The Significance of Thai Pusam
தைப்பூச நன்னாளின் சிறப்பு
by Uma Balasubramanian
summary translation by
THAI PUSAM festival occurs in the Tamil month of Thai (Jan 14th to Feb 14th) on the day of star pusam around the full moon day and has many legends associated with it.
Some people believe that the world came into existence on this day. It was on this day, Lord Siva and His consort Uma Devi blessed the sage Vyagrapadha and Patanjali with their blissful dance in Chidambaram.
King Hiranyavarman patronized the orthodox Brahmins of Chidambaram. He built magnificent mansions of seven tiers, golden stage and engaged Vedic Brahmins (Purohiths) to celebrate grand festivals in Chidambaram. Saint Arunagirinathar mentions it in his Thiruppugazh dedicated to Lord Muruga in Chidambaram starting Thathu mamalar mudiyale. He says “Oh Lord Muruga! You are enshrined near the western gate of the mammoth temple tower which is like Mount Meru.
Dance of Bliss in Chidambaram
King Hiranyavarman abdicated his Gowda kingdom and crowned his brother to the throne to behold the blissful dance of Lord Shiva in Chidambaram. When sage Vyagrapadha came to know this he crowned Hiranyavarman as Chola king and gave him the royal flag with the emblem of a jumping tiger. Saint Arunagirinathar refers to this in his Thiruppugazh Avaguna virahanai. He praises him as an acclaimed just ruler.
Thus Hiranyavarman, the son of the fifth Manu of the solar race (descendants of the Sun God) was blessed to behold the Lord's blissful dance along with sage Vyagrapadha and Patanjali on Thai Pusam day. Arunagirinathar saw Lord Nataraja in Lord Muruga and Lord Muruga in Lord Nataraja without any distinction. We are blessed to extol the Lord of Chidambaram.
Obliteration of Tarakasuran
Thai Pusam is celebrated with grandeur in all Murugan temples across the world. Legend has it that the demon Tarakasuran was exterminated by Lord Muruga on this day. He received eleven weapons from Lord Shiva and the powerful lance (Vel) from His mother to destroy the demon who was tormenting the Devas. Saint Arunagirinathar describes this in his Thiruppugazh starting Tharakasuran sarinthu.
The demonic instincts arising in our mind incite us to commit sins. We are entrapped in it as it is a chain reaction. The worship of Lord Muruga is sure to extricate us from this. Tarakasuran's annihilation again symbolizes the eradication of those instincts and impurities in the mind of His devotees with His sharp spear.
Uma Devi's curse on Lord Muruga
Once when Brahma the god of creation did not pay obeisance to Lord Muruga, as he thought He was a mere child. Lord Muruga decided to teach Brahma a lesson. When Lord Muruga questioned his identity, Brahma answered that he was the creator of the Vedas.
Lord Muruga then asked the meaning of OM, the nucleus of the essence of scriptures and Brahma confessed his ignorance. Lord Muruga pounded his fist on Brahma's tuft. Lord Muruga thought that he was incompetent for his job as a creator and incarcerated him.
Lord Shiva asked Lord Muruga whether He himself knew the meaning of OM. Lord Muruga revealed that he had learnt it while Lord Siva was imparting this to Goddess Parvati. While Lord Siva was reciting this He eavesdropped on them hiding himself as a beetle in the cascading tresses of Parvati. When goddess Parvati came to know this she laid a curse on Him for eavesdropping in line with the rule that even a son if erring must be punished.
Lord Muruga observed a penance to be redeemed of the curse. Pleased with His penance Lord Shiva and Parvati appeared before Him and lifted the curse on Him. The day on which the curse was removed was Thai Pusam. The great Tamil saint Sri Ramalinga Adigalar who was blessed by Lord Muruga converged with the light of the Lord on this day.
Destruction of Tripura
Lord Siva burnt Tripura with His laughter on this day. Three brothers named Tarakakshan, Vidyunmali and Kamalakshan offered penance to Lord Brahma in search of immortality. Brahma denied them this boon, as immortality is the unique trait of Lord Shiva and no one else could have it. Then they asked for three invincible forts made of gold, silver and iron which could rest on soil, air and in the middle. Lord Brahma granted them three forts that could only be destroyed by Lord Shiva when Tripuras fall in the same line for a short time on the full moon day of the Tamil month Thai. Lord Brahma blessed them with prosperity, valor and health. The celestial architect Mayan, who designed the forts for them, also advised them to adhere always to the righteous path. He blessed them with sivalingas for their daily worship and said that the supreme God Siva is the obliterator of evil and protector of the virtuous.
