Significance of Masi Month:
Masi month (Feb- March) holds special significance for Tamil Hindus. It is regarded as a holy month associated with the worship of Lord Shiva and the Pitru devtas or ancestral deities. The festival of Masi Magam is held during this month. It occurs when the full moon coincides with Magham star, which is the star of royalty. Hindus believe that on this day, celestial beings and Pitrus descend to earth to bless people and wash away their karma.
Pitrus or departed ancestors, when pleased with us, bestow blessings, goes Hindu belief. It is for this reason that Hindus perform Tarpanam ritual for their ancestors every year. Failure to do so is believed to bring down their curses which manifests in the form of various afflictions in life. The tradition of honoring dead ancestors is not unique to Hinduism. Many cultures believe that ancestors have the power to help us from beyond the grave, which is why they set aside a particular day to remember and honor them.
Legend behind Masi Magham:
Once there lived a king called Vallala in Thiruvannamalai. He was a great Shiva devotee, but he had one great sorrow in life – he had no children. In Hindu culture, children are needed to perform one’s last rites after death. Moved by his plight, Lord Shiva appeared before him and promised to perform his last rites when he died. True to his word, when the king breathed his last, Shiva came down to earth and performed his last rites. He had also told the king that whoever took a holy dip in the sea on this day would become one with him and attain moksha. It is believed that even now, Shiva comes to earth every year to perform the king’s last rites.
On the day of Masi Magham, the idols of deities in various temples are taken in procession to the seashore or other water bodies. Poojas and other rituals are performed on the seashore, and the idols are immersed in the sea. Devotees who are assembled for the occasion, too, take a holy dip in the sea. Through this act, they believe that their karmic baggage will be symbolically washed away.
Karma plays an important role in our lives, says Hinduism. Bad karma causes many afflictions and problems which affect all aspects of life. This karmic baggage can be removed with the help of divine and ancestral blessings. This is the significance of Masi Magham.
Masi Magham in Pondicherry:
Masi Magham festival is celebrated with great fanfare in the coastal town of Pondicherry, a former French colony. On this holy day, the Pondicherry shoreline wears a festive look. It is a day when the gods and mortals pay a visit to the seashore. Hordes of devotees, overcome by religious fervor, accompany the colorful procession of idols from various temples in Pondicherry and nearby districts that wends its way to the seashore at Vaithikuppam, accompanied by music. It is here that the annual Theerthavari ceremony (bathing of the idols) takes place. The beach road overflows with people on this day. one can see several vendors at street corners hawking their colorful wares including balloons, clay pots, rubber toys, and piggy banks. One can even get a tattoo from local tattoo artists.
Masi Magham in Pondicherry is a truly enchanting spectacle that one should not miss. In fact, some people even compare it to the famous Kumbh Mela. With its beautiful beaches, charming ambience that evokes a laid-back era, and stately buildings that breathe history, it forms a perfect setting for the celestials and ancestors to touch down and bless mortals who seek relief from their karma.