6 December 2014

Arunachala Karthigai Mahadeepam -- December 5, 2014


There are many subtleties and esoteric meanings connected with the mythology and legends of Arunachala. One of the most famous being that of Ardhanarishvara - a form of the divine which is particularly celebrated at Arunachala and not more so than during the festival of Deepam. 

At the mystic hour of dusk when thousands have gathered in the courtyards and roofs of the Temple, waiting since early morning, the pancha murtis, are carried out into the courtyard in a fast running motion, sitting in their golden palanquins covered with festoons. The deities are placed in a Mandapam (ceremonial pavilion) opposite the entrance to the Arunachaleshwara's temple and facing the holy mountain. 

At that time also the deity Ardhanarishvara is brought out and placed on the stairs of the Temple close to the big Deepam. This is the only day of the year that this particular Deity is ever moved. It is most auspicious. 

In the Deepam Festival the union of Shiva and Parvati in the deity Ardhanarishvara is also reflected. Once the Goddess in play covered the eyes of her Lord Shiva with her hands, and thus the whole world was plunged into darkness. However, Shiva opened his third eye on the request of the Gods, and light was restored. 


Uma was ashamed of her childish behaviour, and she retired from Mount Kailasa to Kanchipuram to do penance and purge herself of her sin. Shiva then directed her to go to Tiruvannamalai to worship him there. Mother Uma became an anchorite and did severe penance and also She performed girivalam around Arunachala with deep concentration on the holy name of the Lord. 

Shiva was pleased and told Her that she was now relieved of the sin which was causing the untimely pralaya (destruction of the world). He blessed Her saying, 'Come and unite with me,' and disappeared into the Hill. 

Then on Kartikeya day the Lord appeared as a blazing light, a jyoti on the top of the Hill, and asked Mother Uma to circumambulate the hill. So she did, and when she rounded the western side of the hill, Shiva appeared on his white bull and blessed her. When she rounded the hill on the north-western side he absorbed her into the left half of his body. Thus came into being the form of Ardhanarishvara, the deity that is represented as half male and half female. 

To learn more about the 'Legend of Ardhanarishvara' at Arunachala go to this link here

Ardhanarishvara darshan Temple Compound

Lord Arunachaleswarar

Lord Arunachaleswarar Darshan Temple Compound


“. . . However all this was only preparatory for the last and principal day of the Festival, on which the darshan of the Light is given. This day is also a day of fasting, as the spirit must be pure and completely unencumbered in order to receive the grace of this darshan. On this day one refrains from all food, or at least from taking the normal heavy meal of rice, until the evening after sunset, when one has actually seen the light on the crest of Arunachala. 

I spent this day at the Esanya Madan . . . and arrived around two o’clock, at the inner courtyard of the Temple which was already more than half full. However with the help of friends I managed to insinuate myself onto a balcony from which I could get an excellent view of the whole ceremony. By four o’clock it looked as if not a single square foot in front of the sanctuary remained unoccupied, and yet the crowds continued to arrive. From my balcony I looked down on a sea of heads, all exposed without protection to the fiery rays of the sun. 

In order to divert the crowd, as they awaited the great moment, a succession of speakers came to the microphone which was placed quite near me on the balcony. They had only a limited success, however; and even when Murugan Das took the microphone, began to sing and invited the crowd to join in the refrain he carried scarcely half of them with him. Then he chanted the great mantra “Glory to Shiva!” and at once every tongue took up the cry, which was bellowed from the loud-speakers and echoed back from the enclosure walls. Soon there was only the cry of “Om Namah Shivaya! Om Namah Shivaya!” coming in great waves of sound endlessly repeated from all sides and uttered in fervent supplication.

Deepam inside Arunachaleswarar Temple

Towards five the singing stopped, as a procession emerged from the Kalyana Mandapam. It was the five murtis (Ganapati and Subramaniyar, the two sons of Shiva; the Bull Nandi, Shiva’s vehicle, Parvati, his consort; and finally Shiva himself) which were now coming attired in their most splendid garments and covered with flowers, to mix with the crowd so that they might have the darshan of the Holy Light. Immediately in front of the porch of the sanctuary stands a mandapam which was built in 1202 by Mangayarkarasi to provide a shelter for the Lords of the Temple during this annual function. The murtis passed through the crowd in their palanquins carried on the shoulders of the Brahmins. Once they were in their place, everyone’s attention was once more turned towards the Mountain and the chanting of mantras began again. 

The atmosphere became more and more tense. The sun had now disappeared behind the mountain, and the lengthening shadow of the mighty Linga of rock gradually spread across the sanctuary, the courtyards and the Gopurams. The great moment was drawing near for which everyone was waiting—the appearance of the Flame. Expectation filled every heart and showed on every face. It increased in harmony with the rhythm of the cosmos itself; as slowly beyond the horizon the moon rose into the sky, while in the depths of space the constellation of the Pleiades, of Krittika, appeared in the same direction. 

2014 Mahadeepam Arunachala Hill

Suddenly there was the sound of an explosion, like a gunshot. Young Brahmin torch-bearers came running out of the inner sanctuary, brandishing their lighted torches at arm’s length. Priests offered the flame of the arati before the murti of Arunachala at its space under the mandapam. In front of the main gate a huge bronze cauldron, filled with oil, camphor and clarified butter, burst into a giant flame. 

And from the peak of the Mountain also, - on which all eyes had been fixed for the last full hour, not only in the Temple and the town, but in the whole countryside around to a distance of many leagues—the flame mounted up, manifesting both outwardly and in the heart of the faithful, the mystery of Light which from the beginning has at the same time hidden and revealed itself in Arunachala. 

That is all. The Flame has been seen. Joy and grace have filled all hearts. The crowd immediately begins to disperse, though it will be more than two hours before the Temple courts are completely empty. Each one as he leaves, goes to the bronze cauldron and casts into it his offering of camphor or of oil to be burnt up in the one great flame - a symbol of his own departure into the mystery of the Flame. 

2014 Mahadeepam at Arunachaleswarar Temple and on Hill

Meanwhile those from above begin their slow and difficult descent from the Mountain. They had climbed up early that morning in the first light of dawn, carrying jars of oil and clarified butter. The worthiest of their number were entrusted with bearing the sacred fire, taken from each of the Temple shrines, in order to light the Deepam flame. This had to be done at the very moment when, from their lofty observatory, they saw simultaneously the red sun disappearing in the west while the moon’s dish came over the horizon in the east. 

As soon as I left the Temple precincts amid the crowd of faithful, I joined with many others in once more following the circular road round Arunachala . . . as I stepped into the cool air of the night . . . all the detailed features of the Mountain had disappeared. There was nothing to be seen but the sharp outline of its mystic triangle sketched against the sky. As the moon climbed majestically towards the zenith, it shed over it its silvery light, while all around was spread a mysterious shadow. 

The Mountain had become an immense lamp, from the top of which glittered the bright Fame. OM.”
[By Swami Abhisktananda 1970]


Anonymous said...

Beautiful coverage, just beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Amazing ! Just Awesome ! THANK YOU !!



Anonymous said...

Amazing, Beautiful coverage! Thank you.

Om Namah Sivaya

Om Arunachala

Anonymous said...

Amazing grace

Meenakshi Ammal said...

We were very fortunate to have a beautiful, cloudless night for the night of Mahadeepam -- thus ensuring the flame being seen for a great. Newspaper reports indicate that this year 2 million (20 Lakh) of visitors came to Arunachala during gthe 24 hour period of Mahadeepam.

Anonymous said...

Om nama siva!!!!