The final day of a Kumbabishekam is the culmination of the event. This is the day in which the spiritual power is restored for the temple gods and the brass Kalasa on top of the temple.
This article is the second part of the coverage of the Kumbabishekam for the Gowthama Maharishi Temple. Kumbabishekam for Gowthama Maharishi Temple on Tiruvannamalai’s Girivalam Road is the first part. The third and final part will follow in a few days.
Gowthama Maharshi temple should be a favorite place for devotees of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. It was a place where Ramana, when performing Arunachala girivalam (Pradakshina) would stop and meditate. This temple had fallen into disrepair, and seems to no longer be a place sought out by Ramana devotees. Now with the spiritual renewal, the Kumbabishekam, this should change.
A Kumbabishekam, the renewal of a temple’s gods (both spiritual and physical renewal with repairing and repainting), is an infrequent event. We are grateful for the chance to photograph and write about it. To understand this event, we had valuable help from the Hindu priest who led this event, A. Mahadeva Sivachariyar, priest at Adi Annamalai Temple. Any errors in the article are surely the fault of the writer, and not from the good information I was given.
Early Morning of the Final Day of Kumbabishekam
We were awakened at 5 AM by the chanting coming from the loudspeakers on the road near our house. Unlike yesterday, we knew this morning what was going on, so we went to the temple early in this morning, about 6 AM. Few people were present (other than the priests and musicians). The lights that fronted the Yagasala (“spiritual enclosure”) were still lit.
In the entrance is a newly laid carpet of green grass, scattered neatly around to cover the area. The grass is for good vibrations, and to cool our eyes and soul.
The figure of Gowthama Maharshi is in front of yagasala. This morning there will be not only Sanskrit mantra, but also traditional music – the Nadaswaram (reed horn) and Tavil (drum) play in the morning.
- From 5 to 6 AM the music is to wake up the god. This is called, in Tamil, Mangala Isai. Mangala means, in Tamil, “Auspicious.” This is a good auspicious moment and this invocatory music occupies an important place in Tamil culture.
- From 6 to 7 AM Tamil Vedic mantras are chanted: Devaram Tiruvasagam, and Panneru Tirumurai. The Devaram Tiruvasagam are hymns in praise of Siva. Panneru Tirumurai refers to the twelve-book collection of hymns and writings of South Indian Saivite saints, compiled by Saint Nambi-Andar-Nambi (ca 1000). One of the greatest movements of the world — the Saiva bakthi movement — took place in Tamil Nadu between the seventh and tenth centuries. The movement engulfed all of what is now India and the inspiration for this was the writings of the Saiva Saints, which formed the canonical literature of Saivism. It was these saints whose stories were told in Periya Puranam, the only spiritual book read by Sri Ramana as a child.
- From 8 to 9 AM Veda mantra chanting from vedas: Rig, Yugur, Sama.
The Tamil Vedic mantras are being chanted now.
The yagasala is cleaned for the day. It must be clean before the pooja starts.
The yagasala pooja starts, led by the young priests Yogeshwara Sivam and Vageeswara Sivam.
Mr. A Yogeshwara Sivam Agama Sironmani chants yagasala mantras , the poorva ciriya mantra to prepare the movement of the god’s soul from the sacred pot to the idol. This is done 3 times, and is called Nadi Santhanam. The god idol has three parts. The bottom is the Brahma part, the center part is Vishnu, the third part is the face and eyes, the Rudra part. Only after these three parts of the idol have been “filled” by the ceremony can the dharba rope transmit the spiritual energy from the yagasala to the sanctum sanctorum idols.
We walk over to the temple and enter through the gate.
At its top now, the brass Kalasam are installed on the Sala Gopuram of the temple. These were installed Thursday morning on 8th November, and a pooja done for them. Inside the brass pots is seed rice. This is called Veradu (veramu), which means “a blessing,” “a divine gift.” This rice seed will, it is said, sprout and grow rice even 100 years in the future. This gives spiritual life to this temple for that long.
The green grass was scattered in front of the temple, too.
All the idols have been placed again into their niches. The Ganesh idol is a new one, all the others are original to this temple from long ago.
Here you can see the scaffolding that has been put up so that the holy water offerings can be made at the correct time to the brass pots that top the temple. These are in two places. There is a row of four on the front of the temple (Sala Gopuram), and one big one on top of the tower above the main shrine.
Getting the Elephant Ready
An elephant has been brought from Tiruchi to take part in the festivities. A live elephant is most auspicious, and promises that there will be no obstacles to a successful Kumbabishekam. .
The elephant stands and waits.
She has a snack while she waits. Her handlers were annoyed that she was eating the decorations set out along the fence. The Asian elephant can eat up to 300 pounds (136 kilograms) a day, and spends about 3/4 of the time each day eating, or getting ready to eat.
