We come now to the oldest festival of South India which is also the most important and elaborate Karthigai Deepam. This festival happens in the Tamil month of Karthigai when the star Krithika is ascending and a full moon day. The festival of Deepam is not confined to the temple, but involves the entire city. Tiruvannamalai, once a small village, has become a big town, however, the charm and the beauty of the festival, remain the same for hundreds of years ago. On the day of Deepam the city is preparing to receive an indescribable multitude of visitors.
The copper cauldron in which the sacred fire is lit, is taken out and cleaned. In the days following the sacred flame will be fueled by ghee and camphor, offered by the devotees and carried on the shoulders up to the top of the hill. The road is well lit pradakshina purpose. The true meaning of all religious festivals is that the Supreme Being makes its presence felt during that period. During the celebration of the festival of Mahashivaratri and Deepam, Arunachala opens the heart of his beloved, and is revealed as the Supreme Being.
In the first three days of the 16 day's event, you propitiate various deities, while the last three days form a sort of epilogue power of the sacred fire on the top of the Hill. The image of the Lord adorned with garlands of flowers, it is taken out of the temple and placed in front of the flagpole, where he can observe the unfolding of the ceremony. At the preset time, the flag is hoisted to the chanting of the Vedas Brahmins, accompanied by drums, cymbals, shells and so on. The priests then, with special rites and invite all the sacred rivers, all the gods and all the rishis, to come to witness this event.
On the eighth day of the feast is the day of Maha Ratham, in which the Lord of Arunachala and the goddess Unnamalai, are taken around the main streets, along with other deities, each in his chariot.
On the tenth day of the festival marks the culmination of devotion, the day of the big DEEPAM. As the winter sun sinks below the horizon, a dumbfounded silence slowly permeates the entire atmosphere, inside and outside the temple; people peering closely at the top of the sacred hill, holding my breath waiting for the big moment. At 6 o'clock, in the temple, takes place arati offered to the Lord, and a burst of loud firecrackers reports, the men on the hill top, to light the fire in the cauldron. The fire that burns bright, the air resounds the heartfelt cry of the devotees and the full moon that spreads its rays on the hill, all create a magical charm and vibrant presence of the Lord is heard in the depths of the hearts of his devotees.
After that the sacred fire was lit, the devotees enter the great temple for darshan of the Lord Arunachaleswarar, and get ready for the pradakshina. A crowd indescribable spins, with devotion, around Arunachala, with focused mind and repeating the sacred mantra of Lord Shiva.
It's really exciting to be in the midst of this multitude of people moving together forming a ring of love and devotion. There are holy souls, serene and magnanimous that, similar to spring, make outpourings a beneficial influence for the good of humanity. They, having transcended the ocean of birth and death, an act of love to help their fellow man to transcend themselves.