Friday, November 21, 2008

Kaarthigai – why worship by oil-wick lamps?

(This is the 3rd and the concluding part of the series on Kaarthigai deepam.

The first two parts can be read at

The uniqueness of the Kaarthigai festival is about the mode of worship.

Usually worship is done as a form of 'archana' with flowers or yellow rice.

But worship is done to deepam and by means of deepam in the Kaarthigai festival.

Small earthen lamps called 'agal' with oil and wick are used for worship.

The worship is done from inner chambers of the house

to outside the house-

in the open space outside,

as though the worship is to the glowing Full moon itself

or to match with the celestial worship that is done by the Full moon on that day.

The rationale and the purpose of this kind of worship is understood from

the Divya Prabhandam,

from the first 3 Thiruvandhathis sung by

Poigai aazhwar, Bhoothathhazhwar and Peyaazhwaar respectively.

This is about what personifies the agal, the oil, the wick and the deepam.

These important components of the lamp are exhibited at three levels or

by means of three 'vyahruthis',

namely, bhoo (physical level manifestation)

Bhuvah (vital level manifestation)

And swah (mental level manifestation).

The bhoo, buvah and swah are the basic components of all things in the created world.

These three are lorded by the 4th component, 'mahat'

(the explanation of these based on Taittriya Upanishad and

Chadoghya Upanishad are already discussed in this blog

in posts on Pithru tarpaN)

Juts to know the basics of this three-some existence,

our physical body with skeletons, skin etc is bhoo.

Our vital body with blood, fluids etc is Bhuvah.

Our mental body with thoughts and mind is Swah.

The Lord of these three is our atman –

that is the 'mahat' for the body.

The Mahat is the ultimate entity of any given vyahruthi.

To realize that,

the communion must happen at the three levels in unison.

All the three levels of our existence –

at physical, vital and mental level must work towards a singular goal

of realizing that Atman.

When that happens we say that

the lamp of the Mind is lit with physical and vital bodies

so that the Eternal Lamp of the Knowledge in the form of Atma is realized.

This is the exact 'tatparyam' of lighting the lamps

which is done with the three vyahruthis.

From Divya Prabhandam

The Prabhandam verses indicate

the lighting of the Knowledge by the three levels of Vyahruthi.

At the first level, the entire earth becomes the lamp or 'agal'.

This is because the earth stands for the entire human race

that is to live on this earth at different stages of its existence.

When the earth is the lamp (agal vilakku),

the oceans become the oil,

and the sun becomes the deepam or 'sudar' or light.

The worship is done to the Eternal Lord of the cosmos.

The first verse in the first Thiruvandhathi personifies this.

When the worlds becomes the lamp with oil of ocean

and the wick of devotion,

the sun glows as the light.

This describes the activity at the physical level of existence of the deepam.(bhoo)

When this is done,

the next level of how the worship happens by the mind

This is described in the first verse of

the second Thiruvandhathi (by Bhoothathhazhwar).

The devotion (anbu) is the lamp (agal)

The desire (aarvam) is the oil,

The mind (Chindhai) is the wick.

The light or deepam that is lit with these is

Knowledge! (Gyana)

This describes the activity at the vital level of existence. (Bhuvah)

Once a person reaches this level,

What happens is the act of 'seeing' the Cosmic Lord in his Eternal form!

This is described in the first verse of the 3rd Thiruvandhathi by Peyaazhwaar.

When knowledge (para bhakthi, para-gyana ana parama bhakthiuof the Lord is attained,

what one sees is the from of Lord with all divya aayudhas

and in divya mangala swaroopa.

Without the physical body and the vital forces as manifested by the indriyas (senses),

the wick of the Chinthana (thought or mind) can not be lit.

When it is lit,

what one sees is the deepam

or 'voLi' or

'Sudar' of gyana

or Knowledge of the Brahman!

This is rationale of the worship by deepam.

On the day of Full Moon in Kaarthigai,

-when the sun and the moon are looking at each other,

-when the sun as the Atma karaka and

the moon as Mano karaka are glowing on two sides of the world,

-when Thirvikrama has completed his three steps of scaling all the three vyahruthis,

the Light of Knowledge is lit a s mark of

worship to the Cosmic Lord of Brahman!

