Among the many Valipaaduhal to the - "God as Siva'' - coming in each month of a year, and observed by the Tamil Saivites in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere, the one which falls in the Tamil month of Masi (13th of February to 14th of March) is the “Masi Maham”, which is sacred to God Siva.
Maham is the tenth star (natchaththiram = constellation) among the twenty seven stars in the Hindu astrological system. The Maham natchaththiram which falls in the month of Masi very often in conjunction with the full moon day (Mulu Nilaa = Paurnami), is taken as the “Masi Maham” Valipaadu day.
Koyilpuranam - Thiruvilaa charukkam by Umapathi Sivachariyar (In Tamil)
The “Masi Maham” is essentially a day of Siva Valipaadu as confirmed by the Koyil Puranam - a Tamil treatise (dating thirteenth century) on Chidambaram the holiest Siva Shrine in Tamil Nadu. It describes a mythological story attributing to this celebrations as follows:
“Thesi polipothu nirai atputhan oliseri nat Kadal ethir thikalvuttru paasam thalaiara arula Salapathi paravi thinam ithu padivu uttror aasu attru uyar kathi adaiya, Kadavulum anuka pera, vara mathu petraan, “Masi thiru Maham” ena mattrathu thaha mali potr kodiyathu poliviththaan.”
The mythological story behind same is that when God Siva appeared opposite the sea in the vicinity where Varunan (Salapathi) remained submerged for his sins, blessed him and freed him from his desires. Varunan in turn worshipped him and requested a varam that anyone who bathes in the sea fronts will be freed from desires and attain high mukthi, and for God Siva to be in presence here on this occasion of Masi thiru Maham being the tenth day of the month of Masi to bless them. Hence the Masi Maham festival is essentially a day of Siva Worship with sacred Sea Bathing at the sea front. This is confirmed by a reference in the 2nd Thirumurai of Saint Thirugnanasampanthar dating to mid seventh century (around A.D.650) which is as follows.
“madal arnththa thengin "Myilaiyaar Masi Kadalaattu" kandaan Kabaleechcharam amarnththaan adalaane earurum adihal adi paravi nadamaadal kaanaathe pothiyo poompaavai”
Inscriptions of the Madras Presidency – by V.Rangacharya, Vol 1, page 399
In the present day we see the statues of the deities namely Siva and Parvathi and Vishnu, are brought to the Mahamaham tank from the Siva and Vishnu Temples within Kumbakonam district adjacent to Kaveri River, and at the auspicious time devotees both men and women have a holy bath or a dip either in the Mahamaham tank or in the river Kaveri.
It is believed that a bath or a dip in the waters of Mahamaham tank at the auspicious time provides the same results of having all sins washed away, by taking a bath in all the nine holy rivers of India. After the bath the devotees offer their holy prayers to the Lord and seek his salvation and blessings. This Maha Maham Festival takes place once in 12 years on the day of the aforesaid planetary combination, and the festival is celebrated where devotees from far distance places from India throng to Kumbakonam in many "hundred thousands", and take bath or dip in the Holy theertham - the Maha Maham tank.
The Maha Maham day festival was last celeberated on 22/2/92, and this year (2004) the Maasi Maham Siva Valipaadu fell on the 6th of March, being the day the Maham Natchaththiram was in conjunction with the full moon (as per Thirukkanitha Panchankam) This Maha Maham festival which falls every twelve years under the above planetary combination, and for the same auspicious reasons, is also celebrated as Maha Kumbh (as Kumba Mela) Festival in the north of India especially in at Haridwar, Varanaasi, and in many other places in North India, and the sacred bath or dip is undertaken in the other holy rivers in those regions.
Further according to the mythological legend Masi Makam is said to be the birth natchaththiram on which Daakshayini (the Goddess Parvathi) was born as daughter to Daksha. Hence Masi Makam is also celebrated in Sakthi Temples in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere with Pusai Valipaaduhal conducted in a big way having this significance.
Virarajendra - Siva & Sakthi Valipaadu
қαvї - கவி