Thai Poosam is celebrated on the full moon day of the Tamil month of Thai. The festival symbolises victory of good over evil.
On this day, the ‘vel’ (the holy lance) was given to Lord Muruga by her mother Goddess Parvathi to annihilate Tharakasuran and his three brothers.
Of the sixteen kinds of weapons that were given to Lord Muruga, Lord Siva offered 15 and Goddess Parvathi gave him the ‘vel’.
The ‘vel’ has a very significant mention in the Sangam literature too. It is the symbol of Tamil culture and considered a prestigious weapon of great warriors and emperors of South India.
Worshipping lance is also a centuries-old practice among the Tamils. There are references to the holy lance in Alwar Pasurams. Andal and Thirumangai Alwar referred to it.
Glories of the lance were discussed in detail in Silapathikaram and Aga Nanooru. In early days, the holy lance was made of steel. But now devotees offer lance made of silver, gold and steel studded with precious stones. Later, the lance worship vanished and idol worship picked up quickly.
‘Kavadi’ pilgrimage is also a popular ritual in Lord Muruga temples during Thai Poosam festival. Pilgrims carry puja and abishekam materials in ‘kavadis’ and bring them to temple to offer them to the God. In turn, Lord Muruga grants them mukthi, it is believed.
Kavadi varies in its shape and size. People decorate kavadis with flowers and peacock feathers. They also tie bronze bells on both sides of kavadis.
Thai Poosam is an important festival not only in Tamil Nadu but also in Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa and Sri Lanka, where Tamil-speaking people had settled in large numbers.
— K. RAJU