The Festival of Light cum Festival of Dark

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This post began initially with blokes pouring white powder along the sides of the road, which I was informed many years ago was DDT; however Marcus tells me it is a mixture of chalk and chlorine 4:1, which does not at all change the picture: follow this link to learn why:

http://www.collective-evolution.com/2013/11/19/why-we-all-need-to-stop-cleaning-with-bleach/

So lets return to the Chlorine being plentifully poured as every year down both sides of the Tarmac on roads, particularly the hill-round-roadway on the shoulders of which heaps and heaps of food is sold to millions during this festival:

No matter how many locals you ask what is this white stuff, they all give the same Tamil answer: it means Medicine.  It also means Poison.
No matter how many locals you ask what is this white stuff, they all give the same Tamil answer: it means Medicine. It also means Poison.
These blokes seem to be doing a Poison TopUp already. . . .
These blokes seem to be doing a Poison TopUp already. . . .
. . . And these blokes are about to set up their plastic sheet to display fruit for sale right next to the border of Poison.   No problem.
. . . And these blokes are about to set up their plastic sheet to display fruit for sale right next to the border of Poison. No problem.

Right after this photo was taken the man with the broom began sweeping the chlorine powder across on to the plastic sheet on which they display the fruit they sell. The cloud of white dust billowed up and out to join the unprecedented chlorinated clouds that are one of the hallmarks of this festival

And now you can focus on Highways Department making a spectacular come-back, look:

This fruit cart has operated from the shade of this Pongam tree for many years.
This fruit cart has operated from the shade of this Pungam tree for many years.
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Notice this Neem tree is not on the road but protected from the road by the temple.

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Tomorrow I will check whether this tree remains standing.  It would be astonishing indeed if a little sign and a white flag succeeds in saving it. Especially since the sign is in English.
Tomorrow I will check whether this tree remains standing. It would be astonishing indeed if a little sign and a white flag succeeds in saving it.
Especially since the sign is in English.

(Three days later now and it’s still standing; this should make locals stand up and notice, but it won’t. For sure. Nobody’s looking.)

I asked several people why these two hundred year old trees that give us respite from an exceedingly hot climate were being cut down and the answers varied: because the Electricity Board want to move the telegraph poles, or because ‘of Deepam’, or because the road will be widened. To the last reason I countered that the big Neem is not on the road but behind the ManukuVinayager Temple and the Kali Temple occupies much more of the shoulders of the road than these trees, to which I was informed that they have machines that can lift up the Temples and move them over. But there’s nowhere to move them! They’ll do something!

Like gods these guys are.

Lots of tree-cutting has been happening all along the road, near to NandiNagar where I live for example, as mentioned in the Post called Social Insecurity. As far as I know cutting down two hundred year old trees is even stupider than pouring DDT on the sides of the road. But then, I am an honoured guest in this country: I have no Right to rage against the dying of the Light. Nevertheless sooner or later we all need to recognise that there is no human without the Right to rage against ecological degradation, injustice and exploitation.

You can see all three huge felled trunks here.
You can see all three huge felled trunks here.

I will dwell no longer on the heralding of festivities by authorised vandals; there are other signs appearing already:

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There is a small person still sleeping on this bed.
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It’s all organised; you can hire everything you need.

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. . . One enterprising Tiffin Shop has already planted replacement trees and bought new green plastic chairs to match them as well as their welcoming advertisement billboard, very chic . . .
. . . One enterprising Tiffin Shop has already planted replacement trees and bought new green plastic chairs to match them as well as their welcoming advertisement billboard, very chic . . .
. . . Crowd-Control barriers will be needed soon. . .
. . . Crowd-Control barriers will be needed soon . . .
. . . A mysterious something placed on a lucrative spot . . . Possibly  a sugar-cane juicing machine . . .
. . . A mysterious something placed on a lucrative spot . . . Possibly a sugar-cane juicing machine . . .
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. . . It’s not the manning of a stall that’s so serious, it’s the having ones photo taken . . .

And here – the jewell in the crown: a whole family of happy pilgrims with shaven heads smeared with Turmeric (except for one crowning glory) and big feet:

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May they live forever.

Here’s another family to cheer us up; two of the ladies hid behind the others:

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Many more stalls sprung up overnight:

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These women wanted their photos taken. They will camp here until the festival is over, playing it all by ear; maybe they won’t need to stay up all night until two more days.

