''Karthigai deepam'', Thiruvannamalai,TN a mega festival in which safety and security precautions play a vital role

Karthigai maha deepam, Thiruvannamalai, TN religionworld.in

At the popular  Arrunachaleswar temple, Thiruvannamalai the annual Maha Deepam festival - a 9 day event is a  big festival and the main event will take place on the 6th of December at 6 pm in the evening and same day  the morning ritual of lighting up Bharani deepam will take place on the temple premises.at 4 am.  This Shiva temple here  represents Agni - one of the five essential events -Pancha boothas, so  utmost importance is given to the celebration of Karthigai deepam at this huge temple. 

Annamalai deepam, TN maalaimalar.com

It is believed to be one of the oldest Hindu festival in India and has been around for centuries. The Arunachaleswar temple at Thiruvannamalai is the main venue of this important Hindu festival.  God Shiva, the Cosmic Dancer- symbolic of eternity appeared as a column of fire stretching the heaven and earth before God Vishnu and God Brahma. Bharani deepam is lit in the shine of Arunachaleswar.  In the evening Pancha Murthis - five idols are taken to the Katchi Mantap.   In the evening coinciding with pradosham and full moon- Karthigai day, the utchva murthy of Arunachaleswar is taken in a procession on the temple premises with five deepams. Now they are put in the cauldron near the Dwajasthambham (flag pole) and  immediately on the Arunachala hill behind the temple,  the huge oil lamp (cauldron containing three tons of ghee and a giant wick)  is lit around 6 pm.  Across this town and Tamil Nadu at millions of Hindu homes  earthen oil  lamps will be lit by the women folks. You will hear ''Annamalaikku Arohara'' or ''Shivaya Namaha'' in one voice raised by millions of devotees from other states as well. Karthigai deepam festival (that began on Uttradam day) symbolizes negation of negative forces such as arrogance ego, etc., and creation of positivity - confidence, self contentment, etc., to face challenges all through  our sea-saw life journey. 

Arunachaleswar temple, Thiruvannamalai, TN.upload.wikimedia.org

The following precautions are taken judiciously by the state government for the Karthigai deepam festival of this year:

01.This year in view of heavy rush to the temple town,  the District Administration (DA) has beefed up  its  security arrangements. Roughly around 25 lakh devotees will be attending the long event  and on the last day of the festival  the crowds will be heavy. 

02. The HR & CE and the DA  will  provide passes to about 4,000 and 6,000 visitors for Barani Deepam at 4 am  and Maha Deepam 6 pm respectively to be in the temple complex Besides  with Passes only 2,500 persons will be allowed to climb the holy 2,668 foot-tall Arunachala hill  for the Maha Deepam 6 pm. Registration for the purpose will start from 6 a.m onwards on December 6 on first-come-first-serve basis in the temple. Applicants will be photographed before issuing the passes.  Devotional hymns by Nayanmars (Shavite Tamil saints) will be sung glorifying the  deities -Annamalaiyar Shiva  and Unnamulaiamman - Parvati  as part of puja rituals. 

03.Considering the huge rush of devotees during the Deepam festival, a local holiday has been declared for schools, colleges and State government-run organizations . To compensate, December 17 will be a working day.

04.The DA already has identified 23 vulnerable spots, especially on the girivalam path and near the temple and made adequate security to protect the visitors from many places

05. Police 12,097 police personnel will be deployed at vantage points all along the 14-km-long girivalam path. 

06. Basic amenities include 209 water taps, including 51 ROs, 423 toilets  at 85 locations, 1,218 streetlights and 33 high mast lamps, etc in the town, especially around Arunchalaeswarar temple and the girivalam path. 

07.The entire town will be kept clean as much as possible and for this purpose  2,925 sanitary will be working round the clock. and garbage bins  are set at 460 locations. 

08.Annadhanam (offering free food) is an integral part of Hindu temple worship across India and this mammoth festival is no exception. At around  101 locations  Annadhanam  will be provided to the needy people.

09. As  terrorism, trouble making by certain anti-national groups  are a menace to the peace-loving society, Police have identified more than 20 sensitive spots in the town and they have installed  266 CCTV cameras, including 97 on girivalam path (around the holy Arunachala hill) to keep an eye on the culprits and punks who get mingled with the devotees. Since the bomb explosions at Coimbatore and Mangalore the police department's senior officials have been extra cautious. 

10. Not to compromise on security lapses Police have also set up 57 watch towers at busy areas - intersections, crowded streets, entry and exit routes of the town and girivalam path to keep an eye on the suspicious people. Besides, there  are 35 help desks to help visitors including foreign tourists.

11. Handling the arrival of roughly 20 to 25  lakhs of people to a small town is not an easy job and the DA and the police started making preparations long before the beginning of the festival period November 27 and December 6.

12. So with respect to transportation, nine temporary bus terminals are set up to meet the needs of the people  and about 2,692 special buses will be plying during the festival period. Also included are 100 free shuttle services between the terminus and the temple. School buses and  and private buses are used for the purpose. The Southern railways will operate  14 special trains from various places to this town for the devotees ”

13. Yet another plus point is to avoid fleecing by autorickshaw wallas   the  DA has also fixed autorickshaw rates during the festival. Auto rickshaw charges up to a distance of 2.5 km per person is fixed at ₹30 and ₹50 for beyond.

14. As for medical emergencies temple town during the festival period will also have 18 medical teams, 25 ambulances including 10 bike ambulances 

15. Besides a  total of 26 fire trucks and 600 fire fighters will be on duty.  

16. As the temple is surrounded by thick reserve forests, 150 forest officials will be on duty during the festivities to handle emergency operations along with the fire fighters. Example- stampede. etc. 

17. A novel method of  using  Wristbands for children along with their parents name, phone number,, etc is introduced to help  those devotees who bring their children to Tiruvannamalai town  along with them for the festival.  The DA has procured   about 20,000 bands  for the purpose.