“Deepam Jyothi Parabrahma deepam sarva tamopaham
Deepena sadhyate sarvam sandhya deepam namostute”.
Of all the months in the year, the month of Karthik plays a very dominant role in the spiritual life of a devotee. According to the Skanda Purana, Karthik is considered as one of the most auspicious months of the year in which the devotees get an opportunity to get rid of all their evil doeds and adopt a pure way of life by praying to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. As per the Skanda Purana, Lord Shiva is in the heart of Lord Vishnu as Lord Vishnu is in the heart of Lord Shiva. Karthik Puja is called ‘Damodara Puja’ and ‘Shiva puja.’ ‘Salagrama puja’ is being performed in the month. It is a well-known fact that Kshetrapalaka in Tirumala is Lord Shiva. Lord Sri Satyanarayana Swamy at Annavaram is the best example for the unification of Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. He is called ‘Hari Hara Hiranyagarbha Trimurtyathmaka Swaroopulu’. During the Karthik month, holy bath, meditation, charity, marriage of goddess Tulsi are some of the religious rituals being performed and one who performs them gets relief from all sins. ‘Govinda nama smarana’ and the Gita ‘paarayana’ are also considered significant rituals in the month.
The Worship of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu
The month of Karthik is the favourite month of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. It is believed that if devotees worship Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu on Karthika shuddha Purnima, they attain salvation. On Mondays and on the day of Karthik Purnima, the devotees worship Him with special Puja and Abhishekam. The Shiva Sahasranama Strotra is being chanted during the month. Lord Shiva is believed to have his abode in the roots of the bilva tree. The puranic saying ‘Abhishekapriyah Sivah’ means that Lord Siva is fond of Abhisheka. Lord Shiva drank the poison that emanated from the churning of the Ocean of Milk for the welfare of the universe and wore the Ganga and the Moon on His head to cool Himself. The
process of ‘abhishekha’ pacifies His third fiery eye. A devotee who worships the roots of the bilva tree with water attains the abode of Lord Shiva at his end since it is equal to Abhishekam to Lord Shiva. Abhishekam grants the devotees health, wealth,prosperity and happiness. The ‘tripatra’ of the bilva tree is believed to symbolize the three functions of the
Almighty namely the creation, preservation and destruction. It also symbolizes the three eyes of Lord Shiva. The offering of the bilva leaves is a compulsory ritual while worshipping Lord Shiva. Reciting the Karthik Purana in the month especially on the day of Karthik Purnima is in practice.
Karthik Masa is also called Damodar Masa. ‘Alankarapriyo Vishnuh’ means that Lord Vishnu is fond of decoration. A devotee would like to see Him in resplendent dress with marvellous ornaments. He wears garlands of sacred tulasi on His body. In the Padma Purana, Lord Krishna says that of all plants the sacred Tulasi is most dear to Him, the Karthik is most dear of all months, Tulsi is most loved by Lord Vishnu, ‘Vanabhojana’ is also an important aspect in the month of Karthik. It is auspicious to take food under the ‘amla’ tree in a wood or garden. By doing so, devotees get rid of all sins. For Lord Vishnu, Abhishekam is of utmost significance during the month. The devotees obtain freedom from adversity in the month by reciting the Vishnu Sahasranama Stotra and by chanting the Narayana Mantra. According to tradition, the holy dips in the rivers bring utmost auspiciousness to the devotees in the month of Karthik. While observing the baths in the Karthik ‘masa’, one should recite the following sloka: “Karthikeham karishyami prathah snaanam Janardhana Preethyartha tava devesha Damodara maya sahah”. Devotees used to say: ‘Janardhana! Deveswara ! Damodara!‘ I am performing my early morning bath to please You and Goddess Lakshmi.
The Eminence of Karthik Purnima
According to Hindu mythology, Karthik Purnima is one of the most renowned festivals. It is one of the favorite days of Lord Vishnu as well as Lord Shiva. It is also known as ‘Tripura Purnima’ as it commemorates the victory of Lord Shiva over the demon named Tripurasura. When the sacred day falls in the ‘Krittika’ star, it gains even more significance and is known as ‘Maha Kartik’. It is believed that all gods and goddesses enter the sacred rivers on this day and the devotees receive the divine blessings of all gods by taking the holy dip. Kartika Purnima is also celebrated as the day on which Lord Vishnu incarnated as Matsya. Matsyavatara was to save the Vedas from ‘Pralaya’. Gods celebrated the happy occasion by lighting lamps. On this day the marriage ceremony of Lord Vishnu with Devi Vrinda i.e., Tulsi plant is commemorated with great pomp. The worship of Lord Krishna and His beloved Radha under the Tulsi tree is of immense importance in the month of Karthik. Devotees also would lit the ‘diya’ in front of Tulasi plant. It gives the devotees health, prosperity and deliverance from all sins.
