Saturday, December 15, 2012

The star of the twelve!

Decembers and Januaries always give us scintillating memories to recapture. For the human race on this earth, Decembers indicate the end of an awesome year full of memories and Januaries indicate the arrival of a fresh year full of hopes. The pre and the post new year celebrations always come and leave which keep us cherishing the moments for the entire year to come. Each has their own views of these two months. The youngsters have their exams combined with holidays during these months and the adults have so many deadlines and celebrations to keep them engaged. 

Christmas, New Year and Pongal! 

Aren't these enough to keep us excited? The transition from the month of December to the month of January not only gives a joyous effect but also a customary, traditional one. The Tamil months usually start in the middle of an English month and end in the mid of another. The December-January has a beautiful Tamil month called "Margazhi" in it. 

One is likely to notice "Margazhi" as the ninth month, if he sees a Tamil calendar (A Tamil Panchangam). Tamil months are also twelve in number like their English counterparts. It starts with Chiththirai (April-May) which is celebrated as the Tamil New Year and ends with Panguni (March-April). Every group, irrespective of its kind: a group of scholars in a court, a group of stars in the northern sky, a group of animals in a forest, a group of players in a field, has a star entity in them. Similarly, this group of twelve Tamil months has Margazhi as its star month. Yes! Margazhi is the most blessed month of all the months. What specialty does it have to quote it as the best month? 

Lord Krishna Paramatma in Bhagavad Gita tells, “Maasanam Margasheershoham”, which means “Among the months, I am Margazhi!” This one reason is more than enough to accept it as the most beautiful month of the twelve. Margazhi is also called as "Dhanur madham" (Dhanur month). This month and the activities done during this period also have various specialties adorned to its name. There are of course scientific things other than the spirituality! 

Devotional character of the people deep in them gets revived and all of us engage in various devotional activities. One could not see us that way during any other month. Let us consider the good practices involved in the activities done during the Dhanur month. 

We, the Tambrahms, have a special way of doing things in this month. The most active followers of Lord Vishnu are called Azhwars and they are 12 in number. They sang hymns in praise of the lord which are around 4000 in number and they were composed as “Nalayira Dhivya Prabandham” by Sri Nathamunigal. They are classified in terms of Azhwar who sang it and each Azhwar’s hymns are further sub-divided into groups (groups comprising of various numbers accordingly). Out of these hymns, Thiruppavai (30 sung by Andal), Thirupalliyezhuchi (10 Sung by Thondaradipodi Azhwar) and Thirupallandu(12 sung by Periazhwar) are considered the basic hymns which every Iyengar must know and these are sung daily in temples or homes during the Dhanur month.

Early in the morning:

One wakes very early in the morning. Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise is a well-known saying. This period of the day is called the “Brahma Muhurththam” in which the atmosphere is full of pure air. The silence prevailing at this time is so much suitable for the soul enlightening activities. The doctors advise almost every person to do yogasana or deep meditation or indulge in some sort of exercise in this divinely hour of the day. This would keep a man healthy for his life time. It is well-known that the yesteryear people had been so strong throughout their life because of their habit of waking early in the morning. These are winter solstice days in which days are shorter and the nights are longer. In order to compensate the shorter days, people wake early to indulge in their activities.

The Devotional spirit:

Wherever one turns during this period, he/she is likely to hear the sacred chants, songs, His praise and His name. Each gets an increased devotional aspect and we indulge a lot in devotion singing His name and praise. Several houses can be seen with lamps decorating their entrance. There will be huge Kolams displayed in front of the homes with coloring effects. Several who don’t even see temples during the other days become pious and visit  temples almost every day during this period.


Then one takes bath, wears the traditional dhoti (pancha Kachcham in case of married men) and indulges in devotion either at home or temples. One sings the hymns which I have mentioned before. This helps improving our concentration, pronunciation, discipline and above all, the spirituality. The history behind these hymns also enriches our knowledge, moral values and develops our austerity.

The festivals:

Not only Hindus, but also people of every other religion have several reasons to rejoice this period. The New Year is one of the very few festivals which are secular. People all around the world wait for that 00:00:00 moment and the entire race celebrates it with a louder sound. Not to forget the Christmas, the birth of Jesus, celebrated widely around the world. And the Pongal! The Pongal spans its celebration across four days which indicates the end of this month.

The Music:

One does not simply forget music when talking about Margazhi. This is a musical season with all the sabhas and mandapams engaged fully in the musical chants. Vocal along with the musical instruments dominate Chennai and other districts throughout this month. One could notice the face of the people full of energy and zeal. Till some years back, both the organizers and the viewers of these musical events were the elderly people. But now, there are people flooding these concerts, both the dais and the seats, irrespective of their age; Right from the school going kid to the fragile old fellows. Classical singing has once again become popular and effective among us. We have started taking the traditional things more seriously and hence almost one out of 4 kids learns either vocal singing or musical instruments. 

