12 January 2007

Deepam Vignette

Extract from Apeetha Arunagiri's essay on the ostensibly other-worldly Deepam festival which she calls 'a tremendous affirmation of life on Earth'.

"Hawkers come with their wares: food in particular and pictures of gods, film stars and politicians. They bring spiritual books, protective talismans, plastic toys and bunches of grapes, things to hang on your rear vision mirror and stand on your TV, and wind chimes, socks, belts, warmers for heads, underpants, bangles, molded plastic divinities, fruit trees, pillows and blankets, jewels, hair clips, watches, fruit trees and motor bikes. The religious festival becomes a vast marketplace. The Holy Hill is garlanded with opportunities.

Beggars come by the busload with their leprous legs and stumpy arms and little vehicles, and their begging bowls. Sadhus come in orange, the mendicant's uniform. Businessmen also come. Families come with plastic carry bags of clean clothes and blankets. With their shaven scalps smeared with turmeric paste, they wash their saris, dhotis and shirts in the tanks beside the 'hill-round road route', and walk with one wet end tied modestly about their body, the other held by a family member up ahead, the cloth streaming out to dry in the breeze. Skinny people with big feet and wide eyes: these are the true-blue pilgrims. Groups come with musical instruments and flower garlands, voices joining footsteps. The Hill becomes garlanded in humans, encouraged by the voices of the hawkers and the loudspeakers blaring from the frequent stands selling tapes of devotional music."


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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