Margazhi month - a period of divinity

Magazhi month, invoking divinity, dance.

Among the  Tamil months, Marghazi  (also the time of the winter solstice when the days are shorter and the nights are longer)  is a significant and an auspicious one for the people of Tamil Nadu. This being a sacred month, several religious festivals are celebrated in this month (14th Dec to 14th January) with joy and devotion.   An interesting aspect of this month is, it is   believed, that in this period, the ozone layer is much closer to the earth and breathing early morning fresh, cool air is conducive to good mental and physical being. It is important to note that this holy month is a period of spiritual awakening - making efforts to focus more on the spiritual aspects of one's  life. It is simply  involvement  in  non-materialists stuff like  Sadhana, Vrata, Bhajan or Pooja. generally speaking, it is a month of bhakti and music.

Srivilliputhur Andal temple. Tamil Nadu  ISKCON Times

In addition to festivals and Hindu temple rituals, in this month people engage in social activities such as Bhajans, music or dance concerts, theru koothu, etc., - mostly  related to episodes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. The amazing  thing is  devout people get involved in such religious activities with unflinching faith and devotion and this is what makes Marghazi or Danur month  a very interesting one. 

This is the month when Lord Krishna is believed to have lifted the Govardhan Mountain with his little finger. Lord Krishna says he is the month of Marghazi and in Geeta he has described this holy month as Dhanur Masamand the month of Mirgashirsha as one of his manifestations / avatars. In this month,  the Sun transits through the Sagittarius sign, the house of Jupiter and ends with Makara Sankaranthi. In Dhanur masam,  the most auspicious time to worship the god is one and half hours before the sunrise called Brahma Muhurtha and it is good for the welfare of the family and the people all around. The holy star of Mirgashirsha, combines with Poorima thithi, thus increasing the divinity of this period. The Full Moon day (purnima) falls on the star of Mrigashirsha / Thiruvdirai (both stars belong to Lord Shiva . it is a sacred period, bringing prosperity and blessings from the god.  Ekadasi ( in the waning phase of the Moon)  - eleventh day from the New Moon falling in this Dhanur masam (month) assumes much importance. Vaikunta Ekadasi is a major temple ritual in all Vishnu temples, in particular, at Srirangam in Tamil Nadu.

Sri Andal,

Andal who composed Thirupavai.

Rendering Thirupavai, devotional hymns dedicated to lord Vishnu: 

Among the Tamil months, Marghazi has close link with Lord Vishnu, one of the Trinity gods in charge of protection and sustenance.  In this month in all Vaishnavite temples, rendering of Tiruppavai’  composed  by the legendary Tamil poetess  Andal, daughter of great Tamil poet Periazhvar, is  an  indispensable one.  The devotional hymns appeal to our mind as well as to our heart. ’ Thirupavai is a  divine Tamil literary work of excellence, dedicated to  lord Vishnu (‘Thirumal’/ 'Perumal'). This work has  30 verses, and the tradition has it that every day through out  this month, one devotional hymn / verse is chanted in temples as well as in homes.  In some temples, a large gathering of devotees in the early morning hours sing the devotional hymn in chorus. In many temple towns in Tamil Nadu one can hear the rendition of Thirupavai from temples and the area around   them exhibit a soothing  atmosphere  of reverence and  bhakti.  The strains of music can also be heard in some distant villages or Agraharams (where Brahmins reside; of course, they have almost disappeared).  The Andal temple at Sri Villiputhur, South Tamil Nadu where Andal was born and later composed, Thirupavai, gains religious importance. The area around the temple takes a festive look, the display of kolam (rangoli), oil lamps (Pavai Villakku) and rendition of Thrupavai hymns are quite visible in this town and in the famous temple. 

