28 October 2006

Nearly Deepam

I really enjoyed the scene in 'The Lord of the Rings; The Return of the King' when a beacon light is lit on mountain peaks throughout a vast range of mountaintops. When I watched it, I was immediately reminded of the Deepam light at Arunachala and my first thought was, 'Oh! Look! Deepams; lots of Deepams!'

Talking about Deepam; there is already a buzz going on around town. For me Deepam starts on the first night of the lighting of the flame which will be dusk on December 3rd, but for a lot of people it begins with the festivities and functions that start 10 days before December 3rd.

In Arunachaleswarar Temple the preparation for the festival begins with the Pandalkal Muhurtham, a simple ceremony held to mark the commencement of the various arrangements. Invitations are printed and arrangements made, ornaments and vessels are polished and the Cauldron in which the Deepam will be lit is taken out and cleaned.

On the first three days of the Festival the various deities are propitiated. On the first day there is the hoisting of the flag i.e. Dwajarohanam, which ushers in the ten-day festival. On the night of the fifth day, the Lord with His consort is taken on his mount, the Rishaba (the bull) made of silver. The eighth day festival is the day of the Maha Ratham (great chariot car) when Lord Arunachala and Goddess Unnamalai are taken round the main streets along with the other deities each in their own chariot.

Two long chains made of iron links are connected to the chariot. The men hold one side of the chain and the ladies the other.

The tenth day of the Festival marks the day of the great Deepam. In the morning one can witness the Bharani Deepam inside the Temple compound as a prelude to the Maha Deepam or Karthikati Deepam on top of Arunachala.

Around 10 a.m. the Cauldron will be carried out of the South Gate of Arunachaleswarar Temple and be hauled by carriers up the south slope of the Hill. Hundreds of people will already be at the top of the Hill and hundreds more will follow the Deepam Cauldron all the way up. My plan is to watch the Cauldron going up past the Virupaksha Cave afterwhich I plan on pradakshina around the outer path along with all the other pilgrims. Should be quite a day!

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