Lord Shiva is one of the most revered Gods in India and has taken many forms. Nataraja, a dancer form, is a popular form of Shiva, particularly in Tamil Nadu. This dance form of Shiva is called Arudra Darshan. Arudra Darshan is a festival that celebrates this cosmic dance in Nataraja form.

What is Arudra And When is Arudra Darshan?

As per the Hindu calendar, there are 27 stars and Arudra is a star of a Nakshatra name. The Arudra Darshan festival is conducted when the Arudra star coincides with a full moon in Margazhi Tamil month during December- January. Arudhra means a golden-red flame and Shiva does the cosmic dance taking the red-flamed light form. It is an auspicious day and celebrates the cosmic dance of Shiva. It is celebrated with great fervour in South Indian temples to mark the occasion. It is a major occasion in Shiva temples and showcases the enormous power and capabilities of Lord Shiva.

This is a festival that is celebrated with great pomp in temples like Tiruvarur, Chidambaram Shiva Temple, Tiruvalankadu Temple, Nellaiappar Temple and Kapaleeswar Temple. The Chidambaram Nataraja Temple is one of the popular places to visit and it has a gold-roofed shrine where the idol is taken out of the shrine on this day. It is also celebrated in countries like Malaysia, Australia, Sri Lanka and South Africa where there are many Shiva devotees.

Significance of Arudra Darshan

It is an important festival celebrated by Shivates who regard Lord Shiva as their supreme deity. Interestingly, it is called Thiruvadhirai which is a main star as per Hindu astrology and is also called Thiruvadhirai which is the star of Lord Shiva. Arudra is a star which is a golden red flame and is an important star in this constellation. It is believed that the form of Nataraja was born on Arudra Nakshatra and hence is also celebrated as his birthday.
The cosmic dance symbolizes movement in every particle and is believed to be the reason for the existence of the universe. The dance also showcases the cycle of destruction and creation featuring activities like Incarnation, Release, Creation, Destruction and Protection. These are called Pancha Kriya and also show that energy is available in all particles.

Lord Shiva in Nataraja form is depicted with the left leg raised while the right foot is shown to crush the demon (ignorance) showing that the Lord can destroy the evil which includes desire in people. His right hand is in Abhaya Hasta posture which symbolizes protection to His devotees. He is also said to have control over the earth (rested foot), space (Damaru), water (Ganga in his locks and hair), fire (flame in his hand) and air (flowing hair).

The Legend of Arudra Darshan

Like many other festivals, this too has an interesting story. It is said that Lord Vishnu was relaxing on Adi Shesha (five-hood serpent). The serpent felt uncomfortable as Lord Vishnu was heavier than other days. But despite that discomfort, he did not disturb Vishnu and waited until the Lord’s sleep was completed. Adi Shesha then told him what he felt and asked the reason for it. Lord Vishnu replied that he was visualizing Lord Shiva in his Nataraja form. On hearing this, Adi Shesha also wanted to witness this dance and asked Vishnu how he could witness this. Lord Vishnu advised Adi Shesha to go to Chidambaram and perform a penance. The snake did as he was guided and began his penance.

While performing this, Vygarapada, a saint in Chidambaram, also was performing penance for the same cause. Lord Shiva was very delighted with Vygrapada and Adi Shesha’s penance and came in front of them. When Shiva asked them for a boon, they expressed their desire to see the cosmic dance. Shiva did so and performed the Ananda Tandav to fulfil their boon. It is believed that the dance was done on Thiruvadhirai and hence from then on it is being called as Arudra Darshan.

Lord Shiva devotees wake up early and take a holy bath. They observe a fast which is said to be very auspicious. A ghee lamp is lit and pooja is performed for Lord Shiva. After this, devotees go to a Shiva temple pray to the Lord and witness the pooja done in the temple. Abhishekha is done using rose water, milk, curd, fruits, rice flour, etc. Many temples also host the divine marriage of Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva. After the Kalyana Utsava, the decorated idols are kept in courtyards and dance performances are held. Witnessing this is said to give great prosperity and happiness to His devotees.

The temple priest gives a special paste called Thiruvathirai Mai which is prepared using the soot from the holy fire. This is applied on the forehead as a blessing from Lord Shiva. Those who take Kali (Prasadam) and consume it can get relief from illness. The fast is then broken after feeding the needy. Devotees are said to get great benefits by celebrating this festival.