The Prominence of Karthik Deepam
The Kartika Purana emphasizes on various ways of offering the lamps to Lord Siva, Lord Vishnu and other gods and goddesses in the month of Karthik. The month of Karthik is especially renowned for the worship of lamps. Of all gifts, the gift of a lamp during the month is unique. Lighting a ‘diya’ before Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu is also called ‘deep-daan’. One worships Lord Yama with ‘deepas’ at the time of twilight at the main door of one’s residence and with ‘naivedya’ to make sure that there would never be an untimely death in one’s family. It believed that the goddess Ganga and Lord Vishnu together with other gods and goddesses reside in every drop of water on the earth in the month of Karthik. According to mythology, a devotee who lights the lamp of sesame oil in the name of Lord Vishnu in the month of Karthik during ‘sandhya’ time gets prosperity and happiness. Lamps can be set afloat in lakes and rivers. The lamp and the wick symbolize the relation between one’s ‘jeevatma’ and ‘paramatma’. The ‘jyoti’ retains as an identity that separates from both the oil and the wick. Through the ‘deepaaradhana’, a devotee finds not only the visible ‘jyoti’ in the lamp but also the invisible ‘jyoti’ that is all-pervading and everlasting within himself. He also realizes that the ‘atma’ is the form of ‘jyoti’ which is different from both the body and the senses. ‘Akasha deepam’ teaches the devotees that in human body there is great energy and great light which is eternal and indestructible like the ‘akasha’. The Vedas say that the Deepam symbolizes divinity. The magnificent role of Deepam is honoured in all Hindu festivals and ceremonies.
“Subham karoti kalyanam arogyam dhana Sampadah shatru buddhi vinashaya dipa Jyotir namostute”
“I salute the light that brings prosperity auspiciousness, good health, abundance of wealth and the destruction of the enemy’s intellect”. Darkness symbolizes enemy’s ignorance. Light is considered as a symbol of auspiciousness, prosperity and abundance. It brings brightness with it and removes the darkness. The greatness of Agni and the principles involved in the worship of the lamps is mentioned in Kalidasa’s Kumara Sambhavam.’ For Lord Rama, the Maruthi Deepam is offered. For goddess Parvathi, the Simha Deepa is offered. For Lord Shiva, Nandi Deepam is offered. For Lord Vishnu, the Naga Deepam or Garuda Deepam is offered. It is believed that there are three-coloured inherent elements in the light symbolize the Trinity. The red element of light symbolizes Lord Brahma who creates the world. The blue element of light symbolizes Lord Vishnu who stands for the existence of creation. The white element of light is a symbol for Lord. Shiva who is responsible for ‘laya’ i.e. destruction. The offering of Deepam to the deities is one of the most important ‘shodasopacharams.’ The worship of the deities starts from the lightening of the lamp. Deepam is ‘Panchabrahmatmakam.’ The basement of the light is Lord Brahma. The stem is Lord Vishnu. the ‘pramida’ is Lord Shiva. The ghee or oil is ‘naadam.’The wick in the light is ‘Binduvu.’ Devotees should light lamps in the month of Krathik. In the month of Magha they should take a holy dip in a river. In the month of Vaishagha, they should give importance to the act of ‘daana.’ Both Aswiyuja Purnima and Karthik Purnima are ‘Sarat purnimalu’. On the day of Purnima, the ‘raasa leela mahotsavam’ was happened. The gopikas who are chastised by their yoga are blessed by Lord Krishna. The ‘leela’ is called ‘mokshapradhana leela.’ On the day of Karthik Purnima goddess Lalitha Tripura Sundari is worshipped with utmost devotion. The star Kruthika is called the Star of Fire. To install and worship the embodiment of Lord Shiva in the fire is ‘yagna.’ It is significant that ‘Deeparadhana’ is a symbol for the nature of yagna in the month of Karthik. The month is special for the worship of Lord Subramanya who was born in Kritika’ and He is Yagna Swarupa.’ Karthik Purnima is also called ‘Kumara Darshanam.’ Lord Shiva who is the embodiment of ‘Jyothirlinga‘ radiates in each and every ‘deepa’as ‘Jyothirlinga’ in the month of Karthik.
