Thiruvathira festival in the state of Kerala

Cosmic dancer Shiva

In the state of Kerala,  the sabarimala  Madala Kalam Puja and  Thiruvathira  are held in the  traditional Malayalam month of  Dhanu (16th Dec.2020  to January 13, 2021). Vaikunda Ekkadasi or Swargavathil is another Hindu festival that is celebrated in all Vishnu Shetras in this month  across this state.  The first day of next month - Makara Masam marks  the Makaravilakku at the sabarimalai Ayyapan temple.   In Kerala Thiruvathira assumes as much importance as other  traditional festivals  like  Onam and Vishu and,  for centuries,  it has been celebrated by  the Nambuthiri, Kshatriya and Nair communities. Unlike Tamil Nadu or elsewhere, it is said to be the festival for women and the belief is if unmarried women undertake  fasting on this day  they will  soon get a good husband compatible to them.   As for married women, the belief is fasting on this day will take care of the prosperity and welfare of their husband and families and help them get over the bad period with a positive mind. You may say Thiruvathira  festival is women-centric.  Fasting on that day implies abstaining from solid food, mostly rice based items, Normally, fasting starts from  the preceding day-Makayiram and  ends on the following day.  For the newly married women,   the first Thiruvathira  called   poothiruvathira. is an unforgettable event just like Thalai Deepavali in Tamil Nadu. In connection with this festival, folk dances and folk music are arranged  across Kerala. Women undertake 7- day  worship to enjoy  marital bliss  and  happiness.

God shiva burns Kamadeva to ashes. Pinrest com.

Hindu mythology, Kamadeva.

Above image:  According to the Hindu mythology, Kāmadeva is depicted as a young, handsome man who wields a bow  made of sugarcane and arrows decorated with five kinds of fragrant flowers that include   white  and blue lotus,  Jasmine, etc.  A terracotta murti of Kamadeva of great antiquity is housed in the Mathura Museum, UP, India.  His  companions are a cuckoo, a parrot, humming bees, the season of spring, and the gentle breeze. All these are symbols of spring season, when his festival is celebrated as Holi, Holika or Vasanta. The myth of Kamadeva's incineration is referenced in the Matsya Purana to reveal a relationship between Krishna and Kamadeva. In the narrative, Kama is reincarnated in the womb of Krishna's wife Rukmini as Pradyumna, after being burned to ashes by Shiva's anger .....(

An unusual aspect of this festival is the midnight worshipping of Lord Shiva with garlands, flowers and fruits, and a dance ritual called  Thiruvathira kali or Kaikottikali dances. mmmmmmmThe serene ambience for the night festival of Thiruvathira, was exclusively meant for the women folk of Kerala.mmmm The custom  of wearing  flowers at midnight and dancing and clapping around lit brass lamp to the  the rhythm of  devotional Kathakali songs and Tiruvathira songs called  Pathirappoochoodal  is  widely observed by  Namboodiris, Amblavasis (temple servants) and others. 

metal idol, Arthanareeswara.

This festival is a tribute to Shiva who killed  Kamadeva (Manmathan (Cupid), the god love. The misty night lit by the full moon  during Thiruvathirs provides an ideal ambiance for the Kaikottikali  women dancers who are eager to  recall the rebirth of Kamadeva, the God of romance. On this day God Shiva, pleased with Parvati's long and strenuous penance, took  her as his consort with equal rights, making them an ''ideal couple''. They appear before the devotees as   (half male, half female form) one-form,  the subtle implication is women have equal rights like men.  Invariably, almost  at  all Shiva temple, there is a shrine dedicated to  God Ardhanarishvara, a composite form of the Hindu deities Shiva and Parvati (the latter being known as Devi, Shakti and Uma). Ardhanarishvara is  a depiction of half-male and half-female,  human form  equally split down the middle. The right half is usually the male. Shiva, with  his traditional attributes,  represents the  fusion of  masculine and feminine energies of the universe (Purusha and Prakriti). It illustrates how Shakti, the female principle of God, is inseparable from male principle Shiva. It is symbolic of Shiva's all pervasive  nature.

On the day of this festival, a special dish is made by the women. Thiruvathira puzhukku  is a  blend of  cooked broken  wheat, colocasia (chembu), yam (chena), Chinese potato (koorka), sweet potato (madhurakizhangu) with long beans(vanpayar) and raw plantain fruit (ethakaya), cooked with a thick paste of freshly ground coconut. The dessert is koova payasam, a sweet dish made of arrow root powder, jaggery (country sugar) and coconut milk.