Thursday, February 17, 2011

Maasi (மாசி)

Maasi (மாசி)

This penultimate month of the Tamizh calendar is my favourite as this is the month I was born on my mother’s birthday!
This year Maasi is from 13 Feb – 14 Mar

Maasi Magam (மாசி மகம்)
The full moon day in the month of Maasi with star Magam is Maasi Magam. This year Maasi Magam is on 18th February. 
As it is Masi Magam is considered an auspicious day and special poojas are performed in all the temples on this day. Maasi Magam is celebrated as Mahamagam (மகாமகம்) once in 12 years when Jupiter (Guru குரு) transits in Leo (Simha raasi சிம்ம ராசி) in the month of Maasi (when Sun is in Aquarius (kumbha raasi கும்ப ராசி), on the full moon day with Magam star. This is the south Indian equivalent of Kumbh Mela. Maha Magam is celebrated in Kumbakonam where devotees from all over the country assemble to take a bath or sprinkle themselves in the holy tank.
It is believed that the nine sacred rivers of our country viz. Ganga, Yamuna, Sarawathi, Sarayu, Godavari, Mahanadhi, Narmada, Sind, Kaveri come here on this day. Usually our sins are said to be washed away if we bathe in these rivers. On the day of Mahamagam, these rivers come here and cleanse themselves of the accumulated sins of people. Hence it is doubly auspicious to have a dip here as the river waters are said to be part of the tank that day.

As mentioned above this is celebrated once in twelve years and the whole town of Kumbakonam looks festive on this day. Anna dhanam happens in almost every household and the crowd is so huge that the residents prepare themselves to feed the people who come from various parts of the country to have a dip in the tank.

The last Mahamagam was in 2004 and the next is in the year 2016. My mother, born and brought in Kumbakonam and now a resident of Chennai, has had the opportunity to be part of the festival and take a dip during the Mahamagams in 1958, 1980, 1992 and 2004 so far.

A very colourful festival celebrated in North India, Holi has many legends associated with it.
Holi falls on the full moon day of Maasi    

It is said to be the celebration of victory of good over the evil. Holika, sister of Hiranyakashipu and aunt of Prahlad had the power to walk through raging fires without getting burnt. In one of his trials to kill his son Prahlad, Hiranyakashipu asked Holika to make Prahlad sit on her lap and enter the fire so that Prahlad will be killed. Prahlad was protected by Lord Vishnu and Holika was killed as her boon is supposed to work only if she enters the fire alone.
Another legend is the Kama dhaganam (காம தகனம்) (burning of Manmadha or Kama, the God of Love) Lord Shiva is in penance and Parvathi has taken the form of Himavan’s daughter. The asuras are in supreme power and the Devas need Shiva and Parvathi to beget a son to destroy the asuras. They request Manmadha to use his flower arrows on Lord Shiva. Manmadha does this and the Lord opens his third eye in anger and Manmadha is burnt to ashes. This event is called Kama dhaganam and the day it took place is being celebrated as Holi. Later Lord Shiva married Parvathi and on Manmadhan’s consort, Rathi’s request, Lord Shiva brought Manmadha back to life.
Holi also marks the end of winter season and beginning of spring and we see colourful flora all around us.
Whatever maybe the story behind it, Holi is celebrated on a grand scale in many parts of India with people applying colour on each other and playing with waterfilled guns called pichkaris.

This year Holi is on 20 Feb. Though Maasimagam and Holi are supposed to be on full moon day, due to small calculation difference sometimes these festivals are celebrated on consecutive or different days.

Maha Shivaratri (மகா சிவராத்திரி) 

Every month, the 14th day of waning moon (krishna paksham கிருஷ்ண பக்ஷம்) is celebrated as Shivaratri. This day in the month of Maasi is celebrated as Maha Shivaratri. Wedding of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati is said to have taken place on this day. The Lord is said to have performed the cosmic dance, Thandavam also on this day. Special abishekams and poojas are done to the Shiva Lingams in the temples all over India on this day. People fast the whole day and be awake in the night praying to the Lord as being awake on this night is said to increase one’s energy levels.

This year Maha Shivaratri is on 3rd March.

Maasi Sevvai
The Tuesdays of Maasi are considered quite auspicious and people follow many vrathams on this day.

Karadayan Nombu
This vratham followed by ladies for the welfare of their husbands is on the time of ending of the month of Maasi and beginning of the month of Panguni. More details on this festival in the Panguni blog.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

TV Programme - Brindavanamum Nandakumaranum

TV Programme - Brindavanamum Nandakumaranum

In this morning’s episode of Brindavanamum Nandakumaranum, (Vijay TV, 630 am) Sri Muralidhara Swamigal’s interpretation to a few lines of the song “Aadaathu Asangaathu Vaa Kanna” was very beautiful!

This song was sung by Oothukkaadu Venkatasubbayier. Lord Krishna is said to have given darshan to         Sri Venkatasubbayier in the temple in Oothukkaadu and he had the privilege of having a vision of Kalinga Nardhanam of the Lord here!

