Sunday, January 31, 2016

Palani Murugan Temple - Festivals

Palani Murugan Temple - Festivals
Every day the processional icon of the main deity is taken around Dhandayuthapani Temple in a golden chariot. There is a very long waitlist, running to many years, for the privilege of pulling this chariot.
The annual Brahmotsavam and the day of the star Uthiram (Uttara-phalguni) is celebrated in Panguni (March-April). The day of the Krithika star, Thirukkrithika, Kandha Sashti (six days after Deepavali), and Thaipusam are other famous festivals.
A tradition is observed called Palli-Arai (bedroom ritual). Every night, the Lord is acquainted with the day’s accounts by the custodians of the temple. He is then put to sleep to the singing of lullabies by the odhuvar or bard.
Besides regular services, days sacred to the god Subrahmanyan are celebrated with pomp and splendour every year, and are attended by throngs of devotees from all over South India. Some of these festivals are the Thai-Poosam, the Panguni - Uththiram, the Vaikhashi - Vishakham and the Soora-Samharam. Thai - Poosam, which is considered, by far, the most important festival at Palani, is celebrated on the full moon day of the Tamil Month of Thai (15 January-15 February).
Pilgrims after first having taken a strict vow of abstinence, come barefoot, by walk, from distant towns and villages. Many pilgrims also bring a litter of wood, called a Kavadi, borne on their shoulders, in commemoration of the act of the demon Hidumba who is credited by legend with bringing the two hills of Palani to their present location, slung upon his shoulders in a similar fashion. Others bring pots of sanctified water, known as Theertha - Kavadi, for the priests to conduct the Abhishekam on the holy day.
Traditionally, the most honoured of the pilgrims, whose arrival is awaited with anticipation by all and sundry, are the people of Karaikudi, who bring with them the diamond-encrusted vél or javelin, of the Lord from his temple at Karaikudi.
Tamil Month
English Month
Chitra Pournami
Agni Nakshathiram 
Vaikasi Festival (Visakam)
Aani - Annabishekam  
Aadi Laksharchanai
Vijaya Dasami Vizha Navarathri Pooja Ambu uduthal Vizha 
September/ October 

Kandha Shasti (Soora Samharam)
October/ November  
Thirukarthigai Vizha (Peria Karthigai)
November /December  
Thirupallieluchi Thiruvizha
Thai Poosam Thiruvizha
January /February
Panguni Uthiram
March / April
Important Festivals of Palani
Important festivals of Palani are listed below;
Chithirai Festivals:
For brief details, Please refer below link;
Vaikasi Visakam Festival:
For brief details, Please refer below link;
Aani – Annabishekam Festival:
For brief details, Please refer below link;
Aadi Festivals:
For brief details, Please refer below link;
Kanda Sashti Festival:
For brief details, Please refer below link;
Thirukarthigai Festival:
For brief details, Please refer below link;
Thai Poosam Festival:
For brief details, Please refer below link;
Margazhi Pooja:
For brief details, Please refer below link;
Panguni Uthiram Festival:
For brief details, Please refer below link;

Palani Murugan Temple – Vaikasi Visakam Festival

Palani Murugan Temple – Vaikasi Visakam Festival
Vaikasi Visakam is celebrated for ten days. At the Perianayaki Amman temple, it is celebrated for 10 days with procession every day. There is car festival on the 10th day (i.e Visakam). Visakam is Lord Muruga's birthday star. This is celebrated at all Murugan temples.
Vaikasi Visagam, or Vaigasi Visakam, is the day when Lord Muruga or Karthikeya incarnated on earth. Muruga, the general of the army of Devas, is also known as Skanda, Kanda, Subrahmanya and Kartikeya. The birthday of Lord Muruga falls on the Vishakham star in the Tamil month of Vaikasi (May – June). The day is celebrated in temples dedicated to Muruga in India, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and South Africa.
According to Puranas, the Devas (gods) were driven out of heaven by demon Surapadman with the help of boons he received from Brahma. Unable to defeat Surapadman, Indra, the king of Devas, sought the help of Brahma. But Brahma could only narrate his helplessness as Surapadman had already obtained boons from Brahma through severe penance.
But Brahma did suggest a way out and that was to seek the help of Lord Shiva. When Indra narrated the cruel deeds of Surapadman, an enraged Shiva opened his third eye and the fiery sparks that came out which transformed into six babies. Later Goddess Parvati joined the six babies into one and thus Lord Muruga incarnated with the purpose of vanquishing the demons.

