Rare Anna Abhishekam on the Pournami day (October), Thanjavur Big temple, TN

old image. Anna Abhishekam. maalaimalar.com

Thanjavur Brihadeeswarar temple, TN 3tdesign.edu.

Anna Abhishekam  is an important  temple annual ritual of  bathing the deity with cooked rice, etc to express our gratitude to the deity for providing good rain and sumptuous harvest of food grains. When the ritual is on  ''Sri Rudram” is chanted continuously throughout the ceremony.  Quite common in the Shiva temples of south India  where the deity is in the form of  ''linga''  (the phallic symbol of Lord Shiva’s energy) it is done on  the Full Moon day (pournami) in the Tamil month of Aippasi (mid-Oct to mid-Nov). This ritual is also called  Maha Anna Abhishekam. 

At the popular Thanjavur Brihadeeswara temple (Peruvudaiyar kovil) Anna Abhishekam was done on the Pournami day with religious fervor. The interesting facts are about 1000 kg of cooked rice 150kg of fruits and 350 kg of various vegetable were used for the Anna Abhishekam. Because of Chandra Grahanam (Moon Eclipse), the pujas were conducted before 3 pm and the devotees can have darshan till 7 pm. The cooked rice, etc will be distributed among the visiting devotees. An unusual feature is because of Chandra Grahan , the temple will be closed around 7 pm.. 

front towers Thanjavur Brihadeeswarar temple, TN 3tdesign.edu

Rice is a symbol of prosperity, richness and welfare  and Anna Abhishekam is an expression of our indebtedness to Lord Shiva  who personifies Pancha Boothas - five essential  natural elements that sustain life on earth.  Rice is an outcome of the union of the five elements of nature. When the seed is sown in the land, it is nourished by water from the sky, fire (energy) from the Sun and is transformed into paddy with the help of wind. This is processed into rice and is fed to all living entities. Such is the significance of Anna Abhishekam.

Among the Shiva temples,  abhishekam  is part of daily puja ritual  before decorating the deity and doing Aarti. About Abhishekam  is done with sacred items like  holy water, cow’s milk, ghee (clarified butter), coconut water, sugarcane juice, sandalwood paste, Vibhuti (sacred ash), curd, panchamirtham (made of  5 fruit items including bananas, dates, honey, crystal sugar, etc.), mango powder, rice and turmeric powder.  Anna   abhishekam is a rare ritual and the cooked rice is commonly used followed by sandalwood paste or turmeric water. Abhishekam  is also  done in  temples  dedicated to  goddesses.  In the case of Sri Vishnu temples, it is done rarely. ''Thaila Kappu'' is a common ritual and  it involves applying herbal oil on the moolavar idol  before decoration of the deity with flowers, jewels, etc.

Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple templeknowledge.com

Above image: Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple was completed in 1035 CE by King Rajendra Chola to commemorate his victory over the Gangai region over Pala dynasty.............. 

At Thanjavur temple, it is said that lots of devotees from this city and neighboring place witnessed this rare Anna Abhishekam event. Anna Abhishekam was also done in Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple (Ariyalur district)  built by King Rajendra Chola, son of king Rajaraja chola who built the big temple more than 1010 years ago using primarily hard stones - granite and gneissic rocks of Archean group - more than 3.5 million years old.