"O Lord of Devas, this refulgence has been shown by you who are
endowed with grace. It has been seen by Devas and human beings directly
in the month of Karttika at the great festival of the conclusion of my
holy observances. Let your great refulgence be seen (on the day) with
the constellation named Karttika. By seeing this supreme brilliance
every year, let all the creatures be liberated from all sins."
In further propitiation of the Goddess' penance the Lord and the
Goddess merge into each other with their bodies uniting into the form of
; showing the form of Shiva and Parvati:
"It was as though two objects were simultaneously perceived in close
proximity. In one half it was as white as camphor and in the other half
it is as red as red lead. The body of a single unit was highly
wonderful. In one-half there was flowing tresses. In the middle of the
necklace there was a flower. The body of the crescent moon-crested Lord
had silk in one-half that was beautiful with a single anklet, ear-ring
and bracelet. The body of the companion of Kubera shone with a single
" . . . This Durga, the destroyer of Mahisa, the deity born of your
part, shall be present here itself, yielding the siddhi of mantras to
men . . . Here in the sacred place of Aruna I shall also remain by the
name of Aruna. You shall also be here by the name of Arunadevi. Since
Aruna and the Lord are always present here, all the siddhis will be
easily accessible in this holy spot of Aruna to those who entertain a
desire for them."
The Deepam festival follows the moon calendar so each year the date is
different however it always falls when the star Krittika is in
conjunction with the Moon in the month of Karthika (November-December).
Isanya Desikar and the River
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
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 for 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
Arunachaleswara 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 Festival 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
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 of them 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
Long ago, King Vajresan of Panchala who was childless, was blessed with a
son after having darshan of the Arunachala Deepam in the month of Kartika
The son was named Shatrujith. The prince grew up to be lecherous man.
He once eloped with the wife of a Vedic scholar and came to
Tiruvannamalai and entered the Temple of Arunachaleswarar.
It was the day
of the festival of the beacon. The paramour made a wick out of her sari
and lit the lamp with castor oil. At that moment the Vedic scholar came
there and in a fit of rage stabbed his wife and the prince. And in turn
the prince killed him.
Since it was a
gruesome murder committed in the sacred precincts of the Temple the
three were about to be taken to hell by the messengers of Yama, lord of
death. At that moment the messengers of Siva intervened and claimed the
prince and the woman as their own and took them to the abode of Siva.
Their blasphemous acts were condoned by Arunachala Himself because the
wife made a wick and the prince helped her to light the lamp for the
But the Vedic
scholar was puzzled, as he was held by the messengers of Yama. The
prince, moved by the plight of the Vedic scholar, ordered the vessel
used for lighting the Karthigai
lamp to release the scholar.
Immediately the Vedic scholar was liberated. Thus all the three, despite
their misdeeds, were taken to the abode of Siva, as the merit gained by
the simple act of lighting a lamp on Kartika
day in his Temple outweighed their devilish acts.
The Ghee Lamp, Rat and King
While Lord Shiva was seated in Mount Kailas with Devi Uma, a ghee
lamp was in the process of extinction. A rat nearby approached it to
drink the ghee and in that act the wick was pushed out a little,
enabling the flame to brighten. This pious act though unintentional,
resulted in the rat securing a human birth with huge wealth and the rank
of a King.
prosperous boon the rat was born on earth as Mabali. Mabali, while
reigning in all glory, one day wanted to worship Siva and went to a Siva
shrine with all his royal paraphernalia. While in the Temple, a drop
from a ghee lamp fell upon Mabali. The King got sores from that one drop
and his malady continued for a long time.
It was then Lord Siva proclaimed, "King,
thou art very arrogant. Hence you got this trouble through me. From
this day on if you light Shiva shrines with ghee, you will be rid of
your sores and live happily."
Highly delighted on hearing these words the King from that day commenced lighting Shiva Temples and dark places with ghee
(clarified butter) lamps. Lord Shiva looking at the king's piety, gave him liberation in the month of Karthigai
on star Krittika
during poorva paksha
It is for the
reason the Lord appeared before the King in the form of Light, that
Deepam Darshan is celebrated in all Siva Shrines on this same day every