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Monday, January 28, 2013

Thai Poosam -தைப்பூசம்

Lord Kumara Swami
Thaipusam is an important festival dedicated to Lord Murugan or Karttikeya.   Let us learn more about this important Hindu festival and its significance. 

Lord Murugan
Thaipusam [தைப்பூசம்] is a Hindu festival celebrated mostly by the Tamil community on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai [January/February]. It is celebrated not only in countries where the Tamil community constitutes a majority, but also in countries where the Tamil community is a minority, such as Singapore and Malaysia. 
The festival is also referred to as Thaipooyam or Thaippooyam .

The word Thaipusam is derived from the month name Thai and Pusam, which refers to a star that is at its highest point during the festival.
 The festival commemorates the occasion when Parvati gave Murugan a vel [spear] so he could vanquish the evil demon Soorapadman. 
There is a misconception among people that Thaipusam marks Murugan's birthday; however, it is believed that Vaikhasi Vishakam, which falls in the Vaikhasi month [May/June], is Murugan's birthday.

Legends associated with Thaipusam:
Kumara Swami
Vel Myth:
Skanda [or Murugan] was created during one of the battles between the Asuras. or to be more specific Surapadman) and the Devas.  At one point, the latter were defeated several times by the former. The Devas were unable to resist the onslaught of the Asura forces. In despair, they approached Shiva and entreated to give them an able leader under whose heroic leadership they might obtain victory over the Asuras. They surrendered themselves completely and prayed to Shiva. 


Shiva granted their request by creating the mighty warrior, Skanda, out of his own power or Achintya Shakti. 

He at once assumed leadership of the celestial forces, inspired them and it is belived that Lord Murugan killed the Tarakasuran during the Pusam star of the month Thai. Hence it led to the celebration of Thai Pusam.

This festival is celebrated with much fervor everywhere in Tamilnadu. People walk in groups the land to Palani with Kavadis to get the darshan of Lord Murugan during Thai pusam.

The curse imparted on Lord Murugan:Lord Shiva was providing an important mantra to Parvati. Lord Murugan eavesdropped this. When mother Parvati became aware of this, she cursed Lord Murugan. Lord Murugan, realizing his guilt prayed for apology. Parvati, pleased by this, appeared with Shiva before Lord Murugan and forgave him. The day that Parvati appeared before Murugan is celebrated as Thai Pusam.
Another legend is that Shiva and Parvathi were involved on a cosmic dance during this period, which led to the celebration of Thai Pusam.
River Kaveri fed up with the entire attention river Ganga was receiving, prayed to Lord Vishnu. So Lord Vishnu appeared and blessed her on Thai pusam.

Kavadi Attam is a dance performed by the devotees during the ceremonial worship of Murugan, the Tamil God of War.  It is often performed during the festival of Thaipusam and emphasizes debt bondage. The Kavadi itself is a physical burden through which the devotees implore for help from the God Murugan.

Generally, Hindus take a vow to offer a kavadi to idol for the purpose of tiding over or averting a great calamity. For instance, if the devotee's son is laid up with a fatal disease, he would pray to Shanmuga to grant the boy a lease of life in return for which the devotee would take a vow to dedicate a kavadi to Him

Devotees prepare for the celebration by cleansing themselves through prayer and fasting approx-48 days before Thaipusam. Kavadi-bearers have to perform elaborate ceremonies at the time of assuming the kavadi and at the time of offering it to Murugan. The kavadi-bearer observes celibacy and take only pure, Satvik food, once a day, while continuously thinking of God.

On the day of the festival, devotees will shave their heads and undertake a pilgrimage along a set route while engaging in various acts of devotion, notably carrying various types of kavadi. At its simplest this may entail carrying a pot of milk, but mortification of the flesh by piercing the skin, tongue or cheeks with vel skewers is also common.
  The simplest kavadi is a semicircular decorated canopy supported by a wooden rod that is carried on the shoulders, to the temple. In addition, some have a small spear through their tongue, or a spear through the cheeks. The spear pierced through his tongue or cheeks reminds him constantly of Lord Murugan. It also prevents him from speaking and gives great power of endurance. 
Other types of kavadi involve hooks stuck into the back and either pulled by another walking behind or being hung from a decorated bullock cart or more recently a tractor, with the point of incisions of the hooks varying the level of pain. The greater the pain the more god-earned merit.

Theppam or the Float Festival is celebrated with much zeal and enthusiasm in all the Murugan Temples all over the world.  

Theppam or Float Festival in Kapaleeshwarar Temple, Mylapore

This annual Float Festival called Theppam during Thai Poosam,  in the Kapaleeshwarar tank is held normally for three days starting from Thai PoosamThe East Mada Street throngs with devotees on the three days beginning from Thai poosam.
Even youngsters gather in large numbers to take a look at the moving theppam. One can find mothers telling stories to their kids and old people in search of serenity etc.  Such is the prevailing atmosphere during this festival. 

 On the first day, Kapaleeswarar and Karpagambal are taken on the float. On the second day, Murugan with Valli Devyanai are taken. The float is constructed on several barrels. Vedic scholars and musicians travel along with the float which goes for three rounds starting after dusk and ending around 9-30 p.m.

After a long gap,he temple authorities have taken steps to get the float festival going and the said temple tank is having plenty of water only for the last two years 

It is said that during the theppam , the lord showers his grace on the aquatic beings through his presence in the water. The presiding deity, Kapaleeshwara is decorated and placed in the float which sails thrice around the tank.  The float is illuminated with bright lamps, and the entire tank sparkle for all the three evenings. It is indeed a wonderful sight for one and all to witness this joyous festival.  

In Haripad Subramayaswami Temple, Alapuzha, Kerala, is famous for Kavadiyattom. Almost 5000 kavadis coming to the temple from many temples in the locality

In Vaikom, Kerala, India,  Thai Pusam festival is conducted with Kaavadis at Udayanapuram Subramanya temple. Devotees take panchamritha kaavadi, paal kaavadi, bhasma kaavadi, etc.
In Karamamana, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India, Thai Pusam festival is conducted at Satyavageeswara temple. The utsava moorthy is taken in procession on a vahanam [mount]. There is nel [paddy] parai alappu or nel alavu, as a ritual performed for good luck and prosperity.

Vel Vel Vetri Vel!

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