About Karthigai Deepam Festival
ROWS OF agal vilakkus in front of every house... this is the image that at once comes to mind when we think of Karthigai Deepam - the festival of lights that is celebrated throughout Tamil Nadu during the month of Karthigai (November-December). Not many of us are aware that it is one of the oldest festivals celebrated in the State, perhaps even before people began celebrating Deepavali and Navaratri.
Earliest References to Karthigai Deepam Festival
Unlike many other Hindu festivals, Karthigai is basically a Tamil festival and is virtually unknown in most other parts of the country.
One of the earliest references to the festival is found in the Ahananuru, a book of poems, which dates back to the Sangam Age (200 B.C. to 300 A.D.). The Ahananuru clearly states that Karthigai is celebrated on the full moon day (pournami) of the Tamil month of Karthigai. It was one of the most important festivals (peruvizha) of the ancient Tamils. Avaiyyar, the renowned poetess of those times, refers to the festival in her songs.
The Legend of Karthigai Deepam
Legend has it that Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma began to quarrel as to who was the more powerful of the two. While they were fighting, Lord Shiva appeared before them in the form of a huge pillar of fire. Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma gave up quarreling and decided to find the top and the bottom of the pillar.
Accordingly, Brahma assumed the form of a swan and moved upwards. Vishnu transformed himself into a boar and started digging deep into the earth. But even after searching for several years, neither of the two was able to find the ends the pillar. Finally, they realised that the pillar was none other than Lord Shiva.
Soon afterwards, Lord Shiva appeared as a hill (Arunachala Hill) at Tiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu. Indeed, the very names `Tiruvannamalai' and `Arunachala' translate into `holy fire hill.' The Shivalinga in the temple here is the agni linga. The tiny lamps lit during the Karthigai festival (Karthigai Deepam) are believed to be the miniature replicas of the fire linga. Every year thousands of devotees from Chennai and elsewhere flock to Tiruvannamalai to see the spectacular Karthigai Deepam there
Celebrations of The Karthigai Deepam Festival
The Karthigai Deepam festival is celebrated in the Tamil Month of Karthigai (November - December).
Karthigai is essentially a festival of lamps. The lighted lamp is considered an auspicious symbol. It is believed to ward off evil forces and usher in prosperity and joy. While the lighted lamp is important for all Hindu rituals and festivals, it is indispensable for Karthigai.
- - It begins on Uttradam day with flag hoisting and goes on for nine days.
- - In the early hours of the tenth day, Bharani Deepam in five agantams is lit in Arunachaleswarar's Sannithi.
- - In the evening, the Pancha Murthis are brought to the Katchi Mandapam.
- - At dusk (the Karthigai day synchronizing with the full moon day), the deity, Ardhanareeswarar is taken out to this place with the five deepams. The deepams are put in a big receptacle near the flug-stuff.
- - At the same time the beacon light on the hill is lit. The huge concourse of devotees from all parts of our country in a million voice raise a cry simultaneously "Harohara to Annamalai" which rents the air. It is a sight for the Gods to see!
- - At homes Karthigai Deepam greetings and Karthigai Deepam wishes are exchanged amongst family and friends. Females prepare colourful Karthigai Deepam Kolams and roll out delicious Karthigai Deepam recipes from their kitchen to celebrate the festivals. The Karthigai deepam songs further enhance the joyous celebration mood.