17 November 2006

The Legend

There are two famous myths from the Puranas that describe the history behind the famous yearly Deepam on the top of Arunachala. The first is about Brahma and Vishnu's dispute over the column of light and the other is of the boon given by Shiva for Parvati's penace in atonement for killing the demon Mahisasura, a devotee of Shiva.

It is customary to celebrate Deepam in all Shiva Shrines at the same time that Deepam is celebrated at Arunachala, however the legend for these Siva Shrines is different to that of Arunachala. This other legend goes thus:

The Ghee Lamp, Rat and King
While Lord Shiva was seated in Mount Kailas with Devi Uma, a ghee lamp was in the process of extinction. A rat nearby approached it to drink the ghee and in that act the wick was pushed out a little, enabling the flame to brighten. This pious act though unintentional, resulted in the rat securing a human birth with huge wealth and the rank of a King.

With that prosperous boon the rat was born on earth as Mabali. Mabali, while reigning in all glory, one day wanted to worship Siva and went to a Siva shrine with all his royal paraphernalia.

While in the Temple, a drop from a ghee lamp fell upon Mabali. The King got sores from that one drop and his malady continued for a long time.

It was then Lord Siva proclaimed, "King, thou art very arrogant. Hence you got this trouble through me. From this day on if you light Shiva shrines with ghee, you will be rid of your sores and live happily."

Highly delighted on hearing these words the King from that day commenced lighting Shiva Temples and dark places with ghee (clarified butter) lamps. Lord Shiva looking at the king's piety, gave him liberation in the month of Kartigai on star Kartigai during poorva Paksha.

It is for the reason the Lord appeared before the King in the form of Light, that Deepam Darsan is celebrated in all Siva Shrines on this same day every year.

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