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  • Nandana Varusham

    Nandana varusham, the new tamil year was born on Friday, April 13th. The Hindu almanac is divided into two calendar years in India, one is the lunar calendar year (Chandra varusham) and the other is the solar calendar year (Ravi varusham). Tamil Nadu and Kerala are the only regions in India which follow the solar calendar year unlike the other regions which mostly follow the lunar calendar year. The Tamil New year is born in the middle of April which is the first day of the month of Chithirai according to the Tamil calendar and it coincides with the day of the Indian summer equinox. People celebrate the new year like a religious festival and in Tiruvannamalai too, on this day they do giri pradakshina, perform pujas and religious ceremonies in their homes and then go to temples to worship the Lord.

    In the big temple of Lord Arunachaleswara, the beautiful golden chariot is taken out in honour of this day and the God and Goddess ride out on procession in all their magnificence and splendour. It is indeed a wondrous sight to see the Gods bedecked with jewels and flowers, seated majestically inside the chariot of pure gold and the air is rent with loud exclamations of wonder and piety as the chariot makes its way, around the vast courtyard of the temple, pulled by hundreds of earnest hands.

    On the other hand, in the village of Adi Annamalai, the Tamil New Year is the day on which they celebrate the spectacular festival of Laksha Deepam or One hundred thousand lamps. The festival venue is the the Renuka Amman temple which can be seen on the left side of the outer girivalam path right as one crosses the village of Adi Annamalai. Around sunset, the temple courtyard was already filled with village people who had come to start drawing the Kolams or sacred designs on the ground. Though not much is known about the antecedents of the festival, it seems to be a way of welcoming the new year and also a ritual to propitiate the Goddess so that the summer would not be too hot and that She would send rain from time to time to cool the parched earth and the people. The festival happenings itself are quite simple. First many beautiful colourful Kolams are drawn all around the temple and then one hundred thousand clay-oil lamps are placed and lit all over the arena. After this, the Goddes is venerated with a huge abhishekam and then finally brought outside in procession through the streets of the village.

    It is an interesting and colourful sight to see the rural folk, both men and women, young and old,  all dressed in their festive best and participating so enthusiastically in making the Kolams and arranging and lighting the one hundred thousand oil lamps. Many women devotees  were singing hymns in praise of the Goddess asking Her for blessings and cool rain during the hot summer. An elaborate Aarthi puja was performed after the lighting of the lamps. Later that night, the Goddess was beautifully decorated and then raised on a pedestal and placed on a wooden palanquin. She was then borne in procession by many men around the village of Adi Annamalai where the residents of the village honoured Her, made offerings  and worshipped her with devotion !

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  • 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 !

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  • The Fall of Kama

    One fateful spring morning, thousands of years ago, Kama, the God of Love,decided to wield his Cupid´s bow and fire a flowery arrow into the heart of Lord Shiva himself who sat in deep meditation. Shiva, thus aroused, becomes furious and burns poor Kama to ashes with the flames of wrath leaping out of his third eye. Much later, Rathi the celestial consort of Kama appeals to Shiva in tearful agony and Shiva moved by her distress resurrects Kama out of the ashes.

    This event is celebrated as a 10 day festival alternately in the popular quarters of the town of Tiruvannamalai and inside the big temple of Arunachaleswara under the auspices of the Vasantha Utsavam. In the town it is celebrated in five minor shrines dedicated to Devi or Subramanya. However, in the temple celebration, Kama is resurrected, three or five days after his death. And with this idea, the ashes are collected in a little mound and in the midst of chanting Rathi pours milk on them as is the custom in funerals. In some cases Shiva also gives a stick to Rathi with which to beat on the ashes thus showing that the Lord has accepted the appeal of the wife and that it is He who thus accords to Kama the right to live again. Moreover in the temple, the festival is celebrated just after the vernal equinox which corresponds to midday of the gods day. It is notable that the 10th and final day of the festival coincides with the full moon of Chithirai in conjunction with the Chaithra constellation.

