DEEPAM

Dec.2, 2017

It has been raining continuously for the past two days as cyclone Ockhi battered the southern most Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, with Kanyakumari district of Tamilnadu being the worst hit and left without power. Early this morning it was cold with a light drizzle, but by mid-morning the rains stopped and the sky cleared up. Late afternoon I went to the Poompuhar showroom which is a state- run crafts emporium, to see the latest models of brass lamps on display.

Stepping into a Poompuhar showroom is always like stepping into a museum. The handicrafts on display differ according to the festivals at various times of the year. The present display of lamps is for Karthigai Deepam, a festival of lights that is celebrated in Tamil Nadu.

The traditional brass oil lamp of Tamil Nadu is called Kuthu Vilakku. It is lit before deities in homes and in temples. Besides this there are other traditional varieties of vilakku (lamp) such as the Kamatchi vilakku,  Lakshmi vilakku and so on.

The manager of the sales emporium and the staff explained how the Poompuhar lamps were crafted by mixing 30% copper with brass, a combination of metals that kept the lamps shining like gold. The showroom’s customers included Indians settled overseas in Malaysia and Singapore.

Some of the Vilakku varieties on display:

Brass lamps at the Poompuhar crafts emporium

lakshmi saraswati and parvati crafted beautifully on brass villaku 1
Muperum Deviar Vilakku depicting Lakshmi Saraswati and Parvati handcrafted beautifully
lamps
The tiruvasi of the Muperum Deviyar vilakku can be removed for easy cleaning and polishing of the lamp
lakshmi villaku in Poompuhar showroom
Lakshmi Villaku which can be dismantled for cleaning and polishing
Pradosham vilakku 1
Pradosham vilakku! Lighting this lamp on pradosham days will bestow immense benefits on the household
Parrots and hanging vilakku 1
Hanging lamps with Kili-parrot motif!
Terracotta lamps
Terracotta lamps

In the evening I visited the Sugavaneswarar temple, an ancient Siva temple in Salem.The rituals were conducted outside the temple where the Deepa sthambams are seen. During festival times the deities come out of the temple and oversee the rituals. This evening the Deepam was lit atop the towering sthambams in the presence of the utsava murthys of Karthikeya and Siva and Parvati. The sokka panai was set aflame. This is a bonfire made of palm fronds tied together.

Karthigai deepam is a festival associated with the birth of lord Karthikeya. The puranas say that six sparks of fire that arose from the third eye of Lord Siva took the form of  Karthikeya, the most adored god of the Tamil people. And so the deepams were lit as cries of Muruganuku arohara, Kandha perumanukku arohara, Ammai appanuku arohara rent the air.

karthigai deepam 2017 (4)
The beauty of Lord Karthikeya on the colorful mayil (peacock) vahanam

More pictures of Karthigai deepam celebration in the Sugavaneswarar temple in Salem:

Karthigai deepam Sugavaneswarar temple Salem
People watch the Deepam being lit atop the deepa-stampams by the Sivachariyars
karthigai deepam 2017 (2)
The temple deities are brought out in a procession for the Deepam festival
karthigai deepam 2017 (6)
Siva- Parvathi utsava idols outside the temple
karthigai deepam 2017 (7)
People gather the ashes from the burnt sokkapanai
karthigai deepam 2017 (8)
Sugavaneswarar temple Salem during TiruKarthigai deepam 2017

 

 

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KARTHIGAI DEEPAM

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Glimpses of A Temple Festival In Rasipuram

November 16 , 2017

A Time for Faith and Togetherness

In Rasipuram, Nityasumangali Mariamman temple is located in the heart of the old town. The annual festival takes place in the Tamil month of Aippasi (Oct-Nov) and is celebrated for a period of two weeks. To the townspeople, Nityasumangali Mariamman is one of their own, a beloved daughter of each family and her festival is a time of re-union and family get-togethers.

I have been to this temple a few times but never during the festival and it is a really lovely temple where you can spend some time enjoying the peace and quiet.

Festival times are auspicious times and on Friday, November 10, during the ongoing festival I went with some friends in the evening to offer prayers at the temple. Rasipuram is usually a quiet place, partly urban, partly rural with a seamless blending of ancient and modern but now it was as if the whole town had come alive.

There was something  going on everywhere and needless to say it was fun! Festival crowds, the fair grounds, festival shops, people dancing to the cadence of drum beats, it was all so lively!

