|Arunachaleswarer temple, Tiruvannamalai, TN.srinithyakalyani.org/|
Lighting of Maha Deepam at the auspicious time on the final day of Karthigai Deepam festival is a great event to be taken place this year on the evening of 10 December. This important Hindu festival is held on the day when the moon is in alignment with the constellation ''Karthigai'' (Pleiades) and pournami. This constellation appears as a group of six stars in the firmament in the shape of a pendant from the ear. This day is celebrated as the birth day of God Karthikaya ( commonly known as God Muruga, son of Parvati). In Kerala, this festival is known as 'Thrikkarthika'' and it is said the festival is not dedicated to any god in the Hindu pantheon and most of the Hindus do believe it is dedicated to Goddess Sakthi (Bhagavathy). According to some it represents God Shiva and Goddesss Parvati. Anyway, this festival is celebrated on a grand scale in Kerala.
No other Siva temple in India assumes as much attention as the Arunachaleswarar temple at Tiruvannamalai Town, Tamil Nadu does. This being due to the fact this temple represents one of the 5 important elements (pancha boothams) that sustain our life on the earth - Agni. Hence it is celebrated here with pomp and gaiety. On the early morning of 10 December (10 th day of the festival
|Karthigi Deepam on the Arunachala hill, Thruvannamalai. heritageonline.in|
An interesting aspect of deepam festival is at the Arunachaleswarar temple the shrine of Arthanareeswarer (Shiva in half-woman and half-man form symbolic of gender equality) will be open only once a year and his idol will be brought out of the shrine carried by the devotees to bless the devotees assembled on the temple premises. The carriers of the palanquin sway gently and keep moving forward. This is followed by lighting Aganda deepam in the temple. Simultaneously up on the hill the Maha Deepam will be lit around 6 pm. Immediately, after this event in all Hindu households and at temples across the state sacred deepam will be lit reverentially. Devotees normally use earthen lamps/ agal villakku on this occasion and keep them in rows in front of their home and inside their house close to the puja room. When Bharani Deepam is lit in the morning in the midst of chanting mantras by the temple priests only 4,000 to 5,000 people would be allowed inside the temple to see the event.
The Deepam in the 5 foot tall cauldron on the hill top will be kept going for 11 consecutive days. As for ghee, it is procured from Avin, owned by the state government. People in thousands will undertake Girivalam - going around the Arunachala hill along the Prathakshapath clock wise - a stretch of 14 km. Devotees walk barefoot and many of them do it without taking food. Karthikai festival comes to an end after 3-day float festival in Ayyankulam.