Kartik: lamp, lights, and faith
“Kartika” is the month between October-November of Gregorian calender. It is considered to be the most sacred month of a year for the pious Hindus. The believers take pre-dawn bath and visit temples in this month. Especially during this month huge crowd gathers in Jagannath Dham Puri of Odisha and Mathura/Vrindaban of Uttar Pradesh. The last five days of “Bhishm Panchuka” in the month are considered more sacred, and the last day is “Kartika Purnima”. The devotees, mostly old couples and widows, stay in these holy places the entire month and spend most of their time in ritualistic activities.
Lighting lamps is of utmost significance in the month of Kartik. It is a popular belief that if somebody lights a lamp in the temple of Lord Shri Hari even for a short time in this month, then whatever sins he has accumulated for millions of kalpas (one kalpa equals 1000 yugas) are all destroyed.” Of all gifts, the gift of a lamp during the month of Kartik is the best possible offering.
As per the Pushkar Puran, “the person who lights the lamp of sesame (til) oil in the name of Lord Shri Hari in the month of Kartik during Sandhya, (ie twilight) gets unlimited prosperity, beauty, blessing, and wealth.”
There is a tradition of offering Akash Deep (Hanging lamps) which is a unique Hindu ritual observed during the Kartik month and is very strictly followed. In all the holi cities like Puri, Mathura, Vrindaban, many devotees offer Hanging lamps along the banks of Ganga River. The hanging lamps this year were visible from October 28 and will continue to be seen till November 25. Akash Deep is the lighting of oil lamps during dusk and night in the month of Kartik. This is a lamp which is put inside a clay pot and put in the air using a bamboo and rope. It is believed that the lights from the traditional oil lamps lit in Kartik maas (month) will lighten the path for the souls of dead ancestors to reach heaven. Thousands of Hindus participate in this month-long ritual dedicated to the dead.
Symbolically, Akash Deep is the light that leads to divinity. Legend has it that people first lit these hanging lamps in honor of the dead soldiers of the 18-day Kurukshetra war in the Mahabharata. The Akash Deep ritual ends on Kartik Purnima, which is also the Dev Diwali day, with elaborate rituals and ceremonies.
In the month of Kartik falls the festival of lights, Deepavali, which is normally termed as Diwali in Northern India. During this festival, everyone whether rich or poor offers lamplights at their houses and in temples. There is a tradition of worshiping different deities on Diwali day in different parts of the country.
Normally in North, people celebrate Diwali as the biggest and the brightest festival in India. It is a common belief that the festival, in spirit, signifies the victory of light over darkness. Diwali is a 5-day long celebration. It begins from “Dhanteras”, the day otherwise known in Eastern India as “Dhanwantari Puja”. The main festival night of Diwali coincides with the darkest, ie, new moon night of the Hindu month of Kartik.
There is a tradition of cleaning, renovating, and decorating houses and offices before Diwali, and on the night of the festival, everyone in North India dress up in new clothes or their best outfit, light up diyas (lamps and candles) inside and outside their homes, participate in family puja (prayers and rituals) typically of Lakshmi – the goddess of wealth and prosperity.
In many parts of India, people believe Diwali is linked to the celebration of Lakshmi. There is a story which we hear that Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth and prosperity. Lakshmi is the wife of Vishnu. She was born on Dhanteras from the churning of cosmic ocean of milk by the gods and the demons.It is also believed that the night of Diwali is the day Lakshmi chose Vishnu as her husband and then married him.
Some other Hindus believe that Diwali is the day Vishnu came back to Lakshmi and their abode in the Vaikuntha; so those who worship Lakshmi receive the benefit of her good mood, and therefore, are blessed with mental, physical, and material well-being during the year ahead. Along with Lakshmi, devotees make offerings to Ganesha who symbolises ethical beginnings and removal of obstacles; Saraswati who symbolises music, literature, and learning; and Kubera who symbolises book-keeping, treasury, and wealth management.
Hindus in India’s eastern region like such as Odisha and West Bengal, worship goddess Kali instead of Lakshmi, and call the festival Kali Puja. In India’s Braj and north central regions, Krishna is a primary deity. People mark mount Govardhan, and celebrate legends about Krishna. In other regions, the feast of Govardhan Puja (or Annakoot) is celebrated, with 56 or 108 different cuisines prepared, offered to Krishna, then shared and celebrated by the local community.
In West and certain Northern parts of India, the festival of Diwali marks the start of a new Hindu year.
The celebration might be different. But, Diwali is certainly an important festival for Hindus which comes in the month of Kartik only. The name of festive days as well as the rituals of Diwali,vary significantly among various Hindus depending on their region. In many parts of India the festivities start with Dhanteras, followed by Naraka Chaturdasi on second day, Diwali on the third day, Diwali Padva dedicated to wife–husband relationship on the fourth day, and festivities end with Bhau-beej dedicated to sister–brother bond on the fifth day.
On the same night that Hindus celebrate Diwali, Jains celebrate a festival of lights to mark the attainment of moksha by Mahavira and Sikhs celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas. Hence, there is a great importance of lights and offerings to the Almighty in all kind of beliefs.
(The writer is a freelance journalist in Delhi. Views expressed are solely those of the author.)