On the day, devotees take out procession carrying milk pots to Subrahmanya temples. The milk is used for the ‘Abhishekam' of the deity. Some devotees also take Kavadi on the day. Thousands of devotees visit Lord Muruga shrine on Vaikasi Visakam, especially at Lord Subramanya Swami Temple at Thiruchendur and Muruga Temple at Tiruparankundram.

Palani Murugan Temple – Thirukarthigai Festival

Palani Murugan Temple – Thirukarthigai Festival
From Tirugnanasambandar statement "Ancient Karthigai day", we knew about the age-old practice of this festival. It falls on Karthigai day in the Tamil month of Karthigai. It is celebrated for ten days and daily "Chinna Kumarar" goes in procession in the small golden carriage.
On Karthigai day, he goes in the Golden Car. On the 10th day, woman devotees light lamps and worship Murugan. This is done in Tiruvavinankudi, Periyanayagi Amman Temple and the Hill Temple.
This is a very important day for devotees. Every month also, on Karthigai day, devotees visit Palani.

Palani Murugan Temple – Thai Poosam Festival

Palani Murugan Temple – Thai Poosam Festival
Thai Poosam is a very important festival, associated with pilgrimage to Palani. Devotees from Tamil Nadu reach Palani by foot (Pada Yatra) and worship. Beginning with flag-hosting at Periyanayagi, this festival runs on for 10 days.
Kavadi of various types (with holy water, sugar, flowers, tender coconuts, etc.,) are offered to Murugan at Palani on the 6th day, there is procession of Lord Muruga with Valli and Deivanai in the Silver Car. During this, Kavadi dance and rural musical-dance are performed. On the 7th day there is "Thai Ther" (wooden Car) and thousands of devotees participate in this. On the 7th day "Chinna Kumarar" goes round in his Golden Car.
Wherever a Muruga temple is located; whether in India, USA, Singapore, Malaysia or Sri Lanka, Thai Pusam is celebrated there with gaiety, enthusiasm and devotion. But at Muruga temples in Palani, Thai Pusam is an especially grand and spectacular event.
Every day, Palani wears a festive look. Every day, Palani is flooded with devotees, eager to have a glimpse of their most beloved Lord Muruga. Every day, people congregate here in large numbers to experience the bliss of being with Palani Andavar. But when Thai Pusam comes, the divine aura that pervades Palani atmosphere defies description. On Thai Pusam day, Palani looks enchanting.
One sees a sea of humanity here, eager to immerse them in Muruga experience. Everywhere, one hears the names of the Lord. As the mantra, "Hara Haro Hara" reverberates, the whole atmosphere is charged with the air of divinity. For everyone assembled here, no other thought occupies the mind except that of Muruga.
When Thai Pusam comes near, we only think of Palani. Thai Pusam has become synonymous with Palani, the abode of Muruga. With the advent of Thai Pusam, a steady stream of devotees starts flowing towards Palani. They come from different regions, from far and near to converge at Palani. They may have differences like caste and class but while heading towards Palani, they are all united in their devotion towards Muruga. There may be young ones, old ones, women and men, rich and poor but all of them have one aim; to reach the Lotus Feet of Muruga, the Lord of infinite grace. They may be engaged in different occupations but they all consider worshipping Dhandayuthapani as their primary occupation.
The word 'Thai Pusam' is the combination of two words Thai which refers to the Tamil month and Pusam which refers to the star (nakshatram). The day of Pusam star in the month of Thai is considered very auspicious. The very purpose of Muruga manifesting in earth is to destroy the evil forces represented by Sooran and establish Dharma. On Thai Pusam day, Mother Parvati gives Muruga the all-powerful Vel (the spear). It is this image; Muruga holding the powerful Vel, sitting majestically on his transport, peacock, that we see in the Lord's third abode, Tiruvavinankudi in Palani.
The Vel that Parvati gives to Muruga is such a powerful weapon that it excels the power of Siva's Trishula, Vishnu's Chakra and Indira's Vajrayudha. With the lance presented by Parvati, Muruga attains victory over evil forces represented by Soorapadman. Therefore, Thai Pusam is celebrated as a mark of victory of good over evil.
