Arunachala Karthigai Festival: Day 3. Morning - Bootha Vahana

On the morning of Day 3 of the 2016 Arunachala Karthigai Festival, Lord Chandrasekhara on the Bootha Vahana.

Vinayaka leading procession through 5th Prakara

Lord Chandrasekhara being carried towards Thitti Vassal

Lord leaving Temple via Thitti Vassal

Lord Chandrasekhara

Brahmin priests adorning the Lord

Bhoota Vahana before recent make-over

Bhootha Vahana with panchalogam covering

Darshan outside Alankaram Mandapam

Starting procession of mada veedhis

Lord Chandrasekhara on Bhootha Vahana

Lord Chandrasekhara preceded by Vinayaka on Rat Vahana

Lord Vinayaka with Rukku in background

2016 Arunachala Karthigai Festival: Day 3. Night - Shima Vahana
During this 10-day Arunachala Karthigai Festival, the panchamoorthies are daily taken out in procession and circumambulation of the mada veedhis around Arunachaleswarar Temple. Sometimes, the Deity is shown mounted on or riding the vahana, while at other times, the vahana is shown by the Deity's side. Many times, this vahana (vehicle) represents and symbolises a Divine attribute and even though the vahana appears to be independent, it is actually part and parcel of the Deity's presence and has an meaning to it.

In the case of the Lord on the Simha (lion) vehicle; the creature represents lordly power in general and lordly power of wild beasts in particular. The lion is regarded as a Royal beast and thus represents the best in animal creation. However it may also represent greed for food and hence greed for other objects of enjoyment, which invariably leads to lust. The Lord mounted on this Simha vahana represents His ascendancy and control of animal instincts manifested in the human being.

The lion is an archetypal symbol for the golden-rayed sun, the lord of the day, whose appearance kills the demonic forces of the night. The lion has always been important in Indian mythology as it symbolises the solar and luminous principle of life and knowledge.

The lion also expresses the heroism and prowess necessary to defeat asuric forces and represents the heroism and strength required to enter the spiritual path.

Panchamoorthies darshan Alankaram Mandapam

Lord mounted on Lion Vahana on Temple perimeter streets

Lord mounted on Shima Vahana on Thiruvoodal Street

2016 Arunachala Karthigai Festival: Day 4. Day - Naga Vahana
On morning of Day 4 of the 2016 Arunachala Karthigai Festival, the vahana for Lord Chandrasekhara is the naga.

The use of the word naga usually refers only to mythological serpents while snakes living in nature are called sarpas. However the word naga is also used to represent the cobra.

The cobra which is seen coiled around the neck of Lord Shiva, represents power over destruction and creation. It primarily represents rebirth, death and mortality - due to the casting of its skin thus being symbolically "reborn". The snake also represents Kundalini Shakti and as a vahana of Lord Shiva depicts desires kept under control of the Divine.

Alangarams of Lord and Vinayaka

Brahmin Priest applies pottu to Lord at Yagasala Shrine, 3rd Prakaram, Big Temple

Carrying the Lord on palanquin through Temple

Lord on palanquin 1000 Pillar Hall, 5th Prakaram

Lord on Naga Vahana receiving aarti at Alankaram Mandapam

Lord on Naga Vahana beginning procession of mada veedhis

Procession on Car Street, Tiruvannamalai

Lord Vinayaka on Rat Vahana, followed by the Lord on Naga Vahana

2016 Arunachala Karthigai Festival: Day 4. Night - Kalpavriksha and Kamadhenu Vahanas: Wish-Fulfilling Tree and Wish-Fulfilling Cow
One of the most popular processions during the Arunachala Deepam Festival, is that of Kalpavriksha (also known as Karpavirutcham), the wish-fulfilling tree and Kamadhenu, the wish-fulfilling cow. Both of which emphasis the wish-fulfilling aspect of Arunachala.

The Kalpavriksha is a mythological Divine tree said to fulfill all desires. Its mythology narrates that the wish-fulfilling tree originates from the churning of the ocean of milk after which the god Indra, returned with the tree to his paradise. During the Deepam Festival on the Fourth Night Lord Arunachaleswarar is seated under the Kalpavriksha Tree.

The second major Radham appearing on that night is that of Kamadhenu (literally meaning; the cow; "from whom all that is desired is drawn", or "the divine cow providing for all needs"). The Kamadhenu is a divine cow-goddess described in mythology as the mother of all cows who provides the owner with whatever is desired.

Theories as to the origin of the Kamadhenu are two-fold. One scripture describes her as the daughter of the creator god Daksha, and another narrates that Kamadhenu also emerged from the churning of the cosmic ocean. Upon the divine cow during the Deepam night procession is seated the Goddess Saraswati.

It is often the wish fulfilling aspect of Girivalam that brings many pilgrims each Poornima (Full Moon) to the Hill, whatever the difficulty or weather, to perform girivalam. In fact many pilgrims prefer it when the conditions are extreme (cold, heavy sheeting rain, previous tapas such as fasting and mortification etc) as they believe that the greater the difficulties they overcome in performing girivalam, the greater will be the focus of their sankalpa (intention) and success of their wish.

The now deceased Annamalai Swami explains the power of the Hill as thus:-

". . . It is not an ordinary hill. It is spirituality Itself. It has a powerful, magnetic pull to the Self. Seekers who come to this place with the intention of realizing the Self will have untold benefits to do pradakshina on a full moon.

In the proximity of this holy hill the presence of the Self is more powerful and more self-evident than anywhere else. Indian mythology speaks of a wish-fulfilling tree. If you find this tree and tell it what you want, your wish will be granted.

Arunachala also has this reputation. This is why so many people come here on a full moon night and walk around it. But very few people come here and ask for their complete freedom, for undisturbed peace.

Arunachala is a light. It shines. It is the light of the Self, and the light of the Self will continue to shine on you whether you believe it or not. Arunachala is greater than all other religious places. There are other holy, powerful places in the world, but none have the power of Arunachala . . . There is a huge amount of shakti, or spiritual energy, here."

Aarti to alangarams Kalyana Mandapam, 3rd Prakaram

Aarti to Lord Arunachaleswarar and Goddess Saraswati

Panchamoorthies darshan Alankaram Mandapam

Lord Arunachaleswarar Kalpavriksha Tree

Goddess Saraswati on Kamadhenu

Lord Arunachaleswarar on Kalpavriksha Vahana circumambulation of Temple