Deepam – Preparing the Flame

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The main event at Deepam in Tiruvannamalai is the lighting of the flame. This flame – getting it ready, and  keeping it going – is one of the biggest jobs of this ten-day festival. Pictures, sent by a friend, show some of the preparation and the actual lighting of the Deepam Lamp. Others show a bit of the celebration from the ground.

Thousands participate in the actual preparation of the flame. The Deepam Lamp is at the top of Arunachala, about 600 meters (2000 feet) up from the surrounding plains. Everything up here is carried up the hill by a devotee.

The photo below, taken last year, shows the line of people going up the hill. They would be carrying several thousand pounds of ghee, along with wicks as well as provisions for the attendants who will keep the flame going for the next ten days.

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While this is going on, hundreds of thousands of people perform girivalam (or giri pradakshina), circumambulating the holy mountain on this most auspicious day.

Deepam pradakshina

Walking up the hill, most people will stop and look back at the big temple, Arunachaleswarar Temple.

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Approaching the top of the hill, something starts to become visible.

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Now it can be seen better. It is some kind of big pot, with rags falling down the sides and people around it, doing something to it.

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There are many people here, helping and just watching.

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Here is a better view of the Deepam Lamp, being worked on.

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Now the start doing another task, piling the wicks onto the top.

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The are laid into a big pile.

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Here is Jagan, the Arunachala mountain guide. He took most of these photos at the top. He is one of the most trusted of the mountain guides. Here is his email address if you want  to contact him and arrange something like a trip to the top (note – this trip is only for the fit and healthy): arunachalajagan@hotmail.com

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The last pieces are being put on the top.

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And tucked in.

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Now it is done and ready to light.

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Closeup of the image on the Deepam Lamp.

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Looking to the west, the sun is setting. Someone is sitting on a rock, watching the sunset (and probably meditating).

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A fire is lit on the ground.

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And then carried to the lamp.

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Lighting the lamp.

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At 6 pm the fire is lit. It is visible for miles.

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All around the mountain, people at their homes and priests in the temples and ashrams light their own fires.

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Fireworks are set off everywhere.

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And houses everywhere are illuminated by small ghee lamps.

Houses lit with oil lamps

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The lamps in the doorways will be kept lit for the next ten days, as  long as the Arunachala Deepam Lamp is going.

More than one million people are directly involved in celebrating Deepam in Tiruvannamalai. This is a small city of about 100,000 people, so to say this a quite a crowd is an understatement. This year there were 7,500 police here, many bussed in from cities hundreds of kilometers away, like Salem and Madurai.

This city and main roads are all madhouses. Way too many people for us. We enjoy celebrating the Deepam fire lighting with friends, away from all the crowds. Deepam is well celebrated from anywhere one can see the flame. The blessing of the Deepam flame goes directly to all those participating in any way.

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