10 December 2016

2016 Arunachala Karthigai Festival: Day 8. Day—Lord Chandrasekhara on Horse

The morning of the 8th day of the 10 Day Karthigai Deepam Festival belongs to Lord Chandrasekahara on horse vahana accompanied by Vinayaka on rat vahana. 

After giving darshan in front of the alankaram mandapam Lord Chandrasekhara visits the Maharadham (His wooden chariot vahana of the previous day). During His visit puja is performed in the front of the Maharadham by Brahmin Priests. After completion paste is taken from the puja residue, and a priest thereupon climbs up the horse vahana and applies pottu to the forehead of Lord Chandrasekhara. Afterwhich a transfer of Darba Grass is made from the Maharadham to Lord Chandrasekhara on horse vahana. 

Significance of this ritual is that power accumulated in the vast Vahana the previous day is transferred back to its originator Lord Chadrasekhara. 

Lord Chandrasekhara moving away from the front of the Alankaram Mandapam

Will soon visit the Maharadham of previous day

Lord Chandrasekhara on Horse Vahana

The Lord on Horse Vahana visiting Maharadham

Lord Chandrasekhara on Horse at Maharadham

Priest at Lord Chandrasekhara on Horse to serve in facilitating return of power from Maharadham

After residual power in the Maharadham has been gathered back by the Lord, He proceeds at the start of His procession of the mada veedhis

Lord Vinayaka on rat vahana in foreground, Lord Chandrasekhara on horse vahana at back

2016 Arunachala Karthigai Festival: Cauldron and Wicks To Arunachala Summit

Early this morning after puja was performed on the Arunachala Mahadeepam Cauldron, men from the fishing caste left the Temple by the Amman Ammani Gopuram carrying the Cauldron and made their way to the entry point of the track leading up to the summit of Arunachala from the east side of the Hill.

Men from the fishing caste carry the Cauldron to the Arunachala summit

In spite of the back-breaking work, absolutely no shortage of volunteers eager to participate in carrying the Cauldron to the top of Arunachala

In Big Temple cloth (to be used as wick in the Cauldron) waits to be carried to the top of Arunachala

Devotees wait to make donations towards Ghee for the Cauldron during the Festival

2016 Arunachala Karthigai Festival: Online Streaming and Live TV Coverage—December 12, 2016

Karthigai Deepam will be lit on the top of the holy mountain Arunachala at Tiruvannamalai around 6 pm on December 12, 2016 and be visible from a radius of about 35km.

Arunachala Deepam from a previous year

Live online streaming of the 2016 Arunachala Karthigai Deepam can be viewed on the links listed below:-

Thanthi TV: www.thanthitv.com 
Jaya TV News: www.jayanewslive.com 
Sun News: www.sunnewslive.in 
News7 Tamil: www.ns7.tv 
Puthiya thalaimurai TV: www.puthiyathalaimurai.tv 
Polimer News: www.polimernews.com 

Deepam at Arunachaleswarar Temple with Arunachala background from a previous year

Live coverage of the 2016 Arunachala Karthigai Deepam can also be viewed on the below Tamil TV stations:-

Jaya TV 
DD Podhigai 
Thanthi TV 
Sun News 
Vasanth TV 
Puthiya Thalaimurai TV 
Polimer News 
News7 Tamil 
Sri Sankara TV 
Kalaignar Seithigal 
Captain News 
Makkal TV 
Mega TV 
Raj News 
Lotus New

2016 Arunachala Karthigai Festival: Day 8. Early Morning—Cauldron Puja. Cauldron Taken To Top Of Arunachala

Early this morning Saturday, December 10, 2016, Puja was performed on the Deepam Cauldron in the 4th Prakaram of Arunachaleswarar Temple. Lovely Rukku was in attendance. After the Cauldron was blessed, it was lashed up with poles and then carried out of the Temple by (as tradition dictates), men of the fishing caste. 

