HINDU FESTIVALS AND THEIR SIGNIFICANCIES – PART 1

VAIKUNTHA EKADASHI

There are 24 Ekadasis observed by Hindus during the year. Of these Vaikunda Ekadasi celebrated in the Tamil month Margazhi (Dec-Jan) is considered very auspicious. On this day people accompany the Lord to the doors of Heaven (SorgaVasal, Sorgam – Heaven/Vasal – Doors). In all temples the Sorgavasal will remain opened on this day. People remain awake the previous night and go to the temple early in the morning to enter the Sorgavasal. People take up fasting on this day for all their wishes to come true. The legend says that one who worships Lord Vishnu on this day will reach Vaikuntha (Heaven). This festival is of great significance at all Balaji Temples especially at Tirupati and Sri Rangam.

 

AARUTHRA DARISANAM

The Thiruvaathirai star of the month of Markazhi is an auspicious star of Lord Shiva. Abhishekams are performed to Lord Nataraja and his consort Goddess Shivakami on this day.

The following five temples are very important for this event.

They are the five dance halls of Lord Shiva

– The Hall of Gold – Kanaka Sabhai – Chidambaram

– The Hall of Silver – Velli Sabhai – Madurai

– The Hall of Rubies – Ratna Sabhai – Tiruvalankadu

– The Hall of Copper – Tamra Sabhai – Tirunelveli

– The Hall of Pictures – Chitra Sabhai – Kutralam

On this day, Shri Nataraja is prayed with sincerity. Doing Archana and Darshan on this day will bring all that is good. Lord Nataraja is also taken out as procession on this day.

PONGAL

The Harvest Festival This three-day Hindu harvest festival falls in the month of Magha, corresponding with the solar equinox. Celebrated in the south, it is marked by the cooking of the rice from the first harvest after the long and arduous winter. The place for cooking the Pongal is sanctified, this three-day harvest festival is celebrated every year in Magha, from the 13th to the 15th of January. The word ‘pongal’ refers to the dish of sweet rice prepared on this occasion. The festival is celebrated widely in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. The time of the festival is of great importance to all Hindus, as it corresponds to the solar equinox when the days begin to lengthen and the nights begin to wane.

This is when the day of the gods begins, after a six-month long night. The festival is spread over three days. A special puja is performed on the first day of Pongal before the cutting of the paddy. Farmers worship the sun and the earth by anointing their ploughs and sickles with sandalwood paste. It is with these consecrated tools that the newly harvested rice is cut. The first day is called Pongal Podigai or Bhogi Pongal and is a day of family feasting and enjoyment. Since the festival celebrates the harvest of the paddy crop, the newly harvested rice is first cooked on this day. The rice grains, along with sesame seeds, jaggery, chickpeas, groundnuts and dried coconut, are put into an earthen pot filled with milk. This is boiled until some of the milk spills over, and the preparation is called ‘Pongal’. It is generally cooked at an auspicious hour, recommended by the priest, in the courtyard of the house. A portion of the cooked rice is offered to Ganesha, and the family, neighbors and friends share the rest as consecrated food. As people greet each other, they ask paal pongita or ‘has the milk boiled over?’. Another ritual observed on this day is called Bhogi Mantalu, when useless household articles are thrown into a fire made of wood and cow dung cakes. Girls dance around the bonfire, singing songs in praise of the gods, the spring and the harvest.

In Andhra Pradesh, in the morning the girls burn their old clothes and wear new ones after an oil massage and bath. Then follows Pongal Panai, a ritual in which the new earthenware pots are painted and decorated with turmeric, flowers and mango leaves. The second day is known as Surya Pongal, the day for the worship of Surya, and the rice cooked in milk and jaggery is offered him. When the food is being cooked and when it boils over, people shout pongalo pongal loudly and many times to rejoice. On this festive day, a newly married couple, symbolizing freshness and joy, is presented with new clothes by the bride’s parents. The servants of the house are also given new clothes to wear. Bathing in the sacred rivers during Pongal is believed to be extremely beneficial. Hence, devotees flock to Tanjavur in Tamil Nadu to bath in the waters of the Kaveri, and to Tirunelveli, also in Tamil Nadu to bathe in the river Tamirapani. Bathing in the sea at Vedaranyam in Tamil Nadu is also considered auspicious.

The third day is known as Mattu Pongal or Gopuja, the day of Pongal Shiva cursed Basava to live on earth forever for cows. It is marked by cattle worship. In earlier times, cattle formed the chief asset of an agriculturalist and it was only proper that their services were recognized and celebrated on this day. The cattle are given a ceremonial bath in the morning, their horns are cleaned, polished and painted, and then decorated with flowers. They are then given Pongal to eat. Arati is performed on them, so as to ward off the evil eye. According to a legend, once Shiva asked his bull, Basava, to go to the earth and ask the mortals to have an oil massage and bath every day and to eat once a month. Inadvertently, Basava announced that everyone should eat daily and have an oil bath once a month. This mistake enraged Shiva who then cursed Basava, banishing him to live on the earth forever. He would have to plough the fields and help people produce more food. Thus the association of this day with cattle.

