Karthigai Deepam festival, the festival of lamps, is one of the oldest of Tamil
festivals. A festival of lights, ushering in prosperity and joy.
Karthigai Deepam is celebrated in the month of 'Karthigai' (October-November) This festival is celebrated when the full moon is in conjunction with the constellation Karthigai. It is the festival of lights, continued from Diwali.
Legend of Siva (Arunachaleshwara) in Thiruvannamalai, has a special significance with regards to the celebration of Karthigai Deepam-the festival of lamps. Brahma and Vishnu entered into an argument with each other, as to who was the powerful of the two. Lord Siva arose as a huge column of fire, of immeasurable height and humbled Brahma and Vishnu, for they failed to scale Him. Since then a huge cauldron, used as a lamp, is lit atop the Hill of Thiruvannamalai, commemorating the event. (Read detailed account)
The birth of Lord Murugan also holds special significance to the celebration of Karthigai Deepam festival, the festival of lamps. It was on this day that Lord Muruga who first incarnated as six infants, (out from six sparks from the third eye of Lord Siva, in Saravana Poigai (a holy tank) ), was conjoined into one, with the embrace of Goddess Parvati.
Celebrating Karthigai Deepam
People in Tamil Nadu follow Karthigai Deepam as an extension of Diwali. People keep increasing the number of lamps day by day, after Diwali, up till the Karthigai Deepam festival. Some others observe the last three days up to full moon day, which is celebrated as Karthigai Deepam festival, the festival of lamps.
It is a luminous sight to see little lamp arrayed on the extension, in front of the houses, in the courtyard were they are placed on Kolams (Rangolis), on windows, at the backyard etc. It is a beautiful sight in the villages, where houses are lined; little flames appear in an unending extension.
People also burst crackers and celebrate the festival. The temples are all lit up and special prayers are offered. The observance of Karthigai Deepam festival, the festival of lamps, is believed to bring in fresh hope, peace, prosperity and happiness in one's life.
The spiritual significance of celebrating Karthigai Deepam festival, is symbolised in the functioning of a lamp. The oil used to light the lamp, symbolises the innate tendencies in one, which, is responsible for the ego to thrive. The wick is the ego. The flame of the lamp symbolises, spiritual knowledge, which empties the oil, as it also burns the wick, the ego(body, mind complex). With the draining of the innate tendencies and the burning of the wick, one attains the spiritual goal, the realisation of the ultimate truth.
Further more, the little flames of different lamps, symbolise the essence of universal oneness.
Let us thus celebrate Karthigai Deepam festival-the festival of lamps, understanding its significance.
The 10-day Karthigai Deepam festival observed at the famous Sri Arunachaleswarar Temple in Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, culminates with the Maha Deepam lit atop the Annamalai Hills. The Maha Deepam represents Lord Shiva, who appeared in the form of a pillar of fire with no end and beginning (Jyotirlinga) before Brahma and Vishnu. Karthigai Deepam festival, observed in Tamil month Kartika, is more than 3000 years old and is mentioned in the early Tamil scriptures. In 2010, the date of Tiruvannamalai Maha Karthigai Deepam is November 21.
Legend has it once Lord Vishnu and Brahma wanted to know who was the greatest. After an intense debate they sought the help of Lord Shiva.
Lord Shiva said that he who can find the origin or end of his form is the greatest. Lord Shiva appeared before Lord Vishnu and Brahma in the form of a pillar of fire with no beginning and end. This form is referred as Jyotirlinga.
Lord Brahma assumed the form of a swan and Lord Vishnu the form of a boar and conducted an elaborate search to find the end or beginning of the flame. Soon they realized that the Supreme Being has no end or beginning.
The Tiruvannamalai Maha Deepam atop the Annamalai Hills commemorates the appearance of Lord Shiva in the form of Jyotirlinga.
The cauldron for lighting the Mahadeepam is taken to the top of the Annamalai hill through a seven kilometer route. The cauldron is ten feet in height and five feet in diameter and is carried on poles by the Nattar, temple authorities assigned for the job.
Atop the Tiruvannamalai hill, the cauldron is filled with thousands of kilograms of ghee. A wick measuring more than 300 meters is made using special cloth and is inserted in the cauldron