Thirukarthigai deepam | Karthigai Deepam Festival Story | Thiruvannamalai deepam 2021

Thirukarthigai deepam | Karthigai Deepam Festival Story | Thiruvannamalai deepam 2021. KARTHIKAI DEEPAM FESTIVAL is one of the oldest festivals celebrated by Hindus. 

It is celebrated in Tamil Nadu as an important traditional festival of lights and also in other states like Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka. It falls on Pournami (full moon day) in the Tamil month Karthikai that corresponds to mid-November to mid-December.

Karthikai Deepam Festival in Tamil Literature:

Aganaanoru (Tamil epic book of poems) has mentioned that Karthikai Deepam is one of the oldest Tamil festivals that has originated somewhere during 2000 – 2500 B.C. Civaka Chintamani and Tolkappiyam are the other works of literature, mentioning Karthikai Deepam. The famous Tamil poet Avvaiyaar has also mentioned this festival in one of her songs.

The story behind Karthikai Deepam:

One version of the story links the Karthikai Deepam festival to Lord Muruga.  Lord Muruga was born from the six sparks of fire that emerged from the third eye of Lord Shiva.  Lord Shiva created six faces from the six sparks of fire.

These six faces were protected as six babies that were raised by six celestial nymphs (Karthikai Penngal) in a lake called Saravana Poikai. Goddess Parvathi later merged these six babies as one, which became the six-faced Lord Murugan (known as Arumugam).

Another version about Karthikai Deepam:

Once there was an argument between Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma as to who was the superior being among them. After seeing their argument, Lord Shiva appeared in the form of a great flame before them and suggested a solution to the issue, directing them that whoever could find His feet or His head would be considered the greater being. 

Lord Vishnu took the form of a boar and dug the earth to search the feet of Lord Shiva. Lord Brahma took the form of a swan and flew in the sky to search for the head of Lord Shiva. 

After searching for a long time, Lord Vishnu admitted His defeat and returned to the surface. Lord Brahma searched for a long time and failed in his quest. He saw a “Thazhambhu” flower (“Screwpine”). He formed an opinion that this piece of flower had fallen from Lord Shiva’s head. 

Lord Brahma took a piece of flower and falsely declared to have seen the head of Lord Shiva. However, Lord Shiva understood Brahma’s false proclamation, and therefore cursed Brahma that there will never be a temple to worship Lord Brahma and that “Thazhambhu” will never be used for worshipping Lord Shiva. Thus Lord Shiva proved His Supremacy by appearing in the form of a hill (“Arunachala Hill”), in the place called “Tiruvannamalai”.

The history behind lighting Maha Deepam:

In order to remember this divine event, “Maha Deepam” (a giant flame) is lit on the top of “Arunachala Hill” in “Tiruvannamalai” during “Karthikai Deepam”.  The names “Tiruvannamalai” and “Arunachala” represent holy fire hill.

Reasons for lighting lamps during Karthikai Deepam:

Lighted lamps are important for all Hindu rituals and festivals and believed to be an auspicious symbol to ward off evil forces, darkness, ego, fear, ignorance, and unhappiness and usher in prosperity, peace, joy, and divinity. 

The lamp symbolizes our body, wick in the lamp is our ego, oil in the lamp denotes our innate nature for our ego to survive, a flame is spiritual knowledge and light denotes the soul. Flame, the spiritual knowledge has the capacity to blaze our ego, the wick by emptying our innate tendencies.

Karthikai Deepam Celebrations in Tiruvannamalai:

Karthikai Deepam festival is celebrated with pomp, splendor, and great enthusiasm, wherein   Arunachaleshwarar temple in Tiruvannamalai and all the temples and the houses in the town are decorated with lighted earthen lamps after sunset.  

At Tiruvannamalai, in the Artha Mandapam of Arunachaleshwarar temple, the devotees light the fire from the Yagam which is created for this purpose. Along with five Deepams (lit in five huge ghee filled pots), the deity (Ardhanareeswarar) is taken on a grand procession to the Katchi Mandapam at dusk.

