Thiruvathira is one of the 27 Nakshatras – stars, asterisms, or lunar houses, segments of the ecliptic, through which the moon transits while orbiting the Earth.
The people of Kerala celebrate Thiruvathira as a festival dedicated to Shiva and his consort Parvati. It is also believed to be the birth-star of Shiva. The word seems to have come from ‘Rudra’, yet another name of Shiva. Thiruvathira is celebrated each year in the month of Dhanu (Sagittarius/ December- January), the fifth among the 12 months, as per the Malayalam calendar.
Before unfolding the traditions and customs related to Thiruvathira celebrations, let us look at the legends and events leading to the festivity.
Prajapathi Daksha, son of Brahma, and his wife Prasuti had 24 daughters, including Sati and Rati, who were married to Shiva and Kamadeva, respectively. This makes Shiva and Kamadeva co-brothers. Kamadeva’s weapon is a sugarcane bow and a floral arrow.
It is believed that a man and woman are sure to fall in love with each other if they are hit by Kamadeva’s arrow.
Sati was in love with Shiva and wanted to marry him. But Daksha disapproved of the alliance as Shiva was always attired in a tiger-skin and adorned with hooded serpents and skulls; he lived close to burial grounds and begged for food. But Daksha had no option but to get Sati married to Shiva. However, his annoyance and aversion to Shiva continued and he waited for an opportunity to insult him.
Once, Shiva and Sati had to take part in a yajna, where Daksha was also invited. Daksha arrived late and as he walked in, all those who had assembled at the venue bowed to welcome him except for Shiva and Sati who remained seated. An infuriated Daksha abused Shiva and ridiculed his attire, pursuits and way of life.While Shiva remained composed, Nandi, Shiva’s vahana could not tolerate Daksha’s pride and gross misconduct and cursed the king.
Time passed and one day, Daksha organised a grand yajna. However, he did not invite Shiva and Sati to the event. Though she felt hurt, Sati pleaded with Shiva to accompany her to her father’s yajna. Shiva did not want to go and suggested that Sati also should not go. However, Sati decided to go alone. When she reached there, she was surprised to find that all her sisters and their spouses had been invited. Even her mother ignored her. Unable to bear the humiliation, Sati jumped into the ritual fire.
(To be continued)
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