by Padmaja Menon
Being an exclusively women-centric festival, the Thiruvathira Festival of Kerala is a unique festival in its own kind. The entire Kerala celebrates this significant Thiruvathira festival while enjoying the folk dance and folk music performances in different parts of Kerala, South India.
The origin of the festival is based on an age-old belief that the Thiruvathira Festival is celebrated to pay a tribute to Lord Shiva, who killed Kamadeva, the mythological God of love. Every year on the asterism Thiruvathira in the Malayalam of Dhanu (December-January), the women of Kerala celebrate this festival by worshipping Lord Shiva for over a period of 7 days to maintain marital bliss and happiness. The first Thiruvathira festival coming after the marriage of a girl is known as Puthen Thiruvathira or Poothiruvathira
and it is celebrated on a grand scale with much pomp and grandeur.
The women perform several rituals all throughout the Thiruvathira Festival. Before sunrise the women devotees take their bath and go to the Shiva temple for “darshan” and worship the auspicious deity of Shiva. There is very little celebration in the houses. Except from eating preparations of chama (panicum milicceum) or wheat along with plantain fruits, tender coconuts, etc. the women fast for the whole day during the festival. They also chew betel leaves and redden their lips.
The midnight worshipping of Lord Shiva with flowers, fruits and garlands is another important ritual, which involves performances of Thiruvathira kali or Kaikottikali dances. The custom called Pathirappoochoodal, wearing flowers at midnight and dancing and clapping around lighted brass lamp at the rhythm of popular and devotional Kathakali songs and Tiruvathira songs is mainly common among the Namboodiris and Amblavasis (temple servants) and Bairs ladies.
The ladies also get immense pleasure from Oonjalattom, that is, swinging on an oonjal (swing) tied to bamboo sticks. This is a special item of amusement associated with festival of Thiruvathira in Kerala. This year (2012) Thiruvathira festival is on 8th Jan.
Happy Thiruvadira girls!!
Watch this video of More Thiruvathira songs More Indian Festivals