English meaning of the festival
Chittirai refers to a month in the Tamil calendar and Paruvam refers to the phase of the moon. Chitra Paruvam is a combination of the name of the month and the phase of the moon. The full moon in the Tamil month of Chittirai is called Chitra Paruvam or Chitra Pournami. Kavady is a pole slung across the shoulder to evenly distribute the weight of whatever is being carried on either end of the poles.
How the date is decided annually
Chitra Paruvam Kavady occurs annually in the month of Chittirai (Chaitra in North India), during Shukla Paksha (waxing moon phase) on Purnima (full moon).
Significance of the festival to Hinduism
Kavady is observed to worship Lord Muruga. Chitra Paruvam is a day of prayers and penance. Lord Muruga represents wisdom and strength. Lord Murugan is the deity of youth, power and virtue. This festival is a time for repentance for devotees with celebrations carried out mainly at the Temple.
How to observe/practice
Devotees carry water and milk to Temples to bathe the murti of Lord Murugan. Generally ten days before Chitra Paruvam Kavady, a flag is hoisted at Temples. This flag hoisting is a way of giving notice of the coming event.