A festival called Jallikattu is held in Madurai, Tiruchirapalli and Tanjavur, all in Tamil Nadu, on this day. Bundles of money are tied to the horns of ferocious bulls, which the villagers try to retrieve. Everyone joins in the community meal, at which the food is made of the freshly harvested grain. This day is named and celebrated as Tamilian Thirunal in a fitting manner throughout Tamil Nadu. Sisters for the welfare of their brothers also celebrate Mattu Pongal, also called Kanu Pongal. This festival is reminiscent of Raksha Bandhan and Bhai Duja of north India. A large banana (Musaparadisiaca) leaf is washed. It is then placed on the ground, next to the basil altar in the courtyard. On it is placed a branch of the Amla (Phylalnthusembelica) tree. On this leaf are placed at four corners, the leftovers of sweet pongal and the salty pongal called Vand Pongal, ordinary rice as well as colored red and yellow, five betel leaves, two betel nuts, two pieces of sugarcane, turmeric leaves, and two or three ber (Ziziphus mauritiana) fruit. On this also reposes an oil lamp. In Tamil Nadu women perform this ritual before bathing in the morning. In Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, the festival starts after everyone has bathed. All the women, young and old, of the house assemble in the courtyard. The eldest married woman distributes a handful of rice to all the others. The rice is placed in the center of the banana leaf, while the women ask that the house and family of their brothers should prosper. Arati is performed for the brothers with turmeric water, limestone and rice, and this water is sprinkled on the rangoli in front of the house. Sisters apply a tilak on the foreheads of their brothers, and give them fruit, sweets, sesame seed and jaggery. The brothers thank their sisters for their good wishes and give them money and gifts. The celebration of this festival probably originated very early on. From the very beginning, the first agriculturalists realized the importance of a good crop, which sustained the entire clan. And since, to him, it depended on some supernatural element, he thought it fit to thank the gods after a good harvest. Further, it was believed that all that is new, a new crop, the first catch of a season, and the first born of a domestic animal, was sacred and hence not to be touched by man until certain sacramental ceremonies were performed.

A part of the new was sacrificed to the gods or spirits, and one’s ancestors, and only then could it be consumed. In addition, it was realized that the fruit of the earth and animals for food should not be garnered until they were ready. The community emphasized this, and until a ritual was performed, nothing could be gathered, slain, or eaten. The harvest festival of Pongal symbolizes the veneration of the first fruit. The crop is harvested only after a certain time of the year, and cutting the crop before that time is strictly prohibited. Even though Pongal was originally a festival for the farming community, today all celebrates it. In the south, all three days of Pongal are considered important. However, those south Indians who have settled in the north usually celebrate only the second day. Coinciding with Makara Sankranti and Lohri of the north, it is also called Pongal Sankranti. Though traditionally ‘Pongal’ is cooked using the newly harvested grain, nowadays it is not easily available. Therefore families not directly involved in agriculture cook ‘pongal’ using old rice, to give thanks in the traditional way.

THAI AMAVASAI

Thai Amavasai is the New moon day in the Tamil month ‘ Thai’ (January – February). On this day, hundreds of people pay homage to their ancestors.  Thai Amavasai is special for Thithi and Tharpanam. This is also the first Amavasi of Utharayanam (the period when Sun moves Northwards). There is a heavy crowd at the Triveni Sangamam at Kanyakumari and in Rameshwaram. Several devotees will observe fasting and have only one meal on this day.

RATHA SAPTAMI

People worship the sun in the early morning and recite the Surya Sahasranama. Good actions done on this day give manifold results. People fasting on this day are said to attain knowledge and derive virtues. If widows fast on this day, they get rid of widowhood from the next birth onwards. Even the sin of slaying a person is expiated by the power of fasting on this day. He who takes a bath at the time of sunrise is purified like Mother Ganga. He can never become a poor man. This day is as powerful as Amavasai and several people offer Tarpanam to Ancestors.

THAI KRITHIGAI

Thai Krithigai ( Kiruthigai or Kaarthigai ) is celebrated on 01 February 2012 (Friday). Generally on all Krithigai special abhishekam, alankaram and pujas are done to Lord Muruga in temples.

Thai Krithigai is special. Many devotees fast in this day and take Kavadi, Pal Kuddam and do padayatra (walk) to Lord Muruga Temples. Chanting of Lord Muruga hymns and playing of percussion instruments by devotees can be seen in temples. Special yagnas will take place in temples

Krithigai is the naksathira of Lord Muruga. According to Skanda Purana, Lord Muruga took birth from third eye of Lord Shiva as six flames. Agni and Vayu deva carried the six Flames of Lord Muruga to the Saravana Poigai. Kaarthigai Pengal took care of the six babies from Lotus flowers in Saravana poigai .

