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
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!
It is the eve of Vinayaka Chathurthy- a festival for Vinayaka also called Ganesh, Ganapathy or Pillaiyar depending on which part of the country you are in! One of India’s boisterous festivals, loved by young and old alike, it begins with the coming of Ganesha to individual homes and to neighbourhoods, the celebrations over the next few days, not to forget the yummy dishes that are offered to Him and then eaten as Prasad and the final journey to rivers or the sea where the idols are immersed. For the duration of His stay He is one of the household. I always feel sad when it is time for him to leave.
These pictures show Ganesh idols in my hometown, Salem.The featured image shows colourful parasols for Ganapathy and two little ones helping their mother make more parasols! An evening walk in the kadai veethi around the Raja Ganapathy temple in the heart of the city was vastly entertaining!
Up in the hills, temples are sturdy landmarks in the lush surroundings, quite often built in chosen locations.
Sri Rama temple at Pagoda Point in Thalai cholai village is just such a place.
At four in the afternoon, it is cold up here. The temple is open, the oil lamps are lit but there is no priest. The idols of Rama and Sita are beautiful. There is a small idol of Hanuman in front facing the sanctum. The outer structure is modern and very clean.
The woman in the shop next to the temple says the temple is quite old, no one knows how old. It is one of many Rama temples in the Shevaroy hills. Her kula-deivamon her father’s side is Sri Rama she says, waving a hand in the direction of the temple.
Pagoda point is a view-pointin the hills, a short distance from Yercaud Lake. Named after the stone cairns that are found here which are built in the shape of a pyramid or a pagoda, it is sometimes mispronounced as pakoda point! It is these stone cairns and the view-point that are the main tourist attractions. These cairns are 5 to 7 feet high. The lady shop-keeper says they are used to light the ceremonial lamps during the festival in the month of Karthigai.“Karthigai Maasam vaanga.Romba nalla irrukum,” she invites in Tamil, meaning, ‘You should come here in the month of Karthigai(for the festival). It is very nice then’. Her husband is also the caretaker of the temple. “We come here around 12 noon,” she says, “There are crowds of tourists on week-ends and holidays. On other days we just sit here”, she smiles.
The view-point overlooks the valley. Wispy clouds float across the valley at eye-level! Fog surrounds you and moves away minutes later! Down below you can see a tribal village and another temple. It is a lovely place for a visit.
The pictures below show how the fog brought road-visibility to near zero on our way back from the temple.
Thick fog obscures the signpost
Pagoda point is roughly 4 km from Yercaud Lake in Thalai cholai village.
Summer is well and truly here! Soaring temperatures are touching 40 degree Celsius, somewhat unusual in April.
We were invited by friends to a gala village event in the village of Pudhupatti near Namagiripettai in Rasipuram taluk, Namakkal district.
A lovely farming village, Pudhupatti also called R. Pudhupatti,has a very populartemple for the goddessMariamman.
Pandigai is a common Tamil name for festival and today’s festivities centered on the temple chariot.
Village Deities of Tamil Nadu
The magnificent temples of Tamil Nadu are mostly Siva and Vishnu temples. There is another category of gods and goddesses whose temples are predominant in the villages. These are the village deities called asGrama Devata and their temples may be seen in every Tamil Nadu village and town. The Grama Devata is periodically worshiped and propitiated. Village people fear the wrath of these deities but generally they are benevolent divine beings.
The villages are essentially farming communities and so the Tamil Nadu countryside is dotted with shrines to these gods.
The village deities are the guardians, the healers and the ever present help that every little village and town has. They have a major role to play in the day to day life of the people and protect them from the countless ills, afflictions and pains of everyday village life.
When calamity overtakes the village, when pestilence or famine or cattle disease makes its appearance, it is to the village deity that the whole body of villagers turn to for protection – Right Reverend Henry Whitehead in The Village Gods of South India.
These gods are called as Ayyanar, Muniappan, Mariamman, Angalamman, Pidari, Karuppana swamy, Periasami and so on.
Mariamma is the commonest of them all. Her function is to bring rain and ward off and cure small pox, chicken pox, measles and rashes.
Thuluka Soodamani Amman temple in Pudhupatti
The temple of Thuluka soodamani amman in Pudhupatti is one such village temple for Mariamman.
The mid-day journey to Pudhupatti in the scorching sun wasn’t so pleasant even in an air- conditioned car. But once we neared the temple it was a different matter altogether. No one seemed to care about the hot summer sun, and the air of celebration was catching! Folks were dressed in their best, the endless festival shops sold everything under the sun – literally!
The whole place was action packed, with the temple as the center of all the festivities. In the courtyard of the temple women were busy with a ritual called Pongal Vaikiradhu which involved cooking the sweet rice dish named pongal in earthen or metal pots on an impromptu stove made of three large stones and some kindling or firewood. The cooked pongal was offered to the goddess on banana leaf lined brass plates and taken as prasad. By the roadside a family gave glasses of koozh, a rice and ragi(finger millet) porridge to all. There were free buttermilk stalls with big pots of cold buttermilk. A makeshift shelter was the venue of Annadaanam where people could eat tasty meals absolutely free.There were stalls where you could have tattoos made for Rs. 15.
The temple itself was crowded but we had a good darshan of goddess Mariamman. As I said, her name is Thuluka Soodamani amman. Long ago, the armies of the Nawab are thought to have camped in this region and the goddess blessed the Muslim commander and his men.Hence the unusual name.
The temple is famous for cures relating to skin ailments and vision problems. Therefore people with skin and eye maladies come from afar to offer prayers to the goddess.
Outside the temple the Ther (chariot) was all decked up and ready to go. As usual the villagers joined together and pulled the beautiful Ther.
Behind the ther, I saw something very unusual.
Men and women, wearing garlands of flowers indicative of their vows and holding bunches of neem leaves sat in two rows on the paved street in the hot sun. People brought pots of water which they poured on them, the drenching with cool water being necessary to offset the effects of the noonday sun. When the ther with the idol of Mariamman started to move, they lay on the ground and rolled along behind the ther with hands folded in supplication above their heads.
This ritual is called as Angapradakshanam and it is done for answered prayers, usually within the precincts of the temple around the main shrine.
For the first time I saw it being done on a hot paved street and following the ther.
Such devotion is a humbling experience and I felt respect and admiration for all the men, women and children who kept their vows that day. It was a personal interaction between each of the participants and the mother goddess.
Taking part in these rituals involves a period of fasting prior to the festival. It usually means a single meal a day at noon or in the evening and strict abstinence from meat, taking liquor or smoking. It is a purification that conditions the body to the rigorous process of Angapradakshinam.
Rituals like these have been followed by the villagers traditionally and vary from village to village and from temple to temple. For instance, in Pudhupatti village, our friends said that it was the custom that no palagaram (Tamil for sweetmeats) that required deep frying in oil may be made for the duration of the Pandigai (festival) which usually lasted for two weeks.
Photos of the festival.
WHERE IT IS
The temple is 5 km from Namagiripettai near Rasipuram.
The distance from Salem is 43 km ,roughly an hour’s drive.
The route from Salem is Salem- Rasipuram – Namagiripettai- R. Pudhupatti.
Is there a festival in your village or town? If so,do share your views.
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.