Muralidhara Swamigal’s described as below:
Radha Kalyanam is usually celebrated with pomp in Thanjavur district in the month of Margazhi One such celebration coincided with the day of Thiruvadhirai. In the Oothukaadu temple, Lord Krishna is decorated beautifully and brought out in procession. Venkatasubbayier, sitting in the temple prakaram gets the description of the Lord from some young boys standing there and sings “ Swagatham Krishna, Saranagatham Krishna”, welcoming and prostrating before the Lord. Suddenly he is able to hear the noise of musical instruments like melam and nadaswaram along with the chanting of rudhram. He asks the boys what is happening and they explain that Lord Natarajar from the Shiva temple in Aavur close to Oothukaadu, is coming out in procession as it was Thiruvadhirai day.
Venkatasubbayier sings,

ஆடாது அசங்காது வா கண்ணா
உன் ஆடலில் ஈரேழு புவனமும்
அசைந்து அசைந்தாடுதே
எனவே, ஆடாது அசங்காது வா கண்ணா
ஆடலைக் காணத் தில்லை அம்பலதிறைவனும்
தன் ஆடலை விட்டு இங்கே கோகுலம் வந்தார்......

கனக மணி அசையும் உனது திரு நடனம்
கண் பட்டு போனால் மனம் புண் பட்டு போகுமே!

The interpretation given here by Sri Muralidhara Swamigal is
Krishna, to see your dance, Nataraja has stopped his dance and come here. But please do not dance because everybody will cast their eyes on you, especially Lord Shiva has three eyes and he will cast all his three eyes on you, so aadaathu asangaathu vaa kanna!
I have not heard such an endearing interpretation of this song before and liked it so much and hence sharing here!
Here is a dowloaded version of the song for your ears!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Temple Trails Tamil Nadu : Marudhamalai

Marudhamalai Temple

This is the first part of a pilgrimage to Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Six of us from our family boarded a train to Coimbatore to go to Ranga’s aunt’s place on a Saturday. As usual I was fascinated by chitti’s garden and went straight there with my morning coffee!

I took many snaps of her plants, trees, the hill range and the paaku thoppu (betelnut plantation) nearby. I did miss the field which used to be there in yonder days as many new houses have come up in the area of Vadavalli. My brother-in-law Nagarajan Anna, being the organiser, was after us to get ready for our first visit to Marudhamalai Murugan Temple. Vadavalli is located just below the Marudhamalai hill range and it takes a very short time to reach the temple from Chitti’s home. Chitti arranged for a call taxi and we all left for the temple after breakfast.

Though this was my second visit to this temple, all looked new to me as there were many modifications while construction work was still going on.

Gopuram of the main sannidhi

Entrance to main sannidhi

construction work

mandapam on the lower level

The name of Sando Chinnappa Devar etched on many places leading to the temple mentioning his contributions, reminded me of the song “Marudhmalai Maamaniye Murugayya” sung by Madurai Somu in the movie Deivam!

As the taxi took us up to the temple, we had to climb only about 20-25 steps to the sannidhis. 
people climbing

more steps, dont miss the decoration for Thai poosam

First was Panchavriksha Vinayakar, a very cute Ganapathy under a tree. We tried to make out if there were actually five trees as the name suggests, but could see only one type of leaves! We lit a few ghee lamps there and proceeded to have a darshan of the main deity – Dhandayudhapaani. It was not much crowded and with special darshan tickets, we reached the sannidhi quite quickly. As his name means, Murugan was looking very handsome with a majestic turban on his head and holding the Dhandam. The Vel was also near the Dhandam We had a very good darshan and moved out from the left side itself via a side entrance. The Dhandayudhapaani sannidhi is flanked by the Lord’s parents – Patteeswarar and Maragathaambikai on either side – Saga Uma Skandar style. We had darshan of a quite small  Lingam – Patteeswarar and a very sweet looking Maragathaambikai in simple alangaram. We then proceeded towards the front to have darshan of the Navagraha. 
 I was happy to see a photograph of Arunagirinathar and Pamban Swamigal on either side of the main door leading to the sannidhi of Dhanayudhapaani and remembered by grand father, an ardent devotee of Murugan and follower of Pamban Swamigal. On the right side of the door was the small sannidhi of Varadaraja Perumal. We prayed there and sat down in the mandapam for a few minutes.

We saw markings with directions to the Paambaati Siddhar cave temple and steps leading down. All of us were keen to visit and climbed down another 20 stairs. There was a sannidhi with Shiva lingam and an idol of the Siddhar and a naturally formed shape of a snake. There was a milk in a bowl and we heard that snakes come to drink it. The sannidhi is built around a rocky structure with many natural hollows. The archakar there explained that there is a path to the garba graham of the temple from there which the Siddhar used to visitsthe sannidhi to offer his prayers to Dhandayudapaani. We could feel very good vibrations at this sannidhi and sat there for some time in prayer.

Pambaati siddhar sannidhi

view near the Siddhar sannidhi
On the way up is the Saptakanni sannidhi with seven idols of the Saptakannis covered with turmeric.

We came up the steps again to pray at the moolasthaanam of the temple. This has tiny idols of Murugan with Valli and Deivanai. 
Moolasthanam gopuram
We went back again in front of the main sannidhi and prostrated in front of the Dwajasthambam. 
Vel near Dwajasthambam
The special darshan queue was so long that we realised that we had just managed to escape the big crowd. We thanked the Lord for the same and climbed down the steps to go back home.

A view of the town from temple level