Karthika Maasa, Deepotsava/Deepam:
Karthika Deepam is a festival of lights, celebrated in the south month of Kartika. It is celebrated on the full moon day of the Kaarthika month which coincides with Krithika star. It is also considered as the extension of the Deepavali festival. In some houses, they double the number of lamps every day from the day of Deepavali and this way, they end up with a number of lamps on the day of Kaarthigai Deepam.
Kartheeka Somavara is the most favorite day of Lord Shiva. Men and Women needs to bath in a river, pray to Lord Shiva with Bilvapatram, fast during the day and feast after the moon turns up in the sky in the evening. They needs to stay awake all night, engage in spirtual discourses and then take a river bath on the next day. This is followed by making donations to the poor depending on ones abilities. If not possible, atleast three brahmins could be fed. In general, it is good if no food items are taken on the Kartheeka Somavaram day. Doing the Kartheeka Vratam on the Mondays and praying to Lord Shiva would entitle the devotee of Kailasa. Praying to Lord Vishnu will entitle the devotee to Vaikuntha.
On the full moon day of the month of Kartika (November-December) which falls on the ascension of the Kritigai star, the Hindus celebrate the Kartika Deepam. It is on this day that the huge beacon is lit on the holy hill Arunachala, in South India.
It is celebrated in a special manner in Thiruvannamalai. Lord Shiva asks Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu to find out the exact location of his head and his feet. Since Lord Shiva takes a gigantic form, they are not able to find out anywhere. Then Lord Shiva takes the form of a jyothi (light of fire) on the hill of Thiruvannamali. 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 jothi will be visible on this day.
On this day, people clean the houses. In the evening, they draw kolams (rangoli) in the front of the house and also place some lamps on it. The lamps are placed in the pooja and lighted. Then the Deeparathana is done in which the lamps are moved to different places in the house. The lamps glow all over the streets on this day. The lamps are arranged near the doors and windows and also in the balconies. In this way, people of South celebrate Kaarthika Deepam for three days.
People place rows of earthen lamps in front of their houses on the evening of Kartigai Deepam and worship the Lord. They also light a variety of fireworks. Annihilate the three impurities, namely, egoism, selfish action and delusion. Burn the mind, senses and the desires in the fire of knowledge of the Self or Shiva-Jnanam. Attain full illumination and behold the light of lights, which illumines the mind, intellect, sun, moon, stars, lightning and the fire. This is real Kartika Deepam.May the light of lights illumine you all! May Lord Shiva bless you with more light! May you merge in this supreme light and attain the eternal abode of bliss and immortality!
Significance of Karthika Masam/Deepam:
Once Lord Shiva assumed the form of a hill at Tiruvannamalai in South India. Here He quelled the pride of Brahma and Vishnu who were quarelling as to their relative greatness. One day, when Lord Shiva was in meditation, Parvati left Him and went to the hill of Arunachala. There She performed penance. She was the guest of the sage Gautama. It was during Her penance here that Mahishasura was killed by Durga hidden by Parvati. Parvati saw Shiva as Arunachalesvara. She was taken back by the Lord to His side, and made His Ardhangini once more, that is, She occupied half of the body of the Lord Arunachalesvara is Tejo Lingam. Arunachala or the Tiruvannamalai Hill is the place that represents the fire element. (The five elements are represented by five holy places in India.)
When the light on the top of the Tiruvannamalai Hill is unveiled on the Kartigai Deepam day, people see the big light and worship it. They recite again and again in a loud voice “Harohara”. The esoteric meaning is that he who sees the light of lights that is burning eternally in the chambers of his heart through constant meditation attains immortality. The light on the Arunachala brings the message to you that the Self or Lord Shiva is self-effulgent, He is the light of lights.On the Kartika Deepam day in South India, people make bonfires in front of temples in the evening. It is said that Lord Shiva burnt the chariots of several demons who were torturing sages and celestials. This bonfire symbolises this legend.
A popular belief is that the day is the birthday of Lord Muruga. The lamps are also lit for a happy married life and for the well being of children in the family. Lord Muruga, also known as Skanda, Subrahamaniya and Kartik, was born as six different babies to Lord Shiva after he awoke from the deep meditation after Goddess Sati’s death. The six babies were looked after by the Six Krittika stars and the six children were later joined to a single force by Goddess Parvati. Krittika is the six starts or the Pleiades cluster – when Muruga joins them as a child they make seven stars. As Muruga was born as six different babies and later joined into one He is popularly known as Aarumugan in Tamil culture.
Lord Muruga as Kumaraguru Advising Lord Shiva:
Another legend has it that the lamps lit symbolically represent knowledge, victory and peace. Muruga as Kumaraguru is believed to have taught the meaning of ‘OM’ to Lord Shiva. Thus the lamps lit on the day are in remembrance of sharing the ultimate knowledge of ‘OM.’ The knowledge of OM helps in enlightenment and emancipation.
King Bali Surrendering to Lord Vishnu:
Another legend associated with Karthika Deepam is that King Bali surrendered before Lord Vishnu. King Bali attained moksha by surrendering all his wealth and himself before Lord Vishnu. Special offerings made from puffed rice and beaten rice is believed to be due to this legend.
Another popular legend associated with that of Karthika Deepam is that of Lord Shiva appearing in the form of Lingodhbhava – a pillar of fire with no end and beginning. This is celebrated at the famous Tiruvannamalai Arunachaleswar Temple as the Thiruvannamalai Deepam.
