Lakhs of devotees witnessed the lighting of the Karthigai Maha Deepam on the Tiruvannamalai hill on Tuesday. The ten-day Karthigai Deepam festival, which began with hoisting of the flag at the Sri Arunachaleswarar temple on November 18, culminated with this ritual.

Crowds had begun pour into the town from daybreak for performing ‘girivalam’ or circumambulation of the holy hill. Setting stage for the final event in the evening, the Barani Deepam was lit inside the sanctum of the temple in the early hours as thousands of devotees watched.

At 6 p.m. the ‘Deepa Nattars’, who hail from fishermen community, lit the Maha Deepam atop the hill. The Maha Deepam is a huge cauldron filled with three tonnes of ghee, with the wick made of several hundred meters of cotton cloth.

As the huge flame became visible from the hill top, lamps were lit in the temple and across the temple town and surrounding villages.

Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation operated 2,000 special buses from different towns of the State and the Railways ran special trains for the festival. State ministers Gokula Indira, M.S.M. Anandan and Mukkur N. Subramanian and District Collector Vijay Pingale were among those present at the temple.