Karthigai Deepam is celebrated on the Full Moon of the solar month (Vrishchika) which falls between Mid-November and Mid-December. Due to the conjunction of Full Moon and Krittika star, this month is named “Karthik” (Tamil: Karthigai) in lunar calendar.
Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu had a debate over Who is superior amongst them. To resolve this debate, they approached Lord Shiva. Shiva smiled at them and took the form of an immense pole (Stambha) and asked Brahma to reach the top and Vishnu to reach the bottom. Whoever reaches first will be declared superior to the other. Brahma got on His vehicle (Swan) and Vishnu took the avatar of Varaha (wild boar). During ascension, Brahma met with a flower (Thazhampoo) which was falling down from the head of the pole and asked how far is he away from reaching the top. The flower said that He can never reach the top and has to accept defeat. Filled with ego, Brahma could never accept defeat and convinced the flower to lie and bear witness for His journey atop the pole.
Brahma and the flower lied to Shiva, which resulted in His immense form of Eternal Flame and cursed Brahma to not have any dedicated temple and the flower to not be used in Shiva’s rituals. Realising their mistake, they both sought forgiveness. Hence, Brahma is found in the first altar surrounding Shiva and the flower is offered once a year during the third kala (session) of Shivaratri to Lord Shiva.
Lingodbhava is the form of Shiva as an immense pole and He emerged as the Eternal Light during Karthigai Deepam.
Six celestial nymphs named Karthigai Goddesses are also worshipped on this special day as they brought up Lord Muruga who initially was created as six babies. Muruga was adorned with the name Kartikeya due this reason. Worship of these Goddesses pleases Lord Muruga hence six light are lit at the entrance of every house.
Karthigai Deepam is widely celebrated across South India by lighting lamps at houses and temples. A special delicacy called Pori Urundai is offered to Deities and shared among family and friends. Special Abhishekam and Homa (Fire ritual) are performed to appease both Lord Shiva and Lord Muruga.
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