Kartik Purnima or Tripurari Purnima is celebrated on the full moon day of the auspicious Kartik month of the Hindu lunar calendar. This year Kartik Purnima is being celebrated today, November 23, 2018. Kartik month holds great importance for the Hindus as this is the only month in which both Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu are duly worshipped. Kartik Purnima is associated with Prabhodhini Ekadashi which marks the end of Chaturmas, a four-month period when Lord Vishnu is presumed to be asleep. People in Varanasi celebrate Kartik Purnima by lighting diyas and earthen lamps along the banks of the river. Devotees also pray to Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva on this day and visit temples to light diyas near the idols of the gods.
The auspicious day has two legends associated with it one of Lord Shiva and the other of Lord Vishnu. Tripuri Purnima or Tripurari Purnima is related to the legend of Lord Shiva and derives its name from Tripurari – the enemy of the demon Tripurasura. In some Mythological stories, Tripurasura is the three demon sons of Tarkasura. Lord Shiva is given the epithet of Tripurari because he in his form of Tripurantaka killed Tripurasura on this day. Tripurasura was a demon who had conquered the whole world and defeated the gods and created three cities in space called Tripura. Lord Shiva killed the demon and annihilated the three cities with a single arrow providing joy and euphoria to the gods.
In another Mythology related to Lord Vishnu, Kartik Purnima is celebrated as the birthday of Matsya or Matsyavataram (fish avatar Lord Vishnu). The Matsyavatar is said to be the first avatar of Lord Vishnu out of his ten avatars. He took the form of a giant fish to rescue the first man, Manu, from a great flood. This day is also celebrated as the birthday of Vrinda, the personification of the Tulsi plant and of Lord Shiva and Devi Parvati’s elder son Kartikeya, the god of war. This day is also dedicated to one’s dead ancestors called pitrs.
People take ritualistic bath in a water body like a lake or a river. This holy bath is known as ‘Kartik snana’. A holy bath at Pushkar or in the River Ganges is deemed the most pious and auspicious. An evening bath is also taken by devotees who offer prayers during moonrise and offer worship. In Pushkar, Rajasthan, the Pushkar Mela or Fair commences on Prabodhini Ekadashi and continues till Kartik Purnima. The Pushkar Mela is dedicated to Lord Brahma whose temple is located at Pushkar. A ritual bath on Karthik Purnima at Pushkar Lake is considered the most auspicious and beneficial for leading one towards salvation.
Kartik Purnima is also the birthday of Sri Guru Nanak, the first Sikh guru and the founder of Sikhism. His birthday is celebrated with great pomp and fervour by all the Sikhs around the world.