The Thirvuathirai festival is an important Shaivite festival celebrated in South India. This day is celebrated as Thiruvadirai in Kerala and as Arudra Darshanam in Tamil Nadu. Thiruvathirai falls on the full moon day of the Malayalam month of Dhanu, which also happens to be the day on which the Tamil star of Thirvadirai or Ardra falls in the month of Maargazhi.
In 2017, Thiruvadirai is celebrated on Wednesday, 11th of January in India and other countries, including the United States.
Story behind Thiruvathirai
It is believed that this is the day on which Goddess Parvati met Lord Siva, however, there are other legends as well, that say that this is the day on which Lord Siva gives Darshanam as Lord Nataraja, the king of dance. So, devotees celebrate the cosmic dance of the Lord, in the form of the golden red flame.
There are also several other legends behind this day. One of them talks about Nandanar, an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva. Nandanar was a dalit or untouchable. He always wanted to visit Chidambaram, one of the greatest temples of Lord Shiva. He was worried that he may not be able to enter the temple owing to his caste, however, when he was in front of the temple, he merged with the Lord in a blaze of light, which is celebrated as the Arurdra Darshanam day as Lord Shiva gave his Darshanam to Nandanar on this day. Hence on this day, in Chidambaram, they perform a special Abhishekam for the Lord. On this day, since the Lord is immersed in his Aananda Tandavam, the cosmic dance, they take the Lord on the procession. It is said that, the bamboo sticks on which the Lord is decorated and placed, crack in the power of the Lord’s dance, and hence they keep changing the bamboo sticks. The sounds of the cracks are believed to be heard by the people who lift the Lord.
There is also another lesser known legend that goes thus. Once, when the Lord Shiva and Ambal (Goddess Parvati) were in procession, the Lord smiled at some woman in the crowd, which annoyed Ambal and she was angry on their return to the temple. Apparently, this fight was an entertainment for Ganesha. He runs between them to amuse Ambal so that she would lose her anger, but it is to no avail. And then Lord Shiva, finally, gives a Sari or Podavai to Ambal through Ganesha, and she finally smiles. This episode or Doothu is still conducted in a Shiva temple in Palakkad on this particular day (Thiruvadira) after the procession of the Vishwanathar and Visalakshi Ambal there.
In Kerala, on this day, Brahmin and Nair women perform the Thiruvathirakali dance in a circular formation around a nilavilakku similar to the Kaikottikali. Married women fast on this day for their husband’s well being and the unmarried women fast to get a good husband. In Tamil Nadu also, this festival is usually observed by Brahmin women.
On this day, most families prepare the following and offer as neivedhyam on a plantain leaf.
- Thalagam (7 vegetable dish)
- Kavathu Poduthuval
- Betel Leaves (Vethillai)
- Betel Nuts (Paaku)
- First, the women take hair bath and tie the 9 yards saree (if married Brahmin woman) or the kasavu (if Malayali).
- They put the kolam outside their house and at the God’s place (usually, they will put the “naalu moolu kolam” which is made of 4 lines in the four directions). One naalu moolai kolam will be put in front of the God’s place (on which the plantain leaf for the God will be placed), and one naalu moolai kolam across the first one, for each woman/girl in the house (on which their indivdual plantain leaf will be placed).
- They light the lamp at the God’s place, say their daily prayers etc.
- They prepare the neivedhyams.
- They place one plantain leaf near the God’s place, and one plantain leaf for each woman or girl in the household, in front of the first plantain leaf.
- They keep the vethillai paaku and pazham in each Elai or plantain leaf.
- They put a little of the kali, thalagam and poduthuval on the leaf.
- They do neivedhyam using the water in a Panchapaathram, and first offer the food in the first plantain leaf to the God, and then do the same with the food in the other plantain leaf/leaves.
- They do namaskarams to the God and pray for the well being of their husband, if married, or if un-married, they pray to get a good husband.
- They eat the prasadam, which is the food on the individual leaf.
Note: This is my 50th post, by the way! And I am so glad that I could time it to write about a festival about Lord Nataraja! 🙂