8 December 2011

Bharani Deepam 2011, Arunachala

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Preparations for this day begin one month in advance with the local administration, revenue department, police and temple authorities. Since early morning, temple staff and volunteers have been carrying five-gallon containers of ghee and large pots of thick, braided cloth wicks to the top of Arunachala mountain.

As you are reading this, town's people and pilgrims from far afield, are climbing Arunachala some in order to secure a good viewing point for the evening's lighting of the 2011 Deepam cauldron and others so that they can personally deliver their ghee offerings to top of Arunachala.

Just after the early morning temple ceremony, five earthern pots were lit. These ghee-filled pots, represent the sacred elements earth, air, fire, water and ether. As these five flames loom up with red-yellow light, the famous festival of Karthigai Deepam officially begins.

A single flame is then taken from the pots and kept burning in the Temple throughout the day as a symbol of the merging of manifestation back into God, the one source of all. This single flame is referred to as the Bharani Deepam.

Five Earthernware Pots


"There is immense significance in this ceremony called Bharani Deepam. At this time, the universal Lord manifests as the five elements, which will later fully merge to become one when the Krittika Deepam flame is lit in the evening. From one to many and many to one. This is the whole essence of Saivism and the meaning of Krittika Deepam."

Around 10:00 a.m. this Bharani morning, a group of fishermen were blessed by a priest in a ceremony at the Temple. Amidst ringing bells and temple music, the priest gave the fishermen a lamp that has been lit from the Bharani Deepam in the Temple. This lamp, also called Bharani Deepam, is currently being taken to the top of the Hill by fishermen from hereditary fishing families. Others of the same hereditary fishing family will remain at the Temple and this evening light the Deepam flame outside the Arunachaleswarar Siva Sannidhi.

One of the reasons that fishermen and not Brahmin priests are traditionally given the privilege of carrying the Bharani Deepam up the mountain and lighting the Krittika Deepam in the evening both on Arunachala and outside the Arunachaleswarar Siva Sannidhi, is because according to a myth, Parvati (the wife of Lord Siva) was born in a fishing family.

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