The apparatus chosen also is something that of personifying the three vyahruthis.

-The agal is the physical / bhoo component.

-The oil is the Vital / bhuvah component.

-The wick is the mind / swah component.

-The lamp that is lit is the Paramatma

-The Eternal Knowledge is indicated by that light

- the Knowledge that removes the darkness of agyaana,

- the Knowledge that takes us from tamas to Jyothi swaroopa sattwa

- the Knowledge of the cosmic nature of the Creator

- the Knowledge about the way to salvation.

Another taatparya is that

It is with this Light (of Knowledge) that the Devas worship the Lord eternally!

They always see the Lord – by their Light. (sadaa pasyanthi soorayah)

If there is Light, it means you will be 'seeing' the Lord!

The purpose of lighting lamps in the pooja room is this.

When the oil and wick lamp is lit,

The devas get manifest there

(because 'div' means light. They are devas because of 'div')

Once the devas are there, they must be seeing the Lord.

So, the Lord also will be there.

Regular readers of Sri AMR of Kumudam Jothidam, would have known

That he used to always recommend lighting lamps as the remedy for many problems.

The reason is as above.

When the oil and wick lamp (not candle light that exudes unwanted gasas) is lit,

the kind of light and the change in atmosphere is

such that of devas in the presence of Lord.

In the presence of a such an atmosphere,

our lamp of Gyana lit by our body, senses and mind,

will also be kindled.

Knowledge will be the born.

In astrological texts, it has been said that lighting a lamp

removes all kinds of sins

as this means that all the 33 crore devas reside in the lamp.

They are the ones who are in constant company of Brahman.
Where Brahman is, there they are.

When one lights a lamp

(of some earthen material – of mud or metal,

as maN- agal or viLakku, it stands for bhoo,

gingelly oil (or ghee) for bhuvah and

the agni as light for swah),

he is not only worshiping the 3 vyahruthis,

but also bringing down the devas to his place.

As devas are in constant company of Bhagavan,

Saakshaath Vaikunta naathan Himself descends at his place
where he lights this lamp of 3 vyahruthis

with the devas residing in them.

This is why round -the -clock lighting of oil lamp

is to be done in all temples.

In the absence of these lamps, Bhagavan can not be

said to have come down in His supreme form.

This is the reason deepa-aaradhana is done in temples.

The devas do personal aaradhana when lamps are shown for aaradhana.

The deepa- aaradhana,

when brought near the devotees,
must be worshiped by the devotees,

for they (deepam) being the devas who have Bhagavan with them

or for they having just worshiped Bhagwan,
have come near us

and they bring His Blessings to us.

The karpoora aaradhana also (by camphor) also
has the 3 vyahruthis in it,

in that, though the camphor sublimes in contact with agni,

it's watery nature can be seen just before the agni goes off,
showing its Bhuvah constitution.

The one who worships by deepam therefore

gets near the deavs and thereby near God Himself.

He is entitled to better life,

better birth and ultimately Moksha

with the dawn of Knowledge.

There is a story of a mouse which accidentally kindled the wick of a lamp in a temple

while it was running to save itself from a chasing cat.

The act of kindling the lamp and making it glow for some more time

gave it a future birth as a princess.

It means even casual or un-intentional lighting of a lamp

has its positive results on the person.

Kaarthigai deepam is the Supreme time of lighting lamps

due to those cosmic significances discussed in the earlier posts.

From Taittriya Upanishad

There is another significance for lighting the lamps.

This is indicated by Thirumangai aazhwar in Peria Thirumozhi (5- 9)

The Lord (Arangan) is called in terms of Vedas and Upanishads.

He is a Chandoghyan,

He is a sama vEdi

And He is a Taittriyan

What kind of taittriyan?

'Ain - thazhal vOmbhu Thaittriyan'

Ain thazhal is generally understood as the "pancha agni"

(browse 'panchagni vidya' in this blog )

But in the context of taittriyan, it means something else!

Because if we look at the meaning of 'vOmbhuthal' in 'vOmbhu',

It means to protect, to be manifest in, to grow, to be fixed in something etc.

