Kannadasan’s immortal approbation of the month of Margazhi, set to lilting music by Viswanathan and Ramamurthy in one of the most famous Tamil movie songs, simply reflected Lord Krishna who in Gita says that among the months he is Margazhi. What is so special about this month?
Kanchi Paramacharya explains:
‘Margazhi, which precedes the Uttarayana is ushah-kaala (the short period just before dawn) for devas for whom a human year constitutes one day. The period just before dawn in this month is therefore very sacred and it is common for all to visit the temples and go around the streets singing Tiruppavai, Tiruvenbavai and other bhajans – the intention is to rouse the latent spiritual powers in every one of us.’
In other words, if the whole year is deemed to be just one day, margazhi month is the pre-dawn period of awakening, when we transit from the stillness and calm of the wintery night to a day of meaningful activities. It is the time for singing, before dawn every day of the month, the praise of God, at home, on the streets and in temples, be it Andal’s Tiruppavai, or, Manickavachagar’s Tiruvembaavai and Tiruppalliyeyuchi. It is also the month when the holiest vaishnavite temple in Srirangam and the most sacred saivite one at Chidambaram, have their most important annual festivals, Vaikunda Ekadasi and Aarudra Darshan, respectively, both celebrated before sun rise. And, on the last day of month, on Bhogi, we clean our houses in readiness to welcome Uttarayana and the Tamil month of Thai with a Suryanarayana puja and Pongal and with the belief in ‘தை பிறந்தால் வழி பிறக்கும்’!
Tiruppavai, Tiruvembavai and Tiruppallieyuchi
Andal’s story is well known. Born in Srivalliputtur a great vaishnavait temple town, she was determined to get married to the Lord and to no one else. She composed and sang 30 verses or ‘pasurams’ comprising Tiruppavai, each sung on one day of the month of Margazhi. Appropriately the first pasuram starts ‘margazhi thingal …’. She is believed to have ultimately attained her wish in Srirangam temple.
Interestingly, even Tiruvembavai on Lord Siva, was sung by Saint Manickavasagar visualizing himself as a woman. He also composed Thiruppalliyeyuchi, or, verses for waking up the Lord. In essence, margazhi is the month for singing praise of the Lord. Not coincidentally this is the ‘season’ in Chennai for music and dance recitals and during the month, Thyagaraya aaraadhana is celebrated in Tiruvaiyaru!
All ekadashis, 24 in a year, are dedicated to Lord Vishnu and for many people it is a day of fasting, but, if one cannot observe all of them, one is enjoined to observe at least the ekadashi in the sukla paksha (waxing phase) of margazhi. It is the most important festival during the year in Sri Ranganathar temple in Srirangam. The celebrations last 21 days and divided into pagal-patthu (ten mornings) and ra-patthu (ten nights). Bang in the middle is Vaikunta Ekadashi. Early in the morning around 4.30 am, the Paramapadha vasal, or swarga vasal – the entrance to heaven or vaikuntam - opens and Sri Ranganathar’s murthy, decked in diamonds, is taken through this entrance, followed for the rest of the day by throngs of devotees going through the same door.
Similar events take place in all other vaishnavite temples – in Tirupathi, Lord Venkateshwara enters through vaikunta dwaram. Paramapada vasal, as indeed vaikunta dwaram, is closed rest of the year. Anyone who passes through these doors on vaikunta ekadashi day is believed to attain salvation.
Lord Shiva’s star is Aarudra, or Tiruvaadhirai and in the month of Margazhi it usually falls on the full moon day that follows vaikunta ekadashi. It is celebrated in all Shiva temples, most importantly, in Chidambaram.
Kanchi Mahaperiaval explains.
“Lord Shiva, in his manifestation as dancing Nataraja gives his darshan early in the morning on the day of confluence of the full moon and the star Aarudra that occurs only once in a year, ie in the month of Margazhi. Arudra in Sanskrit means wet, or dripping. This is the time of the year when nature itself puts on a cloak of cool dew. Full moon is also associated with cool soothing rays. On this auspicious day, it is the tradition to perform an abhisheka and worship Lord Shiva, with our hearts overflowing with compassion to other beings. What is also highlighted is the Nataraja form of Lord Shiva, in his ananda thandavam, or cosmic dance. It is only at His raised and slightly inclined foot – ‘குஞ்சித பாதம்’ – that we can seek our sanctuary.”
Margazhi is famous for various other Hindu religious festivals and events, such as Hanumath jayanthi and Ramana Maharishi jayanthi. It was the month in which Kurukshetra battle was fought and Paandavas regained their lost kingdom – indeed, when Geethopadesam to Arjuna by Lord Krishna took place.
This year, vaikunta ekadashi falls on 5th January, 2012 and Aarudra darshan on 8th January, 2012. And, Mahasamigal’s aaraadhana itself starts on 21st December, 2011. May we follow his advice: ‘In this sacred Maargazhi month, everyone should get up at the ushah-kaala, long before dawn, perform pujas to Him and join in bhajans and turn their thoughts to God.’
Hara Hara Sankara, Jaya Jaya Sankara