Margazhi Kolam, Rangoli Kolam

Display of Kolam or Rangoli: 

Generally, the display of Kolam or rangoli is a common feature in front of Hindu homes in many states of India. Tamil Nadu is not an exception to this typical religious tradition.  In this state, the  display of kolam gains much importance and religious relevance more in the month of Margazhi than other months. Such kolams are drawn by women folks after morning bath with a view to welcoming not only the guests but also the divine gods to bless the home, the community and the people. Kolams are not drawn at the back of the house; exception being Tulsi Madam that may be kept in the back of the house. So, the  ritual of Kolam assumes much significance in  Margazhi or Danur month. Depending on the time and skills, impressive color kolams with various geometric patterns are displayed before the house. This may be time-consuming, but the experience is quite rewarding for the woman folks.

Chennai Music ktcheri (concert) -dance festival

Conduct of music, dance  concerts, religious discourse, etc.  

The month of Marghazi is closely associated with music concerts, particularly, in Tamil Nadu. The Sabhas in Chennai, Coimbatore and Tiruchy arrange for classical music kacheris  (concerts) in which stalwarts as well as others participate with enthusiasm to display their musical talents and get better exposure. Positively, there will be several devotional songs in classical style in these concerts. It is needless to say that  the very mention of Margazhi matham (month) conjures up the images of Music sabhas and  musicians (vocalists) whose  strange and contorted  facial expressions take various shapes depending on the songs, aalapana and the modulation of  their voice. No doubt, they make the audience spell-bound with their depth of knowledge, improvisation and fine handling of ragas.

Margazhi month, dance festival. Takshashila

 Marghazi is also a great time for exponents  of the arts, music and drama, including dance  come together and participate in Kacheris (concerts) organized during this festival period. No  one can miss the reverberating, soul-stirring  Carnatic ragas coming from the Chennai sabhas or elsewhere. Nor can one ignore the  graceful steps of Bharatnatyam  dancers  matching the nattuvangam ( dance beats).  This way, they not only keep our old arts alive, but also pick out the new talents so that they can take our centuries old culture and tradition to the next generation. Dance festivals, concerts, etc get a new leaf of life on such festival occasions during this month. 'The Margazhi festival of music and dance' of Chennai brings out the passion and beauty of  age old music and dance tradition of Tamil Nadu. It is not only an occasion to rejoice, but also offers a choice to take respite from the hot summer heat in an atmosphere of eloquent music that invokes divinity. Obviously, the cool and congenial climate of Margazhi matham makes the music festival here and at other venues inviting and enjoyable.   

Religious discourse / Upanyasam:  

The performance of Upanyasam or Katha Kalashebham and religious discourse in Margazhi month was quite common before 1970 and unfortunately, this art form, a nice musical  extravaganza is on the decline and people do not show any interest in this type of Katha Kalashebham.  Upanyasam is a form of story-telling from the Hindu mythology and the great epics Mahabharata and Ramayana along with appropriate and matching  poetic devotional songs both in Sanskrit and Tamil. It is always accompanied by Pin pattu (vocal Musician, standing behind the main performer) and Mirthangam (percussion musical instrument). It is worth mentioning stalwarts like  sri Embaar Vijayaragavacharyar, sri Subramania Bhagavathar of Thanjavar, sri T.S. Balakrishna Sastrical, and others.  Upanyasam is also common in certain parts of Karnataka and Andhra.  In the olden days before 1970s such events were aired on AIR (All India Radio). This musical discourse art is on the brink of disappearance for good. 

The last day of the month of Marghazi coincides with the festival of ‘Bhogi’.  Bhogi, a part of the three day Pongal harvest festival  pays obeisance to the munificence  of ‘Lord Indra’, the God of clouds, thunder  and rain.  Yet another festival is Hanumanth Jayanthi - the birth of Anjaneya that falls in this month. The famous Thiruvaiyaru Sri. Thiagaraja music festival in variably  falls during the time of Dhanur Masam. A causal perusal of various festivals and events will bear testimony to the  truth that through out this holy month of Magazhi, divinity plays an integral role. Fasting, meditating on god and participating in the religious and temple rituals  will be beneficial to the people and this will help them gain confidence and mental prowess to tackle day today problems with determination. This will result in negation of negative thoughts.

                               ( Minor revision made: 16 December 2021)