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Divine fire in cold month

The Tamil month of `Margazhi' is a harbinger of good fortune, writes T.SARAVANAN.

THE WEATHER is quite chilly that morning. No wonder, for, the winter is at its peak in December. At a time when most of us don't stir out of bed for a morning walk, you could see women, sporting a big smile and scurrying past you. Because it is the Tamil month of `Margazhi'.

Women take bath in ice-cold water (though people nowadays use hot water) and rush to temples.

It is a big ritual in every Tamil Hindu household. Purists, though, insist that having an early morning darshan in temples will definitely fulfil prayers.

Most of the women cut short their hours of sleep and wake up as early as 4.00 a.m. and have the doorstep decorated with beautiful `kolams'. One could also witness pumpkin flowers sprouting out right at the centre of the `kolams'. The next immediate job for them is a visit to temple in groups.

Mostly young girls gather in groups and recite the hymns of `Tiruppavai' while going round the temple, in keeping with the traditional belief that they will soon get married.

The belief originated from the legend of Andal, one of the best-loved poet-saints of the Tamils. Pious tradition sees her a veritable descent of `Bhumi Devi' (Mother Earth) in `human form' to show humanity the way to His lotus feet (Lord Rangamannar). She is present in all Vaishnavite temples, in India and elsewhere, next to her Lord, as she always desired.

Andal is better remembered for her hymns. Describing herself as a young girl, still not fully mature, she seeks the help of all including animals in her quest to attain Him. Finally, she describes her good fortune of being the daughter of Vishnuchitta (also known better as `Periyalvar), the best of the devout, who lived in Srivilliputtur, and adores the Lord. Her first work, `Tiruppavai', is a poem of 30 verses in which Andal imagines herself a cowherd girl and yearns to serve Him to achieve happiness not only in this birth, but also in eternity, and describes the religious vow (pavai) that she and her fellow cowgirls will take for this purpose.

The impact of these works on the daily religious life of the south Indians could be witnessed in all Vaishnavite temples. Discourses on `Tiruppavai' had become part and parcel of `Margazhi'.

It is a busy month for most of the Vaishnavite Temples. For, apart from spiritual discourses and heavy inflow of devotees, it is the month on which the `Vaikunta Ekadasi' is celebrated.

It is considered holy, for, it is the day in which the Lord comes out of the sanctum sanctorum and enters the `Vaikunta vaasal' also known as `sorga vaasal'. People generally consider the `Vaikunta vaasal' as the gateway to paradise.

Though there are two `Ekadasis' figuring in each month, the one in `Marghazhi' is considered special. There are several interpretations to the `Vaikunta Ekadasi. The one revealed by the `Padma Puranam' is quite popular. It says `Ekadasi' is the female energy of Lord Vishnu which slains demon Muran in the form of a damsel and protects `Devas'. Impressed by the act, Lord Vishnu names her as `Ekadasi' and gives her the boon that those who worship `Ekadasi' would reach `Vaikunta' (His abode). And it happened in the month of Margazhi, hence, the Ekadasi of this month is quite famous.

If it is `Vaikunta Ekadasi' for Vaishnavites, it is `Nanjunda Ekadasi' for the Saivites. Some of the Saivites believe that it was on this day Lord Shiva consumed the `nanju', the poison that emanated from the churning of the ocean.

It is also the prime season for Ayyappa devotees. Not a day passes without the Ayyappa devotees flooding temples. For, this is the month in which devotees all over the world perform the famous `Mandala puja' for Lord Ayyappa. Sandwiched between the months of `Karthigai' and `Thai', plenty of activities are scheduled for this month. During this month the Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple is closed for darshan after the `Mandala puja' and reopens on the New Year Day.

The other important festival that falls in this month is the Christmas, which is celebrated with the traditional religious fervour. No one could forget the New Year eve. Even a kid would hesitate to go to bed early without seeing the dawn of the New Year. Though these festivals are not directly related to this month, they are celebrated during this month.

It will be unfair to leave the `bhogi festival' untouched. Though it is related to the Pongal festival. `Bhogi' falls on the last day of `Margazhi', preparing the people to usher in the month of `Thai'.

For the old timers this month kindles fond memories and for the youth it has plenty to offer. Hence, `Margazhi' is always close to the Tamil hearts.

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