Aani Uthiram, or Aani Thirumanjanam, is an auspicious day in the Tamil Month of Aani (June -July) and is dedicated to Lord Nataraja (Shiva). It is believed that Lord Nataraja gives darshan to his devotees in the months Aani and Margazhi.
The word "Thirumanjanam" means Holy bath. The festival is observed on the Uthiram Nakshatram day. In 2016, this day fell on July 10th.
The Lord's form demonstrates his five-fold functions: creation, preservation, destruction, concealment and salvation. The rattle (udukkai) in his right hand represents creation; his raised right arm with the open palm (abhaya hastam) protection; his left hand holding fire destruction; his firmly placed foot concealment; and his other, slightly lifted, leg salvation. Lord Nataraja is given six abhishekams in a year.
This planet takes 365 days to complete one full circle around the sun. That duration is divided into six seasons:
This six-season year of humans is said to be one day for the immortals. A day has six periods: dawn, morning, noon, afternoon, evening, and night. These are when the six daily poojas (Kaala Pooja) in temples are performed. During each of these six parts, an Abhishekam has been ordained for Lord Nataraja. One of these is Ani Thirumanjanam, the pradosha abhishekam on the evening of the day of Uthiram star in the Tamil month of Aani (June-July) is believed to be the best time for worshipping Lord Shiva.
Three Tamil Saivaite saints whose shrine face the Nataraja shrine inside the Arunachaleswarar Temple are revered at the same time as worship of the Lord and his Goddess, and deeparadhana is performed by priests at the shrines of the Gods and Saints, which face each other. This is known as Arakattu Utsavam and only happens at this time.
In preparation of the Holy Bath on Uthiram Nakshatram Lord Arunachaleswarar and Goddess Shivakami are brought out of the Temple in procession and taken to the 1000 pillared hall where they are installed in a special shrine. It is at this place that the sacred bath (Thirumanjanam) is performed.
It is popularly believed that it was on Aani Uthiram day that Lord Shiva appeared before Sage Manikkavachakar under a Kurundai Tree and offered upadesha (advice). Sage Manikkavachakar is the author of Thiruvachakam.
Below photographs of 2016 Aani Thirumanjanam at 1000 Pillar Hall, Fifth Prakaram, Arunachaleswarar Temple.
|Lord Nataraj and Goddess Shivakami|
|The Gods being carried out of the 1000 Pillar Hall on Palanquins|
|Devotees waiting outside the 1000 Pillar Hall, Fifth Prakaram, Big Temple|
|The Gods exiting the 1000 Pillar Hall|