Panguni Uthiram: Confluence of several colorful Hindu temple festivals

Celestial weddings. Rama Shiva, Murug. IshtaDevata
Among the Tamil months, Puratasi, Karthikai, Margazhi, Punguni and Chirai are important months commonly associated with many religious or temple festivals and Tamil Hindus participate in such festivals with dedication and Bakthi. Uttira star
comes in every month but it assumes much religious importance in the month of Panguni. It is said the deities themselves consider Punguni Uttiram the most auspicious one. The reason being
the Uthiram nakshatram coincides with the full moon (Purnima). This month is famous for celestial weddings at many Hindu temples.

Panguni Uthiram in Tamil (Meena Uttara-phalguni in Sanskrit as per Solar calendar) normally falls on the day of transition of the moon  in the asterism or nakshatram of Uttara-phalguni or Uthiram in the twelfth (last) month of the Tamil calendar i.e. Panguni. It is the Purnima (in Tamil Pournami) or full moon of the month of Panguni ( 14 March - 13 April); Panguni is special because of the coming together of the star Uthiram and Pournami (Hindu calendar month of Phalguna / Chaitra). 

The Tamil month of Panguni is closely associated with Saivite and Vaishnavite tradition of  temple festivals and worship. So, it is quite reasonable  to refer to this month as the confluence of many Hindu temple festivals closely associated with celestial weddings.

The following are the interesting facts of Punguni Uthiram: 

01. It is quite interesting to note the  celestial weddings of the Hindu deities Parvati and Parameswaran (Lord Shiva), Murugan and Deivanai, and Aandaal (also known as Kothai) and Rangamannar took place in this month.  

02. At  Mithila in the Kosala Nadu (Desam), according to Valmiki, the weddings of Rama and his brothers took place on this day. Rama- Sita, Lakshmanan-Urmila, Bharatan - Mandali and Chatruganan - Shrutha Keerthi tied their wedding knot on this day in this month. So was the celestial wedding of , Narayana  with Komalavalli Naachiyar. They  appeared in  Kalyana Kola to his devotees. 

03. Panguni Uthiram is of special significance to the worship of earth element, Prithvi lingam  at Ekambareswarar Temple, Kanchipuram, TN where festivities will last for 13 days. Here, it is believed, the worship of Prithvi (earth, one of the Pancha bootha elements) lingam assumes much importance in this month.

04. This month also coincides with the month of Holy in the north. It is widely celebrated  in Mathura, Nandagaon, Virdavan and other places associated with Lord Krishna.

05. One of the greatest  Hindu saints Sri Raghavendra Swami was born on Phalgun Sukla saptami in 1595 AD who advocated Madhvacharya's Dvaita philosophy.

06. This Panguni Utthiram marks the birth of Lord Ayyappa (son of Raja  Banthana).

07. The reputed archer and one of the prominent Pandava brothers  in the great epic Mahabharata Arjuna  got married on the Punguni Uthiram day. 

08. Lord Muruga (Karthikaya) married Valli in this month.
Manmata (Cupid)  killed by Shiva. Old Indian Arts
09. On this day Lord Shiva brought back to life the God of Love (Cupid) Manmatha whom he burnt to ashes with his third eye. When the lord was on meditation, Manmatha, at the instigation of some mischievous Devas, shot the flower arrow at him. Lord Shiva, in rage, burnt him into ashes, upon which at the persistent request of his wife Raathi,  he gave him a new lease of life. 

10. Lord Karthkaya, in spite of being young, taught  his Pitha (father)  Lord Shiva the importance of "Pranava Manthram" (the meaning of OHM). Hence, sagacious Lord Subramaniya is often referred to as "Thagappan Swami" in Tamil (the son who was a Guru to his own father).

11. Since Mahalakshmi successfully completed the Virutham - fasting, etc in this month Lord Vishnu had let her  take refuge in His  Chest.(in Tamil: "Marbil  edam pidithhal"), according to some Puranas.

