Margazhi-Paavai Nombu

Does the loud Goshti Gana  or drum beating at 4.00 AM disturb you? Do you see huge Kolams at the threshold of most houses? Are you wondering if this event goes on for days? Then you are in Tamil Nadu during the month of  “MARGAZHI” . This tamil month falls between mid December and mid January.  Despite being the coldest month of the year, the ritual of Paavai Nombu is observed by most of the Tamil people especially in the rural areas. However, the urban dwellers find themselves with lots to do as well during this month. This is the month when most of the Classic Music concerts take place all over Tamil Nadu at venues like Music Academies, Gana Sabhas and in almost all the major temples dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu.

The tradition of the original Paavai Nombu dates back to 160 BC, around 2000 years ago. The aim of this Nombu was originally to create a natural environment which would determine the amount of rainfall in the forthcoming season. Yes, technically it was believed that the more “keech keech” one heard at the banks of the river, the more plentiful woul be the rainfall. Such sounds were created by young ummarried girls while playing with sand and water known as “Pani neeraadal” along with the sounds of other living things around the river beds. In addtition to this, it was believed that the river bed would get warmed-up by their movements. In the past, all of the above were believed to be very important for the coming of rainfall in the next season.

With the rise of Vaishnavism and Shaivism in the early 7th century, the Paavai Nombu was observed by singing the songs of Thirupaavai and Thirvempavai dedicated to each sect respecitively. The Thirupaavai was written by Andal at Srivilliputhur in praise of Lord Vishnu, while the Thriruvempavai was written by Manikavasagar at Tiruvannamalai in praise of Lord Shiva. The poems or Pasasurams in Thirupaavai aim at getting the blessing of the Lord in the form of a good husband like Lord Krishna, while the Thiruvempavai  culminates with the experience of Shiva in oneself.

The aim of the Nombu may vary, but the month of Margazhi is ultimately dedicated to spiritual awakening and the abstenance of earthly enjoyment. The focus is given to the performing arts, particularly music  which helps people stay focused on their spiritual journey.