Approximately, the days between December 15 to January 15 is called the month of Marghazi in Tamil. The Sanskrit name is Dhanur Masa. It has a special significance in my tradition.
We believe that during this month, the Devas, who reside in another world descend to our world (“Loka”) and roam during early dawn. It is considered auspicious to celebrate their arrival everyday by performing special Puja (‘arAdhanam”) at that time.
In Tamil culture, we revere and celebrate Andal. She composed a master piece called Tirupavai. It has 30 stanzas (“pasurams”) and is recited in full during the Puja. Tirupavai is a celebration of Lord Krishna and is a beautiful imagination of Andal and her friends waking up Lord Krishna from his sleep and singing his praises.
So, off we wake up at around 4:30 AM, get ready and do the arAdhanam. We offer a mixture of cooked rice and moong dal with a robust dollop of ghee and a sprinkling of pepper and cumin and salt as the food to the Lord and the assembled devas. It’s easy and quick to make at that early hour. People also gather in temples at that early hour, if they are unable to do arAdhanam in their own home.
On the 28th day, we make a sweet rice dish (“Sakkara Pongal”). Again, robust amount of ghee is added and Andal asks us to imagine ghee floating down our hands as we consume the Pongal. Sweet indeed! She also remarks that getting together to enjoy such occasions is the best thing to do.
So, if you come across some bleary eyed South Indians in the month of December, cut them some slack as they may have woken up earlier than usual.