26 November 2014

Flag Hoisting, 2014 Arunachala Karthigai Festival

Early this morning (Wednesday, 26 November, 2014) the Flag Hoisting ceremony at Arunachaleswarar Temple took place, marking the first day of the 2014 Deepam Festival at Arunachala. 

A permanent Dhvaja Stambha (flagstaff) is believed to be a later addition to the Hindu Temple. Initially, it was temporary and was primarily used to indicate the beginning of a Festival or other auspicious days and occasions. Whatever its history may be, the Pancharatra scripture states that a Temple without a Dhvaja cannot be said to be a Temple! 

Temple priests in charge of the elaborate ceremony

The Dhvaja Stambha, or Flag Staff, which is an important feature of the Temple, is located in front of the Siva Sannidhi. A Dhvaja Stambha usually represents the prosperity and pride of a Temple. But some texts suggest that the bottom of a flag post symbolizes Shiva, middle portion Brahma and the top portion Vishnu. 

Hoisting the Flag at Arunachaleswarar Temple

Today, Dhvaja Stambhas are permanent and in the case of Arunachaleswarar Temple it is plated with a precious metal. The top portion of the flag staff has three horizontal perches or three branches pointing towards the Sanctum Sanctorum. It symbolizes righteousness, reputation and propriety; or the Trimurtis – Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva. At the base of the Flag Staff is located the Bali Pitha (sacrificial altar for one’s malas, sins). One who hoists the Dhvaja (flag) aloft a Hindu Temple attains a divine body and enjoys the company of gods." So declares the treatise Deeparnava. 

There is a widespread belief that the Dhvaja Stambha gives an idea to a devotee from a long distance about the idol installed in the Temple and about the Vahana or Vehicle used by the deity. It is hoisted when there is an auspicious ceremony or Festival in the Temple. 

Lord Annamaliyar and Goddess Unnamulaiyar

Symbolically, hoisting the flag suggests setting out to conquer, and a devotee comes to the Temple to conquer his ego and gain control over the baser nature with the help of the Supreme Being. The Sanskrit word for the flag is ‘Dhvaja’ and it means whatever is raised. In the religious sense, whatever raises man to a higher level of understanding and activity is a ‘Dhvaja.’ The flag also suggests hope and desire to overcome ignorance. The Temple visit invigorates the devotee, recharging him with strength and bravery to face the hardships of daily life knowing full well that in the ultimate those who have surrendered to the will of God find victory. 

The God and Goddess being carried out

The Dhvaja which suggests the victory of good over evil is a symbol of victory and superior wealth. It signifies commanding respect, patriotism and kingship. The Kings of old in order to exhibit their Lordship over their kingdom and proclaim their continuing rulership would hoist a flag above their battlements or palace. 
Large crowd gathered for official beginning of the 2014 Deepam Festival

God is seen as the King of Kings, an Emperor above all emperors. He is the Supreme Power, not just on earth but in the entire Universe; which is, after all, His creation. The Hindu mind thus thinks it only befitting that tribute be paid to this all-powerful Master - the Dhvaja is thus sent aloft. If an ordinary citizen pays tribute to his king and receives favour, why the surprise when a devotee pays tribute to his King? 

Flagstaff with Arunachala in background

Sometimes the flag or banner hoisted in the Temple acts as a message board and gives an idea about the deity worshipped in the Temple. It also suggests which particular incarnation or manifestation of the God is given importance in the Temple. An interesting minor function of the Dhvaja is its use as a warning. Just as a city without the king's flag is a city 'without owner', a mandir without a Dhvaja is open to harassment by evil elements. The Dhvaja warns, "Beware, your entry is prohibited!" 

[Reference: Indian Temple Traditions – Kalpatharu Research Academy] 


Itinerant Yogi said...

Great! Have you climbed up to watch the flame being lit at the top of the hill? What is the atmosphere like up there? Maybe I should try it this year.

Meenakshi Ammal said...

No, I have never climbed the hill to watch the lighting of the Deepam Flame. The crowds will be unbelievable on the Hill. Definitely do not recommend the experience. I plan to sit on my roof and get a nice darshan from a good vantage point.

Also can watch the Live Streaming Video feed coming from inside the Temple Compound. Will give links on Arunachala Grace when they are announced closer to Deepam.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your coverage of 2014 Deepam. Amazing information and photographs. Appreciate your hard work.

Anonymous said...

You are very blessed to live in Tiru, Meenakshi Ammal.