Significance of Thiruvempaavai Religious Festival

Thread started by virarajendra on 5th August 2008 10:57 PM

Author - Virarajendra

The Significance of the Thiruvempaavai & Thiruppaavai Religious Festivals

The "Paavai Noanbu" Religious Festival of Ancient Tamils of Tamil Nadu
தமிழ் மங்கையர் தம் தொன்மை மிகு "பாவையர் நோன்பு" தெய்வழிபாடு

Thamilar Mangala Nathaswaram Isai

"Paavaiyar" in Tamil means "Young Girls" and "Noanbu" means "Ritual". Paavaiyar Noanbu was essentialy a Religious Ritual conducted by the Young Girls of the ancient Tamil Nadu. This auspicious day fell on the full moon day of the Tamil month the Maarkali Thingal (Maatham).

The origin of this festival can be traced much earlier in the Tamil Poetic verses of "Akanaanooru" and "Paripaadal" of second Sangam Period (B.C.650-350). Munpani Kaalam - The misty period (with evening dew) was the Maarkali and Thai - Thingal (Maatham) the mid December to mid February.. During this period the end of Kuthir kaalam (Malaik kaalam) and dawn of Munpani kaalam (Kulir kaalam) fell with the beginning of the month of Thai, and the Paavaiyar Noanbu was celebrated on the full moon day of the Thai Thingal.

As the Paavaiyar Noanbu was celebrated on the 'full moon day' of the month of Thai, the special Neeraadal (Bath) in the rivers and tanks on this day was known as "Thai Neeraadal".

".....தைஇ நின்ற தண் பெயல் கடைநாள் (dawn of the month Thai being the last day of Kuthir [Kulir] Kaalam).....வண்டற் பாவை ([in front] of Paavai image made of Vandal [Kali Mun]) உண்துறை தரீஇத், திருநுதல் மகளிர் குரவை அயரும் பெருநீர்க் கானல் தழீஇய இருக்கை....." (the young girls with beautiful foreheads dancing the Kuravai kooththu at centres on side of the river [and tanks])"

Akanaanooru - Paadal No 269

“......திணி மணல் செய்வுறு பாவைக்கு (Paavai image made of composite sand) கொய்பூத் (placing plucked flowers [and worshiped]) தைஇத், தண்கயம் ஆடும் மகளிரொடு (by the young girls on bathing in the cold river [or lake]) கைபிணைந்து.....'

“......அரி மயிர்த் திரள் முன் கை
வால் இழை, மட மங்கையர்
வரி மணற் புனை பாவைக்குக்

குலவுச் சினைப் பூக் கொய்து.......”

Puranaanooru - Paadalkal No 243 & No11

However from the period of Second Thamil Sangam period (B.C.650-350) the climatic conditions of Tamil Nadu has gradually changed over a period of 700 years and by the first century A.D. the end of Kuthir Kaalam (Kulir Kaalam -cold season) and the beginning of Munpani Kaalam with the dawn of Maarkali Thingal {Maatham} shifted from Thai Thingal (Maatham) to Maarkali Thingal (Maatham), and this made the Tamils of Tamil Nadu to refer this festival of "Thai Neeradal" of the early period subsequently as "Maarkali Neeradal".

However the significance of "Paavai Noanbu", and same being celebrated on the full moon day of the month of Thai during the Second Sangam period remained same even during the Maarkali Thingal, as seen from the references in the Sangam period Tamil Literary work Paripaadal and from the Tamil Saiva Saint Maanikkavaasakar's Thiruvenbaavai of third century A.D, and the Tamil Vainava Saint Aandal's Thiruppaavai of the eight century. The name change from "Thai Neeradal' to "Markai Neeradal" was entirely due to the shift in climatic pattern of Tamil Nadu.

The month of beginning of Maarkali Thingal (Maatham) (usually around December 15th to January 15th) signifies the dawn of the Munpani Kaalam (early misty period), with the blowing of very cold breeze during the entire period of the months of 'Maarkali' and 'Thai'.

It was on the 'Mulu Nilavu' auspicious day (full moon day = Pournami) the ancient Tamils celebrated the 'Paavai Noanbu' Festival with the worship of God in Temples of their respective faith the Saivaism, Vainavaism (Vaishnavaism) and Jainism.

It has been a practice among the Saivites (Saiva Samayaththavar) of the ancient Tamil Nadu in the month of Maarkali - for ten days before the full moon day either falling with, or a day before or after Thiruvaathirai Natchaththiram of Markali Thingal, for the young (unmarried girls) to get up early in the morning before sunrise, and purify themselves with a holy bath in the river and conduct religious rituals known as Paavai Valipaadu on the banks of the river or tank, and with their minds with auspicious thoughts go in groups to worship God Siva at Temples.

There they offer their Prayers of worship, to God Siva requesting him to bless them with good - "future life partners" who are kind hearted, good natured, understanding, honest and faithfull, providing much love and care to them throughout their life time under all circumstances.

