14 December 2016

2016 Arunachala Deepam Festival. Day Ten—6 p.m. Mahadeepam

Strong winds and rains on the day of Mahadeeepam, Monday December 12, 2016, did not prevent a large number of devotees travelling to Tiruvannamalai to witness this great event. In spite of cold, wet conditions many devotees braved the climb to the summit of Arunachala to view the lighting of the deepam first hand. In addition from early Monday morning throngs of people performed girivalam around the 14 km perimeter of the Hill. 

Ceremonies for the final day of the festival began shortly after 4 a.m., on December 12, 2016. Priests started the rituals by lighting the Barani Deepam (five earthen lamps marking the five elements, but merged into a single lamp to mark the convergence of the five elements) at Arthamandapam. 

To read about the events in the evening proceed below to a beautiful narrative of an earlier Mahdadeeam by Swami Abhisktananada. 

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"Towards five the singing stopped, as a procession emerged from the Kalyana Mandapam. It was the five murtis (Ganapati, Subramaniyar, Lord Shiva, Parvati,  and representative of all devotees Chandiswarar) 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 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. 

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. 

Meanwhile the bearers up 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 Thibam 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.” 

Alangaram of Ardhanarishvara

Ardhanarisvara being taken by palanquin out of Temple

Amidst devotees in 3rd Prakaram, panchamoorthies in Mandapam at right

Lighting the Deepam at Arunachaleswarar Temple

Lighting the Deepam on Arunachala

With the storm and cloudy weather finally over, darshan of Arunachala Deepam on Wednesday December 14, 2016

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