Click here to read a previous article on Mariamman festival

Unusual practices can be seen in temples at times like this. In one part of the temple near the Dhyana Ganapathy shrine stood a pujari holding a whip made of coir rope in his hand. People stood in line and as each person stepped up he received some lashings from the whip (very gently, of course and probably as a symbolic punishment for sins), and then the pujari placed the whip on the person’s head and blessed him! I got a whip blessing too!

At the Murugan shrine,a boy pujari sat with a bunch of mayil peeli (pea-cock feathers) in his hand and blessed people after they worshipped Murugan by touching their heads with the long feathers.

In the open courtyard of the temple was the agni kundam which had been the scene of a most important temple ritual the previous day. This was the thee-mithi or fire- walking ritual in which hundreds had participated holding a thee- chatti, (a pot with fire in it) in one hand.

On the evening of my visit, the agni kundam was a bed of ashes and visitors bent down to take the holy ash from the pit and apply it on their foreheads.

Glimpses from the festival:

Nityasumangali Mariamman Temple- Rasipuram
Nityasumangali Mariamman Temple- Rasipuram
Nityasumangali Mariamman Temple- Rasipuram (2)
Festival crowds
Agni kundam, Rasipuram Temple
The agni kundam , where the fire-walking ritual called thee-mithi takes place.
Prayers at the extinguished agni kundam, Nityasumangal mariamman temple, Rasipuram
At the Agni kundam people bend down to touch the holy ground in reverence and to put their hands over a burning camphor that has been lit
Bangle seller
A bangle seller slips on glass bangles on the hand of her customer inside the temple. It is considered auspicious by women to wear glass bangles

Rasipuram Nityasumangali mariamman temple

 

 

 

VINAYAGA CHATHURTHI

Vinayaka Chathurthi 2015 4

Here in Tamil nadu we are celebrating Vinayaka Chaturthi today as is the rest of India. We call it Pillayar Chathurthi in Tamil.

It is celebrated to mark the birthday of Lord Ganesha. A more appropriate description would be to say that it is the day in which the avatar of Lord Ganesh took place, as Gods are not born as humans are.

Beginnings in Clay
Beginnings in Clay

The story goes that Parvati created the image of Ganesha out of the turmeric used for her bath…some say it is sandalwood-paste, and brought it to life. He was a lovely cherubic child! Shiva was not at home and Parvati  asked the little boy to stand guard outside while she bathed. Shiva, on returning home found that the little boy would not allow him to enter. He and Ganesha were engaged in a tiff at the end of which the enraged Shiva severed the head of the little boy.When  Parvati saw this she  was grief stricken. Shiva was filled with remorse and promised Parvati that he would bring him back to life. A search ensued for the child’s head which was now missing. All that could be found was an elephant’s head. Shiva lost no time in placing it on the boy and bringing him back to life and that was how our beloved Ganapati was born. He became the God of Gnana (Wisdom), prosperity and all good things. Shiva honoured him with the right to be worshipped First, before the other gods.

And so He came to be the God of Auspicious beginnings. He removes all obstacles on our way in all that 

A crowded street in Salem on the eve of Vinayaga chathurthi

Colourful Umbrellas for little Ganeshas
Colourful Umbrellas for little Ganeshas

Mystical Moments – Eve Of Mahakumbabishekam

Arapaleeswarar temple in Kolli Hills,TN,India,on the eve of mahakumbabishekam
Arapaleeswarar temple in Kolli Hills,TN,India,on the eve of mahakumbabishekam

Life throws surprises our way when we least expect it. Even as I was writing the post on Arapaleeswarar temple, entirely by chance I came to know that the Mahakumbabishekam was to be performed on 7th May 2017. On the rare occasions in the past when I could visit this temple it was being renovated. On completion, a special and rare ritual called Mahakumbabishekam would be performed. This event was rare because it would be done only once in twelve years. The present kumbabishekam is being  done fifteen years after the last ceremony.

The Vedic rituals preceding the Mahakumbabishekam of Arapaleeswarar Temple had commenced in April. It had been some months since I went to this temple and had no idea that so much was going on. On the evening of 6th May, I had an opportunity for a quick visit to the temple. It turned out to be the trip of a lifetime.

The late evening drive to Kolli hills, the visit to the Arapaleeswarar temple where a major event was to take place in a few short hours, the visit to the colorful and vast yagasalai, the heavenly dinner consisting of piping hot sweet kesari, upma, spicy tomato vegetable rice with chutney and sambar at the annadhanam venue, walking through the streets around the temple with brightly lit festival shops, seeing sadhus and renunciants everywhere, watching families of local people arrive with little children and old people carrying shawls and water bottles ready to keep the overnight vigil at the temple and yagasalai until the early hours, the star- studded sky, the cold mountain air, the white smoke from the yagasalai rising up amidst the surrounding forests, the chanting of veda mantras and the sivachariyar explaining what was going on, why it was so important and the subtle benefits bestowed on all who were gathered there on this magical night…all these happenings have a dream like quality when I think of it now.

