Karthikai Deepam

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For main article on Kartik poornima, see Kartik Poornima.
Karthikai Deepam
(கார்த்திகை விளக்கீடு)
/ Karthigai Vilakkidu
Karthigai Deepam.jpg

Agal vilakku (oil lamps) during the occasion of Karthigai Deepam
Observed by Tamil
Significance Formation of Arumugam (Murugan)
2015 date 25 November 2015

Karthikai Deepam[1] or Karthikai vilakkidu is a Hindu and Tamil, Festival of Lights. The festival is observed in most Hindu homes and every temple, and falls in the month of Kārttikai (mid-November to mid-December) as perTamil 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.

The story of six stars[edit]

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 incarnation of lord Shiva as his second son after lord Ganesha. Stories tells lord shiva created Muruga from his 3rd eye[note 1] of six primary faces (Tatpurusam,[note 2]Aghoram,[note 3] Sadyojatam,[note 4] Vamadevam,[note 5] Eesanam,[note 6] Adhomukam[note 7]). Stories tells the six forms made into six child and each of them brought up by the six Karthigai nymphs and later merged into one by his mother Parvati.

While merging he also formed into a six faced (Arumugam and twelve handed god. The Lord muruga is also portrayed with his six plays[2] and worshiped with six names.

As the six nymphs helped in growing the six child, lord shiva blessed immortality to the six nymphs as ever living stars on the sky. Any worship performed to this six stars is equal to worshiping lord muruga himself. They are worshiped by lit up with rows of oil lamps (Deepam) in the evening of the festival day around the souses and streets. Karthikai Deepam is also known as Kartikeya, or Muruga’s birthday.

Other Mythological Stories and Literature on this 6 stars Pleiades in folklore and literature.[3]


Karthikai Deepam

One of the earliest references to the festival is found in the Aganaanooru, a book of poems, which dates back to the Sangam Age (200 B.C. to 300 A.D.). The Aganaanooru 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 Akanaṉūṟu and the poems of Auvaiyar.[4]

Mythological References[edit]

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:Hansa, 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.[5]


Nizhal Thangal, Attoor decorated with Agal vilakkus during the Karthikai Deepam celebrations on 2013-11-16

Rows of Agal vilakkus (Clay Oil lamps) are lit in every house. Karthigai 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. This festival is also celebrated to commemorate the bonding between brothers and sisters in south India(analogous to Bhaiya-Dhuj and Raakhi). Sisters pray for the prosperity and success of their brothers and light lamps to mark the occasion.

In Telugu households, Kaartheeka maasam (month) is considered very auspicious. The Kartheeka month starts on the day of Deepawali. From that day till the end of the month, oil lamps are lit every day. On Kartheeka Pournami (full moon of Kartheeka month) oil lamp with 365 wicks, prepared at home, are lit in Lord Shiva temples. Apart from that, Kaartheeka puranam is read and fasting is observed till sunset, every day for the whole month.

Celebrations at Tiruvannamalai, Tamil nadu and Koneshwaram, Trincomalee[edit]

Karthigai festival is famous in Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, and Koneshwaram, Trincomalee, Sri Lanka.[6] On Karthigai day, a huge fire lamp is lit up on the hill(in both temples), visible for several kilometers around. The fire (deepam) is called Mahadeepam. Hindu devotees visit the place, to pray and make offerings to lord Shiva. In 2016, due to the Maha Kumbh Mela of Ujjain Simhastha, Karthikai Deepam will hold special significance, being celebrated on 12 December 2016, which being a Monday is symbolically attributed to God Shiva, of the twelve Jyotirlinga.[7]

Homemade fireworks[edit]

Homemade karthikai deepam firework (கார்திகை சுற்று)

Sample Construction

Label Details
A The 3 twigs which hold the charcoal pack
B The exposed charcoal to ignite easily
C The layered charcoal packed in jute sack pieces
D The rope binding
Height Height might vary from 10 inches to 12 inches or more
Width 3 to 4-inch width of the charcoal package

Kārtikai chutru or Kārtikai chuḻaṟtu is a homemade charcoal-based hand-rotating firecracker. This is crafted by youngsters and elders at the time of this festival at rural cities at Tamil Nadu[8] state in India. This cracker is very safe as it is made of Charcoal and constructed as a non-explosive craft. This cracker is handled with a long rope and rotated over the head clockwise, anti-clockwise, zig zag and any other pattern to make the display more fun. To maintain safety, the ropes used are either coir rope or jute rope. While rotating the ignited set-up of this cracker with the wind makes the charcoal to burn and split into small pieces which falls down. This burning effect can be compared with Chimney starter.[note 8] This display can be compared with a fire performance,[note 9] but the rope will not be ignited.

This cracker is made of Crushed and packed charcoal into Coconut shell. The packing is tightly placed inside 3 twigs or flexible wood stick or plant stem. The twigs are tied with ropes with a safety distance. Few burning charcoal is placed over the packing and blown hard or rotated until The packing gets slowly ignited. While the packing started ignited then it can be rotated faster with help of the rope. The falling pieces of burning charcoal pieces from the packing gives a fire cracker effect. The charcoal mixture can be mixed with dried coconut flower pieces for more sparkling effects.[citation needed]. Crushed charcoal can be packed into layers of jute sack (Gunny sack) pieces


  1. Jump up^ Third eye The third eye of lord shiva from all his six faces used to create Lord Muruga as his son
  2. Jump up^ Tatpurusam The face of Concealing Grace[citation needed]
  3. Jump up^ Aghora The face of annihilation
  4. Jump up^ Sadyojata The face of Creation
  5. Jump up^ Vamadeva The face of Preservation/Healing/Dissolution/Rejuvenation
  6. Jump up^ Ishana The face of Revealing Grace
  7. Jump up^ The 6th face of shiva specified in literature named sri kanda puranam(Skanda Purana)
  8. Jump up^ Chimney starter is similar kind of mechanism used, but it uses fuel to burn charcoal
  9. Jump up^ Rope fire performance is another form of fire dancing and twirling with fired ropes which needs special skills, because the rope is ignited with fuel

Karthigai Deepam 2016 – December 12 (Monday)

Karthigai Deepam is the popular festival of southern part of India and is the oldest festival with splendid and elaborated celebrations all over the state of Tamil Nadu. The festival is also termed as “Festival of Lights” and is also considered the extension of Diwali Festival.

