Significance of Arudra Darshan•
Posted on December 16 2022
Arudra Darshan is primarily a key event celebrated by the Shaivite community who follow the Shaivism faith and regard Lord Shiva as their primary deity. This Shaivite festival usually occurs in the Hindu Tamil Margazhi month that is between the second half of December and the first half of January as per the Gregorian calendar. In 2023, the date for Arudra Darshan has been decided as 6th January. Interestingly, this festival is also known as Thiruvadhirai that is one of the main stars in Hindu astrology. It is also the star of Lord Shiva.
This Shaivite festival marks the celebrating and honouring of the cosmic dance of Lord Shiva. The lord is represented as Nataraja when He performs this cosmic dance. Arudra is the name of a star in the constellation and also the golden red flame. It is said that Nataraja dances in the form and shape of this light. There is also a belief that Nataraja was born on the Arudra Nakshatra day. Hence, an abhisheka is performed for the Nataraja idol in a Shiva shrine on this day and a special offering called kali is offered to the deity.
The ecstatic dance represents the movement in any particle, which in turn is the reason for the universe to exist. The dance is also portrayed as the source of energy in all particle and depicts the never-ending cycle of creation and destruction featuring the five major activities of Creation, Destruction, Protection, Embodiment or Incarnation and Release that are collectively known as the pancha kriya.
When Lord Shiva is represented as Nataraja, He is shown with a raised left leg while His right foot crushes the demon of ignorance thereby highlighting His mastery over evil, desires and air. He holds his right palm in the Abhaya Hasta posture as a sign of protecting His devotees. He also has control over the five elements through His damaru (space), rested foot (earth), Ganges from His hair locks (water), a pot of flame in His hand (fire) and His flowing hair (air).
As per scriptures, the power of Lord Shiva reaches His followers on earth at close quarters on the day of Arudra Darshan. Also, devotees who pray to Lord Nataraja with utmost devotion on this day are blessed with the ability to overcome any hurdle in their lives.
Like most festival, there is a fascinating story related to Arudra Darshan. Lord Vishnu was once resting Himself on the five-hooded serpent Adi Shesha. The serpent felt that the lord was heavier than usual and this made him uncomfortable. However, he waited for Vishnu to get up from His sleep and told Him what he experienced. The serpent also wanted to know the reason for this. Lord Vishnu told him that He was thinking of Lord Shiva performing the divine dance in the form of Nataraja.
When Adi Shesha heard of this, he felt like seeing the dance as well. He expressed his desire to Vishnu and asked His guidance on what he should do for this. The lord advised him to go to Chidambaram and undertake a rigid penance. The snake agreed and started for Chidambaram immediately and began his penance at the earliest.
While Adi Shesha was meditating, a saint named Vyagrapada in Chidambaram was also engaged in deep penance for the same reason. He had tiger feet that protected him from the sting of honey bees when he collected flowers to Lord Shiva.
Lord Shiva was pleased by the penance of both Adi Shesha and Vyagrapada and appeared before them. When He asked both of them to seek a boon, they expressed the same desire to see the lord perform His cosmic dance. Shiva obliged and performed the Ananda Tandav to fulfil their desires. It is said that He did this dance performance on Thiruvadhirai day and it came to be referred to as Arudra Darshan.
On the day of Arudra Darshan, worshippers of Lord Shiva wake up early and take a bath. They resolve to take a fast as it is considered to be highly auspicious and light a ghee lamp and perform a pooja for the deity in their homes. After this, they visit a Shiva temple to pay their obeisance and witness the special abhisheka and fire ritual in His honour. The abhisheka is performed using several items like milk, rose water, curd, honey, sesame oil, fruits, rice flour and several others. Shrines also host the divine marriage of Lord Shiva and His consort Goddess Parvati.
Once the wedding is over, the decorated idols are placed in the courtyards of the shrine and a dance performance of the lord is enacted. Witnessing this dance performance is believed to bestow happiness and prosperity on His devotees. Stories of Shiva are also narrated as a discourse in some temples on this day.
The temple priest hands over a special paste known as Thiruvadhirai Mai that is prepared from the soot of the spiritual fire. An individual who applies this paste on his/her forehead is blessed with happiness. Moreover, worshippers who receive kali from a Shiva temple and consume it are freed from all illnesses. The fast is broken after witnessing the dance ceremony and feeding a few Brahmins.
The Arudra Darshan festival is celebrated with utmost fervour in temples like Chidambaram Nataraja Temple, Nellaiappar Temple, Tiruvalankadu Temple, Kapaleeswar Temple and Tiruvarur Temple. The Nataraja temple in Chidambaram has a separate shrine with a gold roof for the deity. The idol is brought out of the shrine only on Arudra Darshan day.
Written by - Deepthi K