KAARTTHIHAI SOMA VAARAM
Soma vaaram is the term given to ‘Monday’ in Sanskrit; in Tamil it is called ‘thinggaL kizhamai’; when said together it will be pronounced as ‘thinggatkizhamai’. The moon is commonly called as ‘chandhiran’ or ‘nilaa’; it is also referred to as ‘madhi’ or ‘soma’ or ‘thinggaL’. It can be seen how all these three languages acknowledge the day as the day auspicious to moon, when English calls it Monday, Sanskrit refers to it as ‘soma vaar’ and Tamil calls it ‘thinggaL kizhamai’.
We are quite familiar that Kaartthihai is the eighth month in the Tamil calendar; it occurs during the period, mid-November to mid-December. Therefore, ‘Kaatthihai Soma vaaram’ means the Mondays which occur during the Tamil month of Kaartthihai. Mostly there will be four Kaartthihai Somavaarams; occasionally, there will be five.
Why Somavaaram or thinggaL kizhamai is considered significant?
The third chapter of ThiruviLaiyaadal PuraaNam is ‘Thirunaharam kaaN padalam’; ‘padalam’ means ‘a chapter or a section in an epic poem or other books’. This chapter narrates how the town in Tamil Nadu acquired its name, Madurai. There was a business man, Thananjayan living in Kadambavanam, the original name of the place where Madurai was built. Thananjayan was an ardent devotee of Lord Siva; he served the devotees of Lord Siva with the same devotion he had toward Lord Siva. Once, when he was returning to his residence after going out on a business trip, suddenly the sky became pitch dark. Thananjayan stood still, not knowing where to go. At that moment, he saw a flash of light appearing from a particular direction. He walked toward that direction and saw Lord Sokkanaadhar’s Shrine and prayed to Him. Thananjayan saw a pond with golden Lotus flowers. He wondered who built that shrine, and also thought that the golden flowers were the cause of the brilliant light.
Suddenly, he heard the sound of auspicious musical instruments; consequently he saw a group of people, wearing glittering silk clothes; their heads were adorned with crowns. They were carrying trays containing objects for prayers. Thananjayan realized that they were Devas, and was very pleased to have had an opportunity to see the celestials; moreover, he was going to see the celestials doing poojaa to Lord Siva. When some Devas got into the pond to pluck some lotus, Thananjayan too plucked some lotus and gave them, and received their blessings. Thananjayan happily witnessed the poojaa performed by the celestials to the Lord; but the next morning, all the Devas were not to be seen. Thananjayan told the king, Kulaseharan, about what he saw the previous night. The king was moved by Thananjayan’s information, and went to sleep. Lord Siva appeared as a Sitthar in the king’s dream and told him to go to Kadambavanam and build a town at that placae, keeping the temple at the centre. It was on Mondays that the Devas came to earth to pray to Lord Siva. Hence, Mondays are generally auspicious to have special prayers to Lord Siva.
What is the special significance of ‘Kaartthihai Somavaaram’?
We are aware that ‘Sivaraatthiri’ which is celebrated in the Tamil month of Maasi (mid-February to mid-March), is the day when Lord Siva appeared as ‘a Cosmic Flame’ to solve the unduly prolonged tussle between Brahma and Vishnu, as to who was superior between the two. When both of them pleaded the Lord appearing as a Cosmic Flame, to show His divine form to them, Lord Siva cooled down as Sivalingam. When Brahma and Vishnu requested Lord Siva that He should appear to them as the divine Cosmic Flame always, the Lord answered that He will appear as the Cosmic Flame again in the asterism of Kaartthihai which falls in the month of Kaartthihai; hence the auspiciousness of the Tamil month, Kaartthihai, and the asterism, Kaartthihai.
The Tamil months are generally named after the asterism which co-occurs with the full moon, during a particular month. When a particular constellation co-occurs with the full moon, it is said to be in its ascendant. As Lord Siva chose to appear as a Cosmic Flame in the month of Kaartthihai, when the asterism, Kaartthihai, is prevalent, it is clear that this month is very auspicious to Lord Siva. The day of full moon is auspicious for Devi. The day, when the full moon which is auspicious to Devi, occurs along with the asterism, Kaartthihai, which is auspicious to Lord Siva, is auspicious for praying to Lord Siva as ‘Ammaiyappar’ or ‘Uma Maheasvarar’. Incidentally, Uma Mahesvara Viratham is observed on the full moon day in the month of Kaartthihai. We are also fully aware that Kaartthihai is also auspicious to Lord Muruhan. Thirumuruha Kirubaanandha Vaariyaar says that among Lord Muruhan’s six faces, one represents Devi Paarvadhi’s face, while the other five are Lord Siva’s. Vaariyaar Swami’s words indicate that Lord Muruhan Himself is an aspect of Siva-Sakthi. As Lord Muruhan appeared from flames, Kaarththihai which has Agni as its presiding deity, is naturally auspicious to Him; this is enhanced by the fact that Lord Muruhan was looked after by the six Kaartthihai maidens when He was in His infant stage. As the six maidens looked after Him with love and care, Lord Muruhan had blessed them, that the star, Kaartthihai, will be auspicious to Him.