12. The following temple festivals are quite popular and indispensable in this auspicious month:
Palani Murugan temple. Devotees carrying Kavadi. IshtaDevata
Palani temple.
 a. Kavadi urchavam at Palani Murugan temple  is quite popular. Ardent devotees in thousands - 
male, female and children as well carry kavadi  (a semicircular canopy supported by a wooden rod that is carried on shoulders), with intense devotion. Besides, Palani temple, other Murugan temples in Tamil nadu (Aarupadai Veedu - six abodes of Lord Muruga) will be  crowded in this month.  At these temples, there will be a temple car festival, the chariot will be carrying the procession deities (Urchava murthis). At Palan Dhandauthapani temple, it is a 10 day festival.

b. Colorful procession of 63 Nayanmars in Mylapore, Chennai. Like the Azhvars, 63 great Tamil saints "Nayanmars" composed devotional songs in praise of Lord Shiva. This Arupaththu Moovar festival is quite popular in Chennai city and this festival has been going on  for several decades without any break. 

c. The Celestial wedding (Valli Thirumanam) festivals at Swamimalai and Thiruchendur take place with great fanfare in this month. Thousands of people attend these festivals. 

Madurai Meenaskshi kalyanam.  Dolls of India
Madurai Meenashi temple, Prakara around the sanctum.
d. Among the temple festival, the most famous one is the wedding  of Madurai Meenakshi Amman (Goddess Parvati)) with Lord Sudareswarar (Lord Shiva) at the huge temple complex. This festival is quite popular in South Tamil Nadu and the whole city will wear a festive look with great fanfare. During festival days devotees in thousands will visit the temple to get blessed by the deities. There will be a local holiday on this festival day.  On this day the celestial couple Meenanakshi Sudareswarar in their wedding attire blessed the great Tamil poet Sundaramurthy Nayanar.

13. The Panguni Uttiram day underscores the importance of married life - the responsibility of a man to become a grahastha (married man) and to uphold the  grahasta dharma - the commitment  of raising a family  with love and care and to lead a puposeful life in the right direction. This is subtly brought out in the  manifestation of deities in 'marital forms' such as Uma Maheswara, Sita Rama, Radha Krishna, Valli Murugan and others.

14. The Nitya Kalyana Murthi forms (in Tamil 'Thrumanakolam') of  gods and goddesses in the marital state  at the Shiva and Vishnu temples  attract devotees in thousands and the belief has been that the almighty will bless the young people with a good life  partner, good family life, children and prosperity.  

14. Visiting these temples in this particular month is  essential for unmarried people. If unmarried girls undertake fasting for a specified period and later visit the  temple where the celestial wedding festival takes place, their prayer will be positively fulfilled.   As for married people, they will be blessed with a child  and their family will get over all the tough problems and  will be free from worries. 

15. The reason for visiting these temples  is as follows:   According to the Purana ,Goddess Mahalakshmi  appeared  on earth from the ocean of milk - Ksheera Sagara Manthan (while it was being churned by the Devas on one hand  and the Asuras - demons on the other) and hence it is celebrated as Mahalakshmi Jayanti. On this day Goddess Parvati in the form of Gowri married Lord Shiva in Kanchipuram, and hence this day is also celebrated as the Gowri Kalyanam day.

16. Equally important is the fact that this is an auspicious month for Lord Muruga (Subramaniya). On the festival day the lord Muruga married Devanai. Carrying Kavadi to the Murugal temple,  as part of a vow, is a common tradition being followed by the  Hindu devotees of Tamil nadu. Likewise lots of people undertake Padayatra - walking  50 plus km distance from their place barefoot, despite the hot summer heat to the Murugan temple  to fulfil their vow'/prayer (example: passing tough exams, getting a job, getting a suitable groom or bride, etc).

Punguni Uttiram festivals foster friendship and unity among people of different casts and creed. Praying at the temples, in particular, at your family temple (Kudumba Daivam)  will absolve you of all sins and help you start your life afresh with much  vigor and confidence as the God will never betray a man when he does not deviate from the path of righteousness and toils honestly to achieve his cherished goal. With trust in God, he will succeed.