The Tamil festival of Karthigai Deepam is celebrated with great fervor and devotion in the hill town of Tiruvannamalai. Deepam means `light` and `karthigai` stands for the Tamil month. A beacon of light is lit atop the Arunachala hill and worshipped every year on the full moon day of the month of Karthigai on the day of Krittika star.
Puranas say that the holy place of Tiruvannamalai is one of the panchamahabhootas representing the element of fire. It is called Agnishetra as it was the supreme Lord Shiva who manifested as an eternal column of light before Vishnu and Brahma. The linga form of Shiva in the temple is called Agni Linga.
Legend of Arunachala Hill
There was a battle between Brahma and Vishnu over supremacy of each one`s powers. To teach them a lesson that all powers rest with the eternal Brahman, embodied as Shiva, Shiva took the form of Jyothi or light. He asked both Brahma and Vishnu to find out the beginning and the end of this light form of Shiva. He said the successful one would be the greatest.
Vishnu assumed the form of Varaha or boar and dug deep into the earth to find out the source of the light. Brahma took the form of a swan to find the end of this blazing light. Both were failed in their attempts as the huge pillar of light had no beginning or end. Both prayed humbly before Shiva and asked for forgiveness. The light stands there as a form of a hill and worshipped every year on this day, to drive away the dark forces from our lives and invite the blessings of Holy Shiva.
Greatness of Karthigai Deepam
Scriptures glorify the greatness of the hill through poems and verses. Sage Sankara in his literary works refers to this hill as Mount Meru. Some regard it as Sri Chakra and saints Like Sambandar have told in their poems that the light seen on top of the mountain on this day is Arunachala himself.
It is on this sacred hill that the Mahadeepam is lit on the day of Karthigai deepam festival. The divine energies of Shiva emitted in the form of light are radiated all over the cosmos. It is said that a mere sight of this holy light is enough to burn away the heaps of bad karma accumulated over several births. Worshipping this light on this day will usher in prosperity, resolution of long standing quarrels, peace and moksha.
Muruga and Star Krittika
It was in the month of Karthigai, on the star day of kritikka that Lord Muruga manifested as six fiery sparks from the third eye of Shiva. The six sparks turned as six babies and Goddess Parvati united them as one in the holy lake of Sravana or Ganges. The birth of Muruga is significant in the destruction of evil and triumph of truth. Lord Muruga is invoked today and prayers are offered to him through lighting ghee lamps in the household along with special food offerings.
Written by Donatella Lalitha Riback