28 November 2017

2017 Arunachala Karthigai Festival: Day 5. Night—Big Silver Rishaba

Big Silver Rishaba

"The Festival begins nine or ten days before Deepam. Each evening there are solemn processions round the Temple, which are over and above the regular worship and the private offerings of puja which go on through the day.

The day comes to its climax with the procession of the panchamoorthies in the evening, which lasts almost until midnight . . . .

It was recommended not to miss the night of the silver bull, and I had accordingly arrived in very good time . . . . in the Kalyana Mandapam, ‘the portico of weddings,’ the priests were busy decorating the murtis, using silk and gold brocade, flowers and valuable jewels. Meanwhile the cars were standing outside the Temple, and on them also ornaments were being loaded. All this seemed to go on interminably; but at last there was a sudden blare of trumpets form the inner courtyard, their sound re-echoing loudly from the high enclosure walls. Accompanying the trumpets was the low drone of the tamburas, while the silvery melody of flutes pierced though the noise of the crowd.

Now the file of moorthies with their attendants emerged from their shrines, and when they passed under porticos or gopurams the echo from the low vaults become deafening. Soon they came to the Vallalla Gopuram where were standing. In front were the torch-bearers, next the musicians, and last the palanquins, carried on the bare shoulders of devotees. On either side was the tightly-packed crowd with outstretched arms, giving cries of fervent devotion. Somewhere breaking coconuts on the ground, while others held out at arm’s length gilded trays of burning camphor. The enthusiasm spread, swelled, multiplied itself irresistibly. Light, heat, scents, sounds, bodies and souls too, all were weeded together into a single vast and vibrant outpouring of love in honour of the Lord of Arunachala.

We followed behind the procession, crossed the outermost courtyard, passed under the huge gopuram over the East Gate and reached the long colonnade which adjoins it on the east, where the cars were waiting. The moorthies were installed on the cars; and once again the work of decoration was resumed with renewed zeal; flowers, jewels, lights in even greater quantity. The crowd was now more tightly packed than ever. The friend who was guiding me managed to open a path for me immediately in front of the chief car, where the palanquin of Shiva Annamalaiyar was mounted on the silver bull.

Over him was held a huge ceremonial umbrella which touched the roof overhead. Behind the car was a trailer with a dynamo, and thousands of electric bulbs sparkled all over the palanquin, the platform, the decorations, among the jewels, silks and flowers which adorned the statue. A devotee, who was standing near, was so moved that he cried out: "How can one doubt any longer that it is the Lord himself upon his car, who presents himself for our adoration!"

[Edited Narrative By Swami Abhishekananda 1970]

Panchamoorthies give darshan outside the Alankaram Mandapam

The Lord on his Vahana, the Big Silver Rishaba

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