Aganaanooru, a book of poems which dates back to the Sangam Age (200 B.C to 300 A.D), reveals details of the Karthika festival. It clearly states this festival is celebrated on the full moon day (pournami) of the Tamil month of Karthigai. It is an ancient and one of the most important festivals of ancient Tamils. This festival finds a reference in the songs of Avaiyyar, one of the most renowned poetesses of those times. There are even inscriptions of this festival in our temples.
Thirukarthikai Deepam 2019
Karthika Nakshatram start & end time:
December 10, 5:00 am – December 11, 5:57 am
Karthika Deepam occurs on the day when the moon is in conjunction with the constellation of Karthigai and Pournami. This constellation appears to us as a group of six stars. Legends and poetry have grown around these stars.
Thirukarthigai Deepam Wishes
There goes a story that Agni carried the six sparks that emanated from the third eye of Lord Shiva and deposited them in the river, Sara Vana. Each spark was transformed into a baby on a lotus. These babies were nurtured by six celestial nymphs or Krittikas. On the auspicious day of Karthikai Deepam, Goddess Parvathi comes to merge all the six babies into a single child, Murugan with six faces. The six Krittikas were blessed with immortality to be living stars. It is to welcome them into the house that we decorate our houses with lamps.
Karthigai is essentially the festival of lamps. An illuminated lamp is considered as a favourable symbol in most cultures around the world. It is believed to keep the forces of evil at bay and bring in prosperity and joy. The illuminated lamp is very important for all Hindu rituals and festivals to become quite indispensable for Karthigai. An interesting story explains the connection between Karthigai and the lamps.
Legend has it that Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva got into a serious dispute regarding who was the more powerful of the two. Lord Shiva, to put the matter to the test, assumed the form of an endless pillar of flame and asked each of them to find the beginning and end of the flame. Lord Vishnu took on the form of a boar and delved into the depths of the earth while Lord Brahma took on as a swan and flew to the skies. In their deep search for many years, Lord Vishnu felt disappointed and gave up. Lord Brahma on the other hand, learned from a piece of the Thazambu flower that it had been floating down since thirty thousand years from Lord Shiva‘s head. He made use of this opportunity to claim that he had seen the top. Lord Shiva knowing the falsehood in this pronounced that there would never be a temple in the name of Lord Brahma. The use of the flower Thazambu was also forbidden in his worship. Their egos being humbled, they prayed to God with an infinite start and end. The pillar of fire that Lord Shiva appeared as is called as Thirukarthigai / Karthigai Deepam.
In the South of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, this festival also honours and celebrates the sister-brother bond as sisters pray and fast for the long life and well-being of their brothers by lighting an elephant lamp which marks as a sign of prosperity and wealth. This stems from the following story.
There lived a King who had an only daughter. There was an elephant who grew up with her and whom she was very fond of. She considered this elephant as her own brother. She began missing her brother elephant immensely, after her marriage. So for every Karthigai occasion, she would light an elephant lamp (Gajalakshmi Vilaku) and prepare tender coconut, elephant leg size Milagu Adai, Pori, Adhirasam, Vella Seedai and keep all of these as naivedhyam for the festival.
This LAMP FESTIVAL is celebrated by people of Southern India and Srilanka. Rows of Agal vilakku (lamps) are lit in every house. The lighted lamp is considered important for all Hindu rituals and festivals. In many houses, they light the lamp from the start until the end of the Karthigai month. The lamps lit on the occasion come in all sizes, shapes, and colours. Traditionally, lamps are lit in temples and agal vilakkus would adorn the thinnais (verandahs) of houses. Bigger lamps made of mud; stone and metal were lit inside homes. The ancient Tamils are said to have even imported lamps from as far as Greece and Rome.
This festival called Karthika Deepam is famous in Thiruvanamalai temple in TAMIL NADU held Nov-Dec where the Maha Deepam will be lit at around 6pm at the top of the holy hill. Lakhs of devotees will perform Girivalam on this auspicious day. The moist black ash (we call in Tamil as ‘Mai’) will be offered as a prasadam to the devotees on the Marghazhi Arudra Darisanam day.
Karthigai festival is popular in Koneshwaram, Trincomalee, SRI LANKA. The festival is celebrated for three days. The third day is named Thiru Karthigai, widely considered as the Karthigai day, when the main pooja is performed. On Karthigai day, a huge fire lamp is lit up on the hill (in both temples), visible for several kilometres around. The fire (deepam) is called Mahadeepam. Hindu devotees visit the place, to pray and make offerings to Lord Shiva.
In ANDHRA PRADESH, on the day of a full moon or Karthika pournami, a big lamp with 365 wicks is lit to ward off any evil and the holy text of Kartheeka puranam is recited to invite auspiciousness and good fortune.
In KERALA, this festival is known as Thrikarthika. On this day after sunset, all the houses, streets and temples are well lit with traditional oil lamps, made out of clay called Chirad. This is done to welcome Goddess Parvathy as she is believed to be born on this day. The stems of banana (plantain) and tender leaves of the coconut trees are used to decorate the Thrikarthika lamps. The lamps are placed on the banana stems supported by coconut leaves. The festival is mainly observed in South Kerala. Special food is prepared using Tapioca, elephant yam and other tubers with a lot of grated coconut on the day and is known as Karthika Puzhukku. One of the most famous Thrikarthika festivals is observed at the Kumaranalloor Devi Temple near Kottayam. It is part of the 10-day annual festival. On the Karthika Nakshatra day in Vrischika Masam, the arattu procession of the Devi takes place. There goes a legend that Shiva (Vadakkumnathan) comes out of the temple to have a darshan of the divine beauty of the Goddess that was worshipped in Kumaranallor Devi Temple. The deity at the Udayanapuram temple also followed suit. When the priests in the respective temples went to perform puja, they did not find the deities in sanctorum.they were found sitting in the outer compound wall of their respective temples. Hence on Thrikarthika Day, the puja is performed near the compound walls of the temple, as it is believed that on this day, the deities sit there to witness the arattu procession of Kumaranelloor Devi. The thrikarthika Desha vilakku in the temple takes place in the evening from 5:30 PM. Mother Goddess is welcomed to the Nadapanthal. Elephants clad in ornamental clothing and traditional nadaswaram music welcome her. Traditional lamps are lit in the entire temple and nearby areas.
- Cleanse yourself first. Then houses are cleaned and washed on this day. Floral patterns called ‘Kolams’ are made with rice flour paste at your doorstep and in front of your puja altar to welcome the deities of worship.
- Lamps called ‘agal’ made of earthen mud or terracotta is lit at all corners and main entrance. are then placed in front of God and are also used as decorations in the Kolams.
- Fasts are kept until sunset and special dishes are prepared to be eaten after closing the fast.
- The entire house is decorated with numerous lamps. Different patterns of lamps symbolic of mythological tales are used – Lakshmi villaku shaped like a woman with folded hands, Kuthu villaku shaped like a five-petal flower and the Gajalakshmi villaku—the elephant lamp.
- Offer delicacies to your deities to spread divinity and prosperity
The lamp, the festivities, and the spirituality remind us that goodness and optimism are what is needed to reign over evil and negativity.
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