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Murugan

Lord Murugan
God of Victory and Kundalini
Tamil script முருகன்
Affiliation Deva
Abode Kailasa
Weapon Bow, Vel
Consort Valli and Deivayanai
Mount Peacock

Murugan or Mayuri Kandasamy (Tamil: முருகன், Malayalam: മുരുകന്‍) called Subrahmanya (Kannada: ಸುಬ್ರಹ್ಮಣ್ಯ,Telugu: సుబ్రమణ్య స్వామి) is a popular Hindu deity among Tamil Hindus, and is worshipped primarily in areas with Tamil influence, especially South India, Singapore , Sri Lanka , Malaysia and Mauritius . But in Sri Lanka, Hindus as well as Buddhists revere a highly sacred Buddhist and Hindu shrine Katharagama temple (also in Sinhala "Katharagama Devalaya") dedicated to him and situated deep south in the country.[1] . Similarly Chinese in Penang , Kuala Lumpur of Malaysia also pray Lord Murugan during Thaipusam.

Lord Murugan is more popular in South India compared to other parts of India. He is the God of war and the patron deity of the Tamil land (Tamil Nadu).[2] Like most Hindu deities, He is known by many other names, including Senthil, Saravaṇa, Kārthikeya (meaning 'son of Krittika' ), Arumugam or Sanmuga (meaning 'one with six faces'), Kumāra (meaning 'child or son'), Guhan (meaning 'cave-dweller'), Skanda (meaning 'that which is spilled or oozed, namely seed' in Sanskrit),[3] Subrahmaṇya, Vēlaṇ and Swaminatha.[4]

Contents

Historical development

Coin of the Yaudheyas with depiction of Karttikeya

Archaeological findings of pottery and relics in several places in Tamil Nadu, particularly in Adichanallur had ideographic inscriptions of this name and show signs that Murugan worship was prevalent at least as early as 10th century B.C, if not earlier.[5]

According to noted epigraphist Iravatham Mahadevan, the ideographs signify a brave warrior capable of killing evil demons to save the devoted.[6]

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Sangam literature

Tolkappiyam, possibly the most ancient of the extant Sangam works, glorified Murugan, " the red god seated on the blue peacock, who is ever young and resplendent," as " the favoured god of the Tamils."[7]

The Sangam poetry divided space and Tamil land into five allegorical areas (tinai) and according to the Tirumurugarruppatai( circa 400-450 A.D.) attributed to the great Sangam poet Nakkiirar, Murugan was the presiding deity the Kurinci region (hilly area). (Tirumurugaruppatai is a deeply devotional poem included in the ten idylls (Pattupattu) of the age of the third Sangam).

Tamil Sangam Literature (early centuries A.D.) mentions Murugu as a nature spirit worshipped with animal sacrifices and associated with a non-Brahmanical priest known as a Velan, a name later used to refer to the deity himself. The worship of Murugu often occurred in the woods or in an open field, with no particular associated structure. The rituals practiced included the Veriyaattu, a form of ritual-trance-dancing, which is still a common part of Murugan worship in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Malaysia. Murugu was believed to hold power over the chaotic and could be appeased by sacrifices and Veriyaattu to bring order and prosperity.

The other Sangam era works in Tamil that refer to Murugan in detail include the Paripaatal, the Akananuru and the Purananuru.One poem in the Paripaatal describes the veneration of Murugan thus:

We implore thee not for boons of enjoyment or wealth,

But for thy grace beatific, love and virtuous deeds.

According to the Tamil devotional work, Thiruppugazh, "Murugan never hesitates to come to the aid of a devotee when called upon in piety or distress". In another work Thirumurukkarrupatai, he is described as a god of eternal youth; His face shines a myriad rays light and removes the darkness from this world.[8]

Sanskrit literature

Murugan slaying the demon Surapadman

The references to Murugan in Sanskrit literature can be traced back to the first millennium BCE. There are references to Subrahmanya in Kautilya's Arthashastra, in the works of Patanjali, in Kalidasa's epic poem the Kumarasambhavam and in the Sanskrit drama Mricchakatika. The Kushanas, who governed from what is today Peshawar, and the Yaudheyas, a republican clan in the Punjab, struck coins bearing the image of Skanda. The deity was venerated also by the Ikshvakus, an Andhra dynasty, and the Guptas.[9] The worship of Kumāra was one of the six principal sects of Hinduism at the time of Adi Shankara. The Shanmata system propagated by him included this sect. In many Shiva and Devi temples of Tamil Nadu, Subrahmaṇya is installed on the left of the main deity.

