14 April 2014

Puthandu 2014 -- Tamil New Year

This morning at 5.00 a.m. friends and I visited the much loved Rajarajeshwari Temple off the Girivalam Roadway  to attend abhishekam puja. A perfect way to celebrate Puthandu -- Tamil New Year, which falls today April 14, 2014. 

Goddess Rajarajeshwari at Arunachala

The Goddess


Panguin Uthiram -- Celestial Wedding at Arunachala

The first day of Panguni Uthiram which was celebrated at Arunachaleswarar Temple yesterday (Sunday April 13, 20134) is known as the time of celebration of the Celestial Wedding of Lord Siva and Goddess Parvathi. 

The below photographs celebrated the following programme:- 

Evening 6.00 p.m. At Amman flag post Arunachaleswarar came in procession and there was performed the exchanging of garlands. 

8.00 p.m. Arunachaleswarar and Parashakti after exchanging garlands moved to the Thirukalyanam Mandapam. 

11.00 p.m. Thirukalyanam Mandapam, the Thirukalyanam Festival occurred.

Exchanging of Garlands

Exchange occuring in front of Unnamulaiamman Temple

Exchange occurring late Sunday night

Inside the Thirukalyana Mandapam for Marriage Function

Sani Pradosham April 12, 2014 -- Big Temple

The last few days at Arunachala have been full of functions and festivities occurring in both Lord Siva and Lord Murugan Temples. Arunachaleswarar Temple has been packed with devotees enjoying the various programmes and even now crowds are pouring into Tiruvannamalai to perform what will be a very BUSY Arunachala girivalam this evening. 

The below photographs are a pictorial representation of the April 12, 2014 Sani Pradosham which took place at the Big Temple. 

12 April 2014

Tetrad Pheonomenon

Girivalam during the full moon (Poornima) at Arunachala this coming week (April 14) will be even more special because of the unusual and rare phenomenon which is known as Tetrad. The moon itself will be what is known as Blood Red because the light bouncing off the moon is refracted through the Earth’s atmosphere giving it a coppery hue. 

Blood Moon

To read more about the Tetrad phenomenon, visit Arunachala Mystic at this link here.

Hundial Count March Poornima

Below are two photographs of March Poornima Hundial money count at Arunachaleswarar Temple. 

10 April 2014

Panguni Utthiram – Thirukalyanam Festival

Panguni Uthiram is celebrated during Panguni Month (March-April) during Uthiram Nakshatra day. In 2014 Panguni Uthiram date is April 13. Panguni is special because of the coming together of the star Uthiram and Pournami (April 14, 2014). 

Panguni Uthiram (Falgun Purnima) full moon day is known as the time of celebration of the Celestial Wedding of Lord Siva and Goddess Parvathi; Lord Muruga and His consort Goddess Devayani and Lord Vishnu and His consort Goddess Andal. This day also celebrates the divine wedding day of Lord Rama and the Goddess Sita. 

This celebration of Divine marriage also emphasises the protection of marital life from separation. It is believed that offering prayers to God at this time will give good mental equilibrium to couples and bestow them with strength, love, affection and understanding. 

Arulmigu Arunachaleswarar Temple, Thiruvannamalai 
Panguni Utthiram – Thirukalyanam Festival 
Invitation Sunday 13th April, 2014 Friday 18th April, 2014 

Schedule of Festival on first day Sunday 13th April, 2014 

At 11.45 a.m. in the Garbagraha of Annamalaiyar Temple and Unnamulai Temple Marriage Festival. 

Evening 6.00 p.m. At Amman flag post Arunachaleswarar will come in procession and the exchanging of garlands will occur. 

8.00 p.m. Arunachaleswarar and Parashakti after exchanging garlands both move to the Thirukalyanam Mandapam. 

11.00 p.m. at Thirukalyanam Mandapam, the Thirukalyanam Festival will occur. 

12.00 p.m. Lord Arunachaleswarar with Goddess Ambal will come out on the Rishaba (bull) Chariot procession. 

After that daily, the Panguni Festival will occur. Everyone is invited. 

Schedule of Festival from Monday April 14th, 2014 to Friday April 18th, 2014 

Monday April 14, 2014: Night 8.00 p.m. Swami Annamalaiyar travels in procession to Eilnathur Village to have feast food celebrating the marriage. 

Tuesday April 15th, 2014: Night at the Thirukalyanam Mandapam, the Nalagu Festival will occur. (The giving of saris and bangles to married ladies). 

Wednesday April 16th, 2014 Evening at Thirukalyanam Mandapam, there will be the Ungal (swing) Festival 

Thursday April 17th, 2014 at Thirukalyanam Mandapam special homam takes place in morning Evening there will be Ungal Urcharvam. 

