Festival Time
Walking around Arunachaleswarar Temple and Tiruvannamalai its easy to see Tiruvannamalai is in Festival Mode. Groups of Brahmin Priests chant the Vedas in the Temple compound, Community Sangams recite Sundarar's Thevaram outside the Kalyana Mandapam, collections of lamps and lights lay in large mounds at the back of the Third Prakaram, newly crafted wooden chocks are stacked against the walls awaiting pick up for use by processional Chariots.

Rukku the Arunachaleswarar elephant evident in processions around the Mada Veedhis . . . and everywhere, musicians playing both Indian traditional and Western musical instruments.

Brahmin priests chanting

Community Sangam group reciting Sundarar's Thevaram

Wooden chocks stacked by wall ready for use by processional chariots

Night procession lamps

So many lamps

Rukku on festival detail

2016 Arunachala Karthigai Festival: Day 1. Evening - Adhikara Nandi Vahana
Yesterday evening the Lord's vehicle was the Adhikara Nandi. There are two types of Nandi statues at Siva Temples, the more common is that of the recumbent bull (Vrsabha) and the other is that of Adhikara Nandi. In the case of Arunachaleswarar Temple, the Adhikara Nandi of last night's function is in the form of a bull-headed human standing on two legs.

Adhikara Nandi's two back hands hold a parasu (battle axe) and mrga (antelope) and the two front hands are folded on the chest in a pose of obeisance. Since he is the chief of the ganas of Siva, exercising his authority (adhikara) over them, he is christened as 'Adhikara Nandi.'

The white bull - Nandi - is the divine vehicle of Lord Shiva, the Destroyer. He is the chief of the ganas, Shiva's attendants. Nandi means 'happy'.

Nandikesvara, Lord of happiness, one of Shiva's ganas was fond of dance and music. He was born of the Divine progenitor Kashyapa and the Divine cow Surabhi. He married Suyasha, the daughter of the Maruts. As his life was coming to an end, he prayed to Shiva to lengthen his life. Shiva granted him immortality and leadership over His ganas. He was given the title "Adhikara Nandi" (or "authoritative Nandi'), for it is only with Nandi's grace and permission that one can enter the temple of Shiva. Adhikara Nandi took on a human form as a bull-headed human standing on two legs (or in some instances a bull standing erect on his rear legs).

Nandi is more than Shiva's vahana or vehicle. As the chief of Shiva's attendants, he is also the guardian of all four-legged animals. Nandi is essential to every Shiva Temple - the sanctum sanctorum of each Temple, where the deity may be in a human or linga form, has an image of Nandi facing the shrine.

There is a story that Vrishabha Deva or Nandi was very proud of his role as the vehicle of the Supreme Lord Shiva himself. To teach him a lesson, Shiva placed a lock of his hair on the bull, who was unable to bear the weight. Realising that he had been arrogant, Nandi begged Shiva's pardon. Shiva forgave him and initiated him into divine knowledge.

Nandi completes the image of the happy family. In days gone by, people depended on the bull for transportation. The bull was thus the vehicle both for Shiva and man. He is also a symbol of how a powerful animal, imbued with Divine authority, is also a gentle and humble worker and helper to both the Gods and man.

Adhikara Nandi Vahana

Panchamoorthies alangaram

Panchamoorthies darshan Alankaram Mandapam

Adhikara Nandi Vahana procession Mada Veddhis

2016 Arunachala Karthigai Festival: Day 1. Evening - Adhikara Nandi Vahana Preparations
Between the Gods in the Temple and their triumphant procession on the Mada Veedhis of Arunachaleswarar Temple, there are steps and preparations. Some of which are shown below.

Panchamoorties aarti in front of Siva Shrine

Traditional Temple music during ceremonies

Unadorned Adhikara Nandi Vahana inside Alankaram Mandapam, near Raja Gopuram gate

Sequence here is repeated throughout the Festival. The Lord at right of photographs being transferred from palanquin to His Vahana

Heavy exertion by devotees required to transfer the Lord on palanquin to Vahana

Inch by inch the Lord is brought to his Vahana

The God is in position on his Vahana, and the carriers disengage the palanquin poles

Ornaments, accoutrements and lights are added to Vahana

Whole process takes place inside Alankaram Mandapam and only when preparations are complete, is the God brought to front of Mandapam

Unadorned Annapakshi (mythological bird) later be adorned as Vahana for the Shakti Goddess

Goddess on decorated Vahana ready to accompany the Lord on His Adhikara Nandi Vahana

Lord on Adhikara Nandi Vahana now to be moved to front of Alankaram to give darshan

Panchamoorthies accompanied by musicians start circumambulation of mada veedhis

Devotees watch the start of the procession