Thai Pusam is a festival celebrated in Tamil Nadu on Full Moon in the Tamil month of Thai which starts from Pongal, Sankranti. Pusam, Pushyam is one of the 27 Nakshatra, star in the zodiac belt. The festival is called Thai Pusam as it is celebrated in Thai month when the Full Moon occurs near the Pushyam star.
The legends speak of this day as when Parvati gave Murugan a Vel, ‘Spear’ for vanquishing the demon Tharakasuram. The festival is thus dedicated to Murugan, one of the most venerated divinities.
Thai Pusam is also the day when Sri Nataraja came to Chidambaram to enact his dance. More on Nataraja in our book and film “Understanding Shiva”.
Celebrated in other countries
Thai Pusam is also celebrated in countries like Singapore, Sri Lanka and especially Malaysia where it is a national festival and is celebrated in a grand manner. Here, it is a practice to break 1 lakh coconuts on the road.
There are also temples of Murugan in these countries.
6 primary temples
There are 6 primary temples of Murugan in Tamil Nadu.
Murgan – Meaning, Other Names
The word Murugan means ‘God of War’. The word also means ‘One who is very attractive to look’.
Skanda, Subrahmanya and Karthikeya are among the other names of Murugan.
Skanda Purana, the largest Purana focuses on the exploits of this Divinity.
Karthikeya, Saravana, Shanmukha
Murugan is called Karthikeya as He was nurtured by the Krttika maidens, as soon as he was born.
Karthikeya also had a different birth.
As the legend goes, a spark of flame from Shiva fell in a Saravana, thicket of reeds, where it transformed into six babies. These six babies were nurtured by six maidens called the Krttika maidens.
When these six babies were united into a single body with six heads by Parvati, the consort of Shiva, the baby was given the name Karthikeya, meaning one nurtured by the Krttika maidens. Since He was born in a Saravana, amidst reeds, Karthikeya is also called by the name Saravana. He is also called Shanmuga meaning one with six faces.
Krttika constellation – Pleiades constellation
It is interesting to note that the legends also carry descriptions that link these six Krttika maidens to the Krttika constellation – Pleiades constellation and the stars in it.
Vel – Removal of ignorance
Murugan holds a Vel, a spear in his hand. This Vel is not just a war weapon but is symbolic of removal of our ignorance. It is a weapon that destroys our ignorance.
This Thai Pusam day, let us make resolve to move from ignorance to knowledge.