This little girl watches the elephant, fascinated. Her mother has put pretty violet flowers in her hair today, dressing her up nicely for the festival.
The priest, Sri Mahadeva Sivachariyar, priest at Adiannamalai Temple, who leads this Kumbabishekam, arrives. Accompanying him is A. N. Palani, legal advisor to the Sri Gowthama Ashram, the administrators for this temple and the group that is putting on this event.
A workman is pulling up a hose. This will fill a bucket to be used for washing the brass kalasas.
Now the elephant gets her bath.
While bathing, she takes a drink from the water hose.
Must get the elephant clean!
Women watch the elephant bath.
Even sadhus watch. You usually do not see many elephants on Pradakshina Road.
Preparing the Yagasala
The priests and there helpers have much to do in order to prepare the yagasala for today’s proceedings.
Malas are brought in, many of them.
The priests take them, and figure out how they are going to use what they have today.
Mahadeva Sivachariyar stands next to Gowthama Maharshi.
The music continues throughout the morning.
Starting the Poojas and Yajnas
Every day of the kumbabishekam pooja was done at the yagasala. The Prathana Kalasa (main Purna kumbas) are on the top of the altar. Below, in the yagasala, are 27 small kalasa (Purna Kumbas) plus 2 for Yagi Yageswara (Agni and his wife). Shown below, on the top of the altar, are 10 Purna kumbas on top. Eight are for the eight directions (N, E S, W, SE, etc.), and the two Prathana Kalasa.
Every day, morning and evening pooja is done for the Purna Kumbas. The yagasala is divided into four sections:
1. Varsithi Vinayagar (Ganesh) yagasala,
2. Gowthama Maharishi yagasala,
3. Agathiyar Maharishi yagasala,
4. The sthupi where the kalasa is installed on top of the gopura.
Agathiyar Maharishi, worshiped in the 3rd yagasala, is an interesting figure. I just read about him while working on this posting.
Agathiyar is an ancient figure, one of the Seven Saptarishis, first listed as such in the Jaiminiya Brahmana 2.218-221, like Gowthama. Agastya is a name of Siva too. The word is sometimes written as Agasti and Agathiyar. A-ga means a mountain, and Asti means thrower.
Agasthiyar is credited with bringing the Tamil language to south India. He is considered as the father of Tamil literature and compiled the first Tamil grammar called Agathiyam. It is believed that he has lived in the 6th or 7th century B.C. and specialized in language, alchemy, medicine and spirituality (yogam and gnanam). There are 96 books in the name of Agathiyar. Agathiyar is the first Siddhar. Siddhar were spiritual adepts who possessed the ashta siddhis, or the eight supernatural powers. Sage Agasthiyar is considered the guru of all Siddhars, and the Siddha medicine system is believed to have been handed over to him by Lord Muruga, son of the Hindu God Lord Siva and Goddess Parvathi. Siddhars are the followers of Lord Siva.
However, some Tamil researchers say that Agastya mentioned in Vedas and Agathiyar mentioned in Tamil texts could be two different characters. In Tamil language the term ‘Agam’ means inside and ‘iyar’ means belong. One who belongs inside (as the Atman, or soul) is the Tamil meaning for Agathiyar. Certainly his presence as one of the gods of this temple shows the strong connection in Tamil culture to Agathiyar. I think his presence with another of the Saptarishis also speaks to the idea that locally they see Agasti and Agathiyar as the same figure.
Hinduism, I was told by Sri Mahadava Arunachala, has three ways that god can be worshiped: Idol worship, fire worship, and worship of empty space. Fire worship is the oldest form, the rules for which were set down in the Veda-s, the oldest religious texts in the world. Idol worship is the most common, and used by those practicing Bhakti, devotion. The pooja is a common devotional practice. Sri Ramana could be said to have taught the worship of empty space, by the practice of Self-inquiry, a Jnana (knowledge) practice.
Now the sacrificial fires are being started, the final yajna.
Yogeswara Sivam bring pooja materials to set out before the figure of Gowthama Maharshi.
An old woman sits and waits for the pooja. (After we took her photo, we showed it to her, and she broke out in a beautiful smile.)
Preparing the Temple
A special rope runs from the yagasala to the temple, and to each of the idols within the temple. This rope will transmit the life energy gained by the mantras and yajnas in the yagasala into the idols of the temple. The rope is made from a sacred grass, Dharba (or Kusha or Dharbham) Grass. It is believed that this grass has immense purifying properties. Dharba Grass cannot just be picked or cut on any day. There is a specific Sloka (verse or prayer) that is to be recited before cutting it, and it can be cut only on the day next to Full Moon – known as Krishna Paksha Pradamai.
