Feature Article

Genocidal Sri Lanka forbids Kaarthikai festival as it falls on Heroes Day

[TamilNet, Sunday, 25 November 2012, 22:41 GMT]
The Heroes Day observed by Eezham Tamils on 27 November to remember their fallen fighters, falls on a full moon day this year, coinciding with the Kaarthikai festival of lights observed by Tamils since ancient times. Sri Lanka that has made a practice of banning even routine religious observations in the temples of the occupied country of Eezham Tamils on the Heroes Day, dares this year to forbid the Kaarthikai festival observations too. Occupying Sri Lanka’s practice of banning temple rituals, including toll of bells on the Heroes Day, started first in Nov 2009, while New Delhi’s Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna was visiting Jaffna. New Zealand Tamils appeal to the UN on the continued cultural genocide of their kith and kin in the island.

The Kaarthikai flame, called Chokkap-panai in Eezham Tamil, lighted in front of the Nalloor temple in 2011. It is called Chokkap-panai because of the use of dried palmyra palm leaves in making the flame.

Heroes worship
Heroes worship
Hero Stones inscribed in early Tamil writing testify hero worship as a part of ancient Tamil culture.
Appealing to the UNSG Mr. Ban-ki-Moon, with a copy to UNHCHR Ms. Navaneetham Pillay, Mr. A. Theva Rajan, Co-ordinator of the Tamil Action Front, New Zealand (TAFNZ), argues with evidence on Sri Lanka’s cultural genocide of Tamils being extended to new fronts in the post-war times.

Full text of the appeal by Mr. A. Theva Rajan to the UN:

23 November2012

His Excellency Ban-Ki-Moon,
UN Headquarters
New York.

Your Excellency,

Continuing Cultural Genocide in Sri Lanka

We would like to bring to Your Excellency’s notice the continuing cultural genocide being extended to two new fronts in post war Sri Lanka. Both are inter-related.

Kooddaththaar Temple at I'lavaalai
The Kooddaththaar Temple of I'lavaalai in Jaffna, found destroyed in the ‘High Security Zone’ occupied by the Sinhala Army in the last two decades. Kooddaththaar is a Tamil term for the guild of professional soldiers of the medieval times. The temple proves the existence of hero worship in the culture and religious traditions of Eezham Tamils. [Image courtesy
Honoring the martyrs is ingrained in the culture and history of the Tamils. It is recorded in the ancient 2000 years old Sangam literature of the Tamils and the ancient artefacts and epigraphs of the Tamils recorded in the 2000 year old Thamili script and Tamil language.

This tradition has been observed during the period when Tamils were under the kingdom of Jaffna (Eelam)

The martyrs in the war were honoured with tombs which were bulldozed by the army in post war times – a very insulting barbaric act on the part of the Government of Sri Lanka.

Kooddaththaar Temple at I'lavaalai
The rare image of the collective deity Kooddaththaar cut off and taken away in the HSZ occupied by Sri Lanka's military. Only the pedestal remains. [Image courtesy
November 27 as the date on which the first fighter died is observed as martyrs day. This almost coincides with the Karthikai Thirunal, a festival of lights observed again by the Tamils from very ancient times. The ancient Sangam classics of the Tamils refer to this festival of lights as being celebrated in every home with pomp and glory – the houses and entrances being illuminated with oil lamps mounted on banana tree trunks. According to the Sangam works it also was the day when husband s who went abroad for trade and wealth returned to join their families, a great day for family reunion.

Sothiya memorial
Memorials of heroes, the continuity of culture and tradition as such seen in the image, were razed down by the occupying military of Sri Lanka.
It is a great function in Hindu temples and is a special day for worshippers of Lord Muruga or Karthigeya. It is called Karthiga Mangalaya among the Sinhalese and they too celebrate it with great enthusiasm. The Dalada Maligawa Temple authorities distribute oil and other necessities to smaller temples in the Kandyan region. It is a great festival in the Kandyan kingdom of yesteryears. Even the King went in the great night pageant and procession with decorated elephants. There is a solemn festival at the famous Muruga/Kartigeya temple of Kataragama/Kathirgamam.

The occupying army in the North and East in this post war time are preventing Tamils from celebrating this Festival of Lights because it coincides with the Martyrs day. Even temples are prevented from conducting poojas with bells tolling and other grandiose.

