20 November 2010

Deepam Legends

The night of the lighting of the 2010 Deepam Flame on top of Arunachala, is tomorrow November 21st.

In this respect, there are two famous myths from the Puranas that describe the history behind the famous yearly Arunachala Deepam. The first legend is that of Brahma and Vishnu’s dispute over a column of light and the other is of a boon given by Shiva for Parvati’s penance in atonement for killing the demon Mahisasura, a devotee of Shiva.

It is customary to celebrate Deepam in all Shiva Shrines at the same time that Deepam is celebrated at Arunachala, however the legend for these Siva Shrines is different to that of Arunachala. One other legend goes thus:

The Ghee Lamp, Rat and King:

While Lord Shiva was seated in Mount Kailas with Devi Uma, a ghee lamp was in the process of extinction. A rat nearby approached it to drink the ghee and in that act the wick was pushed out a little, enabling the flame to brighten. This pious act though unintentional, resulted in the rat securing a human birth with huge wealth and the rank of a King.

With that prosperous boon the rat was born on earth as Mabali. Mabali, while reigning in all glory, one day wanted to worship Siva and went to a Siva shrine with all his royal paraphernalia. While in the Temple, a drop from a ghee lamp fell upon Mabali. The King got sores from that one drop and his malady continued for a long time.

It was then Lord Siva proclaimed, "King, thou art very arrogant. Hence you got this trouble through me. From this day on if you light Shiva shrines with ghee, you will be rid of your sores and live happily." Highly delighted on hearing these words the King from that day commenced lighting Shiva Temples and dark places with ghee (clarified butter) lamps. Lord Shiva looking at the king's piety, gave him liberation in the month of Kartigai on star Kartigai during poorva Paksha.

It is for the reason the Lord appeared before the King in the form of Light, that Deepam Darsan is celebrated in all Siva Shrines on this same day every year.


Some say that a spiritual significance of celebrating Karthigai Deepam, is that the ghee used in the cauldron (or lamp), symbolises one’s innate tendencies, which, is responsible for the ego to thrive. The wick is the ego. The flame of the lamp symbolises spiritual knowledge which depletes the ghee and also burns the wick, the ego (body, mind complex). Through the draining of the innate tendencies and the burning of the wick, one attains the spiritual goal, the realisation of the ultimate truth.

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