Thiruvannaamalai is home to the Annamalaiyar Temple. This temple is located at the foot of the Annamalai hill and is one of the great Shiva temples of Tamil Nadu. I visited Thiruvannaamalai back in September, but returned there two nights ago to take part in a Hindu celebration.
Every year (the following details are from Wikipedia), there are four "Brahmotsavams," or celebrations. The most famous one is celebrated in the Tamil month of Karthikai or December. This is a ten day event that culminates on the full moon with the lighting of a huge lamp (composed of a cauldron filled with three tons of ghee) on the peak of Annamalai Hill. The full moon that occurs during this celebration is known as the Chitra Powrnami and on this day, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from across the world visit this small city to see the temple and to circumambulate the hill - walking a distance of about 14 kilometers...barefoot.
Tuesday night, the 1st of December, we joined the Hindu pilgrims in Thiruvannaamalai to experience this celebration. Although we didn't circumamublate the hill, we did walk about 8 kilometers barefoot. I'm not really sure how to describe this experience except to say that it was a truly intense amount of human beings. People were streaming down the street for hours and when we left at around 1 a.m. there were still thousands more heading into the city. I honestly believe that there were more than one million people on the streets that night.
Since I can't really explain the feeling that I had that night, I hope the video below can convey a small bit of what the atmosphere was like...