    The deity of this festival is Lord Somaskanda, a form of Shiva and Parvathi, usually found in a shrine on the south-western corner of the main temple of Lord Arunachala. From the first day of the festival upto the ninth, every night around 10 o clock, the gods are brought outside to the third courtyard of the temple, installed in a special palanquin and there ensues an elaborate procession-celebration of the Gods in the form of ten splendid, event-filled tours around the Makila trees lasting till well over midnight. The significance of the “Makila tree” (mimusops elangi) : the tamil verb makil means to enjoy, to desire and the noun makilchi means joy, exultation or ecstasy. Makiltaran is one of the names of the god Kama. The word makila is often pronounced makuta meaning crown and refers to the coronation of Lord Shiva as the sovereign of the universe.

    After coming out of his shrine, Somaskanda is installed on the first pandal just in front of the golden flag pole facing the main shrine. Here the Gods are placed under a lovely canopy of fragrant cooling roots called vilamichaiver vimanam (vilamichai root canopy) hand-made by artisans specially for this occasion, and worshipped with offerings of flowers, diparadhana (waving of lights) and karpuraratti (burning of camphor) with the accompaniment of the temple musicians on their mridangam and nathaswaram.

    Next the Lord is brought to the second pandal, the panneer mandapam, where he is greeted at first with the lovely fragrance of panneer (rose-water) which is sprinkled copiously from the top. An offering of diparadhana is made and the priest sthanikar climbs on the pedestal and sits at the feet of the Gods.  Along with the kalasams Soma and Kama,  the Gods are decorated with garlands. And then to the delight of the already excited spectators, the Gods perform a frenzied ritual-dance in front of the mirror placed on the adjacent gallery, with the musicians playing accompaniment with great  fervour. Now the Gods settle down under the panneer mandapam to witness a series of elaborate rituals whose significance should not be lost. The showering of flowers on the Gods by the Gandharva Kanni (the virgin-nymph) is enacted by a puppet activated by strings attached from the adjacent gallery terrace. In a very beautiful show which is enthusiastically cheered by all the spectators both old and young, the lovely gandharva kanni puppet comes many times, seemingly out of thin air, and showers buckets of rose and jasmine flowers on the Gods. It is indeed a marvellous spectacle! Then a priest pours a pot of water with five vilva leaves in front of the deities and makes an offering of lights. During all this time, the stately temple elephant stands in attendance, donned in its festive robes. In the past it would gently fan the Gods with a venchamaram (sacred white fan made of peacock feathers and silk).

    After these rituals, the ten processional rounds take place and the gods are borne on their palanquin ten times around the makila trees enclave led by the elephant and accompanied by the musicians and singers and followed by devotees. At the completion of each round, the gods dance in front of the mirror and then remain seated under the panneer mandapam where they receive two floral showers by the Gandharva kanni and diparadhana (light) offering.

    The significance of the Gandharva Kanni (celestial virgin nymph) : The Gandharvas are celestial beings and also musicians. They are the guardians of Soma, the divine nectar of immortality and divine teacher of the Moon who is also called Soma. They are the parents of the first human beings, the brother-sister couple Yama and Yami. The Gandharvas are attributed with a mystical power over women and the right to possess them. They are invoked in traditional hindu marriage ceremonies and in the brahmin tradition, the bride who is to be married is supposed to belong first to Soma, to Gandharva and to Agni before becoming the wife of a human being. A gandharva marriage is a marriage of love (not arranged). The chief of the Gandharvas is Chitraratha. The wives of the gandharva men are usually celestial damsels, apsaras. In the present festival, the appearance of the Gandharva kanni would mean to manifest, in a nubile form, the expression of desire and the virtue of union as well as the other elements which are associated here-in (flowers, fragrance, music).

    The death and resurrection of Kama represent the spiritual truth of how after the ego is destroyed, one is reborn as pure eternal Being. The fact that the flames from the third eye of Shiva burn Kama signifies that the third eye of Jnana (knowledge) in one’s heart  must be opened in order for the ego (ignorance) to be destroyed for no darkness can prevail when the light of knowledge shines !

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  • Sri Vidya Havan

    Every year in the month of March, Sri Vidya Havan is conducted in Ramanashram with great devotion and sacred energy. The Sri Chakra inside the Mathra Bhutheswara temple which was installed and consecrated by Sri Bhagavan himself is thus re-consecrated. During the Havan, Saraswathi the goddess of knowledge is invoked and worshipped with rituals and chanting according to ancient vedic doctrines. Towards the culmination, silk saris, gold ornaments, money, coconuts and lotus flowers are offered into the sacrificial fire.

