This article shows the last part of the Kumbabishekam of Gowthama Maharishi Temple, on Arunachala’s Pradakshina Road in Tiruvannamalai. This third chapter includes the Nadi Santhanam as well as the Kumbabishekam itself. This post shows the final part of the final day of the event. The first and second part of this series are found here and here.
A Kumbabishekam is the spiritual renewal of a temple. This normally happens every twelve years, although, because of the elaborate nature of the event, it often doesn’t happen on this schedule. This particular temple had not undergone renewal in a very long time, longer than the memory of any living person, so it was long overdue.
The Kumbabishekam is a three-day celebration.
On the first day the gods are invoked, and permission is received from them to proceed with the ritual.
During the second day spiritual energy is built up in a number of Purna-Kumbhas (the “sacred vessel” or the “pot of bounty,” a pot filled with water and topped with mango leaves and a coconut, a temporary “god” for the celebration). The spiritual energy is built up by fire sacrifices, mantras, poojas, etc. that are offered to it, thus turning the water inside the pots into holy water to pour (abishekam) on to the idols, and the the brass pots (Kumbhas or kalasa) on top of the temple. This is called kumbabishekam.
On the third day is the Nadi Santhanam, where ghee, charged with “soul energy” from the yagnas (fire sacrifices) is poured onto the idols to bring them to life. Once the gods “breathe” (and become murtis – living gods rather than inert stone idols), then the culminating Kumbabishekam is performed, connecting the soul power of the living gods to the brass “pots” (Kalasam) on top of the temple. This means that you can receive the same benefit from looking at the brass Kalasam as you can from darshan with the gods within the temple.
In addition to the Kumbhas (or Kalasa) on top of the temple, there are four idols installed in the temple that will get the the now spiritually-charged water from the Purna Kumbhas:
1. Varacithi Vinayaka (Ganesh)
2. Agasthiya rishi
3. Gowthama Maharishi
4. Ahalya, Gowthama Maharshi’s wife (and manasa putri, “mind-born”) daughter of Brahma.
Three processions will be needed to bring the idols to life. This is the Nadi Santhanam. All idols have nadi, channels for energy, prana. It is these nadis that are involved with the Nadi Santhanam. The idols have three sections, bagams: the lower Brahma part, the middle Vishu part, and the Rudra (Siva) part at the head and face. In each procession, ghee, carried in Sirk Siruvam (special covered spoons) and Purna Kumbas are carried from the ceremonial spiritual enclosure (yagasala) to the idols in the temple. “Soul Energy” is given to the idol through chanting of mantras, and the ghee poured on each bagam in succession, from bottom to top. Then finally, after the third procession, where life is breathed into the murti (stone idol now alive with God’s soul), the priest can give the Mantra Upadesa (Mantra of Instructions) with the god’s name, spoken on the right side into the idol’s ears.
The first procession with Purna Kumbhas
In the photo below, a priest carries one of the Purna Kumbhas away from its altar in the yagasala. Three Sirk Siruvam will also be carried in this procession. The ghee carried in these spoons is the key ingredient during the Nadi Santhanam.
A mantra is being chanted, while another priest blesses the sacred pot.
This umbrella will be used as part of the procession. Now it is a play place for these boys.
The procession starts, led by the priests. This time they walk straight from the yagasala to the temple, across the temple grounds, instead of going onto the road. The main priests now are wearing red turbans, with knots tied in front.
The umbrella goes along with the priests.
In Sanskrit, the umbrella (parasol) is called “Chattra.” In Indian culture the umbrella is a traditional symbol of protection, giving it an important place in events such as this Kumbabishekam. This symbolism comes from Buddhism and its eight auspicious symbols. Chattra is said to symbolize the sky above the mountains. The umbrella itself casts a shadow, providing protection from the sky.
Young girls watch. It is common to see a young child holding an even younger one.
The priests perform their rituals with an idol. Mantras are recited and ghee is poured. Half of the ghee will be poured on the three secondary gods for this temple, Ganesh, Agasthiya, and Ahalya. The other half is poured on the main idol here, Gowthama Maharshi.
A priest carries a Purna Kumbha. This one leads the three processions.
After the first procession, they go back to the yagasala, where the priests continue to make offerings into the fire of the yajna.
Below, a priest puts ghee into the Sirk Siruvam, then holds it in the flame of the fire, to charge the ghee with the soul of the god. When the ghee is poured onto the idol in the temple, the soul then is transferred to that idol.
The Second Procession
The Sirk Siruvams are recharged, and so are taken back to the temple a second time to continue the Nadi Santhanam. The procession is led by the musicians.
One priest carries the Purna Kumbha. Three carry ghee to be offered to the idols.
Carrying the Purna Kumbha into the temple a second time.
Mantras are chanted and ghee poured onto the middle section, the Vishnu bagam. As before, half to the secondary idols, then the other half to Gowthama Maharishi.
