15 December 2011

Light on Arunachala

I posted videos earlier of Bharani Deepam on the morning of December 8th and Mahadeepam, as celebrated at the Arunachaleswarar Temple on the evening of that day. I have finally been able to track down photographs of the lighting of the 2011 Deepam on top of Arunachala and also photographs of the simultaneous celebrations inside the Temple.

Right click on all photographs to view enlargements

As the day wanes into dusk and night begins to darken the sky, pilgrims stand or sit, motionless with anticipation, at the base of Arunachala mountain, preparing to worship God Siva as an infinite pillar of light.

By 5:00 in the evening, the area surrounding the Temple flagpole, as well as the adjoining terrace, is packed. People are grabbing seats 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.

Suddenly, the crowd's attention shifts to the Temple entrance from behind the flag pole. Some devotees jump up to get a better view. The first palanquin arrives with a dramatic flair. It's the Vinayaka Deity, a form of Lord Ganesha. Exquisitely bedecked with a variety of flowers artistically arranged, this relatively small Deity seems magically large in its luxurious setting. More than eight people are carrying the heavy wooden palanquin. They dance with graceful dignity to the accompaniment of temple music, devotional singing and Sanskrit prayers. Soon enough, they reach their designated position in front of the flag pole and come to a stop.

In a few minutes, the next palanquin arrives “Subramanya”. It's a little bigger. Unmindful of its weight, those who are carrying this celestial cargo somehow manage to dance with abandon, rocking the Deity joyously.

Now another palanquin is arriving, rocking to and fro. "Swami, Swami," the crowd shouts. Here, "Swami" is referring to Siva. Amba (Goddess Parvati) is right behind, followed by Chandikeshwara. Within about 30 minutes, five palanquins have arrived in all their spiritual pageantry.

Lord Annamalaiyar and Goddess Unnamulai

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 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.

When that flame is seen by the thousands of devotees below, the entire countryside explodes with flashing luminescence. Bonfires, lamps, neon lights and fireworks light the night like day as a surging, thronging, emotionally charged mass of devotees chant, "Arunachala Siva," "Annamalai” and "Annamalai Harohara”. The sight of the Krittika Deepam is magical. It brings an inexplicable joy. People are ecstatic, mesmerized by the light.

[Narrative Fire on the Mountain]

It was announced that the Deepam on top of Arunachala would remain alight through 11 nights.


Anonymous said...

I saw the Deepam from my roof top. It was just as lovely.

trinaΨ said...

Thank you. Am blessed!