Important Hindu festivals of Tamil months - Karthikai, Margazhi to Panguni - 03

 Far from being an old land of deep-rooted culture and faiths, no doubt, India is a land of festivals, the reason being  country's religious diversity.  There are fesitivals that are private in nature and held within the family. But many are public in nature and are being hosted by the various communities collectively. Such festivities are joyous occasions that promote social integration.

Here, important festivals in the month of Karthikai, Margazhi, Thai, Maasi and Punkuni are covered. Of them, the first three months are auspicious for the devout  Hindus. 

Vaikunta perumal temple, kanchipuram, TN.

Karthikai (November- December): 

 Another auspicious celebration for Shiva devotees is Thirukaarthigai. The Krithika Pournami - full moon is the special day  in this month and the star is Krithika.  Karthigai Deepam: -the day when Karthigai Nakshatra coincides with Pournami (Vrischika Zodiac) is  known as Karthigai Deepam. It is a 10- day fascinating colorful  festival at Tiruvannamalai Sri Arunachaleswarar temple where, on the 10th day in the evening,  Maha Bharani deepam is lit and it is followed by lighting the huge Mahadeepam on the  holy Arunachala Hill behind the temple. Devotees in tens of thousands  undertake Girivalam- a tough ritual- long barefoot walk around the holy hill, a stretch of 14 km to complete the circle. More than one million devotees throng the temple city of Tiruvannmalai, TN during the festivities.

Arunachaleswar temple, Thiruvannamalai, TN.

Tiruvannamalai Shiva temple, Karthigai Deepam.

Maha Depam on the holy hill, Tiruvannamalai.

Each Monday of this month is dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva and  Every Monday is referred to as “Somavaaram”. On this day,  108 or 1008 sangabhishekam (using conch) are offered to Lord Shiva and Lord Muruga.

Margazhi (December- January):  

sri Andal temple, Sri Villiputhur, TN

Idol of Periazhwar, Andal temple, Srivilliputhur,

goddess Andal & god Rangamannar, Srivilliputhur, TN.

This is another special month in the Tamil Calendar. Both Vishnu and Shiva temples open early in the mornings and devotees throng them  for puja and prasadam – the offering made to the deity which is later distributed  among  the devotees. Arudra Darisanam (Thiruvaadirai star in Tamil) is the most auspicious day in this month. This is also a  popular festival in Kerala, where it is called Thiruvaadira. The offering made to Lord Shiva is the Thiruvaadira Kali. Mukkodi Ekathesi is called “Sorgavasal Thirappu” for Lord Vishnu. The Tiruvembaavai fasting  observed by unmarried women in this month  is called Paavai Nombu. Sri Villiputhur Andal temple near Virudunagar, TN where Andal is the consort of Lord Vishnu (Rangamanner) is a center of religious activities during this entire  holy month. 'Margashirsha Amavasya', Hanumath Jayanthi - birth of sri Hanuman, a devotee of lord Rama,  are  observed during this period. 

Srirangam Ranganathar temple,

Vaikunta Ekadashi also called  Shukla Paksha Ekadashi takes place during the Dhanu/Margazhi month.  The Vaishnavites (followers of God Vishnu) believe that ‘Vaikunta Dwaram’ or ‘the gate to the Lord's Inner Sanctum’ or garbagriha is opened on this auspicious day.  Perumal comes out of his sanctum to bless the people.  As the Margashirsha Shukla Paksha Ekadashi in the Lunar calendar  happens to be a 'Mokshada Ekadashi (giving salvation),special prayers, yagnas, religious discourses, etc  are held with fervor at Vishnu temples in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere. The Gates of Vaikunta' (heaven) are believed to be kept open for the benefit of devotees as requested by Thirumangai Azhwar so that people will attain Paramapadam (salvation).  Devotees undertake fasting on this day as it is considered  an essential religious duty.   

