Karthigai Deepam is a Hindu festival which is celebrated mainly by Tamil Hindus. The day of Karthigai Deepam is fixed based on Tamil Solar Calendar. It falls in the month of Karthikai when Karthigai Nakshatra prevails during Ratrimana. This is also the time when Karthigai Nakshatra coincides with Pournami, the full moon day in the month of Karthikai.
Karthigai Deepam at Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleshwara Swamy temple
Karthigai Deepam festivities at Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleshwara Swamy temple are the most famous one and popularly known as Karthikai Brahmotsavam. Karthigai Deepam festivity at Thiruvannamalai temple spans for 10 days. The celebration begins with Dwajarohanam on the day when Nakshatra Uthiraadam prevails at sunrise. Most of the time, Nakshatra Uthiraadam prevails 10 days before the main Karthigai Deepam day.
Karthigai Deepam should not be confused with Bharani Deepam which is inaugural ritual of Karthigai Deepam. Bharani Deepam is done before sunrise at 4 a.m. . Bharani Deepam day falls one day before or on the same day of Karthigai Deepam. Bharani Deepam is lit inside the temple premises when Bharani Nakshatra prevails. In most years Bharani Deepam is lit at 4 a.m. on the same day of Karthigai Deepam.
Karthigai Deepam is lit after sunset at 6 p.m. with the flame taken from Bharani Deepam. In the evening flame is carried at the top of the hill to light the Karthigai Maha Deepam.
Karthigai Deepam is also spelled as Karthikai Deepam.
Karthikai Deepam is a Hindu specially Hindu Tamils and Hindu Telugu festival. The festival is observed in every home and every temple, and falls in the month of Kārttikai (mid-November to mid-December) as per Tamil calendar.
This occurs on the day when the moon is in conjunction with the constellation Karthigai (Pleiades) and pournami. This constellation appears as a group of six stars in the firmament in the shape of a pendant from the ear.
Many legends and lyrical poetry have grown round this star. The six stars are considered in Indian mythology as the six celestial nymphs who reared the six babies in the saravana tank which later were joined together to form the six faced Muruga. He is therefore called Karthikeya, the one brought up by the Karthigai nymphs. Houses and streets are lit up with rows of oil lamps (Deepam) in the evening of the festival day.
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 month of Karthigai, as per South Indian calendar. It was one of the most important festivals (peruvizha) of the ancient Tamils, including now the areas of modern Kerala too. Avaiyyar, the renowned poetess of those times, refers to the festival in her songs. Karthikai Deepam is one of the oldest festivals celebrated by Tamil people. The festival finds reference in Sangam literature like Ahananuru and the poems of Auvaiyar.
Lord Shiva appeared as an endless flame of light before Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma, who each considered himself supreme and said that the matter could be tested if the two could search for Lord Shiva's Head and feet. Lord Vishnu took the form of a boar(Sanskrit:Varaha, Tamil:Varaham(pandri) ) and delved deep into the earth, Lord Brahma that of a swan(Sanskrit:Hamsa, Tamil:Annam) and flew towards the skies. Lord Vishnu failed in his search and returned. But Lord Brahma, chancing upon a piece of Thazhambu, a flower, learnt from it that it had been floating down for thirty thousand years from Lord Shiva's head. He seized upon this and claimed to Lord Shiva that he had seen the other's top. Lord Siva realized the falsehood and pronounced that there would never be a temple for Lord Brahma in this world. He also interdicted the use of the flower Thazhambu in his worship. Lord Shiva appeared as a flame, this day is called karthikai maha Deepam.