Tiruvathirai, or Thiruvathirai festival, in Tamil culture is observed on the day when Lord Shiva performed the Tandava. The festival is also a commemoration of Shiva’s Nakshatra (Birthday Star) Ardra. Thus the festival is popularly known as Ardra Darshan or Arudhara Darshanam. In 2012, the date of Thiruvathirai Festival is January 8. In Kerala, the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu, Thiruvathira festival is observed on the same day but for a different reason, it is more of a women’s festival with women emulating Goddess Parvati, who tries to get Shiva as her husband.
The Thiruvathirai Festival is observed in the Tamil month of Margazhi (December – January). Special prayers are held on the day at all Shiva temples. Milk, honey, water, sandal paste and other cooling liquids are offered to Lord Shiva on this day. This is to cool a burning and turbulent Shiva who is performing the Tandava – the cosmic dance of Nataraja.
It is also believed that Kama, who tried to stop the intense penance of Shiva, was burned to ashes due to this intense fury. The festival also remembers the union of Shiva and Parvati.
A partial fast is observed by women on the day. Some Shiva devotees observe complete fast and visit Shiva Temples. Special abhishekam, rituals and celebrations are held on the night of Thiruvathirai.