Soul Inspiring KaartthihaiTheebam
1. How the date is fixed for KaartthihaiTheebam?
On Thursday 5th December 2014, Hindus.especially the Saivites, will be observing the auspicious day, Kaartthihai viLakkeeduthiruvil(z)aa. It is also known as Thirukkaartthihai viradham and Kaartthihaitheebam. How is the date for ‘the festival of lights’ decided?
As the name of the festival suggests, it is observed in the Tamil month of Kaartthihai (mid-November to mid-December). The day when the constellation, Kaartthihai, is in the ascendant, is the chosen day for this festival. In the month of Kartthihai, this constellation coincides with the full moon day for the month. Nevertheless, the full moon day, known as paurNami, does not always occur on the day when this constellation is in the ascendant. The full moon day can occur one day before or after the day when this constellation is in the ascendant.
While celebrating the festival of lights, small oil lamps are placed in a systematic and artistic manner at homes as well as temples. In this aspect too, there are times when both temples and homes are directed to light the lamps on the same day, whereas in certain years lamps are lit on two different days. The constellation, Kaartthihai, must be in the ascendant, especially at night, to celebrate this festival at temples; it must be the full moon day for lighting the lamps at homes. Although the 6th of December is designated as the full moon day for this year (2014), 5th of December is fixed as the day of sarvaalayatheebam (lighting of lamps at homes). The reason is full moon is prevalent only until 9.41 pm on the 6th, whereas full moon is prevalent from 9.00 pm onwards on the 5th. The Ragunathaiyar Vaakkiya Panjanggam 2014-2015 clarifies that, the ideal day for sarvaalaytheebam is the one when a wee-bit of the chadhutthasi thithi (the fourteenth thithi) is prevalent around the time of sunset, and is followed by the prevalence of clear bright full moon. Hence, the 5th of December is fixed for the lighting of lamps at homes, besides the temples.
2. Why KaartthihaiTheebam is celebrated?
What is the significance of the festival of lights? According to Puraanas, when Lord Siva appeared as the cosmic flame in between Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma in the night of the Sivaraatthiri Fast, they expressed their wish to be able to see the brilliant cosmic flame always. Lord Siva said that He will appear in that form on the day, when the constellation, Kaartthihai, is in the ascendant in the month of Kaartthihai. It is for this reason that, on this day, a very huge light is lit on top of the Annamalai Hill in South India. The temples arrange dry coconut or other palm leaves in the form of a vimaanam (the small tower above the temple shrine) and set them ablaze, to remind the appearing of Lord Siva as a cosmic flame on this day. This act of setting ablaze the dry palm leaves is generally mentioned as chokkappaanai eritthal (burning the chokkappaanai); paanai means ‘a pot’; we can see that paanai does not provide any logical interpretation in this context.The original term is cutkappanai, dry palm (leaf); chutkam means dryness or ‘that which form of a cone, chutkappanai eritthal; it can also be called as chutkappanai koLotthudhal.
3. The significance of offering lit lamps to God, in our prayers
It will be of relevance to ponder a little over the concept of light. In this world one cannot see a thing without light, even if he/she is blessed with healthy eyes. Originally, the sun, moon and fire have been the sources of light. Consequently, our ancestors used the form of light as an effective means to pray to the Almighty. Worship of light is in vogue till this day. Praying to the morning sun (suuriya namaskaaram/ suuriya vaNakkam) and ThiruviLakku Poojaa vouch for the fact that worship of light still exists as an aspect of worship among the Hindus.
One’s intelligence is compared to light in Hindu culture. Our positive and negative development in life depends very much on whether our intelligence is inclined toward positive or negative values. A divinely inclined intelligence, enhanced by good moral values and ethics, assures us of an all rounded successful life. How to achieve a noble, contributive intelligence? Offering of lit lamps to the deities in a temple is one significant means to develop a positive intelligence blessed by God. Saint Thirunaavukkarasar sings thus:
ThuLakkinnan malar thodutthaalthooyaviNaeRalaahum
This thaevaaram says that, those who clean (the floors of) the temple by smearing cow-dung will be blessed with happiness, ten times more than those who sweep it. The soul of those who collect bright and good flowers and offer to God as garlands will be blessed to ascent into the pure Sivalogam. Those who offer lit lamps to deities will be blessed with the true knowledge which will lead them along the righteous (and also spiritual) path. To those who sing a lot of (devotional) songs, God blesses in them innumerable ways.
At this juncture, we are reminded of the rat who was blessed by God to be born as King Mahaabali in the next birth for having accidentally kindled a fading light in God’ shrine; in fact the rat was in the process of drinking the ghee in the lamp. If the rat was blessed for its unintended virtue, despite the mistake it committed, there is no doubt that, we will be well blessed when we offer the lit light with full devotion. The thaevaaram above indicates to us that, we should ask God to give us discreet knowledge to always identify the righteous path and also the true knowledge of always having the realization that HE is the one who is guiding us from within.
We shall see one more thaevaaram of Saint Thirunaavukkarasar:
The meaning is, ‘Within the body as house, lit the light of true wisdom with the flame of sivanyaanam, using the mind as the lamp, soul as wick, and soul’s (limited) intelligence as ghee; if we concentrate on this light of wisdom, completely immersing ourselves in it,we can get the vision of the feet of Lord Siva, the father of the youth (Lord Muruhan) who fondly wears the garland of kadambu flowers.
In this verse, manai=house; thahaLi=small earthern/metallic pot with wide mouth; madampaduuNar(vu) denotes the limited knowledge of the soul (madam=ignorance); atti=pouring (of ghee); idampadunyaanam=sivanyaanam, which is the all-pervading sakthi/grace of Lord Siva.
This verse denotes the experience of a successful yogi (meditator). It is said that, the first vision obtained by those who meditate incessantly is a flame. Some sort of excitement, enthusiasm and happiness appear along with the vision. As we progress in our meditation and achieve the deep meditative state, this flame will grow to unlimited bounds and pervade everywhere. The mind which experiences this wonderful vision becomes immersed in it, losing the awareness of everything else, including itself. This supreme cosmic flame is beyond our thought and speech; IT has to be experienced.
3. The message of Kaartthihai ViLakkeedu
The precise message is as we lit the kaartthihai viLakku, let us pray to the Almighty to lit our hearts with the light of true knowledge that will take us along the righteous, noble path through a noble, successful and joyful life to HIS blissful lotus feet, eventually.