When Lord Muruga attained boyhood, Goddess Parvati took six babies from Kaarthigai Pengal and made them to single boy with six faces. Hence Lord Muruga is also called Lord Shanmuga. Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati granted Kaarthigai pengal boon that special poojas for Lord Muruga will be held in every Krithika nakshatra.

THAIPUSAM

A festival occurring in the Tamil month Thai (January – February), on the day of the star Poosam around Pournami (Full Moon) is celebrated as Thaipusam [Thai Poosam].

There are several legends about the festival Thaipusam

Here are a few of them:-

There was a demon named Tarakasur who gave a lot of trouble to the rishis and saints. Lord Muruga was called by his parents Lord Shiva and Parvati and given the job of destroying the Asuran. Lord Muruga set off with the blessings of his parents to destroy the demon. He took with him twelve weapons, eleven of which were given by his father Lord Shiva and the ‘Vel’ given by his mother Parvati. Lord Muruga destroyed Tarakasur on the Poosam Nakshatra day in the Tamil month of Thai and hence Thai Poosam is celebrated in all Murugan temples.

According to another legend, as Shiva was imparting a mantra to Parvati, Lord Muruga eavesdropped on them. For that error, Parvati laid a curse on him, in line with the rule that even a son, if erring, must be punished. To be redeemed from her curse, Lord Muruga offered hard penance at Thiruparankundram. Pleased with his penance, Shiva and Parvati appeared before him and lifted the curse. The day on which the curse was removed is Thai Poosam.

It is thus a special day for worship of Lord Muruga or Subrahmanya and is celebrated in a very grand manner at all Murugan temples, especially at the Six Battle Camps or ‘Arupadai Veedu’ of Murugan.

MAHASHIVRATRI

“Maha-Shivaratri” is a Hindu festival observed on the night of the four­teenth day of the dark half in the month of ‘Magha’, in Tamil ‘Maasi’, corresponding to the English months ‘February—March’, in honour of Shiva, one of the Hindu Trinity, representing the destructive aspect in the universe.Though generally, the night time is considered sacred and suitable for the worship of the feminine aspect of’ the deity and the day time for that of’ the masculine, yet on this particular occasion Shiva is worshipped during the night time, and as a matter of fact, it is specially enjoined to be observed then. The observance of the Vrata is believed to secure for the devotee immunity from the eftects of sin committed either wittingly or unwittingly. The night is divided into four quarters, each quarter going by the name of a Jama called also Yama and pious people keep awake during every one of it, worshipping The Ishwara.

It is said that the whole world was under destruction once and the Goddess Parvati worshipped her husband Shiva then and prayed to him that the Jivas (living souls) remaining in space like particles of gold dust in a lump of wax during that long period of pralaya (deluge) night, should, when they became active once again and are in the enjoy­ment of their short day and night, have his blessings if they but worshipped him just as she did then, and her prayer was accordingly granted.The night fixed for the worship of Ishwara by mortals by Parvati was named Maha-Shivaratri or the great night of Lord Shiva, since pralaya is brought about by him and hence the period is really his night from the great night or pralaya which was the cause for the origin of this Shivaratri.

The people who observe this Shivaratri- Vratha take only single meal during the day previous to the Vrata day and sleep in clean place during the night. In the morning of the Vrata day they take a bath in the waters of a sacred river, and then go to witness the divine worship in a Shiva temple, and at night offer worship to Shiva during every one of the four Yamams. Night long vigil on Sivaratri day,watching the sacred ablutions of Siva Linga at the temple,is the core of the Shivaratri festival.The Rudra Japa Abhisheka of Shiva Linga resounds the multifacted glory of Lord Shiva,who is also called Ashutosh or One who is easily pleased by copius ablutions with water, the cheapest available commodity.We should remember that water in essence is Prana Shakti or life force. Such an observance of Shivaratri will really bestow on the devotee the greatest grace of Lord Shiva, the auspicious knowledge of Atma Gnyana. Besides the devotee is also blessed with material prosperity the items of which are beautifully listed in the Chamaka Mantra uttered on this occasion.

