Edible Lamps

Elders in our families are unable to withstand to watch the children blowing out candles on their birthday as lighting up lamps is considered auspicious here and it symbolizes brightening up the people’s lives. Earlier traditional lamps (kuthu vilakku) were treated as supreme deities at home, but statues & pictures gradually gained the special status rather than those lamps. Nowadays we gift lamps to our friends & relatives for wedding or for house-warming ceremony wishing them happy & prosperous life. We also prepare edible lamps & light them during Thirukarthigai festival.

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Vazhaipoo Vilakku

Besides it is a custom that newly married girls are sent to her husband’s house with traditional silver lamps and brass lamps indicating to bring prosperity & joy to the family.

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Lighting a traditional lamp

Incidentally we follow a distinct ritual by lighting sweet edible lamps (maavilakku) in front of deities at home or in the temple for a specific period to fulfill our wishes.

el-sl Edible Lamps

But on the day of Karthigai Deepam, a festival of lights celebrated in south India, we offer edible lamps both sweet & salted lamps to deities and illuminate the entire house with lamps made of silver, brass, ceramic, or clay.

el-sl1 Edible Lamps
Karthigai Deepam Kozhukattai

I have prepared delightful maavilakku using millet flour instead of rice flour, it is aromatic, delicious & nourishing than rice flour maavilakku. Now lets prepare sweet edible lamp aka maavilakku:

Edible Lamps-Thinai Maavilakku Recipe

el-sl2 Edible Lamps
Thinai Maavilakku


  • 1 cup of foxtail millet flour (thinai maavu)
  • 2/3 cup of powdered jaggery (vellam)
  • A pinch of powdered cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp of ghee (optional)
  • 2 tbsp of coconut water or plain water
el-sl-ingr Edible Lamps

Maavilakku making:

  • Add millet flour, jaggery & cardamom powder into mixer jar and whip for a minute to combine together.
  • Transfer the flour mixture to a mixing bowl.
  • Add ghee and mix well.
  • Pour coconut water little by little and knead into a soft but firm dough for 10 min.
  • Shape the dough into a lamp as shown below and you can use the back of spoon to smooth en the surface.
  • Pour ghee into the dent at the center and place as many wicks as you want.
  • Apply turmeric paste at the place where each wick touches the dough on the edge.
  • Place maavilakku on the plate or banana leaf and decorate it with flowers before lighting it.
maavilakku Edible Lamps
How to prepare maavilakku

Maavilakku Variations:

We can prepare maavilakku using rice flour, millet flour or any other traditional rice flour, here I have shown the mavilakku using red rice flour.

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Maavilakku using red rice flour

Edible Lamps – Karthigai Kozhukattai recipe

el-sl4 Edible Lamps
Vilakku Kozhukattai

Yields: 13 small lamps


  • ÂŊ cup of rice flour (I used store bought idiyappa maavu)
  • 1ÂŊ cup of water
  • ÂŊ tsp of salt
  • Âŧ tsp of sesame oil for dough

Salted lamp making procedure: 

  • Heat a pan with water, salt & oil in high flame.
  • When it reaches to rolling boil, add flour into the water.
  • Immediately blend flour with water using a wooden spatula.
  • Remove from flame.
  • Grease your palm with sesame oil.
  • Shape the dough into small lamps and steam them for 5 minutes.
  • Now salted lamps are ready to be lit.
saletd-lamps Edible Lamps
Karthigai Kozhukattai recipe

How to serve edible lamps: 

We slice maavilakku & serve along with fresh coconut pieces as below, and both the maavilakku & vilakku kozhukattai taste divine when taken along with coconut meat.

el1 Edible Lamps
el2 Edible Lamps

How to light edible lamps:

We usually burn sweet lamps in ghee and salted lamps in sesame oil, and we apply turmeric paste before lighting them.

el-3 Edible Lamps

120 comments on “Edible LampsAdd yours →

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  1. Wow! Another great post. So nice to learn about your traditions and this unique custom is truly beautiful & awesome. Thanks for sharing. Have a lovely day Megala.

  2. This is the most beautiful thing! I read and read, I search and search, I think and think … this may be the most challenging dish in my “experiment ^^”. However, I want to try!

    1. Yes, it is really astonishing even some of the south Indians find this a unique custom. It makes me feel how India is so diverse that every region here follows distinct culture and traditions.
      Thank you!

  3. Such a beautiful, meaningful tradition… And wow, I never thought it was possible to make edible candles! I wonder if it’s possible to use coconut oil instead of ghee to make them vegan?

    1. Sorry for the late reply, I really don’t know how I missed it!
      Yes, it is indeed a unique tradition to light edible lamps, and we use sesame oil for burning these lamps as it is longer lasting than coconut oil. But you can use coconut oil or olive oil for pleasant flavors.
      Thanks Hanna!

    1. We also usually prepare maavilakku with rice flour, but I find thinai flour as the best alternate. 🙂
      Thank you so much.

    1. I thought salted lamps are lighted in everyone’s house here for Karthigai, now I feel it may be a custom followed only in our families, let me check this out! 🙂
      Thank you!

    1. Really amazing to find how we, Indians, are so diverse in every aspect. Thank you so much!

    1. Oh, really? Now I understand why people are surprised to find the lamps being edible. 🙂
      Thank you!

    1. Yes, we do make with rice flour, here I just tried a healthier version with millets. Hope you like this idea as well. Thank you!

    1. Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed decorating these lamps, and it is indeed a pleasure posting this here. 🙂 Thank you so much!

  4. Ahh..brings back childhood memories..Singaporeans follow these traditions here as well since most of our Indian diaspora is made up of Tamils as u know;) ..I distinctly remember maavilakkus and kozhukattais being given to visitors to eat after offering..was not a big fan of maavilakkus then though as it had a slightly raw flour taste to it(at least the ones I ate) but the charred part was a treat indeed haha.. I remember being so intrigued by the idea of edible lamps hahaha! Thanks for the post ,very detailed and informative as usual<3

    1. Nice to know that Tamilians living in Singapore still follow these traditions. As children we all enjoyed lighting lamps inside and outside the house during Karthigai festival and watching them carefully not being affected by the winds. Glad that this post evoked your childhood memory as well. 🙂
      Thank you so much!

    1. These lamps are prepared on the day of of Thirukarthigai in our homes every year, and are so popular down the south Tamilnadu.
      Vilakku plays a huge role in our families, my grand parents used to offer pooja to vilakku than deities, and vilakku poojai was performed rigorously in those days.
      Thanks Sana for stopping by.

    1. Oh, it is called as maavilakku, I think you might have heard about this. But these salted lamps are popular mainly in Tirunelveli, Kanyakumari regions, and even in Srilanka.
      Thanks Rekha for stopping by.

  5. Wow – these are amazing and beautiful. Do you eat the lamps after burning them or do you eat different lamps than are burned? And do you need to let them naturally go out before eating them since blowing out candles is discouraged?
    Thanks for sharing all of the things you do. It is always interesting to read what you post.

    1. Yes, we eat the same, the burnt portion tastes just divine.
      Our grand mothers used to keep saying that we should not allow the lamps go off on their own, we need to use one of these flowers to put the flame off. But we don’t follow it nowadays. 🙂
      I’m so glad that you find this post interesting, thank you so much !

      1. Oh interesting – so many details to remember with all of these traditions. It must require tremendous mindfulness. I feel like much of our generation, at least here, couldn’t hold all of that in the top of mind for so long.
        There is something about certain burned foods that actually tastes good.

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