Sati, the consort of Shiva immolated herself at the Daksha Yagna, which was later destroyed by Shiva. Sati was reborn as Uma, or Parvati the daughter of the mountain king Himavaan (the Himalayas). Shiva withdrew himself from the universe and engaged himself in yogic meditation in the Himalayas.[citation needed]

In the meanwhile, the demon Surapadman ravaged the earth and tormented its beings. It was realized by the gods that only the son born of Shiva could lead the gods to victory over Tarakasuran, Surapadman and their demon companions. They plotted with Kamadeva, to shoot a flower arrow at Shiva, as he sat in meditation, so as to make him fall in love with Parvati. When Kama aimed his arrow, Shiva opened his third eye and burned Kama to ashes instantly.[citation needed]

The sparks of the fiery seed of Shiva were unbearable; even the fire God Agni could not bear them; this fire was then transported by the river Ganga into the Saravana forest into a pond called the Saravana Poigai(located at mouths of river Ganga), where the sparks became six children. They were raised by the six Krittika or Kartika - the stars that make up the Pleiades, earning the name Karthikeya. Parvati combined these six babies into one with six faces, i.e. Shanmukha or Arumugan. Since he was born in the Saravana he was also called 'Saravanabhava'.[citation needed]

Murugan became the supreme general of the demi-gods then escorted the devas and led the army of the devas to victory against the demons. The six sites at which Karthikeya sojourned while leading his armies against Surapadman are Tiruttanikai, Swamimalai, Tiruvavinankudi (Palani), Pazhamudirsolai, Tirupparamkunram and Tiruchendur. All these sites have ancient temples glorified by the Tamil poems of Tirumurugaatruppadai of the Sangam period (circa the 3rd century AD).And these six sites collectively came to be known as "Arupadai Veedu" (Lang:Tamil), it means the six battle camps of the Lord.[citation needed]

Hindu epics

The first elaborate account of Karthikeya's origin occurs in the Mahabharata. In a complicated story, he is said to have been born from Agni and Shiva, after the latter impersonated the six of the seven wives of the Saptarishi (Seven Sages). The actual wives then become the Pleiades. Karthikeya is said to have been born to destroy the Asura Mahisha.[10] (In later mythology, Mahisha became the adversary of Durga.) Indra attacks Karthikeya as he sees the latter as a threat, until Shiva intervenes and makes Karthikeya the commander-in-chief of the army of the Devas. He is also married to Devasena, Indra's daughter. The origin of this marriage lies probably in the punning of 'Deva-sena-pati'.It can mean either lord of Devasena or Lord of the army(sena) of Devas.[citation needed]

The Ramayana version is closer to the stories told in the Puranas discussed below.

Raja Ravi Varma's impression

Vedas

The Atharva Veda describes Kumaran as 'Agnibhuh' or son of Agni, the fire god. The Satapatha Brahmana refers to him as the son of Rudra and the ninth form of Agni. The Taittiriya Aranyaka contains the Gayatri mantra for Shanmukha. The Chandogya Upanishad refers to Skanda as the "way that leads to wisdom". The Baudhayana Dharmasutra mentions Skanda as 'Mahasena' and 'Subrahmanya.' The Aranya Parva canto of the Mahabharata relates the legend of Kartikeya Skanda in considerable detail. The Skanda Purana is devoted to the narrative of Kartikeya.[9]

Puranas

Though slightly varying versions occur in the Puranas, they broadly follow the same pattern. By this period, the identification of Shiva/Rudra with Agni, that can be traced back to the Vedas and Brahmanas, had clearly made Karthikeya the son of Shiva.[citation needed]

The Skanda Purana narrates that Shiva first wed Dakshayani (also named Sati), the granddaughter of Brahma, and the daughter of Daksha. Daksha never liked Shiva, who, symbolizing destruction and detachment, begs for food, dances in a graveyard smeared with ashes, and has no possessions, not even good clothes for himself. Daksha publicly insults Shiva in a Yagna ceremony, and Dakshayani immolates herself. The Yagna is destroyed although protected by all the other Gods and the rishis. Taraka believed that, because Shiva is an ascetic and his earlier marriage was conducted with great difficulty, his remarriage was out of the question, hence his boon of being killed by Shiva's son alone would give him invincibility.[citation needed]

