Thiruvathira, also known as Thiruvathirai or Arudhra Darshanam, is a traditional festival celebrated in the southern Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. It is observed on the auspicious day of Thiruvathira Nakshatra, which falls in the month of Dhanu (December-January) according to the regional calendar.
Thiruvathira holds cultural and religious significance, and it is primarily associated with Lord Shiva and the goddess Parvati. The festival commemorates the cosmic dance (Ananda Tandava) performed by Lord Shiva, which represents the eternal cycle of creation, preservation, and destruction.
During Thiruvathira, women play a prominent role in the celebrations. They wake up early and take a ritual bath before participating in various festive activities. One of the main highlights of the festival is the Thiruvathira Kali, a traditional dance performed by women in a group. The dance is characterized by rhythmic movements, clapping of hands, and singing traditional songs called Thiruvathira Pattu.
Women also create intricate floral designs known as Pookalam or floral carpets, using a variety of colorful flowers. These designs are usually made in the courtyards of houses or in public spaces. Additionally, women engage in other rituals like fasting, offering prayers, and visiting temples dedicated to Lord Shiva.
In Kerala, Thiruvathira is celebrated as a family-oriented festival where women come together, sing songs, exchange gifts, and prepare special dishes. The feast of the day, called Thiruvathira Sadhya, consists of a grand vegetarian meal with a variety of dishes. It typically includes traditional items like Thiruvathira Puzhukku (a mixed vegetable dish), Koova (arrowroot) Kachiyathu, Ada (a sweet rice pancake), and more.
In Tamil Nadu, Thiruvathira is celebrated as Arudhra Darshanam, which coincides with the Arudhra Nakshatra. Devotees visit Shiva temples, offer prayers, and participate in special rituals. The famous Chidambaram Temple and Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleswarar Temple are known for their grand celebrations during this festival.
Thiruvathira is not only a religious festival but also a celebration of cultural heritage. It showcases the rich traditions, music, dance, and cuisine of the region. The festival brings communities together, strengthens familial bonds, and invokes a sense of devotion and joy among the participants.