Workmen clean the Kalasa on top of the Sala Gopuram.
Meanwhile, the newly bathed elephant gets her holy marks and decoration for today’s event.
The Dharba rope is brought to the main idol in the temple, Gowthama Maharishi. The idols are not yet filled with the life and presence of the god, so it is OK to photograph now. It is just a lifeless idol (for now).
The pooja items sit in front of Gowthama Maharshi.
The drummers continue to play.
Gowthama Maharshi receives his final decorations, the last of the malas.
A priest uses the Sirc Siruvam to offer the ghee and all the other homa materials to Agni, the god of the fire.
The priest, Yogeswara Sivam, will chant mantra poorvam. This is so that yagasala soul, brought forth by the mantras, poojas, yagnas, and other preparatory actions, will come in to the idols in the temple. This is the final mantra to be chanted.
Here are a few of the 27 Purna Kumbhas that line the yagasala. Each is absorbing spiritual energy into the water within the pot.
Swamis were invited from all the ashrams locally.
Two sadhus making final preparation on the temple.
A sadhu, arms smeared with sacred ash (vibuti) worships the Ganesh idol.
The priest leading the Kumbabishekam, Mahadeva Sivachariyar, pictured in the center, confers with others.
The yajnas continue.
The Elephant Pooja
The elephant is seen as a live Ganesh, remover of obstacles.
Pooja will be offered to the live Ganesh so that there will be no obstacles for the Kumbabishekam.
Pooja materials being carried out to the entrance of the yagasala.
The elephant makes her way into the entrance from the street. She’s munching on the “carpet.”
Priests perform pooja.
The mahout is with the elephant, keeping her under control.
The pooja continues.
A camphor flame is offered to the elephant. She is so well trained that she does not even flinch at the fire.
Then the elephant blesses people in the crowd, by tapping her trunk on the tops of their heads.
The Elephant Procession
When the pooja is done for the elephant, divine vibrations and auspicious energy comes to the temple, and also adds to the balam of the pooja. Balam in Tamil called is strength of the pooja.
Drummers lead the procession.
The elephant follows.
Then all the people.
The elephant walks up to the temple.
Followed by the priests and temple trustees.
They are ready to enter into the temple.
The priests and trustees enter first.
Followed by the living Ganesh. All bad obstacles are removed, and good vibrations and strength will come and remain for 100 years after the Kumbabishekam.
Pooja is offered to the idols in the temple.
First to Ganesh, naturally.
The elephant calmly and patiently waits.
People look on.
And then to Agasthiya Maharishi.
People continue to watch intently.
Another elephant blessing, this time within the temple.
The camphor flame is offered to Agasthiya Maharishi.
Pooja is offered to Gowthama Maharshi and his wife in the inner sanctum of the temple. I think that the souls have entered the idols already, so they are no longer just dead stone, but living gods. I have to say that I am still not sure exactly when the soul enters the idols and transforms them into murtis, living gods. Perhaps a reader can clear this up?
The crowd looks on. This is a holy moment.
Return to the Yagasala
The procession leaves the temple and returns to the yagasala.
An old swami, the head of the Shesedri Ashram in Tiruvannamalai, joins the festivities. He is honored by the gift of a holy cloth.
They make their way out of the entrance of the temple.
Drums again lead the way.
Followed by the reed horns, the Nadaswaram.
They again enter the yagasala.
And the honoring of guests continues.
The fire sacrifice on last day is the final purnahoothi (pūrṇa – āhuti, the Offering of Completeness, of Perfection) made with the Mantra given to Agni with the offering to Agni.
A priest chanting the mantra.
And making offerings to Agni.
As people watch.
More ghee into the fire.
The stage is now set for the final part of the Kumbabishekam. This includes the Nadisandanam, the three processions to carry the Purna Kumbas to bring the accumulated spiritual energy to the gods in the temple, and the final water offering to the brass spiritual pots atop the temple – the actual Kumbabishekam.
This will be shown in the third and final part of this series.
If any of the information published within this post is in error, my apologies. I have tried my best to understand it properly, but may have missed some details. Please let me know, and I will correct.
The special work to prepare this temple properly for a successful renewal, the renewal and Kumbabishekam itself, and the ongoing efforts to bring spiritual merit to this temple is entirely financed by the Trust that administers this temple. If you want to support this work, contact the managing trustee:
Sri Gowthama Ashram
242/2 Girivalam Road, Adiannamalai
Tiruvannamalai, 606604, India
Phone (91) 04175 252117, cell (91) 9443039181, or 89036105t95
Within India, you can also deposit directly to the ashram account:
SHRI GOWTHAMA ASHRAM TRUST ,
INDIAN OVERSEAS BANK
A\C NO: 053601000005500