Arudra Darshan and Cosmic dancer God Shiva

Cosmic dancer God Shiva.

Arudra festival, Chidambaram

Arudra Darshan is an important Hindu festival  for the Shavites  widely celebrated in the Tamil month of Margazhi  ( mid December –  mid January) every year.  Dedicated to God Nataraja, often called cosmic dancer (a form of God Shiva), one of the Trinity Gods in the Hindu pantheon, the festival falls on the auspicious Arudra  or Thiruvaathirai Nakshatram (star) and it marks the birth of God Shiva in Arudra star. Thiruvathirai (Arudhra) in Tamil means "sacred big wave" with which the lord created the  universe  few billion years ago. It is believed his cosmic energy is drawn much closer to the earth on this day. Lord Nataraja’s day, is the longest night of the year  and  afterworlds the days get longer and the nights get shorter.  Sun being  in Sagittarius,  Gods  are believed to relax  and rejuvenate during this period  Because of Covid-19 Pandemic at all major Shiva temples, this festival will not be on a grand scale and  admission of the devotees into the  temples will be on a limited basis to avoid  health risk

Sri Nataraja temple, Chidambaram, temple tank,

That the stone inscriptions in the temples  mention  that this festival has been held on that particular day for more than 1500 years  brings to light how our great great ancestors were well versed in the realm of highly complicated Astronomy and  had a rich knowledge of the movements of planets all through the year and their cosmic impact on the earth. The modern idea of gravity was discovered in the late 16th and early 17th century by the western scientists with the work  of Galileo Galilei. In 1687, Isaac Newton published his work on gravity. Āryabhaṭa or Aryabhata  (476–550 CE) was the first of the major mathematician-astronomers from the classical age of Indian mathematics. He mentioned about relativity of motion, earth's rotation, eclipses, etc. The cosmic dance  of Shiva, symbolizes  natural processes going on continuously in this universe - the acts of  creation and destruction of universe  are going on somewhere daily. Our scriptures mention about the five specific ‘actions’ of the god — creation, protection, destruction, sustenance  and grace and  God Shiva encompasses all these.

Lord Shiva is glorified in Tamil by many names, one of them being  Athiraiyan  from Thiruvathirai (Thiru + Athirai). Hence Thruvathirai has close link with God Shiva.  At  the famous  Sri Nataraja temple, Chidambaram of Tamil Nadu, the annual  Arudra Festival  is  a popular one that falls soon after the 10- day Margazhi Bhramotsavam,  The following events are worthy of mention: 01. The eighth day (in Dec ) assumes importance with the  procession of Bhikshatanar . Legend has it  Shiva  and Vishnu' took a trip through Dhaarukaavanam in the guise of Bhikshaatanar and Mohini. 02. The 9th day, the Utchavar idol  (Shiva) is taken out from the main shrine in a procession on the streets close to the temple. 03. Following day in the early morning (under the full moon)  abhishekam is performed to Sri Natarajar and his consort Sivakami. 04. Same day in the afternoon an interesting event takes place and it is about enactment of Cosmic dance by the lord. Both Nataraja and Sivakami idols are well decorated for this interesting event. Another interesting fact is  Lord Shiva s believed  to  represent five  important natural elements (Pancha boothas) without which living things can not survive on the planet  and each of the following Shiva temples represents a particular element.

Chidambaram Nataraja temple, plated roof.

Shiva temples representing 5 natural elements,TN

01. Chidambaram Natarajar  Temple, Akasha – aether,  02. Thiruvanaikaval Jambukeswara Temple, Trichy – Water, 03. Sri Kanchi Ekambareswara Temple, Kanchipuram- Earth, 04. Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleswara Swamy Temple – Fire (Agni),  and Kalahasti Nathar, Sri Kalahasti (Andhra)– Wind.   In all these temple Arudra Darshan is celebrated annually ( see the image above). 

Likewise,  Arudra festivities also take place in the five  famous cosmic dance halls ( Pancha sabhas) of  God Nataraja in Tamil Nadu - the hall of Gold - Kanakasabha at Chidambaram, the hall of Silver Velli Sabhai at Madurai, the hall of Rubies - Ratnasabha at Tiruvalankadu, The hall of Copper - Tamrasabha at Tirunelveli and the hall of Pictures - Chitrasabha Kutralam. In all these these well decorated and ornate halls , the Utchava murthy of the God is  worshiped and kept for Podhu (common) darshan. 

 Besides the afore-mentioned temples Arudra darshan is held at  many temples across Tamil Nadu.  At Tiruvalankaadu close to Chennai, Nataraja idol  Oordhva taandava posture, is worshiped. The  festival at Kapaleeswarar temple in Mylapore, Chennai is also equally famous. As a matter of fact the Shavite saint Tirugnanasambandar in his work Poompaavai patikam mentioned about this festival in Mylapore.
At the Kutralanathar temple in Kuttralam near Kumbakonam  in the Chitra Sabha (hall), the Taandava Deepa Araadhana  is performed  as part of Arudra festival.  The Patteeswarar temple at Perur near Coimbatore, Chandramouleeswarar temple at Tiruvakkarai near Villuppuram,.Utthirakosamangai near Rameswaram, glorified  by the hymns of Manikkavaachakar,  are some other Shiva temples  where Margazhi Tiruvaadirai is observed. .

But  this festival is not celebrated with great pomp and impressive rituals often associated with Vishnu temple  festivals like Vaikunda Ekadasi . The reason is God Shiva is more or less like an ascetic, quite withdrawn and not fond of alangaram (decoration). This is the reason why the Shjva idols in most  temples  do not have vast jewelry collections and are not richly decorated.  
In the state of Kerala in the  month of Makaram, Thiruvathira  is celebrated in Mathira Peedika Devi Temple near Kadakkal in Kollam District of Kerala state. It is a popular one and  has a connection with lord moon.