Even though Lord Shiva has manifested in various forms, Nataraja, the cosmic dancer form of Shiva, has a unique place in the Indic tradition. This form is quite popular in South India, particularly in Tamil Nadu. The cosmic dance of Shiva as Nataraja is called Arudra Darshan. 

Arudra Darshan or Arudra Darisanam is observed in Margazhi month (December – January). Arudra Darshan or Arudra Darisanam 2021 date falls on Monday, December 20. In 2021, it is even more auspicious as it is on Monday, a day that is dedicated to Shiva. Arudra Darshan is a Shaivite festival that celebrates the cosmic dance of Shiva in his Nataraja form. Arudhra denotes a golden-red flame, and Shiva performs the dance taking the form of this red-flamed light.

What is Arudra?

Arudra is the name of a Nakshatra or star. There are 27 stars in the Hindu calendar. The festival of Arudra Darshan is held on the day when the full moon coincides with the Arudra Star in Margazhi month. 

Significance of Arudra Darisanam

Supposedly, Nataraja, the dancing form of Shiva, was born on the day of Arudra Nakshatra. Hence, sighting the Arudra star is called Arudra Darshanam. For some, Arudra Darshan is like Mahashivaratri. Margazhi month is the twilight time for the Gods when they rest and rejuvenate themselves.

The Dance of Nataraja

Nataraja’s dance represents the movement in all particles. This movement is responsible for the existence of the universe as it is the source of all energy.  Nataraja’s dance represents the five key elements of “ Creation, Protection, Destruction, Release and Embodiment”.

Nataraja’s other name is Sabesan, the Lord who dances on the dais. He stands with his left leg lifted, and under his right foot is the demon of ego. His right-hand shows Abhaya Hasta (the hand of protection) to his devotees. 

Supposedly, Shiva’s power is very close to the people of Earth on Arudra Darshan day. For this reason, devotees visit Nataraja temples on Arudra Darshan day. The night on which Arudra Nakshatra is seen is the longest night in the entire year. Arudra Darshan day is a very significant day for Sadhaks as it can bestow enlightenment.

Story of Arudra Darshan

Once Lord Vishnu was sleeping on his serpent, Adi Shesha, in his abode, Vaikuntam. Suddenly, he felt that the weight of Lord Vishnu had increased and felt uncomfortable. After Vishnu woke up, he asked him why his weight had increased. Vishnu replied that it was because he had been thinking of the Cosmic dance of Lord Shiva as Nataraja.

Adi Shesha felt curious and wanted to see the dance. He expressed his wish to Vishnu and asked him to suggest a way to realize his wish. So Vishnu advised him to go to Chidambaram and undertake penance.

Accordingly, Adi Shesha reached Chidamabaram and began to perform penance to please Lord Shiva. At the same time, there was a sage called Vyagrapada who was also performing penance to gain Shiva’s blessings. He, too, wanted to see Shiva’s cosmic dance. He was gifted with tiger feet ( ‘Vyagra’ means ‘tiger’, ‘pada’ means ‘feet’) so that he would not be stung by honey bees when he gathered flowers for the worship of Shiva.

Pleased by the penance of both Adi Shesha and Vyagrapada, Shiva appeared before them and told them to ask for a boon. Both of them told Shiva that they wanted to see him perform the cosmic dance.

Lord Shiva readily agreed and performed the dance at Chidambaram. Supposedly, he appeared to the two on Thiruvaadhirai day and performed the cosmic dance. This day came to be celebrated as Arudra Darshan or Arudra Darisanam by Shiva devotees. 

Benefits of Arudra Darshan

Fasting on Arudra Darshan is very auspicious. Sage Vyagrapada, Munichakkar, and the serpent Karkotaka watched this vrat and were fortunate to see Shiva’s dance.

After observing the vrat, Vyagrapada was blessed with a child called Upamanyu. A brahmin called Vipular was able to visit Kailash due to this vrat. Devotees can get many blessings by worshipping Shiva on this day. They should visit Shiva temples and seek the blessings of Nataraja. This can help them to overcome all difficulties in their lives.

Rituals of Arudra Darshan

Devotees wake up early in the morning and take a head bath. They perform Pooja and visit Shiva temples. A lamp is lighted using ghee, and a vrat or fast is observed on this day. Food is consumed only on the next day after Brahmins have been fed. At temples, a special Abishekam is done to Nataraja and his consort, Sivakama Sundari. This is followed by a special Archana. A fire ritual is also performed in the temples.

Temples that celebrate Arudra Darshan

Most Shiva temples celebrate Arudra Darshan. The most famous of these is the Nataraja temple in Chidambaram. It marks the conclusion of Margazhi Brahmotsavam. Chidambaram is one of the five places that represent the five elements or Pancha Maha Bhootams ( Fire, Air, Water, Land, and Sky). Chidambaram represents the sky.

It is also celebrated at the Tiruvalankadu Temple, Nellaiappar temple, Kutralanathar temple, Tiruvarur Temple, Kapaleeswarar Temple, and in several other Shiva temples across the globe.

Arudra Darshan Prasad and Recipes

A sweet called Kali is offered as prasad on the day of Arudra Darshanam. People also make a dish called Kootu on this day.