Kinds of Karthigai days
The festivals with lights which have a tradition in Tamil Nadu are Deepavali and Karthigai. Mostly Karthigai is celebrated in a grand manner as a festival lights in this part of the country rather than Deepavali. Karthigai is considered as one of the main festivals in Tamilnadu and celebrated by many.
Usually the Karthigai is celebrated for three days in the eighth month of Tamil year called Karthigai. According to different customs it is classified like the following. It usually starts on the one of the 27 stars of hindu mythology called Bharani and known as Bharani Deepam and next day is Karthigai deepam being the star day of Karthigai. To give significance of three to any god, the last day is also celebrate to finish the festival. Different classification exists like, first day being annamalai deepam as this day is celebrated in the famous temple of Tiruvannamalai where a big deepam is lighted on the hill top. Second day will be Sarva Alaya Deepam means festival in all temples and third day to finish. Some times both annamalai deepam and sarva alaya deepam will come on the same day. The first day is called as Siva Karthigai for the lord Siva and next day will be vishnu Karthigai for the lord Vishnu and third day to finish.
Karthigai Deepam Festival
Karthigai Deepam Festival- Kinds of lamps used
For every custom there will be a special lamp which may be of types like, Kamatchi vilakku(lamp in tamil) where the deity Kamatchi will be there on the top side of the lamp where lamp will be a type of agal(a shape of lamp is called in tamil). In some other customs, lamp on the top of the elephant which looks like a Elephant ambari(yanai vilakku in Tamil) and a paavai vilakku (where a women carrying lamp in the hand).
Usual types of lamps are a stand with a stick and on the top it has a face with a base. This will have two kinds either with five edges in some customs and without edges in some customs(Mostly on the border area of Kerala will not have edges) and also the stick is either plain or with rings around.
Also agal a shape of lamp carved in a clay and painted in red usually done as a pottery work and is widely used by all sets of people. It is a tradition to buy a new set every year. So it promotes the pottery work also to maintain the traditiion.
All the above kind of lamps will be lighted with a thread made of cotton called thiri in tamil using ghee or oil poured in the space of the lights.
Kinds of prasadams for the deity - Karthigai Deepam Festival
In some customs, modhagam(kolukkattai in tamil)will be done and in some customs, pori urundai(balls made of fried rice flakes or paddy with jaggery) and appam(a sweet dish prepared with rice flour or wheat flour mixed with jaggery, cardamom and banana and deep fried in ghee)
In some customs, this day is celebrated as Gowri pooja where as some people will do this pooja on Deepavali. This will be done to the Gowri Madha by doing many varieties like Adhirasam and Maa vilakku Maa. Preparation of this is rice flour is mixed with ghee and jaggery and mixed like a clay and then made as agal as done in pottery. In this lamp is lighted using thread and ghee. This will be done either at home individually or collectively at the common place usually at nearer temples. Here other types of lights also will be used are lime skin turned into lamp and coconut broken into half and used with ghee. Get the list of all Tamilnadu festival recipes here.
I think I have covered almost all the traditional things attached to this festival of lights called 'Thirukarthigai'.