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Thursday, December 5, 2013

தீப மங்கள ஜோதி நமோ நம

Six of our volunteers working in Canara Bank were blessed with the opportunity of serving at the holy shrine Thiruvannamalai Temple for a week from 11-Nov-2013 to 17-Nov-2013, on the occasion of  Karthigai Mahadeepam.

Every year, the Thiruvannamalai Devasthanam provides the devotees with the facility of participating in the Karthigai Mahadeepam by way of their offering ghee for lighting the Holy Deepam atop the hill.  This is done through sale of ghee tickets in the denominations of Rs.50, Rs.100 & Rs.200( for 1/4th kg, 1/2 a kg & 1 kg of ghee respectively).  The sale of these tickets are done through Canara Bank, at special counters established for the purpose.
Sea of humanity adds colour to the festival

The entire town of Thiruvannamalai wears a festive look  and the devotees start coming in huge numbers.  During the first four days, our guys had the opportunity of working at the special entrance ticket counter and the Navagraha Deepam counter, besides handling the sale of ghee tickets.  Usually, the heavy rush is seen only during the last three days and as a result, the ghee counter gets shifted near the entrance during this period.

The temple authorities make a bulk order for ghee which is obtained in 15 kg tins directly from the Aavin Dairy in advance. The devotees who purchase these ghee tickets are allowed to add some camphor when  the ghee is weighed before them and  are repacked in tins.  This apart, the ghee separately brought by the devotees directly are also taken and poured into tins. The tins are again sealed and taken to the hill top for lighting the Maha Deepam

Ghee weighed in front of the devotees
Weighed ghee is re-packed
Tins are re-sealed

During the last three days, to meet the heavy rush, we opened our counters by 06.30am and we managed the show in shifts till 11.30pm in the night.  Especially on the 15th & 16th of  Nov., despite a heavy cyclonic storm lashing the town of Thiruvannamalai, the devotees came drenched to purchase the ghee tickets and patiently waited in the serpentine queue for this purpose. In between our shifts, we could snatch a few moments to take a few snaps for updating this blog post.
1000 metres of Gaada cloth- Wick for the Mahadeepam
The wick that is used in the Deepam is  new gaada cloth of 1000 metres.  This is provided by the family of Kandaswamy Mudaliar of Thiruvannamalai, who take it around the temple in procession  and hand it  over to the temple authorities  Along with the specially made big Kopparai (cauldron), all these are taken atop the hill by the members of Parvatha Raja Kulam, after the ceremonial  pooja at the temple.
Sealed Ghee tins are taken to the hill top

The Kaarthigai Maha Deepam in the evening  is preceeded by the Bharani Deepam celebrations, early in the morning at the Thiruvannamalai Temple.  A small portion of this Bharani Deepam fire is carried inside a container of baked earth to the summit of the mountain, where it is be used for lighting  the Maha Deepam in the evening.

In the meanwhile, preparations go on for the evening's climax. The Pancha Murthys are are brought out from the main shrine of the temple and housed in Vimanams in the 3rd prakaram of the temple, facing the flag staff and the Annamalai Hill. The last to arrive is Annamalaiyar who comes out of the second prakaram, dancing with his consort.
Ardhanareeswarar comes out dancing

The crowd waits to catch a glimpse of the  of Ardhanareeswarar, who comes out of the temple only once every year on this day and that too only for a few minutes. At the appointed time of 6.00pm,  Ardhanareeswarar is brought out in a gait by the bearers and a deeparadanai is offered to the Utsavar, and at this very instant, the Maha Deepam  on the hill is lighted amids the chanting of அண்ணாமலையாருக்கு அரோஹரா by the tens of thousands of devotees gathered inside the temple premises.  The crowd breaks into a cheer, yet retaining the order that was there when it was just beginning to assemble.
A few seconds after the Maha Deepam is lit---All devotees are turned towards the  peak with folded hands atop their heads  in prayer and chanting Annamalaiyarukku Arohara.  They  wait for the clouds to lift, so that they can have a Dharshan of the Maha Deepam.

The human mass gathered within and around the precincts of the temple, along with the residents of the town and neighboring towns catch sight of the flame atop the Annamalai hill, cherishing the age old belief that it is a representation of Shiva himself, who appeared in the form of a  mighty column of flame the origin of which  could not be deciphered by the other two of the Trinity namely Bhramma and Vishnu.

Keeping with tradition, the inner sanctum doors close, with the arrival of the deepam outside, and it is believed Annamalaiyaar is to be worshipped only as the Maha Deepam  beacon until the next morning when the shrine is reopened.   The residents of Thiruvannamalai also light deepams in their homes and start cooking food on that day only after witnessing and Maha Deepam. This year, there was a heavy cloud cover on top of the hills.  As a result. the Maha Deepam was visible from the eastern side only for the first few minutes on 17.11.2013.

Photo Courtesy:

Photo Courtesy:

 After eleven days of burning, the deepa kopparai is brought down from the hills and a ceremonial pooja offered.  A parihara pooja is also done at the temple since many devotees have climbed the Holy Hill which  is considered  as God Shiva Himself.   The burnt residue of the gaada cloth wick forms into a thick black paste. This black paste, after the ceremonial pooja at the temple on the day of Thiruvaadhirai festival,  is distributed to the devotees as a Prasad and the devotees consider this as a Raksha.

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