The Thiruvathira festival falls on the asterism
Thiruvathira in the Malayalam month of Dhanu (December-January).
The people celebrate this festival upon age-old tradition and they
do it with great joy and respect for the past.
The Ardra Darshan celebrated in Tamil Nadu
corresponds to Thiruvathira of Kerala. It is considered to be high
auspicious to worship Siva and the devotees go to the temple before
sunrise for 'darshan'.
Apart from the worship in the Siva temple,
there is very little celebration in the houses. Tradition has it
that Thiruvathira festival is celebrated in commemoration of the
death of Kamadeva, the mythological God of love. According to another
version Thiruvathira is the birth day of Lord Siva.
Even though the Thiruvathira is celebrated
by most of the Hindu communities it is essentially Nair women's
festival. Nair women get up at about 4 am and take bath on seven
days commencing form the asterism Aswathi. While taking bath they
sing certain songs mostly relating to the God of Love, accompanied
by rhythmic sound produced by splashing water with their fists.
In conclusion they stand in a circle in the water hand in hand singing
Thiruvathira is a day of fasting and the
women discard the ordinary rice meal on that day, but only take
preparations of chama (panicum milicceum) or wheat. Other items
of their food include plantain fruits, tender coconuts, etc.
From prehistoric times, Malayalee woman
enjoyed an enviable position in the society, and she was practically
the mistress of her house. The elevated position she occupied at
home and in the society has influenced to a considerable extent
the social structure, customs and religious practices of the people.
The culmination of this phenomenon is clearly
visible in setting apart one of the three great festivals of Kerala viz. Thiruvathira, exclusively for womenfolk, for which a parallel
can hardly be found in any section of the Indian Society.
Oonjalattom, swinging on an oonjal (swing)
is an item of amusement on this occasion. At night the women keep
vigil for Siva and perform Thiruvathira kali or Kaikottikali. They
stand in a circle around lighted brass lamp, and dance each step
at the rhythm of the songs they sing, clapping their hands. The
songs sometimes consist of Kathakali songs including the works of
Among Namboodiris and Amblavasis (temple
servants) and Bairs who have close association with Namboodiris
, there is custom called Pathirappoochoodal, Meaning wearing of
flowers at midnight.
At the midnight of Thiruvathira, an image
of Siva is placed at the central courtyard and flowers, plantains
and jaggery are offered to the deity. They then perform Kaikottikali
round the deity. Flowers are taken from the offering and worn by