Friday, 17 of August of 2018

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The Origin of Karthigai Deepam

 The festival of Karthigai Deepam which is approaching soon is the one of the oldest living festivals in India. It takes place in theArunachala_Deepam-58 Tamil month of Karthigai when the star Kirthiga is on the ascendant and usually occurs on a full moon day. In ancient tamil literature, the oldest available work Tolkappiyam which dates back to 2500 B.C. carries a marked reference to this festival. In another ancient Tamil classic, the Kalavazhi Naarpadu, dating back to the third Sangam period (around 1000 B.C.), the poet writes, “In the battle, the blood oozing out from the dead soldiers’ bodies is like the red coloured flame of the light lit on Karthigai Deepam”. Another song in Sambandar’s Thevaram says that the Lord is verily the Deepam (lit during the Karthigai festival)

Everyone knows that Karthigam Deepam is the lighting of the flame on the summit of Arunachala on Karthigai day but not many people know about why this festival is celebrated. Readers may remember the legend of the Navaratri festival in earlier posts about how Goddess Parvathi having incurred the wrath of her husband, LordArunachala_Deepam-40 Shiva, came to the holy hill of Arunachala to do Tapas and regain the favour of her Lord. And so, after a long period of arduous Tapas which the Goddess Parvathi performed with great devotion and strength, Lord Shiva’s wrath was appeased and He came down to Arunachala to take her back. When He arrived, Lord Shiva was so moved by the strength and force which emanated from the Goddess as a result of her Tapas that he decided that She was his equal in every way. Therefore he granted her half his body so that the Two would become totally united in One form. This was the birth of Ardhanareeswara. Physically It signifies the Divine Union of Shiva and Parvathi. Spiritually it signifies the divine union of Advaita. Not two but One. Shiva and Parvathi are not two but One. Man and God are not different but united as One in the non-dual Self, the Absolute Consciousness!

Arunachala_Deepam-60This momentous event is believed to have happened in the month of Karthigai on the day of Kirthiga Nakshatra and that is why till today the flame is lit on the summit of Arunachala in memory and honour of this wonderful Union which unite Man and God.

When Sri Muruganar asked Bhagavan Ramana about the significance of the Karthigai Deepam festival, Bhagavan composed a stanza of four lines in which He says,The true significance of the Karthigai Deepam festival is to turn the intellect inwards and have it fixed in the Heart, thereby merging it with the indweller of the Heart


navaratri1The grand festival of Navarathri is in full swing in the Ashram of Ramana. Traditionally this is a time of worshipping the Goddess Parvathi in all her different forms notably Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi.

As the name denotes, Navaratri is a festival of nine nights dedicated to the Goddess Shakthi (Parvathi or Amba) in her different manifestations. The legend of Navarathri starts with the penance of the Goddess on the slopes of Arunachala. Separated from her Lord (due to having playfully closed his eyes with her hands), the Goddess yearns to be reunited with Him. The great sage Guatama advises her to perform penance on the slopes of the holy Hill Arunachala and accordingly she comes here and sits in Tapas (penance). She follows the various scriptural injunctions and exhibits her devotion to the Lord in various ways. During the nine days of penance she manifests herself each day in one of her different forms. On the tenth day she assumes a terrifying form of Mahishasura Mardhini, slayer of demons and vanquishes the evil demon Mahisha on the slopes of Arunachala. Thus this festival is of particular significance in Tiruvannamalai since it was here, millions of years ago, that the first Navarathri actually happened.

In Ramanashram, the Navaratri festival is celebrated elaborately. On the night of Mahavalya Amavasya, the goddess Yogambikanvt7 is brought out of her niche in the Mother’s shrine and taken on procession around the Samadhi of Ramana. After this, she is installed in a beautiful decorated pedestal behind the Nandi of the Mother’s shrine. Every night for nine days, the goddess is decorated splendidly in silk attire, gold jewels and flowers, depicting each day a different aspect. After the Alamkaram, arathi puja is performed by the priests in an elaborate manner. Hundreds of devotees from all over throng the new hall every evening to witness this spectacle.