A single flame is taken from the pots and is kept burning in the temple throughout the day, signifying that the whole nature becomes one with the Supreme Soul, that is Lord Shiva. It is believed that on this day, Lord Shiva descends on the Earth and becomes one with the entire universe.  This single flame is called Bharani Deepam.

The Bharani Deepam is lit in a huge circular metal vessel (“Kopparai”), which has a capacity to hold about 2000 liters of ghee. The lamp’s wick is made of 30 meters of “Ghada” cloth, which is burnt using 2 kilos of camphor. 

After the lamp is lit on Karthikai Pournami night, its glow can be seen over an area of 35 Kilo Metres around the Shiva temple. Thousands of devotees throng to have the darshan of Lord Arunachaleshwara and Goddess Abhithakuchalambal at the temple as well as the lighting of the beacon on Tiruvannamalai hill (which is 2,668 feet high).

Karthikai  Deepam Celebrations at Home: 

Karthikai Deepam is celebrated for three days in Tamil Nadu. 
The day before Karthikai Deepam is celebrated as Bharani Deepam. On this day Agal Vilakku (earthen lamps) five or seven lamps are lighted on both sides of the entrance of the house.

On the day of Karthikai Deepam, the entire house including the pooja room is cleaned and Kolam with Kavi is drawn in the front yard and in the pooja room.

Mango Leaf festoon is tied at the entrance of the house.

Pooja room is decorated with flower garlands. 

Incense sticks are lighted.

Brass lamps, Silver lamps, and earthen lamps are washed, wiped with a piece of cloth.

Chandan and Kumkum are applied to the lamps.

Panju Thiri (Cotton Wick) is placed in each lamp.

A mixture of Sesame Oil, Illupu Oil (Mahua Oil or Butter Tree Essential Oil), and Ghee are auspicious to light the lamps during Karthikai Deepam.

It is very auspicious to light brass Yanai Vilakku (Elephant Lamp), Pavai Vilakku (Lady holding Lamp). 

Ghee is used for lighting Yaanai Vilakku.

While lighting the Yanai Vilakku (Elephant Lamp) it is important to pray by saying, “Yanai Vazha, Arasu Vazha, Yanai Pola Naanum Peru Vazhvu Vazhanum” which means “Long live Elephant, Long live Government and let me also live a great life like the elephant” in English.

Only after lighting the Yanai Vilakku, Pavai Vilakku, and Silver Vilakku in the pooja room, other earthen lamps are lighted facing east and placed in every part of the house such as the drawing-room, kitchen, and balcony and arranged in a row in the front yard of the house.

It is also important to light earthen lamps in front of Tulasi Madam in the front yard of the house. 

On the day of Karthikai, Moong dal payasam with jaggery, wheat Appam, Nel Pori Urundai, Aval Pori Urundai, Adai with five holes with jaggery, one cracked coconut, four betel leaves, two betel nuts, two bananas are offered as neivedyam to Lord Shiva. 

The third day is known as “Kuppai Karthikai”.  On this day all the wicks of all the lighted lamps of the previous day are bundled together as one big wick, in one big earthen lamp and lighted in the front yard before the Holy Basil plant (Tulasi Madam).


There is a belief that the Holy Basil plant (Tulsi or Tulasi) is an earthly manifestation of Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of God Vishnu. So the Holy Basil plant is considered to be sacred and the offering of its leaves is auspicious to worship Vishnu and Krishna.

The first Karthikai after marriage is considered to be special to a newly married girl and she is gifted with Yanai Vilakku by her mother. This tradition prevails in our family.

Pori Urandai is a crispy sweet snack made with puffed rice (Pori) and jaggery, as main ingredients mixed with powdered ginger, cardamom powder, and grated coconut.


The story, instructions, and procedures behind the Karthigai deepam mentioned in this post are completely based on our family tradition. This is how we perform our deepam and the main reason for this post is to keep an online record for myself and for our future generations. I also would like to share the same with our family members and friends for reference. I'm sure this post would be useful if you are performing the Pooja every year. You may share this post with anyone. Thank you for understanding!!!

Authors: Revathi and Pavithra.

Learn how to celebrate Thirukarthigai deepam | Karthigai Deepam Festival Story | Thiruvannamalai deepam 2021.