Lovely Rukku in attendance at the early morning puja

2016 Arunachala Deepam Cauldron

Cauldron tied to poles and carried by men of the fishing caste

Cauldron leaving Arunachaleswarar Temple

Crossing Pey Gopuram Street and on the other side of the street (under the white banner) will start their ascent of Arunachala

9 December 2016

2016 Arunachala Karthigai Festival: Day 7. All Day—Maharadham Procession: Amman and Chandikeswarar

With the arrival of the Amman and Chandikeswarar Radhams, all the panchamoorthies have completed their procession of the mada veedhis (perimeter streets) of Arunachaleswarar Temple and have now returned to their permanent spots on the sides of Car Street (east side of Temple).

The Amman Radham having completed its procession around the perimeter streets of the Temple, has now returned to Car Street

The last Radham of the panchamoorthies to complete the circumambulation of the Temple streets, is that of Chandikeswarar

2016 Arunachala Karthigai Festival: Day 7. All Day—Maharadham Procession

In an earlier post, I wrote about parents performing circumambulation of the mada veedhis (perimeter streets) of Arunachaleswarar Temple carrying their child in a "sugarcane cradle". To read more about this, go to the earlier post at this link here

The most popular day for performing this vrata (vow) is the day of Maharadham (giant chariot/car). From early morning parents and family members have been purchasing their sugarcane from vendors throughout Car Street. And then off they go on their Temple rounding. 

Parents with their sugarcanes near the Panchamoorthi Radhams lined up on Car Street

Endless supply of sugarcane for sale throughout Car Street

Parents with child in its sugarcane cradle start off on their circumambulation of Arunachaleswarar Temple mada veedhis

The Ter (Chariot)

“Ter-pulling Festivals are to be understood as a royal progress. In Tamil Hindu Temple rites, the “ter” is at once a war-chariot, a mobile palace and a representation of the God’s Temple. During these Festivals the God (or Goddess) is enthroned on his “ter” and vested with royal trappings; the great car is then drawn in triumph along its designated procession route. 

This route is the Deity’s symbolic kingdom. As He proceeds among His worshippers, He (or the priest-attendants who act on His behalf) receives the offerings which are presented by His subject-devotees; the God returns these presentations in the form of prasad. These ceremonial exchanges affirm the God’s sovereign status, and they also express the bonds of social rank and primacy which are continually being built up and recorded among his devotees.” 

[Saints, Goddesses and Kings by Susan Bailey] 

The pink structure next to the Maharadham is from where people cross over into the Maharadham

Maharadham on its procession route passing through Car Street

After having turned the corner of Car Street Street the Maharadham proceeds up the slope of Tiruvoodal Street

2016 Arunachala Karthigai Festival: Day 7. All Day—Maharadham

Today is the 7th day of the 2016 Arunachala Karthigai Deepam Festival and probably the most popular day of all the ceremonial processions of the 10-day Deepam Festival. It is the day of the giant Maharadham—which will be hauled by  devotees all the way around the mada veedhis (perimeter streets) of Arunachaleswarar Temple. 

This day all the panchamoorthies participate in the procession, each in their own wooden chariot. The first two chariots are those of Lord Vinayaka and Lord Murugan (with both his wives). Both of the chariots have already completed the circumambulation of the perimeter streets and have returned to their permanent spots on Car Street.

Alangaram of Lord Vinayaka
Lord Vinayaka in his Wooden Chariot starting on His circumambulation of the Temple. He is the first of the five chariots.

Lord Vinayaka in His Chariot will be pulled around the whole perimeter of the Temple by devotees

The Chariot on the West Side of the Temple near the Pey Gopuram

Lord Vinayaka in his chariot being pulled around the Temple perimeter. He has now reached Big Street (North Side)

The second chariot on today's procession is that of Lord Murugan (with his two wives). Alangaram of Lord Murugan.

Lord Murugan in his Chariot starting off on His circumambulation. Being pulled by devotees. Gents on the right. Ladies on the left.

In the above photo, easy to see the two separate lines of devotees pulling the chariot

2016 Arunachala Karthigai Festival: Day 6. Night—Silver Chariot

The below photographs are of the night procession of the sixth day of the 2016 Arunachala Karthigai Deepam Festival with the Lord in his processional Silver Chariot. 

