Karthigai Deepam is one of the oldest Hindu festivals celebrated in Tamilnadu. The festival is also termed as Festival of Lights and comes on the Tamil month of Karthigai on Pournami day (Full moon day). It takes place when the star Kirthiga is on the ascendant. This corresponds to november-december according to the Gregorian calendar. Unlike many other Hindu festivals, Karthigai is basically a Tamil festival and is virtually unknown in most other parts of the country.
Karthigai Deepam History
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.). Legend has it that Brahma and Vishnu who were quarrelling for their relative greatness. Both claimed to be the greatest. At that time God Shiva appeared in the form of fire and told them whoever finds the top or bottom of the fire is the greatest. Lord Brahma took the form of a swan and Lord Vishnu in the form of a boar and tried to find the top and end of the pillar but were unsuccessful. Soon afterwards, Lord Shiva appeared as a hill (Arunachala Hill) at Tiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu. Therefore, this festival is also known as Annamalai Deepam. Even today on the top of the Tiruvannamalai Hill the light or deepam is unveiled on the Kartigai Deepam day.
Another legend has that Lord Murugan was born on this day. Lord Muruga was first incarnated as six infants in a lake called "Saravana Poigai". The six babies were looked after by the Six Krittika stars. On this day, Parvati united all his six forms and so Lord Muruga has six faces. As Muruga was born as six different babies and later joined into one he is popularly known as Aarumugan.
How is Karthigai Deepam Celebrated?
This festival is celebrated for nine auspicious days with each day having its own special importance. During this festival people clean and decorate their homes with rangoli and kolams. Rows of earthen lamps are lighted in front of houses in the evening. These lamps are believed to usher in prosperity and happiness in one’s life and ward of evil forces. The temples are all lit up and this festival is celebrated in all Siva temples. The one at Thiruvannamalai temple is most famous. Every year thousands of devotees from Chennai and elsewhere flock to Tiruvannamalai to see the spectacular of Karthigai Deepam. The lamps lit on the occasion are of varied sizes, shapes and colours. First day of this festival is called as "Appakarthigai" and the second day is called as "vadai karthigai". There is also a tradition of bursting crackers during this festival.