Another important point to note is that, the presiding deity for the asterism, Kaartthihai, is Agni, and the ruling planet, especially for the first quarter of the asterism, is the Sun. The Agni and Sun are very much akin to Lord Siva. As we saw above, ‘Soma’ or ‘ThinggaL’ denote the moon; Lord Siva is also known as ‘Soman’, for two reasons; one is that He wears ‘Soman’ (the moon) on His head; ‘Soman’ also means ‘saha Uma’ (with Uma), i.e. ‘Soman’ means ‘Siva with Uma’. At this point too, it is of interest to note that Lord Muruhan has a name ‘Somaaskandhan’; it means ‘Lord Skandhan with Lord Siva anad Devi Uma’. Therefore, to observe Kaartthihai Somavaaram for Lord Siva, in His Siva-Sakthi aspect will be very fruitful for a long happy married life.
The Sun rules our intelligence and the moon our mind. Therefore, observing fast on a Monday in the month of Kaartthihai helps us in bringing our intelligence and mind focused together toward God and also in meditation. In short, Kaartthihai Soma Vaaram fast helps us to gain our spiritual aspirations, besides bestowing on us a long, happy married life on earth.
How to observe the fast?
When we wake up in the morning, we take our bath and do our prayers, having a special prayer to Lord Siva; consequently we worship a couple, who are devotees of the Lord, chaste, loving and caring; we consider them as the divine couple Paarvadhi-Paramesavarar, as we offer our prayers to them. This is kown as ‘Thambadhi poojaa’; ‘thambadhi’ means ‘couple’. When we do ‘thambadhi poojaa’, we pray to the couple and offer them ‘vaetti, salvia, saree, manjaL, kunggumam, money and thaamboolam’; ‘thaamboolam’ is betel leaf with arecanut and lime (chunnaambu). Having paid our salutations and prayers to this divine couple, we offer food for them. If we are not able to invite a couple to our homes, we can go to a couple, offer auspicious things as said earlier, and get their blessings.
If we are unable to do such worship at home, we can go to the temple and pray to Lord Uma-Mahesvarar. We can do a special poojaa; we can offer Vilvam leaves to be offered to the Lord during Poojaa; an abishegam can be performed, if possible; more importantly, we feed devotees and the needy, after the poojaa.
As for the fast, it is ideal to do away with food for the whole day or have a light meal after sunset, and only sleep at night. If we find that we cannot sustain ourselves without food until sunset, we shall eat one meal in the afternoon. The general rule for all fasts is that we are supposed to have one meal in the afternoon of the eve of the fast, and we break our fast before 8.30 or 9.00 a.m., the following morning.
Benefits of the Fast
From the facts we have seen above, it is clear that those who observe it, will be blessed with a long, happy married life. Once there was a woman with the name, Seemandhini; she was of royal descent. She observed this fast for a long time. One king, wanting to test the sincerity of her fast, sent two unmarried youths, disguised as a couple, to her. Seemandhini prayed to them as Siva-Paarvadhi; the youth who disguised as a woman truly became a woman after being worshipped by Seemandhini.
It is said that the moon observed this fast and got his “moonness”. According to http://mailerindia.com/hindu/veda/index.php?vratas, the moon “saluted the Lord gauri- shankara and requested that this vratam be called soma vAra vratam (One of the names of the moon is soma. One of the name of Lord shiva with goddess umA is also soma) and whoever follows this vratam should get their wishes materialised by the grace of the Lord and finally should get the liberation. God granted the boon”.
The Monday fast has a specific feature of praying to Lord Siva in the Siva-Sakthi aspect. In temples, where prayers are performed for the welfare of humanity, Lord Siva is usually worshipped in any one of the Siva-Sakthi aspects. The Lord is in the Siva-Sakthi state is one, where He has brought out His graceful power to continue performing His five-fold functions for the benefit of souls. Hence, this fast bestows on those who observe it, with a happy, healthy, prosperous and successful life on earth.
As the month, Kaartthihai, is closely related to fire and light, Kaartthihai Soma vaaram Fast will also bestow spiritual enlightenment to those who aspire to know the TRUTH.
The exact process of the fast may seem a bit challenging in this fast moving world; but we can fast with a disciplined intake of the food, and go to temple, preferably a Sivan temple or Muruhan temple, and pray to God with sincere devotion; if possible get blessings from a suitable couple. The most important thing is, keep continuously thinking of God and His Grace during the entire period of the fast, hoping that this will become a natural tendency of our minds thereafter.