Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Karthigai (கார்த்திகை)

Karthigai (கார்த்திகை)

This eighth month in the Tamizh calendar is one of the darkest months as it is one during which it rains the most, the others being Purattasi and Aippasi Daytime is quite less in this month as it becomes dark by 5.30-6.00 pm during this month.

First day of Karthigai

Today is the first day of Karthigai.
The first day of Karthigai is well known for Iyappan. People planning to visit Sabarimala for Makara jothi, start their vratham on this day. Iyappan vratham starts with the wearing of tulasi mani maalai on this day and following the strict rules and regulations of this vratham. Iyappan temples are beautifully decorated and special pujas are done for the Lord on this day.

The other very old significance of the first day of Karthigai is Mudavanuku moksham  (முடவனுக்கு மோக்ஷம்) – the moksha of the lame man. The story behind this is that a lame man wanted to bathe in the Cauvery waters in Kumbakonam atleast on kadaimugam day (last day of Aippasi) as bathing in Kumbakonam Cauvery on all days of Aippasi is considered to give one moksham.
Even today this is followed and people throng the river on the kadaimugam day to ensure they atleast have a dip in the river on that day. By the time he reached Mayavaram (aka Mayiladuthurai), Aippasi ended and the month of Karthigai had begun. To fulfill the lame man’s wish, God blessed him saying that he will attain moksham even if he bathes in the Cauvery in Mayavaram.

Karthigai deepam(கார்த்திகை தீபம்)

The most important festival of Karthigai is Karthigai deepam, which falls on the full moon of the month of Karthigai. This year Karthigai deepam falls on 21st November. Karthigai deepam is mainly celebrated in all Sivan temples with the most important being Thiruvannamalai Deepam. The main deepam being lit in Thiruvannamalai is a great sight and is always telecast on TV every year.  Lighting of the deepam takes place in all other Sivan temples also on a grand scale. At home, people light agal vilakku (lamps made of red clay) filled with oil and new cotton wick and place them decoratively near the front door as well as backyard. Lighting of the lamps in this month must have started mainly because, as mentioned above, this is one of the darkest months and lamps were lit to get rid of the darkness. As in everything else, this is being celebrated as a festival. In fact, a couple of lamps are kept at the entrances to homes in the evenings on all days of Karthigai in yonder days. Even nowadays many people follow this including our household. Whatever maybe the reason, it is a joy to see the rows of lamps on the people’s balconies on the day of Karthigai deepam.

Since Karthigai deepam comes quite close to Diwali, bursting of fire-crackers for Karthigai is also observed.

The sweets made for Karthigai are the Karthigai pori and adhirasam. Karthigai pori is a very healthy sweet as there is no deep frying or ghee used in it.

Karthigai Amavasya

Karthigai amavasya is celebrated as Sridara Aiyyavaal urchavam  (ஸ்ரீதர அய்யவாள் உற்சவம்) in  Thiruvisalur The legend behind this is that Sridhara aiyyavaal on the day of his mother’s ceremony, went to have bath in the river nearby to get ready for the ritual. On his way back, he met a few untouchables begging for food. Moved by their condition,  Aiyyavaal brought them home and fed them with the food made for the ceremony. Immediately the agraharam where he lived  disowned him and he could not get any Vadyar (priest) to do the ceremonies for him. He prayed to God and suddenly three men came out of nowhere and offered to do the ceremonies and have lunch too. Immediately after lunch, the men vanished and  Aiyyavaal understood that it must have been the Mumoorthigal – Brahma, Vishnu, Sivan. Despite this, the he was advised to go to Varanasi and bathe in the River Ganga for the sin of feeding the untouchables. He again prayed to God as he was too old to travel all the way to Varanasi. God blessed him that on Karthigai amavasya day, River Ganga will flow from the well behind his house. Ganga overflowed in his well on this day. To this day Ganga is said to have kept her promise and flows in that well and it is considered sacred to have bath from the waters of that well on Karthigai amavasya day. This day is being celebrated as Sridhara Aiyyavaal urchavam even today. This urchavam is celebrated for ten days with the Amavasya day being the concluding day. This year Aiyyavaal urchavam Amavasya falls on 5th December. Aiyyavaal who lived about three hundred years ago is said to be one of the gurus of the nama japa sampardaya.


  1. Excellent blog on info about the month of Karthigai. As usual, I knew a large part of it, but never connected it to the month all together. Superb one! Thanks for sharing :)

  2. thanks a lot for info.....learned a lot abt our culture n festival..thanks thanks thanks a lot......felt nice aftr reading this..... :)

  3. thanks fo sharing..

  4. Iyappan temples are beautifully decorated and special pujas are done for the Lord on this can visit there through bus and You can book Online Bus Ticket also.