Inspiring Thiru Annamalai temple and fire (Agni) worship

Thiruvannamalai Temple. Karthigai Deepam.Tamil Nadu,
Karthigai Deepam In Thiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu,
Karthigai festival in Tiruvannamalai town  of North west Tamil Nadu is quite famous and the temple itself is one the most popular ones in India. Among so many Shiva temples, the one at  Thiruvannamalai (dedicated to Arrunachaleswarar), celebrates this festival on a grand scale with gaiety and devotion. This year the Thiruvannamalai Karthigai Mahadeepam will be held on the evening of  November 25, 2015. It is celebrated here as a ten day festival, widely known as 'Karthigai Brahmotsavam.' The  festival begins with the hoisting of  flag,  signifying  the commencement of  festival also known as Dwajaroghana.

Nizhal Thangal, Attoor  with Agal vilakkus, Karthikai Deepam, Kanyakumari Distt,
On Karthigai  day, a huge fire lamp (Maha Deepam ) is lit up  atop the  near by hill, using special giant wick and ghee (made from butter) in huge quantity  far behind the famous Shiva temple and the deepam, several feet high, is visible for several  kilometers around in that area.  Hindu devotees visit the place, to pray and make offerings to lord Shiva. Right from  the  early morning 4 AM special prayers/ poojas are held at this temples and thousands of people begin to visit the holy place. The most important event is the  lighting of oil lamp called the ''Bharani Deepam'' on the temple premises by the priests  in the early morning after which Mahadeepam on the hill will be lit at 6 PM. Soon, in all Hindu homes in this temple town,  a series of ''Thiru karthikai villakus'' or ''Agal vilakkus ''- traditional home oil lamps made of dry clay are lit and prayers are held in their respective homes. People whitewash and decorate the houses for this purpose.  It will be mind-blowing that roughly two million people visit this well known temple town for prayer and blessings during this festival. Through out Tamil Nadu, Andhra and  in Kerala, in the evening after 6 PM, temples, homes and streets (around the temples) are decorated with traditional oil lamps. Special pujas and prayers are held in all temples  on the day. 

In Telugu households, Kaartheeka maasam (month) is considered very auspicious. It begins on the Deepavali day. Hindus there light oil lamps almost through out that month. A special feature  on Kartheeka Pournami (full moon) is,  oil lamps with 365 wicks  prepared at home, are lit in Lord Shiva temples. Besides, through out that month, in temples and households,  Kartheeka Puranam (stories from mythology) is read and people observe Virutham - fasting just by taking one meal.

The Shiva temple at Thiruvannamalai is one of the Pancha Boothasthalams (five elements essential for living beings) representing Agni (fire), the other temples represent water (Thiruvanai Kovil), earth (Kanchipuram), sky-Aakasam (Chidambaram) and air- Vaayu (Kalahasthi, in Andhra).

Karthigai Deepam at Thiruvannamalai.
Why is  Thiruvannamalai temple  considered as 'Agni Shethram' (holy place) and is well-known for Karthigai Deepam festival?  The fascinating legend,  according to the Hindu Mythology, goes like this: 

Vishnu (Protector) and Lord Brahma (creator) had an  argument with each other as to who was supreme and  they sought the council of Lord Shiva (destroyer). These Gods form the trinity. Shiva  appeared as an endless  column of flame of light (fire) before  them. He told them that the contentious issue could be resolved if  the two could search for Lord Shiva's Head (Crown) and feet (Paatham). Lord Vishnu took the form of a boar (Sanskrit:Varaha, Tamil: pandri) ) and delved deep into the earth, while  Lord Brahma that of a swan (Sanskrit:Hansa, Tamil: Annam)  flew into the sky. Lord Vishnu  made a futile attempt  and returned. But, on the other hand, Lord Brahma ran into  a piece of Thazhambu, a flower, and  learnt from it that it had been floating down for thirty thousand years from Lord Shiva's head. Anxious to win the dispute, Brahma  seized upon this  chance and lied to Lord Shiva that he had seen the Lord's Sirasu (Crown), using the flower as his witness. Lord Siva  got wild and pronounced that there would never be a temple for Lord Brahma in this world and  flower Thazhambu  was unusable for worship.  The day when Lord Shiva appeared as a  column of flame, is called 'Karthikai Maha Deepam.'The 10 day festival at Thirivannamalai comes to an end with the procession of Lord on a Rishabha vahana (Bull), fully gold plated around the streets around the temple.