The words faith and devotion had a new meaning for me that night. It was love for Lord Shiva, a love of the purest kind with no expectations whatsoever. It was the thread that connected everyone who gathered at this sacred place in anticipation of an event of a lifetime.In conclusion, this is the message that was reiterated at the ceremony:

Idhu Siddargal Bhoomi. Idhu Siddargal vazhi padum Kovil: This is the land of siddars.This is a temple where the siddars worship lord Siva.

Photos of Arapaleeswarar temple and from the yagasalai on the eve of Mahakumbabishekam. The pictures from the yaga sala show that the place was covered in smoke from the many yaga kundam.

Arapaleeswarar Temple at night,Kolli hills, Tn,India
Arapaleeswarar Temple at night,Kolli hills, Tn,India
Fairy lights and scaffolding for the Kumbabishekam in the Arapaleeswarar temple , kolli Hills,TN,India
Fairy lights and scaffolding for the Kumbabishekam in the Arapaleeswarar temple , kolli Hills,TN,India
A little girl dressed up for the occasion stands at the top of a flight of steps leading to the Panchanadhi river on the eve of Kumbabishekam
A little girl dressed up for the occasion stands at the top of a flight of steps leading to the Panchanadhi river on the eve of Kumbabishekam in Kolli hills
A board at the annadhana venue of the Arapaleeswarar temple explains the importance of the sthalam and asks visitors not to hurt the feelings of pilgrims by consuming alcohol and non vegetarian food.
A board at the annadhana venue of the Arapaleeswarar temple explains the importance of the sthalam and asks visitors not to hurt the feelings of pilgrims by consuming alcohol and non vegetarian food.
Sthala Varalaaru- history of the temple on a board in the Arapaleeswarar temple,Kolli hills,TN India
Sthala Varalaaru- history of the temple painted on a board in the Arapaleeswarar temple,Kolli hills,TN India
Light Art- A divine portrait of Siva and Parvati using fairy lights near the Arapaleeswarar templein the Kolli hills,TN,India
Light Art- A divine portrait of Siva and Parvati using fairy lights near the Arapaleeswarar templein the Kolli hills,TN,India The reflection on the car beneath adds to the beauty of the picture
Scene at the yagashala on the eve of Kumbabishekam Of Arapaleeswarar temple,Kolli Hills
A yaga at the yagashala on the eve of Kumbabishekam Of Arapaleeswarar temple,Kolli Hills
Bronze images of nayanmars at the yagasala at the Kumbabishekam of Arapaleeswarar temple
Bronze images of nayanmars at the yagasala at the Kumbabishekam of Arapaleeswarar temple
Colorful Temple scenes, Tn India
Sacred herbs are grown around the perimeter of the Yagasala. Beautiful drawings of rishis and siddars are seen on the many pedestals. The drwing in the picture is of Sage Patanjali who wrote the Yogasutras
A scene at the yagasala on the eve of Kumbabishekam of Arapaleeswarar temple in the kolli hills
A scene at the yagasala on the eve of Kumbabishekam of Arapaleeswarar temple in the kolli hills
Vedic rituals being performed for the kumbabishekam of Arapaleeswarar temple,Kolli malai
Vedic rituals being performed for the kumbabishekam of Arapaleeswarar temple,Kolli malai
A group of old ladies relax amidst the crowds as they wait at the yagasala of the Arapaleeswarar temple,before the Kumbabishekam
A group of old ladies relax amidst the crowds as they wait at the yagasala of the Arapaleeswarar temple, before the Kumbabishekam
A gathering of Sadhus at the yagasala on the eve of Kumbabishekam of Arapaleeswarar temple in the kolli hills, TN,India
A gathering of Sadhus at the yagasala on the eve of Kumbabishekam of Arapaleeswarar temple in the kolli hills, TN,India
Beautiful colors of the yagasala during the kumbabishekam of Arapaleeswarar temple,Kolli hills
Beautiful colors of the yagasala during the kumbabishekam of Arapaleeswarar temple,Kolli hills
Visitors at the yagasala settle down for the night, hours before the kumbabishekam of Arapaleeswarar temple in the Kolli hills
Visitors at the yagasala settle down for the night, hours before the kumbabishekam of Arapaleeswarar temple in the Kolli hills

Note: A kumbabishekam is essentially the reconsecration of a Hindu temple performed once every twelve years. It involves complex vedic rituals performed over a period of days and includes yagas that benefit the society as a whole. As a part of the procedures, the temple is restored and renovated. It is celebrated as a festival in South India, especially in the State of Tamil Nadu.

