Usually celebrated in the month of Karthikai (the Tamil month) when the star Karthikai falls on a full moon day.
Karthigai Deepam is believed to be one of the oldest festivals celebrated in Tamil Nadu, previous even to the Festivals of Deepavali and Navarathri. Reference of Karthigai Deepam can be found in such ancient Tamil literature as ‘Ahananuru’, (2,000 BC), ‘Jeevakachintamani’, written by the Jain poet Thiruthakka Thevar (Sangam period), ‘Kalavazhi Narpadu’ (1,000 BC) with mention of the festival made in the works of the poetess Avaiyyar.
Karthigai Deepam is also called the festival of lights and nowadays is observed as an extension of Deepavali festival with many families doubling the number of lamps at their home, every day from the day of Deepavali until the day of Karthigai Deepam. Like Deepavali, there is general practice of cleaning homes and decking up houses beautifully with stunning illuminations and multihued ‘Kolams’ or Rangoli.
In Kerala, this festival is known as Trikartika or Kartika Vilaku and is held in the month of Vrichikam (November – December). Lighting traditional oil lamps in the evening after sunset (during twilight period) is the main event on the day. Karthigai Deepam is also observed as Vishnu Deepam in Tamil Nadu and is an auspicious day for Vaishanvites.
Karthigai is essentially a festival of lamps. The lighted lamp is considered an auspicious symbol and believed to ward off evil forces and usher in prosperity and joy. It occurs on the day when the moon is in conjunction with the constellation Karthigai (Pleiades). The constellation which appears as a group of six stars in the shape of a pendant, is considered in mythology as the six celestial nymphs who reared the six babies at the saravana tank which later were joined together to form the six faced Muruga. Muruga is therefore also known as Karthikeya (i.e. the one brought up by the Karthigai nymphs).
Food for Karthikai Deepam
Pics from google images.