Kartikai Deepam is the lighting of lamps on the Krittika or Kartika Nakshataram day in Tamil Nadu and Kerala in Karthigai month. There are several reasons or stories behind observing Karthigai Deepam. 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.
Kartikai Deepam and Lord Muruga
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 Karthigai 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.
Thiruvannamalai MahaDeepam and Shiva as Lingodhabhava Murti
Another popular legend associated with that of Karthigai 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
as the Thiruvannamalai Deepam. Tiruvannamalai Arunachaleswar Temple
Other festivals and rituals on the day
Apart from this Lord Vishnu devotees observe Vishnu Deepam during the same period. Another ritual observed during the period is Shokka Pannai and Yaani Pandigai.
In neighboring Kerala, the day is observed as Thrikartika.