Vasantha Urchavam (also known as Vasantha Utsavam) is the Spring Festival held in the season of Vasantha (Spring). It is also commonly known as the Festival of Love as it re-enacts the Love of Shiva and Parvathi and the burning of Manmatha by the piercing look of the Lord’s third eye.
Lord Somaskanda (a form of Shiva and Parvathi) is the deity of this Festival. For nine consecutive nights after being carried in state out of his shrine, Lord Somaskanda is installed in a pandal facing the main shrine. After receiving due reverence with flowers and light to accompanying musicians playing on their mridangam and nathaswaram, the God is moved by palanquin to the Paneer (rose-water) Mandapam.
At the Paneer Mandapam diparadhana is performed. Afterwhich the Gods re-enact a dance in front of a mirror placed nearby while musicians accompany them. After the dance, a representation of a Gandharva Kanni (celestial nymph) travels down a rope from a nearby gallery. Once the laps of the Gods are covered with flowers, the priest on the pandal pours a pot of water with five vilva leaves in front of the Gods and then performs aarti.
Rukku our Temple Elephant is an important part of these ceremonies and on each of these nine consecutive nights, stands adjacent to the Paneer Mandapam during these functions.
Afterwards the Gods on their palanquin led by Rukku perform circumambulation ten times of the Mahila Marams (Temple Trees). This procession is accompanied by musicians, singers and devotees. At the completion of each circumambulation a re-enactment of the God’s dance is performed in front of the mirror in a gallery adjacent to the Paneer Mandapam.
|Gandharva Kanni (celestial nymph) with offering of flowers|
|The nymph on her journey to the Gods under the Paneer Mandapam|
|Offering her flowers to the Gods|
|Palanquin returning to the Paneer Mandapam|
|Beautifully lit and decorated Paneer Mandapam|
|Sixth Night Vasantha Urchavam Festival, Arunachaleswarar Temple|