07 December 2011

The Festival of Karthigai Deeepam

Lord Annamalayar on Thiruvanamali Deepam 
Karthigai Deeepam, is the festival of lights in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. In 2011, the date of Karthigai Deepam is December 8.  In Tamil Nadu, it is observed on the full moon day [or a day earlier] 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]. Lighting traditional oil lamps in the evening after sunset is considered to be very auspicious on the day.

As you scroll down to read my posting...you may listen to the Video of our Dr. M. S. Subbulakshmi 's concert.   

The recording was made when M.S. Subbulakshmi gave a charity concert at the Arunachaleswarar Temple, Tiruvannamalai, in about 1973 in aid of its renovation. This is accompanied by photos of Arunachala taken mainly by Dev Gogoi, and published in his book Arunachala Mountain of Light. 

M.S. Subbulakshmi sings at the main temple at Thiruvanamalai.  [Coutersy:YouTube]

Karthigai Deepam
Karthigai Deepam is the oldest festivals celebrated in Tamil Nadu and Southern India, even before Deepavali and Navarathri celebrations. The reference of Karthigai Deepam can be found in many ancient Tamil literatures like ‘Ahananuru’ [200 B.C. to 300 A.D]) ‘Tolkappiyam' that dates back to 2,000 or 2,500 BC, 'Jeevakachintamani', an epic written by Jain poet, Thiruthakka Thevar, in the Sangam period, 'Karnarpadu', 'Kalavazhi Narpadu' dating around 1,000 BC and 'Pazhamozhi', even the famous poetess Avaiyyar, also mentions about the festival in her literary work.

Karthigai Deeepam is also observed as Bharani Deepam and Vishnu Deepam in Tamil Nadu and is an auspicious day for both Shaivites and Vaishanvites.

Bharani Deepam is observed at the famous Tiruvannamalai Temple in Tamil Nadu. It is an important ritual on the Karthigai Deepam day observed. As the name indicates, the day falls on the Bharani Nakshatra star in the Tamil Karthigai month. In 2011, Bharani Deepam date is December 8. This is an important ceremony before the big lamp is lit atop the Arunachal Mountain known as the Tiruvannamalai Maha Deepam. The flame for lighting the Arunachala Deepam atop the mountain is carried from the Bharani Deepam. A flame lit from five different lamps symbolizing earth, air, fire, water and ether is the Bharani Deepam. The Bharani Deepam is carried from the Tiruvannamalai Temple to theArunchala Mountain by a group of fishermen.

View of the Temple on Deepam -Thiruvanamalai
The full moon day in the Tamil month of Karthigai is observed as Vishnu Deepam by Lord Vishnu devotees [Vaishnavites]. The day is popularly known as Karthigai Deepam – when all houses and temples will be decorated with oil lamps after sunset. Vishnu Deepam is celebrated by lighting bonfire known as Sokkappanai in Vishnu shrines. The reason for the festival is based on Lord Vamana [Lord Thrivikrama] incarnation of Lord Vishnu. In 2010, the date of Vishnu Deepam is November 21.
Lord Vamana sending King Bali to the underworld is the basis of Vishnu Deepam. It is said that the two steps of Lord Vamana are the Uttarayan and vernal equinox. And the third step which sends Bali to the underworld is the autumn equinox. The bonfire lit on Vishnu Deepam remembers this event.

Arunachaleswarar - Thiruvanamalai

The lighting of the Bharani Deepam by the chief priest in theTiruvannamalai Temple marks the beginning of the Karthigai Deepam festival.

As is known, no South-Indian festival is without mouth-watering delicacies...You may click on the links below for the important Neyvedhyam items for this important festival:


Talk about Karthigai Deepam and the picture that comes to mind is that of rows and rows of lamps or ‘vilakku’. On this day, every Hindu home lights the traditional Vilaku [diyas] in the evening. Locally, these lamps are known as ‘agal vilakkus.’
The day is also highly auspicious for Lord Muruga devotees as he was taken care by the six Krttika stars and the celebrations on Karthigai commemorate his divine birth. In popular Tamil belief, Karthikai Nakshatra is the birthday of Murukan.

Karthigai Deeepam is celebrated as Tirukarttikai in Tamil Nadu, Kerala,Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa and in other parts of the world which has Tamil population. People light lamps outside their home. 

Row of Lamps[Agal Vilakku] 

Especially in Tiruvannamalai, rows of lamps are lighted on the hill and this is most popular Karthigai Deepam.
The lighted lamp is an auspicious symbol and it is believed to usher in prosperity and joy.

The Significance of Karthigai Deepam Festival.
Kartikai Deepam is the lighting of lamps on the Krittika or Kartika Nakshataram day in Tamil Nadu and Kerala in Karthigai month. There are several reasons or stories behind observing Karthigai Deepam. A popular belief is that the day is the birthday of Lord Muruga. The lamps are also lit for a happy married life and for the well being of children in the family.

