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aanai pandigai / kAttikai deepotsavam
Date: Fri Nov 30 2001 - 12:05:24 PST

Dear Friends,

I would like to wish all of you a joyous kArttikai deepotsavam.
On this full moon day, when the kRttikA nakshatra is present,
we observe a second festival of lights to celebrate the supreme
Light who resides resplendently within our heart.  The Vedanta
describes His effulgence as the 'param-jyOti' (supreme Light),
'jyotishAm jyOti' (Light of lights), the Original Light of whom
the lights of the sun and moon are mere reflections.  

This Supreme Light shines within all of us -- 
  'antar-jyOtir ameyam ekam amRtam kRshNAkhyam ... param-aushadham'  
  (That boundless, immortal, unique effulgence known as Krishna 
   shines within --    
   drink that divine medicine which bestows complete liberation) 
   declares the author of the Mukunda Mala.
  'antar-jyOtiH kimapi yaminAm' --  
  (The indescribable inner effulgence perceived by the yogins) --
  exclaims Sri Vedanta Desika in amazement.

So celebrated by the ancient seers, this Blissful, Boundless
Light present within is celebrated externally today.  This day
has such a profound significance that it stands alongside
SrI jayantI, SrI rAma navamI, and SrI narasimha jayantI and
the month of mArgazhi as one of those few days when a 'visesha-
ArAdhanam' (special worship) is traditionally performed.

In some regions, particulary Karnataka, the kArttikai deepotsava
is also known as 'Anai paNDigai' ("Elephant Festival", or Anai 
habba in Kannada). This is to celebrate the avatAra of Gaja Lakshmi.  
On the day she took form, the celestial divine elephants performed a
tirumanjanam (ceremonial bath) for her. We therefore remember her
today.  There are also some other elephant-related stories that
are mentioned in this context, and I invite other members to share
what they know.

What follows is a brief description of how the kArttikai deepotsava
and Anai paNDigai are celebrated in my family.  The pUja for Gaja
Lakshmi is conducted in the morning and the Deepa for Vishnu is
celebrated in the evening.  In the morning, you take two elephant 
sculptures -- traditionally the elephants were made out of clay
specially for this occasion -- and place them alongside an idol
of (Gaja) Lakshmi and Narayana.  Decorate them with flowers,
thirumaN, etc. You can offer some whatever sweets or delicacies 
have been prepared to Lakshmi-Narayana along with the elephants. 
On the morning of the next day (some do it on the third day), some 
thayir-sAdam (yogurt rice) is tied to their tummies and sealed with 
a leaf (you can stuff the elephants with them if they are made of 
clay).  The clay elephants are then immersed in a river or tank

On the evening of kArttikai, the deepotsava is celebrated.
There are many details which vary from family to family and
tradition to tradition, but generally the following is observed.
The first deepam (oil lamp) lit is the paramAtman Vishnu Himself.
You should light a lamp thinking of Him, and then that lamp should
be used to light lamps everywhere inside the house, in the backyard,
everywhere.  Lamps should also be lit on the threshold of the house,
traditionally with clay lamps. All lights in the house should be on 
for some time that evening. I am told that my grandfather was very 
particular about this -- Light, Light, Light everywhere -- there 
should be no darkness.

Then ArAdhanam is performed and stotras, particularly Sri
Vishnu Sahasranamam are recited, and during the mangaLArati
a small piece of cotton cloth is soaked in ney (ghee) and
is lit in front of the Lord.  You can wind the cloth on a stick
and unroll it as it burns.  The ash is worn as "raksha".

I request other members to share their memories of this festival.

May we all seek to know that Effulgent Light resident within
our hearts!

aDiyEn rAmAnuja dAsan

           - SrImate rAmAnujAya namaH -
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