nvt9It will be interesting to see what Bhagavan Sri Ramana had to say about this celebration. In Letters from Ramanasramam, Suri Nagamma recounts to her brother in a letter dated 27th January 1946. “You have seen the decorations made in the shrine of Mathrabhutheswara on the Ramana-classicfirst day of Navarathri festival last year. There was a different type of decoration every day in accordance with the puranic story that Amba went out to do Tapas as she could not bear the separation from the Shiva. So the idol of Amba was decorated suitably and was put in the shade of a tree. After the night meal was over that day, Bhagavan was taken to that place and was shown that idol. Next morning in the hall, while talking about the ornamentation in the temple and in this shrine, Bhagavan said, “Yesterday’s ornamentation was intended to show that Amba was doing Tapas. Unable to bear the separation, she goes out to do Tapas (penance) here. But Parvathi is depicted as sitting in a stylish pose under a tree to do Tapas, wearing a silk sari, gold jewels and flower garlands! What our people do is always like this. Tapas means meditation connected with the practice of self-denial or bodily mortification, does it not? Amba is reported to have closed the eyes of Shiva with both her hands for fun and to expiate that sin, Parameswara asked her to perform penance, and so she left her husband, went to a lonely place, and in self-mortification, forgot about her body, became weak and with great austerity, performed Tapas. But see the way Amba is now decorated to depict that story. She is dressed like a Maharani with diamonds and emeralds and gold ornaments and wearing a silk sari and flower garlands!”

Girivalam shrines: Ashtalingams – Indra lingam (East)

indraThe anthropomorphic god Indra is an important god in the Hindu religion. He is also known as Śakra in the Vedas and is revered as the leader of the Devas or gods and the King of paradise or Devaloka. For the Aryas, he was their national god and he was regarded as the protector of the military aristocracy and the Kshatriyas warriors. The formidable thunderbolt-wielding Indra strikes an imposing figure but as king of the gods he is generally benevolent, being generous to his worshippers, guaranteeing peace and prosperity and delivering beneficial rainstorms to end droughts. He can also be called upon in times of war to give support with his divine weapons and favourable intervention. In later tradition Indra is transformed from a worshipped god into a mythological figure involved in various,indra2 sometimes unflattering adventures, whilst gods such as Vishnu and Shiva replace him at the head of the Hindu pantheon. Nevertheless, Indra continued to be associated with storms, rain and he is notably the reigning deity of the cardinal direction East.

God of Thunder & Storms: In the Hindu creation myth Indra was born (along with his brother Agni) from the mouth of the primordial god or giant Purusha whose various other body parts gave birth to the other members of the Hindu pantheon. These new gods then brought order to the cosmos and Indra, seated on his throne within the indra5storm clouds of the svarga or third heaven is ruler of the clouds and skies alongside his wife Indrāni. In Hindu mythology, the clouds are equated with divine cattle and the sound of thunder during storms is Indra fighting with the demons who are forever trying to steal these celestial cows. In addition, the rain is equated with Indra milking his divine herd and the god is seen as a protector of earthly cattle belonging to his worshippers. Indra encompasses and controls the universe,indra7 balancing the earth in the palm of his hand and manipulating it according to his whim. He also created the rivers and streams by shaping the mountains and valleys with his sacred axe.

Indra has a favourite companion, his pet ape Vrishakapi, but his fondness for the creature did once incur the jealous wrath of Indrāni who then displayed amorous intentions towards Vrishakapi which were reciprocated and when the couple were discovered by Indra, the angry god drove the animal away. However, the tables were turned when, later, Indra himself was discovered in the arms of Vrishakapi’s wife by his once faithful pet. Thus being equal in their unfaithfulness, the pair’s great friendship was restored.

Here on Arunachala Girivalam, the Indra lingam shrine is located at the centre of Tiruvannamalai town in the main market area. Esconced between two jewellery shops, it is hardly visible from the main road. A little passage leads to the antechamber of the shrine from where one descends a small flight of stairs to the inner sanctum built on an underground level. And thus one is rewarded at last with a darshan of the eastern Ashta lingam, the lingam of Indra!

Viewing changes

It seem that most people would prefer not to see the construction covering a portion of the bottom right view and would rather the camera were zoomed just enough to avoid it. We have now done that. The unsightly distraction is no longer visible. Many thanks for your responses.

