Karthika Deepam is a festival occurring on the full moon day of the Karthika Month following Deepavali. Similar to Deepavali, Karthika Deepam is celebrated by lighting lamps in rows after rows. The festival is predominantly celebrated in south India.
Karthika Deepam festival is celebrated for three days commencing from the Pournami Tithi of Karthika month. For the Year 2021, it commences on Friday, 19th November 2021. The commencement of Karthikai Deepam always follows the “Annamalai Deepam festival” of Thiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu.
The festival is also called as Thiru Karthika, Thiru Karthikai, Kathika Purnima, Bharani Deepam, Annmalai Deepam, Vishnu Deepam and Lakshabba.
There are a few legends pertaining to the celebration of this festival.
Sri Shiv Vishwaroop
Once Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma wanted to know how big and giant Lord Shiva is. Lord Shiva wanted to teach them a lesson. He took Viswaroopam which means ‘’as big as the universe’’.
Lord Vishnu took the form of varaha (pig) and went in search of feet of Sri Shiva. Lord Brahma took the form of swan and went in search of the head of Sri Shiva. Both of them failed and accepted the supremacy of Lord Shiva.
The place where Lord Shiva had shown his Viswaroopam is called Thiru Annamalai (in Tamil Nadu) and the day He had done so is celebrated as Karthikai Deepam.
It is believed that Lord Shiva himself had become a hill there at the place of Viswaroopam and a huge lamp is lit on the excavation atop the hill.
Karthikai Deepam is also celebrated in praise of Sri Muruga, the second son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi.
It is believed that Lord Shiva had created six male children from His third eye. The six children were attributed to the six faces of Lord Shiva namely (i) Tatpurusam (concealing grace), (ii) Aghoram (annihilation), (iii) Sadyojatam (creation), (iv) Vamadevam (rejuvenation), (v) Eesanam (revealing grace) and (vi) Adhomukam (Downward facing).
These kids were brought up by six ladies named Dula, Nitatni, Abhrayanti, Varshayanti, Meghayanti and Chipunika collectively known as Karthikai girls. Goddess Parvathi had made all the six children into one and gave Her energy to Him.
Lord Shiva had granted that the six Karthigai girls would be granted immortality and would remain as six stars. Hence Karthikai Deepam is also celebrated in praise of the six Karthigai girls.
As per Tamil Calendar, the month Karthikai commences on Vruschika Sankranti. Karthikai Deepam is celebrated for three days commencing on Karthika Pournami.
The houses are cleaned. The entrance of the homes is decked up with mango leaves and palm torans. White Rangolis are drawn outside the houses with rice flour paste. The Rangoli edges are beautified with red mud called chemman.
The Puja places at homes are also cleaned and sanctified. The Deities are decorated with flowers, Chandan and Kumkum.
According to the topography of the house, the number of mud-diyas is decided. Mandatorily, minimum two diyas are lit for every door in the house. Even the entrance to the kitchen is considered even if it has no doors. After covering the doors, people also decide the number of diyas to cover their compound wall and the space within the compound.
Mostly the existing stock of mud-diyas are cleaned up. Some new diyas are bought as a custom. The new diyas are dipped in water and wiped with a clean cloth. New cotton wicks are put in the cavity of all the diyas and sesame oil or special lamp oil is filled up in the cavities. All the diyas are applied Chandan and Kumkum. A big Kuthu Villaku, a long and large metal lamp is also made ready similarly.
The dishes named Nel Pori Urundai, Aval Pori Urundai and Appam are made. Pori Urundais are made of puffed paddy and / or puffed flat rice and the thickened jaggery sauce. Appam is made of rice flour and jaggery.
In the evening, all the mud-diyas and the Kuthu Vilakku are lighted. They are kept at the Puja place. After lighting the Puja place lamps, special prayers are chanted invoking Lord Shiva and Sri Muruga. The dishes are then offered as Neivedyam.
The lighted Kuthu Vilakku is placed at the centre of the house on a rangoli. Then the ladies and the girls of the house keep the lighted diyas all over the house in the designated places. The neivedyam is then distributed amongst the family members and partaken. At times, the prasadams are offered to the neighbors as well. The crackers left over from Deepavali are burst on this day.
The second day is called as Vishnu Karthikai. The lighted mud-diyas are kept throughout the house. The third day is called as Kuppa Karthika. The lighted diyas are also kept in the wash rooms.
On the first day of Karthikai Deepam festivals, the bonfires named ‘choka paanai’ are lit in front of all the Shiva temples.