This is Deepam Day - the full moon of the month of Kartikai - most holy to Hindus in the South. The holy beacon will be lighted tonight on the top of Arunachala, the Hill of Fire, which symbolizes the light of the Spirit in all hearts and in the universe. Arunachala, another name of Shiva, enthralled Sri Maharshi fifty-three years ago, when he was a mere youth in his teens and made him substance of His substance and indistinguishable from His Essence. Arunachala, a mere hill of stones, remained for him the blissful Universal Self and the Living Guru, both in one. Every year, since the foundation of this Ashram, this day has been celebrated in it with illumination, prayers, reading of the Vedas, and devotional songs, followed by distribution of several kinds of prasadam.
Tonight Sri Maharshi sat in the north verandah of the darshan hall from where he could directly see the top of the hill. All around him hundreds of devotees squatted, some on the cement verandah, but the majority on the sandy ground. Not far from his sofa stood the large brass vessel, three-quarters filled with pure ghee, surmounted by a thick wick, ready to be lighted at the right moment as the Ashram beacon, making a sacred triangle with those of the hill and of the big Arunachaleswara temple.
But this jubilation is not without a sting. Will the health of Sri Maharshi favour us with another Deepam day and be with us in the flesh, or is this to be the last? As we see him seated fresh and bright as ever, gazing expectantly at the top of his beloved Arunachala, we cannot help being optimistic of his recovery. The body which is stricken by a most malignant disease, hacked on many occasions by the surgeon’s knife, burnt by radium, and drugged by all sorts of powerful drugs, bears no trace of the agonizing ordeal in the brilliance of its eyes or in the joyful expressions of its face. What miracles are being performed in it! What are its mysteries!
Ten minutes before sunset, the time for lighting the deepam, Sri Niranjanananda Swami came on the scene. With bare breast and fresh from his bath and the Shaiva marks prominently drawn on his arms, chest and forehead, he stood by the side of the ghee basin and received the ghee offerings brought mostly by the lady-devotees and poured them into the ghee vessel. A minute or two before six, the flame suddenly leapt up on the top of the hill and our Ashram flame immediately followed it, accompanied by the reading of “nakarmana”, after which the series of chanting, singing, etc. began.