Friday, 20 December 2019

Tamil Months and fascinating Hindu festivals of the year

istockphoto.com
.istockphoto.com
Meenashshi temple, Madurai, TN  temple /zszywka.
That  devout Hindus never fail to follow the Tamil Calendar bear testimony to the deep rooted faith and tradition of the Hindus of Tamil Nadu  where one can see the largest number of historical  Hindu temples dating back to more than 1000 years. Many of them were patronized by Chola, Pandya, Chera, Pallava and Nayak dynasties, besides other local  Hindu rulers called in Tamil  ''Kurunila Mannargal''. The Hindus of Tamil Nadu have a firm  belief in Astrology, the position of planets as per his or her  horoscope and their faith is equally unshakable. A small percentage of the population sidelines  all these as myth and superstitions. 

An interesting fact is  Hindu women, cutting across castes and creed in this state, are more religious and participate in religious activities with greater faith and positive energy.  Such religious festivals  promote amity among different communities, spiritual engagement, promoting integrity, commitment and honesty and choosing the right path in our lives.   Some Tamil  months have great religious significance,  a few of  them  are inauspicious. Listed below are some important  religious  celebrations for each month. Dates are not not given as they may vary every year by a day or two.  Besides the  Gregorian  months are given in parenthesis.

The following are the important festivals according to the Tamil Calendar:   
01.  Chithirai (April -May):  The very first beginning of the Tamil year.
'Varusha pirappu'- the Tamil New Year is observed in every household in this state and most of the people never fail to visit the near-by temple to offer prayer and seek God's blessing for a better year.  Chitra Pournami  (full Moon Day) festival, that falls in this month,  is dedicated to god Chitragupta, a Hindu demi-deity who is believed to record the good and bad deeds of men/women on earth for Yama, the Hindu god of the underworld.  On this day, devotees pray to  Chitragupta to forgive their sins. Many devotees bathe in rivers or other water bodies - symbolic of their sins being washed away.
The famous  ''Chithirai Thiruvizha'' - Chithrai festival is cerebrated in Madurai  city. As the 64 Thiruvilayadal took place in Madurai, the city is also known as ‘Boologa Kailaayam’.
newindianexpress.com

meenakshi-weds-sundareswar, Madurai. nettv4u.com

It is an annual celebration that  lasts for almost  one month. The first 15 days mark the  grand celebrations of the coronation of Goddess Meenakshi (Parvati) and the celestial wedding of  of Lord Sundareswara (God Shiva).  The next 15 days focus on the celebrations of the Journey of Lord Azhagar (Sri. Vishnu) from  his near-by abode - Kallazhagar temple in Azhagar Kovil  close to Madurai city.
 After Meenakshi Thirukalyanam (the celestial wedding of Meenakshi), it is believed,  both Lord Sundareswarar and  Meenakshi ruled the Pandya Kingdom for a long time. The day after the wedding, the gods will be taken  out in  a procession  on a nicely- decorated wooden temple car around  the Masi Streets. This  Ther Thiruvizha /Chariot festival also draws lots of people to the city from near-by villages.

