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Karthikai Deepam

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Subject: Festival of Lights, Tamil festivals, Diya (lamp), Fireworks, Kartik (month)
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Karthikai Deepam

Karthikai Deepam
(கார்த்திகை விளக்கீடு)
/ Karthigai Vilakkidu
Agal vilakku (oil lamps) during the occasion of Karthigai Deepam
Observed by Tamil
Significance Formation of Arumugam (Murugan)
Karthikai Deepam[1]

or Karthikai vilakkidu is a Hindu specially Tamils Festival of Lights. 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.


  • The story of six stars 1
  • History 2
    • Religious aspects 2.1
  • Celebrations 3
    • Celebrations at Tiruvannamalai 3.1
  • Special Home made Firework 4
  • Notes and references 5
  • External links 6

The story of six stars

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[2] of six primary faces (Tatpurusam,[3] Aghoram,[4] Sadyojatam,[5] Vamadevam,[6] Eesanam,[7] Adhomukam[8]). 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[9] 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[10]


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.[11]

Religious aspects

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.[12]


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

Karthigai festival in Tiruvannamalai[13] is very famous. On Karthigai day, a huge fire lamp is lit up on the hill, visible for several kilometers around. The fire (deepam) is called Mahadeepam. Hindu devotees visit the place, to pray and make offerings to lord Shiva.

Special Home made Firework

Homemade karthikai deepam firework (கார்திகை சுற்று)
Sample Construction
Label Details
A The 3 Twigs which holds the Charcoal pack
B The exposed Charcoal to easy ignite
C The Layered Charcoal packed in jute sack pieces
D The Rope binding
Height Height might vary from 10 inch to 12 inch or more
Width 3 to 4 inch width of the Charcoal package

Kārtikai chutru or Kārtikai chuḻaṟtu is a home made Charcoal based hand rotating cracker. This is crafted by youngsters and elders at the time of this festival at rural cities at Tamil Nadu[14] 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.[15] This display can be compared with Fire performance,[16] 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 piece of Twig 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 effect. Crushed Charcoal can be packed into layers of jute sack (Gunny sack) pieces

Notes and references

  1. ^ South Indians celebrate Karthigai Deepam or extended Diwali The Times of India News Paper Dec 5, 2014
  2. ^ Third eye The third eye of lord shiva from all his six faces used to create Lord Muruga as his son
  3. ^ Tatpurusam The face of Concealing Grace
  4. ^ Aghora The face of annihilation
  5. ^ Sadyojata The face of Creation
  6. ^ Vamadeva The face of Preservation/Healing/Dissolution/Rejuvenation
  7. ^ Ishana The face of Revealing Grace
  8. ^ (sri kanda puranamThe 6th face of shiva specified in literature named Skanda Purana)
  9. ^ Six Abodes of Murugan The six spiritual temples (homes) of Lord Muruga
  10. ^ Other Mythological Stories and Literature on this 6 stars Pleiades_in_folklore_and_literature
  11. ^ : Glow of prosperityThe Hindu
  12. ^ 'Newspaper Quote'
  13. ^ Lakhs witness Karthigai Deepam The Hindu News Paper Article November 28, 2012
  14. ^ Improvised firework adds colour to Kaarthigai Deepam The Hindu news paper December 13, 2008. This news paper refers to the Cuddalore district and city named Cuddalore where it is popular even these days people celebrate the festival with this firework
  15. ^ Chimney starter is similar kind of mechanism used, but it uses fuel to burn charcoal
  16. ^ 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

External links

  • Demo of Karthikai home made cracker
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