There are only two stars which are assigned the auspicious prefix of ‘Thiru,’ in Tamil. One is Thiruvonam (Sravana) and the other is Thiruvadirai (Arudra). The former is the star of Lord Vishnu and the latter is the star of Lord Siva. The month of Margazhi or Margaseersha is special for both Lord Vishnu and Lord Siva, for both Vaikunta Ekadasi and Arudra Darsan fall in the month of Margaseersha. Arudra Darsan is observed with grandeur in Chidambaram, which is famous for Lord Nataraja, the form of Siva, in which He is seen dancing the Cosmic Dance. In a discourse, K. Sambandan explained the significance of Arudra darsan in Chidambaram and also the symbolism in Lord Nataraja’s dance.
One day Lord Vishnu, reclining on His serpent bed, gave a contented laugh. Adi Sesha, the serpent, asked Him why He had laughed. Lord Mahavishnu replied that He had seen the Cosmic Dance of Siva and it had been a joyous sight. Adi Sesha wanted to witness this dance, too. So he was born on this earth, with half his body being that of a snake, and was named Patanjali. He went to Chidambaram to see Lord Siva’s dance. The sage Vyagrapada was already there, doing penance, in order to see Siva’s dance. On the day of Arudra, which is the star Thiruvadirai in Tamil, in the month of Margaseersha, Lord Siva showed Vyagrapada and Patanjali His Cosmic Dance. The earthly month of Margaseersha is early morning time in a day of the celestials. Hence, Lord Siva revealed His Divine Dance in this month. To this day, therefore, Arudra Darsan is celebrated with fanfare in Chidambaram, in the month of Margaseersha.
Lord Ranganatha faces south in Srirangam; Lord Siva dances facing the South. The southern direction is said to be the direction of Yama, the Lord of Death. Significantly, both deities face southwards, showing that they protect their devotees. Beneath the dancing Siva lies Apasmasura. The symbolism is that Siva destroys ignorance and illusion. Siva’s dance is the origin of all movement in the Universe. His dance is to destroy our ignorance. Lord Siva is always present in the heart of His devotees, and leads them out of this illusory world and grants them liberation from samsara.