Elephant lamps Lit On Kartika Deepotsava For The Welfare Of One’s Brothers

The Annamalai Deepam, also known as Kartikai Deepotsava, in Tiruvannamalai dates back to 200 BC, and this has been mentioned in Sangam literature. Avaiyyar, a renowned woman in the Sangam era, a great devotee of Subramanya, also sings songs on Kartika Deepam. 

The month of Kartika is very auspicious and is dedicated to Lord Subramanya. The Kartika Deepotsava is celebrated with grandeur across South India, predominantly in Tamil Nadu. Hundreds of lamps are lit in temples and homes on the full moon day of the traditional calendar month Kartika. 

Tiruvannamalai, a town in Tamil Nadu, hosts Lord Annamalai and this temple is considered to be one of the Pancha Bhoota Sthalas. The Kartika Deepam festival lasts for ten days in Tiruvannamalai and on the tenth day, a large deepam is lit at around six in the evening, and this light can be seen for many kilometers. It is tradition in many homes to light lamps in their homes only after the Annamalai deepam is lit. Following the lamp lighting, Annamalai swami is taken on a procession around the temple, accompanied by thousands of devotees. 

Puffed rice balls made from Nel Pori, Ghee Appam and many other sweets are made on this day. Read about it here: https://www.indicasoftpower.com/welcoming-hemanta-ritu-with-kartika-deepotsava/

Kartika Deepam is very similar to the Bhai Dhooj celebration in North India. Sisters light lamps and while doing so, pray for their brothers’ welfare; specifically, an elephant lamp is lit on the day by all sisters. This tradition has a story attached to it. 

A king had only one daughter, who had a pet elephant who grew up with her. The princess considered the elephant as her own brother. Following her wedding, she had to leave her home, and this meant that she could not be with her brother. She missed him dearly. So, on every Kartika deepam, she lit an elephant lamp- Gajalakshmi Vilaku- and she also prepared Nel Pori balls, Rice and jaggery balls, Adhirasam and other sweets that were the size of an elephant's leg.

Kartika Deepam is also celebrated in Sri Lanka, especially in Koneshwar and Trincomalee. They have a ritual known as ‘Sorkka Paavanai’, a bonfire. At the entrance of the temple, dried coconut leaves are tied and the temple priest lights the lamp at night, after a ceremonial procession of all the deities of the temple. 

Different types of lamps are lit on the day, made of clay, bronze, terracotta, brass and silver. CSP spoke to Shri Sandeep Prakash, Shri Yethin Nagesh and Shri Shashi Bhushan. Shri Yethin Nagesh is a bronze sculptor with an ancestry of Bronze sculptors. Shri Sandeep Prakash is a jewelery maker and specialises in making jewellery for Temples.  Shri Shashi Bhushan is a terracotta artist. They provided us with their wonderful diya creations. Have a look below. 

Silver lamps by Shri Sandeep Prakash

Terracotta Lamps by Shri Shashi Bhushan

Featured image: Bronze lamps by Shri Yethin Nagesh