By Tasha Friedman
Happy Karthika Deepam!
This time of year, when in the northern hemisphere nights grow longer and daylight hours shrink, many cultures around the world are celebrating light.
Diwali earlier this month, Hanukkah coming soon, St. Lucia’s Day and winter solstice festivities in December… It seems to be a universal human impulse to honor the light when nature is at its darkest, like an intuition of the light of love that persists even in the most challenging situations.
Karthika Deepam is one such festival of light, celebrated in the south of India and Sri Lanka. It is one of the most important holidays in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, especially in Tiruvannamalai, the city where Ramana Maharshi’s ashram is located. Thousands of clay oil lamps illuminate streets and homes, and most spectacular of all, the Maha Deepam blazes at the top of Arunachala.
Several thousand pounds of ghee are used to fuel this massive cauldron of light, which can be seen from a 21-mile radius around the sacred mountain!
The legends around Karthika Deepam involve Shiva manifesting as light or a pillar of fire. It seems fitting that this holiday would be so popular in Ramana’s adoptive home. What is Ramana, or any enlightened being, other than a brilliant flash of light?
Ramana’s first experience of the Self came suddenly like lightning out of a clear sky, yet the echoes of that moment of illumination continue to shine.
The light brought by teachers like Ramana Maharshi persists long after the physical form disappears. It has been over 70 years since the sage of Arunachala left the body, but his message, his essence, is timeless. Pointing again and again towards eternal Truth, his only mission in life was to remind all who encountered him, in the body or through his words, of their Essential Nature—something that cannot be taught because we know it already.
We love to see light with our eyes because it reminds us of this radiance of the Spirit, the sun of Truth that burns so brightly at the center of our being.
As Ramana himself commented, “The true significance of the Karthigai Deepam festival is to turn the intellect inwards and have it fixed in the Heart, thereby merging it with the indweller of the Heart.”
Light candles in your house and enjoy their gentle glow while also remembering to light that candle in your heart. Honor that inner luminosity, which infuses the world with beauty as soon as you recognize that this is what you truly are.
Tasha is a Hridaya Yoga teacher and a frequent contributor to our blog. You can read all of her posts here.