Sonntag, 14. September 2008

7.2. The Mythology

Lightening the Deepam-fire

In the Arunachala Puranam, which forms part of the Skanda Puranam, there are several legends about the origin of the holy mountain. The following is the most widely known - Vishnu (the Preserver) and Brahma (the Creator) were arguing about which of them was the greater. Their argument brought chaos on earth, so much so that the gods begged Shiva to intervene as mediator in the dispute. Consequently, Shiva manifested himself as a column of light from which his voice could be heard, saying that the one who could reach either the upper or lower end of the column, would be declared the greater. Vishnu took the shape of a boar and dug himself deep inside the earth. Brahma took the shape of a swan and soared into the air to reach the upper end. When he saw the blossom of a mountain tree floating through the air, he brought it to Shiva saying that he had found this on the summit of the column, hoping to win by deception. Vishnu, however, being unable to reach the lower end of the column, and as he recognized the highest light shining within himself, as it shines in the hearts of all creatures, lost himself in meditation. He became unconscious of his physical body and forgot himself and that he was seeking the bottom of the column of light. When he returned to Shiva, he confessed his failure and praised him with the words, “You are Selfknowledge. You are OM. You are the beginning, the middle and the end of everything. You are everything and illuminate everything.” He was thereupon recognized as the greater. Brahma, ashamed, had to admit his attempted deception and Shiva forgave him.

The story ends stating that, because the column of light was too bright, Shiva chose to manifest himself as mount Arunachala during the months of Kartikai (November/December). Arunachala therefore is regarded as adi-lingam, the first lingam, i.e. the first manifestation of Shiva, the Highest Lord, the God of all Gods and the true and absolute Self.

This legend is the basis for the annual festival of Kartikai Deepam in November/December. It is one of the oldest festivals in India and is mentioned in Tamil scriptures dating back 3,000 years. It is celebrated over ten days and culminates on the last full moon night with the festival of lights (Deepam). At six o’clock in the evening the image of Arunachaleswara is carried out of the temple in a procession. At the same moment a giant flame is lit using camphor and clarified butter (ghee) – Shiva in the form of a column of fire. For the flame nearly 1,000 kilograms of ghee are poured into an enormous vessel. The wick consists of a piece of cloth several metres long. In the dark evening sky the flame is visible in the surrounding plain over 20 miles away. For several days the flame is kept alive. Everyone who sees the flame on Arunachala considers it to be a manifestation of Shiva. It symbolizes the fact that whoever recognizes the light of all lights, which shines in his own spiritual Heart, and meditates upon it without interruption, obtains final Liberation (moksha).

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