Preparation for Kumbabishekam at Parashakthi Temple

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fParashakthi Temple is a very small temple on Arunachala’s Pradakshina route with small figurines adorning the gopuram (temple tower). Its architecture is very old and of pure Dravidian style. It is one place that vehicles leaving Tiruvannamalai might stop and get blessed. Though on the Pradakshina route, I don’t think many people visit this temple.

Parashakti is God’s Consciousness that pervades all existence. As the original consciousness of all that exists, Parashakti is Pure Consciousness; from which all energy, intelligence and awareness arise.

The Goddess Adi Parashakti is the primordial Goddess, the original creator, observer and destroyer of whole universe. She is Parabrahman, beyond Brahman – beyond the vast Absolute.  That which is beyond Brahman is the self-enduring, eternal, self-sufficient cause of all causes, the essence of everything in the cosmos. She is the source of all other goddesses such as Parvati, Sarasvati, Lakshmi, Kali, and Durga.

The temple building is very old and had started to deteriorate. The last time the spiritual power of this temple’s gods was renewed by Kumbabishekam was over 250 years ago. Some maintenance has been done over these 250 years, and a tin roof was added. That’s about it. A generous Indian man from Hyderabad, T. Siva Sharma, was looking for a way he could help a temple, and found this one when he came to Tiruvannamalai once on a full moon to do Girivalam. It was very much in need of repair and restoration.

Here is a photo from my archive, taken on 13 May, 2010.

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A close up of the gopuram shows that is it caked and encrusted with the dirt of two centuries, and badly needs cleaning.

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Here is the same temple on 15 November, 2012. I had noticed workmen cleaning the gopuram some days before, but was not alert enough to stop and photograph it.

It has been cleaned, and a crew has been brought in to paint the temple and gopuram. Two painters are at work in the photo below.

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They are painting each figure on the gopuram different bright colors, detailing eyes and mustaches, etc. 

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On the side next to the road, a man is drawing a figure.

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This is the south side of the tower, the side facing the road. It is colorful, and I think it looks very good, so much better than before. You can really see the figures now.

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The west side, still being worked on by the painters.

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At the top is the Kalasam, the sacred pot that should radiate the power of the temple to all that can see it. Now, kalasams are usually made of brass. This one is so old that it is a clay pot (doing OK after 250 years). They will replace this during the Kumbabishekam rites to come. I asked the man who seemed to be overseeing the work (who seemed like a temple trustee, not a priest), when these rites would be. He said they did not know yet. Maybe they are unsure of how long the restoration work will take?

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Two days later, on 17 November, the artist is hard at work on the big painting. Vertical red stripes have been added around the temple. These show at a glance that this is a temple, since these kinds of vertical stripes are reserved for that use.

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A closer look shows the painting to be of Siva and Parvati, riding on Nandi.

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Three days later, on the 20th, the painter is still hard at work. It is hot in the sun, so he has added a sun shade.

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By 24 November, he seemed pretty much done. This is good work, quality painting.

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And now he has started painting the figures that are usually on the sides of a Siva Temple.

He has sketched out Dakshinamurti. Actually I saw that he had some beautiful print, and had traced with something like carbon paper the image onto the wall. So it was not drawn, but traced for an exact copy.

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Then, a few days later, on 3 January, 2013, I noticed something. All the colorful figures were now overpainted in gold paint.

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I still see the painted face of a demon that protects the temple.

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It looks more  elegant like this, I guess. I liked all the colors better.

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Still, this looks great!

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The is the view from the road.

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Close up of the main painting. The artist has changed the background color from purple to brown in the final version.

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Here is Dakshinamurti sitting silently under the Banyan tree.

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On the west side of the temple, naturally, there is the Lingodbhava, the Siva image that is so important to Tiruvannamalai. This is Siva (as Arunachala, the Mountain of Fire), sending the endless column of light up and down. Fighting about who was more powerful, Brahma, on his swan, and Vishnu, on his boar, tried to settle their dispute by looking in vain to find the end of Siva’s infinite light.

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Below is Durga, commonly found on the north wall of a Siva temple.

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The entrance to the temple.

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Here is the figure above the door on the entrance tower. This is primitive! Could this be the feminine Parashakthi? There are two male guardians on either side, and a woman in a saree, sitting behind. The main figure wears just a dhoti, like the two attendants, so I think this is a male figure. I am a little confused, since this is said to be a temple to a feminine goddess.