".....கனைக்கும் அதிகுரல் கார் வானம் நீங்க,
பனிப் படு பைதல் விதலைப் பருவத்து,
ஞாயிறு காயா நளி மாரிப் பின் குளத்து
மா இருந் திங்கள் மறு நிறை ஆதிரை......(Thiruvaathirai Natchaththiram with the great Moon again becoming fuller)

......அம்பா ஆடலின் ஆய் தொடிக் கன்னியர்,
முனித் துறை முதல்வியர் முறைமை காட்ட.....
தையல் மகளிர் ஈர் அணி புலர்த்தர,
! நினக்கு மடை வாய்த்தன்று
மையாடல் ஆடல் மழ புலவர் மாறு எழுந்து,
பொய் ஆடல் ஆடும் புணர்ப்பின் அவர், அவர்
தீ எரிப் பாலும் செறி தவம் முன் பற்றியோ....."

Paripaadal - An ancient Tamil literary work of the period first century B.C

பேணும் சிறப்பின் பெண் மகவாயின்…..
ஐந்தின் முதலா ஒன்பதின் காறும்
ஐங்கணைக் கிழவனை யார்வமொடு நோற்றலும்
பனி நீர் தோய்தலும் பாவை யாடலும்[/u]

Pingala Nihandu - by Pingala Munivar, Soothiram 1369

"போற்றியாம் மார்கழி நீர் ஆடேலோர் எம்பாவாய்

Thiruvachakam - by Tamil Saiva Saint Maanikkavaasakar of the period third century A.D.

This period of ten days worship ends with the tenth day falling on the Thiruvaathirai Natchathiram day, mostly falling in conjunction with the full moon day which is said to be the very auspicious day to God Siva. The ten days of holy bath and intense worship by young girls to God Siva was known as the Maarkali Neeraadal also referred to as Paavai Noanbu - a religious practice that existed in Tamil Nadu from the early Sangam periods.

The Tamil Saiva Saint Maanikkavaasakar (A.D.285-317) among the four foremost Tamil Saiva Saints of Tamil Nadu - (during his time) while on his way worshipping the holy temple Shrines of God Siva in Tamil Nadu, came to the Thiruvannaamalai Temple during the month of Maarkali. There he saw many young girls getting up early morning and also waking up the other young girls in their neighbourhood, and going in groups to have the holy bath in the river, and for worship of God Siva at the Thiruvannaamalai Temple. This

For Saint Manikkavaasagar who went shrine by shrine in Tamil Nadu worshipping God Siva singing holy verses of divine praise in Tamil, this "Maarkali Neeraadal" by the Tamil Saivite young girls at Thiruvannamalai appeared as a "new theme" for his divine songs in praise of God Siva which he composed, and was known as the "Thiruvempaavai Paadalkal"

The devotion of Tamil Saiva Saint Maanikkavaasakar towards Thiruvannamalai is reflected in the following Video - CourtesyTube Thiuvenpaavai

From the time these divine songs were sung on God Siva by Saint Maanikkavaasagar became the vogue thereafter and was sung in all Siva Temples and Religious Institutions during the ten days of worship in Maarkali prior to Thiruvaathirai Natchaththiram.

The complete set of Paadalkal of the "Tamil Thiruvenpaavai" by "Saivite Saint Maanikkavaasakar" - Courtesy YouTube :

The Full Text of the Tamil Saiva - Thiruvempaavai Paadalakal :

The great Tamil Saiva Saint Thirunaavukkaraser visted the "Thiruvaarur Siva temple" during the period of Maarkali Thiruvaathirai day to worshiping "God Thiyagarajar" and proceeded to the temple.......where he met the other great Tamil Saiva Saint Thirugnanasampanthar. The latter inquired from Saint Thirunaavukkarasar on how the Thiruvaathirai festival was celebrated at Thiruvaarur who gave a graphic account of the proceedings at this temple on this auspicious day in his "Thiruvaarur Thiruvaathirai Thiruppathikam".

As the Paavai Noanbu was mainly a festival relating to worship of God by "young girls" to be blessed with good husbands, the scenes at Thiruvaarur temple as described by Saint Thirunaavukkarasar too are seen related to this significance which is as follows:

செந்துவர் வாயார் செல்வன் சேவடி சிந்திப்பார்
"மைந்தர்களோடு மங்கையர் கூடி மயங்குவார்".....(Mainthar=young boys & Mangaiyar=young girls)
......"மணியே பொன்னே" - "மைந்தா மணாளா" என்பார் கட்
கணியான் ஆரூர் ஆதிரை நாளால் அதுவண்ணம்

"......முத்து விதான மணிப்பொற் கவரி முறையாலே
பக்தர்க ளோடு பாவையர் சூழப் பலிப்பின்னே
வித்தகக் கோல வெண்டலை மாலை விரதிகள்
அத்தனார் ஆதிரை நாளா லதுவண்ணம்

Fourth Thirumurai - by Tamil Saiva Saint Thirunaavukkarasar (of the period late sixth century and early seventh century A.D)

The Tamil Saiva Saint Thirugnasampanthar further in his Pathikam on the Kabaleechcharam temple (Myilapur) mentiond various Saivite festivals of his period wherein he has also referred to the Markali Thiruvathirai festival as follows:

"....கார்தரு சோலைக் கபாலீச்சரம் அமர்ந்தான் (God Siva)
ஆதிரை நாள்
காணாதே போதியார் பூம்பாவாய்...."

