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Hindu Tamil festival Karthikai Deepam

Updated on August 30, 2017
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Radhika has great affinity for celebrating festivals. She is also curious to know how communities rejoice in the festivities.

Karthikai deepam
Karthikai deepam | Source

The illumination caused by the traditional oil lit lamps in the evening spread the message of love everywhere. The lights brought spring into the minds that bloomed in silence....

It was the festival of Karthikai Deepam when each and every home of Tamil Hindus was lit up with oil lamps. Falling on the month of Karthikai in Tamil calendar (mid Nov to mid Dec) this festival is celebrated on full moon (Pournami) day when the moon gets connected with the constellation of Karthikai Pleiades. This constellation appears as a group of six stars in the firmament. Karthikai Deepam or Vilakku also strengthens brother and sisterly love with celebrations concerned.

Legends associated with Karthikai Deepam festival

This festival has reference in Tamil Sangam literature like Ahananuru and in some poems of the great Tamil poetess Avvaiyar. The most popular legend that flanks this festival is that of Lord Shiva. Once Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma had a fight on the supreme powers that they possessed in this universe. Seeing their dispute, Lord Shiva appeared in the form of a huge flame of fire beside them and asked them to undergo a test in which each had to search for Lord Shiva’s head and feet. Lord Vishnu took the avatar of a boar (Varahan) and delved deep into the earth. But he failed in this test and returned back. Lord Brahma became a swan (Annam) and flew towards the skies in search of the Almighty. He came across the flower, Thazhambu,that was floating down for thirty thousand years from Lord Shiva’s head. He caught hold of it and claimed Lord Shiva that he had found his head. But as it was just a lame proof, Lord Shiva didn’t approve of it and declared that there would not be a temple for Lord Brahma in this world. He also prohibited the use of Thazhambu in his worship. The hill that rose up in Thiruvannamalai after this incident is believed to be Lord Shiva.

In India, the six stars of Karthikai are considered symbolically as the six celestial nymphs who raised the six babies in the Saravana tank. They got joined together to form Muruga, also called as Karthikeya due to his association with Karthikai nymphs.

Karthikai celebrations

Nilavilakku lit up for Karthikai Deepam
Nilavilakku lit up for Karthikai Deepam | Source

On the day of Karthikai Vilakku, ladies of the households wear traditional dress and put ‘kolams’ (floor designs) in their courtyards. Placing South Indian oil lamps upon the kolams in various designs on the evening, they light them praying to God. These lamps are usually made of brass, ornamented with designs. The center of the ‘kolam’ gets illuminated with a ‘Nilavilakku’, a long lamp with a base and a curved plate on top for holding the wicks. Various kinds of lamps such as Elephant Lamp, Annam Lamp, Peacock lamp and other branched lamps together set the radiance on the day of Karthikai Deepam. The beholding vista of oil lit lamps arranged in the row houses of streets, especially in a Brahmin quarters is really inexplicable.

Various oblations in the form of eateries are made to god on Karthikai Vilakku. ‘Sarkara pori’ or puffed rice with jaggery and ‘appam’ or jaggery cum rice muffins are the indispensable items of this ritual.

Lord Shiva
Lord Shiva | Source
Kolam put for Karthikai
Kolam put for Karthikai | Source

Thiruvannamalai Deepam

The temple at Thiruvannamalai named Arunachaleshwar represents fire, one of the five basic elements of ‘Panchabhootas’ comprising air, water, fire, earth, sky or ethereal space. Karthikai Deepam is the day of Maha Deepam in Thiruvannamalai. The rituals start in the early hours of the day and the Bharani Deepam is lit at the temple. In the evening, the Mahadeepam is lit on the top of the hill. This bonfire is dedicated for Lord Shiva who is believed to have appeared as an endless huge flame beside Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma. The crowd that gathers on this day at the Arunachaleswarar temple to witness this glorious and sacred event offer prayers to attain the blessings of Lord Shiva.

Karthikai Deepam elevates the festive spirits, ushers minds with gleams and dispenses peace with rejoice.

Thiruvannamalai Mahadeepam
Thiruvannamalai Mahadeepam | Source

Do you lit lamps on the auspicious occasion of Karthikai?

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Karthikai Deepam

Thiruvannamalai Karthikai Deepam

© 2013 Radhika Sreekanth


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    • radhikasree profile image

      Radhika Sreekanth 4 years ago from Mumbai,India

      Thanks rajan jolly for reading this hub and for voting this up. It's always a pleasure to get a comment from the honorable writer of Hubpages.

    • radhikasree profile image

      Radhika Sreekanth 4 years ago from Mumbai,India

      Hi ishwaryaa22,

      Celebrating Karthikai would enrich our homes with light and love. Thank you so much for making such a nice comment and for voting and sharing.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Radhikasree, it is a pleasure reading about the Karthkai Deepam festival. Thanks for sharing information about this festival.

      voted up and interesting

    • ishwaryaa22 profile image

      Ishwaryaa Dhandapani 4 years ago from Chennai, India

      An engaging hub! I & my family celebrate this festival every year. I learnt a lot from your well-written hub. Well-done!

      Thanks for SHARING. Awesome & Interesting. Voted up

    • radhikasree profile image

      Radhika Sreekanth 4 years ago from Mumbai,India

      Thanks always exploring for making such a beautiful comment. I'm glad that you enjoyed it.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

      This is a lovely hub. The Kolam designs are beautiful. I enjoy reading about your culture, the history is fascinating. Thank you for sharing on hubpages....