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