Thurumurai - Pathikam by Tamil Saiva Saint Thirugnanasampanthar on the temple the Kapaalichcharam

Thiruvaathirai Vilaa (festival) in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere

The "Paavai Noanbu" festival among the Saivites ended with worship at all temple of God Siva of Tamil Nadu on the tenth and final day being the "Maarkali Thiruvaathirai" day. In the early hours on the Thiruvaathirai day in all Temples in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere this occasion is celebrated as "Thiruvaathirai" Vilaa and commonly referred as "Aaruththiraa Valipaadu (Tharisanam)" which is very auspicious day to God Siva Thiruvaathirai Valipaadu (Aarudra Tharisanam - at Chithambaram Nadarajar temple in Tamil Nadu) Thiruvaathirai Valipaadu (Aarudra Tharisanam - at Katpaha vinaayagar temple in London)

However the name "Maarkali (river) Neeradal" gradually lost it's significance and it became to be known as the Thiruvempaavai Valipaadu with Maarkali Neeraadal in rivers gradually turning into the Thiruvempaavai Neeraadal at their respective homes in the modern age - in the cities, while the bath in the rivers being still in vogue in the villages.

Thiruvaathirai Vilaa (festival) in Kerala (former Tamil Chera Nadu)


The Vaishnavites (Vainava Samayaththavar) of the ancient Tamil Nadu also celebrated in the month of Maarkali the Maarkali Neeraadal also known as Paavai Noanbu having the same significance as Thiruvembaavai. The Tamil Vaishnavite Saint Aandaal (nineth century A,D.) of Tamil Nadu inspired by the Maarkali Neeraadal (Paavai Noanbu) performed by the Tamil Vaishnavite young girls at the Sri Villippuththuur Temple of Tamil Nadu of her time, sang the "Thiruppaavai Paadalkal" on God Vishnu based on this same theme of "Markali Neeraadal" (Paavai Noanbu).

".....மார்கழித் திங்கள் மதி நிறைந்த நன்னாளால்
நீராடப் போதுவீர் போதுமினோ நேரிழையீர்
சீர் மல்கும் ஆய்ப்பாடிச் செல்வச் சிறுமீர்காள்......."

".....மாலே மணிவண்ணா. மார்கழி நீராடுவான்......"

"......மார்கழி நீராட மகிழ்ந்தேலோர் எம்பாவாய்......."

Naalaayira Thivya Pirapantham - Thiruppaavai by Tamil Vaishnavite(Vainava) Saint Aandaal

However the name "Maarkali (river) Neeraadal" gradually lost it's significance and it became to be known as the Thiruppaavai Valipaadu with Maarkali Neeraadal in rivers gradually turning into the Thiruppaavai Neeraadal at their respective homes in the modern age - in the cities, while the bath in the rivers being still in vogue in the villages.

The complete set of Paadalkal of the "Tamil Thiruppaavai" by "Vaishnavite(Vainava) Saint Aandaal" - Courtesy YouTube : Part - 1 Part - 2

The Full Text of the Tamil Vainava Thiruppaavai Paadalkal :

The Vaishnava Temple at Sri Villippuththuur where Saint Aandaal sang the "Thiruppaavai" Paadallkal - Courtesy Arun Kanth / You Tube



The Jains (Samana Samayaththavar) of early Tamil Nadu too celeberated this "Paavai Noanbu" festival having the same significance, and the "Samanar - Thiruvempaavai Paadalkal" in Tamil composed by Tamil Jain Saint Athivirothinathar (tenth century A.D.) on the Jain Theerththangkarar (different to what was composed by the Tamil Saiva Saint Maanikkavaasakar) also based on the same theme of "Maarkali Neeraadal" (Paavai Noanbu) performed by the Tamil Jain young Girls of his period.

However the name "Maarkali (river) Neeraadal" gradually lost it's significance and it became to be known as the Samanar - Thiruvempaavai Valipaadu with Maarkali Neeraadal in rivers gradually turning into the Thiruvempaavai Neeraadal at their respective homes in the modern age - in the cities, while the bath in the rivers being still in vogue in the villages.

A Paadalhal from Jain Thiruvempaavai :

The Full Text of the Tamil Samana - Thiruvempaavai Paadalakal : [url]

The Maarkali Neeraadal (Paavai Noanbu) has thus been a common "Tamil Practice" that existed among the Saivite & Vaishnavite religious groups of Tamil Nadu from the second Sangam period, and among the Samanar (Jains) from the late third Sangam period .


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