The Devas manage to get Shiva married to Parvati (who was Dakshayani, reborn), by making Manmatha (also known as Kama), the God of love awaken him from his penance, but Manmatha incurred the Lord's wrath indicated by the opening his third eye - "Netri Kann" , and being destroyed and resurrected. Shiva hands over his effulgence of the third eye used to destroy Manmatha to Agni, as he alone is capable of handling it until it becomes the desired offspring. But even Agni, tortured by its heat, hands it over to Ganga who in turn deposits it in a lake in a forest of reeds (shara). The child is finally born in this forest (vana) with six faces-eesanam, sathpurusham, vamadevam, agoram, sathyojatham and adhomugam. He is first spotted and cared for by six women representing the Pleiades - Kritika in Sanskrit. He thus gets named Karthikeya. As a young lad, he destroys Taraka. He is also called Kumara (Sanskrit for "youth").[citation needed]

Divine legends

Given that legends related to Murugan are recounted separately in several Hindu epics, some differences between the various versions are observed. Some Sanskrit epics and puranas indicate that he was the elder son of Shiva. This is suggested by the legend connected to his birth; the wedding of Shiva and Parvati being necessary for the birth of a child who would vanquish the demon Taraka. Also, Kartikeya is seen helping Shiva fight the newborn Ganesha, Shiva's other son, in the Shiva Purana. In the Ganapati Khandam of the Brahma Vaivarta Purana, he is seen as the elder son of Shiva and Ganesha as the younger. In South India, it is believed that he is the younger of the two. A Puranic story has Ganesha obtain a divine mango of knowledge from Narada winning a contest with Murugan. While Murugan speeds around the world thrice to win the contest for the mango, Ganesha circumambulates Shiva and Parvati thrice as an equivalent and is given the mango. After winning it, he offers to give the mango to his upset brother. After this event, Ganesha was considered the elder brother owing as a tribute to his wisdom.

In many traditions, Murugan is seen as a bachelor. Many of the major events in Murugan's life take place during his youth, and legends surrounding his birth are popular. This has encouraged the worship of Murugan as a child-God, very similar to the worship of the child Krishna in north India. Other traditions have him married to two wives, Valli and Deivayanai.

Symbolism

Kartikeya symbols are based on the weapons - Vel, the Divine Spear or Lance that He carries and His mount the peacock. He is sometimes depicted with many weapons including: a sword, a javelin, a mace, a discus and a bow although more usually he is depicted wielding a sakti or spear. This symbolizes His purification of human ills. His javelin is used to symbolize His far reaching protection, His discus symbolizes His knowledge of the truth, His mace represents His strength and His bow shows His ability to defeat all ills. His peacock mount symbolizes his destruction of the ego.

His six heads represent the six siddhis bestowed upon yogis over the course of their spiritual development. This corresponds to his role as the bestower of siddhis.

Worship through ages

In Tamil Nadu

Vel kavadi during Thaipusam in Malaysia

In Tamil Nadu, Murugan has continued to be popular with all classes of society right since the Sangam age. This has led to more elaborate accounts of his mythology in the Tamil language, culminating in the Tamil version of Skanda Purana, called Kandha Purānam, written by Kacchiappa Sivachariyar (1350-1420 AD.) of Kumara Kottam in the city of Kanchipuram. (He was a scholar in Tamil and Sanskrit literature, and a votary of the Shaiva Siddhanta philosophy.)

He is married to two deities, Valli, a daughter of a tribal chief and Deivayanai (also called Devasena), the daughter of Indra. During His bachelorhood, Lord Murugan is also regarded as Kumaraswami (or Bachelor God), Kumara meaning a bachelor and Swami meaning God. Muruga rides a peacock and wields a bow in battle. The lance called Vel in Tamil is a weapon closely associated with him. The Vel was given to him by his mother, Parvati, and embodies her energy and power. The flag of his army depicts a rooster. In the war, the demon Soorapadman was split into two, and each half was granted a boon by Murugan. The halves, thus turned into the peacock (his mount) and the rooster.