External Links:

http://siddhargallife.blogspot.in/2017/05/kollimalai-kumbabishekam-kollimalai.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wkwj0adg2fY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwhkhY-nzrc

 

 

 

 

 

Maasi Magam Abishekam – Rituals to Cherish

March 2017

Maasi is the month (Feb-March) when the days are turning warmer after the pleasant cold weather of Margazhi and Thai. In temples all over Tamil Nadu, Maasi Magam  is a special day when the deities are given a holy ritualistic bath.In the temple of Lord Ardhanareeswara on Tiruchengode hill, this ritual is called the Maha-abhishekam, the ultimate abhishekam.

On Saturday, 11th March, 2017, our group of six members joined hundreds of participants of the maasi magam vizha as they congregated in the ancient Badrakali amman temple in Tiruchengode town. It is customary to begin the procession after prayers are offered to goddess Badrakali. The participants then walked along the very narrow and winding lanes of this historic town to the main ther veethi.

 At seven in the morning it was a scene of ethereal beauty as saffron clad devotees walked in silence, all bearing decorated pots of offerings of their choice for the abishekam. Folk dancers representing Siva and Parvati led the way.  At the main ther veedhi, the procession stopped briefly for a dance recital accompanied by music, and beautifully rendered by the folk dancers. As police-men made way for early morning traffic the procession moved slowly along the four ther veethis (chariot streets).

 The participants then went to the malai kovi (hill temple) of lord Ardhanareeswara for the maha-abhishekam.

ardhanareeswara temple on Tiruchengode hill 1
The temple on the hill

After darshan of Lord Ardhanareeswara, everyone waited for the abishekam to begin. This was no ordinary abishekam and the offering-pots contained a wide, interesting variety of sacred things. At the auspicious time the abishekam was first performed in the main sanctums of Senkotuvelavar(Murugan) and Ardhanareeswara. The beautiful utsava deities of Ardhanareeswara and Sengotuvelar were brought to the maha mandapam and placed on the central stone platform so that the rituals could be clearly viewed from all sides.The Maha abishekam commenced after the abishekam in the main shrines were completed.

A unique sight and an experience to cherish!

An awesome 1500 pots of milk, endless pots of vibhuti,honey,sandal-paste,,grapes,choppedbananas,sugarcanejuice,riceflour,panchamitham,turmeric,kalkandu(sugarcandy),panangarkandu-candy made from palm-sugar and pomegranatepearls were poured on the deities. Most of the offerings were collected and given back to the devotees as prasadam.

Faith And Blessing

Everyone present that day must have felt as I did, a divine peace and blessing fill the heart as the abishekam progressed. Seeing the abishekam was a purification of hearts and minds and   this cleansing deep inside gave strength of a divine kind, the courage to face the world with all its imperfections and trials. The divine blessing is a balm, a gentle reminder that on this hard journey of life God makes his presence felt in many, many ways. 

Pictures from the Masi Abishekam

Ardhanareeswarar
Utsavar of Lord Ardhanareeshwara is brought to the Maha Mandapam
masi magam in ardhanareeswara temple, Tiruchengode
The Utsavar of Lord Segottuvelar is placed alongside the deity of Lord Ardhanareeshwara
Preparing for abishekam in Tiruchengode temple
Preparing for the abishekam
Vibhuthi abishegam in Ardhanareeswarar temple, Tiruchengode
Abishekam with vibhuti- the holy ash sacred to Lord Siva
abishegam in Ardhanareeswarar temple, Tiruchengode
Water is poured on the deities after each abishekam
Palabishekam
Abishekam with milk
Abishekam
Abishekam is done with hundreds of pots of milk brought by devotees
Thaen abishegam in Ardhanareeswarar temple, Tiruchengode
You are the essence of sweetness – Abishekam with honey
Thaen Abishekam
Like honey, May our lives be filled with the sweetness of Your Prescence
Alangaram
                         Alangaram                                           We come to you with faith – May our lives become richer and more beautiful !

Read more posts on Maasi Magam  and Ardhanareeshwarar Temple by           clicking on the links below

Tiruchengode – In Anticipation Of Maasi Magam

TIRUCHENGODE

In anticipation of this year’s Maasi Magam festival, Tiruchengode town and Sri Ardhanareeswarar temple wear a festive look, this being the most important festival of this temple town. Hundreds of devotees take a vow of austerities by wearing the holy maala for a prescribed number of days. Life becomes focused on only one thing and that is Lord Ardhanareeshwara, the divine Father and Mother of the universe.