Karthigai Deepam


Once upon a time the Devas, the heavenly immortals, put in their best possible efforts to have a complete Darshan of Lord Shiva.

During this process Lord Brahma took the form of a swan and Lord Vishnu in the form of a boar conducted an extensive search in the sky and in the neither world did they find him.

Lord Shiva asked Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu to find out the exact location of his head and his feet. Since Lord Shiva took a gigantic form, they were not able to find him anywhere. Then Lord Shiva appeared before them in the form of a flaming light whose ends cannot be defined on the hill of Thiruvannamalai. Therefore, this festival is also known as Annamalai Deepam. Here, a special torch is lighted on the zenith of the hill and it is believed that Lord Shiva’s Jyoti will be visible on this day. The festival is celebrated in a special manner in Thiruvannamalai.

Lord Muruga took the form of six babies in a lake called “Saravana Poigai”. On this day, Parvati (his mother) united all his six forms and so Lord Muruga has six faces. Special pujas are performed to Lord Muruga on this day.

In 2016, it is on December 12 (Monday)


Karthigai Deepam is the oldest festivals celebrated in Tamil Nadu and Southern India, even before Diwali and Navarathri celebrations. The reference of Karthigai Deepam can be found in many ancient Tamil literatures like ‘Ahananuru’ (200 B.C. to 300 A.D.) ‘Tolkappiyam’ that dates back to 2,000 or 2,500 BC, ‘Jeevakachintamani’, an epic written by Jain poet, Thiruthakka Thevar, in the Sangam period, ‘Karnarpadu’, ‘Kalavazhi Narpadu’ dating around 1,000 BC and ‘Pazhamozhi’, even the famous poetess Avaiyyar, also mentions about the festival in her literary work.

Karthigai Deepam: Extension of Diwali

Karthigai Deepam is also called the festival of lights and believed to be extension of Diwali Festival as many families practice the trend of doubling the number of lamps every day from the day of Diwali till the festival day of Karthigai Deepam and thus the large number of blazing lamps offers a captivating manifestation during the night.

Like Diwali, there is general practice of cleaning houses and decking up houses beautifully with

stunning illuminations and multihued ‘Kolams’ or Rangoli. People place lamps or Agal in their puja room and place them at different places in the house after the completion of ‘Deeparathana’ (puja). The streets provide visual treat on this festival with lamps all around.


Karthigai Deepam is the major festival of Tamil Nadu and is also referred as Annamalai Deepam. The festival is celebrated for nine auspicious days with each day having its own special importance. There are special celebrations organized at Arunachaleswarar Temple amidst Annamali Hills in Thiruvannamalai.

The celebrations begin with the flag hoisting on the Uttradam day and the festivity continues for nine

Kathigai Deepam

days. The popular Bharani Deepam in five ‘agantams’ is lit in Arunachaleswarar’s Sannithi in early morning hours of the tenth day. Devotees move to the Annamali Hills to worship the Bharani Deepam on the final day of the festival. It is believed that the flame of the lamp does not sputter on this day and divulge into the form of Lord Muruga, reaching up to the sky.

The Bharani Deepam is actually a colossal circular metal vessel with a capacity to hold about 2,000 liters of ghee, a height of five and half feet and diameter of five feet. The wick of the lamp itself is made up of 30m of ‘Ghada’ cloth burnt using 2 kilos of camphor. It is claimed that on the night of ‘Karthigai Pournami’, when the lamp is lit it can be seen across an area of 35km around the shrine.

In the evening, the Pancha Murthis are brought to the Katchi Mandapam. At dusk (Pradosham), with the Karthigai day harmonizing with full moon day, the deity, Ardhanareeswarar, is taken in a grand procession on the decorated vehicle to this place with the five deepams, which are put in a big receptacle near the flag staff. At the same time, the guiding light on the hill is lit and huge crowd raise cry in a loud voice “Annamalaikku Arogara.” It is a sight for the Gods! The lighting of the beacon on the top of the hill is the finale of ten days of merriment in the town.

Time for Celebration:

The festival of Lights, Karthigai Deepam is observed in the month of November or December. The burning lamp with the divine flame is considered an auspicious symbol and believed to fend off evil forces and escort ecstasy and prosperity.

According to Tamil calendar the festival falls in the Tamil month of Karthigai. Karthigai Deepam is celebrated on the full moon day of the Karthigai month which coincides with the Krithigai Star. Even the name Karithigai of this month was also derived on the basis of the name of the star Krithigai. The month of Karthigai is of special importance as it is believed that Lord Muruga, the divine light of Lord Shiva, took his form during this month. 

Karthigai Deepam Festival Video

– See more at: http://www.festivalsofindia.in/karthigai_deepam/#sthash.hXedM2ND.dpuf

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