Change to the view of Arunachala

     Unfortunately our neighbor has decided to construct a tall building in the view of our camera over our objections to the excessive height. We had previously narrowed the view to avoid seeing it but now he has continued to raise the building height. We have no recourse but to accept this intrusion into the natural view of Arunachala as it is done on his property. However, we can zoom the camera closer to eliminate the view of this unsightly construction or leave it in the view in order to have a wider image. We would like to hear from devotees their opinion. For now, we will leave the full view of Arunachala including the building.
The Arunachala-Live team

muthu's new building

The meaning of Pradakshina

Talk 212.    Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi

Maharshi observed: Pradakshina (the Hindu rite of going round the object of  worship) is “All is within me.” The true significance of the act of going round  Arunachala is said to be as effective as circuit round the world. That means that  the whole world is condensed into this Hill. The circuit round the temple of  Arunachala is equally good; and self-circuit (i.e., turning round and round) is as  good as the last. So all are contained in the Self. Says the Ribhu Gita: “I remain  fixed, whereas innumerable universes becoming concepts within my mind, rotate  within me. This meditation is the highest circuit (pradakshina).'”

Bhagvan’s Aradhana

Aradhana is the Samadhi day of  Sri Ramana Maharshi, the day on which he left the human body and attained Brahma Nirvana. Sri Bhagavan Himself considered both life and death in this body as mere thought forms. In this regard, an old devotee S.S. Cohen recalls this from the master’s teaching in his book Guru Ramana: “Life is miserable because it consists of nothing but thoughts. When death strikes down the body, the dreamless, thought-free state prevails for a brief period, but soon thinking starts again in the dream – ‘astral’ – world, and continues till a full ‘waking’ takes place in a new body, after another dreamless lull. This daily cycle of waking and sleeping is a miniature of the cycle of life and death in man and the universe, of alternation of activity and rest. The substance of the former is thoughts and sensations, and of the latter the peaceful being from which these arise. To transcend birth and death we have, therefore, to transcend the processes of thought and abide in the Eternal Being… But the Jnani, the Self-Realised man, whose mind has already ceased to act, remains unaffected by death; it has dropped never to rise again to cause births and deaths. The chain of illusion has snapped forever for him… It is now clear that there is neither real birth nor real death. It is the mind which creates and maintains the illusion of reality in this process, till it is destroyed by Self-Realisation.

Sri Ramana attained Maha Nirvana on April 14th 1950 and some people may wonder why Aradhana was celebrated on the 18th of April this year. This is because, in India, religious and spiritual anniversaries are usually observed according to the astrological constellation and so the day of commemoration may vary from year to year in lieu of the appearance of the constellation.

This year too, in the Ashram,  the usual Aradhana programme was observed. The morning began with special chanting of Ramana sthuthi panchagam and Aksharamanamalai after which the Brahmin priests commenced the Rudra japam in preparation for the grand Ekadasa Mahanyasa Rudra abhishekam in the shrine of Ramana’s samadhi, which was the main event of the day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were served to one and all and devotees partook enthusiastically in all the meals.

In the evening there was a music concert rendered by the troupe from Ramana Maharshi centre for learning in Bangalore. They sang songs in praise of Ramana in Tamil, Telugu and Sanskrit, covering both ancient and contemporary compositions. May the truth of Ramana’s who am I shine in all our hearts on this Aradhana !

A quote from Sri Ramana Maharshi

Correcting oneself is correcting the whole world.
The Sun is simply bright. It does not correct anyone.
Because it shines, the whole world is full of light.
Transforming yourself is a means of giving light to the whole world.

Mahishasura Mardhini

Long long ago there lived a demon (Asura) named Mahisha. He wanted to become invincible and so he prayed to Lord Brahma for the boon of invincibility. With this aim he performed severe penances and austerities.  All the three worlds trembled under the strength of his penance. This impressed Lord Brahma who then came down to grant him a boon. Mahisha asked for immortality, which the Lord said he could not have as every creature that was born had to die. Mahisha decided that he would cunningly ask for a boon that would make him as good as immortal. He asked that no man should be able to kill and if he had to die, it should only be at the hands of a woman. He was sure that no woman could ever fight against him however strong she would be.

