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Thiruvempavai and Arudra Darisanam

Margazhi Trivia Series: Author Radhika Radhakrishnan

Photo by Swathi Lakshmanan

Margazhi is special for the devotees of Shiva too. Like thiruppavai another set of 20 pasurams are sung in praise of Lord Shiva called as “Tiruvempavai’. These songs are written by Manickavasagar, one of the most ardent devotee of Shiva. Manicka vasagar imagines himself as a girl desiring to marry Lord Shiva ..In those days unmarried girls believed to undertake vrathms or nonbu with view to get their desired life partner.The songs convey these sentiments along with other basic spiritual tenets such as gnana, dediction, bhakthi etc. Like Tiruppavai tiruvempavai is also sung early in the morning in Shiva temples.

Another set of 10 songs by the name Tirupaliyezhuchi is written by again manickavasagar. This is similar to the suprapadam, for waking up Shiva. These 2 sets of songs are sung during this month. Thousands of songs have been written by hundreds of devotees of Shiva, Vishnu. Rama,Krishna, skanda, and so many other Gods and Goddesses. Yet, only Tiruppavai, thiruvempavai and tirupalliyezhuchi have the honour of being sung for the whole month every year showcasing the brilliance of these songs.

Margazhi is also known for many festivals pertaining to various deities. Ons such festival is ‘Arudra Darisanam’. One of the very famous forms of Lord Shiva is Nataraja. His cosmic dance symbolises the cycle of birth and death. This Aurudra darisanam is done in honour of the dancing Shiva, Nataraja.This festival falls on the full moon day of Margazhi in conjunction with the Thiruvadhirai or arudra star. The story goes that once Lord Vishnu was in ecstasy that he was oblivious of everything around him. Seeing this, Adi Seshan, the snake on which the lord was lying down, questioned the reason for his mood. Vishnu retorted saying that he was enjoying the joyful thandavam( dance ) of Shiva. Adi seshan evinced his desire to see the dance himself and asked him Visnu for the course of action he should take up for the same. Vishnu directed him to go to Chidambaram and do penance so that he would get to see the dance. Accordingly Adiseshan took birth in chidambaram in the name of Pathanjali and did penance for a long time. Along with him another devotee Vygrapathar also did penance for the same purpose. At last Nataraja blessed them with his dance.This happened on the full moon day having arudra star in the month of Margazhi. This day is celebrated in all Shiva temples in Tamilnadu. The idol of Nataraja along with his concert Sivagamasundari is taken in a procession after an elaborate holy bath(abhishekam) and decoration.People fast during the day and do puja to Shiva at home offering “Thruvathiraikali” as prasad. It is a pudding made out of rice and Jaggery seasoned with ghee and nuts.

There is a story behind this prasad. Sendhan, an ardent devotee of Nataraja, used to feed the people who came to his house asking for food. One day Lord nataraja wanted to popularise his devotion to the king and he went to his house in the night as an old man. It was raining heavily and Sandhan had nothing to offer him other than a little bit of rice and jaggery. He made the ‘Kali’ and fed him. The old man ate his tummyful and took with him the leftover Kali also. The next morning when the temple pandits opened the temple they found pieces of kali thrown out everywhere near the main idol. They complained to the king who got angry over this. Sendhan was shocked to see the kali made at his home thrown around in the temple. Lord Nataraja voiced that he was the one who came to Sendhan house in appreciation of his devotion. From that day onwards ‘Thiruvadhirikali’ is offered as prasad on this day.

This festival is celebrated in Kerala also. There it is mainly a ladies function. People desirous of having a good husband and the married ones praying for the long life of their husbands do this puja. They do dance called “kaikottikalli ‘ is performed in groups.This is celebrated as the birthday of Lord shiva.

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