The day after Cow Pongal, as I rode my scooter back to our house from Tiruvannamalai, I saw the two main deities of Arunachaleswarar Temple, Annamalai and his consort Unnamalai, in a chariot being pulled by a tractor, turning onto Pradakshina Road.
I had not expected this procession today and did not have my camera. I went to the house and got it. By the time I caught up, they were stopped in front of Nithyananda’s Dhyanapeetam, and puja was being offered to them.
Many people were gathered around.
The priests were taking offerings from the crowd …
then offering these to Lord Annamalai and Lady Unnamalai. There are already so many flowers decorating these two main deities of Arunachala.
Incense was then offered.
All the while, drummers played, and reed horns blared their scratchy notes.
Arunachala stands silently in the background.
The incense is being waved at the gods.
Across the street, in front of Rajeshwari Temple, a sadhu blows a conch, the ancient horn of the Hindus.
Smoke is rising from within the crowd.
It is a camphor lamp passing through the crowd …
so that all present can ‘take light.’
If this procession was like others I have seen, the gods will stop several times, in strategic locations, so that people can come for darshan and make offerings and have puja with the gods. I really appreciate it that in India the gods get to come out of the temple, to bring their blessings to all who are interested. I think that the gods like it too. It must get stuffy, staying in the inner sanctum, with all that smoking incense burned in your face.
On another note
The day after I took these photographs in front of Nithyananda’s Dhyanapeetam, there was a notice in the Deccan Chronicle newspaper that a Western man, from Canada, was assaulted by the ‘inmates’ of the ashram there. He was taking photos inside the Dhyanapeetam. He was assaulted and his camera taken from him. The article said that some local people interceded and got the camera back for the man. The police were called in. I am not sure what happened after this.
The Deccan Chronicle is a regional English-language newspaper published in Chennai and other cities in South India.
Since I am a Western man who goes around taking photographs, and who has done so inside the Dhyanapeetam, I find this incident very disturbing. Maybe Nithyananda has a chance to recover from the disgrace that the sexually compromising videos and police charges have brought to him, but if his followers continue this kind of behavior, there is no hope for his again becoming a respected figure in India.