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Thiruvathira or Thiruvathirai or Arudhra Darisanam (Malayalam: തിരുവാതിര) is a Hindu festival celebrated in the South Indian state of Kerala and Tamil nadu. Thiruvathirai(Arudhra) in Tamil means "sacred big wave", using which this universe was created by Lord Shiva about 132 trillion years ago. Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu, the Sri Natarajar temple's annual Festival, is celebrated on this date.
It takes place on the full moon night in the Tamil month of Margazhi (December–January) and this is also the longest night in a year. Literary and historical evidence in the form of stone inscriptions state that the festival has been celebrated on this day for more than 1500 years. Lord Shiva is praised in Tamil by many names, one of them is Athiraiyan (ஆதிரையன் ), from Thiruvathirai (Thiru + Athirai).
Tamil hymns of Manikkavacakar's Thiruvasagam (particularly the hymns Thiruvempavai and Thiruppalliezhuchi) are chanted in temples instead of Sanskrit mantras. On the very day of Thiruvathirai the idols of Nataraj (Lord Shiva) and his consort Shivagami (Parvati) are taken out of the temple premises for a grand procession. It is one of the major events in almost all the Shiva temples in Tamil Nadu.
"ஊர்திரை வேலை யுலாவும் உயர்மலைக்
கூர்தரு வேல்வல்லார் கோற்றங் கோள் சேரிதனில்
கார்தரு சோலைக் கபாலீச்சரம் அமர்ந்தான்
ஆதிரைநாள் காணாதே போதியார் பூம்பாவாய்"
"முத்து விதான மணிப்பொற் கவரி முறையாலே
பக்தர்க ளோடு பாவையர் சூழப் பலிப்பின்னே
வித்தகக் கோல வெண்டலை மாலை விரதிகள்
அத்தனாரூ ராதிரை நாளா லதுவண்ணம்"
The cosmic dance of Lord Shiva represents five activities – Creation, Protection, Destruction, Embodiment and Release. In essence, it represents the continuous cycle of creation and destruction. This cosmic dance takes place in every particle and is the source of all energy. Arudra Darshan celebrates this ecstatic dance of Lord Shiva.
It is essentially a Shaivite festival and celebrates the cosmic dance of Lord Shiva, which is represented by the Nataraja form. Arudhra (Thiruvathirai in Tamil) signifies the golden red flame and Shiva performs the dance in the form this red-flamed light. Lord Shiva is supposed to be incarnated in the form of Lord Nataraja during the Arudra Darshan day.
Most of the temples around the world with Lord Nataraja and Shiva as deity perform the Arudhra Darshan. Neivedhyam (food for God) made for Lord Nataraja on that day is Thiruvathirai Kali.
In 2013, Arudhara Darshan is on December 18.
Thiruvadirai or Thiruvempavai Nonbu
In Tamil Nadu, the unmarried women will fast during the day time. They will take food before sunrise and start their fasting. They will break the fast after witnessing the moon rise. Nonbu (fasting) starts nine days before and ends on Thiruvathirai day so totatlly they fast for ten days.
There is special food called Thiruvadhirai kali made of rice, jaggery, moong dhall, coconut, cardoman and ghee with Thiruvathirai ezhlu curry koottu, which is made out of seven vegetables, that is cooked and served on this day. They choose from pooshanikai (pumpkin), paranghikai (ash gourd), vazhakkai (plantain), pacha mochai (field beans), sarkaraivalli kizhangu (sweet potato), cheppan kizhangu (colocasia), urulai kizhangu (potato), katharikai (eggplant) etc.
The dancing form of Lord Shiva is taken out on procession from all Shiva temples in Tamil Nadu. In Chidabaram, The night before the full moon, Abishekam, or holy shower, to the Lord Shiva is performed with the nine most precious gems (navarathnam), including diamonds, coral, pearls, jade and emerald, among others. On the day of full moon, the chariot procession takes place. The most important Arudhra Darshan festival takes place at the Chidambaram Shiva Temple in Tamil Nadu. The cosmic dance of Lord Shiva is enacted on the day.
Significance in Kerala
In Kerala, the festival is celebrated as the birthday of Lord Shiva. Thiruvathira is the nakshatra or "star" as per the Malayalam calendar of Lord Shiva. Another belief is that the festival commemorates the death of Kamadeva, the Hindu god of erotic desire. It is believed that on this day, the Goddess Parvathi finally met Lord Shiva after her long penance and Lord Shiva took her as a saha-dharma chaarini (equal partner). Both Parvathi and Shiva present this ideal to devotees in the form of Ardha-Nareeshawara (half male, half female form).
In Kerala, Thiruvathira is an important traditional festival along with the other popular festivals, Onam and Vishu. This has been celebrated by the Nambuthiri, Kshatriya and Nair communities of Kerala from days of yore. It is largely a festival for women; unmarried women observe a partial fast on this day to get good husbands and married women take a fast from the preceding day (Makayiram nakshatra) and on the day of Thiruvathira for the well being of their husband and family. The first Thiruvathira of a newly wedded woman is her poothiruvathira.
The fast essentially involves abstaining from rice-based food. The typical meal includes cooked broken wheat and Thiruvathira puzhukku, a delightful mix of tuber vegetables: 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 and coconut milk.
Thiruvathirakali is a dance form performed by women on the day of Thiruvathira to the accompaniment of Thiruvathira paattu, folk songs telling tales of lovesick Parvati, her longing and penance for Lord Shiva's affection and Shiva's might and power. The sinuous movements executed by the group of dancers around a nilavilakku embody lasya or the amorous charm and grace of the feminine. The dance follows a circular, pirouetting pattern accompanied by clapping of the hands and singing. Today, Thiruvathirakali has become a popular dance form for all seasons.Thiruvathira kali is a typical dance form of Kerala. This is a female group dance made up of simple yet very attractive steps. In ancient times, women use to perform this dance in their homes during festivals and functions, giving it the Malayalam name aka Kaikottikali: aka-inside + kaikottikali-play claping hands. Lore has it that Thiruvathira Kali is in memory of Lord Siva taking Parvathi as his wife. A group of women dressed in typical Kerala style with mundu and neriyathu and the hair bun adorned with jasmine garlands perform this dance during festival seasons.. Kaikottikkali spreads the message of joy and also illustrates the emotions of a married woman towards her beloved and of the unmarried woman longing for one.
On 14 December 2013, over 3000 women participated in a Thiruvathira Kali event held at Kochi and set world record. The event was organised in connection with the Thiruvathira festival which falls on 18 December 2013.
- Panikkar, T. K. Gopal (1900). Malabar and its folk. G.A. Natesan. Retrieved 8 April 2010.
- Thiruvathira dancers set world record