In another episode, Goddess Umadevi once playfully closed the eyes of her beloved, which plunged the world into darkness. All living beings suffered in the dark. The universal mother felt for her folly and separated herself from her companion. Mother started worshipping Lord Shiva in the form of Linga to absolve herself of this sin and to reunite with him. Lord Vishnu, (or Adi Kesava Perumal, enshrined at Thiruchenkode, a unique Ardhanareeshwara temple) instructed Shakthi on the Kedara Gowri Vratam to be performed to unite with Shiva.
When she reached Kancheepuram, Lord Shiva ordered her to proceed to Thiruvannamalai and do her penance. Likewise Mother Parvathi did penance at Pavalakundru with the help of Saint Gowthama.
A demon called Makishasuran disturbed the penance of Mother Parvathi. The Mother took the form of goddess Durga Devi and destroyed him on the full moon day of the Month of Karthika during the auspicious period of pradosham.
LORD SHIVA presented himself in the form of FIRE ATOP THE HILL and merged Goddess Parvathi on the left half of his body. This day of Supreme merger is celebrated as Karthika Deepam. To commemorate this event, every year during the festival of Annamalai Deepam, Lord Arthanareeswaramurthi presents himself as Jyothi Swaroopa to his devotees.
Of the five elements earth,water,fire,air and ether, fire is considered important as being in the middle. Adding Sun, Moon and Soul to these it is said that God exposes Himself in eight forms “Ashtamurthams”. So the Vedas, Agamas and Puranas extol God as Rudragni Sivajothi and Paramjudar.
Choka Panai is burnt in Shiva and Vishnu temples on this day.
Just as fire destroys impurity in anything, God destroy the darkness of ignorance and egoism in men and blesses them with the light of wisdom. This is short is the philosophic truth behind the celebration of the festival.
Section 1 primary tells us about how Sage Sootha (Sootha maharshi) tells the Kartika Puranam to Saunikadi Maha-rishis and Maharshi Vashistha telling about the rules of the Kartika puranam to King Janaka. The section was elaborated about what to do during the month and how to start about. The beautiful explanations by Vashistha keep readers close to their ears.
Section 2 comprises of a story as a part of the Kartika Somawara Vratham (the first Monday of Kartika Masam). The story is about Nishturi, the daughter of a Brahmin, who falls into bad habits during her teen years. Nisthuri was deep into bad habits that she is often referred as ‘Karkasa’ by everyone.
As time for marriage comes, Karkasa’s father decides to marry her to ‘Misra Sharma’, a Brahmin from Saurasthra. Misra Sharma is good, humble and a well educated young Brahmin who follows religious traditions with great devotion. Karkasa marries Misra Sharma and because of the humble mentality of Misra Sharma, Karkasa continues to enjoy all she wants to do. As days pass by, she takes more advantage of the gentleness of Misra Sharma and begins to shout at and even beat Misra Sharma. Misra Sharma continues to bear with her even when she does bad things in order not to hamper the good name earned by his family in the society. Karkasa however makes use of the situation and continues to be enjoying in the presence of other men. She even began to have physical relationships with other men disregarding her husband and in-laws.
One day, one of her comforts tells her that they are meeting at odd times because of her husband and that they can enjoy even better when her husband is not there. The same night, Karkasa kills her husband by banging a large hard rock on his head. She even takes the dead body to the outskirts of the city and throws it into an old well. Her in-laws, afraid of her and unable to do anything, remain calm, and runs away from. With no husband and in-laws to stop her, Karkasa felt more freedom and enjoyed even more. She even made men to get her money grabbed from their wives.
As time passed by, her beauty and vigor began to get down. With her blood becoming lighter, she began to be easily prone to diseases. Since she had physical intimacy with many men, she was even prone to sexually transmitted diseases. Soon she lost all her money and began to it find difficult to get food, water, clothing or even a place to stay. The diseases have led her to death. No one in the society came forward to take her to the burial ground.
Upon her death, soldiers from the Yama Lokam – the land of the dead, comes and takes her to Lord Yama, the Lord of Death. Yama Dharmaraja assigns a variety of punishments to her. She is made to stick to a hot-iron pillar as punishment for ignoring her husband and spending time with other men. She is banged in her head with a hot mace for killing her husband. Hot mercury is poured into her ears for shouting at her husband and beating him. Because of her cruel acts, her family in the prior ten ages and the later ten ages were also made to suffer. After suffering in the Yama loka for some ages, she is allowed to be born on earth as a dog for fifteen ages.
In her fifteenth age, she took birth in the land of Kalinga as a dog. She used to stay at the house of a Brahmin. The Brahmin who was following the traditions during the month of Kartikam, at night, has left some food outside his house which the dog eats. As soon as the dog ate the food, she began to get to know her past and began to shout for help. The Brahmin comes out of the house and was first surprised seeing a dog speak. He then enquires what has happened to her. The dog tells him that she was born as a dog for 14 times prior to her current life and that she does not know how she was able to get to know what has happened to her in her past lives.
The Brahmin, using his power, gets to know the whole episode of the dog, and tells it about what has happened in the past. The dog, upon knowing her past, began to beg the Brahmin for Moksha. He then decides to transfer the Punya gained by him on one of his Kartika Somavaram (The Monday of Kartika Masam) to the dog. The dog upon taking the punya, leaves the avatar of the dog and turns in to a beautiful woman.
“Hence, you should follow the Kartika Somavaram”, says Vashistha to King Janaka.