There is also an example emphasizing the importance of the worship of Shiva during the Shivaratri night and it is in brief as follows : (the moral is that whatever Good we do, whether intentional or not, gives us Good Results – especially Lord Shiva is very merciful while counting our Good Deeds)

Once there was a hunter, and he one day went into the forest to procure meat for his family by hunting some animal. He wandered up and down in the forest from morning till night in search of game but was unable to shoot any. At last, when night overtook him, he climbed up a Bael tree to escape from a wild animal that was pursuing him, being roused from its lair by the hunter. The animal was lying down at the foot of the tree quite certain that the man would fall down either from sleep or from exhaustion, and that he might eat him. The hunter, exhausted as he was from his exertions and hunger, wished to scare away the animal by throwing handful of bael leaves. These leaves dripping with water on account of the recent shower, fell on a Shiva-Linga that was near. The night happened to be the Maha-Shivaratri night. He had fasted during the whole day since he could not find anything to eat. The drenching rain constituted a bath and his action of throwing the bael leaves on the Shiva-Linga, constituted the wor­ship of Shiva on the Shivaratri night although he did not mean it. Though his actions were not intentional to worship Shiva, yet he gained heaven as he had observed the Shivaratri – Vrata unwittingly.

The basic principle underlying the observance of the Maha-Shivaratri Vrata appears to be to emphasize the fact that death is sure to follow birth, night is sure to follow day,Pralaya, active cosmic life and so on, and consequently people should always bear in mind while enjoying the one its opposite and regulate their life accordingly. They should not be elated at success nor should they allow themselves to be carried away by despair at failures but always have trust in God and worship him.

HOLI

According to one popular legend, the word Holi is derived from the demoness, Holika. She was the sister of Hiranyakashyap, a demon king, who having defeated the Gods, proclaimed his own supremacy over the Universe. Enraged by his son, Prahlad’s ardent devotion to Vishnu, Hiranyakashyap decided to punish him. He took the help of his sister, Holika, who was immune to damage from fire. Holika carried Prahlad into the fire but a divine intervention destroyed her and saved Prahlad. Thus Holi is celebrated to mark the burning of the evil Holika. It is a celebration of the triumph of good over evil, and is commemorated by burning huge bonfires on the eve of Holi as its symbolic representation.

According to another ancient legend, Lord Shiva was deep in meditation, oblivious to Parvati, the daughter of the Himalayas who sought his love. Kama (the Indian version of Cupid) shot an arrow towards Lord Shiva, thus disturbing his meditation. Lord Shiva was enraged and destroyed Kama, reducing him to a heap of ashes. Kama was later resurrected by the intercession of Parvati.

Yet another legend holds that Holi is the same as the female demon Putana, who tried to kill the child Krishna by making him suckle her poisoned breasts. Krishna however, sucked very hard and drained the life out of Putana. Popular legend adds that the body disappeared and the cowherds of Mathura burnt her with an effigy. Since then, Mathura has been the main centre for Holi.

Holi announces the arrival of spring and the passing of winter. Young and old alike are drenched with colors. On Holi, people are suddenly caught unawares with colors being poured from the terraces and roofs of houses, bursting balloons, or long pistons squirting colored water. People in small groups are seen singing, dancing and throwing colors on each other. They also eat food laced with bhang, an aphrodisiac that leaves one feeling light and happy.

Holi is celebrated throughout India but it is more predominant in North India. Preparations for the festival begin a week ahead. Houses are given a fresh coat of color, beautiful floral designs are drawn at the entrance, and powdered colors and spraying pistons are bought.

In earlier days the colors were extracted from a flower that blossoms only during this festival. And the pistons were made of bamboo sticks. But over the years colors are made artificially and pistons made of different materials are available in various designs.

Usually people burn the Holika tree on the eve of Holi. A bonfire is lit in the evenings, with an effigy of Holika. Brahmins circle the fire seven times, reciting religious verses. Folklore and dances are performed around the fire to welcome the new season. On the morning of Holi, people have fun with colored water. Men, women and children all participate in this merry making. In the evening, youngsters play with dry colors and seek elders’ blessings.

Feasts are prepared for Holi, be it Dahi Wada or a preparation of raw jackfruit or the traditional Malpua (a dessert made of maida, milk, sugar and dry fruits), or Puran Poli in Maharashtra. Holi is as important a festival as Dusserah and Diwali. It is also distinguished in certain regions like Bengal where it is marked by performances of Dolothsava in which the image of Lord Vishnu is swayed in decorated swings and colored powder is offered to the God.

The spirit of communal harmony is very high. People indulge in merry-making, and playing with colored waters is a common sight. Peasants visit homes singing folklore and asking for small tips.

This animated festival is also associated with the immortal love of Krishna and Radha, and hence, Holi is spread over 16 days in Vrindavan as well as Mathura – the two cities with which Lord Krishna shared a deep affiliation. Apart from the usual fun with coloured powder and water, Holi is marked by vibrant processions, which are accompanied by folk songs, dances and a general sense of abandoned vitality.

The color, noise and entertainment that accompanies the celebration of Holi bears witness to a feeling of oneness and sense of brother-hood. No other festival brings home the lesson of spiritual and social harmony as well as the festival of Holi!