For me, it is always a pleasure to visit the temple and taking the vow is just another excuse to visit Ardhanareeswara, Ammaiyappan.

This year, our small group went to the temple to commence the viraddam by wearing the maala blessed and given by the Sivachariya in front of lord Ardhanareeswara. It was a subh muhurtham day with dozens of marriages taking place in every available corner of the maha mandapam in the temple. Ardhanareeswara temple is the temple for marriages because unity of husband and wife is what lord Ardhanareeshwara is all about. Mango leaf thorans were strung everywhere between the ornate pillars and many homa kundams for the many marriages.

Carving on the rocky wall inside the temple of lord Ardhanareeshwara in Tiruchengode, Tn
Carving on the rocky wall inside the temple of lord Ardhanareeshwara in Tiruchengode, Tn

On every visit to the temple,there is always a surprise, some new sculpture to marvel at, that previously went unnoticed by me. The temple is too full of of detailed sculptures of all sizes to be covered on a single day and this time it was a carving of lord Ganesha on the rock near the shrine of Aadhi Seshan below the Raja gopuram.

adiseshan-sannidhi-ardhanareeswarar-templetgode-copy
Shrine of Adhi Seshan beneath the Rajagopuram. The Ganapati carving can be seen on the rock wall to the left of this shrine.

Carvings of two serpents can be seen on either side of Ganesha on the rock. as befits another name of this ancient Tiruchengode hill, which is Naagachala. No wonder that serpent carvings are seen everywhere on the hill either as Aadhi Seshan or as Naagars.

Spending time in the beautiful temple after darshan, it was amusing to watch the goings on! Slowly the big mandapam emptied as wedding groups left. The temple staff started cleaning up and a bunch of monkeys joined in! They were everywhere, even high up on the temple pillars, on the railings, the floor,   a couple of baby monkeys were sitting on the Maha Nandi! People were offering fruits and tidbits which they took absolutely unafraid.

An important reminder :

This year’s Maasi Magam is celebrated on Saturday,11th March, 2017.

Below are pictures taken inside the temple on this visit:

ardhanareeswarar-templetgode-7-2

CLEANING UP

ardhanareeswarar-templetgode-4
Mango leaf thorans are removed after the weddings.The light of the lamps on the homakund are reflected beautifully on the gleaming floor on which rice and flower petals are strewn and look ethereal
ardhanareeswarar-templetgode-2
A baby monkey! This little fella takes pleasure in sitting on Nandhi’s head!

More monkey photos..!

ardhanareeswarar-templetgode-3
A little girl looks on with her mother at this cute little fellow
ardhanareeswarar-templetgode-5
Two adult monkeys sit back to back on the railings with a snack
ardhanareeswarar-templetgode-6
Near the temple entrance, temple cows feast on the banana trees that were used for the weddings.Beyond , Tiruchengode town lays spread out beneath the hill  temple
ardhanareeswarar-templetgode-7
A bride leaves with her relatives as a temple bull stands near the entrance 

KARTHIGAI DEEPAM

LIGHT A LAMP FOR HAPPINESS

At six in the evening on full moon day in the Tamil Month of Karthigai, little oil lamps start to glow at every doorstep and all around the homes and in all temples throughout Tamil Nadu. It is the most divine and beautiful of sights. From the most humble dwellings to the palatial homes, lamps are lit as one even as the Maha Deepam is lit on the hill of Arunachala in Thiruvannamalai sharply at six p.m on the day of ThiruKarthigai.

The festival of Karthigai Deepam is celebrated when the full moon coincides with the rising of the six star constellation of Krithigai. The Tamil month of Karthigai is named after this constellation.

It is traditional to buy new earthen lamps every year. The photos below are of an old lady selling lamps in front of her home from whom I bought some lamps this morning. The lamp sellers from next door are her relatives and smiles light up all their faces as a joke is shared!

It is six in the evening and I have just lit lamps outside my home as have my neighbours. Sadly, my point and shoot sony camera is not good for night time pictures.

Dear readers, are there any other traditions observed during this festival? If so please share your views by posting a comment.

Surrounded by Lamps-A lady selling lamps outside her home in Tamil Nadu
Surrounded by Lamps-A lady selling lamps outside her home in Tamil Nadu
share-a-joke
Share a Joke
Smiles and Lamps go so well together!
Smiles and Lamps go so well together!
karthigai-deepam
Photo courtesy:  www.festivalsofindia.in