    The fires of the homam then leap up with greater vigour and one can almost see the divine mother dancing out of the flames and blessing all the devotees with her power. There is a tremendous wave of energy which arises around and one is well rewarded for having braved the summer heat and partaken in this hot and firy event. The many kalasams of holy water which are consecrated during the homam are then taken into the shrine through an elaborate procession and later abhishekam is performed on the Sri Chakra and the deities inside the sanctum sanctorum with these waters.

    This afternoon, during a conversation regarding old Sankara Vijayam, Bhagavan asked one devotee whether it was not a fact amongst all books on the life of Sankara, Sankara Vijayam of Vidyaranya was the best. Bhagavan said with a smile, “Yes, his mental powers were very great. He was a great votary of Sri Vidya, you see. He therefore wanted to create a city in the shape of Sri Chakra and started doing it in Hampi but could not complete it. So he said that an emperor in future would rule the country and would be able to build a city in the shape of a Sri Chakra. When I told Nayana about this while i was on the hill, he made a peculiar comment, namely: ” Sri Chakrariti sona saila vapurusham, sri shodasarnatmakam occurs in Arunachala Ashtaka Stotram written by Sri Sankara. Besides this in Arunachala Purana, it is stated that this hill is reputed to be in the shape of Sri Chakra. Hence without searching for it, we have been lucky in getting this place which is in the shape of Sri Chakra. Bhagavan is the Chakravarthi (Emperor) ! If about ten houses are built around the hill, this itself is a great empire. Sankara must have intended this only …Letters from Ramanasramam

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  • Maasi Magham

    The highly revered and most auspicious night of Maasi Magham occurs when the Magham constellation, according to vedic astronomy, appears on the full moon night of the tamil month of Maasi (mid-feb to mid-march). Magham is one among the 27 nakshatras in the vedic astrological chart. It is believed that Maasi Magham is an ideal time for spiritual purification.The full moon of Maasi Magham is one of the most powerful full moons of the year, since the moon aligns with Magha which is the birth constellation of great kings and rulers. It signifies the descent of divine beings to the earth. It combines the benefits of abundance and prosperity and is also the most appropriate time to destroy our ego and surrender ourselves to the feet of the Divine.

    The festival of Maasi Magham is celebrated generally by taking a dip in sacred waters like rivers or oceans for it is believed that the energy of the holy Ganga flows through all sacred waters at this time. In general Maasi Magham is believed to pave our way towards prosperity and a trouble-free, successful and  wealthy life of honour! It is also believed to be a great occasion to get rid of the negative effects of karma.

    In Tiruvannamalai, this is the day on which Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi go to perform the last funeral rites of the erstwhile king Vallala Maharaja. The sacred bath in this case is taken in a little river ‘Sonadi’ which flows through the region. In the morning, the deities of the God and Goddess and that of the Astra deva or the Trident weapon of Shiva are all carried out in procession to the village of Pallikondapattu, about five kms to the east. They are taken to the banks of the river and installed ceremoniously on a pavilion-shrine facing the water. Here awaits a group of fifty people claiming to be descendants of the aforesaid king. A puja is offered to the idol of the Astra deva and the deity is bathed in the waters. The devotees also take a holy dip after this. The Trident is then anointed and decorated with silk and flowers and camphor is burnt in offering.

    In the afternoon, the deities of Shiva and Parvathi are turned to face the mountain. In front, the priests place two pots representing the divine couple and 8 pots representing the Vidyeshwaras and then kindle a small sacrificial fire in the centre. After this a grand puja involving many abhishekams and aarathi are performed to all the deities. The next day the ceremony which consists of tying a turban around the head of the son of the deceased takes place inside the big temple.The name of this ceremony is ‘thalaikattu’ but in this case since it concerns Shiva, it is called ‘makutabhisheka’ (consecration of crowning). In the absence of a human king in Tiruvannamalai (except during the brief Hoysala period) the sovereignty over this kingdom is thus transferred to Lord Shiva himself !

