This Hindu festival of Adi Puram is celebrated in all Hindu temples in southern India in the month called Adi or Ashadha, corresponding to the English months of July-August, when the asterism Puram (Delta Leonis) is in the ascendancy. The festival is observed to propitiate the goddess Sakti Devi who is said to have come into this world on this occasion to bless the people. People therefore worship her in order to secure happiness not only for themselves but also for their loved ones.
If the festival falls on a Friday, the occasion is considered to be highly auspicious, and the people worship the goddess in a more special way.
It is said that there are eight Nidhis or Saktis (Forces of nature) in the universe and they are controlled by Devi, the goddess of the Hindus. The eight magical arts, called in Hindu mystic parlance the Ashta Maha Siddhis, are derived from a knowledge of those forces. They are (1) Anima or the art of entering into a foreign body, (2) Mahima or the art of increasing the bulk of one's body, (3) Garuna or the art of rendering small things tremendously ponderous, (4) Laghima or the art of lifting with ease the largest and the heaviest substances, (5) Prapti or the art of gaining access through a small hole to Brahma's heaven, (6) Prakamya or the art of transubstantiating and entering into various worlds of tenuous matter, procuring all things needful from these and ascertaining the localities of various substances, (7) Isatwam the art of creating, protecting and destroying the world as well as rendering the planets obedient to the will, and (8) Vasitwam the art of bringing all created beings under subjection including Indra and the various gods.
The eight Nidhis are also called by eight different names with characteristics peculiar to each. The Nidhi called Padma is said to be presided over by Lakshmi and people attaining this Nidhi secure prowess and skill in warfare and also command the wealth of all mortals. The Nidhi going by the name Mahapadma secures the command over all precious gems in the universe. It is meant for one having yogic tendencies in him. The Nidhi named Makara shapes the character of the individual and secures for him success in military operations and royal favour. The Nidhi called Kachapa brings success in all business undertakings and makes the individual the beloved of one and all. While the Nidhi Mukunda develops fine aesthetic instincts in the individual, and the one called Nanda secures for him good harvest and immunity from wants. The Nidhi called Nila is said to lead to all sorts of enjoyments and the one named Sanka ensures self-realization and eternal bliss. The two Nidhis Sanka and Padma confer mundane enjoyments and heavenly bliss on individuals. The wealth secured by Padma Nidhi makes worldly enjoyments possible and the yogic powers conferred by Sanka Nidhi result in bliss arising from self-realization. As these two Nidhis control the other Nidhis, sculptural representations of only these two Nidhis are placed at the sides of temple entrances in southern India.
In a portico called 'Ashta Siddhi Mandapam' in Madurai, we have sculptural representations of these eight Siddhis or Saktis. The reason is that Sri Sundareswara, the presiding deity of the Madurai Temple, is said to have manifested these powers to the people of this world on one occasion. The details of the incident are given in a book called 'Halasya Mahatmiyam', also called 'Tiruvelayadal Puranam' in Tamil. Sixty-four miracles performed by Sri Sundareswara are recorded in this work.
According to a myth, the goddess of the universe took a human form on the Adi Puram day in a miraculous manner. A Vaishnava saint called Periyalwar of Srivilliputtur had no issues. He prayed to the goddess Lakshmi for children and she fulfilled his wish in the following manner. Alwar was ploughing his fields one-day when he came upon a lovely female child while turning the first furrow. Delighted at the precious find, he hastened to his home with it. He gave it to his wife, and named it Andal. The presiding deity of Srirangam temple, Sri Ranganath, is said to have accepted Andal as his wife when she grew up.
The festival is observed with great eclat in the temples of Madurai, Sriviliiputtur, Tinnevelly, Vedaranyam, Negapatam, Jambukeswaram, Tiruvadi, Kumbakonam, Tiruvadaimarudhur, Mayavaram, Srivanjiyam and Tiruvannamalai. In the famous religious centre Chidambaram also, this Puram festival is observed not in the month Adi (July-August), but in the month Arpisi (November). The observance is said to be rather unique. There is also an inscription in the west gopuram of the temple and it is dated Saka 1517. The village called Poorappettai is mentioned in connection with the observance of this festival as stated above.
It is noteworthy that all festivals are held only once in a year and no festival is held twice. All the important festivals are observed throughout the country at the same time. As the religious festivals of the Hindus are closely connected with the movements of the stars and planets, correct information regarding the time at which the observation should take place is highly essential if at all the observances are to be efficacious. Hence great stress is laid on the accuracy of the information to be recorded in the Hindu almanacs or Panchangams by the astronomers.
As several systems of computation have arisen with the lapse of time, some following the heliocentric system, and some following the geocentric system and so on, differences of opinion have also arisen regarding the time of the observance of Hindu rites and ceremonies. But the principle on which these observances are based is the same and we find no differences in opinion in this regard. Further, in the observance of most of the important religious festivals, we find no differences of opinion among the astronomers.
The Vedas and the Agamas say that the performance of a definite number of religious festivals is essential for the welfare of a country. The number of such festivals varies with the different sects of Hindus. It is recorded in the second prakara of Sri Thagaraja temple at Tiruvarur in Tanjore that fifty-six festivals are to be observed every year.