Friday April 18th, 2014: At Midday Lord Shiva, Goddess Ambal will visit Thamari Nagar Tank and on their return stop at Kumara Kovil Temple for special arthi. 

Nighttime: Music function and procession at Arunachaleswarar Temple as part of marriage celebrations. 

20 March 2014

Sri Ramana Reminiscences

A very interesting book entitled, “Face to Face with Sri Ramana Maharshi,” was released in 2011 which is full of anecdotes and reminiscences of devotees of the Maharshi. A large number of passages in the book give fresh perspectives of the Sage and his interaction with devotees. 

The first of the below quoted passages describes the example of Maharshi’s own life by way of inculcating simple rules of sattwic living to his devotees:-

In Bhagavan’s daily life one noticed personal cleanliness, tidiness of dress, habitual wearing of vibhuti and kumkum on the forehead; equal sharing of all enjoyment with those around him strict adherence to a time schedule; performing useful work however ‘low’ it may be; never leaving a work unfinished; the pursuit of perfection in every action; incessant activity except while sleeping or resting after a spell of hard work; never considering oneself superior to others; speaking the truth always, or strict silence if the expression of truth would hurt or lower the reputation of others; perfect self-help; never asking another to do a piece of work which can be done by oneself; taking full responsibility for failure if any, without shifting the blame on others; accepting success or failure with equanimity; never disturbing the peace of others; leaving the leaf plate clean after eating; complete non-interference in the affairs of others; never worrying about the future. These are the lessons Sri Ramana taught by example to his devotees. 

(By Professor Aiyer—p.139 
Face to Face with Sri Ramana Maharshi) 

Ramana Maharshi on Arunachala

The second passage taken from the book Face to Face with Sri Ramana Maharshi, encapsulates some of Bhagavan’s spiritual instructions to his close devotee M.G. Shanmukam:-

During my 24 years of personal association with Bhagavan, I found that he seldom preached elaborately. He would give hints which keen seekers had to absorb carefully. He once said categorically, practising atma vichara everyday is auspicious. All other sadhanas require external objects and congenial environment, but for atma vichara nothing external to oneself is required. Turning the mind within is all that is necessary. While one is engaged in atma vichara one can attend to other activities also

. . . . . 

Some of Bhagavan’s personal instructions to me were: 

(i) If you observe the breathing one-pointedly, such attention will lead you into kumbhaka (retention), which is jnana pranayama. 

(ii) The more you humble yourself, the better it is for you. 

(iii) You should look upon the world only as a dream. 

(iv) Except attending to the duty-work in life, the rest of the time should be spent in atma nishta (absorption in the Self). 

(v) Do not cause slightest hindrance or disturbance to others. 

(vi) Do all your work yourself. 

(vii) Both likes and dislikes should be discarded and eschewed. 

(viii) With attention focused on the first person and on the heart within, one should relentlessly practice, ‘Who am I?’ During such practice, the mind might suddenly spring up; so you have vigilantly pursue the vichara, ‘Who am I?” 

(By M.G. Shanmukam—p.362 
Face to Face with Sri Ramana Maharshi) 

18 March 2014

March 2014 Arunachala Poornima

The below three photographs were taken during the recently completed March 2014 Arunachala Poornima. Even though it has begun to get hot in these parts, large crowds patiently waited inside the Arunachaleswarar Temple in order to take darshan of the Gods. 

East Side of Temple outside Mandapam off Car Street

Large crowds patiently waiting for chance to take darshan

Outside the Shiva Sannidhi during March 2014 Poornima

The information on Girivalam on my website Arunachala Samudra has been updated, and to plan your visit to Tiruvannamalai, visit this link here, to find out about road distances, road routes, train schedules, current and long range weather forecasts and to view the full moon calendar for 2014. 

13 March 2014

Ramana Hymns Chanting

To those who like chanting the Ramana Hymns in Tamil (as occurs in the evenings in the Ramana Ashram Samadhi Hall here at Tiruvannamalai) please check Arunachala Samudra website at this link here to chant in Tamil the below Ramana Hymns. 

Chanting at Ramana Maharshi Ashram

Tamil transliteration and the English meaning is given for each hymn: Arunachala Akshara Mani Malai, Arunachala Padikam, Arunachala Navamanimalai, Arunachala Ashtakam and Arunachala Pacharatna

Ladies side at Samadhi Hall, Ramana Ashram

In the same section on Arunachala Samudra at this link here there is a beautiful audio of the 108 names of Shiva with transliteration and English meaning for simultaneous chanting.