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  • The Great Night of Shiva

    The great night of Shiva or Maha Shivarathri as it is popularly called, is a very important and spiritually significant festival that commemorates the legend of Brahma, Vishnu and all the other gods bowing to the supremacy of Lord Shiva who manifests as the infinite column of effulgence, after having earlier humbled the pride of Brahma and Vishnu. At their request, Lord Arunachala out of compassion, takes the form of a Linga and this is known as Lingodbhavamurthy.

    Tiruvannamalai is one of the Pancha Bhootha Sthalams of Lord Shiva where the Lord manifests Himself as the Agni or Fire element. Therefore Maha Shivarathri has a special significance here. The Arunachaleswara temple gates open at around 2 in the morning on that day and after the initial abhishekam and puja, laksharchana (chanting the Lord’s name one hundred thousand times) begins and continues till late afternoon. The temple is open the whole night with pujas at three-hourly intervals, the first of which is held at six in the evening. This year too, the temple was filled with devotees praising and worshipping Lord Shiva. Many were engaged in making enormous colourful designs (kolams) on the floors depicting various forms of Shiva. Thousands and thousands of fire lamps were lit everywhere. Every stone vibrated with the tremendous Shiva energy which was descending like an avalanche from the Heavens. Giri Pradakshina was performed by many all through the night and the Hill of Arunachala radiated with a Divine energy which seemed to engulf everyone and everything.

    The true meaning of Maha Shivarathri was expounded by Sri Ramana Maharshi on a Shivarathri night many years ago. When one of the sadhus sitting in the Maharshi’s presence requested him to explain Adi Shankara’s Dakshinamurthi stotra (hymn), He said, “Yes, sit down”. Devotees eagerly awaited to listen to His exposition, but Bhagavan maintained his usual posture and a steady silence. The clock ticked by and hours passed. There was a spellbound silence. Everyone present was deeply absorbed within himself. With the break of dawn people began to regain their body consciousness. Bhagavan graciously asked the questioner whether he understood now the significance of the hymn. the sadhu and the others nodded and made their grateful obeisance to the Master. Thus the real significance of Shivarathri as demonstrated by Bhagavan Ramana was that, whatever the body might be doing on that day, the mind must merge into its source.

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  • Lord Arunachala and Vallala Maharaja

    According to legend, the great king Vallala III who reigned in Tiruvannamalai during the 14th century, the last emperor of the Hoysala dynasty of Karnataka was childless for a long time and yearned to have a heir and son. He therefore came to Tiruvannamalai and prayed fervently to Lord Arunachaleswara for this boon. His sincere devotion and prayers bore fruit and in due course of time his Rani gave birth to a son. For some reason the king believed that Lord Shiva himself had come down and been born as his son. The Thai Poosam festival which falls in the month of Thai (Jan-Feb) during the constellation of Poosam is generally dedicated to God Muruga or Subramanya. However, in Tiruvannamalai, the Thai Poosam and Maasi Magam festivals are connected with the erstwhile king Vallala Maharaja for Thai Poosam is the date of the death announcement of the said king.

    In the big temple, the festival begins with a grand abhishekam to Lord Palani Andavar (another name for Muruga) in his shrine in the 4th courtyard and also in the Kambattu Ilayanar shrine in the 5th courtyard. This happens early in the morning. After this, Lord Shiva in the form of Chandrasekara and his consort Goddess Ambal along with the Astra deva or Trident deity come out in procession. After rounding the 4 streets bordering the temple, the procession of gods winds its way to the Isanya Tirtham which is situated in the crematorium at the North-Eastern corner of the town. There the Trident, weapon of Shiva, is bathed and then placed beside the deities of Shiva and Ambal who have meanwhile been installed in the Mourning Pavilion of the grounds.

    On the return journey to the Temple, near the statue of Harischandra, (a legendary king who was tested by Shiva and reduced to serving as crematorium worker) which is often placed at the entrances of crematoriums in Tamil Nadu, a character dressed completely in black robes, the Otran, spy or secret messenger, boldly halts the procession of the gods and hands over a message to the Oduvar or temple singer. The musicians accompanying the procession stop playing their music and in the silence that ensues, the Oduvar reads out loudly the announcement of the death of the king Vallala, murdered by treachery, while in combat with the king of Ottiyam land (Orissa). After hearing this the procession goes back accompanied by the chantings of the Oduvar and the din of the cymbals played by the temple drummers who now play a funeral march.