Azhagar (Sri Vishnu) comes to Madurai  and later gets into the river to bless the  cursed Mandooka rishi - saint. Lord's arrival to Madurai is a great annual event and is a famous one; these festivals are part and parcel of Madurai city's historical tradition.
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\02. Vaikaasi (May-June): Vaikaasi Visaakam is the most important day in this month. It is celebrated during Visakam Nakshatra. as the birthday of Lord Murugan who was brought up by Kathikai pengal (nymphs).  Lord Muruga was created by Shiva and adopted by Parvati to slay the powerful demon called ''Soorpadman''.  Hindus visit the temples dedicated to God Muruga (Karthikaya) for good health, prosperity, success in business, etc.    
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03.  Aani (June- July):  Aani (June- July):  Aani Thirumanjanam or Aani Uttaram for Lord Nataraja is the most sanctified day in this month.  It is believed  God Nataraja gives darshan to his true devotees on this particular day.   Aani Uthram is widely believed to be the day when Lord Shiva appeared before the holy Tamil Saivite Saint  Sri Manikkavachakar underneath a Kurundai tree to offer him upadesha (advice). Thus this day is considered significant to the many devotees of Lord Nataraja. At the famous Chidambaram temple, this one is one of six 'Kala Puja'  days offered during six seasons. It is to be borne in mind, here, the six season  of one earthly year is, in fact, considered as one full day for the heavenly beings (gods & goddesses). The  six periods  are namely the dawn, morning, noon, afternoon, evening, and night.  The 3- hour Maha Puja will begin at 3 am in the morning to propitiate the lord.
cuddalore.nic.in
One of the special abhishekams is the Ani Thirumanjanam, that is performed on the pradosha evening of the day of Uthiram star in the month of Aani (June-July). Thus, this occasion is believed to be an  ideal time for offering prayers to Lord Nataraja.
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04. Aadi
(July -August):  The  most important month for women. Fridays and Tuesdays are holy  in this month;  these are called Aadi Velli and Aadi Chevvai; the other one being  Aadi Amavasya. During Addi Fridays and  Tuesdays, women in the house, with reverence, do pujas to the goddess Durga or Parvati and visit the near-by temple for the welfare of the family and kids. Unmarried Kanya pengal get due importance on these auspicious days in this month.  Aadi Pooram is also a special day. The 18th day of Aadi is the most important day for the farmers (delta region)  as they prepare paddy seedlings during this month.
Goddess Andal, Sri Villiputhur, TN dheivegam.com/
 Goddess Aandal Jayanti is a prime festival in Tamil Nadu and Aadipuram is  also dedicated to Goddess Andal, an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, brought up by great Tamil Vaishnava saint Periazhvar.  Andal, a dedicated devotee of Sri Vishnu, composed Thirupavai, consisting of devotional hymns and at-last married the lord and  later merged with him at Srirangam.  Aadi Pooram is observed as the festival of ‘Valaikappu’.  Glass bangles are offered to Goddess Andal and then distributed among all devotees. The belief is  by wearing these bangles, the childless couples will be blessed with a baby  and if pregnant women wear  these bangles, their baby in the womb will be protected  from all the evil forces. Further, it assures of safe delivery for them.

People also celebrate this day as Aadi pandigai. especially newly-weds. Women in large number   visit the river banks and tie the Mangalya Sutra (Thaali).  At home special puja is performed followed by a special food which includes delicious “Payasam ''(Kheer) with coconut milk. On the Aadi Ammavasya, most Hindu male members, in the early morning, do Pithru Tharpanam on the banks of the river to honor the departed souls and get their blessings. Mostly, they do it with the help of a Pundit/ Prohit. One could see a sea of humanity at Rameswaram beach doing Tharpanam for their forefathers. 
Pitru Tharpanam. subbuskitchen.com
At Kanyakumari beach, on the banks of Cauvery river at many places, etc.,  this ritual is done by the men with dedication. It is also widely done by  people  across India on the river banks to get blessed by their forefathers.
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05. Aavani (August-September):  An important month with many rituals. Brahmins, Carpenters, Sthabathis (who make  idols of deities) and certain Chettiyar communities  change their sacred thread on Aavani Avittam day, a ritual that has been around for centuries.  Brahmins are  advised to medicate on Goddess Gayatri and do Gayatri jabam. Wearing sacred thread is a must for all Hindus regardless of castes. Except Brahmins, etc.,  many of them wear during their wedding and when they do karyam (obsequies) for the departed soul.
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06. Purattaasi (September- October):  An important month for Vaishnavas,  Purattaasi Sani  (all Saturdays) is believed to be  highly auspicious to propitiate  God Vishnu by way of pujas. The belief has been that the God, who is a protector, will bless the devotees with   prosperity  and welfare to surmount all kinds of problems that might arise in the  future. It is believed that God Vishnu will get rid of  the bad effects of Sani Bhagavan (Saturn) on those people who are in his grip according their planetary positions in the horoscope. If  such devotees visit Vishnu temple and offer prayer, they will be free from any  such obstacles caused by Sani.
God Vishnu Thinamalr com.
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07.  Aippasi (October- November): The NE retreating  Monsoon brings in lots of rains over coastal Tamil Nadu in this month which is supposed to be wet all through this  period.  In this Tamil month ''Annaabishekam'' - bathing of Shiva Linga with cooked rice for Lord Shiva is  done at important temples like the one at Thanjavur, etc.  The food will be distributed among the devotees as offerings - prasadam  from the lord.
Meenashshi temple, Madurai, TN  temple /zszywka.p

