4 December 2016

2016 Arunachala Karthigai Festival: Day 1. Evening—Athikara Nandi Vahana

Yesterday evening the Lord's vehicle was the Athikara Nandi. As this is one of my own favourite vahanas, think it might be interesting to give more information about this lesser known aspect of Nandi. 

There are two types of Nandi statues at Siva Temples, the more common is that of the recumbent bull (Vrsabha) and the other is that of Adhikara Nandi. In the case of Arunachaleswarar Temple, the Adhikara Nandi of last night’s function is in the form of a bull-headed human standing on two legs. 

Adhikara Nandi's two back hands hold a parasu (battle axe) and mrga (antelope) and the two front hands are folded on the chest in a pose of obeisance. Since he is the chief of the ganas (retinues) of Siva, exercising his authority (adhikara) over them, he is christened as ‘Adhikara Nandi.’ 

The white bull—Nandi—is the divine vehicle of Lord Shiva, the Destroyer. He is the chief of the ganas, Shiva’s attendants. Nandi means ‘happy’. 

Nandikeshvara, Lord of happiness, was one of Shiva’s ganas and was fond of dance and music. He was born of the Divine progenitor Kashyapa and Divine cow Surabhi. He married Suyasha, the daughter of the Maruts. As his life was coming to an end, he prayed to Shiva to lengthen his life. Shiva granted him both immortality and the chief position over his ganas. He was given the title “Adhikara Nandi” (or “authoritative Nandi’), for it is only with Nandi’s grace and permission that one can enter the temple of Shiva. Adhikara Nandi took on a human form as a bull-headed human standing on two legs (or in some instances a bull standing erect on his rear legs). 

Nandi is more than Shiva’s vahana or vehicle. As the chief of Shiva’s attendants, he is also the guardian of all four-legged animals. Nandi is essential to every Shiva Temple—the sanctum sanctorum of each Temple, where the deity may be in a human or linga form, has an image of Nandi facing the shrine. 

There is a story that Vrishabha Deva or Nandi was very proud of his role as the vehicle of the Supreme Lord Shiva himself. To teach him a lesson, Shiva placed a lock of his hair on the bull, who was unable to bear the weight. Realising that he had been arrogant, Nandi begged Shiva’s pardon. Shiva forgave him and initiated him into divine knowledge. 

Nandi completes the image of the happy family. In days gone by, people depended on the bull for transportation. The bull was thus the vehicle both for Shiva and people. He is also a symbol of how a powerful animal, imbued with Divine authority, is also a gentle and humble worker, of help to the Gods and man. 

Athikara Nandi

Alangaram of the panchamoorthies

Panchamoorthies give darshan in front of the Alankaram Mandapam

The Lord on Athikara Nandi Vahana in procession of Mada Veddhis

Procession in evening of Day 1. 2016 Arunachala Karthigai Festival

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