The Hindu festival called 'Tai Pusam,' is observed on the day over which the asterism Pushya (cancri) presides, in the Tamil month of Tai which corresponds to the English months January-February. The day generally Palls on the full moon day of the month. The planet Brihaspati or Guru (Jupiter) is said to be the presiding deity of the asterism Pushya and consequently worship offered to the asterism Pushya is considered to have special merit, since Brihaspati symbolises wisdom and the Hindus consider him to be the preceptor of the gods and one of the most important of the nine planets. A bath in a secred river on this day is considered to be very meritorious and people, both men and women, young and old, flock to the nearest one for the purpose.
The place called Tinuvidaimarudur in the Tanjore district is one of those important places where this festival is celebrated. There is also a myth regarding the way in which of this festival originated there, and it is as follows:
It is said that before the commencement of the present iron age of Kaliyuga, and at the close of the silver one of Dvapara, there lived a king in the Chola kingdom by name Hamsa Dvajan (the king with the flag having a swan embroidered on it).
Blessed with a religious bent of mind, he thought of going on a pilgrimage to different sacred places such as Benares, Gaya and so forth, but his onerous duties as a king prevented him from undertaking the journey.
Learning from the Hindu Sastras, expounded by wise sages, that if he deputed a pious Brahmin to make the tour in his place it would win for him the same merit which he could earn if he went on pilgrimage himself. Therefore, he secured the services of a Brahmin, promising him a handsome reward in return. He further promised that he would take care of the Brahmin's family during his absence.
The Brahmin set out on an auspicious hour with good wishes from one and all, and the king, true to his promise, took care of Brahmin's family.
Time passed on and nothing noteworthy happened, till at last one night, the king, while on a nightly peregrination to glean information about his administration, came close to the Brahmin's house. Wishing to know what was happening inside, he peeped through the window. To his susprise and anger, he saw the Brahmin's wife in the amorous embraces of someone. He thought this man to be her lover, not realising that it might be her husband who had returned.
As a representative of the Brahmin, the king had to do what the Brahmin would have done under the similar circumstances. In a fit of jealousy, the Brahmin would have killed the Brahmani and her lover. As the lady in question was left in the king's charge during the Brahmin's absence, he must deliver her safe and sound to her husband, leaving the question of punishment to the husband himself. But the lover should not escape the punishment. Thus argued the king to himself, and rushing inside the house with his drawn sword he stabbed the poor Brahmin who fell down without a groan and expired.
Discovering but too late the mistake committed by him in hot haste, the king shed copious tears of repentance and tried to console the widow. Do what he would, the sin of having caused the death of a Brahmin who had gone on a pilgrimage for him, would not leave the king. The spirit of the deceased Brahmin haunted him constantly. He wandered hither and thither, unable to shake himself free from the incessantly haunting spirit, and at last met a sage named Bhargava and sought his advice. Advised by him to visit various sacred places, he went on a pilgrimage and came at last to Tiruvidaimarudur Having bathed in the sacred water of the well called Sidha-Tirtha inside the temple, he began to enter the temple itself. When he crossed the second entrance of the temple, he found that he was free from the spirit that was haunting him till then! The king was much pleased with the result. As he was freed from the haunting spirit on the Tai Pusam day, the king made large gifts to the temple for the annual celebration of this festival.
There is yet another myth to emphasise the importance of Tiruvidaimarudur as a sacred place for the observance of the Tai Pusam festival and it is as follows:
Once upon a time, there ruled in Madurai a king named Varaguna Pandyan. While riding one day, he caused the death of an aged Brahmin unwittingly, riding over him and trampling him under his horse's feet. He became the murderer of a Brahmin and a great sinner in consequence. He was further possessed by the spirit of the deceased. He wanted not only to be freed from the sin but also to be rid of the ever bothering spirit of the Brahmin whom he had unwittingly killed. Even the sacred place Madurai could not effect this. He tried many other sacred places also, but his efforts did not bear fruit.
One night he had a dream in which Sri Sundaresa, the presiding deity of the Madurai temple, appeared before him and wanted him to visit the temple at Tiruvidaimarudur to be freed from his troubles. But that place was in the Chola kingdom, and the king Pandyan did not like the idea of entering the territory of another king soliciting his favour. While he was al a loss to know what to do, god Sundaresa, the patron of the Pandyan line of kings, came to his rescue. He told him that the king of the Chola country would invade his territory, but would only meet with defeat at his hands, and flee back to his country being hotly pursued by him, and then that occasion would give him an opportunity to enter the temple at Tiruvidaimarudur.
Everything transpired as Sri Sundaresa had foretold in the dream. The Pandyan king did enter the temple at Tiruvidaimarudur. When he passed through the second entrance of the temple, the spirit of the Brahmin possessing him did not dare to follow him and consequently was left behind.
Finding immense relief, and fearing that the spirit left behind might take hold of him again if he returned by the way he went in, the king made his exit through a back entrance to the west of the temple, and reached a place called Tribhuvanam that was close by. From that place he made arrangements for the annual celebration of the Tai Pusam festival at Tiruvidaimarudur endowing the temple with gifts, since his liberation from the haunting spirit was also effected on the Tai Pusam day.
From the above narratives it will be seen that the temple at Tiruvidairnarudur is considered highly sacred by the Hindus. There is a bael tree in the temple and people circumambulate it to obtain success in their undertakings. One Vasuman, a king of the Vidhehas (Behar), is said to have regained the kingdom he had lost, by circumambulating this particular tree.
A bath in the river Tamparapami at Tinnevelly on the Tai Pusam day is considered highly meritorious for the reason that Iswara had blessed Iswari who was doing penance there on its banks, on the Tai Pusam day.
It is also laid down that Indra, the king of the celestial regions, got rid of his sin on the Tai Pusam day at Tiruppudaimarthur in the Ambasamudram taluk of the Tinnevelly district and consequently, the observance of Tai Pusam festival there is highly meritorious.
Lord Subrahmanya, the second son of Iswara, is worshipped at Vaithiswarankoil as Mutthukumara, on account of his lovely form as a fine youth. His weapon is a lance called velayutham and it is said to be an invincible one bestowed on him by Parvati on the Tai Pusam day. Hence people observe this festival at Vaithiswarankoil also, considering the place specially auspicious for the purpose.
The next place where this festival of Tai Pusam is observed is Palni, the famous centre of pilgrimage in southern India. It is dedicated to Subrahmanya, the second son of Siva and Parvati and is visited every year by thousands of pilgrims of all castes and shades of religious opinion.
There is an inscription" on the southern wall of the central shrine in the Mahalingaswami temple at Tiruvidaimarudur, Tanjore district, which refers to a gift of land on this festival day.
There is a record on the base of the western wall of'the Vedapurisvara temple at Tiruvedikudi, Tanjore district, which relates to a grant of 13 velis of land for this Pushya festival.
There is an inscription on the eastern wall of the second prakara in the Panchanadesvara temple at Tiruvadi, Tanjore district, which relates to the time of king Bukka II, Saka 1303, Durmati, making a gift of 19 velis of land for this festival.