Then the procession again goes back to the yagasala.
Where again more offerings are made to Agni.
And more ghee is put into the Sirk Siruvams and charged with the soul of god.
Women sit in the yagasala, watching the proceedings.
The musicians keep playing.
The Third Procession with Purna Kumba
The third procession is then started, a priest again carrying a Purna Kumbha.
Below, you see two of the three priests that carry Sirk Siruvams. They arrive at the temple for the third time.
The elephant waits and watches. She will be needed again soon.
Breathing Life Into the Gods
The idols are again given ghee and mantras by the priests. The completion of the third procession marks the end of the Nadi Santhanam. This is the key step. Ghee is poured on the Rudra Bagam, onto the “third eye,” so it can pour down over the nose. When this is done, the idol can breathe. Life has been breathed into the murti (no longer an idol). Then the name of the god is intoned into its right ear after chanting of the Mantra Upathesa with the god’s name. Now the god is alive, and knows who it is.
Girivalam procession around the temple
Now that the Nadi Santhanam has been completed, the procession must perform pradakshina, walking around the temple.
The priests start out from within the temple, carrying sacred objects.
Some people are carrying trays. In these trays are seeds, powders and sticks from medicinal plants, and coconuts and water. They will all be put into the fire when the procession returns to the yagasala. This will be used as “food” for Agni.
The elephant, which has turned the corner and so is not seen in this photo, leads the procession.
Here they come around the other side of the temple.
The procession then comes out to the street. The police have blocked traffic.
The trays are carried by three men dressed in white. I think they are all trustees of the temple.
A sadhu watches the procession.
The elephant leads the way.
Followed by a group that includes the priests and temple trustees. The crowd follows along, in a group behind.
The “food” for Agni, brought back to the yagasala, is given to Agni to consume.
Honoring special guests
VIPs from Tiruvannamalai—local swamis, ashram officials, the temple joint commissioner, Ramanasramam president, temple trustees, important political people, and the village president were invited as chief guests. They will all be honored on behalf of the Gowthama Ashram administration.
The head priest welcomes all the invitees, and talks about the importance of Gowthama Maharshi.
I apologize that I do not know most of these people, so cannot properly acknowledge them in this post. If any of these are known by the readers, please let me know, and I will update the article.
Malas are placed around their necks.
Then shawls are placed around their necks.
While the VIP attendees are honored, the sacrificial fires continue to burn inside the yagasala.
Here I think the “food” brought for Agni is making a lot of smoke.
A priest, Vageeswara Sivam, in order to give the Rishis honor and happiness , chants the Siva Pancharathina (“five gems”) mantra with help of the Tavil (drum). This brings happiness to all the devotees, and the divine power comes to the yagasala.
This swami pictured below is Swami Ramananda, well known at Ramanasramam.
Then the musicians play ragas for the happiness of Gowthama Maharishi .
There is a good crowd, listening and watching.
A camphor light is offered to the Purna Kumbhas.
Meanwhile all 108 of the small sized Purna Kumbhas have been gathered from around the sides of the four sections of the yagasala. These will be used as gifts to friends and supporters of the temple and ashram.
Here is Richard, standing on the wall of the yagasala, so he can get photos of the action.
As a part of the honoring of the invited guests, turbans are tied around their heads.
Adjustments are made to the flowers on one yagasala altar.
Here is Sri Sundaram, president of Ramanasramam.
He is honored with malas and a turban.
The final procession
The final procession is led by the elephant from the yagasala to the road and back into the temple area. There are six Purna Kumbas, and priests with Vedaparayan Aastri, all ashram swamis, chief guests, and devotees. They all chant Om Namah Shivaya. The holy Purna Kumba water is being carried to the idols to perform abishekam. (Abishekam is the pouring of libations, like water, on the image of the deity being worshipped, usually amidst the chanting of mantras.)
After this Kumbabishekam, the gods will give anugiraha (blessings) to the devotees every day, for their needs in this life, and afterwards.
The priest, Mahadeva Sivachariyar, chants that last mantra. It is the Moola Mantra:
Om Sat-Chit-Ananda Parabrahma
Sri Bhagavathi Sametha
Sri Bhagavathe Namaha
On top of his head is wrapped a yellow cloth that will cushion his head while carrying the largest Purna Kumbha.
Now he has the Purna Kumbha on his head.
The final procession starts to make its way to the temple. The priests are in front, followed by many onlookers.
The four main Purna Kumbhas are carried by the priests in this procession.
I am not sure what they are doing now. Maybe unloading the Purna Kumbha for later use.
The Kumbabishekam is reaching its climax. People stand outside the temple, below the front gate, the Sala Gopuram.
A priest is on the top of the temple, standing over the brass Kalasam on the Sala Gopuram, chanting a mantra and tossing flower petals on the Kalasam.
