by Singaravelu Sachithanantham,
University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
1.0. The Tamil word muruku, meaning 'youthfulness', 'beauty', 'divine quality', and 'fragrance' is the root-word for the sacred Tamil name for the divine manifestation known as MURUKAN ['the eternally Beautiful and Youthful One, or Eternal Beauty and Youthfulness Incarnate'], who is adored and worshipped as the Supreme Being by the Tamil people since the ancient times.
1.1. The perennial youthfulness of God Murukan is symbolic of immortality and eternity, which are among the most fundamental aspects of divinity.
1.2. God Murukan's divine beauty relates to the natural beauty of the mountains and hills, where the cult of the God is believed to have evolved originally in the ancient Tamil country in southern India. Several aspects of the cult such as the God's powerful vEl (lance or spear), the peacock, which is his vehicle, the rooster (cEval), which appears as the emblem on his flag, or banner, the elephant, which is the symbol of the God's immense strength, the red-blossoms of kaanthaL (Gloriosa superba) and kadampu (Anthocephalus cadamba), with which the God is adorned, are all part of the mountainous realm known as kuRinjci, where God Murukan has his sacred abodes, or sanctuaries.
2.0. The vEl (lance) is the most important symbol of divine power (sakthi), which overcomes all evil forces; it is also a symbol of Real Wisdom (meynjaanam) which enables his devotees to distinguish the Real Truth from falsehood, ignorance, and illusion.
2.1. The peacock (mayil), having a lustrous greenish blue neck, brilliant plumage, and a tail with eye-like markings, which may be expanded erect in a display almost resembling the symbol of the praNava-mantra (Om) is the God's vehicle par excellence. Though in the early Tamil literary tradition the peacock only reflected the beauty and fertility of the vegetative-life in the hill region, however in subsequent times it would seem to have been regarded as being endowed with celestial attributes such as its capacity for flight in the sky like the garuda-bird, whose favourite son the peacock is deemed to be. By the fifteenth century A.D. the peacock came to be associated with the ocean as well. Thus, the peacock, as the vehicle of God Murukan, is now associated with the world's totality comprising of land, sky, and ocean, just as God Murukan signifies the totality of the cosmos [Clothey 1978: 150-151]. The peacock is often depicted with its feet being entwined with serpent, and this would seem to be symbolic of God Murukan's conquest of the primordial and malevolent forces of the cosmos [Clothey 1978: 182].
2.2. God Murukan's personified sacred head is adorned with a large cool chaplet of fiery-red-kaanthaL-blossoms, while his broad chest is adorned with garlands of the reddish and fragrant kadampu-flowers.
2.3. God Murukan's six sacred abodes are ThirupparangkunRam (five miles southwest of Madurai), Thiruccennthoor (about 35 miles from ThirunelvEli), Pazhani (about 20 miles from TiNdukkal), Cuvaamimalai (four miles from KumpakOnam), ThiruththaNikai (70 miles northwest of Chennai), and PazhamuthircOlai (12 miles north of Madurai). (There is also the view that the reference in the classical Tamil poem ThirumurukaaRRuppadai to KunRuthOraadal may be interpreted to refer to all the hill-shrines of God Murukan). The adoration of the six sacred abodes of God Murukan is in keeping with the traditional Tamil belief that there is an intimate relationship between God's divine manifestation and a particular place of worship, where the God abides for the spiritual benefit of the devotees.
3.0. Though the cult of God Murukan as practised by the Tamil people in the ancient times was a simple one, however it would seem that certain new aspects have been added to the cult after the third century A.D. The most important of them is that God Murukan is revered as the divine son of God Shiva and Goddess UmaathEvi (Paarvathi). The details of this legend are to be found in the Tamil Kantha-puraaNam (of Shri Kacciyappa Civaacaariyaar), which is believed to be based on the earlier Skanda-PuraaNa in Sanskrit, containing modified accounts of the legend found in the Sanskrit epics, Mahaabhaarata (III: 223-232; chapters 46-47; XIII, chapters 84-86), the Raamaayana (BaalakaaNda, chapter 36-37) and Kaalidaasa's Kumaarasambhava in conjunction with the legends of the young warrior-god Kumaara, or Skanda, and his conquests over the demonic forces (Clothey 1978: 51-61). It is probable that the new aspects of the cult of God Murukan are meant to combine the cult of Skanda with the most popular cult of God Murukan.