In the first photograph Lord Arunachaleswarar is carried from the front of the Alankaram Mandapam across Car Street to the Tirtham on the corner of Sannidhi Street, where His Silver Chariot awaits. 

Lord Arunachaleswarar being carried from front of Alankaram Mandapam to his chariot

Lord Arunchaleswarar in his Silver Chariot ready to start in procession of mada veedhis around Arunachaleswarar Temple

Procession around the mada veedhis starts at Car Street

Arunachala Karthigai Festival—Silver Chariot

Large crowds gathered to take darshan of the Lord on his circumambulation

The Silver Chariot

2016 Arunachala Karthigai Festival: Day 6. Day—Chandrasekhara on Silver Elephant: 63 Nayanars

In the festivities of the morning of the sixth day, a glorious Silver Elephant, leads a procession of the great Shiva devotees, the 63 Nayanars. 

The Nayanars are remembered as a group of 63 saints (poets) of the 6th to 8th century who were devoted to Lord Shiva. It was they who influenced the Bhakti movement in Tamil Nadu. The names of the 63 saints were first compiled by Sundarar and the list was expanded by Nambiyandar Nambi during his compilation of material for the famed Tirumurai. 

Message of the Nayanars 

“There have been many ‘intellectuals’ even in India who have looked down upon the path of Bhakti (devotion) as something inferior to Jnana (wisdom). Their short-sightedness becomes at once apparent when we study the lives of the great Four Teachers (Appar, Sundarar, Manickavachagar and Sambandar) and realise that these great Jnanis, too, were great Bhaktas who loved to visit Temples and sing the glories of the Lord. 

Love of the Lord cuts at the very root of our attachment to this world, and snaps all worldly ties, to father, mother, son, wife or relatives. As the stories of the Nayanars illustrate, the devotee is ever ready to renounce all, in favour of devotion to Lord Siva. 

Let us also never forget that in the case of all the Nayanars devotion invariably meant expansion of the heart, and, therefore, service and charity. We have to take the individual tales of the Nayanars as allegories exhorting us to rout out the inner obstacles to our Sadhana. 

If we approach these saints with faith and devotion in our hearts, we shall grasp the message they have for us. We shall also understand why they gave such a great place to externals like the sacred ash, Rudraksha, etc. These symbols remind one constantly of God: and, when they are said to remove our sins, they remove our sinful tendencies, too, by constantly reminding us of God, and keeping evil out of our mind.” 
[By: Venkatesananda] 

The Lord on his beautiful silver Elephant

Moving away from the front of the Alankaram Mandapam, and proceeding  around the mada veedhis (perimeter streets) of Arunachaleswarar Temple

Palanquins each carrying individual Nayanars

The Saiva Samaya Acharyas

Out of the 63 Nayanars, the four Saiva Samaya Acharyas; (left to right) Tirugnasambandar, Tirunanvukkarasar (Appar), Sundarar and Manikkavasagar are remembered best of all. 

The principal teachings of the four Saiva Samaya Acharyas is of love and surrender to God; and of service to God and godly men. That love, devotion, and service to God is the only way one can obtain His Grace. God is One and He is Shiva. That man must get over his bonds which keep him in ignorance and obtain inseparable union with Shiva through the Lord's Grace. 

Beautiful Rukku, our own Arunachala elephant, making sure that in spite of ornate, ceremonial silver elephants, she ALWAYS takes pride of place!

8 December 2016

Kumbhabhishekam Isanya Desikar Math: 8 a.m. December 9, 2016

Tomorrow, Friday December 9th, 2016 at 8.00 a.m., kumbhabhishekam will be performed at the Sri Isanya Math here at Tiruvannamalai. To those Arunachala devotees unfamiliar with Sri Isanya, he is regarded as of one of the great saints of Arunachala (1750-1829). 

