29 November 2006

Another Deepam

'Many are the occasions of inspiration throughout this festival, but the outstanding event is the lighting of the Light. One year my dog and I walked around to Unnamalai, the Temple dedicated to the feminine aspect of the Divine Principle.

Unnamalai Temple has a gorgeous stone-pillared mandapam or hall before the inner sanctum which is now newly painted and overflowing with pilgrims. And across the road, on the hillside, spreads a newly cleared 'Restawhile Park', a product of the recent upsurge in our attention to the Environment, with a huge modern iron umbrella above cement benches. The 'Restawhile Park' happens to offer a superlative view of the Lighting.

Underfoot is conspicuously sordid by this time so our walk to the Temple meandered around piles of garbage. We passed a balloon man with his happy crowd of prospective little buyers and then the nice clean boys selling 'Healthy Milk Drinks' right next to the stacked plastic bottles of unhealthy pop sellers.

Outside Unnamalai Temple a stall selling cheap audiotapes was blotting out existential consciousness entirely, yet the ceremonies in the Temple were going strong assisted by other loudspeakers: festival cacophony. Pilgrims were slapping their cheeks and bowing down in obeisance the way they do so sweetly. None of the local dogs were visible; we noticed this, my dog and I.

We sat for awhile under a tree next to a dear sadhu (with the name Ramana) in yellow, who spends all his livelong days sweeping the hill round roadway; he had merged with the tree and didn't look too enthusiastic. Across from me on the hillside sat an irascible sadhu, for once amused, and behind him a crassly painted modern iron umbrella sheltered the concrete benches which provide sadhus with such an excellent place to dry their cloths. Two sadhus were folding dry orange dhotis and behind them the great peak of Arunachala loomed resplendent in the fading light, waiting for the rising halo of full moon orb Light. How very momentous this always is.

As dusk approached we sat down near to the sadhu, the irascible one now amused, to wait for the flame to appear. We could smell human shit there; we watched pilgrims daintily picking their barefoot way across the weeds hoping to avoid turds, to sit down nicely cross-legged and stare at the mountaintop.

Gradually the Restawhile Park's uncontaminated spaces filled with quiet orderly pilgrims. We had to wait about an hour; being westerners we couldn't help noticing that nobody was eating, smoking, talking or drinking. Some had lit incense. For thirty kilometers radius surrounding Arunachala at this time several million people were waiting suspenseful, staring up to the top of the hill as they always do . . . .'

Apeetha Arunagiri who used to be a long time resident of Arunachala is currently living in Australia. As Co-ordinator of the Arunachala Katthu Siva Plantation involved in extensive reafforestation here at Arunachala, Apeetha Arunagiri is responsible for generating funding for the work of the Organisation. In this respect her numerous essays on Arunachala, written over a period of 30 years are available to readers on a subscription basis. For more information please visit:

Introduction to other essays:


Her website can be accessed at:


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