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For weeks before any Kumbabishekam, special care and treatment are given to the idols. Here they are immersed in water. There may be something in the water, I don’t know. Fresh flowers are given to them each day. The spiritual renewal is major ceremony. Everything has to be made ready, and done so per exact ancient procedures.

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The Kumbabishekam will be held on three days, from 23 – 25 January, 2013. This is a very interesting ceremony, and if you can, you might want to go to the temple to see it.

Recently, I wrote a 3-part series on a Kumbabishekam we attended last month. You can get a good idea of the meanings of these rites here, here, and here.

The ceremony to renew the Parashakthi Temple will be a big event. They are bringing a team of priests from a 15th century Saivite mutt, Thiruvavaduthurai Adheenam, near Tanjore, about 180 km away, to perform the Kumbabishekam ceremony. 

The 3-day events are scheduled as follows:

Wed 23 Jan, 2013, 7 AM. On the first day the gods are invoked, and permission is received from them to proceed with the ritual.

Thur 24 Jan 2013, 8 AM. 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, used as 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.

Fri. 25 Jan, 2013, 6 AM. 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 receive the same benefit from looking at the brass Kalasam as you can from darshan with the gods within the temple.

The map below shows where this temple is (click to enlarge).

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Attend this event if you can. These very special ceremonies do not occur often, so don’t miss it. Perhaps I will see you there.

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7 Responses to “Preparation for Kumbabishekam at Parashakthi Temple”

  1. ragupgb Says:

    good article. pl. inform us the date of its kumbabhisekam-
    -raguraman

  2. pumdv Says:

    Dear Ric
    There is difference between Adi Parasakthi and parasakthi.
    HIndu or Sanathana Dharma believes that not only world but galaxy was formed out of burst of energy from Adi Parasakthi and when the Mother earth a component was in its formation stage it was then the role of Brahamam or the three structures of the Linga that has Brahama as base, Vishnu as the mid protion and SIva as its top portion in Scientific terms ( Brahma is the CHromosome coded Genes, Vishnu is the namifest of the life and SIva the Germ cells that can give rise to newer next generation)

    Adi Parasakthi then defines Sakthi devis as PArvathi, Saraswathi and Lakshmi who were created as the counter part of Siva vishnu and Brahma with different roles given to different dieties.

    Hinduism is a evolution process and it most probably delas with predicting the future. Christianity is the religion that defines History and what has happened, Islam and other religion defines what is present. Tiru is the Birth of SIva as fire element and the energy. every god and goddess has its representation here and it is evolving. It ia vibrant and its powers are ever increasing, this year 2013 is most auspicious. MahaKumbh has started and we the People representative of God and goddess will attain pruification of our genes and transfer it to generation next. The one place to be is the holy land that can define the future.

  3. Sunanda Maldonado Says:

    Once again, Richard, I am stunned by the amount of information you have been able to glean. During fifteen years of visiting India and in spite of spending months each winter in Tiru, participating in every kind of temple ritual, I was never able to find out much about what was going on. I have seen quite a few kumbabishekam ceremonies and they are indeed very powerful affairs. I wish I could be there for this one but alas, health problems are keeping me in London this winter. Like you, however, I am a trifle confused by the emphasis on Lord Siva in what is apparently a Goddess temple.
    I hope you will post photos and commentary of the ceremony when it takes place.
    Thank you for all your hard work and the lovely photos….

    • Richard Clarke Says:

      Thank you for your kind words. With all the postings I try to give background information, to put the article in context. I fell like this helps readers to appreciate better the contents of the article. So I tend to do research, sometimes a lot of research, for what is written. For the kumbabishekam, I had the help of the Hindu priest who led the rites. So I had a good source for information, except that he is a native Tamil speaker, with limited but functional English. When he would tell me something I would still have to research to understand it, and often the transliteration he would use to translate the Sanskrit or Tamil into English was not the standard one (like a ‘th’ for a ‘d’, a ‘g’ for a ‘k’, etc.), and I thought it best to use the standard form in the article, so I had to figure out what that standard form of the word was.

      So I would take what he sent me in an email, study it, research on the internet, ask a few more questions of him, and then at the end, feel like I am starting to understand what was going on.

      All of this can be a a lot of work. Your comments encourage me that this work is appreciated. Thank you for this.

  4. agoyvaerts Says:

    Again such interesting information for which I’m very grateful ~ it always brings one a little closer to beloved Tiruvanamalai and Arunachala ~ beautiful and uplifting!

  5. sriramana Says:

    thanks for posting such valuable posting. with best wishes, ranganathan JAYA SRI RAMANA!

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