UGADI – TELUGU NEW YEAR

Ugadi marks the beginning of the Telugu New Year. It also brings happiness with the onset of Vasant Rutu (spring). Ugadi name has been changed from Yuga Aadi (Yuga + Aadi means beginning of New age). The Legend says that the creator of the Hindu pantheon Lord Brahma started creation on this day – Chaitra Shuddha Pratipada or the Ugadi day. It is the most important festival for Hindus, which falls on Chaitra Shuddha Prathipada (Padya). According to The Hindu legend, Lord Brahma created the earth and set days, nights, dates, weeks, fortnights, months, seasons, and years to count the time.

During Ramayana period, the New Year was being celebrated on the first day of Uttarayana. So, Chaitra was the 12th month. Varahamihira, a saint who lived in sixth century, started a new method of celebrating New Year on Chaitra Shuddha Prathipada. Ugadi marks the beginning of a new Hindu lunar calendar with a change in the moon’s orbit. It is a day when mantras are chanted and predictions made for the new year.

VASANT PANCHAMI

The 5th day of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Thai (Magh) is the day of Vasant Panchami. Hindus all over the world celebrate this festival with great enthusiasm.

Children are taught their first words on this day (as an auspicious beginning to learning). Schools, colleges etc., (places of learning) organise special worship of Saraswati.

With Her grace, the mute, it is believed, have been able to speak and people have been blessed with the ability to write or compose poems. Musicians sing here and many even choose to perform here first. Instrumentalists have puja performed for their instruments here. Apart from art and culture, Goddess Saraswati also showers Her blessings for the education of children.

Notebooks, pencils and pens are kept at the Devi’s feet for blessings and then used by the students. A noticeboard asks the students to write their names, address and the roll number on a piece of paper and put it in the hundi after praying for success! According to the Hindu legend, the Goddess blesses them for good and positive results.

The moolavigraham enchants devotees as she is the embodiment of kindness itself. Her expression is so serene and calm even as She is majestic. She is seated on a white lotus in Padmasana, adorned by a pure white silk sari, has a book in Her lower left hand, Her lower right hand showing the chinmudra, Aksharamala in Her right upper hand, and Amrithakalasham in Her left upper hand. Both eyes are full of compassion.

SHRI RAMANAVAMI

Shri Rama Navami is the birth anniversary of Shri Rama celebrated by devotees all over the world. It falls on the ninth day of the bright fortnight when the asterism Punarvasu(Geminorum) is in the ascendancy. The observance of this Vrata absolves one from all sins. Men of all grades and ranks observe this Vrata for obtaining prosperity, longevity, happiness and wisdom.

Lord Mahavishnu, one of the Hindu Trinity, representing the preservative aspect of the universe as in his previous incarnations (avatars), descended into the world to kill the ten-headed Asura named Ravana who was an epitome of the ten ahamkaras (egoism) of men. When one is under the sway of the ahamkaras, the power of discrimination between right and wrong is destroyed. Consequently the Lord’s light has to descend on him to destroy these ahamkaras.

During Rama Navami, Shri Hanuman is worshipped for his unflinching devotion to Shri Rama, and his worship forms an important part of the Rama Navami celebrations.

VARAHA JAYANTI

In VARAHA Avatar, Lord Vishnu incarnates himself as a boar in this world. A demon Hiranyaksha, had prayed for Lord Brahma and got awarded a boon that no beast nor man nor god could kill him. But somehow from the list of beasts the name of boar was missing. This proved to be his lacunae. He then started a campaign of plunder across the worlds. He pushed the world to the Pataal loka, or the under of the sea. He stole the Vedas, the holy scriptures from the Lord Brahma, while he was asleep and performed huge atrocities.

To retrieve the Vedas and to save the world, Lord Vishnu assumed the role of a boar and brought out the earth from the under of the ocean, using its two tusks. It then killed Hiranyaksha and retrieved the Vedas from the asura and brought it back to the safe custody of the Lord Brahma.

SHANI AMAVASYA

The new moon day that falls on a Saturday in the Hindu calendar is known as Shani Amavasya. People suffering from several doshas like pitra dosha, kala sarpa dosha conduct remedial Poojas on this day. Tarpan is also performed for ancestors on this day.

On this day several devotees visit Thirunallar Sanneswara Bhagawan Temple to seek blessings and forgiveness. The Legend says that worshipping lord Shani on this day, it would appease him and remove all obstacles.

Shani Amavasya is a very favourable and rare day to please Lord Shani.

AKSHAYA TRITIYA

Akshaya Tritiya – Symbol of Flourishing Fortunes

Pooja is performed on Akshaya Thrithiyai at the main Sannadhi that houses Mahalakshmi & Maha Vishnu at Ashtalakshmi Temple, Chennai and Prasadam will be shipped to you alongwith compliments.