In the context of Taiitriyam, there are 5 'samhithas'

In which the Lord is manifest or fixed.

In that context, the deepam is a wonderful description of

worship of the cosmic Lord in a cosmic or Nature's way!

This taittriya worship is about maha-samhithas which are 5 in number.

Samhita means juxtaposition.

There are five such types.

From Taittriya Upansihad,


" we shall state the meditation on juxtaposition through five categories –

relating to the worlds,

to the shining things,

to knowledge,

to progeny,

and to the body.

These, they call the great juxtapositions.

Now then, as regards the meditation on the worlds.

The earth is the first letter.

Heaven is the last letter.

The sky is the meeting-place.

I-iii-2-4: Vayu is the link.

This is the meditation with regard to the worlds.

Then follows the meditation with regard to the shining things.

Fire is the first letter.

The sun is the last letter.

Water is the rallying point.

Lightning is the link.

This is the meditation with regard to the shining things.

Then follows the meditation with regard to knowledge.

The teacher is the first letter.

The student is the last letter.

Knowledge is the meeting-place.

Instruction is the link.

This is the meditation with regard to knowledge.

Then follows the meditation with regard to progeny.

The mother is the first letter.

The father is the last letter.

The progeny is the focal point.

Generation is the link.

This is the meditation with regard to progeny.

Then follows the meditation with regard to the (individual) body.

The lower jaw is the first letter.

The upper jaw is the last letter.

Speech is the meeting-place.

The tongue is the link.

This is the meditation with regard to the (individual) body.

These are the great juxtapositions.

Anyone who meditates on these great juxtapositions, as they are explained,

becomes conjoined with progeny,

animals, the splendour of holiness,

edible food, and the heavenly world."

-----------(end quote)--------------

The deepam festival also is part of such Juxtaposition.

The earth is the first seat

The heavens is the last seat.

Full moon is the meeting place.

The 'Vilakku' is the link.

The earth is our karma bhoomi, where we are born to shed our karma.

The result of warding off karma

is a place in the Heavens

(cosmic place of no-return state to earth or to the chain of birth and death)

The meeting place is the Manas / mind

(Since moon is the mano karaka – signifactor of mind)

It is with thoughts and devotion of manas

we can scale from the earth to the heavens.

The Vilakku (deepam) is the link!

It is Vilakku in Tamil, because


It makes things obvious,

lights up the place,

clears the mind of all darkness and dirt.

That Vilakku or deepam is the sandhi – the link.

It personifies clarity of mind , of purpose

so that Knowledge dawns on us.

This must be remembered every time we light up a lamp.

That is, we are lighting the lamp to remove the darkness from our mind,

to gain Knowledge.

The lamp is lit in the kitchen first.

(In those days Pooja room was in the kitchen.)

From annam everything springs.

So from the place where annam is made, the light is brought.

In temples the light is first lit in the 'madappaLi'- in the kitchen

And from there taken to the Lord's sannidhi for lighting the deepam.

(happens like this Srirangam)

The deepam that is lit is Kaarthigai is

taken on to Maargazhi mornings when the 'NOnbu' is done to attain Him.

The attainment happens with the onset of Thai – the next month.

This is seen as Makar Jyothi at Sabarimala –

the journey for which aptly starts in Kaarthigai!!

Thus this Thiru-k-kaarthigai is all about

journey of the mind supported by the body (of agal)

with the control of the senses-

for the attainment of Param Jyothi!

The one who undertakes this journey with this awareness,

the one who lights the Jyothi with this awareness

can be assured of a journey to Moksha-

to the Ultimate Goal of attainment of the Lord of his worship-

to the ultimate Knowledge of coming out of the cycle of birth and death!

May the Lord who is positioned as Light in our minds

guide us with this Lamp.

"Sudar voLiyaai nenjinuLLE thOndrum en Jyothi Nambi"

(Periyaazhwar Thirumozhi 5-10)

Deepajyothi parabrahma
Deepa sarva tamopahaha
Deepena saadhyate sarvam
Sandhyaa deepo namostute

I prostrate to the dawn/dusk lamp;

whose light is the Knowledge Principle
(the Supreme Lord),

which removes the darkness of ignorance

and by which
all can be achieved in life.

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