Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Karthigai Deepam

The Karthigai Deepam festival, the festival of lamps, following Diwali, is celebrated all over south India with great enthusiasm and fervour. It is one of the oldest festivals dating back to centuries, that is celebrated during the month of Karthigai (mid-November until mid-December). Both houses and temples alike are lined with oil lamps in the evening. It is a beautiful, enthralling sight to absorb. I took all these photographs at my home, while my mom was lighting the lamps.

According to folk lore, Lord Shiva appears in the form of Agni  (fire/flame). The event also celebrates the Karthigai sisters, the six celestial nymphs who nurtured the six divine babies  in the Saravana tank. Lord Shiva in turn combines the babies into one to form the six-faced Lord Muruga or Karthikeya, since he was nurtured by the Karthigai sisters. 

Scientifically, at this time the moon appears in conjunction with the group of six stars. This constellation is seen in the shape of a star. The day also happens to be a full-moon day. The sky looks beautiful with the bright, but tender moon light in the dark grey sky.

My mom told me that it was the most practical thing to do, given those times. In the days when there was no electricity, since the month of November was the darkest, homes were lit up with oil lamps along the way to help people move around. Makes perfect sense, does it not? 

Of course, the celebration is never complete without the favourite desserts of the Gods. We gave it a miss this time and settled for a simple, not too sweet lentil pudding, garnished with cardamom, fried cashews and raisins. It was divine. For a little bit of color, we also burst fire crackers and my favourite, sparklers.

My mom plans to make a trip to Thiruvannamalai to see the Karthigai Deepam, atop the hill and also complete the 14 km around the base of the hill. I would love to join her. I had done the Girivalam (walking around the hill base) a good couple of years ago and my feet were terribly blistered. I never went back after that. 

Now, after all these years, I suddenly feel the spiritual urge to make this trip too. If He wills it, I guess. I hope He does.

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