COMPILED by London Swaminathan 


Date: 8 April 2018


Time uploaded in London –  15-59 (British Summer Time)


Post No. 4895


Pictures shown here are taken from various sources such as Facebook friends, Books, Google and newspapers; thanks. Pictures may be subject to copyright laws.







Learned Tamil scholar V R Ramachandra Dikshitar compares the Doll festival in Andal’s Tiruppavai, Manikkavasakar’s Tiruvempavai, Sangam Tamil Verses Tai Neeratal (bathing in the month of Thai) and Ambavatal of Nallanthuvanar (in Sangam Literature work Paripaatal).


Tamil Mystic poetess Andal’s celebrated work ‘Tiruppavai’ refers to Paavai Nonbu. Young girls observe Pavai Nonbu for thirty days in the Tamil month of Markazi (corresponding to December and January). They follow strict rules and bathe in the morning and go to temple or banks of the river and make sand dolls of Goddess).

Andal Kolam

V R R Dikshitar says,


“The commentator of Tiruppavai Periyavaacaan Pillai speaks of this festival as ‘Sistaacaara’, and no ancient authority could be cited in tracing out its origin.


The same festival is also referred to in the Tiruvembaavai of Tiruvadavuuraar (Manikkavasakar). Whatever might be the origin of this festival, that it was celebrated by one and all of the unmarried girls is evident.

Story behind Pavai Festival

The story goes that once when Lord Vishnu was living in human form as Krishna, there were no rains. At that time the cowherd women began to pray to the Lord. One form of prayer was the celebration of Markazi (December-January) Nonbu by the unmarried girls. Early in the morning these girls went to the river Yamuna, took their bath, and prayed. They also wished to have Krishna Himself as their husband.

(My comments: That is the literal meaning. But the meaning behind the words is someone with the qualities of or virtues of the Lord. It is a festival for rains is evident in the lines of Andal “there will be three rains every month and plenty of paddy crops”)


Evidence in Bhagavata Purana- Katyaayani Vrata

A more or less similar version of the story is found in the Bhagavata Purana (Life History of Krishna). From this it would appear that this Nonbu (fating) went by the name Kaatyaayani Vrata for these girls said to worship the goddess Katyayani ( in the form of sand dolls) who would help them in securing Krshna as their husband (i.e.a man with divine virtues). The Puja asted for a month and on the last day, the Lord appeared befor them and after a rigid test agreed to fulfil their wishes (Dasama skanda ,Chapter 22). We know even today orthodox Brahmins performing Dhanurmasa Puja. They get up very early in the morning, bathe in the river and offer worship. Worship is also offered in all the temples before sunrise in the month.

(My comments:- Why did our forefathers chose a cold month for this fasting? People tend to sleep more, covering their head to foot with woollen shawl, and becoming lazier. So our forefathers found a way out by inventing or allocating this for the coldest month in the year. The second interesting point is to go in group to a river or tank or lake nearby for the bath. The communal spirit will keep them warm and they can make more fun which is evident in Tiruppavai lines—girls mocking or teasing other girls who are still in bed. The third point is scholalrly one:- Lord Krishna says that he is Month Markazi among the 12 months giving it foremost importance. The real meaning is that it was the beginning of the year several thousand years ago. i.e during the Rig Vedic days. B G Tilak and German scholar Herman Jacobi dated Rig Veda between 4000 BCE and 6000 BCE on the basis of astronomical remarks in the Vedic Hymns. Some scholars believe that Markazi (December / January was the beginning of the year; it is still followed in the Western world. January came from Lord Ganesh- Janus – a two faced God in Roman mythology; meaning is saying good bye to the year gone and welcoming the new year with another face. Ganesh= Janus )

In Tamil Sangam Literature

The religious observance is not unknown to the Sangam literature. It is known as Tai Niiraatal, literally bath in the month of Tai (Tamil month Tai corresponds to January-February).

The evidence is in the 2000 year old Sangam literature in the following books:

Paripaadal St.11.1.17

Kalittogai 59, 80

Aingurunuru 84

Narrinai 22

The festival was perhaps begun on the full moon day of Markazi and continued up to the full moon of Pushya. According to the calculation of the Puurnimanta system the month of Markazi after the fifteenth is considered as Tai.

(My comments: Andal’s very first verse mentioned the full moon day in Markazi; It is also interesting to see all the full moon days are celebrated as festival days according to Hindu calendar; in those days, we didn’t have bright electric lights; so people used all the natural light available on full moon days – 24 hour lighting from sun and moon)

Lalgudi Nataraja

New name in Sangam Literature- Ambaavaatal

Nallanthuvanar, the author of Paripaadal designates this festival as Ambaavaatal. According to this authority, the festival commenced with the Tiruvadirai  (Star- Arudra) day of the month of Markazi. In his days the Vedic Brahmins were engaged in Agnihotra rites when the girls after their bath in the River Vaiagi (Madurai is on the banks of Vaigai) also worshipped the fire god in order that seasonal rains might visit the land and they might secure good husbands.


It is believed that the present festivalof Arudra Darsanam or Tiru Adirai was celebrated in the month of Mrakazi in the Tamil and Malayalam districts is a relic of this ancient practice of Pavai Nonbu.


(My comments:- Tiruvadirai is celebrated on a grand scale in Kerala even today. Girls bathe, wear new clothes and flowers and dance in groups. Special dishes are made. In Tamil Nadu it is a big festival day in all the Siva temples. When the climatic conditions changed naturally two festivals merge together. We see such things in Easter and Christmas festivals in the Western world; pagan rites merge with Christian beliefs.)

Tiruvadirai dance in Kerala

Pavai Nonbu was a vow observed by un married girls. This practice of religious austerity was sacred to the goddess Katyayani. It was a belief then by the grace of Katyayani the young girls could get suitable husbands for themselves so that their lives could be peaceful and happy. What is remarkable is that it is being observed every year both by the followers of Vaishnava and Saiva cult.”


Page 301 and 302, Studies in Tamil Literature by V R R Dikshitar.


— Subham–


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