After the day of the big chariots, two days pass before the flame on the hill is lit. The carnival atmosphere increases each day as more and more people pour into Tiruvannamalai, and the vendors and temples lining Girivalam Road get ready for the biggest day of the year for people walking around Arunachala.
Two other events happen at this time: The big part of the preparation happens on top of Arunachala, as the torch is brought up the hill, and things like water and chai shops are brought up and assembled on the hill to support the many thousands of people that will climb Arunachala on Tuesday, 1 December, bringing up ghee for the lamp. The other event is the annual bullock, cow and horse market. I have some photos of Girivalam Road and the Annual cowl market to share with you. I think I will be able to add later photos of the preparations up on Arunachala when a friend shares the photos he took.
The bullocks are starting to be brought into town. There is a big open area where Perumpakkam Road meets Bangalore Road, about half a kilometer west of Ramanasramam, that is the main area for this.
On Bangalore Road there are many of what I think of as “Cow Aftermarket’ vendors selling their wares – colored ropes and halters, brass bells, etc. Just what you would want to dress up your new bullocks before you take them home for the wife to see.
This vendor sells puffed rice and other edibles, mainly to people waking pradakshina around Arunachala.
Below are a few of the bullocks in the field. I think the bullocks are the main animal sold at this market. When we walked through last year, they tried to sell a bullock to Carol, only RS 50,000!
Unloading bullocks with nice blue-painted horns.
Unloading coconuts, so they can sell them to walkers in the next two days.
There are so many bullocks they can not all fit into the field area. Many are staked out next to Bangalore Road, between Perumpakkam Road and Girivalam Road.
People are already starting their Deepam Arunachala girivalam. Get it done before the rush on Tuesday.
Today there were a number of police walking as well. I don’t know whether they were making use of spare time to do circumambulation, or were just walking to their police locations for the day.
We noticed that this year the bullocks for sale had expanded into the graveyard.
The animals line both sides of the road for quite a distance. Men clump in groups, talking about the bullocks. Some are interested in buying, some are selling, some are checking out the competition.
We notice that a big new area seems to have opened up between Bangalore Road and Arunachala. More animals! Maybe this was here before but we never noticed.
The road is crowded and crazy today.
We walk into the animal market area.
Pretty bullocks. These win my beauty contest award for the day.
Woman selling black ropes.
This group of men wanted their photo taken. This makes them so happy.
The only other western person we saw in the market.
Ropes, get your colored ropes here.
Hey, here is a pony cart.
And ponies, too! I didn’t know they sell these also. We do not see ponies much.
Fried food. I think Indians love this stuff. We see these stalls everywhere we go.
This man tries to show off his wife. I think she is the cook for this stall.
Many ponies are staked out and for sale.
Oh wow, look at these pony carts! I love the blue wheels, too.
The paint job is so nice. Wonderful detail and color, very well done. What a nice cart, almost makes me want to buy a pony.
This horse wins my horse beauty contest. Hey, what is that behind? I see what look like extra-terrestrial people’s antennae in the background.
The proud owners of the pretty horse.
Maybe this fine man is the grand father (Tata in Tamil).
Those were not ETs, just snazzy horn decorations for bullocks.
Carol’s favorite bullock horn pic.
The area here is quite big, surprisingly so. It is also behind the apartment buildings here.
Nicely decorated cows. I like the red dots on their horns, and chains around them.
These are the two men at the cart stall. They are proud of their work.
This is another wonderfully decorated pony cart.
More fried things. Yum.
The man in the blue shirt had to get on the pony when he was asking us to take pictures. The first time he tried, it bucked him off. I wish I had that photo!
All these animals need a lot of food. This man carries a load of fresh grass. Lucky animals, some just get dry hay.
This is another great paint and decorating job. What’s in the bucket?
More ropes and decorative items. You want to make the new purchased animal look nice?
Baby cows. Aw, sweet.
The make the cows and bullock look their best, their horns are cleaned, and filed and trimmed.
The biggest eating place in the market. It even has tables and chairs.
A grass store. Also selling fresh food for the people. More fried things I think.
The day started overcast.
Out on Girivalam Road, the day’s circumambulations have started big time alread. It is 8 AM, people are shoulder to shoulder along the road. Some people are bundled up against the “cold weather.” It must be down to 75 degrees F.
There are MANY vendors selling drinks.
More people walking.
These sadhus are hanging out here, out of all the traffic. Usually they sit next to the road.
Along the route you will find several groups chanting Arunachala or Siva chants. One has the worst drummer we have ever heard. Not all god’s children have rhythm I guess.
I see this sadhu frequently. He always has a happy look and a big smile.
More people. There is some space between them so the amount of foot traffic is not nearly as bad as it will get.
By the end of Tuesday all the Deepam activity will end and life here will get back to normal. Or as normal as it gets during the busiest part of the year for people visiting Ramanasramam. The light on the top of Arunachala will be lit each night at 6 PM for the next ten days, so, in a way, Deepam continues and we are blessed with the fire on the mountain for the next week or so.