Akshaya Tritiya brings home auspiciousness. While this day is considered auspicious for starting new ventures and making new purchases, it is also believed that by doing a good deed on Akshaya Tritiya, one can earn punya or merit for life.

It is not just what you buy, but what you do on Akshaya Tritiya that comes back to you multi-fold. Akshaya Tritiya, the third day of the bright half of Vaishakh, is considered one of the four most sacred days of the year. Of the four eras, the Satya Yuga is the first and the most significant one. This era began on a Sunday – Vaishakh Shukla Tritiya – which is also known as Akshaya Tritiya.

CHITRA POURNAMI

Chitragupta Temple(Kanchipuram) :

According to the scriptures, Chitragupta is the assistant of Lord Yama, the God of Death. It is believed that when a person dies his soul first goes to Lord Yama, where Chitragupta reads out the good and bad deeds of the person. There is only one temple in South India for Chitragupta at Kancheepuram. Chitra Pournami is a very auspicious day here which is considered to be the birthday of Chitragupta.

Airavateshwarar Temple (Darasuram) :

Lord Shiva is known here as “Airavateshwara”, because he was worshipped at this temple by “Airavata”, the white elephant of the King of the Gods, Indra. The temple was built by King Rajaraja II (1146-1173 AD) in the late Chola period.

Chandra Mouliswarar Temple (Tiruvakkarai) :

Vakrasura ruled this place and made many poojas to Lord Shiva. After giving problems to Devas and Tapasvis, he was killed by Lord Varadha Perumal. Hence this holy place is called by his name Vakrapuri as well as THIRUVAKKARAI. Among 32 holy places of Lord Shiva, here Lord Shiva has three faces.

Thirukoteeswarar temple (Thirukodikaval) :

Thirukodikaval is situated on the northern bank of the Cauvery on the Kumbakonam-Mayiladuthurai route. It is about five km from Suryanarkoil (Navagraha kshetra for Sun God) and two km from Kanjanoor (Sukhra kshetra on the east) and five km west of Kuttalam town. Thirukoteeswarar is the presiding deity in this temple. There are seperate sannadhis for Chitrgupta and Yama. Chitra Pournami festival is celebrated in a grand manner every year.

VAIKASHI VISHAKAM

Vaikashi Vishakam is said to be the day when Lord Muruga / Subramanya incarnated in this world with the mission of saving earth from demons like Soorapadman. The Vaikashi Vishakam is celebrated in a grand manner in Murugan Temples (Swamymalai, Tiruchendur,…). Valli Kalyanam is celebrated in Murugan Temples on Vaikashi Vishakam day.

The divine creation of Lord Subrahmanya, also known as Skanda, Karthikeya or Murugan, to alleviate the sufferings of the Devas, occurred on Vaikashi Vishakam. (Vishakam is one of the 27 Nakshatras).

KOORMA JAYANTI

In Kurma avatar, Lord Vishnu incarnates himself as a tortoise. It is an interesting legend, involving both the gods (Devas) and asuras (demons). In the ongoing saga of battle between the gods and asuras, on one occasion the gods suddenly lost all their strength due to a curse by the short-tempered sage Durvasa. The sage had once presented a garland of flowers to Indra,king of gods, who carelessly gave it away to his elephant which trampled it. Hence the Sage Durvasa gave a curse to the Devas, thus resulting the Devas in losing all their strength and their glory.

The Devas approached Vishnu for help. Vishnu then asked them to churn the ocean of milk after adding medicines into the ocean. Mt Mandara could be used a the churning stick he said. He requested them to ask the help of Asuras in lifting the mountain in exchange for offer of the share of nectar of immortality that would arise from the churning. Both the devtas and the asuras churned the ocean using the serpent Vasuki as the rope. At the start, playing a trick, Indra, the king of the gods asked the asuras to hold the tail end of vasuki. But asuras suspecting foul play, took the head end, only to be deceived, as the poison from Vasuki was slowly weakening them. But as churning was proceeding the mountain was sinking and then Lord Vishnu took the form of the tortoise KURMA and kept the mountain afloat. As soon as the bowl of amrita, the nectar of immortality was out, the asuras grabbed it. Then Lord Vishnu took the form of an apsara, a beautiful maiden, and seduced the asuras into letting her to distribute the nectar and also to abide by her order of distribution. As soon as the devtas were served the maiden disappeared thus totally deceiving the asuras and making them totally weak.

SHANI PRADOSHAM

ABOUT 56 KM from Chennai, on the Tamil Nadu-Andhra Pradesh border, is a small village called Surutapalli, which houses the only “Shayana Shiva” (sleeping Shiva) called Pallikondeshwara. The temple has an interesting history which is as follows:

Once Indra lost his kingdom and found that only if he consumed the Divine Nectar he could rule. So there was a tug of war between the devas and asuras to obtain this nectar. The Devas and Asuras got together to churn the ocean, using Mandramalai & Vaasuki, the snake. As they continued to churn the ocean, Vasuki the snake began to tire and started spewing its poison. Shiva came and consumed all the poison. Thus Shiva became blue up to his throat and is also known by the name “Neelakantha” ( neela-blue colour, kantha-throat).

