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The Vaishnodevi Experience 2023

My first trip to Vaishnodevi was unimpressive. Climbing was hard, and it only served to highlight how badly out of shape I was, while my in-laws managed to cope so much better. Further, I hadn’t quite realized that the cave experience wouldn’t be the same as I had imagined, since the original cave was only opened at certain times a year, and that we only entered a newly created tunnel, one far easier to access, and hence more manageable with the crowds that thronged the mountain shrine. The resulting experience at the shrine, for barely a fraction of a second, hardly compared to what I had expected / imagined / heard about. So, for me, Vaishnodevi was like any other temple, nothing to write home about, something that was reflected (though not explicitly mentioned) in the blog post I wrote then.

Karthikai -2009 - Bharani Deepam

Karthik – the word signifies many things – the 8th month of the Hindu calendar, and also the 3rd Nakshatram, or star, according to the Indian system of astrology. Most of all, it is one of the names of Muruga, the son of Shiva and Parvati, a name he earned, having been nurtured by the Krittikas – 6 young girls born under the Karthik star, who picked up the 6 babies born of Shiva’s sparks from the river ganga, and who merged to take the form of Karthikeya.

Karthikai Deepam is a festival celebrating this event, falling in the Karthik month on the day when the Karthik star shines above us. It is, in a way, the south Indian equivalent of Diwali, for we celebrate this day by lighting lamps all over our house.

The first day of the festival falls on the day when the ascendant star is Bharani, and is hence called “Bharani Deepam”. In our house, it is this day which is special, and we prepare a special confection of Nell Pori (paddy flakes) and Aval Pori (puffed paddy flakes). For dinner, we also make Adai (a thicker variety of Dosa) with whole grains.

Here are my pics of the celebrations – mostly my kolam with the lamps…….  Sorry for not taking any more pics, but we were rather busy with Samhith’s classes, and had no time for more…….

Meanwhile, today is Annamalai Deepam, the main day of the festival, where a huge lamp is lit on the Arunachala hill at Thiruvannamalai. We shall wait for the live coverage of the lamp being lit (on Podhigai TV) and then light our own lamps, hoping that someday, we shall be able to see the light directly rather than on TV.

There are quite a few videos of the Deepam on You-Tube, but I found an interesting blog, Living in the embrace of Arunachala , where the author, Richard Clarke, who lives with his wife in the holy town gives a day-by-day account of the festival. The narrative is interesting as well as a visual treat….. Do check it out….


  1. You know so much about the festivals!

  2. Felt like I had visited home!

    I love the nell pori..I am so grateful for being a reader of your blog . Thanks so much for the post about the festivel, the signifcance and photos, The lamps looks beautiful.

    I pray to Annamalayar to shower ur family with his choicest blessings.Wishing you a trip to thirvannamalai soon.

  3. Beautiful Pictures..And I agree with know much about the festivals :)

  4. @ Mridula : well, guess i ought to know, considering my mother and mother-in-law are festival experts, both perform so many pujas and celebrate so many festivals.. grew up with one and found myself in a house with another one..... so by now, its part of me... :-))

    @ Sri : thanks so much!! i have been to thiruvannamalai thrice, but would welcome any chance to visit it.....

    @ Tarun : thanks a lot!

  5. Hi Anu...
    Happpy karthigai deepam to you too....

    Jus lit all velakkus and now waiting to dig into pori... love eeeeet :)

  6. Nice pictures Anu.
    i watched the Arunachala jyoti yesterday. While the jyoti was lit and the Lord made an entry as the Ardhanareeshwara tears were rolling down my eyes.A great moment indeed!


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