The demons worshipped Lord Shiva as per the rules ordained in the scriptures observing all austerities. The three brothers with their flying palaces wrecked havoc across the world, tormenting the Devas. They enslaved the celestials. They flew with their palaces and got down anywhere they liked trampling everything that came underneath.
Lord Brahma, Vishnu and the Devas were very much worried and decided to perform a yagna on Mount Meru. All the genies that arose from the altar to kill the demons failed in their attempt and perished. The demons torture intensified in revenge. The Devas got frightened and ran halter-skelter to save themselves. Lord Vishnu and Brahma then realized that their invincibility is the fruition of Lord Shivas worship. Then they contrived a plan to stop their Siva puja. Lord Vishnu incarnated as Buddha and Brahma His disciple. They taught them unorthodox ways to dissuade them from the worship of Lord Siva and further boosted their bloated ego. They succeeded in removing their shields–vibhuthi (sacred ash) and rudraksha.
But the three brothers could not easily be tricked and they continued their Siva puja earnestly. Astounded by this, Lord Vishnu and the Devas went to Manasrovar Lake and started chanting the Rudram standing neck deep in water. Lord Siva appeared before them and asked them to apply the sacred ash got after performing Viraja Homam. He further asked them to observe Pasupata fast to put an end to their sufferings. The moment He uttered these words, Lord Muruga danced joyously on His fathers lap. Lord Siva provided them with chariots and weapons through Nandi Deva, Siva's mount and the Devas got ready for the fight.
The Marvelous Chariot
Then they constructed a chariot with Mount Meru as the bow and Adiseshan as the string of the bow. Lord Maha Vishnu, Vayu and Agni became the head, shaft and tail of the arrow respectively. Mount Vindhya became the axle of the wheel and Mount Kesari the cap of the axle. The earth was the seat of the chariot, sky – the interior of the chariot, the sun and the moon – the wheels of the chariot, the great serpents, the eight mountains, the seas and clouds – the ceiling of the chariot, the 64 sastras, the celestial cow Kamadhenu, Karmas, Thithis, Dharmas, eons, years, months, days and seasons- other spare parts. Thus a marvelous chariot was designed. Four Vedas were the driving horses and Brahma was the charioteer with pranavam as the whip. Devas and their leaders constituted the army. The great sages and other celestials sang hymns inspiring and blessing and the warriors.
Lord Ganesha's Ire
Nandi Deva elaborated these details to Lord Siva and He mounted the chariot holding bow and arrow in His hands. The moment He boarded the chariot the axle gave way and the chariot sank in the ground. Lord Maha Vishnu took the form of a bull and bore the weight to prevent further sinking.
Lord Ganesha was not honoured at the start and hence they had to face the hurdle. Realizing His mistake Lord Shiva propitiated Lord Ganesha and then set out for war. Saint Arunagirinathar describes this in his Thiruppugazh Kaithala Niraikani dedicated to Lord Ganesha. He says, ”You are the valiant warrior who broke the axle of the chariot of Lord Siva!” Lord Ganesha and Lord Muruga accompanied the chariot on both sides mounted on their vehicles.
The laughter of Siva
The prosperity of the demons disappeared since they lost all their virtues. When the destined time arrived all the three forts came in one line. Lord Shiva with bow and arrow in his hands looked at them with His three eyes and laughed. His laughter burnt down the three forts into ashes.
Lord Siva spared the Asura clan and kept them as His attendants (Siva Ganangal) rewarding them for their devotion in the past. Realizing their mistake, the three brothers surrendered to Lord Shiva. The ever compassionate Lord Shiva kept them near as His gate keepers. Legend attaches destruction of Tripura to Thai Pusam day. Lord Muruga received the powerful lance (Vel) from His mother to destroy Soorapadman on the day of Thai Pusam.
Saint Arunagirinathar describes the destruction of Tripuram, conversion of Mount Meru into bows, and Lord Shiva's redemptive grace on the three demons in various songs.
The Tripura signifies the three components of bondage, ego, deeds and effects and illusion. Let us worship Lord Muruga on this day and get rid of these impurities with His infinite grace.
More about Thai Poosam festival: