Arunachala Karthigai Festival: Day 5. Day - Chandrasekhara on Rishaba Vahana
On the morning of Day 5 of the 2016 Arunachala Karthigai Festival, Lord Chandrasekhara is seated on the Rishaba Vahana.

Chandrasekhara and Vinayaka darshan Alankaram Mandapam

After giving darshan both vahanas set off on Car Street beginning circumambulation of Temple

Vinayaka on his vahana leads procession with Lord Chandrasekhara on Rishaba Vahana in background

Procession started from East Gopuram. Here it has reached the West Pey Gopuram - side nearest to Arunachala

Lord Chandrasekhara

Arunachaleswarar Temple

2016 Arunachala Karthigai Festival: Day 5. Night - Big Silver Rishaba

Big Silver Rishaba
"The Festival begins nine or ten days before Deepam. Each evening there are solemn processions round the Temple, which are over and above the regular worship and the private offerings of puja which go on through the day.

The day comes to its climax with the procession of the panchamoorthies in the evening, which lasts almost until midnight . . . .

It was recommended not to miss the night of the silver bull, and I had accordingly arrived in very good time . . . . in the Kalyana Mandapam, 'the portico of weddings,' the priests were busy decorating the murtis, using silk and gold brocade, flowers and valuable jewels. Meanwhile the cars were standing outside the Temple, and on them also ornaments were being loaded. All this seemed to go on interminably; but at last there was a sudden blare of trumpets form the inner courtyard, their sound re-echoing loudly from the high enclosure walls. Accompanying the trumpets was the low drone of the tamburas, while the silvery melody of flutes pierced though the noise of the crowd.

Now the file of moorthies with their attendants emerged from their shrines, and when they passed under porticos or gopurams the echo from the low vaults become deafening. Soon they came to the Vallalla Gopuram where were standing. In front were the torch-bearers, next the musicians, and last the palanquins, carried on the bare shoulders of devotees. On either side was the tightly-packed crowd with outstretched arms, giving cries of fervent devotion. Somewhere breaking coconuts on the ground, while others held out at arm's length gilded trays of burning camphor. The enthusiasm spread, swelled, multiplied itself irresistibly. Light, heat, scents, sounds, bodies and souls too, all were weeded together into a single vast and vibrant outpouring of love in honour of the Lord of Arunachala.

We followed behind the procession, crossed the outermost courtyard, passed under the huge gopuram over the East Gate and reached the long colonnade which adjoins it on the east, where the cars were waiting. The moorthies were installed on the cars; and once again the work of decoration was resumed with renewed zeal; flowers, jewels, lights in even greater quantity. The crowd was now more tightly packed than ever. The friend who was guiding me managed to open a path for me immediately in front of the chief car, where the palanquin of Shiva Annamalaiyar was mounted on the silver bull.

Over him was held a huge ceremonial umbrella which touched the roof overhead. Behind the car was a trailer with a dynamo, and thousands of electric bulbs sparkled all over the palanquin, the platform, the decorations, among the jewels, silks and flowers which adorned the statue. A devotee, who was standing near, was so moved that he cried out: "How can one doubt any longer that it is the Lord himself upon his car, who presents himself for our adoration!" . . .

[Edited Narrative By Swami Abhishekananda 1970]

Aarti to Gods inside Kalyana Mandapam

Adorning the Gods Alankaram Mandapam

Huge garlands for Lord Arunachaleswarar on Big Silver Rishaba passed over the head of devotees at Alankaram Mandapam

Brahmin priests arranging the huge garlands on Lord Arunachaleswarar and his vahana

Huge umbrella placed over adorned Lord on his Big Silver Rishaba

Panchamoorthies darshan Alankaram Mandapam

Starting off on procession of mada veedhis

Kumbhabhishekam Isanya Desikar Math: 8 a.m. December 9, 2016

On Friday December 9th, 2016 at 8.00 a.m., kumbhabhishekam was performed at the Sri Isanya Math at Tiruvannamalai. Sri Isanya is regarded as of one of the great saints of Arunachala (1750-1829).

His Samadhi located at an Math dedicated to him, is opposite the Isanya Lingam (one of the Asta Lingams). To learn more about this mahatma, go to this link here.

Below is a story about the famous saint and how he helped his British devotee Ayton (who was the District Collector of the area at that time), overcome dangers in his efforts to safely attend a Deepam Festival.

Deepam: a Saint and a District Collector

The story goes thus:-

Isanya Desikar, whose math is located just outside Tiruvannamalai on the old pradakshina road, was a distinguished yogi who, like many before and after him, felt the spiritual call of Arunachala. He was born in 1750 in a small village called Rayavelur in northern Tamil Nadu. He came and settled at the foot of Arunachala only late in his life, but nevertheless, by virtue of his intense and personal relationship with Arunachaleswarar, he is regarded as one of the major saints of Arunachala.

Isanya Desikar had a western devotee, who is now recalled by the name of Ayton. He was the then District Collector for the region that extended from Tiruvannamalai to Vriddhachalam. Ayton had heard about the greatness of Isanya Desikar and approached him in the hope of getting a cure from the tuberculosis from which he had been suffering for many years.

Isanya Desikar smiled and after a brief pause spat on the ground. The moment he spat, Ayton was cured of the disease. Ayton then spoke to the holy man with both trepidation and devotion. 'Swami, I have recently acquired a large amount of land, I would like to offer your holiness as much as you need. It can be a permanent endowment in your name.' Isanya Desikar smiled and asked tauntingly, 'Will your land yield crops even during a drought?' Then, pointing his finger towards Arunachaleswarar and Apeetakuchamba, he added, 'Here is a householder with two children and a large family. It is proper to give him any amount of land, but it is not proper to gift it to me, a sannyasin.'

Ayton took leave of him but returned on many occasions. He got into the habit of addressing him reverentially and affectionately as 'Tata', which means 'grandfather'. It is said that before he began any new project he would always meditate on Isanya Desikar and invoke his blessing by saying, 'Tata, please lead me in this work. It is your work.' At Deepam Festivals Ayton would take the lead in dragging the huge temple chariot through the streets of Tiruvannamalai. However, before moving the chariot for the first time he would pick up one of the ropes and exclaim loudly: 'Tata, you hold the rope and lead us!' The local people were all astounded that such a prominent British official should have such devotion towards a naked sannyasin.

Ayton made it a point always to attend and lead this annual festival, but one year he found himself stranded by floods on the southern side of the River Pennar just before the beginning of the festival. Knowing that he was expected to be at Arunachala to start the chariot on its journey, he called out to his mount: 'Horse, I must see Tata and I must also get the Deepam Festival started. Think of Tata and cross the river!' Without a moment's delay or hesitation, the horse leapt into the raging torrent of water and effortlessly waded to the other side. None of the other people who were stranded dared to follow for they were all convinced that it would be suicidal to enter the surging waters.

At the moment when Ayton put his faith in Tata and leapt into the water, Isanya Desikar opened his eyes after a long meditation and stretched out his hand in a southerly direction. When one of his disciples asked what he was doing, he replied, 'If someone falls into a river, should we not save him?'

Ayton arrived safely and took Isanya Desikar's blessings to start the festival. When the news of Ayton's spectacular river crossing and Isanya Desikar's role in it spread among the Deepam crowds, many came to the north-eastern side of the hill to see the man who had been responsible for the miracle. Several of the new visitors turned out to be mature seekers who were looking for guidance from a Guru. Isanya Desikar accepted some as disciples, had a small thatched shed built to accommodate them and gave instruction by writing a guide to liberation entitled Jnana Kattalai.

Invitation to Kumbhabhishekam

Arunachala darshan from Isanya Ashram

Entrance to Sri Isanya Desikar Math

Scaffolding erected to shrines at the Math

Yagasala in Math compound

Entrance to Isanya Desikar Samadhi

Samadhi of Isanya Desikar