16 January 2014

Thiruvoodal Festival 2014, Pongal

For a full narrative of this Festival please visit my website Arunachala Samudra at this link here

The word 'Thiru' signifies; deity, sacred, holy and wealth and the word 'Voodal' actually means 'tiff' or 'petty quarrel', and represents the friction between the male and female in a love relationship which is consciously exacerbated. The distinguishing mark of Voodal is that it should arise and stay only for a brief period and not be prolonged as its focus is the bliss when the Voodal is withdrawn. 

The poem Thirukkural says in the chapters dedicated to 'kama' which is concentrated on the relationship between man and woman and the establishment of household and children, that; 'The way to amplify bliss through desire or relationship is through voodal. That ever present bliss you can only see when the tension comes and is withdrawn. It is like salt to food – beyond a certain limit it is lost completely.' Thirukurral explains the tiff as 'creation of a tension, which when released you have a bliss that is always present. It is the Voodal that helps one focus upon that.' 

Thus Thiruvoodal is enacted by Shiva and Parvati to convey social truths to their devotees. It takes place; inside the compound of Arunachaleswarar Temple, on the streets delineating the perimeter of the Temple, and on the girivalam pathway itself; by iconic representations of Shiva and Parvati. Thiruvoodal Festival is regarded in such high esteem that one of the perimeter roads has earned the special name Thiruvoodal Street by this convention.

Tiff between Gods on Thiruvoodal Street, perimeter Arunachaleswarar Temple

In order to placate Goddess Parvati after their tiff (thiruvoodal) and as night is approaching, Shiva agrees to circumambulate Arunachala. During this circumambulation, he meets Bhringi Rishi and grants him liberation which enrages Parvati who is angry with the sage for his refusal to worship her. Parvati’s anger, creates maya (Maya Swarupa), and from that maya emerge thieves who strip Shiva of his ornaments and clothes, whilst he is performing pradakshina. This stripping of Shiva is actually yearly enacted at the same spot (during Voodal Festival) upon the idol that is being carried around the Hill. 

Shiva explains to Parvati (through his emissary Sundarar) that, to satisfy the desire of devotees, he has taken a vow to appear in the form in which he is worshipped. In accordance with that vow he has given darshan to Bringi. He further tells his emissary Sundarar to convey to Parvati; 

‘My darling you know Shakti can never be separated from Shiva in just the way the mud pot can never be separated from the mud. You can’t say, “Give the pot without all that other stuff!” You cannot have the form just like that. You know it my dear, that Shiva-Shakti can never be separated, so in accordance with the understanding of devotees, I am appearing in this form.’ 

‘Sundarar please explain to Parvati so that she will reduce this tiff.’

Story of Bringi’s maya

“Sage Bringi considered that Shiva’s Grace is the ultimate source for existence. He was an ardent votary of Lord Shiva to the exclusion of any deity in the worship including Parvati! He refused to worship Shakti, a woman. Even during his daily worship, he would circumambulate only the Lord ignoring Mother Shakti, with a flashing spark of arrogance.

Parasakthi and Sage Bringi at Hill Temple

The divine couple wanted to enlighten the sage and hence assumed a unique form sharing his body with Parvati. The couple took the form of Ardhanarishvara and stood unified inseparable to every atom. Even then the egoistic sage took the form of a bee (Bringa is Sanskrit for Bee and the sage came to be called Bringi because he once became a bee) and tried to pierce through the body of the Lord so that he could go around only the Shiva part. 

In every human body the static force of Shiva constitutes the bone and the skin, and the dynamic force of Shakti triggers the blood and flesh. Goddess Shakti, being the power as the name indicates, pulled out her energy from Bringi's body. Now he was a mere skeleton and was even unable to stand. The Lord pacified Parvati and gave the sage one more leg to stand. The sage soon realized his folly and understood that life becomes dynamic only by the blending of both grace and force which are not contradictory but complementary to each other.”

Lord Shiva circumambulates Arunachala

When Lord Shiva completes his pradakshina he returns to Arunachaleswarar Temple early the next morning. He wishes to have reunion with his consort. This part of the Festival is known as Maruvoodal. The point of the Maruvoodal myth is to show the world that even a Celestial Couple has differences between them. But in the end there should only be reunion, even at the cost of a loss in finances which is represented by the loss of the jewels the night previously. 

Returning to his residence, Shiva knocks at the door but it has been bolted by Parvati. Lord Shiva asks, 

‘Oh my darling why have you locked the door?’ 

‘Sir after we came to an understanding still you went without me. And see now look you have lost everything there is no ornament or clothes. Not, only that but you went and gave darshan to all kinds of people. So, I am now requesting you must establish your manliness to me and retrieve everything that is lost and give the special one-legged dance.’ 

Shiva as Nataraja performs his Cosmic Dance

Shiva starts the Nataraj dance, Parvati forgets everything and opens the door. 

Shiva and Parvati together again in Temple

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