Now that Mahisha was invincible, he started doing evil deeds and terrorising the people on earth and boldly tried to conquer the gods in heaven. His attack was so powerful that even Indra’s mighty thunderbolt could not drive him away. Mahisha drove out the Gods and took over Indra’s throne and  started harassing all the pious people who continued praying to Vishnu or Shiva. Unable to tolerate his tyranny, the gods pleaded with Vishnu to put an end to the demon. The Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara (Shiva) joined together to create an all powerful female form with ten arms – Goddess Durga or ‘Mahamaya’, the Mother of the Universe who embodies the primeval source of all power. The gods then bestowed upon this Supreme creation their individual blessings and weapons. Armed like a warrior, the goddess appeared on the back of a fierce lion to battle with the Mahisasura. After a fierce combat the ‘Durgatinashini’ was able to slay the ‘Asura’ king with her trident. She thus earned the title of Mahishasura Mardhini – the destroyer of Mahishasura.  Heaven and earth rejoiced over her victory and everyone, gods and humans alike chanted loudly the  refrain of  supplication before this Supreme Power:

Ya devi sarbabhuteshshu, sakti rupena sanksthita Namasteshwai Namasteshwai Namasteshwai namo namaha.”

Vijaya Dasami is the day on which this event happened. It is the tenth day after the nine nights of Navaratri and signifies the victory of the Goddess Durga over the powers of darkness. It is believed that the famous battle between Durga and Mahishasura took place right here on the slopes of Arunachala. Thus the brave Parvathi took the form of Durga, the fierce Shakthi and screamed at Mahishasura, “This is a sacred place where only sages and devotees of Arunachala can reside, therefore do not incur the wrath of my Lord and be burnt by Him. It is ordained that I should fight and kill you.” Hence She took him outside the borders of Tiruvannamalai. After a nine day battle She slayed him and returned to Tiruvannamalai truimphantly, where She continued her tapas on the slopes of the holy mountain. Thus the Navaratri festival although celebrated all over India, has the greatest significance in Tiruvannamalai.

Arunachala, a geological view

According to a geological study of the Continents, it seemed that the continents were once a huge mass of land, part of an ancient super continent Pangea. In course of time this huge mass of land broke up into fragments which began to drift, forming the present continents. Certain continents (S.America and Africa, Africa and India with Madagascar in between; India and Australia; and Antartica) now far apart seem to fit together if joined. A study of positions of magnetic poles measured from rocks in two of the continents likewise indicated relative movement between the two continents. Also the geological structures and formation of rocks particularly charnockite seem to perfectly fit as one single mass when these continents are put together. The distribution of certain flora and fauna belonging to Gondwana Land – supercontinent Pangaea, which is the convergence of the movements of continents about 350 million years ago.

The section of land from Tiruvannamalai towards Villupuram contains various stages of migmatisation of charnockite (of Tiruvannamalai it is 2.55 billion years) and the associated members culminating in the formation of Gingee pluton (2.5 billion years). The evidence gathered from geological studies made in Tiruvannamalai during the 1970’s throws light on the formation of the charnockite and related assemblages of rocks older than 3000-3500 million years. The rock formation in this section as explained in the process of migmatisation of charnockite and associated rocks in phases culminated in the evolvement of Gingee Pluton consisting of granite composition.

A detailed study of the world mountains, with particular reference to India, reveals the following features : The world’s famous mountain ranges like the Alps, the Rockies, the Andes, the Himalayan and Applatian ranges contain high peaks at very high altitudes, but geo-chronologically they do not come under the Archaeon period and belong to younger ages. The upheaval of the Himalayas was not a continuous process but took place in four phases. Himalayan ranges are less than 50 million years old, whereas the upheaval was in one single phase for the holy hill of Arunachala.

The Tiruvannamalai hill is an imposing landmark with an elevation of 2634 feet and is the highest peak in the hill ranges found conspicuously in the western and southwestern directions of Tiruvannamalai; the eastern and southeastern parts of Tiruvannamalai on the other hand are gently undulating plains dotted with few knolls and mounds. Also it would appear that among other mounainous belts, the Deccan plateau in Southern India including Tiruvannamalai is one of the areas of little or no tectonic activity i.e. seismologically these belts have not changed their characterisitics drastically over a long period of time. In recorded history the origin and flow of rivers, homosapiens, flora and fauna are geo-chronologically far later developments.

From the above inferences, it is clear that the holy hill of Arunachala is older than the Himalayas (mount Everest or Kailash) and hence the oldest natural shrine in the world. And so, Manickavasagar, one of the ancient 63 Tamil saivaite saints hails Lord Arunachala as ‘older than the oldest’ and ‘later than the latest’.

(courtesy: French Institute Research studies on Tiruvannamalai and Ramana’s Arunachala by Devotees)