The lance (Vel) is not a mere weapon. The Vel goes by different name; Jnana Vel, the Vel that gives knowledge (jnana), Sakti Vel, the Vel that gives power and energy, Vetri Vel, the Vel that brings success. The Vel (lance) therefore has not only the power to destroy but also the power to create, protect, succeed and enlighten. It radiates the light of knowledge and so it is called Kadir Vel.
The formation of the Vel indicates that it is the source of all knowledge. The lower part that runs deeper and lengthy indicates that true knowledge should be deep and not peripheral. The wider portion at the top represents the vastness of knowledge. Finally, the pointed edge of the Vel indicates that knowledge should be sharp. Arunagirinathar has composed many songs like Vel Virutham on the significance of Vel. According to Arunagirinathar, Vel has the power to ward off the consequences arising out of karma (Vinai Theerkum Kadir vel).
Just as Tiru Avinangudi temple, the temple atop the Palani hill is also considered very sacred and important. Saint Bhogar, a Siddhar, is credited with the creation of the idol of Palani Dhandayuthapani. Many years later, perhaps between the 7th and 11th centuries C.E., Cheraman Perumal, a ruler of Kerala, the contemporary of Saint Sundarar, built the temple around the shrine. Later, the Nayaks and Pandya kings developed this temple.
Thai Pusam is the most important event in the hill temple of Palani. Elaborate arrangements are made well in advance. Thai Pusam festivities start ten days in advance and culminate on Poosam day. On the Poosam day, Palani becomes heaven on earth.
The pilgrims visiting the Palani Hill for Thai Pusam have defined what true devotion is. They do not just pack their luggage, take a train or bus, and reach Palani. Most of them make preparations well in advance. A true devotee who seeks the blessings of Palani Andavar makes sure that he is pure in mind and body. He goes beyond the influence of senses. His attention is always centered on God.
Another unique feature that distinguishes a Muruga devotee is the vibhuti (sacred ashes) smeared over his forehead and body. Vibhuti signifies pure devotion. It is made by burning dried cow-dung and is associated with Lord Siva who appears clad in vibhuti always. Vibhuti gives us the grim reminder that what we consider as precious would turn into ashes.
In his Subrahmanya Bhujangam, Adi Sankara says: "Apply vibhuti and free your body from all diseases." Siva Purana speaks highly of the value of vibhuti. In his Arumugam Arumugam song, Arunagirinathar says that one who applies vibhuti is worthy of reverence. In another song rendered at Kasi, Arunagirinathar says, "As we worship you with our body smeared with vibhuti, oh Muruga, grace us the knowledge to reach your Lotus Feet" (tiru neeri poosi meipadha mana sevadi kana vaitharul jnana makiya bodhakathinaiyeyumararul purivaye …..Dharanikkadhi).
The devotees visiting Palani at Thai Pusam observe strict discipline and celibacy. They start fasting 41 days in advance. Just before Thai Pusam, they start their marathon journey barefoot only, chanting the mantra, 'Hara Haro! Hara Hara!’ Though transport facilities are available, many pilgrims come to Palani by trekking difficult terrains and walking long distance. Most of them carry the Kavadi on their shoulders.
Some devotees adopt the extreme ritual of piercing Vel through their cheeks. It is enough if we show devotion by means of Bhajan, service and surrender. Some devotees shave off their head as a mark of sacrifice. Though the devotees in general, undergo many sufferings, during the journey to temple, one cannot see any sign of tiredness or stress on their face.
Some devotees generally stay in the Kozhummam Iyyerval Chatram, popularly known as Iyyerval Chatram, and perform Kavadi Puja and bhajans there. Ultimately, when they reach the top of the hill, their excitement reaches the crescendo and they dance in ecstasy.
As you arrive at Palani on the occasion of Thai Pusam, what attracts you most is Kavadi. Wherever you see, you find Kavadi. Kavadi is an arch-like wooden canopy, beautifully decorated and carried on the shoulders.
According to legend, Saint Agasthyar, an ardent devotee of Lord Siva, had asked his disciple, Idumbasuran to bring the two hillocks, Sivagiri and Saktigiri from Mount Kailasa to the South for his worship. Idumban connected the two hillocks with the help of a wooden piece in the centre and tied the loose ends with snakes and proceeded towards South.
