The Month of Margazhi is considered divine month in south India. It is the ninth month in the Hindu calendar. This month also called Margasirsa or Agrahanya. It falls between 18th December and 18th January of the English calendar.
Importance of Margazhi
This month is of great importance. All days of Margazhi is dedicated to either Bhakti and music or both. The avatars of Vishnu(one of the Trinity of the Hindu Pantheon), especially Krishna Avatar are revered in this month. There are no marriage muhurats, housewarming functions or other family events during this month. People also avoid starting new businesses during this month.
Traditions in Margazhi
Margazhi starts with Ekadashi and ends with Makara Sankranti. All this month, devotees wake up as early as 4.00 am. They start the day by creating multi-colored rangolis outside their homes. This is followed by pujas, fasts and elaborate meals on Festival occasNonvegetarianetarian food is usually avoided in this month. Some people even give up onions and garlic on most days. This is also the period when devotees undertake the Ayappa vrath to visit Sabarimala temple in Kerala.
Festivals that occur in this month
- Vaikunta Ekadashi
This is the first festival of Margazhi. Most devotees do not take even a morsel of food and go on fast the whole day.
Special aartis and festivities are lined up in the Ranganathaswamy temple in Srirangam, Tamil Nadu. A Special entrance called the Swarga Vasal is open on this very day. It is auspicious to pass through this gate as it is considered a ticket to Vaikunam. – Vishnu’s abode in heaven
Tirupathi, Andal Kovil – SriVilliputhru and Kapaaleswarar temple, Mylapore also conduct special poojas on this day
- Andal Thirupavai
This holy month is also dedicated to Andal who married Lord Krishna after severe penance and fast. She is also called Goda (gift of God). Kids as young as three-year-olds sing Thiruppavi, the songs written by her all this month culminating in the day when she merged into the divine.
The story goes that Andal was an adopted daughter of an ardent Vishnu devotee. As a child, she was once admonished for wearing the Garland meant for the Lord in the temple. The Lord appeared before her father and insisted on wearing the same garland.
Days went by and Godai undertook few rituals and fasts which finally pleased the Lord, who took her in his fold. And so young women seeking a good husband adopt this same Vrath/fast in this particular month.
- Arudhra Darisanam (Thiruvathirai)
Margazhi is also the month of appeasing Lord Shiva.
Thiruvathirai festival is celebrated in two states – Kerala and Tamil Nadu. This is the day the lord blessed his devotees as Nataraja, the Lord of dance
This festival occurs on the full moon night of Margazhi when the Arudra star star rules. You may note that this the longest night of the year and this star is one bright spot at that time. Mythology says that it is on this day that Lord Shiva created this universe with his cosmic dance some 132 trilion years ago.
It is a part of the 10 day festival at Chidambaram. Special poojas and Maha Abhisekham are conducted at the Raja Sabai (a location inside the temple premises) as early as 3 a.m. in the morning. Lord Nataraja and his consort Sivakamsundari are decked with special jewels and taken to the Kanaka Sabhai(the Golden sabha) in the afternoon. Devotees make a beeline to have the darshan of the lord at both these places.
The Lord is also venerated in other cities like Madurai (Velli sabhai), Tiruvlankadu (Ratna Sabhai), Tirunelveli (Tamara Sabhai) and Kutralam(Chitra Sabha on Thiruvathirai. Thiruvasagam and Thrivempavai are two Tamil Literary works that are chanted in all Shiva temples on this day
Thiruvathirai Kali is the special dish of this day. It is a cooked using roasted ground rice, jaggery and ghee and partaken after offering to Lord Nataraja.
This day is also celebrated in Mathira Peedika Devi temple in Kadakkal, Kerala.
- Hanuman Jayanthi
Hanuman Jayanthi is observed in the month of Margazhi across South India. Hymns like Hanuman Chalisa are chanted on this day. Famous Hanuman temples located in Naganallur, Suchidram, Thirkkaviyoor, Namakkal and Alathiyoor celebrate this festival with gusto.
Music, especially traditional music is also the flavor of the season. Musicians – vocal and instrumental; young and old; experienced and raw, main artists and sidekicks; Carnatic and Hindusthani, wait for this month to display their art to bigger audiences who themselves are waiting for the occasion.
This fever infects every music lover south of Vindhyas all through Margazhi. The musical fever is at the zenith in Chennai where numerous sabhas are throw open to the public with shows featuring popular and upcoming musicians.
This month ends in a high note with the harvest festival of Sankranti.
Photo by Prof. Mortel