25 November 2010

Cauldron on Arunachala

On the day of this year's Bharani Deepam, i.e. November 21, 2010, men from a fishing family left the Arunachaleswarar Temple in the morning amidst ringing bells and Temple music. It will be fishermen from these hereditary fishing families, that each year light the Deepam flames both outside the Arunachaleswarar Siva Sannidhi and on top of Arunachala.

Local fishermen are traditionally given the privilege of carrying the Bharani Deepam up the mountain and lighting the Krittika Deepam in the evening, because, according to a popular myth, Parvati (the wife of Lord Siva) was born in a fishing village.

Since early morning town's people and pilgrims from far afield, have been climbing Arunachala in order to secure a good viewing point for the evenings lighting of the 2010 Deepam cauldron.

Thousands have donated ghee to Arunachaleswarar Temple for the 2010 Deepam cauldron. Many organisations and ashrams have made donations of lakhs of rupees for the purchase of ghee, and other smaller but equally welcomed contributions of small packets and bottles of ghee have been made by individual devotees. Some of those devotees will climb up the Hill over the approximate ten days in which the Deepam will be kept alight, so that they may personally deliver their ghee offerings.

It is early morning on November 21, the day of Bharani Deepam and the pot stands empty waiting to be filled with ghee coated linen and cloth.

All across India, millions of bonfires are lit on hills and in temples on Krittika Deepam. But nowhere is this festival celebrated like it is at Tiruvannamalai. Here it is unique.

Krittika Deepam occurs annually in the lunar month of Kartika, which occurs in November/December, on the last day of the 10-day festival called Brahmotsavam. It is on this auspicious day that, at precisely 6:00 in the evening, a sacred fire is lit on top of the 2,668 foot Arunachala mountain to symbolize the merging of all manifest existence back into the one source of all things. It is said that those who witness this sacred ceremony personally receive the blessings of Siva and Parvati.

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 splendor. Camphor is lit in a cauldron by Arunachaleswarar Temple flag pole, signaling the fishermen on top of the mountain to light the Deepam cauldron.

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