On reaching south, he placed them at a spot for taking rest. Later, when he tried to lift it, he could not. He then saw a youth wearing a piece of loincloth and holding a staff (danda) atop the hill. He asked the lad to move away. But the child, claiming right over the hill, refused to oblige. Soon Idumban realised that the boy was none other than Lord Muruga and paid obeisance to him. Lord Muruga showered his blessings and proclaimed that anyone coming to his abode with similar arch-like objects would be graced by the Lord. The Kavadi form of worship became the usual practice.
Many artists swing and dance by balancing the Kavadi over their head. It is a marvelous sight even children and women carrying Kavadi on their shoulders walking towards the top of the hill with extreme devotion. The number of Kavadis reaching the Palani hill on the occasion of Thai Pusam is estimated at around fifty thousand.
Having taken the arduous journey to Palani and having trekked the hill, when at last the devotees return to the ground, they are very tired, exhausted and hungry. Where would they go for lunch? Who will feed them? Having come to seek the blessings of Muruga, can they go back hungry? "No," said some of the devotees from Kerala who had come to Palani during Thai Pusam. These devotees who came as a group from Kerala felt that they should do something to satisfy the hunger of pilgrims.
Thaadi Mani Iyer, who was doing hotel business at Koduvayur near Palakkad, and his friends collected some money and arranged meals for a few. That was the beginning of a new scheme of Annadhanam (mass feeding). Initially, while staying at a Chatram (choultry), they procured the materials necessary, prepared food and served few people only. Gradually, the Annadhanam scheme developed. Sri Nelluva Narayana Iyer, Sri Anamala Ramachandra Iyer, Sri Palani Muttiah and many others lent their solid support. Contributions started pouring in.
This happened nearly a century ago. Soon, the Annadhanam movement gained momentum. The organizers thought that there is nothing greater than serving the devotees of Lord Muruga. They believed that doing service and feeding the hungry devotees is equal to worshipping Muruga. Serving the Muruga devotees is serving Muruga.
Soon an institution was established at Kozhikode called the Tiru Palani Thai Pusam Annadana Sangham. As the number of mouths to be fed increased, the donations which came in the form of money and materials also increased. In order to regularize the transaction, the Tiru Palani Thai Pusam Annadana Sangham was registered and proper accounts maintained. The silent service which the Sangham has been doing for years has been appreciated by many. This year, 2015, the Sangham will be celebrating the 85th anniversary of Annadhanam service with justifiable pride.
To the ever-increasing number of devotees who climb the hill to worship Muruga, the Lord showers his bountiful blessings. "Palani Dhandayuthapani is the Lord of abundant grace, the ultimate refuge for the people caught in the illusions of life. He is Kali Yuga Varada, the Lord who protects the devotees in this age of Kali Yuga. He is the Lord who leads the people from darkness to light", said Sri V.S. Lakshminarayanan, an active member of Tirupalani Thai Pusam Annadana Sangham who does textile business at Thrissur.
Palani temple finds mention in many religious texts and literature. Many saints have highlighted the glory of Palani Andavar in their songs. Saint Arunagirinathar has composed over 90 songs about Palani Andavar and about Bala Murugan at Tiru Avinangudi, at the base of the hill. Some of the notable songs are Arumugam Arumugam, Ulaga Pasu Pasa, etc.
An important ritual done to the Dhandapani idol is Abhishekam or anointment. Though Abhishekam is done with various items like pure water, sandalwood paste, vibhuti (sacred ash), milk, etc., the most prominent Abhishekam is done with panchamirtham; a sacred paste made with jaggery, ripe hill plantain, dates, etc. The word amritam in Sanskrit means immortality. Every devotee returning from Palani carries the panchamirtham as the Prasadam. Needless to mention, the devotee returning from Palani after worshipping Dhandayuthapani feels liberated from the ocean of Samsara and finds unity with Muruga.
What is the message that we get from Palani Andavar? Muruga's father, Siva is the source of all knowledge. Muruga's mother, Parvati, is the embodiment of power (sakti). Having inherited the combined qualities of his parents, knowledge and power, Muruga has become the Lord Supreme, unequalled and unparalleled.