Goddess Parvati rushed and held his neck so that the poison would not spread to the whole of his body. Shiva then became drowsy and selected a village called Surutapalli (near Chennai), where he is seen sleeping on the lap of Parvathi. This is the only temple that houses Lord Shiva in a sleeping position.

Narada, meanwhile, passed on the message and down came the Devas, Brahma, Vishnu and the Saptarishis, to have darshan. They were promptly stopped by Nandi who asked them all to come after some time, as Shiva was resting. All of them waited. Shiva, when he woke up, was filled with extreme happiness and danced (“Ananda Tandavam”). This day, when the Devas, Brahma, Vishnu, Narada and Saptarishis had Shiva darshan, was a Krishnapaksha Trayodashi (Stiravaram, Saturday). This is the Mahapradosham day. Pradhosham, generally, is a significant occasion observed with great piety at all Shiva temples.

The Legend says that, all the Devas & Gods are assembled in the Shiva temples during Pradosham time. Further, the first pradosham was on a Saturday & hence “Shani Pradosham” is even more auspicious.

AANI THIRUMANJANAM

The word “Thirumanjanam” means Holy bath. Aani Thirumanjanam ( Tamil month spanning June- July) is a special day ( Uthram Nakshtram) when an Abhishekam is performed for Lord Nataraja . It is believed that Lord Nataraja gives darshan to his devotees in the months Aani and Margazhi. The Lord’s form demonstrates his five-fold functions: creation, preservation, destruction, concealment and salvation. The rattle (udukkai) in his right hand represents creation; his raised right arm with the open palm (abhaya hastam) protection; his left hand holding fire destruction; his firmly placed foot concealment; and his other, slightly lifted, leg salvation. Lord Nataraja is given six abhishekams in a year.

Earth takes 365 days to complete one full circle around the sun. That duration is divided into six seasons – Marghazhi-Thai: early winter; Maasi-Panguni: late winter; Chittirai-Vaikasi: early summer; Aani-Aadi: high summer; Avani-Purattasi: autumn; Aippasi-Karthikai: rainy season.This six-season year of humans is said to be one day for the immortals. A day has six periods: dawn, morning, noon, afternoon, evening, and night. These are when the six daily poojas ( Kaala Pooja) in temples are performed. During each of these six parts, an Abhishekam has been ordained for Lord Nataraja. One of these is Ani Thirumanjanam, the pradosha abhishekam on the evening of the day of Uthiram star in the Tamil month of Aani (June-July). This is the best time for worshipping Lord Shiva.

AADI AMAVASAI

Aadi Amavasai, a day sacred to obsequies for the manes. This special day is dedicated to our forefathers, which is observed annually during the Tamil month of July-August. The new moon in the Tamil month of Aadi is observed with special prayers, poojas and offering of food to the forefathers.

AADI POORAM

Adi Pooram is celebrated in all Hindu temples in southern India in the month called Adi or Ashadha, corresponding to the English months of July-August, when the asterism Pooram (Delta Leonis) is in the ascendancy. The festival is observed to propitiate the goddess Shakti Devi who is said to have come into this world on this occasion to bless the people. People therefore worship her in order to secure happiness not only for themselves but also for their loved ones.

If the festival falls on a Friday, the occasion is considered to be highly auspicious, and the people worship the goddess in a more special way.

GARUDA PANCHAMI

Garuda Panchami pooja is dedicated to Shri Garudalwar, also known as “Periya Thiruvadi”.

Benefits of this Pooja:

This pooja is usually performed by women and benefits their children. Garudalwar is propitiated by women who wish to give birth to bold, brave and sharp-minded children like Lord Garuda. Newly wed couples perform this pooja for a happy married life. The Legend says that, by performing this pooja, the suffering due to Naga Dosham will be alleiviated.

The Legend of Garuda Panchami:

Kashyap, one of the Sapta Rishis had two wives named Vinathai and Kandharu. Once, when Vinathai and Kandharu had an argument about the colour of the tail of Ucchairavam, the horse of Lord Indira. Kandharu argued that it was black while Vinathai said it was white in colour. They decided to see the horse to reslove the issue and decided that that the one who lost the argument would be a slave to the one who wins. Kandharu ordered her black snake sons and to wind around the tail of the horse, so that its tail looked black in colour. Thus, Vinathai was enslaved by Kandharu, and being a slave lived a very dejected life. When Garuda, the son of Vinathai was told how his mother was tricked into being a slave he was very angry. Garuda asked Kandharu how his mother could be free again. Kandharu asked Garuda to get the Amrit from the Deva Loka to release his mother from slavery. Garuda, who went to Indra Loka was stopped by the devas, but he fought and won over them. Before Lord Indra could use his Vajrayudha, Garuda bowed down and narrated the entire story of what had happened to his mother and why he had come to Indralok. On hearing this, Indra gave him the Amrit and blessed him. He also proclaimed that all snakes would henceforth be enslaved to Garuda as they were also responsible for his mother’s misery.