Image: The Hindu

The Utsavams:

The hymns sung daily which have been mentioned at the beginning are 52(30+10+12) in number. What about the other Azhwars and their hymns? There are nearly 3950 hymns remaining to be sung and don’t we give them their due importance? These remaining hymns are chanted twice in this auspicious month. Yes! Twice! There is a Thithi called ‘Ekadasi’ and it has awe-striking history behind it. This thithi is considered the holiest of all by the followers of Vishnu and they undergo fasting in this thithi every month. It does mention a special reserve in the month of Markazhi called as “Vaikunda Ekadasi” during which the people undergo fasting for the entire day, keep awake during the night chanting the Lord’s name and end their fast after drinking the “Thulasi Thirththam” in temple the next day. The ten days before and after it are respectively called as “Pagarpathu utsavam” (Pagarpathu - ten days) and “raappathu utsavam” (raappathu - ten nights) and in these twenty (10+10) days the entire “Nalayira Dhivya Prabandham” is chanted in temples. 

Image: Harikrishna Raghuraman

The competitions and the programs:

Either the competitions or the programs will be in the devotion genre. There will be kolam competitions, Sloka chanting competitions, traditional singing and dancing competitions, mono-acting competitions etc. And almost all the television channels broadcast devotional concepts right from the early morning around 5 A.M. to the day time around 10 A.M. and similarly in the evening. There will be upanyasams done by very popular Vedic scholars all around the city and also in the television channels. There will be a special arrangement done by the local bodies for devotional tours. All the sacred places throughout the country will be flooded with people. 

This Tamil year is called “Nandhana” and in this year, the month of Margazhi starts tomorrow. And from tomorrow till the Tamil festival of Pongal, the city is going to be extremely alive both traditionally and modernly. Let us also participate in this exuberant month activities and increase our moral values and also our traditional knowledge. Without tradition, we don’t have anything to our names. 

P.S: But I am in my winter vacation and I wonder how I would wake up very early in the morning. I leave this job to the loudspeakers of my nearby temples and I hope that they will do their job efficiently :D


  1. It's a beautiful month indeed Harikrishna.. This is a wonderful documentation of all the specialties this month carries within itself...

    Apart from the festive spirits, scintillating musics in sabhas and hymns in temples, there is one more specialty which we cant ignore. The special food preparations :) Be it in sabhas or temples, they are simply irresistible.. :)


    1. Thank you Anand :) My lame, How could I possibly leave food? That's indeed one of the beshtu when it comes to Chennai people :) Hope to see you more in my blog :)

  2. This must be the month when you people who are bombarded by the intolerable heat, almost through out the year must find the slight chillness quite welcoming. In fact I have seen people pull out their mufflers, shawls and sweaters. I try to visit Madras during this time, so that I can escape the heat. I don't know how I lived there for nearly 4 years of my life. But living in Mumbai too was no better than living in Madras. I was relieved when we decided to move to Bangalore 25 years ago. I see Bangalore changing drastically, from a garden city to a garbage city. Still, despite no rains, severe water problem, and other civic problems, this city is more livable than most places in India.
    Even I have learnt to sing thirupavai. I am surprised that you have such knowledge about all these things.
    And another reason December is good is because, people born in this month are free birds, they are very frank, and they enjoy everything that comes into their lives. Well, I too just had my birthday.
    I really liked all the information you gave us regarding this wonderful month.

    1. Thanks for such a nice comment :) Yeah, the heat prevailing here through out the year except for the three months from November to January is really not to be loved and the chillness during these 3 months is passionate though its difficult to survive out in roads very early in the morning... Yeah, the Bangalore is too awesome when you look for the climate... But we Chennai people always love Chennai regardless of hard and bitter things :D And its a great news that you know Thirupaavai :) Belated bday wishes mam :) Thanks for the compliments :)

  3. A good informative post. More so in times where tradition is fast disappearing.

    1. Thank you Krupaa :) Glad you liked it :)

  4. Beautiful compilation of our culture. Good work!

    1. Thank you :) Happy that you liked it :)

  5. Margazhi has so much of importance for us, tamilians. From the Holy month to the music season to the new year and Pongal.

    1. yeah :) This month has a lot of importance in it :) Thank you Ashwini :)

  6. you have so much knowledge!!! how old are you??

    it was a lovely lovely read!!

    1. Thanks for the compliment :) I am 19 years old :D


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