    On the same day as the death announcement of the king, a man from the Vallalar community, Pachai Appa Goundar receives a letter by post, informing him of the death of the king. It says “Pachai Appa Goundar, Alas! you have to weep for your honoured father, the great Vallala Maharaja is no more ! In the house of Pachai Appa goundar from now onwards the members go into mourning and they start to eat talial a meal prepared from curd rice and bananas, only eaten during mourning times.

    When the gods arrive back to the Temple in procession, they stop at the statue of the king Vallala (which is in a niche on the passage bordering the entrance gopuram of the 4th courtyard) and here the king’s statue is bathed, anointed and decorated by a representative from the Vallala community. As the gods approach the entrance pavilion, an Aarathi (waving of lamps and camphor flame) is offered to the gods as well as to the king Vallala’s statue.

    The final commemoration of this historic event happens at the festival of Maasi Magam later this month during which the last rites for the departed soul of the king are performed by Lord Shiva himself (since it is tradition in India for the son to perform the last rites of his father).

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  • The 7th day of the Chariot – Ratha Saptami

    Ratha Saptami falls on the seventh day of the lunar cycle after the new moon of the tamil month of Thai.  In this case, the Ratha or chariot refers to the chariot of the Sun God which he is believed to ride and cross over to the North. Whereas the first day of the month of Thai denotes the passage of the Sun from one direction to the other (South to North), the seventh day, Ratha Saptami is more a lunar reference, purely mythologic, to the mounting of Surya (Sun god) onto his chariot to undertake his northern journey.

    In Tiruvannamalai, on Ratha Saptami day, a Tirthavaari (sacred bath of the gods) is celebrated in Kalasapakkam (a village about 20 kms to the north of Tiruvannamalai) in the river Cheyaru. Early in the morning, after an abhishekam, the deities of Lord Annamalaiyar and his consort Apeethakuchambal are borne to the village and placed on their favorite mount, the Bull (Rishaba vahanam). After a ritual of worship the gods are carried to the banks of the river, Cheyaru. Here awaits a fine reception for them, for the ensemble of the village gods are there to welcome and honour their Lord and Lady. After this, the Astra deva or the Trident weapon of Shiva is taken ceremoniously to the river by the priest and bathed ritualistically in the waters. The same ritual is repeated all along the banks of the river accompanied by the crowd of villagers and hailed with loud cries of devotion. Then all the deities are made to dance in wild frenzy by the palanquin bearers who jerk and jiggle the deities borne on their shoulders. This scene,watched from a distance over the sea of heads of devotees is very impressive.

    The principal part of the festival ends with this ceremony. However, Lord Annamalaiyar seizes the occasion to make a tour of the village also part of his kingdom and grant his darshan to the village devotees who are so dear to his heart. And on this gracious note, he bids goodbye and mounts his chariot for the return procession back to Tiruvannamalai and the big temple…

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  • The Eye of Knowledge

    Once a devotee asked Bhagavan Ramana, “Swami for gaining Realisation, is the enquiry ‘who am I?’ the only way ?”

    Bhagavan Ramana replied “Enquiry is not the only way for gaining realisation. If one does spiritual practice (sadhana) with name and form, repetition of holy names (japa), or any of these methods with grim determination and perseverance, one becomes THAT. According to the capacity of each individual, one spiritual practice is said to be better than another and several shades and variations of them have been given. Some people are a long way from Tiruvannamalai, some are very near; some are in Tiruvannamalai, while some get into Bhagavan’s hall itself. For those who come into the hall it is enough if they are told as they step in, ‘Here is the Maharshi’ and they realise him immediately. For others they have to be told which route to take, which trains to catch, where to change, which road to turn into. In like manner, the particular path to be taken must be prescribed according to the capacity of the practiser (sadhak). These spiritual practices are not for knowing one’s own Self, which is all pervading, but only for getting rid of the objects of desire. When all these are discarded, one remains as one IS. That which is always in existence is the Self – all things are born out of the Self. That will be known only when one realises one’s own Self. So long as one has not that knowledge, all that is seen in this world appears as real.

