Deepam Aftermath


When Tiruvannamalai is visited by two million people, most of whom walk Pradakshina around the holy mountain Arunachala, quite a mess is left behind. Crows, cows, dogs, monkeys and other birds eat what they can. Some items, like sugarcane husks, may be collected and fed to cows. Coconut shells are taken off to dry and be used as fuel for cooking fires and for making ropes. Gleaners come along and look through the trash for anything of value. But even after all this, there is still a lot of trash. Eventually much will be swept up into piles and burned.

This post shows a bit of the mess that is always left behind when the lakhs of visitors get back on their busses and leave, happy and tired after their participation in the Tiruvannamalai Karthigai Deepam celebration. These photos were taken the morning after the full moon, and the million plus people who had walked Pradakshina around Arunachala had gone home.

Near our house, just off Girivalam Road, a temporary kitchen was set up to provide meals. This is just a small bit of the trash left behind.

In many places are piles of green coconut shells that were opened to drink. Green coconut water is a popular and nutritious drink.

Below is a pile of leaves shucked off ears of corn. The corn is boiled and sold as easy food to eat while walking. A man is piling these leaves onto a bullock cart, probably to take home to feed his animals.

Bullock carts trundle down the road, carrying remnants of vendors’ stands, inventory and waste.

There still were still a few vendors’ stands open. To the right is a pile of husks from sugar cane. 

Trash lines the road for the entire 14 km. of the Girivalam route. The photos do not show the sweet, almost sickening smells that come from much of it. 

Chairs are piled at stands, waiting for people to come with a truck and take them away.


More trash by the road.

A few people are still walking Pradakshina.

This old man has a big load balanced on his head.

Many plates of food are left by the road here. There is so much food that the crows, dogs and monkeys cannot eat it all.

Still more trash.

A few coconuts were unsold. They are being taken somewhere else by these two men, in a bicycle cart. 

A man and woman walk down the road, picking through the trash for things of any value.

Feeding was done near here, so there is even more garbage by the road.

An old woman sits in the trash, begging from those passing by.

Monkeys look through the rubbish for eatables. These are leavings from a pineapple vendor’s cart, so there is tasty garbage here.

Down the street, this pineapple vendor hawks his wares, trying to sell what is left.

More coconut shells. People take these and dry them out, and use them as fuel for their cooking stoves.

A pony cart trots by, pulling another pony behind. I guess this was an unsold animal from the cow and horse fair that happens each year as part of the Deepam festival.

These men are loading the wooden poles that formed the structure of a vendor stand onto a truck. The festival time is over and all the stalls are taken down until next time.


A few bullocks remain. They will soon be loaded onto trucks and driven away. The cow and horse market is shown in this post.


In an earlier posting, shown here, this was a giant pile of green bananas. This is all that are  left. The pile of banana peels in front is bigger than the pile of remaining bananas.


In the days after Deepam much of the trash is cleaned up. The government has a crew of village women cleaning some of it. Some is cleaned by people who live or have stalls or temples that line the road. Much of it will be raked into piles and eventually burned. Right now, it cannot be burned, since it is all wet from the ongoing monsoon rains that will continue for at least the next week. So the piles sit and rot, waiting to dry out. 


One Response to “Deepam Aftermath”

  1. ganeshb1 Says:

    after seeing this, am just feeling that more than even the Giri Pradakshinam, this cleaning up act by the concerned people would accrue them more blessings of Lord, get them closer to Self.

    How can we educate people about this? quite heavy! Everything has got to with the following –

    1. Spirituality
    2. Economic Barriers
    3. Standards of Living
    4. Cleanliness

    One does not want to see a holy place like this! is this not a temple by itself? Big temple? Decorating the Lord Arunachala in this way is sad.

    Thanks Richard for all your posts. This is my first ever reply. I have been following your posts long time.

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