“Kaarthigai Theepam”~ Triumph of Light over Dark

by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

Lord Siva is compared to mountain

“Kaarthigai” is a month of purity and devotion. Hindu devotees in Sri Lanka celebrated the festival of “Kaarthigai Theepam” in the temples and houses on 21t of November 2010 amidst a heavy downpour. It falls on IL Poya day, which coincides with Karthigai star.

“Sorkka Paavanai” (Bonfire) which later derived as “Sokka Paanai” is also held at Hindu temples. “Sorkka Paavanai” is held at Sri Maanikka Vinayagar temple in Bambalapitty. Dried coconut leaves are tied together right in front of the temple, and set fire at night to celebrate “Kaarthigai Theepam”

There is a story linked between “Kaarthigai” and lamps according to religious references. Brahma- The Creator, and Vishnu- The Preserver had a dispute between them as to who was greater, and who was the supreme. The Lord Shiva wanted to teach them the truth. He appeared before them in a form of huge column of fire.

Both of them referred their quarrel to Lord Shiva. He told them that he who could discover the crown of the light or its foot first might be considered as the superior. Accordingly Brahma took the form of a swan and flew up in an attempt to find the crown of the Light, while Vishnu took the form of a boar (Varaha) and began to dig down to find the foot of the Light. Neither of them succeeded. The knowledge dawned upon them that the Light was superior to both of them.

The Kaarthigai Theepam is celebrated to bring out this great truth that the supreme God is far beyond the Creator and the Preserver. Brahma and Vishnu thereupon prayed to the column of Light.

In the ‘Kalavazhi Narpadu’, which dates back to the third Sangam period (after 1,000 BC) the poet says, “In the battle the blood oozing out from the dead soldiers’ bodies is like the red coloured flame of the lamps lit during Karthigai Theepam festival”.

Tolkappiyam, the oldest available work dating back to 2,000 or 2,500 B C, has concise verse form rules for Tamil grammar. In one of the formulae, Tolkapiyar uses the phrase “like the lamp’s flame pointing upwards”.

Earthen lamps are significant to Hindu rituals and festivals. Light is indispensable for Kaarthigai Theepam. On this special day light is spread everywhere.

Earthen lamps are for sale in Bambalapitty

Busy buying earthen lamps in Bambalapitty

Traditionally dressed devotees on their way to temples

The oil used to light the lamp, symbolises the innate tendencies in one, which is responsible for the ego to thrive. The wick is the ego. The flame of the lamp symbolises, spiritual knowledge, which empties the oil, as it also burns the wick, the ego (body, mind complex). With the draining of the innate tendencies and the burning of the wick

Sinnathangan Sathyaseelan, a busy garland maker in Bambalapitty

It is one of the oldest festivals of Hindus

Let us be liberated from sorrow and suffering

Lord Siva is the Light of Consciousness

Women devotees take part in special pooja

Sockalingampillai Ramalingam lights earthen lamps

Be liberated from egoism, selfishness and delusion

New Silver Kalasam is being taken on a parade

Rajaratnam lights an earthen lamp at twilight

Nicely decorated Goddess Parvathi,Lord Vinayagar and Lord Murugan with his consorts Goddess Valliyammai and Goddess Theivayaanai in the Vasantha Mandapam

Nallakuttiyapillai Sappaanipillai lights earthen lamps at the temple

Thiruvilakku Pooja by women on fullmoon day

The ritual is said to be of immense importance for the whole world

The lamps glow allover

Ego leads to limitations

Beautifully decorated Goddess for the festival

Fire symbolises light, consciousness and intelligence

A very special astrological significance of today’s Kaarthigai Theepam is that the placement of Jupiter in the 11th house will not be witnessed for another 11 years

The ritual represents and affirms a spiritual re-dedication and renewal of faith

The Chief Priest Sitsabesa Kurukkal (also known as Mani Iyer) of Sri Maanikka Vinayagar carries out the rituals

Gorgeously decorated Lord Murugan. Kaarthigai is Lord Murugan’s birth star.He represents unlimited divine wisdom

The sky height flame symbolise the essence of universal oneness

View of the Kopuram of Sammaankodu Sri Maanikka Vinayagar temple at night

Parade of decorated Goddess Parvathi, Lord Vinayagar and Lord Murugan with his consorts Goddess Valliyammai and Goddess Theivayaanai

Kaarthigai synchronises with the fullmoon day

Karthigai festival in Tiruvannamalai hills is very famous in India

Camphor is lit at the main entrance

It is also known as Festival of Lights or Festival of Lamps

“Oolai Suvadi”- a banner about the significance of the religious book

The festival is dedicated to Lord Siva

It is believed to ward off evil forces and usher in prosperity and joy

Decorated deities wait at the main entrance to witness the event

Salt is thrown from every corner to control the fire

Notice to the devotees to keep the footwear in a particular place

“Sorkka Paavanai” or bonfire grows upto sky level in Bambalapitty

passionParade ~ Email: dushi.pillai@gmail.com

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