is taken down the Hill by the same fisher-folk and kept in storage at the Arunachaleswarar Temple.

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