Though Diwali is known as festival of lights,to me it is always kaarthigai.Two festivals which was of great fascination in childhood is Navaratri(dasara) and Kaarthigai.

Navaratri for the colorfulness and the length of holidays.Kaarthigai for the preparation involved in it.One month before kaarthigai i would start looking out for the new designs of earthened lamps in  potter’s place,on the way back from school.I would buy new lamps from my pocket money every year.

On every day of Kaarthigai month two lamps would be lit in evening.Two days before kaarthigai we take old lamps from loft and soak the new lamps in bucket of water.  The purpose of soaking new lamps is to save oil,if you use new lamps as it is it will suck all the oil poured.The lamps will be soaked for 12hrs approx. and then will be drained for a day,old lamps would get cleaned.Brass lamps would get special treatment of cleaning up.

Then comes the decoration part,on top of all earthened lamps chuna will be applied and manjal(turmeric) n kumkum will be applied in four corners.For brass lamps manjal n kumkum will be applied.

First day of kaarthigai festival is BHARANI kaarthigai,where fewer lamps (approx 51)would be lit. We will play few crackers saved from diwali.

Second day of kaarthigai is really special known as ‘ Thiru Kaarthigai’,amma would prepare nel pori urundai(can’t find an equivalent) and appam(wheat flour dumpling) as treats and will be wearing madisaar( nine yards saree).Radio will be on since 5 pm to find out when they are lighting lamp in Thiruvannamalai,once they are done the main lamp in house will be lit by amma,this part is today replaced by TV.All the lamps for that day will be kept in a maanai palagai(wooden plank) and we will be lighting one with the other lamp.

Once this is done amma will transfer fewer lamps to our thambalam(brass plate) and she will take the wooden plank.We keep lamps outside the house.Then amma would light those brass lamps inside the house,out of those brass lamps in our house i loved that one with elephant and a lady(aanai vilakku),lady with lamp on top of a elephant which will be kept in center of koodam(hall),it was such a nice lamp,with beautiful carvings,for my thalai kaarthigai(first kaarthigai after wedding) mom got me one like that,but that could not match the beauty of what my mom has.

Bursting of crackers then follows with the competition of who’s house has highest number of lamps,i always wished to win but sometimes i failed.We save the cracker boxes for tommorrow.

The following day is “chokka paanai”.The crackers will be lined up and burst in temples,it would make a great watch.For us, we lit crackers boxes saved and few 100 walas together.Always i enjoyed kaarthigai but the most was until i was 13 i guess.One kaarthigai which is still alive in my mind is the one in which Masjid was crashed down,it was Dec 6 and Kaarthigai on that day,i remembered someone saying to me about this and we watched TV for further updates,i was very happy about that then, mainly bcoz we got holidays for fewer days so that i can be well preprared for half yearly exams.

This is ambuli’s first kaarthigai,last year she was born four days after kaarthigai.I know she can’t have a best kaarthigai,but still i wanted to make it out with the least elements present.I have saved those tea lights from diwali sale here,and had a lamp decoration in evening.I made paal appam and kaarthigai vadai.

If i had planned properly i could have got few earthened lamps and brass lamps which is most appropriate,but sorry ambuli i failed this time,am sure  i will make it best the next time.