Soorsamharam, Tiruchendur, TN thehindu.com
Kanda Sashti celebration at Thiruchendur Murugan Temple is the most famous one. The six-day  celebrations which start from Pirathamai of Aippasi Masam culminate on Soorasamharam day(slaying of the demon). Thiru Kalyanam is observed on the next day of Soorasamharam. During Kanda Sashti, devotees observe six day-fasting which starts from first day or Pirathamai (called prathamā in northern Hindu calendar) of Aippasi lunar month and ends on the sixth day which is known as Soorasamharam day. Soorasamharam is the final and the most important day of the six days festivities. It is believed that Lord Murugan defeated Demon Surapadman on the very same day and the festival  is observed every year to mark the victory of the good over the evil. During this great event in Tiruchendur, a large number of devotees normally congregate  to witness ‘Soorasamharam’ enacted by the temple priests and others.
Lord Shiva in the form of Lingam. amil.oneindia.com/
The most famous Hindu festival “Deepavali” is celebrated in this month. The Fridays of this month – Aipassi velli – are dedicated to religious observance.
In Tamil Nadu, Deepavali is observed when Chaturdashi Tithi prevails during Brahma Muhurtham i.e. just before sunrise.
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08. 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.
Tiruvannamai Shiva temple, Karthigai Deepam. .deccanchronicle.com
.Maha Depam on the holy hill, Tiruvannamalai. astroved.com
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.
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Ari Andal temple, Sri Villiputhur, TN  rvatemples.com
Goddess Andal, Sri Villiputhur. prokerala.com/
09.  Maargazhi (December- January):  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, TN.newstm.in/news/

 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.  Devotees undertake fasting on this day as it is considered  an essential religious duty.   

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 Alvar 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. 

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10. 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.   
  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. alleventsio.com
Tamil Nadu. Pongal festival, .indiaart.com/
Thaipusam is also a special day for Murugan devotees, who on their shoulder carry Kavadis (something like an arched  canopy
Palani Murugan (Karthikayan temple), TN cpreecenvis.nic.in
Famous in karthikaya temples. A kavadi. size may vary. pixshark.com
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: https://navrangindia.blogspot.com/2015/05/carrying-kavadi-yoke-and-padayatra.html
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11. Maasi (February-
March):  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.
Adi Kumbeswarer temple, Kumbakonam, flicker com.

Mahamaham tank, Kumbakonam, TNwikimapia.org
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.
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12. 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.   
https://www.drikpanchang.com/festivals/tamil-festivals.
htmlhttp://tamilanditsbest.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-months-of-tamil-calendar-have-great.html
 https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/thousands-gather-on-tiruchendur-shore-to-witness-soorasamharam/article7890036.ece
 https://www.apnisanskriti.com/vrat-katha/significance-of-masi-magam-4979
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chithirai_festival
http://cms.newindianexpress.com/cities/chennai/2018/apr/27/meenakshi-weds-sundareswar
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chitra_Pournami_(festival
https://www.drikpanchang.com/festivals/tamil-festivals.html