Thirukarthigai Deepam, an exciting Hindu festival

Karthikai Deepam

Among the Shiva temples of India, Thiruvannamalai temple in  Thiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu is closely associated with Thirukarthigai Deepam that comes in the Tamil month  of Karthigai (November - December) on Pournami day (Full moon day).  The moon is in union  with the constellation Karthigai (Pleiades) and Pournami (full moon). Being an important Hindu festival, it is celebrated on such a grand scale, this ten day festival attracts as many as  800,000 people from Tamil Nadu and other parts of India. On the Thirukarthigai/Karthigai Deepam day, the houses are  decorated with a series of oil lamps and this  year, the festival  falls on 12 December 2016. The 10-day grand  festival began reverentially with the hoisting of the holy flag at the Sri Arunachaleswarar temple here ten days ago between 7.15 a.m. and 8.30 a.m. on Saturday.

Karthigai DeepamTemplefolks

Arunachaleswar temple.ThiruvnnamalaiTamil Nadu TemplePurohit

Thiru Karthigai deepam  is about Lord Shiva - famous Cosmic dancer, symbolic of eternity, who appeared as a tall pillar of gigantic fire before God Brahma and God Vishnu who had a  serious verbal duel over  their supremacy without concentrating on their  divine duties. This face-off became a serious issue, involving self-importance and vanity.  Their ego and veil of arrogance were torn apart and they became subdued when both of them could not find either the crown or the bottom of the fiery pillar of Shiva who acted as a mediator between two gods. The day on  which the God appeared as a pillar of fire is Thirukarthigai / Karthigai Deepam. Here at the temple town of Tiruvannamalai, Lord Shiva appeared as a hill - Arunachala  (holy fire hill).

Location map. tiruvannamalai online

Hence here Lord Shiva is an embodiment of fire, one of the Pancha Boothas (five essential elements) and the Shiva Linga here is called Agni Lingam. Here he is "Jyothi Swarupam"; being the God of light, he gets  rid of our ignorance and leads us from darkness to light. The lighting of  oil lamps at homes and temples has been a  Hindu tradition and is considered as an  auspicious religious duty. That is the reason why the oil lamp is lit in the temples and homes symbolically followed by lightning of  giant oil lamp on the hill of Arunachala behind the temple.

Tiruvannamalai, TN : Arunachaleswarar TempleTripAdvisor

 According to the Hindu mythology, on this day, Lord Shiva blessed the six nymphs with immortality as they brought up Karthikaya /Muruga  (in the tank called Saravana) with care and affection, they at last became six stars (Pleiades) in the firmament, a lasting tribute to them for their services to the Almighty. They are called Karthigai kannigas.  He created Karthikaya  to kill the demon king Soorapadhman who caused lots of trouble to the Devas and holy saints. Hence Lord Subramanya has six abodes / shrines (in Tamil : Aarupadai Veedu) in Tamil Nadu and  in Murugan temples, this festival is observed with devotion and bakthi. Further, Karthigai deepam marks the birth day of Lord Karthikaya, the second son of Lord Shiva, first being Lord Ganesa.

Karthigi Deepam on the Arunachala hill, Thruvannamalai.

 As part of ten day 10 festival, every day on the four Mada Streets around the temple as in the past,  well-decorated deities  would be taken in a  procession on different chariots and mounts. It is a custom to bring out the temple car / chariot / ther on the seventh day and this month it took place on 9 December. Five decorated wooden chariots carrying deities were pulled manually by people in hundreds all along the four Maada street. The most important event Thiru Karthigai Maha Deepam will be on the evening of December 12, as mentioned above,  and it is followed by  the three-day float festival (Theppa Thiruvizha).

For Kathigai Deepam event alone,  it is expected about 700,000 people will be visiting this temple town. During the entire festival days, this place is reverberated  with devotional hymns on Lord Shiva rendered with religious fervor.

 On the evening of this festival, women, wearing the new dress, light rows of oil lamps at homes and around the houses. Through out the state of Tamil Nadu, in the evening oil lamps  are lit at home and temples only after the giant Karthigai Deepam is lit on the Arunachala hill at Thiruvannamalai. The belief is that Thirukarthigai Deepam festival, in the ensuing year, will  usher in peace and prosperity to the home and society, besides, the sanctity of the places is further purified. Yet another fact is lighting of oil lamps at home will guard the home dwellers from evil spirits, black magic and spells.

Kumaranalloor Temple, Kottayam ,Kerala,Navrang India

Girivalam (in Sanskrit Giri means hill; Valam in Tamil means going around clockwise) -  the act of going around the holy Arunachala mountain once is an important religious undertaking among the devotees. On the Thirukarthigai day and on other auspicious days - preferably on the full moon day, people in thousands do Girivalam here. It is expected a large section of the people  would be performing “Girivalam” around the hill, when the Maha Deepam is lit on the 12 th December evening.