Masi Magam comes in the Tamil month of Masi (February - March),which is a very auspiceous day.It is a very important day and Tamilians around the world celebrate this festival.Magam,is one among the twenty seven stars (Nakshatras) in the Hindu astrological system called constellation.It is one of the most favorable times for spiritual purification.
This day is one of the most powerful Full Moons of the full year,sonce the moon aligns with Magha which is the birth Star of the Kings and Ancestors. This coincidence only occurs only once a year and signifies the descent of heavenly beings to the earth plane.The divine beings appear in the astral form to purify their own karma as well as the karma of the human race.
Masi Magam combines the benefits of abundance and prosperity associated with the Full Moon and the majestic quality of the Magha star,offering an unique opportunity to gain power and energy.Masi Magam is the most appropriate time to destroy our ego and surrender ourselves at the feet of the divine.
The main feature of the festival is the ritual bath given to the deities in the waters of 'Theerthavari' or Bay of Bengal.Early in the morning, a big colorful procession of devotees with the deities is organised from the temple to the sea shore,with the accompaniment of the auspicious Nadhaswaram,a non-brass acoustic South Indian instrumentTemple idols, especially those of Lord Shiva, Shakti, and Lord Vishnu, are given a ceremonial bath in the waters of Theerthavari.
As per the traditional ritual,the temple Idols are given bath in the sea, pond or lake.Idols of gods and goddess those are worshipped in the Temples are carried in a big procession to sea shores, rivers or ponds. Poojas and rituals are held here and thousands of people participate in this auspicious event.In some temples Gaja-pooja(elephant worship) and Ahwa pooja(horse) is also performed to bring riches and happiness for the devotees.
Thousands of devotees attent this holy ritualistic procession.The devotees also take bath in the sea with the belief that the holy waters washes away all the sins.The festival of Masi Magam gives very colorful and divine look to the view at the sea shore.
It is strongly believed that those taking bath in the seas or rivers or ponds on the Masi Magam day attain Moksha.The reason for observing Masi Magam varies from region to region and sometimes even from temple to temple.There are numerous myths related to Masi Magham and each temple may use a different myth.Once in twelve years, Masi Magam attains special significance and then it is known as Maha Maham.
The day is of great significance in Pondicherry, Kumbakonam, Srirangam and in numerous other shrines associated with Lord Vishnu, Shiva and Shakti in South India and in the other parts of the world having Tamil speaking people.
Once in twelve years the Masi Magam attains even more significance and then Maha Maham is held. Apart from the full moon, during the Maha Maham there is the movement of Jupiter into Leo (singha rasi.) Maha Maham is of great importance at the Adi Kumbeswaran temple in Kumbakonam.There is sacred teerth (tank) here which is called Maha Maham.
As per the Legend, King Vallala of Tiruvannamalai,was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva.Once Lord Shiva appeared as a child before him.The king had no child and Lord Shiva promised to perform his last rituals.The king died on a Masi Magam day and as per the promise, Lord Shiva performed his last rites.
Lord Shiva further blessed the king by saying that whoever takes a bath in the sea during Masi Magam will get "Moksha." It is believed that every year the Lord Shiva visits the sea to perform the last rites of the king Vallala.
In ancient times, there was a group of saints who were arrogant of their power and began to ignore the Gods because as they gained surplus knowledge and their egos grew very large.The saints were over confident that they can guide human beings and no longer needed the blessings of the Gods.
The angry Lord Shiva wanted to teach a lesson to the saints and took the form of a haggard beggar.The saints did not recognize his disguise and assumed that he was some devil who had arrived to kill human beings.
The saints started to misuse their power and mantras and attacked Shiva with various forms of deadly animals,culminating in the form of a mad elephant.As the elephant took a stance to attack Lord Shiva,he immediately disappeared from there.
On seeing this Parvati was tensed up and she was worried that the entire world will come to an end with the disappearance of Lord Shiva.The elephant, however, was no match for Shiva.Shiva killed the elephant and emerged by wearing the elephant's skin as the garment. This is known as"Gaja Samhara".Soon the saints came to know their mistake and apologised Lord Shiva to forgive them.