The Karthigai Deepam festival in Tiruvannamalai is very famous. At sunset on the full moon day in the month of Karthigai, a huge fire lamp is lit up on the top of Arunachala, visible for several kilometers around the hill. The fire is called Mahadeepam. On this day, about 20 lakh (2 million) devotees come to Tiruvannamalai to perform pradakshina of Arunachala, and to watch the lighting of the Mahadeepam fire.
This year we were not sure how the day would be. A big cyclone had hit the South Indian coast, and the day before it rained all day long. And it rained as day broke on full-moon day (17 November). But the weather cleared. Here is Arunachala at midday.
We walked into the pradakshina crowd near our house.
There is a small Vishnu shrine near us, on “Chicken Farm Road,” (the official name for AHAM Road, or Sparsa Road). People associated with this temple had a big sign up and were trying to get visitors to go to this temple.
But people mostly just streamed by.
Many sadhus were on the side of the road.
People sit on the curb to rest in the shade.
People keep on streaming by.
Outside a small Murugan temple, a camphor light is lit. People add a bit of their own camphor as they walk by.
And take the light from the holy flame.
As more people stream by.
Vendors offer everything that walkers need: food, water, items to buy.
Hot fresh-cooked corn is popular. A man sells from a long narrow table…
…while a woman is busy preparing more.
As people stream by.
A small chai and coffee stand is very busy. We stopped and had milk-coffee.
Many police are here, from Tiruvannamalai and other nearby cities. Mainly they are seen sitting to the side of the crowd, in some shady spot.
You can buy a necklace for your wife.
Or sparkly jars…
…to keep her kumkum in.
Nityananda’s ashram always gets a lot of visitors.
We go into a favorite temple, Rajarajeswari Temple.
This is a goddess temple…
…with Durga’s lion guarding the sanctum santorum.
After visiting the main shrine, we walk pradakshina around it.
In the corner they have set up a table to give out prasad—holy rice to take home and mix with your regular rice.
They are giving water to all who want it. The giving of food and water in India are thought to bring great spiritual merit.
And people stream by.
Some wave at the camera.
A man is selling bamboo flutes. He moves to a new location, followed by his son, who carries another kind of noise maker.
A big truck backs into a parking spot near the pradakshina route.
The truck is loaded with food to give out.
People crowd in, hands outstretched, to get a plate of food.
Carol reaches for some too. It was hard for her to get anything, as people just shoved her aside to get to the food first. Finally a kind man got two plates and gave her one.
We walked home. Many buses are parked near us, as they park everywhere surrounding Arunachala on this day. If 2 million people come, 100 to a bus, that would be 20,000 buses.
One more look at Arunachala.
I hope the sky remains clear, so we can see the torch being lit at 6 PM tonight.
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