The Government of Sri Lanka is interfering with the cultural rights and traditions of the Tamils – a furtherance of the cultural genocide. Please prevail on the Government of Sri Lanka to desist from this barbaric behaviour.

A Thevarajan
Mr. A. Thevarajan
Yours Sincerely,

A.Theva Rajan, QSM
Co-ordinator, TAFNZ

Copy to: Her Excellency Ms. Navaneetham Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

* * *

Mr Thevarajan has also sent photographic evidences to the UN on the continuity of the culture of hero worship among Tamils since ancient times. The images are presented above with captions added by TamilNet.

* * *

Thiruva'n'naamalai festival 2007
Kaarthikai flame lighted on top of the hill at Thiruva'n'naamalai in Tamil Nadu in 2007
Thiruva'n'naamalai temple on Kaarthikai festival day in 2011 [Photo courtesy: atinytoes.wordpress.com]
Lamps placed on road-side wall on Kaarthikai day [Photo courtesy: vilakkeedu.blogspot.com]
Tamils celebrating the festival of lights on the full moon day of the month of Kaarthikai finds reference since the times of the earliest stratum of Tamil literature.

The festival is known in Tamil as Kaarthikai vi'lakkeedu meaning the offering of lamps on the Kaarthikai day. The month of Kaarthikai (November-December) gained its name because the full moon day of that month would fall when the moon joins the Kaarthikai constellation, which is a group of six stars (Pliedes).

What is celebrated as Theepaava'li today on the new moon day of the month Aippasi (October-November) doesn't have references of antiquity in Tamil literature.

Bridget and Raymond Allchin, British prehistorians who long researched South Asia, think that the Kaarthikai festival of lights originated from neolithic rites in South India. They associate the huge ash mounts found in the neolithic sites to ceremonial fires and link the practice with the ritual of the Kaarthikai festival of the later times.

Lighting the Kaarthikai flame is observed in all the Hindu temples in South India and in the island of Sri Lanka. The Kaarthikai festival in Thiruva'n'naamalai temple in Tamil Nadu, where a huge lamp is lighted on top of the hill, is famous among the Saivites.

Apart from the temples, lamps are lighted in the streets as well as in the houses.

Among Eezham Tamils, it is a common practice to erect banana stems in front houses and light the lamp in coconut halves placed on them. Besides, torches on Ki'luvai sticks are also placed at different places of the house premises. There is a belief that ancestors would visit the house on that day and they need light. Some even cook fish on that day and place it as offering to the ancestors.

The lamp lighted in temples of Eezham Tamils is called Chokkap-panai, because dried palmyra palm leaves are used to make the flame.

* * *

The following lines from the Changkam Tamil literature Akanaanoo'ru refers to the way the Kaarthikai festival was celebrated among ancient Tamils.

Mazhaikaal neengkiya maaka visumpil
Ku'rumuyal ma'ru:ni'ram ki'lara, mathi:ni'rainthu,
A'rumeen chearum akal iru'l nadu:naa'l
Ma'rukuvi'lak ku'ruththu, maalai thookki,
Pazhavi'ral moothoorp palarudan thuvan'riya
Vizhavuudan ayara, varukathil amma! - (Akanaanoo'ru 141:6-11)

மழைகால் நீங்கிய மாக விசும்பில்
குறுமுயல் மறுநிறம் கிளர, மதிநிறைந்து,
அறுமீன் சேரும் அகல் இருள் நடுநாள்
மறுகுவிளக் குறுத்து, மாலை தூக்கி,
பழவிறல் மூதூர்ப் பலருடன் துவன்றிய
விழவுஉடன் அயர, வருகதில் அம்ம! - (Akanaanoo'ru 141:6-11)

In the broad sky free of rain clouds, prominent with the ‘little rabbit’ blot shade, the moon in full will join the six-star constellation (Kaarththikai/ Pliedes). On that midnight, lighting lamps on the streets, and raising garlands, the gathering of the old valorous village would celebrate. He will come for me to celebrate the festival together.

* * *

The Kaarthikai festival and lighting the flame called Chokkap-panai in Eezham Tamil, celebrated at Nalloor Kanthasaami temple in the 2011 Kaarthikai festival:

The Kaarthikai festival celebrated in Thiruva'n'naamalai in Tamil Nadu:



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