Kavady

Festival

Kavady is a South Indian festival celebrated all around the world over a period of 10 days in devotion to Lord Muruga. 

Lord Muruga symbolises wisdom and knowledge and is known as the God of war, He is the protector and problem solver in the lives of His devotees in this Kaliyuga age.

OM TAT-PURUSHAYA VIDMAHE, MAHA SENAAYA DHIMAHI, TANNO SHUNMUKAHAYA PRACHODAYAT

Meaning: Meaning: Om, Let me meditate on the Lord of War, Oh, six-faced one, give me higher intellect, And let the mighty Lord Muruga illuminate my mind.

Kavady is a South Indian festival celebrated all around the world over a period of 10 days in devotion to Lord Muruga. The principal festivals are Thai Poosam in January, Panguni Uttaram in March, Chitrai Paruvam in April and Skanda Shashthi in November. 

The Chitrai Paruvam celebration of ten days duration in April is by far the most crowded and the grandest festival of the year in India and Malaysia, whilst the Thai Poosam is most popular for South Africans. 

Panguni Uthiram falls in the month Panguni (March-April). This month is special because of the star Uthiram and pournami occurring together. It is on Panguni Uthiram that the marriage of Parvati to Shiva, and Murugan to Deivanai are celebrated. On this day, all places and temples, where Lord Murugan is located, the devotees carry Pal (milk) Kavady in fulfilment of vows and in celebration of His marriage. 

Thai Poosam is a Hindu festival celebrated mostly by the Tamil community on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai (Jan/Feb). Poosam refers to a star that is at its highest point during the festival. 

The festival commemorates both the birthday of Lord Muruga and the occasion when Parvati gave Muruga the Shakti Vel so He could vanquish the evil demon Surabadan. 

Thai Poosam Kavady falls on the full moon day in the Tamil month of Thai (January). Devotees pay homage to the Divine Lord Muruga and the ten-day festival starts with hoisting of His flag. 

Daily yegyams (hawan), abhishegams and singing devotional hymns are held in honour of Lord Muruga. The Abishekam is a holy purification bath and is done daily using various items such as Gingerly oil; Trivaipudi; Rice powder; Turmeric powder; Panchamritam – it consists of more than five ingredients namely, plantains, cane jaggery, sugar- candy, honey, ghee and raisins, dates, etc.); Tender coconut water or mango juice or any fruit juice according to the desire of devotee;  Milk and honey;  Rose water; Sandal wood paste; Ash (Vibhuti); Kungum (red Powder) and Sandhonom. 

Devotees prepare for the celebration by cleansing themselves through prayer and fasting. A flag is raised on the first day to mark the beginning of the 10 day fast. On the main day of the festival, devotees may shave their heads and undertake a pilgrimage along a set route while engaging in various acts of devotion, notably carrying various types of Kavadies (burdens).

A Kavady is a pole with loads on either ends, this symbolises the burdens one carries. At its simplest this may entail carrying a pot of milk (palkodums), but mortification of the flesh by piercing the skin, tongue or cheeks with Vel skewers is also common. The most spectacular practice is the Vel Kavady, a portable altar up to two meters tall, decorated with peacock feathers and attached to the devotee through 108 Vels pierced into the skin on the chest and back. 

Devotees carry the Kavady, palkodums (milk pot) and pull chariots from a distance away from the temple, and then back to the temple. After entering the temple grounds the devotees carry their Kavadies three times around the temple. When they are inside the temple, the milk are poured over the statue of Lord Muruga as part of the holy purification bath. The festival concludes with the de-hoisting of the flag. 

The most famous temple dedicated to Lord Muruga is Palani Malai in the District of Madurai in South India. The beautiful Baktu Caves in Malaysia is where Lord Muruga is deeply venerated and is held in great adoration.

THE ORIGINS OF THE KAVADY FESTIVAL

The story of Kavady began when a fight occured between Iduman a disciple of Agasthiyai and Lord Muruga­, Iduman was asked to carry two hills which symbolise Shiva and Shakti (two inherent forces in human beings), Iduman set down his burden and decided to take rest. 

At that time, Lord Muruga decided to sit on the mountain, and when Iduman attempted to lift it, he could not. Muruga did not want to get off and a fight broke out and Iduman was destroyed. He was then revived by Lord Muruga and pardoned. A change overcame Iduman and he became Lord Muruga’s greatest devotee, he carried the first Kavady in pure devotion of Lord Muruga. 

Lord Muruga symbolises wisdom and knowledge and is known as the God of war, He is the protector and problem solver in the lives of His devotees in this Kaliyuga age.

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