Chokka Panai is a ritual performed on Karthigai Deepam festival in Tamil Nadu. It is a ritual of lighting bonfire. People also create the bonfires apart from lighting numerous lamps on this day.
In the year 2014, this is observed on December 5. The festival is observed for three days.
Chokka Panai is observed by both Shiva and Vishnu devotees. While Shiva devotees are known as Shaivaites, the devotees of Vishnu are known as Vaishnavites. Shaivaites believe that the Chokka Panai that is lit during Karthigai Deepam is a smaller version of the Thiruvannamalai Mahadeepam in which form Lord Shiva appeared before Vishnu and Brahma. It is popularly called Karthigai Deepam.
Vaishnavites beleive that the lighting of lamps is to commemorate the incarnation of Vishnu as Vamana who sent Bali to patala loka. It is popularly known as Vishnu deepam.
During Chokka Panai, the palmirah tree trunk will be made hollow and stuffed with charcoal and umi and then it will be lit. The fire will spread in the charcoal and then this will be tied to a rope and swung around. When the fire sparks fly in the air it gives the look of a garland. Nowadays some people make bigger bonfires and stuff crackers inside them. However many believe that it Chokka Panai symbolises the burning of our bad behaviours and this is an auspicious moment to celebrate the festival.