18 December 2007

Deepam Ardhanarishvara

[One can view enlarged versions of all the below photographs by clicking on them]

“By 5:00 in the evening of Krittika Deepam, the area surrounding the Temple flagpole, as well as the adjoining terrace, is packed. People are jostling to observe the dramatic arrival of five exquisitely decorated palanquins, carrying the Hindu Gods Vinayaka, Subramanya, Siva, Amba and Chandikeshwara. The devotees are constantly moving and adjusting their positions to get a better view and to make way for still more people pouring in.

Within about 30 minutes, five palanquins have arrived in all their spiritual pageantry. Now, we wait for the climax, the coming of Ardhanarishvara (Lord Siva as half man, half woman). This will occur immediately after the Krittika Deepam is lit. Everyone wants to be able to see the mountaintop. All eyes are looking up.

Finally, the appointed moment arrives. Against the backdrop of a sunset sky, crowned with the rising star of Kartika, thundering firecrackers, ringing Temple bells and a frenzy of rhythmic chanting merge to create a cacophony of chaotic splendour.

Camphor is lit in a cauldron by the Temple flag pole, signaling priests on top of the mountain to light their flame. The timing is perfectly synchronized. The air is charged as the overpowering sight of light, signifying Siva in the form of Jyoti (divine light), merges with Parvati to become Siva/Sakti.

Now, finally, Ardhanarishvara is brought out of the Temple with great ceremonial fanfare. This is the only day of the year that this particular Deity is ever moved. It is most auspicious.”

[abridged ‘Fire on the Mountain’]

A later post will try to explain the symbolism of Ardhanarishvara and its particular relevance at Arunachala Deepam in more detail.


Divya said...

Exciting and charged atmosphere!

Arunachala Living said...

It was absolutely brilliant. This year for the very first time I went with the crowds and discovered a whole dimension of Deepam and Arunachala that I never knew before - joining in the devotion of other pilgrims really does enhance one's own joy!