Karthigai Deepam – Procession of the 63 Nayanmar Saints


The day before the procession of the big chariots (Maha Radhas), is the procession of the 63 Tamil Nayanmar Saints. These saints are from a time period of about one thousand years ago, when there was a strong Hindu and Saivite renewal, first in South India, then throughout India. The only book that Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi read as a child before Self-realization at the age of 16 was a book about these saints.

This post shows some of the procession, as well as scenes before and after it.

The street in front of Arunachaleswara Temple is a madhouse–people, traffic, everything going on at once.

Below is one of the towering chariots for tomorrow’s procession, and a silver one for tonight’s.


Two more chariots are being worked on to make them ready for tomorrow.


Vendors are on the street selling bamboo flutes and shiny whirligigs.


Many people wait at the pillared hall that fronts the main entrance into the Big Temple.


A flame is kept lit by people adding more camphor as needed. People bless themselves with this flame as they enter the temple.


Looking through the main gate, one of the interior gopura can be seen.


Booths at the entrance sell pooja items, like coconuts.


Another camphor flame burns at the entrance to the temple.


A new bride, wearing her wedding headdress, makes a donation. She was probably married inside the Big Temple today. What an auspicious start to married life!

Vendor stalls line the streets here. I love all the color.


These women pranam one of the vehicles that will be used today.

On the outside wall of the Big Temple there are a number of stone murthis. They are all finely decorated today with new clothes and fresh flowers.


Then, to my surprise, out comes a tractor! I think it will pull one of the vehicles that follow the 63 saints in procession today.


In the street in front of the temple many school boys are lined up on both sides of the street, with sedan chairs that carry the saints.


The street is a madhouse.


Each saint has his own chair.


Now, out from the temple comes an elephant.


The temple elephant will lead the procession.


The elephant is elegantly dressed today.


Now, with the elephant here, we can get moving. There are many police here to keep order. Somehow the idea of “order” and “India” seems like a contradiction to me. But they try.


Now the procession starts to pass us.


Many boys carrying many saints. 63 saints with 6 boys each = 378 boys today. Each saint has six boys, four on the ends and two in the middle to keep them from tipping over.


Hey, they are in a straight line (for now).


Close ups of saints.



All are nicely dressed and decorated.





At last, the line of boys and saints moves past us, to complete their walk around the Big Temple.


I notice these chains  lying on the ground. These will be used to pull the big chariots tomorrow. Each link is quite heavy. It takes many people just to lift the chain off the ground.


Today’s vehicles pass us. I am not sure who is who here. The schedule says “Sri Vinayagar, Sri Chandrasekara, Mushigam, and Velli Yanai.”


Musicians walk the route as well, providing music for the day. It is nice to have a soundtrack.


Here is Ganesh (Sri Vinayagar) on his vehicle, the rat.


I am not sure what these umbrellas represent, but they sure are colorful.


Here comes today’s main god, riding on an elephant.


Many children sit on the platform, riding along.


Behind, some people push (even though it is being pulled by a tractor). One of them is our friend, Swami Annamalai, of the 1080 Rudraksha beads.


Today’s procession passes. There must have been well over one thousand people involved in setting up and doing this procession. And more thousands watching. Now we can share this with all of you.

Other Deepam Coverage

Deepam has been shown in detail in other postings. Here are some of them. These, together with this post, give a pretty complete picture of the Karthagai Deepam Celebration in Tiruvannamalai.

Deepam 2009 – First Day Chariots
Deepam 2009 – Second Day’s Procession
Deepam 2009 – Day of the Big Chariots
Deepam 2009 – The Night of the Silver Chariots
Deepam 2009 – Getting the Torch to the Top of Arunachala
Deepam – Preparing the  Flame
Deepam Night in Tiruvannamalai
Deepam and the Day After

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