People in the crowd watch intently (except for the child in her mother’s arms who is looking at me).
The priest continues his pooja for the Kalasam, draping flower malas onto them.
Now it is time! You can see that he is pouring the water directly from the Purna Kumbha onto the Kalasam. This energizes it, so it is ready to shine with the gods’ holy spirit. All that is needed now is the final abishekam for the four murtis in the temple.
Holy water must be poured on all the Kalasam on the top of the temple.
Water is poured.
You can’t see it in the photos, but the crowd is excited, and holding up their hands to catch any of the holy water that might drip down.
The priest on the left is flicking out holy water the the crowd, while the one on the right finishes pouring it onto the final Kalasam.
Holy water and flowers shared by all
Receiving this holy water is considered most auspicious. You see the hands holding cups to try to catch it.
Up above, a priest holds a plate with a fire rising from it. It is smoky, so I know it is not camphor that is being burned. Maybe this is some kind of incense?
Then flowers are thrown.
There is a man with a video camera on the roof, taking pictures of the crowd reaction.
Everybody has hands outreached, waiting for blessings from above.
The elephant is still here. A man sits on it, holding a young child, for a special thrill today.
Now yellow turmeric water is being flung from the roof for the crowd below.
So many people in front of the temple.
A group of school kids from a nearby school. They love to have their photos taken. The hand to the right is Carol’s. She is showing the kids the photo she just took of them. That’s what the kids like, take the photo, then show it to them.
An attendant makes sure that the holy turmeric water gets distributed to the sadhus that have come today.
The final abishekam was done on the four murtis in the temple, so that their soul power has charged up the brass Kalasam on the top of the temple. They are now “powered up” so that their positive spiritual influence reaches out to the horizon. At the time, I didn’t know this was happening, and so did not photograph any of it.
Gowthama Maharshi still sits by the yagasala, unmoved by all the pomp.
Food is given to all
Naturally, food is cooked and given out to everyone who wants it.
A plate is given with it. People just stop and sit in the shade of a nearby tree and eat.
Here is one of the signs announcing the Kumbabishekam. I think the white beard on the left is Gowthama, and the black beard on the right is Agasthiya.
The final evening
A spiritual talk is given by Sarva Sathaga Sivachariayar, talking about the Kumbabishegam, and about the temple, and the importance of the Gowthama Ashram.
Below, a night shot of the Gowthama Maharshi temple, pretty with all the lights.
Many people are still here, listening to the talk.
Here is Sarva Sathaga Sivachariayar.
Many sadhus are in the audience. The talk was in Tamil, so we did not get much from it, since we don’t understand much of the language.
The yagasalas are empty and quiet now. The center of attention has moved on.
The sadhus keep listening.
The man keeps talking.
I am not sure anybody is still hearing what is being said. It has been a long day.
Carol walks out, satisfied after two days of this ceremony. At her side is our dog Freckles.
The site of the Kumbabishekam is about half a km from our house. This night, when we drove away from our house on the motor scooter, Freckles ran along behind us. When we stopped at the temple, there she was. She was such a happy doggie, just so proud of herself, having kept up with us so she could join in tonight’s events. She followed Carol all around the grounds. She was well behaved, not barking, not being any kind of a problem. When Carol entered the temple Freckles knew she couldn’t go in. Finally, Carol and Freckles waited on the sidewalk while I finished shooting photos.
This blurry photo of Freckles walking with Carol is all that I took of her tonight. Sorry Freckles. I am glad you could come with us!
Now I feel like I know a lot more about the Kumbabishekam. I hope you do as well.
The roots of this ceremony are ancient. The fire sacrifices we saw date back to the time of the Rig Veda, more than 3500 years old. To put this in the right time scale, this was long before Greece or Rome, in the time of the Ancient Egyptian, Sumerian and Babylonian civilizations. So the spiritual ideas and practices we saw in during the ceremony were ancient.
I want to acknowledge and give thanks for all the help I received from A. Mahadeva Sivachariyar, priest at Adi Annamalai Temple, who led this Kumbabishekam. The detailed information about it was from him. I did my best to understand what he wrote and told me. If there are errors, I am sure it must be on my part. I researched as I could to better understand what I was told and saw. These three articles are a result of this. Please comment and let me know if there are errors, omissions, or things that were not well explained.
Donations for the Kumbabishekam
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
Special Poojas at Gowthama Maharishi Temple
If you want to do pooja or archana for Agasthiya and Gowthamamaharishi , other homas for health and prosperity, or for the difficulties your life purva janma karma, contact:
A. Mahadeva Sivachriyar,
Email: mahadevanarunachala@ yahoo.com
The temple has no priest, so this priest from nearby Adi Annamalai Temple (who was the lead priest for the Kumbabishekam) provides this service.