Kavadi during Thaipusam in Germany
Thai Poosam Festival in Murugan Temple of North America

As Muruga is worshipped predominantly in Tamil Nadu, many of his names are of Tamil origin. These include Senthil, the red or formidable one; Arumuga, the six-faced one; Guha and Maal-Marugan, the son-in-law of Vishnu.

Murugan is venerated throughout the Tamil year. There is a six day period of fast and prayer in the Tamil month of Aippasi known as the Skanda Shasti. He is worshipped at Thaipusam, celebrated by Tamil communities worldwide near the full moon of the Tamil month Thai. This commemorates the day he was given a Vel or lance by his mother in order to vanquish the demons. Thirukarthigai or the full moon of the Tamil month of Karthigai signifies his birth. Each Tuesday of the Tamil month of Adi is also dedicated to the worship of Murugan. Tuesday in the Hindu tradition connotes Mangala, the god of planet Mars and war.

Other parts of India

Historically, Kartikeya enjoyed immense popularity in the Indian subcontinent. One of the major Puranas, the Skanda Purana is dedicated to him. In the Bhagavad-Gita (Ch.10, Verse 24), Krishna, while explaining his omnipresence, names the most perfect being, mortal or divine, in each of several categories. While doing so, he says: "Among generals, I am Skanda, the lord of war."

Lord Kartikeswar idol in Orissa

Kartikeya's presence in the religious and cultural sphere can be seen at least from the Gupta age. Two of the Gupta kings, Kumaragupta and Skandagupta, were named after him. He is seen in the Gupta sculptures and in the temples of Ellora and Elephanta. As the commander of the divine armies, he became the patron of the ruling classes. His youth, beauty and bravery was much celebrated in Sanskrit works like the Kathasaritsagara. Kalidasa made the birth of Kumara the subject of a lyrical epic, the Kumaarasambhavam.

In ancient India, Kartikeya was also regarded as the patron deity of thieves, as may be inferred from the Mrichchakatikam, a Sanskrit play by Shudraka, and in the Vetala-panchvimshati, a medieval collection of tales. This association is linked to the fact that Kartikeya had dug through the Krauncha mountain to kill the demon Taraka and his brothers (in the Mrichchakatikam, Sarivilaka prays to him before tunnelling into the hero's house).

However, Kartikeya's popularity in North India receded from the Middle Ages onwards, and his worship is today virtually unknown except in parts of Haryana. There is a very famous temple dedicated to Him in the town of Pehowa in Haryana and this temple is very well-known in the adjoining areas, especially because of the fact that women are not allowed anywhere close to it. Women stay away from this temple in Pehowa town of Haryana because this shrine celebrates the Brahmachari form of Kartikeya. Reminders of former devotions to him include a temple at Achaleshwar, near Batala in Punjab, and another temple of Skanda atop the Parvati hill in Pune, Maharashtra. Another vestige of his former popularity can be seen in Bengal, where he is worshipped during the Durga Puja festivities alongside Durga.

Lord Subramanya is the major deity among the Thiyyas of northern Kerala. Lord Subramanya is worshipped with utmost devotion in districts of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi in the state of Karnataka. Rituals like nagaradhane are unique to this region.

Khandoba, is the Kuldevta for majority of Marathi people in Maharashtra. It has been speculated that Skanda and Khandoba are one and the same. However, he is mainly worshipped as a manifestation of Shiva.

In Sri Lanka

Kartikeya or Murugan is adored by both Tamil Hindus and Sinhalese Buddhists in Sri Lanka. Numerous temples exist throughout the island. He is a favorite deity of the common folk everywhere and it is said he never hesitates to come to the aid of a devotee when called upon.

In the deeply Sinhalese south of Sri Lanka, Kartikeya is worshipped at the temple in Kataragama (Kathirkamam), where he is known as Katragama Deviyo (Lord of Katragama) or Kathiravel. This temple is next to an old Buddhist place of worship. Local legend holds that Lord Murugan alighted in Kataragama and was smitten by Valli, one of the local aboriginal lasses. After a courtship, they were married. This event is taken to signify that Lord Murugan is accessible to all who worship and love him, regardless of their birth or heritage. The Nallur Kandaswamy temple, the Maviddapuram temple and the Sella channithy temple near Valvettiturai are the three foremost Murukan temples in Jaffna. The Chitravelautha temple in Verukal on the border between Trincomalee and Batticaloa is also noteworthy as is the Mandur Kandaswamy temple in Batticaloa. The late medieval-era temple of the tooth in Kandy, dedicated to the tooth relic of the Buddha, has a Kataragama deiyo shrine adjacent to it dedicated to the veneration of Skanda in the Sinhalese tradition.

