Rows of oil lamps decked in the pathway, staircases, compound walls and balcony that is the picture comes in my mind for Karthigai Deepam. A festival of light celebrated on a full moon day in month of Karthigai (mid Nov- mid Dec) which coincides with Kirthigai (star/constellation).
So what is the mythology behind this light festival?
Lord Bhrama (creator of Universe) and Lord Vishnu (Preserver of Universe) were arguing for years who hold the Supreme power. Lord Shiva took an infinity fire form(Agni avatar) and proposed a solution to them, who find my feet or head first will be considered having the Supreme power. After years of searching, both accepted that is impossible to find Shiva. Brahma and Vishnu requested Shiva to stay on Earth to protect the devotees and appeared once in a year in form of Jyothi (fire) for devotees. The place is Tiruvannaamalai where Shiva transformed as holy Hill "Annamalai Hill".
Every year at karthigai Deepam, a "Jyothi" is lit up at Annamalai Hill around 6.00 pm. Thousands of people flock to watch at the dusk. Pretty much 2000 litres of ghee used and 35 meter of cotton cloth for a wick, kg of camphor is smeared in cotton , the light is visible for almost 25 km in surrounding villages.
A three days festival observed in my place.
The first day: Karthigai Deepam which is today, house is cleaned, vegetarian food is prepared and offered to God, usually a jaggery based sweet is offered as neivedyam. My mom prepares the "mavu (flour) vilakku (lamp)". An edible lamp: pounded rice flour mixed with jaggery formed in shape of lamp, the hole is filled with ghee and cotton wicked placed to lit up in front of God, a small replica of Annamalai deepam :)
At the dusk , the oil lamps are placed outside in a row. All temples (Shiva- Vishnu and Supramanian) are adorned with oil lamps, especially the evening, a "chokka pannai" is lit by the Priest. Chokka pannai is made of palm tree leaves formed as a small tent, camphor is used to start the fire. It is believed that is a miniature replica of Annamalai Deepam Lord Shiva's (Agni avatar).
The second day known as Nattu Karthigai: We commemorate our ancestors. Poojas are done outside of the Pooja room in the evening. Because, non vegetarian food (fish, lamb, egg) is offered in front of grand papa- grandma's pictures. The night feast is truly unforgettable, I usually stumble which one to eat first, fish or lamb?
The third day: only one lamp is kept outside and the rest is placed in kitchen, store room etc... But, we haven't celebrated the third day as far as I remember.
But now, I only celebrate "Karthigai Deepam" which is today and don't place any oil lamp outside. Simply don't want to give a panic attack to my neighbors with my belief of oil lamp :)
A simple Sago/Tapioca Kheer is shared today with you.
can be served for 2 adults
Sago/javvarasi: 1/4 cup
Water: 1/4 cup
Milk: 2 cups
Sugar: 1/4 cup (can be increased)
Saffron: a pinch or two (optional)
Nuts of choice ( almonds, pistachios or cashew: chopped into small pieces): 2 tsp- fried in a tsp of ghee/clarified butter
Elaichi/cardamom seeds: 3 crushed coarsely
Soaking the sago/javvarasi makes the cooking process much faster- saving your energy bill
1 Add the water mentioned to sago and soak about 2 hours.
1. Boil the milk
2. Add the sago and stir gently, the pearls will turn translucent soon. But for this amount let it cook exactly 8 min.
3. Add the sugar, saffron and let it cook another 5 min in simmer
4. Switch off the stove, sprinkle the elaichi/cardamon and nuts.
5. Enjoy hot or keep in refrigerator for 2 hours to cold serving!