Margazhi is a month that reminds you most about wearing silk sarees, classical concerts, singing thiruppavai, bhajans, and the larger than life Kolams. However, there is more to this month than what it seems. Margazhi occurs during the winter season, when the earth is closest to the sun. The ozone layer attains peak “thickness” and releases the most amount of oxygen during this time.

There are always scientific reasons behind every tradition. Let us try to understand this a bit more. Margazhi begins on 17th December and ends on the 14th of January. Applying Kolam has a lot of sentiments attached to it in South India, especially Tamil Nadu. Getting up early in the morning and putting up these large-sized Kolams had a logic too, which was, breathing fresh air, and a way to get some exercise without actually knowing it! It is also believed that this stretching helps pregnant women to have comfortable deliveries.

Source: Wikipedia

Cow dung is spread on the ground before applying Kolam since it is antiseptic and repels poisonous insects, so it protects the home. In some places, cow dung is placed in the middle of the Kolam in a cone shape, as a symbol of spirituality. It represents Lord Ganesha, also known as Shana Pullayar, and believed that it would help break any obstacles that come in the way. Placing the Shana Pullayar is also an indication in some places to show that there is an eligible girl for marriage! In South India, the red and yellow colors are the most auspicious. In Kolams, red is present in the form of gravel or semmannu, and yellow in the form of a pumpkin flower.

Source: kaveripak.com

The importance of Margazhi is discussed both in Thiruppavai and Bhagavad Gita. Thiruppavai by Shri Andal are 30 verses for 30 days of the month and sung even today. Shri Andal was found as a baby by her foster father abandoned in his garden. She grew up with immense devotion to Lord Krishna and imagined herself to be one of the Gopikas to wed the Lord. Shri Andal took a garland every day to the temple to adorn the deity and dreamt that she was marrying the Lord by doing so. On one occasion, she wore the garland before adorning it and the priest notices a strand of hair on the garland and refuses to accept it saying it wasn’t pure and was used. Her father gets upset and scolds the child immensely, but that night the Lord appears in the priests’ dream and tells him that the garland should be bought back because that is the one he likes. The priest and the father understand the true devotion of the child to the Lord. Shri Andal grows up to be a poet who writes many verses in praises of the Lord. The story says that eventually the Lord marries her and takes her away to his fold. She is depicted in drawings as a woman with a huge garland and a parrot on her shoulder, the parrot here is a symbol of love, and is believed that she used to send messages to the Lord using her parrot.

Source: religionworld.in

The star of Lord Krishna as we all know is Rohini, but he has another star too, which is the Abhijeet Nakshatra or scientifically known as Star Vega. This star is the brightest star that appears in the Northern constellation of Lyra which appears only at this time of the year. This star in Indian spirituality is thought to be a symbolism of extreme good or extremely bad consequences and hence is utilized to be put to best use. While Abhijeeta Muhurtham is different from the nakshatra, it is believed to be a very auspicious time, with a duration of 28 minutes after and before 12 AM and 12 PM every day.

Source:thoughtco.com

There are 3 types of Kolams traditionally followed, two of whose designs revolve around dots and one which is based on lines. The two dotted type Kolams are either connecting the dots referred to as Pulli Kolam or designing around the dots known as Sikku Kolam. The line Kolam is known as the Padi Kolam where the rule is that the lines have to be even in number, but can also be a free form style. Kolams are drawn with Rice flour, the reason behind it was that it was initially a necessity that turned into an act of kindness to feed birds and insects and then eventually turned out as a ritual.

Connecting Dots Working around Dots Line Kolam

The North to South movement of the Sun divides the year into two in the Hindu System, with a period of 6 months each, the Uttarayanam and Dakshinayanam, where the sun moves from South-North and the North-South directions, respectively. It follows the concept of ‘Reap what you Sow’ wherein, ‘Reap’ is during Uttarayanam, and ‘Sow’ is during Dakshinayanam. Margazhi is the final month of Dakshinayanam when the Sun will start to move towards the North. It is a belief that if one dies during the period of Uttarayanam they will attain Samadhi in Heaven. In other words, it is a time when you reap all the benefits of efforts taken, which is why Pongal is celebrated at this time. Another belief prevalent is that Lord Vishnu sleeps in Dakshinayanam and wakes up in Uttarayanam which is why the worshiping hours of Margazhi are as early as it is.

From the point of mental health Uttarayanam is considered as Sattva in spirituality, and the time when the Sun is at its strongest. In the period of Dakshinayanam, the moon is said to be at its strongest phase. Depression is somewhere connected here and hence in Uttarayanam people are advised to sit in well-lit places, to be exposed to sunlight more, and perform poojas at this time to bring about positive energy. Whereas in Dakshinayanam the Moon is the strongest and hence humans are expected to have more energy and are advised to keep more fasts during this time. The interesting point to note here is the period of calculation of Uttarayanam and Dakshinayanam differs in the North and South part of India.

Source: nagalandpost.com

According to the Ritu Charya, the year is divided into 6 seasons/ Ritus, which is a combination of 2 months each:

Shishira, dewy season: mid-January- mid-March

Vasantha, spring season: mid-March- mid-May

Greeshma, summer season: mid-May- mid-July

These 3 months come under Uttarayana, also known as the debilitating phase.

Varsha, rainy season: mid-July- mid-September.

Sharath, autumn season: mid-September- mid-November

Hemanth, winter season: mid-November- mid-January

These 3 months come under the Dakshinayanam, as known as the strengthening phase.

Hence, in the transition period between Hemanth and Shishira when Margazhi comes people are their highest strength.

In Pondicherry, we have the Kolam competition held every year in the month of Margazhi

Margazhi covers topics on Ayurveda and various other rituals that help understand why each belief has come into being which needs to be completely understood to respect these traditions.