Thursday, December 11, 2008

Festival month

In Tamil Nadu especially, Deepavali is not The festival of lights. The reason for Deepavali is completely different, indeed an avatar behind, from the north Indian Deepavali tradition. It takes another month, almost for the south Indian festival of lights to turn up as it does in the month following Aipasi, which is when Deepavali is celebrated. Since the month is Karthigai, the festival of lights, which falls on the full moon day in the month - which is also the day when the star Karthigai is on the ascendent - is simply called Karthigai Deepam (the lamp of Karthigai).

Legend has it that Shiva wanted to put an end to a quarrel between Brahma and Vishnu over who was the more powerful of the two. Distracted by a huge pillar of fire, the two of them travel to opposite ends of the pillar - and realize that this is a pillar of fire without beginning or end, the whole of eternity, the Lord Shiva himself. The lamps lit today symbolize that form of Shiva, which is manifest at Thiruvannamalai, as Arunachalam.

This is legend after all. So it needs a counter legend, too; it was on the full moon day of Karthigai that six babies were found floating on the lotus leaves at Saravana Poigai. Parvathi, who found them, joined them together to create her child, Karthikeyan. Whichever be the legend you choose, the small charad / agal vilakku (earthern lamp) in front of the houses remind you that this is the festival of lights, after all!


2 comments:

babooshka said...

The image is gorgeous and the narrative very informative.

Shantaram said...

>> Babooshka>> Thanks!