DARISANAM - FAIRS & FESTIVALS IN TAMILNADU, INDIA
pre-dawn hours of the full moon night, in the
month with the longest nights in the year (coinciding
with the asterism of Tiruvadirai in the tamil
month of Margazhi) marks the auspicious time for
Arudra Darisanam - of Nataraja in Saivite temples
all over Tamilnadu. Arudra Darisanam, this year
falls on December 23, 1999. Coincidentally the
last full moon of the millennium falls on the
last winter solstice of the millennium.
This celebration is marked by abhishekams to Nataraja and
his consort Sivakami during the full moon night, and worship
services such as the Deepa Aradhanai to Natarajar amidst the
chanting of sanskrit and tamil hymns and the waving of lamps,
in the pre-dawn hours, when the moon still shines bright,
an enactment of the dance of Shiva, and a grand procession
through the processional streets.
Manikka Vaachakar, a Saivite saint of the first millennium
CE (the author of celebrated works such as Tiruvaachakam,
Tiruvempaavai and Tiruppalliezhuchi), was closely associated
with the Chidambaram Natarajar temple, and is believed to
have merged with Natarajar, in the central shrine there. The
Manikkavaachakar festival, involving the chanting of the Tiruvempaavai,
and a procession of his image, is also celebrated in several
of the Saivite temples throughout Tamilnadu.
Although there is a shrine to Natarajar, in virtually all
of the Saivite temples in Tamilnadu, five of these are condurai,
The Hall of Rubies - Ratnasabha at Tiruvalankadu, The Hall
of Copper - Tamrasabhasidered
to be the Pancha Sabhais or the five cosmic dance halls of
Shiva. The five dance halls are The Hall of Gold - Kanakasabha
at Chidambaram, The Hall of Silver Velli Sabhai at Ma at Tirunelveli and The Hall of Pictures
- Chitrasabha Kutralam
Festivities: Arudra Darisanam at Tiruvalankaadu enshrining
Nataraja in the Oordhva taandava posture, is the grandest
festival here in this obscure village near Chennai, attracting
devotees from the neighboring villages. The Velli Sabhai or
the silver hall at the Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple at Madurai,
bears a stone image of Nataraja and a festival image, both
with their right foot raised (in response to pleas by a Pandya
ruler, who was appalled by the thought of Nataraja's right
foot becoming weary, thanks to his constant dance, with his
left foot raised.)
The Periya Sabhapati shrine, the Sandana Sabhapati shrine
are scenes of festivity at the Nellaiappar temple during Arudra
darisanam. The festival image of Natarajar is housed in the
ornate Tamra Sabha, and the cosmic dance of Shiva is enacted
on the occasion. At Kutralam, the festival image of Nataraja
is taken from the Kutralanathar temple to the Chitra Sabha,
and the Taandava Deepa Araadhanai is performed there.
Arudra Darisanam festival at Tiruvarur has been referred to
in the hymns of the Tevaram saints (7th century). Also mentioned
in the Poompaavai patikam of Tirugnanasambandar are the Arudra
Darisanam celebrations in the Tirumayilai Shivastalam (the
Kapaaleeswarar temple in the heart of the modern city of Chennai).
Other Nataraja shrines of significance: The Kudandaikkeezhkottam
houses a grand shrine to Natarajar, and so does the Patteeswarar
temple at Perur near Coimbatore. The Chandramouleeswarar temple
at Tiruvakkarai near Villuppuram features Natarajar with his
right foot raised. Utthirakosamangai near Rameswaram, revered
by the hymns of Manikkavaachakar, is also known for its grand
shrine to Natarajar and is the scene of grand festivities
during Margazhi Tiruvaadirai.
The grandest of all these festivities happens at the Natarajar
temple at Chidambaram, where the Margazhi Bhramotsavam, or
annual festival is celebrated for a period of 10 days. Hundreds
of thousands congregate from far and wide to witness the climax
of this festival on the day of Arudra Darisanam.
first day of festivities (Dec 14, 1999) is marked by
the hoisting of the temple flag, and a procession of
the images of the Pancha Murthys (Somaskandar, Ambal,
Vinayakar, Subramanyar and Chandikeswarar). The fifth
day of the festival is considered to be of great significance
and is referred to as the 'Teruvadaichaan tiruvizha'.
The seventh day (Dec 20), is marked by a procession
on the Golden Kailasam and the silver elephant mounts.
The eighth day (Dec 21) witnesses a procession of Bhikshatanar
commemorating legends associated Shiva's and Vishnu's
trip through Dhaarukaavanam in the guise of Bhikshaatanar
It is only on the ninth day (Dec 22), that the image of Natarajar
from the central shrine is taken out in procession in a grand
chariot through the streets surrounding the temple. Tens of
thousands of devotees drag the massive chariots through the
Maada veedhis (processional streets), following which, the
images of Natarajar and Sivakami are brought to the 1000 pillared
hall of the vast temple.
the pre-dawn hours of the next day (Dec 23), under the full
moon, an abhishekam is offered to the images of Natarajar
and Sivakami in the 1000 pillared hall (the Raja Sabha), followed
by a Royal Audience in the same venue, where thousands of
devotees line up for a fleeting glimpse of Natarajar. The
cosmic dance of Shiva is enacted later that afternoon, featuring
the revered images of Nataraja and Sivakami decked in regal
finery; the images are then taken back to the innermost sanctum.
association with Chidambaram is celebrated throughout the
festival. All processions are led by an image of Manikkavaachakar.
The Tiruvempaavai hymns composed by the saint are chanted
every evening, when an image of the saint is brought to the
shrine of Nataraja from the Deva Sabha and placed in front
of the Kanakasabha. Each of the 20 Tiruvempaavai is chanted
by a congregation of hundreds of devotees led by an Oduvaar;
and at the end of each verse, temple bells are rung, and lamps
are waved. The image of Manikkavaachakar is taken back to
the Deva Sabha at the culmination of the recitation.