The occasion of Arudra Darshan highlights Lord Shiva’s enormous capabilities and powers. Arudra Darshan is observed in the Tamil month of Margazhi (December-January) and falls on the full moon night of the month. This normally occurs when the Tiruvadirai (Arudra) star rules over the day, and it also coincides with the longest night of the year. The Arudra star represents the golden red flame, which symbolizes the cosmic dance of Lord Shiva as ‘Nataraj’; while the entire Universe is said to have originated from the sound of his ‘Damaru’ (small two-headed drum).
Significance of Arudra Darshan
All Shiva temples celebrate the occasion of Arudra Darshan on a grand scale, especially those, where the image of ‘Nataraj’ as the dancing Shiva is installed. The festival is a major occasion of celebration in the Shiva temple located in the city of Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu, where there is a shrine dedicated solely to Lord Nataraj. The festivities observed in the temple reach a fever pitch when the procession of Lord Nataraj is taken out, since it is considered highly auspicious and beneficial to catch a glimpse of the Lord on this day. The entire duration of the day is spent in Pujas and rituals conducted in the temple. Innumerable people also throng the temple for having a holy bath within the precincts of the temple. After completion of the Pujas, a special dish known as ’Kali’ is distributed as ‘Prasadam’ to the devotees.
Significance of the Nataraj Dance
Lord Nataraj represents the cosmic vision and highlights the significance of movement in the cosmos. It is only through movement that the Universe itself comes into existence. The oscillation of particles makes it possible for life to come into being and as long as there is some sort of activity occurring in the cosmos, life will continue to form and thrive. If the Universe comes to a standstill, life as we know it, will cease to exist. The cosmic dance of Lord Shiva symbolizes the continuous and never ending process of life and death. Every cell and atom of the Universe is throbbing with the life force which arises from the cosmic dance of Lord Shiva. The Nataraj form of the Lord represents perpetual motion and the importance of movement in the Universe.
Importance of Shiva's dance
According to Hindu beliefs, Lord Shiva is regarded as the creator, preserver and destroyer of the Universe. Shiva performs the cosmic dance in divine ecstasy to maintain the equilibrium of the Universe through the acts of creation, sustenance, destruction, embodiment and release. The ash smeared over his body signifies that everything in the perceptible Universe is bound by the laws of change, in an eternal cycle of birth and death with the passage of time. This sublime form of dance also serves to highlight the ephemeral nature of life and the importance of evolving from the transient to the eternal.
Depiction of Lord Nataraj
Lord Nataraj is depicted in the dancing posture with one leg lifted and the other placed on the demon that represents ignorance. This highlights the importance of conquering the ego and overcoming desires and evil. He represents all the five essential elements for the sustenance of life. These are symbolized by the Damaru (ether), flowing hair (air), flame in hand (fire), Ganges (water), and rested foot (earth). This awesome form of the Lord, captures the essence of the entire cosmos and he sets free these elements during creation; while also absorbing them all back during destruction.
Observing Arudra Darshan Puja Vidhi
As is the norm for all Hindu festivals, waking up early in the morning and having a bath is a must, especially in a water body. One must be thoroughly clean and purified before entering a Shiva temple to perform Abhishekam of the Lord. Visiting the Nataraj temple in Chidambaram is highly recommended to get a glimpse of the dancing Shiva in Nataraj form.
Arudra Darshan Fasting
Observing a ‘Vrat’ (fast) on auspicious days is a traditional Hindu custom observed during auspicious days. On the occasion of Arudra Darshan, those who observe this ritual don’t eat anything and sing the glories of the Lord during the course of the day. Devotees break their fast only on the following morning after having Darshan of Lord Shiva.
Arudra Darshan Benefits
Observing a fast on the occasion of Arudra Darshan is highly rewarding and brings immense benefits.The eminent sages Vyagrapada, Munichakkar and the serpant Karkotaka observed the fast and were honored by Lord Shiva.
Sage Vyagrapada was blessed with a child named ‘Upamanya’ after he observed the ritual.The Brahmin ‘Vipular’ also observed the ritual and had the good fortune of visiting mount Kailash. Those who observe the fast and ritual associated with Arudra Darshan are blessed by the Lord and rewarded for their efforts. Visiting Shiva temples on this day is also highly meritorious and partaking of the special ‘Prasad’ known as ‘Kali’ is said to remove all afflictions.