Thiruvathirai is a festival celebrated on the full moon night of Margazhi during December-January in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Observed for over 1500 years, the festival is dedicated to Lord Shiva. In Kerala, it is believed to be the day Parvathi met and united with Shiva after her long penance. Devotees perform the Thiruvathira Kali dance enacting the story of Shiva and Parvathi.
In Tamil Nadu, Shiva temples perform Abhishekam for the deity. Celebrations are held with chariot processions for Thillai Nataraja, the dancing avatar of Shiva in Chidambaram.
Legend has it that a woodcutter named Chendanaar lived in a village near Chidambaram. A staunch devotee of Lord Shiva, every day he would eat only after offering food to a Shiva devotee. One day in the month of Margazhi, heavy rains prevented him from going to work.
With no money to buy grocery, he prepared ‘Kali’, with Ragi and minimal ingredients available at home. He waited in vain to offer the food to a Shiva devotee. Seeing nobody in sight, he was upset. Moved by his devotion, Lord Shiva himself appeared in the guise of a devotee and asked him for food. Chendanaar also packed some extra Kali for his ‘guest’ for his way back. That night, Shiva had appeared in the king’s dream and revealed his visit to eat Kali.
The next day, the priests found the inner sanctum in the Chidambaram Temple strewn with morsels of the Kali. Hearing the news, the king rushed to the temple to meet Chendanaar and was humbled by his pure-hearted devotion.
Every year, devotees prepare Kali and a special Thalagam using seven-vegetables on this occasion. Kali is prepared using rice, jaggery, moong dal, coconut and ghee. Thalagam is prepared with seven vegetables selected from pumpkin, ash gourd, broad beans, sweet potato, potato, brinjal, colocasia, plantain.
Click here for the video recipe of Thiruvathirai Kali and Thalagam on the occasion.