Every twelve years, in the lunar month of Masi, when Guru resides in Simha rasi and Chandran resides in Maga star, Mahamagam is celebrated in a manner similar to Kumba Mela in north India. Kumba Mela, Mahamela, Pushkaram are all celebrated in the banks of the Ganges, Godavari and Krishna. But in the Mahamagam, lakhs of people take a bath in one tank. There are eight holy theerthams at the bottom of this tank carrying the names of the eight Dig Balakas as well as Brahma Theertham. On the four sides of the tanks there are nine theerthams representing the nine rivers: Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Narmada, Saraswathi, Cauveri, Kumari, Payoshni and Sarayu. Sixty-six crores of theerthams sparkle in the middle of the tank in the form of small wells.
The legend says that Ganga and eight other holy rivers went to Kailasam, approached Paramasiva and complained that all the human beings on earth get rid of their sins by taking a bath in their holy waters, but how would they, the holy rivers, get rid of all the sins accumulated thus. Paramasiva asked them to go to the holy place of Kumbakonam, it being both a Siva and Vishnu Kshetram, and take a bath in the holy Mahamagam tank on the auspicious day of Maha Purnima. That will wash all their sins away. The nine rivers did not know the location of Kumbakonam. Therefore, Parameswara rode the rishabam with Parvathi and asked them to follow him. He reached Kumbakonam and sat down on the north shore of the tank while Ganga and the other rivers along with Devas, took a holy dip in the tank to dissolve their sins. There is a shrine of Kasi Viswanathar in the northern shore of the tank and the idols of the nine rivers can be seen there. This story can be found in Pavishyotra Puranam.
The credit for building stone steps to the tank, building sixteen mandaps around the tank and installing Sivalingams in them goes to the Maharaja Govinda Dikshithar who was minister to the first three Nayak kings of Tanjore. Adikumbeswarer will give darshan in the main mandap ‘Brahmatheerteswar mandap’ on the north side of the tank on the day of Maha magam as well as the magam every year.
With the intention of participating in the Mahamagam to be held in March,1933, our Swamigal left Chennai in the first week of February and arrived at Thiruvidamarudur two days before the auspicious day. Mahamagam was held on the twenty fifth day of the lunar month of Masi in the cyclic year Angirasa (8-3-1933). Swamigal was staying at the residence of R.Narayanaswamy Iyer, proprietor of Chennai Law Journal Publications.
Swamigal left Thiruvidamaruthur and went to Kumbakonam with many of his disciples. He had a holy dip in the presence of Adikumbeswarer and other deities around noon along with thousands of devotees. He later returned to Thiruvidamaruthur. He had resolved to undertake a journey to Kasi in the year 1919 before leaving the Kumbakonam
mutt. He did not want to go to the Sankara mutt at Kumbakonam without fulfilling the resolution.
The year when Mahamagam was held, there were no wars, droughts or floods in the country and it was a prosperous year. There was no lack of transportation facilities in the country. Southern Railways had arranged for special trains. The police had made effective arrangements for crowd and traffic control, enabling smooth movement of the people in and out of the city. It is estimated that around six lakh people came that day to take a holy dip in the tank. A quarter of them were estimated to have come into the city via bullock carts or on foot. The city officials had arranged for an exhibition on this occasion where there was music and dance. The businessmen advertised their goods in bright colors. Individuals and organizations had arranged for anna dhanam, out of which the biggest food donation was the one at Sankara Mutt arranged by Tepperumalnallur Sivan.