History & Culture

The 12-year wait for a dip

A devotee at Mahamaham In Kumbakonam. Photo: G. Gnanavelmurugan  

The Mahamagham is celebrated once in 12 years on the day when Jupiter and the moon are in Simha rasi and the Sun in Kumbha rasi on the full moon day in Masi. This typically happens once in 4,332 days, says Shiva Shankara Gurukal at the Kumbeswarar temple, who is witnessing the fourth Mahamagham since 1980.

Anticipating the deluge that would destroy the world, a worried Brahma sought the help of Lord Siva who created a pot containing nectar and the seeds of creation. Brahma decorated the pot with coconut, darbha, mango leaves, sacred thread, vastram and vilvam and performed puja placing the pot atop the Meru Hill. When the deluge struck, the pot was driven down the stream and finally came to rest in Thiru Kudanthai.

Lord Siva appeared as a hunter and shot an arrow to break open the pot from where nectar dispersed in different directions and emerged as sacred tirtham in Potramarai tank (Sarangapani temple) and Mahamagham tank. In a thanking gesture, Brahma renovated and decorated the Mahamagham tank, created a tirtham for himself and worshipped Kumbeswarar and treated him to a ceremonial bath. The Mahamagham tank also comprises of tirtham relating to the Lords of the eight frontiers, nine maidens of the sacred rivers and celestials such as kinnaras and gandharvas.

Siva mixed sand with the nectar to create a lingam and worshipped it himself and later merged with it. This was the first creation after the deluge and hence this temple is referred to as Aadhi Kumbeswarar (Oozhi Muthalvar). This kiratha (hunter) idol is a special feature at this temple. The Magam festival is a celebratory event to honour the contribution of the presiding deity of the Kumbeswarar temple. Performing puja on Magam star for Kumbeswarar is believed to bring about husband-wife unity, help in progeny and liberate one from previous birth’s curse. The nine sacred rivers in order to extricate themselves of the burden of sins were directed by Siva to visit the Mahamagham tank once in 12 years to take a ceremonial bath on the Mahamagham day. And this congregation of rivers is believed to wash away the sins if one takes a purificatory bath in the tank.

Special Brahmotsavam

Maasi is usually the time for Theppotsavam at the Sarangapani Divya Desam. However, this month, as part of Mahamagham, a special 10-day Brahmotsavam is being celebrated. On Monday (Feb 22) morning, Lord Sarangapani will be joined by the presiding deities from the four other temples in Thiru Kudanthai — Ramaswamy, Chakrapani, Rajagopalan and Aadhi Varahar on the banks of the Cauvery for Theerthavari.

Masi Magam and an Exclusive Chakrapani Temple

The story goes that an arrogant Sun incurred the wrath of Lord Vishnu, who hurled his Chakra that sent the Sun into hiding. A chastened Sun worshipped Vishnu and it was on Maasimagham that he first performed puja invoking Lord Vishnu’s blessings and requested him to provide darshan to devotees as Chakkarathazhwar. As commemoration of this legend, chariot festival is celebrated at the Chakrapani temple on Maasimagham every year.


Commentary by Nagai Mukundan will be aired by Sun TV, February 21-26, 6.30 a.m. He will join the team as Jaya TV telecasts proceedings live from Kumbakonam on February 22, 10 a.m. onwards.

Chariot Procession

Tomorrow and Sunday (Feb 20 and 21), Pancha Moorthy chariot festival will be held at the Kumbeswarar temple.

On Monday, between noon and 1 p.m., Lord Kumbeswarar along with deities from 12 other Siva temples will enter the Mahamagham tank for Theerthavari vaibhavam.

Did you know?

There used to be an annual regatta in the Cauvery

First Cricketer (B. Kalyanasundaram) to take a hat- trick in Ranji Trophy

Finals (1973) was from Kumbakonam’s Banadurai School

Srinivasa Ramanujan studied at the Town High School

Power of 12

There are 12 hours in a day, 12 hours in a night, 12 rasis and 12 lagnams.

Mahamagham is said to happen once in 12 years.

In reality it is celebrated after 4,332 days (total of these is 12).

The difference between these two: 4380 days (365days x 12years) and 4332 days is 48, the total of which is also 12 (4+8).

Kanchi Acharya’s message

Just bathing in the Mahamagham tank during this period is believed to cleanse one of their sins and offer peace. Only if one has peace of mind, life will find its merit. It is a privilege to have been born as human beings and to take a dip in the tank.

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Printable version | Apr 21, 2021 8:23:31 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/history-and-culture/the-legend-behind-the-mahamagham-festival/article8253049.ece

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