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Merchandise begins to appear . . .
Merchandise begins to appear. This man’s not selling moustached faces – he’s making good use of another political poster. His merchandise is still in plastic packets, he’s in the process of unpacking.
This stall-holder wears very dirty clothes and one foot seems badly infected, poor man will be manning this stall for at least five more days.  The woman was walking past - she just wanted to be in the photo.
This stall-holder wears very dirty clothes and one foot seems badly infected, poor man will be manning this stall for at least five more days. The woman was walking past – she just wanted to be in the photo.

A great deal of wood is piling up, being chopped ready for cooking fires:

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Thorns now protect trees and bushes where the Cattle Market will spread soon:

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Oh, there will be a Cattle Market soon; it will spread out wherever it can. Years ago it used to be the best part until I took off my Romantic Shades and penetrated the dog’s life of The Sacred Cow and all Bovines in India. (I refer you for sample to this link: http://m.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/the-sorry-tale-of-the-milch-animals/article6578663.ece/). There will be photographs of beautiful, miserable Bovines very picturesque amongst gravestones soon. Meanwhile here’s a jewell in its own crown, regard it carefully:

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This is neither an antique mechanical instrument shop, nor an antique, second-hand, nor Hire Motor-bike shop; this is another family business run by wife and daughter – it is a Tiffin Stall. People need to find someplace to sit to eat their Tiffin in amongst all Father’s toys. Very friendly shop. Great Tiffin.

Nice day for it.
Nice day for it.

Show us some Merchandise you may cry – goading Mammon on:

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Beggars are beginning to set up camp too:

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There will be more. Bus-loads of them.

Some of them appreciate shade.
Some of them appreciate shade.

This morning I went towards town anticipating Big Car Day, but it had happened yesterday. Instead I ventured into town to photograph the has-been Big Carts in Car Street – which wasn’t inspiring:

These are two of the smaller carts without their embroideries and flowers.  We missed all that.
These are two of the smaller carts without their embroideries and flowers. We missed all that.
This is The Big Cart which was also pulled around the temple yesterday by around five thousand townspeople and pilgrims.  Sorry to miss it for you; it's the one thing I usually don't miss.
This is The Big Cart which was also pulled around the temple yesterday by around five thousand townspeople and pilgrims. Sorry to miss it for you; it’s the one thing I usually don’t miss.

But don’t lose heart. Around the corner I happened upon a poster showing you how splendid it looks covered with embroideries and flowers, look:

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On Big Car Day every year another inexplicable happening is that babies whose births were in response to parents beseeching god for a child in previous years are carted
– despite the huge crowds and the presence of visiting beggar-Elephants, by family members along the same route as the carts and Elephants, in palanquins made of saris slung between two ends of sugarcane sticks. It’s a nice touch that boggles orderly minds, now conjured up for you by the fabulous synchronicity of this divine place since some of this year’s children were still being carried around today, look here are two:

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Seems we have the modern Nuclear and the Traditional Extended Family both represented for you here.

All over town there is one particular DeepamMaidMarion poster everywhere to reassure us; we need reassuring by now:

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MaidMarion’s minions have been mindful. Virtually versatile:

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The Big Temple has been gearing up:

Lots of little Palanquins here wait for the occasion when lots of little gods are carried around the temple.  In the middle if the night every night during Deepam, temple treasures such as gods are carried with much pomp around the main streets surrounding the vast temple complex
Lots of little Palanquins here wait for the occasion when lots of little gods are carried around the temple. In the middle of the night every night during Deepam, temple treasures such as gods are carried with much pomp around the main streets surrounding the vast temple complex
Bags of rice line the long arcade ready for the big cook-up
Bags of rice line the long arcade ready for the big cook-up
Ladies prepare thousands of tiny little oil lamps.
Ladies prepare thousands of tiny little oil lamps.
Ruku the Elephant will be dolled up; she doesn't seem to mind. She doesn't seem to mind anything, maybe she's drugged or a bit thick.
Ruku the Elephant will be dolled up; she doesn’t seem to mind. She doesn’t seem to mind anything, maybe she’s drugged or perhaps she’s a bit thick.

Lovely pilgrims. Lovely pilgrims.