His Samadhi located at an Math dedicated to him, is opposite the Isanya Lingam (one of the Asta Lingams). To learn more about this mahatma, go to this link here

Below is a story about the famous saint and how he helped his British devotee Ayton (who was the District Collector of the area at that time), overcome dangers in his efforts to safely attend a Deepam Festival. 

Deepam: a Saint and a District Collector 

The story goes thus:- 

Isanya Desikar, whose math is located just outside Tiruvannamalai on the old pradakshina road, was a distinguished yogi who, like many before and after him, felt the spiritual call of Arunachala. He was born in 1750 in a small village called Rayavelur in northern Tamil Nadu. He came and settled at the foot of Arunachala only late in his life, but nevertheless, by virtue of his intense and personal relationship with Arunachaleswarar, he is regarded as one of the major saints of Arunachala. 

Isanya Desikar had a western devotee, who is now recalled by the name of Ayton. He was the then District Collector for the region that extended from Tiruvannamalai to Vriddhachalam. Ayton had heard about the greatness of Isanya Desikar and approached him in the hope of getting a cure from the tuberculosis from which he had been suffering for many years. 

Isanya Desikar smiled and after a brief pause spat on the ground. The moment he spat, Ayton was cured of the disease. Ayton then spoke to the holy man with both trepidation and devotion. 'Swami, I have recently acquired a large amount of land, I would like to offer your holiness as much as you need. It can be a permanent endowment in your name.' Isanya Desikar smiled and asked tauntingly, 'Will your land yield crops even during a drought?' Then, pointing his finger towards Arunachaleswarar and Apeetakuchamba, he added, 'Here is a householder with two children and a large family. It is proper to give him any amount of land, but it is not proper to gift it to me, a sannyasin.' 

Ayton took leave of him but returned on many occasions. He got into the habit of addressing him reverentially and affectionately as 'Tata', which means 'grandfather'. It is said that before he began any new project he would always meditate on Isanya Desikar and invoke his blessing by saying, 'Tata, please lead me in this work. It is your work.' At Deepam Festivals Ayton would take the lead in dragging the huge temple chariot through the streets of Tiruvannamalai. However, before moving the chariot for the first time he would pick up one of the ropes and exclaim loudly: 'Tata, you hold the rope and lead us!' The local people were all astounded that such a prominent British official should have such devotion towards a naked sannyasin. 

Ayton made it a point always to attend and lead this annual festival, but one year he found himself stranded by floods on the southern side of the River Pennar just before the beginning of the festival. Knowing that he was expected to be at Arunachala to start the chariot on its journey, he called out to his mount: 'Horse, I must see Tata and I must also get the Deepam Festival started. Think of Tata and cross the river!' Without a moment's delay or hesitation, the horse leapt into the raging torrent of water and effortlessly waded to the other side. None of the other people who were stranded dared to follow for they were all convinced that it would be suicidal to enter the surging waters. 

At the moment when Ayton put his faith in Tata and leapt into the water, Isanya Desikar opened his eyes after a long meditation and stretched out his hand in a southerly direction. When one of his disciples asked what he was doing, he replied, 'If someone falls into a river, should we not save him?' 

Ayton arrived safely and took Isanya Desikar's blessings to start the festival. When the news of Ayton's spectacular river crossing and Isanya Desikar's role in it spread among the Deepam crowds, many of them came to the north-eastern side of the hill to see the man who had been responsible for the miracle. Several of the new visitors turned out to be mature seekers who were looking for guidance from a Guru. Isanya Desikar accepted some as disciples, had a small thatched shed built to accommodate them and gave instruction by writing a guide to liberation entitled Jnana Kattalai. 

Invitation to Kumbhabhishekam

Arunachala darshan from Isanya Ashram

Entrance to Sri Isanya Desikar Math

Statue of Sri Isanya Desikar

Scaffolding in preparation to tomorrow's kumbhabhishekam

Scaffolding erected to shrines at the Math

Pujas and rituals being performed in Yagasalai in Math compound

Entrance to Isanya Desikar Samadhi

Samadhi of Isanya Desikar