9 January 2016

Margazhi Month of Bhakti and Music

The Tamil Month of Margazhi started on Thursday, December 16th and will complete on Thursday, January 14, 2016. The month is known as one of bhakti and music during which there are recitations, chantings and spiritual readings conducted at Arunachaleswarar Temple and throughout Tamil Nadu. In particular the music of Manikkavasagar’s Thiruvempavai is celebrated during this month. 

Ladies at the Navagraha Shrine, Unnamulai Temple

Ladies in front of Mother's Shrine, Arunachaleswarar Temple

“There is a festival in winter in which devotees go to their Shiva temple very early in the morning to sing songs to Shiva in order to wake him up. In ‘Thiruvempaavai’ young girls move from house to house, waking up their friends, and encouraging them to come to the temple to perform this rite. Though, ostensibly, it is merely a poem about young girls encouraging each other to go and worship Shiva, their trips to the temple are interpreted to be emblematic of the soul’s journey towards union with Shiva. It is thus a poem which encourages enthusiasm for the ultimate pilgrimage that culminates in the experience of Shiva.” 
[G. Vanmikanathan] 

Pandit gives spiritual recitations

Readings and Recitations

Manikkavacakar’s visit to Tiruvannamalai: 

Manikkavacakar had been specially commissioned by Shiva to tour the Tamil region and sing songs in His praise. One of the places he visited was Tiruvannamalai, which even in those days was a major Shaiva pilgrimage centre. Manikkavacakar composed two of the Tiruvacakam poems, ‘Thiruvempaavai’ and ‘Thiruvammaanai’, on his visit to Tiruvannamalai. 

There is a tradition in Tiruvannamalai that both poems were composed while Manikkavacakar was doing pradakshina of Arunachala. A small temple on the pradakshina road in the village of Adi Annamalai is supposed to mark the spot where the two poems were composed and sung. 

Below is a short extract from the Thiruvempavai. 

Translation: Just as the clusters of gems on the crowns of the heavenly ones lose their lustre when they bow at the lotus feet of Him abiding in Annamalai, the stars, their cool sharp brilliance becoming dulled, have faded away on the eye-dazzling sun’s ray coming up and dispelling the darkness. 

O damsel, let us sing of the anklet-girt feet of Him Who is the female, the male, the neuter, the well-lit heavens, the earth, something apart from all these, and eye-satisfying ambrosia as well, and jump into this blossoms-abounding water and sport about. 

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