1) What is Annabhishekam?
Annabishekam is a festival celebrated to Lord Siva the Preserver of Annam.
Annabhishekam is held on full moon day in the seventh month of every year - i.e. Aippasi (Tamil calendar) Asvina (Hindu calendar) (October/ November) on 18th. October 2013 for Siva Lingam, presiding deity of all Siva Temples in South India. Devotees believe that performing Annabhishekam to the Lord on this day would rid them of all their problems.
2) How Annbishekam is celebrated?
Step 1 - What is Abhishekam?
Abhishekam is the process of bathing the deity. According to Siva Agamas (pooja rules) abhishekam is considered as one part of the shodashopachara pooja. Siva Agamas give lot of importance to abhishekam in Siva pooja and it makes the ceremonies many times more effective. Priest may perform Abhishekam by simply using holy water or perform elaborately with milk, curds, honey, ghee, sugar, coconut water, holy ash, sandal paste, fruit juice etc.
Lord Siva will be pleased by the process of bathing with the prescribed eleven ingredients like water, milk, curd, ghee, honey etc. If you pour a drop of water on the ‘Linga form' you will receive the blessings of Lord Siva. HE will remove all your difficulties and will grace with happiness and joy.
Step 2 - Annabhishekam: A Thanks Giving Festival
The seventh month in the calendar is the holy month. According to astrology Sun resides in the house / rasi Libra. The harvesting of paddy in Tamil Nadu would have got completed by this time. People are more interested in thanking Lord Siva with Annam (cooked fragrant rice). They believe that Lord Siva has only created annam (cooked rice) and HE alone offers His grace and protects His subjects with annam (cooked rice).
Step 3 - Siva Lingam: An Abstract Form of Lord Siva
Since Lord Shiva is widely worshipped in the form of the Siva linga as well as presiding deity, annabhisekam will be performed only to Siva lingam. Siva linga form has three parts. The four-sided lower-most part forms the base and is known as avudai. The ‘Yoni' or octagonal eight-sided pedestal (mid-part) is provided with a passage for draining away the water or other liquids poured on top by devotees. The ‘Lingam' or cylidrical shaped top most part remains on the pedestal. The height of lingam is one-third of its circumference. The three parts of lingam symbolize the trinity of Hindu pantheon i.e. Brahma (the creator) resides at the bottom, Vishnu (the preserver) resides in the middle and Shiva (the destroyer) resides on the top.
Step 4 - Eleven Ingredients Prescribed for Abhishekam
The Shiva Linga abhishekam is done with the prescribed 11 ingredients:
1) Gingely oil
2) Pancha kavyam (mixture of five ingredients i.e. milk, curd or yoghurt, ghee and cows urine)
3) Panchamrutham (mixture of five ingredients i.e. fruit, jaggery, ghee, honey and sugar candy)
6) Curd or yoghurt
8) Sugar cane juice
9) Lime juice
10) Tender coconut water
11) Sandal paste
Step 5 - Annabhishekam
Annabhishekam is performed next to milk on this specific day. During abhishekam ‘Sri Rudram' (hymn at chapter 16 & 18 of Yajurveda part of veda) is chanted. Rhythm chanting of the Sri Rudram will purify the entire atmosphere. Sri Rudra has eleven sections. Similarly Lord Siva has eleven forms (Ekadasa Rudra). Annabhisekam will take place mostly in the evening. In some temples it may take place in the noon.
The Siva Linga will be covered with cooked rice. They may even cover the floor of the sanctum sanctorium and may extend up to the steps. They will use the snacks like Vadai, appam to decorate the deity. They will also use vegetables and fruits. As a result the Siva Linga will appear with eyes, ear, nose and mouth. The fruits and vegetables will be piled up on the floor and steps. The ‘harathi' will be followed. The Siva linga will remain covered with annam for about one yamam, or one and half hours.
Step 6 - Lord Siva: Preserver of Annam
Lord Siva is the preserver of annam (Annanam Pathaye Namaha). He is considered as annam and he is also the consumer of annam (Ahamannam .. Ahamannatho). The devotees believe that anyone who witnesses annabhshekam will be relived from the troubles of rebirth.
Step 7 - Maha Harathi
Devotees will collect the cooked rice covered around Lingam and immerse it in rivers or ponds. The cooked rice used to cover the base and floor will be collected and distributed to devotees.
After removal of the cooked rice, the Siva Linga will have abhishekam with the remaining five ingredients (Total ingredients: eleven - Five before annabhishekam). After this the main deity will be decorated with clothes and jewels. The Maha Harathi will be shown to the deity. With this the annabhishekam will be concluded.
Annabhishekam with cooked rice to Lingam is an annual ritual in all Siva Temples. But it is a daily ritual at Thiruvanaikoil. In Thiruvannamalai it is done during ‘Karthigai festival'. In Palani it is done during the Tamil month Aani.