The below photographs are a short pictorial record of part of the 2014 Mahashivaratri Festival as observed at Arunachaleswarar Temple. As tradition dictates, in the daytime of Mahashivaratri (this year February 27) ladies created beautiful kolams (also known as rangolis) on the floors of the Temple Compound which depicted scenes from the history and mythology of Lord Shiva.
|Outside Unnamulai Shrine, Big Temple|
I assumed that the pictures were created in coloured kolam powder, but learnt yesterday that all the kolams at the Temple were made using rock crystal salt. Found the fact surprising as always assumed that salt is regarded as inauspicious during Festivals. But this doubt was easily brushed away by the assurances of several ladies (connected with the kolams) that its just fine to use rock salt as it makes the pictures nice and shiny. Oh! well that's alright then!
|Five Face Siva Kolam, Big Temple|
Later on around 6 p.m. of the 2014 Mahashivaratri celebrations, the gates to the Temple tank were opened to allow devotees to place and light their deepam clay pots around the perimeter of the tank. The tank gates stayed open till about 9 p.m. But it wasn't just around the Temple Tank that one could observe the small deepam lights, as little ghee deepam pots were twinkling everywhere throughout the Temple compound.
|Brahma Teertham, 2014 Mahashivaratri, Big Temple|
|Line waiting to enter Third Prakaram through Kili Gopuram|
The Temple was packed with devotees. I arrived with friends at about eight in the evening. The devotional programmes were already underway in the open air auditorium in front of which a long and densely packed line of devotees waited in turn to climb up the stairway of the Kili Gopuram (parrot tower) and thus enter the Third Prakaram with its Annamalaiyar and Unnamulaiamman Shrines. Very tasty rice dishes were available for purchase near the auditorium and with the easy availability of drinking water, one felt very comfortable and well taken care of.
|Crowd milling around the Fourth Prakaram, Big Temple|
Finally we made it into the Third Prakaram, and I was eager to view the special Lingam at the Mahila Maram Sacred Trees located at the side of the Siva Sannidhi. Four round pillars and statues of Dakshinamurthi stand close the Linga and I was disappointed that the pedestal base of the Lingam was not filled with water (as occurs during the Vasantha Utasavam Festival). As I had heard that when the Lingam pedestal is filled with water, it appears that the Lingam is floating.
|Lingam under the the sacred trees|
Four Kala Pujas (see my earlier posting at this link here) would occur inside the Shiva Sannidhi during the night of Mahashivaratri. My friends and I didn't even attempt to secure access to any of the pujas. However we did walk around the First Prakaram to view the Lingodbhavamurti which is (as all Shiva Temples) located at the back of the Lord Shiva Shrine room. The puja was scheduled for midnight, and it was only 8.45 p.m. when we walked around, but already all spots facing the Lingodbhavamurti had been taken by devotees happy to sit and wait for the commencement of the special abhishekam scheduled to start 2 1/4 hours later.
After circumambulating the First Prakaram, we walked to the Unnamulaiamman Shrine, which was also peopled by large crowds of devotees. Many devotees were lighting ghee deepams close to the Navagraham (nine celestial bodies) Shrine.
|Near Navagraham Shrine, Unnamulaiamman Temple|
|2014 Mahashivaratri, Lord Shiva and Goddess with Ganesha and Murugan|
During Mahashivaratri the marriage of Lord Siva is also celebrated. Below is an extract from the Vamana Purana describing the Lord in a procession with his ganas and retinue proceeding to the site of the marriage.
“Lord Vishnu, Brahma, the deities and the Ganas were pleased to hear about Shiva's marriage. Lord Shiva went to his abode Kailash Mountain to make preparations for the marriage ceremony.
Lord Shiva's marriage procession proceeded towards Himalaya Mountain. His appearance was quite terrifying with a tiger skin around his waist and Gorochan Tilak on his forehead. He had a garland of skulls around his neck. Snakes were coiling all around his body. His mount Vrishabh (ox) was walking in a majestic way. The marriage procession comprised of the deities, Yakshas, demons and his Ganas. Lord Vishnu had Goddess Lakshmi by his side and was mounted on Garud (eagle) while Lord Brahma was mounted on Hans (swan) . . ."
|Lord Siva in marriage procession|
|Lord Siva and Goddess Meenakshi Kolam at big Temple|
If I am able to secure photographs of the Lingodbhavamurti puja, will post later on so please check back.