Festivals at Arunachaleswarar Temple
Festivals at Arunachaleswarar Temple in Thiruvannamalai. Several festivals dot the Tiruvannamalai temple town's calendar. Each occurrence of the full moon is a celebration in itself, as hundreds of thousands throng to circumambulate the Annamalai Hill called as Giri Valam, considered to be a representation of Annamalaiyar himself.
Tiruvannamalai celebrates four annual Bhrammotsavams (10 day festivals) the most famous of which is the Kartikai Bhrammotsavam (in the Tamil month of Kartikai Nov 15 - Dec 15).
The Arudra Darisanam in the month of Margazhi (Dec 15 through Jan 15) is a celebration of the cosmic dance of Shiva.
Thai Poosam festival which occurs in the month of Thai (Jan 15 through Feb 15) is also of great significance.
The Tiruvoodal festival, enacting a mock quarrel between Annamalaiyaar and Unnamulai Amman is enacted in the presence of Sundaramoorthy Nayanaar in the Tiruvoodal Street, a street that has been earmarked for this annual event. During this quarrel, Parvati enters the temple alone by herself, leaving Shiva outside, and Shiva (Annamalaiyaar) circumambulates the Annamalai hill (himself), and during his trip, grants liberation to the rishi Bhringi. His jewels get stolen in the West side of the town and he then recovers stolen jewellery in the eastern side of the town, and then returns to the temple the folowing morning.
In the month of Maasi, (Feb 15 through March 15) Shiva is crowned as the King in the absence of a royal heir to King Ballala of the Hoysala dynasty (an early 14th century ruler) whose statue adorns the Vallala Gopuram. Interestingly Ballala's death is announced as an element of the festival tradition during the Thai Poosam celebration season. Associated with these events, Annamalaiyaar visits Pallikondapattu, one of the villages to the east of Tiruvannamalai, where the King's palace is said to have stood.
The Parivettai (Royal Hunt) festival is a part of the two Bhrammotsavams celebrated during the winter and summer. This festival represents a royal hunt on the borders of the town.
The celebration of Kartikai Deepam marks the conclusion of the ten day Bhrammotsavam in the month of Kartikai (Scorpio , Nov 15 through December 15).
Each of these festival days is marked by the procession of the Pancha Murthys (Somaskandar (Annamalayar), Unnamulaiyaal, Ganapati, Subramanyar and Chandikeswarar) in decorated mounts. Most noteworthy among these are the Rishabha Vahana Utsavam celebrated on the fifth evening of the festival and the Rathotsavam, celebrated on the seventh day of the festival.
Kartikai Deepam is preceeded by the Bharani Deepam celebration when a lamp is lit in the main shrine of the temple following a fire sacrifice before the shrine of Surya. A small bowl of ghee lighted at this fire is used to light five other lamps representing the five aspects of Shiva. Preparations begin for the Kartikai Deepam which is to be celebrated in the afternoon. A group of fishermen carry a portion of this fire inside a container of baked earth to the summit of the mountain where a large copper utensil filled with offerings of ghee and pieces of cloth has been placed. Crowds begin to throng the temple complex, and a discernible order prevails among the crowd as the tens of thousands gathered begin their patient wait for the auspicious moment when the Deepam celebration would reach its peak. In the meanwhile, preparations go on for the afternoon’s climax. Four of the five decorated Pancha Murthys are are brought out from the main shrine of the temple and housed in Vimanams in the 3rd prakaram of the temple, facing the flag staff and the Annamalai Hill. The last to arrive is Annamalaiyar who comes out of the second prakaram, dancing with his consort. The crowd waits to catch a glimpse of the deepam which is then brought out of the inner shrine towards the Utsavar Annamalayaar.
The deepam is brought out in a gait by the bearers and a deeparadanai is offered to the Utsavar, and at this very instant, the lamp on the hill is lighted as the crowd breaks into a frenzied devout cheer, yet retaining the order that was there when it was just beginning to assemble.
Keeping with tradition, the inner sanctum doors close, with the arrival of the deepam outside, and it is believed Annamalaiyaar is to be worshipped only as the beacon until the next morning when the shrine is reopened.
Each occurrence of a full moon attracts hundreds of thousands of pilgrims. The Kartikai Deepam celebration also attracts lakhs (hundreds of thousands) to the extent that all incoming traffic is halted at the boundary of the town on the day of the festival.
People believe that on this day Lord Shiva appeared in Thiruvannamalai hills and they mark this by lighting a huge fire on the top of the hill. Ghee and camphor are used to light the huge fire and people shout saying Annamalaiyarku Arohara.