The Skanda Purana stresses on the greatness of the ‘Kartika deepam’. In the past, some great saints belong to Matanga Maharishi’s ashram performed the ‘Kartika Vrata’. After lighting the ‘akasha deepam’, they kept it on the branch of a dried tree that was just outside the temple and proceeded to the temple for listening to the ‘Hari Katha’. Suddenly they heard a loud sound from the tree. They witnessed an astonishing sight. The dried tree had been torn apart into shreds and from it a man came out in radiance. On seeing them the man prostrated in reverence. He said that he was a great sinner in one of his previous births. Though he was extremely wealthy, he refrained from giving away even a grain of rice as charity. Many a time when pious Brahmins approached him for alms due to their utter poverty, he would arrogantly sit in front of them and point his feet towards them as a sign of disrespect and ridicule. Besides, he used to take money from many innocent people promising them to offer the jobs they sought for but never did anything for them. He committed many severe crimes due to which he had to take many births as dog, as crow, as chameleon and as insect. Finally he was reborn as the present tree. He was unable to understand how he could suddenly be liberated from all sins. He asked the rishis why it happened so. The rishis replied that the result was due to the power of lighting the ‘Kartika Deepam’. As the lamp was kept on him who is in the shape of a tree, he could get immense
enlightenment and benefit from it. The young man prayed to the ‘rishis’ to preach him the righteous path towards liberation. The ‘rishis’ said that it was simply enough if he could light the ‘akasa deepam’. The young man felt rejoiced.
A mouse used to eat the ghee from the extinguished lamps offered by the devotees in a temple of Lord Vishnu. One day she felt hungry. She tried to eat the ghee from a lamp which was not yet extinguished. While eating ghee from the lamp, the flaming cotton wick got stuck in her teeth. The mouse started jumping in front of the Lord and died. Accepting the burning wick of ghee in the mouth of the mouse as His ‘aarti’, Lord Vishnu gave her salvation in the end.
Govardhana Puja, Gopasthami and Tulsi Vivah are famous festivals in the Karthik month. Gopasthami Day falls on ‘Astami thidhi’ during Karthik Sukla Paksha. It is a famous festival in Madhura and Vrindavan.
According to Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva appeared as an endless flame of light before Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma, who each considered himself supreme and said that the matter could be tested if the two could search for Lord Shiva’s head and feet. Lord Vishnu took the form of a boar and delved deep into the earth. Lord Brahma as a swan flew towards the skies. Lord Vishnu failed in his search and returned. Lord Brahma, based upon a piece of ‘mogali’ flower and learnt from it that it had been floating down for thirty thousand years from Lord Shiva’s head. He seized upon this and claimed to Lord Shiva that he had seen the other’s top. Lord Shiva realized the falsehood and pronounced that there would never be a temple for Lord Brahma in this world. He prohibited the use of the flower in his worship. He appeared as a flame and the day is called the day of Karthika Maha Deepam. He radiates as a huge flame on the hill of Arunachalam.
On the day of Karthik Purnima, one can light deepam with ‘puvvu vattulu’ (wicks) on a banana trunk and leave it in the river to attain salvation. One can light a deepam near a tulasi plant or tulasi kota at home in a big water tub or in a river for spiritual enlightenment. On that day, devotees light lamps in the temple of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. A pack of 365 wicks is usually lit. Each wick represents each day of the year. The inner meaning behind the lighting of the lamp is to dispel the darkness of the soul and to exercise the illumination of wisdom to know the inner Self.
If a devotee performs holy bath, charity and ‘deepa daan’ on the day of Karthik Purnima, it is equal to the performance of one hundred ‘Ashvamedha Yagas’. It is aptly stated that Kartik Purnima provides ‘Dharma’, ‘Artha’, ‘Kama’ and ‘Moksha’. One should pray to the Almighty by lighting the divine lamp in order to dispel the inside darkness of one’s soul and can become as a pious and meaningful person. May the light of lights illumine one and all! May Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu bless every devotee with prosperity auspiciousness, good health, and abundance of wealth! One should essentially merge with the Supreme Light and attain the eternal abode of immortal bliss.