For Tamilians and Keralites, besides Diwali there is another festival of lights which is equally important. It comes after Diwali and is celebrated on the full moon day which falls in the month of “Karthigai”. There are some differences in the way the different sects celebrate this festival, but everyone celebrates it.
The legend associated with it is that Brahma and Vishnu were arguing about who is the greatest and Shiva says whoever is able to find the end or the beginning of the column of fire will be declared the greatest. He then appears as a column of fire at Thiruvannamalai and neither Vishnu nor Brahma is able to find the beginning or the end of the column of fire and the argument ends there. The day this happened is on the full moon day of the month of Karthigai and even today, on Thiruvannamalai there is a huge stone lamp lit.
The following detail is excerpted from this link – http://www.thiruvannamalai.in/tiruvannamalai-temple/tiruvannamalai-karthigai-deepam.html
“….Karthigai Deepam festival starts at around four o clock in the early hours and the Bharani Deepam is lit at the temple. In the evening the Mahadeepam is lit on the top of the hill at around six o clock. This is a very important ceremony during the Karthigai Deepam festival at Tiruvannamalai. Arunachaleswarar is said to be visually represented in the form of agni on the hill top. There is a very mammoth gathering on this day at the Arunachaleswarar temple to witness this glorious and sacred event. The night ceremony starts with Lord Periya nayagar going out procession on the Rishaba vahanam that is made of gold. This is another spectacular event at Arunachaleswar temple at Tiruvannamalai.”
For Iyengars, Karthigai deepam or Vishnu deepam is today. We celebrate by lighting several earthen lamps and placing them all over the house. The sweets made are peanut “urundai” (balls) and pori (puffed rice) “urundai”. These are made with jaggery syrup.
Last year we went to Radha Athai’s house to celebrate Karthigai. Last year it came on Nov 26th and before the floods hit Chennai…
Radha athai is as good as my mother for she and Kannamma athai were the ones who helped Amma bring me up. I am especially close to Radha athai because she was also part of our entrepreneurial journey that ended with terrible losses. She stood by us like a rock and prayed for us just like our parents did.
Today, we celebrated Karthigai 2017 in a modern way – I lit two oil lamps and the rest of them were candles and I placed all the lamps in front of Buddha … supposedly the tenth avatar of Vishnu. The spirit is all that matters ! Amma made the customary peanut urundai. Here’s a collage of the Karthigai lamps at our house this year –
May your and my inner light of awareness be lit and dispel our ignorance. Happy Karthigai deepam :).