It is now the Tamil month of Panguni and almost every temple is now celebrating the annual Panguni Uthiram festival. It is the appropriate time to know the significance of this festival.
Panguni Uthiram is a very popular festival in a majority of temples in South India. People throng to the temples nearby. This festival is celebrated with great pomp and glory at Kapaleeswarar-Mylapore, Perur-near Coimbatore, Dhandayudhapani temple at Palani, Vadapalani Murugan temple, Sri Kallazhagar Temple, Azhagar Malai and Srirangam temple to name a few. The festival is celebrated in the Tamil month of Panguni which is during March-April. In the Tamil month of Panguni the Uthira Nakshathiram day is on Pournami.
In Hindu Mythology, most celestial weddings take place on Panguni Uthiram. The wedding of Rama and Sita was celebrated on Panguni Uthiram. According to Kantha Puranam, Lord Shiva married Goddess Parvati (Sakthi) on the Panguni Uthiram day in Himalayas. Hence Panguni Uthiram is considered holy by the Saivaites. On Panguni Uthiram, in all Murugan temples, devotees carry Kavadi to fulfill their vows. Thousands of devotees throng Murugan temples on Panguni Uthiram. It is on Panguni Uthiram day that Lord Muruga married Devasena.
Panguni Uthiram is a supremely auspicious and joyous event which occurs once every year. It is the birthday of Sri Mahalakshmi. It is a belief that on this day, Goddess Mahalakshmi emerged from the celestial ocean of milk after it was churned by the Devas and the Asuras. Panguni Uthiram is hence also celebrated as Mahalakshmi Jayanti. On this day Lord Sriranganathar and Mahalakshmi are seen together in Mahalakshmi’s Sannadhi. In Sri Rangam and other Vaishnava temples, Ramanuja Acharya’s divine composition Gadya Trayam are recited. At Madurai Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple, Panguni Uthiram festival is celebrated as Kodai Vasantha Thiruvizha.
Since divine marriages have taken place on Panguni Uthiram, it is celebrated as an important festival in almost all temples. The utsava murthis are taken to the kalyana mandapam of the temple and the marriage ceremony of the presiding God and Goddess is performed.
Arupathumoovar festival is very well celebrated at Sri Kapaleeswarar Temple as part of the Panguni Festival.. The grandeur of the procession of the 63 Nayanmars during the eighth day of the Panguni festival is to be seen to be believed. The unique aspect of the procession is that as the palanquin of Lord Kapaleeswarar moves forward, those of the Nayanmars are taken out first and they move backwards, facing the deity. Another unique feature of the Arupathimoovar procession is that deities from other temples such as Kolavizhi, Vairamudi Swami, Mundakakanni Amman, Thiruvalluvar Vasuki and others also take part.
Since this festival takes place when the Summer is setting in and the days are already hot, lost of local residents, shopkeepers and business establishments set up thanneer pandal that provides water and butter milk to the devotees. These days you even find some of them serving lemon rice, tamarind rice, curd rice, cool drinks etc. The residents in the four mada streets open their homes to strangers. People climb on the terraces or even take vantage positions in the windows in the first floor to get a view of the procession. Being a resident of Mandaveli, I have experienced this many times as a child.
The combination of Paurnami and Uthiram star on Panguni Uthiram is considered very Divine and powerful. It is is said that all problems relating to marital relationship will be solved by worshiping in a temple on this day. It is believed to bring in lot of peace and harmony in marital life.