Preparations for 2016 Arunachala Karthigai Deepam Festival
The below photographs show how busy the Temple and Tiruvannamalai were in preparations for the 2016 Arunachala Karthigai Deepam Festival.

Roadworks were quickly completed in time for the anticipated crowds during the Festival.


Chains for vahanas

Gopuram electricals

Temple workers busy with cleaning

Cleaning for upcoming aartis

Checking lights for electrification

Hoisting lights

Kili Gopuram between 4th and 3rd prakarams

Durgai Ursavam Pre-2016 Karthigai Deepam Festival
This year the first three days of the 17 day Deepam Festival started on November 30, 2016 at the Durga Amman Temple, Tiruvannamalai. The reason for the unique connection with the Goddess at Durga Amman Temple with the Karthigai Festival is believed to be because of the Goddess and her fight with the demon Mahisha.

In the Mahishasura legend, before fighting with the demon, the Goddess appointed four noble Bhairavis (celestial damsels) to keep watch on all four sides of Arunagiri.

Ordering, that:

"Admit only those who have come to worship Arunachala and are tired, hungry and thirsty. Others should not enter. She then appointed strong men to guard the boundaries of Arunachala and continued Her penance at Her ashram."

[The Glory of Arunachala]

In accordance with the mythology of Arunachala, Durga is recognised as Guardian of Arunachala and thus a precursor of the Deepam Festival is always a celebration of this aspect of the Goddess.

Durgai Amman Temple, Tiruvannamalai

Aarti of the goddess

Leaving the shrine

Goddess ready to leave Temple compound

Carried from Temple to Goddess' vahana

Goddess on Kamadhenu Vahana

Pidari Utsavam, Pre-2016 Karthigai Deepam Festival
The Pidari Amman Shrine is located at the Third Prakaram of Arunachaleswarar Temple. In front of the Shrine stands a huge stone trishul (Trident). On Thursday 1st December, 2016, Pidari Utsavam was observed at the Shrine.

Goddess Pidari is an aspect of Kali in a rural setting and regarded as a consort of Siva. Pidari is the ferocious aspect of Amman. The Mother Goddess gives life but Kali takes life. Goddess Pidari is the feminine form of Kala—time. Kali is the energy or the power of time. Her blackness swallows all that exists and the emptiness of space is her clothing, for when the Universe is dissolved, the power of time remains without maya (veil).

Kali's extension, Pidari and her worship; evolved as a fighter and warrior and gained importance with the influence of Tantrism where she is known as Kala Pidari. The Pidari Goddess, in line with Shakti manifestations, emphasises fierce symbolism. At times Pidari is the sole resident deity in a village. As devata, She is the all-in-all for the village from simple prayers to divine blessings. Otherwise she watches over the main deity of a temple in her role as 'kaval deivam' while taking her seat in a structure on the right hand side of a temple entrance. She joins the 'kavaldeivam' or Protection Gods' similar to that of Ayyanar, Muniandy, Karuppana Swamy or Veerabhadra, all of whom are warrior-protection village gods.

Pidari shares Kali's attributes and is depicted holding a noose, trident, skull cup and a pointed knife. The noose is sometimes replaced by ankusha—the elephant goad. The damaru that she holds is entwined by a snake, thus sharing Siva's characteristics. She has flaming hair and three eyes. Sometimes her breasts are decorated with snakes. She has a terrifying appearance with long incisor teeth to frighten off evil spirits. Her sculptures are sometimes synonymous with Goddess Mariamman and lime strung as a garland—'elumichai malai' is her favourite.

Pidari Utsavam

Goddess on lion vahana

Goddess arriving Pidari Shrine

Receiving aarti outside Pidari Shrine