In the streets surrounding the temple rages chaos in gay abandon; Merchandise to rival the mountain:

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There's heaps of cheap stuff for kids although curiously not so many kids in the crowds
There’s heaps of cheap stuff for kids although curiously not so many kids in the crowds
You put five rupees  in one of the robots and a Taped message gives you your fortune.  There are only five fortunes on each tape.  Perfect for the gullible masses.
You put five rupees in one of the robots and a Taped message gives you your fortune. There are only five fortunes on each tape. Perfect for the gullible masses.

There’s heaps of perfection for the gullible masses:

God pictures.  You wanna buy a god?
God pictures. You wanna buy a god?

Twenty four hours remain to entertain existential consciousness before the lighting of the giant pot of ghee on the very top of the hill – the climax of the festival. (Climax but not the end I warn you.) Buses full of pilgrims will be lined up ready to zoom out as soon as the light is lit – full of pilgrims who scooted around the hill just in time to leave at the first opportunity after the fulfilment of the pilgrimage, while millions will rage around the hill sure that the god will reward them for their effort. Right now there’s a frantic build up of action along arterial roads, and especially the hill-round-road, in town and especially in the Temple and restaurants. Toilets we do have. The cattle market is huge; the graveyard near where I live usually manages a contemplative air:

Cow-men will sleep among the tombstones.
Graveyards are good places for cattle to wait quiet.
Cow-men will sleep with their animals among the tombstones.  They build fires and drink before they crash.
Cow-men will sleep with their animals among the tombstones. They build fires and drink before they crash.

All the tiffin shops are in overdrive like this cook mixing up a huge batch of parotha dough:

Several million parotha will be served tonight and tomorrow night; they all serve parotha and sambha - usually on carcinogenic plastic however evidently when the moon is nearly full and god will reward you, you don't bother about refinements.
Several million parotha will be served tonight and tomorrow night; they all serve parotha and sambha – usually on carcinogenic plastic however evidently when the moon is nearly full and god will reward you, you don’t bother about refinements.

This festival doesn’t end until December the 7th but I am trying to be succinct to give you a general impression. It’s a big festival.

It’s now the morning of the lighting and you can still cross the road:

You can, I did.
You can, I did.

Some of my friends manning stalls nearby are rollicking along on the verge of the thick of things, sustained either by youth or Mammon, some have no choice but to stick it out:

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They automate the menu corresponding to tickets for specific orders, all the same price.  No respite for twenty-four hours raking the money in.
They automate the menu corresponding to tickets for specific orders, all the same price. No respite for twenty-four hours raking the money in.

Things get fairly thick:

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They employ bouncers to hurry people eating.  Normally breakfast here is quite good but today it was one third the price more expensive and very crappy.  That's the way money works.  It works inside people's hearts too.
They employ bouncers to hurry people eating. Normally breakfast here is quite good but today it was one third the price more expensive and very crappy. That’s the way money works. It works inside people’s hearts too.

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Thank god for carefree kids.

I can see hundreds of people are now up on the top of the hill – they take ghee up there for the giant oil lamp that will be lit this evening. This is the pinnacle, you see.

I asked the man raking in the money if he liked the festival; he beamed affirmative with gusto so I asked why he did, and he immediately put his palms together and looked up to the hill and said Swamy just as he’s supposed to say: it all hangs on this.

“Swamy” stands in for god; god is our brand-name, our logo, the icon of our success, the bestower of our wealth and reason for our existence here in this divine place. We are the myth-makers who perpetuate the myth by yearly enactment of the traditional events that draw the crowds, who bring in the lovely money. And it works. More and more people from all over India come to take part in this each year and those who don’t come – millions and millions, take part by watching it on TV, waiting for the pinnacle moment when the lamp is lit on the top and immediately joining in with lighting their own Deepam lamps and letting off sky-rockets and double-bungers. Tonight from space satellite, all India is Deepam.

This place on Earth and particularly during this festival is a superlative classic archetype for KaliYuga: a huge piece of human whankery: Spiritual Materialism at its most exotic and most gross, justified by an exquisitely immaculate emblem: one tiny little flame on top of a mountain, visible for thirty kilometres radius – a ruby cherry on a crystal cake – symbolising the goal of our other-worldly search: Enlightenment.

I commend you to a marvellous film made by Dutch Film-maker Pieter van Huystee, called Juggernaut, released 17 April, 2003; it covers the two most significant events entirely missed here: Big Car Day and the lighting of the Deepam Light.