9 March 2014

Arunachaleswarar Temple, East Side

A short time back I visited the area east of the Temple specifically to take photographs of the gutted spot left by the devasting December 2013 fire which occurred very close to the main Raja Gopuram entrance. A compilation of various reports reads thus: 

“Late in the evening on Thursday, December 13, 2013, a major fire broke out in a metal shop located a few yards away from the Rajagopuram of Sri Arunachaleshwarar Temple in Tiruvannamalai, on Sannathi Street. Goods worth about 70 lakh was destroyed in nine metal shops. It has been suggested by officials that the shops greatly exceeded the limit of their storage capacity. 

Local metal shop untouched by fire

Front of gutted area now boarded up

Sanyasis sleeping in front of the metal shops noticed thick smoke emanating from M Veeratalingam’s Gandhimathi Metal Store around 11.45 pm on Friday. The sanyasis informed a group of shop owners and workers, who were working nearby. 

Shop remains

The fire quickly engulfed nearby shops. A distress call was received by the District Fire and Rescue Station, located 7 km out of town, at 12.05 am and it took the fire service personnel 16 minutes to reach the spot. However, the fire had spread and fire personnel found it difficult to bring the blaze under control as each of the shops locked with two or three locks. An official said, “It took over 6 hours for the fire to be brought under control and 47 personnel were engaged in the operation. Electric short-circuit is suspected to be the cause of the fire.

9 metal shops razed to the ground

Two fire tenders from Tiruvannamalai, one each from Polur, Chengam, Keelpennathur, and Thandrampet fire station were engaged in the dousing operation.” 

Gutted shops east of Raja Gopuram

Raja Gopuram East Gate, Big Temple

While spending time in the area around the East Gopuram, I checked to find out whether flower and archana stalls have been allowed back into the area. Previous to the 2013 Deepam Festival, very stringent regulations were enforced limiting the presence of stalls in and around the major entrance to the Big Temple. Locals and pilgrims were surprised that the most important Shiva Temple in India should effectively be banning the sale of puja requirements near the main entrance to Arunachaleswarar Temple. 

Car park in front of Temple main entrance

It was even more puzzling that the area previously dedicated to the service and assistance of visiting pilgrims, should have been transformed into a carpark for shop owners and V.I.Ps. 

The shops and stalls have not returned to the area previously dedicated to the sale of archana items, but happily some tradespeople have set up mobile shopping areas were pilgrims can purchase flowers, coconuts, camphor, agarbatti and other archana necessities. 

Flower garlands again available outside Big Temple

Hope things return to normal

Beads, Rudrakshas and Threads for sale

In front of Main Temple Gate

The December 2013 fire outside the big Temple was not an anomaly. There had been in fact another recent fire, which took place in 1996 and destroyed the then 16 pillared mandapam (which is meant for Murtis during processions). That mandapam has been replaced by the now current 44 pillared mandapam.

New Mandapam in front of Temple East Gate

Mandapam with a variety of uses

Resting and chatting being a most important use

Many sadhus and saints have slept in and around the Big Temple

Some things have remained the same from days of yore

Our Rukku

Rukku, our beautiful female elephant residing at Arunachaleswarar Temple who is now around 15 years old was born in the Mudumalai Theppakadu Elephant Camp. The below extract from the data base of Elephant News, is for all intents and purposes Rukku's birth certificate, which you can view at this link here.

To all elephant lovers, make sure to visit the absolute Elephant information encyclopedia and database at this link here

Around December 19, 2014 Rukku left the Temple and Tiruvannamalai on her way to a six week rejuvenation camp. To read an earlier posting go to my narrative at this link here

There are many interested parties around India working to win freedom for all captive elephants which also includes Temple Elephants. So maybe one day our sweet Rukku will be allowed to make a journey to the Reserve Forests without having to return to a captive life.

The next three photographs are of Rukku's return from Holiday at the Rejuvenation Camp. 

Oh! dear, back to work

If only my holiday would last forever

Thought I would never see that stick again!

Last week I escorted 12 participants of the Padma Torsten 2014 Retreat on a tour of Arunachaleswarar Temple. I explained to members of the group (before we visited the Temple) that Rukku is a captive sentient being and it is perhaps inappropriate to visit her looking to see party tricks. In this respect most elephants in this country are trained to take money from a person's hand, pass the coin to the mahout (trainer) and then touch the supplicant's head with the trunk. 

My suggestion to the group was instead of going to the Temple making demands on the poor creature, we should instead go with treats and joy and give gentle Rukku some group love. After intense Googling to discover the favoured snacks of Elephants, we turned up at the Temple with a four kg mix of delicious Elephant-friendly treats. After permission from the mahout, we happily hand fed our dear Rukku.


Snack time for our girl