Temples

Murugan Icons carried in procession during Thaipusam at Batu Caves

The main temples of Murugan are located in Southern Tamil Nadu. They include the Aru Padaiveedu (six houses- rather, military camps in his campaign against demons) - Thiruchendur, Swamimalai, Pazhamudircholai, Thirupparangunram, Palani (Pazhani), Thiruthani - and other important shrines like Mayilam, Sikkal, Marudamalai, Kundrathur, Vadapalani, Kandakottam,Thiruporur, Vallakottai, Vayalur, Thirumalaikoil, Vella Kovil, Kukke Subramanya. Malai Mandir, a prominent and popular temple complex in Delhi, is one of the few dedicated to Murugan in all of North India apart from the famous Pehowa temple in Haryana.

There are innumerable temples dedicated to Lord Subramanya in Kerala. Amongst them , the most important ones are Payyannur Subrahmanya Swamy temple in Payyanur and the Subramanya temple in Haripad.

In Tulu Nadu there is the famed temple called Kukke Subramanya Temple.Here Lord Murugan is worshipped as the Lord of the serpents.

The key temples in Sri Lanka include the sylvan shrine in Kataragama / (Kadirgamam), or Kathirkamam in the deep south, the temple in Tirukovil in the east, the shrine in Embekke in the Kandyan region and the famed Nallur Kandaswamy temple in Jaffna.

There are several temples dedicated to Lord Murugan in Malaysia, the most famous being the Batu Caves near Kuala Lumpur. There is a 42.7m high statue of Lord Murugan at the entrance to the Batu Caves, which is the largest Lord Murugan statue in the world.

Sri Thendayuthapani Temple in Tank Road, Singapore is a major Hindu temple where each year the Thaipusam festival takes place with devotees of Lord Muruga carrying Kavadis seeking penance and blessings of the Lord.

In United kingdom, Highgate Hill Murugan temple is one of the oldest and most famous. In London, Sri Murugan temple in Manor park is a well known temple.

In Australia, Sydney Murugan temple in Parramatta (Mays Hill) is a major Hindu temple for all Australian Hindus.

In the USA, Shiva Murugan Temple in Concord, Northern California [2] and Murugan Temple of North America in Maryland, Washington DC region [3]are popular.

In Toronto, Canada, Canada Kanthasamy Temple is known amongst many hindus in Canada.

The Sri Sivasubramaniar Temple, located in the Sihl Valley in Adliswil, is the most famous and largest Hindu temple in Switzerland.[11]

See also

References

  1. ^ "Rare Sri Lankan idol recovered". BBC News. 11 June 2008. http://www.bbc.co.uk/sinhala/news/story/2008/06/080611_muruga.shtml. 
  2. ^ Cage of Freedom By Andrew C. Willford
  3. ^ Clothey p.49 Skanda is derived from the verb skanḍr meaning "to attack, leap, rise, fall, be spilled, ooze"
  4. ^ Many Faces of Murakan: The History and Meaning of a South Indian God By Fred W. Clothey p.1 [1]
  5. ^ International Journal of Dravidian Linguistics By University of Kerala Dept. of Linguistics
  6. ^ "Muruga in Indus Script" - a note by the renowned epigraphist, Iravatham Mahadevan
  7. ^ Kanchan Sinha, Kartikeya in Indian art and literature, 1979,Delhi: Sundeep Prakashan.
  8. ^ The Smile of Murugan on Tamil Literature of South India By Kamil Zvelebil
  9. ^ a b Ratna Navaratnam ; Karttikeya, the divine child:the Hindu testament of wisdom published in 1973 by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan
  10. ^ Mahabharata, Aranyaka Parva, Section 230 of the vulgate translated by Kisari Mohan Ganguli (1883-1896)
  11. ^ Religionen in der Schweiz: Hinduismus

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