Lord Karthikeya
Kartikai Deepam and Lord Muruga
Lord Muruga, also known as Skanda, Subrahamaniya and Kartik, was born as six different babies to Lord Shiva after he awoke from the deep meditation after Goddess Sati’s death. The six babies were looked after by the Six Krittika stars and the six children were later joined to a single force by Goddess Parvati.

Lord Muruga as Six Different Babies
Krittika is the six starts or the Pleiades cluster – when Muruga joins them as a child they make seven stars. As Muruga was born as six different babies and later joined into one He is popularly known as Aarumugan in Tamil culture.

Lord Muruga-"OM"
Lord Muruga as Kumaraguru Advising Lord Shiva
Another legend has it that the lamps lit symbolically represent knowledge, victory and peace. Muruga as Kumaraguru is believed to have taught the meaning of ‘OM’ to Lord Shiva. Thus the lamps lit on the day are in remembrance of sharing the ultimate knowledge of ‘OM.’ The knowledge of OM helps in enlightenment and emancipation.

King Bali surrendering to 
Lord Vishnu
King Bali Surrendering to Lord Vishnu
Another legend associated with Karthigai Deepam is that King Bali surrendered before Lord Vishnu. King Bali attained moksha by surrendering all his wealth and himself before Lord Vishnu. Special offerings made from puffed rice and beaten rice is believed to be due to this legend.

 Lingodhabhava Murti
Thiruvannamalai MahaDeepam and Shiva as Lingodhabhava Murti
Another popular legend associated with that of Karthigai Deepam is that of Lord Shiva appearing in the form of Lingodhbhava – a pillar of fire with no end and beginning. This is celebrated at the famous TiruvannamalaiArunachaleswar Temple as the Thiruvannamalai Deepam.
Other festivals and rituals on the day
Apart from this Lord Vishnu devotees observe Vishnu Deepam during the same period. Another ritual observed during the period is Shokka Pannai and Yaani Pandigai.
In neighboring Kerala, the day is observed as Thrikartika.

The 10-day Karthigai Deepam festival observed at the famous Sri Arunachaleswarar Temple in Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, culminates with the Maha Deepam lit atop the Annamalai Hills.  In 2011, the date of Tiruvannamalai Maha Karthigai Deepam is December 9. The Maha Deepam represents Lord Shiva, who appeared in the form of a pillar of fire with no end and beginning [Jyotirlinga] before Brahma and Vishnu. Karthigai Deepam festival, observed in Tamil month Kartika, is more than 3000 years old and is mentioned in the early Tamil scriptures.

Annamalai Deepam - Thiruvanamalai
Legend has it once Lord Vishnu and Brahma wanted to know who was the greatest. After an intense debate they sought the help of Lord Shiva.
Lord Shiva said that he who can find the origin or end of his form is the greatest. Lord Shiva appeared before Lord Vishnu and Brahma in the form of a pillar of fire with no beginning and end. This form is referred as Jyotirlinga.
Lord Brahma assumed the form of a swan and Lord Vishnu the form of a boar and conducted an elaborate search to find the end or beginning of the flame. Soon they realized that the Supreme Being has no end or beginning.

Maha Deepam - Thiruvanamalai
The Tiruvannamalai Maha Deepam atop the Annamalai Hills commemorates the appearance of Lord Shiva in the form of Jyotirlinga. 
On "Deepam", a special light floods the entire earth plane  with Karma dissolving light.  On the sages can see this light as it is of a different frequency than what the human eye can see/ detect.  To replicate this spiritual  happening, a huge lamp is lit on the top of the mountain with several thousands of gallons of oil, hand carried by pilgrims coming from all over India.   It is claimed that on the night of 'Karthigai Pournami', when the lamp is lit it can be seen across an area of 35km around the shrine.

Ardhanareeswarar appearing for a few seconds 
at the time-Rare photo
In the evening, the Pancha Murthis are brought to the Katchi Mandapam. At dusk [Pradosham], with the Karthigai day harmonizing with full moon day, the deity, Ardhanareeswarar, is taken in a grand procession on the decorated vehicle to this place with the five deepams, which are put in a big receptacle near the flag staff. 

It should be noted here that Ardhanareewarar comes out only once in the year, only for a few seconds, at the time of lighting the deepam. 

Annamalai Deepam atop the Hills 
At the same time, the guiding light on the hill is lit and huge crowd raise cry in a loud voice "Annamalaikku Arogara." It is a sight for the Gods! The lighting of the beacon on the top of the hill is the finale of ten days of merriment in the town. 

Lakhs of Devotees every year witnessing 
Annamalai Deepam
It is a noted fact that hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, saints, siddhas, devouts and seekers of the truth flock to Thiruvanamailai to walk around the mountain and witness the flame on the summiteach year at Karthigai Deepam.  Arunachala is the mountain of Thiruvanamalai that comes alive once a year and becomes the light Bridge that spans the gap between the two realities, enabling you to move gracefully between mundane or low intelligence and derive intelligence.  This mountain is called the mountain of fire and has existed in all ages in deiiferent forms.  Fire symbolizes light, consciousness and intelligence.  

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