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The Elephanta Caves

The Elephanta Caves , located on Elephanta Island, or Gharapuri, about 11 Km off the coast of the Gateway of India, Mumbai, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A visit to these caves, excavated probably in the 6 th century CE, is awe-inspiring, and also thought-provoking. Over the years, I have visited the caves a number of times, and also attended a number of talks by experts in the fields of art, history and archaeology on the caves. Together, they help me understand these caves, their art, and the people they were created for, just a little bit better. Every new visit, every new talk, every new article I read about the caves, fleshes out the image of what the island and the caves would have been like, at their peak. I last wrote about the caves on this blog, in 2011, almost exactly 11 years ago. Since then, my understanding of the caves has, I would like to think, marginally improved. Hence this attempt to write a new and updated post, trying to bring to life, the caves of Elephan

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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