Thursday, December 11, 2008

Karthigai Deeepam

Karthigai Deeepam, or Karthika Deepam, is the festival of lights in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. In Tamil Nadu, it is observed on the full moon day in the month of Karthigai (November-December). In Kerala, the festival is known as Trikartika or Kartika Vilaku and is held in the month of Vrichikam (November – December). The star Krithika also has significance in the observation of this festival and so takes the name Krithika Deepotsava or Thirukkarthikkai. Others observe this in the lunar month of Karthika or Margashira, on the full-moon day (Poornima) or next, hence the name Karthika Poornima. Karthigai Deeepam is also known as Bharani Deepam and Vishnu Deepam in Tamil Nadu and is an auspicious day for both Shaivites and Vaishanvites.

During the Karthika month, there is a natural awakening of the centers of knowledge in the body, so it is considered a favorable month for gaining knowledge and is special for Shiva, the lord of knowledge. This is more so if the day falls on Monday. Mrigasira is special for Vishnu, as he himself declares it as his glory in the Geetha. Again, the environment, during this month, naturally facilitates the practices leading to God realization. The lighting of the lamp on the trash is to remind us that God pervades everything without exception.

Elephant lamp /Yannai villakkuon Karthigai

Once upon a time there lived a King and he had only one daughter. She loved an elephant which grew with her and she considered the elephant as her own brother. After her marriage she missed her brother elephant very much. So for every Thirukarthigai/ Karthigai deepam, she would light an elephant lamp (Gajalakshmi vilaku) and she would prepare tender coconut, elephant leg size Milagu Adai, Pori,Adhirasam,Vella Seedai and keep them as neivedhyam for this festival
A main lamp is lit in the pooja room and it is then used to light all the other hundreds of lamps. These lamps are placed inside as well as outside, on the threshold, on the walls, and around wells. It seems, some, on the next day light a lamp on the trash (carefully!). In Tamilnadu this is called “Kuppai Karthikai”.

It is celebrated in a special manner in Thiruvannamalai. Lord Shiva asksLord Brahma and Lord Vishnu to find out the exact location of his headand his feet. Since Lord Shiva takes a gigantic form, they are not ableto find out anywhere. Then Lord Shiva takes the form of a jyothi (lightof fire) on the hill of Thiruvannamali. Therefore, this festival is alsoknown as Annamalai Deepam. Here, a special torch is lighted on thezenith of the hill and it is believed that Lord Shiva's jothi will bevisible on this day.

On this day, people clean the houses. In the evening, they draw kolams(rangoli) in the front of the house and also place some lamps on it. The lamps are placed in the pooja and lighted. A main lamp is lit in the pooja room and it is then used to light all the other hundreds of lamps. These lamps are placed inside as well as outside, on the threshold, on the walls, and around wells.. People light oil lamps (earthen lamps, Kuthuvilakku, pithallai akal etc). a row of Agal Vilakkus - those little earthen lamps, with a thick wick and Iluppai Ennai, which gives a steady glow to the light even in the midst of gusty winds. The lampsglow all over the streets on this day. The lamps are arranged near thedoors and windows and also in the balconies

In the evening, when dusk settles, the Deeparathana is held before the family deity, where there is an array of brass, silver and bronze lamps, all lighted, the pride of place being given to the Pavai Vilakku and Lakshmi Vilakku. The lamps are so arranged near the doors and windows and in the balconies that they give you a warm welcome during the chilly evening of Karthigai. In this way, people of South celebrate Kaarthika Deepam for three days. It seems, some, on the next day light a lamp on the trash (carefully!). In Tamilnadu this is called “Kuppai Karthikai”
All Sumangalis and girls have an oil bath on this day. After cleaning and washing the house, mud lamps are placed on wooden planks and then lit. The place should be decorated with kolams. The brass kuthu vilakku and other oil lamps should be cleaned well, applied with sandal paste and kumkum, flowers etc. After 5 o' clock the kuthu villakku and all the mud lamps are lit. All brothers give money to their sisters and the sisters in turn pray for their brother's well being during this festival. New clothes are also offered.
During the first year after marriage, the girls will be given 'Thalai Karthikai' as a gift . Down south it is a tradition to give new set of lamps for the newly married girl from mother’s house
No Hindu festival is complete without the Neivedhyam and the Prasadams. Traditionally, the prasadam for this festival are Pori (malar) Urundai mixed with jaggery, Aval Pori, again mixed with jaggery, Nei-Appam or Athirasam , vella seedai and Adai. Sisters visit their brothers homes, and pay their respects and in return the brother gives them some gifts and blesses them and their spouses with longevity.

Importance of Karthika masam
• Lord Vishnu goes to sleep on Ashadha suddha ekadashi and wakes-up on Karthika suddha ekadashi.
• Lord Shiva killed Tripurasuras on Karthika pournami and protected the world.
• In this month Ganga (Godess of river Ganges) enters in to all rivers, canals, ponds and wells and makes them aus pious as Ganga.
• Ayyappa deeksha is also taken in Karthika masam and is continued up to Makara Sankranthi (Jan 15th)
"May the light of lights illumine you all! May Lord Shiva bless you with more light! Wishing you all a Happy Karthigai Deepam!


deeps said...

spiritual insight!

Pree said...

today's generation needs to know this.. wonderful article.. pics r looking beautiful and they have added more effect to your article..

Srikitchen said...

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Lena said...

i love reading your posts.. they give a chance to get to know about indian culture and traditions more :)
Loved the pics!

Jaishree Iyer said...

Thank u Deeps. Welcome here:)

Thank u Preets.

Thanku srilekha for information.

Thank u lena nice to know you like my post & Indian culture:)

Janaki Gopikrishna said...

good efforts in documenting the entire karthika fest.