    Supposing a person sleeps in the hall, in his sleep he dreams of going somewhere, loses his way, wanders from one village to another, from one hill to another, and during that time searches without food or water. He suffers a good deal, enquires of several people and finally finds the correct place. He reaches it and feeling that he is stepping into this hall, greatly relieved he opens his eyes with a startled look. All this will have happened within a short time and it is only after he wakes up that he realises that he had not been anywhere. Our present life is also like that. When the eye of knowledge is opened, a person realises that he remains ever in his own Self”.

    extract from Letters from Ramanasramam by Suri Nagamma

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  • The Divine Quarrel – Tiruvoodal

    Tiruvoodal is the legendary quarrel that takes place between Lord  Shiva and Goddess Parvathi and it is celebrated particularly in Tiruvannamalai during the month of January, the 2nd day after Pongal. In fact there is a whole street close to the temple called ‘Tiruvoodal street’ where the main part of the festival, the divine quarrel itself, is enacted.

    The Divine quarrel revolves around the time when one day Parvathi playfully closes the eyes of her august husband, Lord Shiva, with her hands. Utter chaos ensues. The whole universe is plunged in darkness and what was just a moment of play to Parvathi causes countless years of darkness and misery on the universe. Lord Shiva, enraged by this act of folly, punishes Parvathi which sends Her to Kanchipuram to do Tapas where She receives the assurance that after she kills the buffalo-demon Mahishasura on the slopes of Arunachala, She would subsequently regain the favour of her Lord and be united with Him in the left half of His body (Ardhanaariswara) and this is what is realised on the day of Karthigai Deepam.

    It would seem that the Tiruvoodal festival is celebrated in Tiruvannamalai in order to commemorate the time when Shiva and Parvathi were in discordance. Nevertheless,  it finishes with the divine union and brings them both back together in harmony. On the first day, there are three processions of the deities starting from the big temple and going on the four streets around the temple. The Utsava Murthis are Sri Mula Nayakar (Shiva in the form of Somaskanda), Tani Ambal (the independent goddess) and Sundaramurthi Nayanar (one of the main tamil saivaite saints).

    The most interesting part of the festival takes place in the evening on Tiruvoodal street. During this part, the quarrel between Shiva and His consort, Parvathi, is enacted in public on the streets and witnessed by a large gathering of devotees who are assembled there eagerly to watch the divine drama. The God and the Goddess are brought on palanquins from opposite ends of the street and then borne down to face each other. The narrative of the quarrel is chanted by an Oduvar (temple singer) in tamil lyrics. After this ensues a dramatic dancing procession. Six times the God and the Goddess are borne down at a great speed and then meet in the centre and have their quarrel. This is played out by the palanquin bearrers jumping and shaking the palanquin up and down, which makes it appear as if the deity inside is jumping up and down in a fit of rage. The temple musicians play their drums in fitting accompaniment, adding to the frenzied rantings of the gods as they are shouting at each other. After each quarrel-dance, the deities change sides and each goes off in the opposite direction from which he or she came initially. The crowds of devotees are hysterical with excitement and after each dance-quarrel, the tension mounts and so do the loud cries of fervor and devotion which increase in volume and fury.

    The next day, Shiva is up at dawn and leaves on Giripradakshina during which he makes a halt at the Vedarpari mandapam where his jewels are supposedly stolen and later on he also grants salvation to his ardent devotee Kannappa. This is the reason for the Kannappa temple on that location. Shiva also grants darshan to another of his devotees the great rishi ‘Bhringi’ during this trip.  Shiva eventually completes his giri pradakshina and returns to the temple in the afternoon where he enters, dancing the dance of the Swan (Hamsa Natanam). The bearers of the palanquins have a special technique to execute this dance and it causes a type of swaying, continuous oscillation of the deity without losing balance, quite a fascinating sight!

    Now a ritual takes place in the southern area of the temple which covers directly the sanctum sanctorum. Sundaramurthi Nayanar first goes to warn the Goddess about the return of Shiva. Of course, She, being curious, leaves Her door open so that She can have a glimpse of the dancing arrival of Her Lord. On seeing this spectacle, however, She is so dazzled by her Lord’s beauty and splendour as He arrives majestically doing His swan-dance, that She submits to Him and wishes to be re-united. Thus the reconciliation and reunion of the gods take place and to synchronise this, both the deities are brought together and placed on the same pedestal and the priests perform an Arathi puja waving and encircling one flame around both of the deities to signify the restoration of harmony.

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