The Malayalam month of Karkidakam is noted for month-long prayers, fasts and a austere lifestyle. Devotees recite the Ramayana every day during this month. Certain rituals carried out along with these traditions are believed to produce spiritual as well as mental benefits.
The period when the sun passes from one ‘rasi’ to the next is termed as ‘sankramam’. The Karkidaka ‘sankramam’ was at 4.33 am on Wednesday, July 17. Lighting the traditional lamp and chanting prayers in praise of the Sun God during this time is considered auspicious.
People clean the houses on the day before Karkidaka sankramam and sprinkle water mixed with cow dung or consecrated water. This ritual is carried out to expel ‘Chetta Bhagavathy’ from the house. In the evening, the elderly woman in the household takes bath and lights the traditional lamp to receive Sri Bhagavathy. There is a practice of keeping the Ashtamangalyam (eight auspicious objects used for sacred rituals) near the lamp. This signifies that Bhagavathy (Goddess) is welcome to the house. These customs differ region-wise.
In the morning of the first day of Karkidakam month, the lamp is lit with a pure body and mind. The Ashtamangalyam is also kept near the lamp to symbolize the installation of Bhagavathy in the house. Following which, obeisance is paid to Ganapathy and the Ramayana text is reverenced. Then starts the Ramayana recital. The holy book has to be recited facing east or north in the morning and west or north in the evening. During other hours, the ritual has to be done facing north. A devotee has to sit cross-legged on the floor while reciting Ramayana.
When the traditional oil lamp is lit every day, keeping the ‘Dasapushpam’ (ten flowers used in religious ceremonies) is believed to please all the Gods. This is because each plant on which the flowers constituting the Dasapushpam bloom represents a different God. Wearing or carrying the Dasapushpam is also auspicious.
Another custom that is considered to be divine is placing a picture of ‘Srirama pattabhishekham’ (coronation of Sri Rama) in front of the traditional lamp. This picture should have 11 divinities, Sri Rama, Sita, Hanuman, Bharatha, Lakshmana, Shatrughna, Vasishta, Ganapathy, Sri Parameswara, Brahma and Narada.