Karthika Deepam Pooja ProcedureNovember 11, 2022
The Festival of Karthika Deepam
Karthika/Karthigai Deepam is an important Hindu festival in south India. It is a festival of lights, like Diwali. It is on the full moon day in Karthigai (Nov-Dec) month. Karthika Deepam is also known as Vishnu Deepam, Vaikhanasa Deepam, Karthigai Vilakku, Thiru Karthigai, Karthigai Nakshatra, Pancharatra Vilakku, Chokka Panai, Yanai Pandigai, etc. For both Shaivites and Vaishnavites, this is an important festival. Supposedly, it is the day on which Lord Shiva manifested as a column of fire.
Karthigai Deepam 2022 date falls on December 6. On this day, people light traditional oil lamps or diyas in the evening after sunset. Karthigai is one of the 27 Nakshatras or stars. Deepam means ‘diya’ or ‘light’. There are special Poojas and prayers at temples on this day. Also, people decorate their homes and the streets with oil lamps. Lighting lamps symbolizes auspiciousness. Devotees believe that it brings peace and prosperity.
The festival starts on the first day of the auspicious month of Karthiga, which coincides with the Diwali festival. Till the end of the month, Hindus light a lamp daily. On the day of Karthigai Deepam, they light rows of Agal vilakkus or clay oil lamps in their houses and temples. They also burn a firecracker called Karthigai chutru or Karthigai chulatru. It is a homemade firecracker, which is charcoal-based and hand-rotated.
The Myth behind Karthigai Deepam Festival
Once, Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu had a quarrel. Each claimed that he was the supreme God. The fight disturbed Lord Shiva. He appeared before them as a pillar of fire and told the two gods to find the end or beginning of the fiery column. The one who was the first to do so would be the supreme God. So Brahma took the form of a swan, while Vishnu took the form of a boar. Brahma flew up to find the end of the flame, and Vishnu dug deep into the earth to find its beginning. But they failed in their attempts.
Then they realized that Lord Shiva himself was the supreme God.
Lord Muruga’s Birth
There’s another myth about the festival, which is related to the birth of Lord Muruga. The story goes that six sparks of fire emerged from Shiva’s third eye. The sparks turned into six babies that were raised by the Karthika maidens near the banks of the Saravana Poigai lake. On this day, Goddess Parvati embraced the six babies and they fused to become one baby with six heads – Muruga. Karthigai Deepam festival is also dedicated to Lord Muruga. His birth star is also Karthigai Nakshatram.
Another story says that Lord Muruga taught the actual meaning of ‘Om’ or the Pranava Mantra to Lord Shiva. Deepam refers to lamps or light. It signifies that Shiva understood the meaning of ‘Om’ and became enlightened.
How to Celebrate Karthika Deepam
Bathe early in the morning. Clean the house and draw kolam/rangoli at your doorstep and in front of the Pooja area. This is done to welcome deities to the house.
Light Agal vilakkus (a beautiful lamp or diya made of mud or terracotta) in all corners of the house, the main entrance, and also in front of the house. The belief is that doing so can ward off evil forces.
Observe a fast if you wish. Make special dishes that you can eat at dusk after breaking the fast.
Karthigai Deepam is a festival of lights, so decorate the house with lots of lamps in different shapes and sizes, like Kuthu Vilakku, Lakshmi lamp, Gajalakshmi lamp, etc.
Offer Neivedyam to the gods and pray for the longevity and welfare of your family members.
In Andhra Pradesh, people make a lamp with 365 wicks to represent the 365 days of the year at home on this day and light it at Shiva temples to invoke his blessings. It is believed to ward off all problems. People also recite the Karthigai Puranam, as it is very auspicious. They believe that it will bring them wealth and good fortune.
Karthigai Deepam at Tiruvannamalai Temple
Karthigai Deepam festival is celebrated for three days, which are called Appa Karthigai, Vadai Karthigai, and Thiru Karthigai. On the last day, people visit local temples. Many flock to the Arunachaleswarar Swamy temple in Tiruvannamalai to worship Lord Shiva, when the Karthika Deepam Pooja is performed. The huge fire lamp, called Maha Deepam, is the biggest attraction during the Pooja. In Tiruvannamalai, the festival takes place over 10 days, and is called Karthigai Brahmotsavam. The festivities begin with Dwajarohanam on the day when the Uthradom star or Nakshatra prevails at sunrise. Rows of lamps are lighted on the Annamalai hill during the festival, and it is a breathtaking sight at dusk. On the 10th day, the Maha Deepam will be lit on top of the hill behind the temple.
The Tiruvannamalai temple is one of the Panchabootha Sthalas, representing the Fire element. Panchabootha Sthalas are important for the worship of Lord Shiva. Here, Shiva supposedly manifested as Fire. The temple is also called Dakshina Kailas. As per legend, the Annamalai hill is a Shiva linga. It is believed that many Siddhars (seers) circumambulate this hill even today, though they are invisible to human eyes.
Like Bhai Dooj and Raksha Bandhan, the Karthigai Deepam festival also celebrates the bond between brothers and sisters. The latter light lamps on this day and pray for the welfare of the former.