Chokka Panai is the lighting of the bonfire in temples, houses and streets during the Karthigai Deepam festival. Apart from lighting numerous lamps on Karthigai Deepam, people also create bonfire. The bonfire is created both by Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu devotees. Chokka Panai 2016 date is December 12. The festival is observed for three days.
The popular belief by Lord Shiva devotees is that the Chokka Panai that is lit during Karthigai Deepam is a smaller version of the Tiruvannamalai Mahadeepam lit on Karthigai Purnima at the Annamalai hills near the Sri Arunachaleshwar temple. This Mahadeepam is believed to be the form in which Lord Shiva appeared before Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma.
Chokka Panai is observed as Vishnu Deepam by Lord Vishnu devotees and the legend of it is associated with that of Sri Hari Vishnu sending King Bali to Patala or the netherworld.
Another belief is that the fire is lit to remove all the unwanted agricultural waste and keep the streets and villages clean.
Nowadays many people keep crackers inside the Chokka Panai to hear and watch it burst.