26 February 2013

Masi Maga Theerthavari Urchavam



Yesterday was the important Festival of Masi Magam which falls in the Tamil Month of Masi (February – March). Maham or Makam is one among the twenty seven stars in the astrological system. The makam star in the Masi month usually falls on the full moon day and is considered highly auspicious in many Temples across South India. 


One of the important rituals on this day is the taking of idols to the seashore or ponds. Therefore the festival is also referred to as, the holy bath ceremony. Long processions from Temples arrive at the sea shore or waterbody with idols of various Gods. Pujas and other rituals are held at the sea shore and thousands of devotees throng the sea shore on this day to offer prayer. Yesterday the bathing of idols was performed in the river at Tirukkoyilur Temple near Tiruvannamalai.

Idols of Lord Shiva and Goddess
Immersion in River near Tiruvannamalai

Each temple has a myth for celebrating Masi Makam, in the case of Arunachaleswarar Temple, the legend for Masi Makam is related to Lord Shiva. King Vallalan of Tiruvannamalai was an ardent devotee of the Lord, and as he had no child, Lord Shiva promised to perform his last rituals. The king died on a Masi Magam day and it is said that the Lord performed his last rites. Lord Shiva also blessed the king by saying that whoever bathes in the sea during Masi Magam will merge with him and will get ‘mukthi.’ It is believed that every year the Lord visits a waterbody to perform the last rites of the king. 


Large crowds gathered for immersion

King Vira Vallalan III was an illustrious king who ruled over the Hoysala empire from 1292 till 1342. His empire at its peak covered a large part of South India. It had three capital cities, one of which was Tiruvannamalai, although it was then known as Arunasamudra, or Arunai for short. 



King Vallalan in niche Vallala Gopuram, Big Temple


The king was an ardent Saivite and during his stays in Tiruvannamalai he made many improvements to the Arunachaleswarar Temple. Tiruvannamalai was near the geographical centre of his empire and this encouraged him to make protracted stays there, particularly after the destruction of Dwarasamudra. It seems that during the last fifteen years of his reign he was constantly in residence at Tiruvannamalai. 




King Vallalan


King Vallalan's devotion and piety are celebrated in chapter seven of the Arunachala Puranam, a Tamil poetical work that was written in the sixteenth century by Ellapa Nayinar. The work is primarily a poetical rendering of the Sanskrit Arunachala Mahatmyam which was written several centuries before, but the verses at this link here, dealing with King Vallalan’s quest for a son, are only to be found in the Tamil version.

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