3.1. As regards the significance of the legend of God Murukan being the divine son of God Shiva, it has been explained that the divine son-ship means that the son is like the father. The father is embodied in the son, who is a representation of the father [Clothey 1978: 46). AruNakirinaatha-cuvaamikal in the Thiruppukazh-song beginning with the words, 'aRivu azhiya' (line.4) says that God Murukan is the self-same image of Lord Shiva ['civanai nikar']; also in the Thiruppukazh song beginning with the words, 'akaramum aaki,' the saint says, "Lord Murukan as the Supreme God of the world, is the creator, sustainer, and dissolver, and thus transcends all the trinity, namely, ayan (Brahmaa), ari, (VishNu), and aran (Shiva).
3.2. It is narrated in the Kantha-puraaNam (the verses 942-1066 of the URpaththi-kaaNdam of the Thiru-avathaarap-padalam of the Kantha-puraaNam) that at the fervent appeal of the celestials, who could not bear the cruel deeds of the demon Coorapanman and others, six sacred sparks emanated from the third-fiery-eye of God Shiva, and they were carried by the wind, the fire, and the Ganges-river to the CaravaNa-pool, where the Infant God Murukan manifested himself with six sacred faces and twelve arms; he was initially fostered by six maidens of the Kaarththikai-asterisms as foster-mothers, and subsequently when Goddess UmaathEvi embraced the six infants with her arms, they became one with six sacred faces and twelve arms, and the Lord was named Kanthan (see also, Shri Kumarakurupara-cuvaamikaL's Thiruccenthoork kanthar kaliveNpaa lines 75-86).
3.3. The sacred name of Kanthan is believed to have been derived either from the Sanskrit name of Skanda, or the Tamil word kanthu signifying 'the pillar of great strength and support', symbolic of God Murukan; since the Infant-God manifested himself in the CaravaNa-pool, he is known as CaravaNan, the six-letter sacred phrase CA-RA-VA-NA-PA-VA is recited by devotees when adoring the God; and as the Infant-God was fostered by the Kaarththikai-maidens, he is known as KaarthikEyan, and as he had six sacred faces, he is known as ShaNmukam, or AArumukam.
3.4. SHANMUKAM, or AARUMUKAM: In the well-known Thiruppukazh song, beginning with the words 'ERumayil ErRvilaiyaatum mukam onRE' , AruNakirinaatha-cuvaamikal says:
"God Murukan is indeed ONE of [six] identical faces, when
sporting while being mounted on the peacock,
speaking the language of wisdom to Lord Shiva,
redressing the [results] of the past deeds of the devotees,
standing with the lance after destroying the kraunjca-hill,
annihilating the opposing demons, and at the time of
coming to wed VaLLi ..."
3.4.1. According to Shri Gopala Sundaram, the inner meaning of the above sacred song is that God Murukan rides the minds of the devotees, reveals true knowledge to them, destroys the results of their past deeds, annihilates their delusions and attachments by means of the lance of spiritual wisdom, suppresses their egoism and possessiveness, and graciously accepts their souls to be united with him (Please see the website, www.kaumaram.com ). In addition, there have been also attempts by several scholars to explain the significance of the sacred six faces of God Murukan. Swami Sivaananda has expressed the view that the six faces of the God signify the six attributes of divinity, namely, wisdom, dispassion, strength, fame, wealth, and power. Thirumuruka Kirupaanantha-vaariyaar has suggested that the six sacred faces of the God represent the six divine qualities of felicity, fullness, eternal youthfulness, limitless-energy, protection from evil, and spiritual-splendour. Another explanation is that the numeral 'six' refers to the six directions of the universe, namely, north, south, east, west, and the upper and lower directions, and therefore the six sacred faces of the God signify that God Murukan is the God of the entire universe [Clothey 1978: 175].
