On the eighth, ninth and tenth days, there will be extra rituals apart from those mentioned earlier.
On the Eighth day, a ritual known as vaettai thiruvil(z)aa, will take place. The word vaettai literally means ‘hunting’. In this ritual, God goes in search of the deserving souls to release them from their miserable life, and He also removes the negative qualities within and without us. This noble and kind deed continues also in the thaertthiruvil(z)aa (the Chariot Festival), which takes place in the morning of the ninth day. The Chariot Festival is a soul inspiring occasion. The youths of the Temple carry Sri Valli Dhaevasenaa Samaedha Shanmuha Subramaniyar, on a gold -plated throne, to the rhythm of the hailing sound, ‘Vel, Vel!’. As they carry Sri Aarumuhar and His consorts around the inner courtyard with the accompanying hailing of Vel, Vel, it gives a feeling that the heavenly world has descended down to the Temple. Sri Aarumuhar looks gorgeous and majestic and soul-inspiring.
When the Chariot has gone around the temple, it is brought to a halt near the main entrance for a while. During this halt, the priests bathe and dress themselves in green attire and the deity is also adorned with green clothes and green garlands. This is known as pacchai saatthudhal. This ritual is meant to soothe God after the powerful and hair-raising chariot festival.
Though both vaettaitthiruvila(z)aa and thaertthiruvil(z)aa are reminders of the function of destruction, as explained earlier, it is an act of helping tired and worn out souls to take a break in their long journey toward salvation. According to Saivism, souls are continuous; they are eternal; there is no death for a soul. A soul is given a new body at each ‘birth’.
After the sthamba poojaa in the morning of the tenth day, a ritual known as soorNoatchavam is conducted. SooraNam means ‘powder’; in this context it denotes bathing powder. Turmeric, aRuhampul, and dark water lily are placed in a mortar and pounded with the pestle. This is done in a ritualistic manner. This powder is mixed with water and applied to the deities along with some oil. It is equivalent to our oil-bath. We apply oil and traditionally use the shihaikkaay powder and wash away the oil as we bathe. We go through the unpleasant experience of oil and burning eyes as we go through the process of oil-bath. This ritual, soorNotchavam, depicts the veiling function of God; it is known as maRaitthal in Tamil. It is actually the immersing of the soul into impurity by thiroadhaana sakthi. Immersing of the soul into the impurity is like applying oil and bathing powder to the body. Though the process looks like adding ‘dirt’ to the body it is meant to clean the body at the end of the bath. The soul is immersed into impurity so that it will cleanse itself by learning for the better from life’s experience, and seek God’s grace through prayers and devotion.
The deity is then taken on procession to the theppakuLam for the theertthoatchvam. At the theppakkuLam, the bathing ceremony is performed to the asthiradhaevar, who has been deputing the main deity in all the ceremonies performed during the festival. The priest, who has been taking the asthiradhaevar for all the related rituals, dips in the water with the asthiradhaevar; the Temple President also dips in the water. In this ceremony, the water is looked upon as an embodiment of God’s grace; the water which was used to bathe the asthiradhaevar is sprinkled on the devotees; prior to this the bathing paste is applied to the tip of the devotees’ clothes by means of a small bunch of aRuhampul. The sprinkling of the water on the devotees implies that the souls of the devotees are being immersed in God’s grace.
The theertthoatchavam and the rituals that take place in the evening of the tenth day are indicative of God’s graceful function. When the deities are brought from the theppakkuLam, God witnesses the last yaaga poojaa, after which the maha yaaga kumba abishegam is perfomed to the main deity.
In the evening, after the vasandha mandaba visaesha poojaa and thiru oonjal, the flag will be lowered in a solemn and serene atmosphere. Following it, the deity will be taken on procession and this time the procession will go round the outer courtyard first and around the inner courtyard later. While going round the inner courtyard, mauna utchavam will be observed.
The courtyard will be divided into eight sections; in the first section, manggala vaatthiyam will be played; this will be followed by the recital of Vedas, the singing of Thaevaaram, the blowing of the conch, thaaLa vaatthiyam, maunam (being silent and concentrating on God) and finally the playing of all the musical instruments. This ritual denotes the blissful state of the soul after it has been immersed in God’s grace. Souls become speechless while enjoying the divine blissful experience. Arunagiri Nadhar calls it, “paesaa anuboodhi” (experience beyond expression).
Next Sri Sandaesvarar will be taken on procession around the outer courtyard; those who carry Sri Sandaesvarar run fast to escape the specially prepared water which is being splashed on them. It is a merry making ritual. Finally, aachaarya utchvam takes place, where the Presiding Priest blesses all and is thanked by the President on behalf of the devotees. The Presiding Priest is carried back to his residence, where the devotees will be served with light refreshments.
The theertthoatchavam, Sandaesvara utchavam and aachaarya utchavam depict the worship to God, the Saint (devotee) and the Guru, respectively. This is collectively known as Guru-lingga-sanggama val(z)ipaadu; linggam indicates God and sanggamam indicates assembly of Saiva devotees.
Conclusion: Sandaesvarar is given a significant place in this festival. He is the representative of the devotees; he represents an enlightened soul. He goes on all the processions along with God. This shows that the flag-raising is a festival of the devotees. True devotees are most dear to God. God is most pleased if His devotees are honoured.
The flag – raising ceremony is the biggest festival in a Temple. It is inherent with all the teachings of Saivism. It benefits all in many significant ways. The great Saiva scholar Saiva Periyar Shivapathasundaram, says that witnessing the festivals becomes a theetchai (initiation into spiritual knowledge and religion by a preceptor) for those who have not gone through the initiation ceremony, the bad people, animals and birds. This statement confirms the invaluable significance and benefit of the Flag – raising ceremony.