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This was taken on my roof after the lighting amid great jubilation all about. Why no sign of the pristine little flame on the top? Well probably because of the position of the pot. The very top of the hill is quite a small space but if the pot is placed a little to the north or east the flame will not be visible on the ground close to the mountain on the South-west where I am.

The little lights in the foreground are small oil lamps placed by each household in the village. For five days now a thorn barricade has prevented anyone easily entering or exiting our small side-street – most of us stay home; tonight more than half an hour before the lighting every roof sparkled little oil lamps and villagers waited expectantly for the appearance of the little flame. However soon after the smoke appeared and the tremendous uprising response came from the millions of others who had been waiting all around the hill, my neighbours all trooped downstairs, probably to their TVs.

Since Marcus lives further away from the mountain on the North-west, he was able to see the light and take this photograph on the night, so here it is for you with thanks to Marcus:

Annamalai!
Annamalai!

Now the morning after the lighting the hill-round roadway is disgusting to every sense, here’s an icon for your vision:

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The father in the tiffin shop behind had told me yesterday that today was Rest Day so I went up to check it out; I didn’t see him but here’s what’s happening this morning in his shop:

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Tomorrow the gods come around the hill so let’s hope the Municipal Council manages to clear away most of the garbage before them; most inauspicious – one would conjecture – for the gods to glide through a garland of garbage! Surely.

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Now tomorrow is today and the gods are swanning around the hill in fine style pulled by tractors; in all their magnificence they are closely followed by the garbage truck manned by three energetic workers. The Tamils are a practical people.

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The garbage truck driver actually managed to get his puja accepted by the gods.
The garbage truck driver actually managed to get his puja accepted by the gods.
Hope I make it to face the gods before they zoom on . . . These hangers-on have grabbed a cup of tea . . .
Hope I make it to face the gods before they zoom on . . . These hangers-on have scored a cup of tea . . .
. .  Nearly there . . . Seems like more people taking photos than not . . .
. . Nearly there . . . Seems like more people taking photos than not . . .
. . .here they are . .ooops . . .
. . .here they are . .ooops . . .
. . . The most important personages in the district: Arunachalaeswara and Unnamalai.   The idea is that we all benefit from seeing them, but we just get a peak before the tractor motors start gunning up again.....
. . . The most important personages in the district: Arunachalaeswara and Unnamalai – (SivaShakti) on the right and Abhithakuchalambal – the independent Shakthi, has her own Palanquins on the left. The idea is that we all benefit from seeing them, however we just get a peak before the tractor motors start gunning up again…..
. . . You gotta be quick . . .did you get a glimpse? . . . .
. . . You gotta be quick . . .did you get a glimpse? . . . .
. .  Too late.  This one's got to go now too . .  So, that was it.  Good to see them.
. . Too late. This one’s got to go now too . . So, that was it. Good to see them.
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This Municipal Council worker will have to run with his basket of garbage to catch up with the truck. And probably leave the other pile behind. Won’t make much difference.

I’m relieved not to be compelled to end here after that sordid note; as I turned into our home street, completely disillusioned by default, two young men from this village recaptured for us the sublime dignity of that tiny little light by performing their own beautiful puja to Nandi, Lord Siva’s bovine companion who is a symbol for the Jiva, or Life-force within the gross configuration of this world. May they live forever:

Annamalai Haroghara!
Annamalai Haroghara!

11 thoughts on “The Festival of Light cum Festival of Dark

  1. Sad about the trees, in a way I am happy that I knew the old Tiru, I was there in 2004/07 etc… before much of this destruction took place, but I also realise that things should be done for the best interest of the locals living there. I love the place.

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      1. I totally agree, the old trees are best for shelter from the hot sun for the folks like the Sadhus and the ordinary folks, it is not right to take them away, as well as if they widen the roads the traffic will be more dangerous for the people, the whole area will change, not nice.

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        1. Yes. And this picture contains the artesian basin, the foundation is below ground, out of sight. Trees are our lifeline, not just here but globally. We are faced with extraordinary disempowerment here.
          Where are you now?

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  2. If there are five fortunes to be told, then I wonder what the mountain’s is? And for those who live / survive on the ring road around it, if indeed any fortune can prevail on their sun scorched homes now the trees are gone, will the human spirit be sufficient sustenance? What solace can enter in?

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