Karthigai Deepam festival - some additional facts that we need to know!!

karthigai deepam, Tiruvannmalai temple, TN maalaimalar

 Invariably Hindu festivals and celebrations prevalent in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere  are said to be as sacred as religion itself  and have been around for centuries, promoting harmony among various communities following different cultures. There is not even an iota of doubt about their spiritual and moral connotations. The festivals and morals behind them enrich  our understanding of our life and how it is important to lead a life with integrity and commitments. They are a source of character building. There are numerous temples  in the country and almost  every temple has its own history/legend  - sthalapurana  and festivity related to it.

''Karthigai Deepam festival''  that is held in the Tamil month of Karthigai -Nov to mid December is mostly associated with Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and also  Karthikaya (God Muruga/Subramanya) in Tamil Nadu, in particular.

Arunachaleswarer temple, Tiruvannamalai, TN, Karthigai Deepam maalaimalat

01. At Murugan temples God Kartikaya's birth is celebrated with fanfare and devotion; hence the six abodes of God Muruga (''Aarupadai Veedu''  mentioned in Tamil sangam literature, "Thirumurugatrupadai'') in Tamil Nadu such as Tiruchendur, Swamimalai, Tiruparamkundram, Palani, Pazhamuthisolai and Tiruthani near Chennai come alive on this occasion. Along with Maha Deepam god's birth day is celebrated on a grand scale at the above temples. Lots of devotees throng the temples on this auspicious occasion after observing fasting, etc. At some Karhikaya temples, there will be chariot festival associated with his birth anniversary. 

According to the Hindu mythology Lord Karthikeya, was  brought up by the Karthigai nymphs. This constellation that consists of  a group of six stars and these are considered as the six celestial nymphs who reared the six babies  (created by God Shiva through his third eye) from the Saravana tank (Saravana Poigai) which later were joined together to form Lord Muruga with six faces (here the six faces imply six gunas).  The six nymphs  are worshiped by way of  lighting up rows of oil lamps (Deepam) in the evening of the festival day around the houses and streets as God Shiva bestowed them with immortality.

Rangoli/Kolam at home  Karthigai Deepam. wikihow.com

02. At Tiruvannamalai Arunachaleswarer temple, where Lord Shiva is an embodiment of Agni, this year more than one and half million  people visited the temple town during the ten-day event  and, in particular, on the 10th of December,  it was a sea of humanity close to the sprawling temple complex which is a pretty old one.

03. Lakhs of devotees thronged Tiruvannamalai to witness the lighting of  Karthigai Deepam on Tuesday - symbolic of prosperity and welfare and dispelling darkness and negativity in us.

04. Tradition has been that at this temple Akanda Deepam will be lit only after the idol of Arthanareeswarer (a half man and woman form of God Shiva) is emerged in a palanquin in the evening. He comes out of the shrine once a year. Rest of the year the shrine is closed. 

05. Besides, prior to the lighting of  Maha Deepam, an idol of Vinayakar was taken out in a procession followed by those of Murugar (Karthikaya), Arunachaleswarar, Unnamulai Amman (Parvati), Chandikeswarar and Ardhanareeswarar.

 06. Only 4000 to 5000 devotees are allowed inside the temple to witness the evening ritual of Akanda Deepam and worship of Arthanareeswarer.

07. When Akanda Deepam is lit on the temple premises, simultaneously  at 6 pm atop the holy Arunachala temple Maha Deepam is lit by a select group of devotees.

08. There are no proper roads to access the top (the hill being a sacred one, there are restrictions to disturb its nature and topography). Mind you only up to 2500 people are allowed by the District Administration  to ascend the 2668 foot hill  after getting the entry passes to witness the lighting of Maha Deepam as per Court order.

09. In the five-foot-tall copper  cauldron/ vessel  (locally called ‘Kopparai’),  filled with ghee, a big lump of camphor is also  mixed to get the huge flame going. 

10. This year 2019, the state government, official report says, close to 10,000 police personnel were deployed for crowd management (bandobast), in view of terror threats, etc by fanatics. 

11. The convention has been that soon after Maha deepam  ardent devotees undertake  barefoot walk around the holy hill called Girivalam believed to be an auspicious occasion to do it on this particular day. This year more than 100000 devotees undertook this strenuous religious undertaking with no food, chanting Shiva Nama.

12. The administration issued passes to devotees to avail themselves of free food (Anna Dhanam) available on the Prathkshana path. At selected points free food was distributed for elderly people and others.

13. At this temple town,  non -vegetarian restaurants are ordered by the authorities not to serve NV food during the festive period, in particular,  on Maha Deepam day and on the Girivalam path. Normally, NV restaurants are not allowed to function  in the vicinity of  Hindu temples.  The administration of Vishnu temples has serious restriction on NV food - eating the flesh of dead animals within a certain limit. Unfortunately,  at certain temples dedicated to Kartikaya and Shiva, NV hotels serve NV food. 

14. At Tiruvannamalai,  Maha Depam is followed by  three day float festival (Teppam in Tamil) in the near-by Ayyankulam (water tank) and  well-decorated gods and goddess Parvati will go around the tank in a  floral float.  

15. This year the Indian Railways - SR/Southern Zone ran a  Super Fast train from Ernakulam  Junction. Kerala  to Chennai Central  and Chennai Central to  Tiruvannamalai  and back - called  Karthigai Deepam Train, covering a distance of 700 km It has 12 halts to help devotees from Kerala and southern districts of Tamil Nadu to visit the grand annual festival at the holy town.
 This deepam festival is celebrated with bhati  at Thayumana Swamy, rock fort, Tiruchi city and Tiruparankundram Karthikaya temple near Madurai city.

16. This festival emphases that the God is formless. omnipresent and unfathomable.

17. This festival symbolizes  positivity and elimination of bad elements in us. It is more famous in Southern India than in the north.

18. The essence of this unique grand festival is 01. choose the path of righteousness, 02. shed arrogance, selfishness and ego and 03. Once you attain humility and contentment, you will enjoy the  true meaning of happiness. Loads of money will neither give you happiness  nor peace of mind. 

19. This year due to excess visitors to the temple town, the district administration declared a couple of days as holidays for schools, etc.