Fast of the maiden
“Thiruvempaavai” is a fast mostly observed by unmarried women to be blessed with good husbands, and to have a blissful married life. The fast is popularly known as the “fast of the maiden”. Women wake up before the crack of dawn, go from house to house and wake up their friends, take a shower while singing religious hymns, and go to the temple at dawn.
““Thiruvempaavai” is observed during the Tamil month of “Maargazhi” for ten days, and the tenth day is popularly known as “Maargazhi Thiruvaathirai”, on which day Lord Siva performed cosmic dance (known as “Aanantha Thaandavam” in Tamil) in Chithamparam. Women sing “Thiruvempaavai” (twenty hymns) which was composed by a sage Maanikkavaasagar, who imagined himself as a woman, composed these hymns in praise of Lord Siva. The hymns were composed in the temple town of Thiruvannaamalai.
There is another legend which mentions, Goddess Aandaal observed a fast for 10 days to have Lord Sri Ranganathan as her husband. It is believed that the Goddess Aandaal woke up before dawn, bathed in the river with her friends, sang “Thiruppaavai” (thirty hymns) composed by the Goddess Aandaal herself, and prayed during the month of “Maargazhi”. Therefore, the fast “Thiruvempaavai” is also known as “Paavai Nonbu” (fast by women).
It is noted that “Thiruvempaavai” is sung at Lord Sivan temples, while “Thiruppaavai” is sung at Lord Vishnu temples during the “Thiruvempaavai” festival. “Thiruppalliyezhuchchi” is also sung during the month of “Maargazhi” to wake up the God at dawn” says Brambhashri Sathiyanaaraayana Kurukkal, priest at Dehiwala Nedimala Sri Venkadeswara Maha Vishnu temple.