Yet, Lord Muruga has renounced everything, went atop the hill and stands with bare loincloth. He stands there as an andi (penniless mendicant). The message he gives is very loud and clear; stop coveting wealth, stop going after material pursuits, stop acquiring possessions and properties and adopt simplicity and humbleness. Let us distance ourselves from this world of illusion and try to reach Muruga, the eternal reality.

Palani Murugan Temple – Panguni Uthiram Festival

Palani Murugan Temple – Panguni Uthiram Festival
Palani's most important festival is Panguni Uttiram in March-April on the day Uttiram star (nakshatra) is ascendant. This ten-day event at the Tiru Avinangudi temple, at the foot of the hill occurs in the off-season and so agriculturists and other rural folk participate in it and give offerings of paddy to the temple.
Some of the monthly kirttikais draw a crowd of one lakh; the Karthikai Deepam and Vaikasi Visagam get two lakhs of persons each. The same may be said of Skanda Sashti. Three lakhs of persons attend the Thai Pusam. Panguni Uttiram spectacle has been estimated at five lakhs of simple and unsophisticated people with formidable faith in the Lord.
On each day, the Utsava deity of Muthukumara Swami along with his consorts Valli and Teyvannai is taken in procession in the forenoon and again at night. On some days, the procession covers the Giri Veedhi around the hill of the temple of Lord Dhandayuthapani. Groups of trained Thevaram musicians sing Thirupugazh and other hymns in chorus at these processions.
The deity is mounted in chapparam, ivory palanquin, Kamadhenu, golden peacock, goat, silver elephant, silver chariot, golden horse and other Vahanas (carriers) at street level and on the fifth day in the golden car atop the hill. The seventh day, the Panguni Uttiram is the day of days. The deity is taken to the waters for a dip at dawn. Pair of wooden sandals, Kavadi and Idumban Thadi is also anointed.
This is followed by Maha Abhishekam before noon. In the evening, the large chariot is drawn by thousands of people—the high and the low—with great devotion and humility.
The temple car or chariot of the deity is a popular feature of the religious scene in Tamil Nadu. No one dares to think it derogatory to pull the chariot. The ancient rulers themselves led the pulling. People flock in strength to help the chariot move and it is the tradition to compare large crowds to 'those which throng to draw temple-cars'.
Built of wood by skilled craftsmen, with intricate carved designs, the temple car is a picture of symmetry. The canopy is ornamental and has an imposing appearance, as it rises tier by tier. The car is mounted on heavy wooden wheels. Its movement is slow. The procession halts at stops known as mandapams constructed specially for this purpose. At these places, customary offerings are made.
On the eighth day, near the Vaiyapuri tank, all eyes are turned towards the sky to watch the illumination of crackers (Vaana Vedikkai). The deity is richly dressed and bedecked with jewels, in different styles throughout the festival period. Electrical illumination is done on a lavish scale. Religious discourses are given by a team of eminent scholars.
The festival season is a music season as well, with well-known artistes giving vocal and instrumental concerts. Nayyandi Melam, Villup Pattu (Bow Song), Harikatha Kalakshepam (extempore telling of epic stories), Pommalattam (Shadow Play) Karakam dance (dancing with a pot over the head), etc., are the other attractions providing feast to the senses.
Feeding of feed to the poor is arranged by several institutions that have endowments for this noble purpose. During the course of the festival, the deity's spirit is believed to enter some devotees who will thereupon act as though they are in a state of delirium and prophecise coming events.
A hundred thousand people—in some year’s even larger numbers—shave off their heads, as penance and offer their fondly cultivated scalp to the deity, during this festival. In short, Panguni Uttiram is a festival that has to be seen to be believed.
This also is a very important festival here, and is celebrated for 10 days; devotees carry Kavadies with holy water (from sacred rivers), sugar, tender coconut etc. During these 10 days, we can see various rural dances like "Oyilattam, Thappattam, Dhidumattam, Velanattam, Samiyattam"etc., along with rural songs. The rural music is an important part of Panguni Uthiram festival.
The main feature of Panguni Uthiram is the offering of "Theertham" (Posts of Holy water) from Kodumudi. Lord Palaniandavar is given Abhishekam with this holy water. The devotees carrying Kavadi to Palani sing Kavadi - songs throughout their 'Padayathra' and these songs are ancient oral songs.

On the 1st day, there is flag hoisting at Tiruvavinankudi Temple and on all the 10 days Lord Muthukumara Swamy with Sri Valli and Sri Deivanai goes in procession around the Palani Hill. On the 7th day there is "Car Festival" and this is attended by thousands of devotees. During these days the Lord also is given special reception and pooja at many 'mandapams' in the Palani Adivaram area. It is a grand sight to see Lord Muruga with his concerts during these processions.