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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Read more posts on Maasi Magam and Ardhanareeshwarar Temple by clicking on the links below
In anticipation of this year’s Maasi Magamfestival, Tiruchengode town and Sri Ardhanareeswarar templewear 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.
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.
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:
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.
Certain days in the Hindu almanac are considered very auspicious. The festival of Navarathri is celebrated for ten such days that are considered to be very holy. Nava means nine, rathri means nights. Navarathriis nine nights and one day devoted to the worship of the Divine Mother in her various forms. The Divine Mother symbolizes all womanhood and the creative energy of woman known as Shakthi.
All over India Navarathri is celebrated in various forms that are unique to the different States, as Durga Puja in West Bengal, Dussera in Karnataka, Navarathri in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh , as Kullu Dussera in Himachal Pradhesh and so on.
In Tamil Nadu an important part of the festival is the Kolu which is an arrangement and display of dolls called the Kolu Bommai on decorated makeshift steps called the Kolu Padi. These steps are usually in odd numbers.
Navarathri in Tamil Nadu is also a celebration of the girl child. All girls below the age of 9 years, are thought to personify Ambal who is often worshipped as a young girl.
The dolls that are used for the Kolu are handed down from generation to generation. New dolls are bought to add to the existing collection.
There are traditional wooden dolls called as Marapaachi Bommai, colourful painted dolls made of clay and papier mache of Gods and Goddesses, the Thanjavur Thalaiaati Bommai whose head nods in the slightest breeze…the range is awesome.
There are doll – sets depicting scenes from the Ramayana, Mahabharatha, Hindu weddings and so on.
As you can see, Kolu is fun! Who doesn’t love dolls!!
On all nine days special pujas are done in the mornings and evenings. It is an occasion to invite friends, relatives, and neighbours to look at the Kolu. Married women and young girls who come to see the Kolu are given gifts of a coconut, betel leaves and betel nut, small boxes of turmeric, kumkum, a small mirror, a comb , bangles and lengths of coloured fabric for stitching blouses. All these are considered very auspicious. They are asked to sing devotional songs which also adds to the fun.
A special dish called Sundal is prepared on all nine days. It is made of lentils or pulses which are different on each day. Sundal is given to all the guests as a take home gift. Sometimes there is a delicious sweet dish called puttu instead of sundal.
This lovely picture of Sri Krishna is not a painting! It is a perfect Rangoli made by a young girl who is a student of Class XII as part of the Navrathri Kolu at Sri Ramakrishna Mutt in Salem.
This just goes to show that talent is nothing but some aspect of the Divine that inspires and manifests through a chosen few such as this young girl, Lalithambigai whose name appears in the lower right corner of this Rangoli.
Wet clay becomes a deity as skilled fingers of a roadside idol -maker makes a Ganesha on request. These are the traditional Vinayakas with none of the toxic contents of paints and other things that go into the making of colorful Ganeshas.
It is heartening to see lots of people still prefer the traditional unpainted clay Pillaiyar!
I have a passion to write and the best one can write about is one's own life. So here I am with my experiences, musings, travelogues,stories,my experiments with cooking and what I have learnt in the journey of my life.