Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Is Kaarthigai deepam a Tamil festival?

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A consolidated article of all the three articles on Kaarthigai Deepam can be read and downloaded as scribd document. Read the link at

(Continued from

A dominant view among the masses is that Kaarthigai deepam is
an important festival for Tamils only.
This post analyses this view.

In the last post in this series we found how the timing of this deepam festival
is cosmically determined –
the sun at its peak activity in the Southern hemisphere.
The Tamils of very ancient times were located in the south of the equator
and had Lord Shiva as their saviour.

There are verses in Sangam literature that tell us about the antiquity
of this Tamil land and culture
when Gods were walking on the land and interacting with people.
The first Sangam that was held 10,000 years ago
was presided by Lord Shiva himself. (Adiyaarkku Nallar says so).

The Pandyans were the descendants of Shiva and Paarvathy.
The Pandyans were known as "Panchavar" due to their origin from Pancha paani (another name for Paarvathy).
Lord Shiva had always heeded the prayers of the Pandyan kings
and 'the 'Thiruvilaiyaadal puranam' is a compilation of numerous instances
in which Lord Shiva helped the people and the kings of this Tamil land
which had Then-Madurai as its Capital.
Shiva is agni personified.
His anger is a well known trait.

His son Kaarthikeya, born in Krittika, destroyed the demon,
Soora padma of the Southern land of the Asuras.
The association with these two Gods is very much part of
Tamil's memory and culture.
When we say that the Tamils were in the south of the equator,
it means that they followed the sun's movement with reference to the south pole.
Their year must have started at Thula –
180 degrees opposite of zero degrees Aries.
The first event in their new year in Thula / Libra
must have been Soora samharam.

The first event of spiritually growing time must be some time opposite
to Akshaya thritheeya of the Northern hemisphere.
Akshaya thritheeya happens when moon is in Taurus with sun in Aries.
The corresponding event in the south occurs with the sun in Sagittarius
(similar to Aries sign ruled by Mars)
with moon in Taurus!
(It is on that day, Kaathigai deepam festival is celebrated.)

This is one probable explanation for why Kaarthigai deepam
became a special to Tamils and not to others.
This time continues with them even after the lands moved
and people shifted to what is now South India.
Another interesting correlation is the specialty of Thiruvannamalai
where this Deepam festival is an important event.

Geologists are of the opinion that this hills was once a volcano!
Yes, what we see today as Thiruvannamalai is an extinct volcano
which was once spewing fire from its cap.

This perhaps explains the myth of the Fiery Shiva as Arunachaleswara
whose head and feet could not be found out by Brahma and Vishnu.
The burning hills personified as Shiva was non-explorable.
The memory of that geological event is perhaps kept on
by lighting deepam atop the hill on the Kaarthigai pournami day!

Perhaps it was on this day sometime in the remote past,
the myth of exploring the head and feet of Shiva happened.
Since Shiva was the deity of the Pandyans,
this festival could have been started from the times it was known
that this hill once personified Shiva with fire leaping from its peak.

But Vishnu worship also was known in Tamil lands.

The Thrivikrama (Vamana) personification connected with this day
(as explained in the previous post)
also existed in the Tamil lands.
This can be understood from the fact that the Vikrama Era
started from soon after the Full moon of Kaarthika (lunar month)
-indicating that this calendar in fact was originally followed in the South
rather than in the Northern parts.

To explain this better,
we know that among the various calendars that are (were) in use,
Vikrama calendar and Salivahana calendar were the most popular ones.
There is no authentic proof for why and how these two calendars were formed.
Most historians following the history written by the invading Britishers think
that Vikrama Era was initiated by King Vikramadhithya and
it was later replaced by Salivahanas.

But the unique difference between these two calendars
indicates that the origins may lie elsewhere.
It is that the Vikrama calendar follows the Southern pattern –
the new year starts with the month of Kaarthika
Whereas the salivahana calendar starts with Chaithra –
following the Northern pattern.

The North – south I mention here is about the hemispheres.
The Vikrama calendar is the calendar of the Southern hemisphere
starting from the dark phase – from the day after the Full moon in Kaarthika.
The salivahana calendar is the calendar of the Northern hemisphere
starting from the day after the New moon in Chaithra.
Naturally Salivahana seemed to be realistic to the people about 2000 years ago
living in the north of the equator,
as they thought it fit to replace the calendar of the south
and started the Salivahana Era.
This is how the transition could have come.

The Vikrama calendar which started on 56 BC
(coinciding with zero ayanamsa at Aries)
must have been
an adaptation of some previously used Southern Calendar
which was based on Vikrama's third step from Vernal to Autumnal
(just the opposite in the south) equinox!

Such a calendar would obviously begin in the Krishna Paksha –
because South is about darkness – of the demons.
South is about starting the year some time in Libra or Sagittarius.
This is how the Kaarthigai deepam could have come to be associated
with Tamils of the long past,
irrespective of their god-beliefs - in Shiva or Vishnu


Some reference to Kaarthigai deepam in Aga nanuru:-

அகநானூறு 141

மழைகால் நீங்கிய மாக விசும்பில்
குறுமுயல் மறுநிறம் கிளர, மதி நிறைந்து,
அறுமீன் சேரும் அகல்இருள் நடுநாள்:
மறுகுவிளக் குறுத்து, மாலை தூக்கிப்,
பழவிறல் மூதூர்ப் பலருடன் துவன்றிய 141-10

விழவுஉடன் அயர, வருகதில் அம்ம!

(The rainy season is over. The sky wears the color of a small rabbit.
In such a time, the Moon has become Full (pournami) on the 6-star constellation of Kritthika.
Lamps have been lit in the streets. Garlands have been hung.
In this antiquated place known for victory, when all the people are celebrating the festival (of Lights),
let my man come quickly and join us in the festivities. )


அகநானூறு 11

வானம் ஊர்ந்த வயங்கொளி மண்டிலம்
நெருப்பெனச் சிவந்த உருப்பவிர் அங்காட்டு,
இலையில மலர்ந்த முகையில் இலவம்
கலிகொள் ஆயம் மலிபுதொகுபு எடுத்த
அஞ்சுடர் நெடுங்கொடி பொற்பத் தோன்றி,

(The bright sun moving in the sky has made the forest hot.
In that forest, the "Ilavam" flowers that have blown in a row
resemble the bright lamps lit in a row by the enthused women .)


அகநானூறு 185
பெருவிழா விளக்கம் போலப், பலவுடன்
இலைஇல மலர்ந்த இலவமொடு

(The Ilavam flowers looked like the big festival of Lights)

(to be continued)


admin said...

Thanks for this post.. informative :)

jayasree said...

You are welcome!

Anonymous said...

Excellent Post. Thanks for sharing such useful info. I seldom find people interested in these topic discussions.

jayasree said...

Thank you Rekha

R.Shankar said...

Very informative post! However, please be informed that the word "myth" you (and so many Hindus) use is a British word that was used to describe our scriptures with the intention of relegating them as just stories without any truth in them.
I have stopped using this word long back, and I hope you would also stop this.
This is one of the treacherous ways that the British have used to fool us.