Fascinating Thirukarthika festival of Kerala

Thirukarthika, kerala.mathrubhumi.com

Thirukarthika. divineinfoguru.com

In the SW state of Kerala   Karthika, or Thrikartika, the festival of lights  is celebrated  on the Karthika Nakshatra (star) in the Malayalam month of Vrischikam (November – December).  Particularly, in South Kerala it is popular.  On the festival day  19  November 2021-  the full moon day  Hindu  houses, streets and temples are well lit with traditional oil lamps.  it is a  3 day festival in Kerala -  Nov 19 to 21 coinciding with  Kaarthika, Rohini and Makayiram Nakshatra days in Vrischika Masam (Nov. Dec) it is similar to karthikai deepam of Tamil  Nadu and  Karthic Purnima of other states.

Though Thrikarthika festival is not dedicated to any particular God or Goddess in Hindu pantheon, the belief has been that on this day God Shiva appears as a giant pillar of fire (Agni)  covering earth and heaven  emphasizing that the God is all-pervading and  omnipresent. God Shiva represents five important natural elements like water,  air, earth, fire (agni) and  akash (sky); without them survival on the planet is impossible. Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleswar temple, Tamil Nadu  where  Shiva is in the form of Agni,  assumes much importance on Karthikai day. Some  Scholars claim that it represents an early form of Nature worship.   Thirukarthika day  also marks the birth of God Karthikaya (Muruga) from the sparks of the 3rd eye of God Shiva. Muruga was  created by Shiva to annihilate a demon

In Kerala on the Thrikarthika day after sunset, houses, streets and temples are  meticulously decorated with special oil lamps. In the past devotees used  to make  lamps from  the shell of Marotika. Not any more, nowadays earthen lamps or bass lamps are used, Clay  diya (known as idinjil or chirathu)  is widely used in rural places.

Vaikom Mahadeva temple, kerala bhaktikishakti.com

Thrukarthika or Karthikai deepam festival has been around  in  south India for centuries and it symbolizes removal of  evil forces, ignorance, ego, arrogance and other negative elements and inviting positivity  in our lives. Lighting oil lamps is a sort of dedication to the boundlessness  of  mighty god.  Celebrated on the full Moon day or karthikai pournima, in Kerala and elsewhere,  devotees welcome  Goddess Karthiyayeni  to give them prosperity, peace of mind and good health.  

In the Hindu religion lighting oil lamps is  not only an  important  puja ritual but is also associated with various auspicious ceremonies and functions  like wedding, opening business,  Grihapravesam (occupation of newly built home), etc.  So in the month of Karthikai lighting  special  oils lamps in the Hindu homes and temples is quite indispensable. Lighting oil lamps is an auspicious way of  spreading positivity in  around the place and unwanted dark forces will be driven away for good.

 In Kerala special food  called  Karthika puzhukku is made using   using Tapioca, elephant yam and other tubers with lot of grated coconut on the day. In places like  Thiruvananthapuram 'ella appam' is preparedistead  of puzhukku.

Chottanikara Bhagavathy temple, Ernakulam.ndiaholidays.wordpress.com



The devotees need to do the following on the day of karthikai deepam: 

01. On the day of  Thirukarthika,   devotee - male or female must wear clean clothes after early morning head bath and later puja/prayer.

02. The entire household  including  floors must be well cleaned, particularly, the front parts,  gate and  open passage to the house. 

03.  Going on a fast on the karthikai day is not mandatory as in the case of Ekadashi. However, one may fast partially (by skipping  night meal). It all depends on devotee's discretion.

04. If you have old earthen lamps stored up in a place for a long time, it is a must to clean them up in the morning so that they could be used in the same evening to light up the lamps.  Devotees can make what is called maavillakku

05. Decorating the front part of the entrance to the house  with colorful kolam or rangoli is a must. After sun down  oil lamps are kept at certain places on the kolam  to create a geometric pattern. This is often accompanied with flower decoration in many places. 

06. Inside homes, lamps should be kept burning through out the day and night in the puja room.

07. It is well and good to keep  lamps in all rooms in the safe corners to dispel darkness and negativity. In some households  to have better look, series of oil lamps are kept on both side of the stairways and entrance ways. 

08.  In Kerala special oil lamps (lamps made out of clay, referred in Malayalam as chirad) and candles  are used as an offering to Goddess (Bhagavathy) on her birthday. The stems of banana (plantain) and tender leaves of coconut tree are used to decorate the Thrikarthika lamps. The lamps are placed on the banana stems supported by coconut leaves.

09. It is well and good if you visit the near-by temple and join the group of devotees who draw big Kolams there.

Karthikai Deepam. Sabarimalai temple.dinamalar.com

Karhkai deepam, Sabari Malai, Kerala. .facebook.com

At the  Sabarimala Temple, Kerala  on this day it is  decorated with colorful flowers and lamps.  As part of the Karthika Deepam celebrations, diyas and lamps are  lit on the temple premises. Devotees  offer   prayers in the shrine, light up  lamps and decorate the temple with colorful flowers. The festival is linked with Prabodhini Ekadashi  marking the end of   Chaturmas, a four-month period when Lord Vishnu is believed to be in deep meditation. Oil lamps will be lit all over the temple including  18 steps accessing the shrine.


The hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa, according to the temple authorities,  in Sabarimala was opened for devotees for the two-month pilgrimage season on November 16. Devotees are allowed inside the temple in accordance with  strict COVID-19 protocol,