Srirangam temple,  Soorgavasal Thirappu

Araiyar sevai, a Tamil performing art form is quite popular during the festive days  (10 plus 10 days- Rapathu-Pagal Pathu). It is a ritual of  singing and enactment of the hymns of the Divya Prabandham witha slow  dance and gestures.  Araiyar sevai is generally performed only inside Vaishnavite temples before the temple uthsavar (the temple's processional deity) by hereditary performers.  At  the shrine of Azhagiya Manavala Perumal Temple, the shrine of Azhwar Tirunagari and at Srivilliputhur  Andal temple Araiyar sevai is done. As for the Shaiva sect, they  observe the day as Trikoti Ekadashi, a religious observance where all the deities in the Hindu pantheon pay obeisance to Lord Sri Shiva who is an embodiment of all five important elements that take care of all the living things on earth. 
Thai (January-February):

Pongal (Sankaranthi), which is the harvest festival, is celebrated on the first day of the Tamil month. It is a grand Hindu festival in Tamil Nadu and the most important feature is the preparation of Pongal (cooked rice mixed with jaggery, milk, grated coconut, etc). It is made in the earthen pot at many homes. Mattu Pongal is part of this festival. Both cows and bulls are decorated well and family members do puja to them. Jallikattu - subduing the ferocious bulls by men, is a major event in South Tamil Nadu and it is still shrouded in controversy.   
Pongal festival, tamil Nadu.

 Native  bull (Bos indicus), Pulikulam or Kangayam breeds, is released into a large number of participants who try to grab the large hump on the bull's back with both arms while the bull attempting  to escape. Participant, who  holds the hump  as long as possible, is declared a winner. This controversial sport is a risky one and only certain people are allowed in this sport.

taming the bull Jallikattu, Tamil Nadu.

Tamil Nadu. Pongal festival,
Thaipusam is also a special day for Murugan devotees, who on their shoulder carry Kavady (something like an decorated arched  canopy connected to the bambo or wooden pole to be carried across the shoulder. with evenly distributed stuff on either side). 

Kavadi Attam (Tamil:dance) is a dance performed by the devotees during the ceremonial worship of Murugan  during the festival of Thaipusam.. Caaying kavady for long distance is a physical strain Kthrough which the devotees request  for help from  God Murugan.  It is symbolic of  carrying
 one's burden cast on him by god and ultimately resting blissfully at Lord's feet.

temple atop the hill - 1400 ft, Palani,

Palani Murugan (Karthikayan temple), TN

Famous in karthikaya temples. A kavadi. size may vary.

with a wooden cross  bar in which on either side, they  carry milk, fruits, etc) to  one of the Aarupadaiveedus  (“six abodes” of God Muruga ), in particular,  Palani Murugan temple atop the hill.  Devotees  fast and walk uphill barefoot and offer their stuff they carry to the temple. Theytake along with them  certain stuff to propitiate the god. (refer:

Maasi (February-

Maasi Magam is the special day of  this Month. Shivaratri is an important festival widely celebrated by Hindus. At all Shiva temples, pujas are continuously done till morning and devotees engage in Bhajans and religious discourses. that will go on the whole night.  Masi Magam is also  an important festival in Kerala.
Magam star,   one  among the twenty-seven stars in the Astrological grouping,  usually falls on the full moon day and hence it is considered auspicious across South India - Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Kerala.

The significance of Masi Magam should be understood.  It is believed to be  one of the most powerful Full Moon day of the year since the moon aligns with Magha,  the birth Star of the Kings and Ancestors. This event,  that occurs only once a year, signifies the descent of heavenly beings to the earth. Masi Magam offers abundance and prosperity associated with the Full Moon and the Magha star. It helps us acquire power and positive energy. It also develops humility in us, giving no room to ego.

Mahamaham temple tank, Kumbakonam, TN.

Adi Kumbeswarer temple, Kumbakonam, flicker com

Mahamaham tank, Kumbakonam, TN.

Maha Maham is of great importance at the Adi Kumbeswaran temple in Kumbakonam, a famous temple town. The  sacred tank called Maha Maham comes alive during this time. Gods' processions from different temples arrive  here on the banks ( in other places to the closest water bodies).  To the idols of Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva and  Goddess Shakti,  Pujas and other rituals are performed  after a ritual bath by the temple priests.  The devotees take a bath in the  Mahamaham water tank in the belief  that the holy waters  will help them take  away all the sins committed by them.

Panguni (March-April):  Panguni Uthiram, the last month of the year, is a famous festival for  Murugan and Siva devotees, in particular, for Tamil Hindus.  It is observed in Panguni month when Nakshatra Uthiram or Uttara Phalguni prevails.