Karthigai Somavaram, or Karthika Somavara Ubayam, is the Mondays in the Tamil Month Karthigai which is dedicated to Lord Shiva. In 2014, Karthigai Masam is from November 17 to December 15. Kartika Somavar Vratam is observed by Shiva devotees in the month and special pujas and rituals are held in Shiva temples in maintained by Tamil community. Fasting from sunrise to sunset is undertaken by many devotees.
Note - In neighboring Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh also Kartik Month of importance and Mondays are dedicated to Shiva.
Karthigai Somavaram Vratam is observed because it is in this month Shiva destroyed the three cities of Tripuri built by demon Tripurasura. Legend has it that a powerful demon named Tripuri or Tripurasura built three impregnable cities of gold, silver and iron with the blessing of Lord Shiva. The demon became so powerful and his inflated ego knew no bounds and started attacking and tormenting humans and demi gods (devas). Brahma and Vishnu failed to contain Tripurasura who was armed with several boons from Shiva.
Finally, the task of annihilating the demon fell on Lord Shiva and after three days of fight, Lord Shiva killed Tripurasura and destroyed the three cities – Tripuri. This great victory happened on the full moon day in Kartik month.
Mondays are dedicated to Shiva and the Mondays in the Kartik month is chosen to propitiate Shiva as it is considered highly meritorious.
Kartigai Somavar Vratam is from sunrise to sunset. Devotees do not consume food after sunrise. Some people opt for a liquid diet or fruit diet and others go for the traditional strict fasting of without food.
Prayers and puja dedicated to Shiva is performed early in the morning. The puja begins with prayer to Lord Ganesh. A picture of Lord Shiva or Shivling is used for the prayer.
It must be noted here that Lord Shiva is also known as Ashutosh – one who is easily pleased. So a devotee needed not worry about the elaborate puja rituals. A simple recital of ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ with devotion will please Lord Shiva.
Karthigai Somavar Vratam ends with the evening puja after sunset.
Shiva devotees usually avoid diet consisting of garlic and onion while breaking a fast.