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Murugan — the most popular deity
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Author:  Jayapalan [ Thu Jul 13, 2006 11:49 pm ]
Post subject:  Murugan — the most popular deity

Murugan — the most popular deity

@ TML/ 13July2006

Murukan — also Murugan, is the most popular Hindu deity amongst Tamils of Tamil Nadu in India and in the Tamil diaspora. Although he is popularly associated with the pan-Indian deity Skanda there is evidence that Murukan worship, as seen today, has been a product of syncretism of an indigenous deity with Skanda.

Tamil Sangam Literature (200 BCE to 500 CE) 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 practised 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.

Architectural findings

Architectural findings of pottery in several places in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere had ideographic inscriptions of this name as far back as third century BCE. According to noted epigraphist Iravatham Mahadevan, the ideographs signify a brave warrior capable of killing evil demons to save the devoted.

The earlier version of Murugu underwent a radical transformation after assimilation into Brahmanical Hinduism. The Tamil version of Skanda Purana,called Kandha Purânam, was 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.

According to legend, Kachiappa Sivachariyar would leave each day’s compositions in the sanctum sanctorum or mûlasthânam of the Murugan shrine at Kumara Kottam, to find it returned in the morning with corrections, presumed to be made by the deity himself. Hence, the Kanda Purânam is widely considered to be an authoritative account of Murugan.

Destroyer

In the Kandha Puranam, Kartikeya is the destroyer of Taraka and also of his elder and more powerful demonic brothers, Soorapadman and Simha-mukhan. Shiva let out a stream of fire from his third eye on his forehead, that split into six streams. Each landed as a baby on a lotus in a lake called Saravana Poigai.

Six women, called Karthigai Pengal, literally Woman of the Pleiades saw the babies and each took one with her to look after. On the day of Karthigai, Parvati united the six children into a six-headed child, unable to cuddle all of them together. This is also the origin of a common Tamil name of the deity, Arumugan or Shanmugan, which literally means ‘one who has six faces.’

Apart from the festival of Karthigai, the Thaipusam festival, celebrated by Tamil communities worldwide, commemorates the day he was given a vel or lance by his mother in order to vanquish the demons.

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