3.5. Other details of the expanded cult of God Murukan are that God Murukan is the younger sibling of Vinaayakar-perumaan and that God Murukan is the nephew (marukan) of Lord Thirumaal by virtue of the Goddess UmaathEvi being the sister of Lord Thirumaal [Clothey 1978: 65]. As regards the secondary meaning of the term marukan, namely 'son-in-law', God Murukan is the son-in-law of Lord Thirumaal, by virtue of having Theyvaanai-ammai and VaLLi-ammai as spouses, who were Thirumaal's daughters, namely AmirthavaLLi and SundaravaLLi in a previous birth (Clothey 1978: 83]. The details of these legends referring to the relationship between members of the divine family, such as father, mother, children, siblings, uncle and nephew, are, indeed, reflective of the harmonization of the respective cults, in order to emphasize the ONENESS of God. God Murukan is known also as CuppiramaNiyan in Tamil or Subrahmanya [Su-Brahman = Absolute Brahman, or Supreme God] in Sanskrit.
4.0. GOD MURUKAN'S CONSORTS: Notwithstanding the rather elaborate puraanic-mythology and equally persistent popular tradition concerning God Murukan's consorts [Clothey 1978: 83-84], they are not to be understood in the literal sense of the term 'consorts'. On the contrary, they are to be understood in the figurative, or metaphoric, sense: VaLLi-ammai refers to the metaphorical personification of iccaa-sakthi ('volition, or the power of willing'), while Theyvaanai-ammai signifies the kiriyaa-sakthi ('karmic result of deed'). It is for the individual soul (pacu) of the devotees, guided by the meynjaanam ('true-wisdom'), symbolized by the powerful vEl ('lance') of God Murukan, to discriminate between iccai ('volition', or 'the power of willing') and kiriyai ('karmic deed') so as not to be trapped or entangled in paacam ('attachment to things or persons') and steer clear either of them to reach the sacred feet of God Murukan and attain mukthi, or liberation, from the cycle of birth in the earthly world (Clothey 1978: 85 and 168). It is also pertinent to note that God Murukan, as the Supreme Divine Sage, is not bound, or being attached to the consorts: Being endowed with two consorts, indeed, implies that he is not bound to either of them. From the iconographic point of view, the Tamil sculptors in southern India are known to have usually depicted God Murukan as not touching the consorts, that is, as 'being detached' from them [Clothey 1978: 85]. God Murukan is often portrayed merely with the vEl ('lance'), representing the powerful discriminating wisdom (njaanam), in lieu of the consorts (though some of the pictographic artists of the present era, following the popular tradition, often depict the God together with the two consorts).
5.0. The sacred feet of the personified God Murukan are always compared with the tender and reddish lotus-blossoms, and they ought to be revered and contemplated by the devotees. Reaching for and attaining the sacred feet of God Murukan is equivalent to surrendering and submitting oneself to the sacred will of the God.
6.0. As regards the question, what is God Murukan like?, AruNakirinaatha-cuvaamikal (in his sacred poem Kantharalangkaaram , shares with us the Real-Truth, which the God graciously imparted to him: "The Supreme Being refers neither to the sky, nor the wind, nor the fire, nor the water, nor the earth: God Murukan is ONE, that is none other, that is to say, He is beyond everything else (verse 9). Again, according to the saint, "the only way of having a sacred vision of the God is for the devotees to fall at the crimson feet of the God, who manifests Himself with the lance being prominent in his sacred hand, and worship him with love; it is impossible to reach the God by means of one's mind, word or deed; how else one may describe the Supreme God of the world, who is formless, yet assumes form, nevertheless remains the same with no difference!" (verse 28, Kantharalangkaaram ).
ஸ்ரீ அருணகிரிநாத சுவாமிகள் அருளிச்செய்த திருப்புகழ்.
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