NAGA PANCHAMI

Serpents or Naga Devatas are worshipped on Shravan Shukla Panchami also called as Naga Panchami. According to Hindu Legends, Serpents are considered divine. People go to temples and snake pits in temples to worship the Nagas. A lot of people fast on the Panchami day and take food only in the evening. By praying the Naga Devatas one is freed from the fear of snakes and serpents and it is also believed to protect us from all evils. The person who performs worship of the serpents on Naga Panchami day should not dig the ground for farming or for any other reason.

Ardhanareeswarar temple is located in Tiruchengode near Erode,Tamilnadu. Ardhanareeswarar (man-woman) manifestation of Lord Shiva, representing the unity of Shiva and Parvati, is enshrined in this revered hill temple. This is an ancient temple (Padal Petra Sthalam). The colour of this hill is red and hence the name Tiruchengode (chengode meaning red line).

VARALAXMI VRATA

The Hindu festival going by the name ‘Vara Lakshmi Vrata’ is celebrated on the Friday before the full moon in the Tamil Month ‘Aadi’ which corresponds to the English months of July-August. It is a festival to propitiate the goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Lord Vishnu, one of the Hindu Trinity. Varalakshmi is one who grants boons (Varam).

In Chennai, one of the most popular temples is the Ashtalakshmi Temple in Beasant Nagar. Located on the seashore, the winding steps takes one to the different shrines of Lakshmi one after the other. It is said that Lakshmi will enter the house of anyone who thinks of her and bless them. There are many festivals in the year dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi. Among them, Varalaxmi Vrata is considered very auspicious because it is marked by strict observance of certain practices and austerities. It is also called Varalaxmi Nonbu.

The name Vishnu really means pervading everywhere, and Lakshmi, his consort, is symbolical of the forces found everywhere. Eight forces or energies are recognised and they are known as Shri (Wealth), Bhu (Earth), Sarasvati (Learning), Priti (Love), Kirti (Fame), Shanti (Peace), Tushti (Pleasure) and Pushti (Strength). Each one of these forces is called a Lakshmi and all the eight forces are called the Ashta Lakshmis or the eight Lakshmis of the Hindus. As health, wealth and prosperity depend upon the rythmic play of these forces, the worship of Lakshmi is said to be to obtain these three. Hence this festival is observed, invoking the blessings of Goddess Lakshmi.

AADI PERUKKU

The aadi month falls during the monsoon season and is essentially a thanksgiving to monsoon which fills the rivers – the lifeline of farmers. The festival is celebrated in full fervor by people residing along the Cauvery River bank. ‘Perukku’ means rising – indicating the rising water in rivers. The festival is essentially a form of Nature worship.Special food is prepared on this day and family and friends get together and pray for uninterrupted supply of water and a good harvest.

AADI VELLI

Aadi festival is celebrated for the birth of the tamil month of Aadi (July – August). This festival is special for various Ammans. Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays of this month are considered very auspicious. A lot of festivals are celebrated in the month of Aadi. This tamil month marks the beginning of all festivals during the festival season. Tamil month Aadi is considered as an auspicious month. All Fridays in this month especially the 1st and 3rd are very auspicious.

It is considered auspicious to get darshan and offering pooja on the following three Shakti Temples located near chennai on the same day. The form of shrine in all three temples are identical and it is more auspicious if possible to visit these temples on a full moon day which falls on a friday.

Ichchhaa Shakti (Thiruvudai Amman) -The Shakti who will fulfill devotees wishes.

Gnyaana Shakti (Vadivudai Amman) – The Shakti who will bless us with knowledge.

Kriyaa Shakti (Kodiyidai Amman) – The Shakti who assists us in all our actions and attempts.

MAHA SANKATAHARA CHATURTHI

Sankata (means problems) and Hara (means killing or removing) and therefore Sankata Hara Chaturthi is a day to invoke Lord Ganesh’s blessings to remove all problems in life. Sankata Hara Chaturthi vrata is very auspicious for removing all obstacles in life and to convert your problems into opportunities. You may recite stotras, chants on Lord Ganesha on this day and invoke His Grace. It is customary to fast throughout the day and break the fast after sighting the Moon crescent on this day.

Every month, the chaturthi falling after the full moon is Sankatahara Chaurthi.When Sankatahara Chaturthi falls on a Tuesday it is considered very auspicious and known as Angaraki Sankatahara Chaturthi


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