These lakes too do captivate
all men’s minds and thoughts:
they are adorned by lilies blue,
splendid with playful birds,
and their water, pure and clear,
with plants floating on its surface.
Hemanta rtu is the season of mists and quiet delights. The intensity of the Sun decreases and lightly shining through the mist it almost resembles the Moon. However, as the temperature decreases even this hint of sunlight is welcomed for its perceived warmth.
Karthigai Deepam will be celebrated in parts of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Sri Lanka on December 10 this year as per the traditional Tamil calendar. This is the day when the moon is in conjunction with the Karthigai nakshatra (constellation) – the nakshatra of the six stars.
One of the earliest mentions of this festival is in the Aganaanooru – a book of poems – dating back to the Sangam Age (200 B.C. to 300 A.D.). There are several legends associated with this festival. One of them links it to the origin of Kartikeya – Shiva’s son. In this legend it is believed that Shiva created Kartikeya out of his third eye. First Shiva used his six primary faces – Tatpurusam (the face of concealing); Aghoram (the face of annihilation); Sadyojatam (the face of creation); Vamadevam (the face of preservation); Eesanam (the face of grace); and Adhomukam (the sixth face visible only to the enlightened and also considered by many as the face of Shakti) – to create six different children. Each of these children reflected a trait of Shiva himself.
These children were raised by six celestial nymphs – Dula, Nitatni, Abhrayanti, Varshayanti, Meghayanti and Chipunika. These nymphs are believed to be the six stars of the Karthigai nakshatra. Then Parvati, Shiva’s consort and Kartikeya’s mother, made her contribution towards creating Kartikeya by merging the six children or facets of Shiva’s personality into one whole person. And so Kartikeya was created. Pleased by the six celestial nymphs, Shiva granted them immortality and so on this day, the six celestial nymphs are worshipped along with Kartikeya. Oil filled diyas known as Agal vilakkus are lit around the houses and on the streets in the evening to celebrate this festival.
Purnima arrives on December 12 bringing the first month of Hemanta rtu, Margashirsha, to a close.
This Purnima is also celebrated as the birthday of two goddesses – Annapurna and Bhairavi. Anna means ‘grain’ and Purna means ‘complete’ which is why Annapurna is the goddess of grain and nourishment. She is a form of Parvati and is credited with having saved Shiva and the entire world from hunger and starvation. Bhairavi is one of the 10 mahavidyas. Many of her origin myths also link her to Parvati. However, some of the other myths link her to Durga. She is known as the ‘Fierce Goddess’.
The next day on December 13 – Pausha – the second month of Hemanta rtu begins. Pausha mas (month) coincides with the Pushya nakshatra. Pushya in Sanskrit translates into “the nourisher”. Hence, this month is considered as a good time to take part in spiritual practices and as a result, reflect inwards for emotional and mental nourishment and growth.