Here comes another full moon; the first full moon of the year 2017. The full moon of January is called the Full Wolf Moon, Hunger Moon or the Cold Moon… It is said that wolves howled out of hunger in the cold winter month and hence the name wolf moon. As usual I set out to the river side to get a glimpse of the year’s first full moon and had to wait for long as the sky was overcast…I couldn’t click the rising Moon in its splendour, yet captured her when she came out lifting the veil of thin dark clouds. A pale face and a paler smile. Under Emily’s spell and her poems I too started considering Moon as a woman these days!
The veil was lifted gently and the Moon showed her pale face and smiled
The first full moon of the year
In Hindu mythology, unlike the Greek and Roman mythologies, Moon is a male god. Among hundreds of our Hindu gods Moon is Chandra, born along with goddess Lakshmi when the Ocean of Milk was churned to get ‘Amrit’ ( the nectar of immortality). The crescent moon adorns the matted locks of Lord Siva
When we were children at the sight of the first crescent moon, after the dark phase we used to look up and recite,
Ksheera saagara sampanna/Lakshmi priya sahodara
Haram makuta vaasanam/Baalachandra namo namah:
[ Oh young lord Chandra, who was born of the Ocean of Milk (who spreads the milky moonlight), who is the brother of goddess Lakshmi, the one who adorns Lord Siva’s head, I bow to thee]
and offer a white thread to the baby moon, symbolic of white cloth to the new born lord and also to thank his benevolent presence. He is a pleasant god, pleasing, friendly, radiant and handsome; favourite god of moony eyed lovers and poets. He has that family-member-kind of an aura about him, and children of our generation have heard him being mentioned as Ambilimama or Chandamama (Uncle Moon).
He has many names Soma, Sasi, Shashank (as a hare is believed to sit on his lap-shasham= hare, ankam= lap), Thinkal… to name a few. Strangely some synonyms like Ambili and Indu were considered both male and female names. Those were common names and most of the households in my young days had one Sasi or Soman or Chandran to their credit. Learning synonyms was part of our Malayalam curriculum and while many of my friends hated this ordeal of learning the many synonyms of different words I was passionate about learning and memorising them.
Chandra is the god of vegetation and fertility, he rides an antelope. Monday is Moon’s day. Moon plays a major part in Indian traditions, festivals, astronomy and vedic astrology. It is believed that the movement of the sun, the moon and seven other planets across the lunar and solar houses plays an important role in the destiny of man.
Like other celestial bodies moon travels through the solar houses as well as the lunar houses. Moon’s orbital period is 27 days. In mythology Moon is married to 27 nakshatras, daughters of Daksha (the 27 lunar mansions). Rohini, ( the lunar house Taurus where he is exalted) is his favourite and he waxes as he gets closer to her and wanes as he goes away from her. On the 28th day when he is alone without the feminine presence, the sky is dark. I have talked about these Moon tales in an earlier blog too.
The festival Thiruvathira, a traditional festival of Kerala is celebrated on the asterism Thiruvathira; the 6th star of the 27 nakshatras, in the fifth month Dhanu (December-January) as per the Malayalam lunar calendar. There are many mythological stories about this auspicious day. Thiruvathira of Dhanu is said to be Lord Siva’s birthday, the day Siva and Parvati were married, also the day Ratidevi, wife of Kamadeva (the counterpart of Cupid) prayed and won her husband’s life after an angry Siva burnt Kama to ashes as he had disturbed Siva’s yogic meditation. Usually Thiruvathira falls on a full moon day but this year it was on the previous day of the full moon. Thiruvathira is exclusively a women’s festival. Women observe certain rituals for the well being of their spouse. Special prayers are offered to Siva-Parvati. Women and young girls observe a partial fasting and abstain from rice based dishes. Thiruvathira has its own special dishes; a dish made of tuber vegetables called puzhukku, a sweet dish made of arrow root powder, jaggery and clarified butter, broken wheat porridge are the main menu of the day. Tender coconut and bananas are an integral part of Thiruvathira.
I have my small share of memories when the ladies of the house strictly followed the traditional festival in all its glory. A fragment of the memories is of an early morning bath in the spacious pond in our ancestral home on one cold December morning. My grand mother and other women were singing and splashing the water with the fist in a rhythmic movement called ‘Thudi’. A sleepy five year old me sat on the steps to watch this ritual. After the bath they lit a bonfire and were talking about ‘pathirappoochoodal’ another ritual of adorning the hair with some flowers and herbs. My memory fades there.
Thiruvathirakkali a beautiful and graceful dance form is associated with the festival. Women clad in traditional Kerala attire circle round a brass lamp and dance in a sinuous rhythmic way swaying slowly to the music. Literally resembling ‘thiruvathira’ (a sacred big wave). I ventured this dance form much later in life with a group of friends in Cambodia and realised how much joy one can receive from being together, learning and dancing. Thanks to a dear dancer friend Vidya who patiently taught us this elegant dance form. I could share the stage with my daughter was another bonus point.
After a long time I throughly enjoyed a starlit night sky in January, the bright Venus outshining all the stars!
I couldn’t complete my post yesterday. Today is Friday the 13th and I learnt a fascinating new word. It is written that if you can pronounce the word properly, you’re cured of this phobia 🙂
PARASKAVEDEKATRIAPHOBIA- a terrible fear of Friday the 13th.
Paraskavedekatriaphobia is from the Greek paraskevi( Friday) and dekatrria (thirteen)
Here’s to an year of celestial marvels!