Karthigai Deepam..

Posted by redthil On 11/26/2007 01:47:00 PM

ROWS OF agal vilakkus in front of every house... this is the image that at once comes to mind when we think of Karthigai Deepam - the festival of lights that is celebrated throughout Tamil Nadu during the month of Karthigai (November-December). Not many of us are aware that it is one of the oldest festivals celebrated in the State, perhaps even before people began celebrating Deepavali and Navarathri. Also, unlike many other Hindu festivals, Karthigai is basically a Tamil festival and is virtually unknown in most other parts of the country.

Karthigai Deepam is essentially a festival of lamps. The lighted lamp is considered an auspicious symbol. It is believed to ward off evil forces and usher in prosperity and joy. While the lighted lamp is important for all Hindu rituals and festivals, it is indispensable for Karthigai.

Evidence from Tamil literature:

Evidence from Tamil literature proves that this festival is one of the oldest in the state. One of the earliest references to the festival is found in the Ahananuru, a book of poems, which dates back to the Sangam Age (200 B.C. to 300 A.D.). The Ahananuru clearly states that Karthigai is celebrated on the full moon day (pournami) of the Tamil month of Karthigai. It was one of the most important festivals (peruvizha) of the ancient Tamils. Avaiyyar, the renowned poetess of those times, refers to the festival in her songs. It finds mention in Tholkappiam, Which is believed to be more than 3000 Years old, the oldest known work in the language, Seevaka Chintamani (one of the five Kappiams) also mentions the Deepam as do the two old Tamil works Kar Narpathu and Kalavazhi Narpathu.


Festival Day

It begins on Uttradam day with flag hoisting and goes on the nine days. In the early hours of the tenth day Bharani Deepam in five agantams will be lit in Arunachaleswarar's Sannithi. In the evening, the Pancha Murthis will be brought to the Katchi Mandapam. At dusk (Pradosha) the Karthigai day synchronizing with the full moon day, the deity, Ardhanareeswarar is taken out to this place with the five deepams, which are put in a big receptacle near the flug-stuff. At the same time the beacon light on the hill is lit. The huge concourse of devotees from all parts of our country in a million voice raise a cry simultaneously "Harohara to Annamalai" which will rend the air. It is a sight for the Gods to see!
The lighting of the beacon on the top of the hill is the culmination of ten days of hectic activity in the temple town. Houses and streets are lit up with rows of oil lamps (Deepam) the evening of the festival day.


What history says..

There is an interesting story explaining the link between Karthigai and lamps. Legend has it that Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma began to quarrel as to who was the more powerful of the two. While they were fighting, Lord Shiva appeared before them in the form of a huge pillar of fire. Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma gave up quarrelling and decided to find the top and the bottom of the pillar.

Accordingly, Brahma assumed the form of a swan and moved upwards. Vishnu transformed himself into a boar and started digging deep into the earth. But even after searching for several years, neither of the two was able to find the ends the pillar. Finally, they realised that the pillar was none other than Lord Shiva.

Soon afterwards, Lord Shiva appeared as a hill (Arunachala Hill) at Tiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu. Indeed, the very names `Tiruvannamalai' and `Arunachala' translate as `holy fire hill.' The Shivalinga in the temple here is the agni linga. The tiny lamps lit during the Karthigai festival (Karthigai Deepam) are believed to be the miniature replicas of the fire linga. Every year thousands of devotees from Chennai and elsewhere flock to Tiruvannamalai to see the spectacular Karthigai Deepam there.


The highlights of the Festival are :

Kalpagavritcha vahanam and kamathenu vahanam

Rishaba vahanam

Silver Car

Procession in five wooden cars
On the main and final day of the festival, the Bharani Deepam will be lit in the Sanctum Sanctorum early in the Morning. The Maha Deepam will be lit on the hill top on the evening (at 6 pm). The Deepam can be seen even from a distance of 35 km. The lighting of the Maha Deepam will take place simultaneously with Deeparadhanam to the five deities in the temple at the foot of the hill.

Preperation for the Deepam:
The Kopparai (cauldron) is taken to the top of the hill through a seven kilometer long route. The cauldron, ten feet high and five feet in diameter is carried on poles shoved into three handles on each side. The task of carrying the vat is assigned to the Nattar (Sembadavargal), who, numbering about fifteen, take turns to shoulder this sacred load.
Atop the hill, the cauldron is filled with tins of ghee and wick, which is made of "ghada" cloth measuring more than 350 meters. Nearly thousand kilograms of ghee is used to burn the flame, Which when lit, shoots up to seven feet and can be seen as a point of light from a 35 km radius.

The ghee keeps the flame burning for nearly a week. At the end of it, after due ceremonies are performed, the Nattar (Sembadavargal) bring down the cauldron.

On the day of the Deepam is lit, devotees also trek to the top of the hill to make personal offerings of ghee which is poured into the cauldron by two Nattar (Sembadavargal) and two temple staff, on attendance throughout. A long pole is used to pour the ghee into the vessel from about ten feet. The Nattar (Sembadavargal), of course, get a bit closer to the flame, as their bodies have become used to the heat.

At the top of the hill, there is just enough space to accommodate hundred persons. Before lighting, the wick is immersed in ghee and then dumped in to the vat, which is already full of ghee and camphor. The whole concoction is lit at a signal (usually around 6 pm) from near the temple where fireworks are set off.

The festival is well-known all over Tamil Nadu and is attended in large number. Actually in every home in Tamilnadu can be seen rows of lights (oil lamps) lit in the front, and it presents a beautiful sight. It is a day of festival of lights.


Have a look at this video clip also...




Thanks to...

http://www.tamilnadu-tourism.com/tamilnadu-festivals/karthigai-deepam.html
http://www.arunachalasamudra.org
http://www.poonja.com/deepam.htm
http://arunachalagrace.blogspot.com/2007/11/deepam-day.html ( Here you can find a beautiful narration which describes the events of this day, in stirring, graphic language )

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