The Worship of Murugan
Why Light Camphor?
Why Do Hindus Break Coconut?
Why Do Hindus Use Ashes?
The Worship of Murugan
The Kaumaras or those who regard and worship Kumara, Skanda, Shanmuga or Karthikeya as the Supreme Being, belong to one of the sects of the Hindu faith. The other five being Ganapathyam (worship of Ganesa), Saivaism (worship of Lord Siva), Vaishnavaism (worship of Lord Vishnu), Shaoram (worship of Sun) and Saktham (worship of Shakthi). This division was devised by the Saint Adi Shankara. Thirumurukattruppadai and Paripadal A review of references in early Tamil literature points to the conclusion that the worship of Muruga is very ancient among the Tamils.
The work of Thirumurukattruppadai devoted entirely to the extolling of Murugan, is attributed to Nakkirar, a celebrated bard of the early period and the poems in the Paripadal which are exclusively in praise of Chevvel (The Red One) are the earliest and best works available which enable us to study the worship of Muruga.
Besides the two works a number of references are made about Muruga in the oldest Tamil grammar book Tolkapiyam that says that the mountain region is dear to Cheyon (Cheyon Meya Maivaraiyulagamum).
There is also reference in Porulathikaram to veriyadal-to dance in frenzy-the dance of invocation to the god Muruga, which is conducted by a person called Velan so called because he holds a spear in his hand while he dances.
The Holy Vel - Spear of Murugan
The Vel of Murugan, which is identical with Him, is a mystic divine weapon with which He destroyed the Asuras. The Vel, which is Wisdom-Absolute, also annihilates the inner Asuras or Enemies of Avidya, Karma and liberates the Jiva (Soul) from transmigration.
The Vel is a mysterious divine power and is referred to by Saint Arunagiri as the Mantra Vel in one of his Thiruppugazh (Songs of praise of God or the Glorious One).
It is not surprising therefore that the emblem of this divinity, Vel, is the object of worship in some of the shrines of Murugan.
Devotees carrying kavadis also use Vel. The very word vel has the mystic powers of invoking the grace of Murugan and therefore devotees chant "Vel, Vel", "Veera Vel", "Gnana Vel", "Shakthi Vel".
Murugan and His Consorts
Teyvayanai and Valli are the consorts of Murugan. Teyvayanai is the daughter of Indran, the King of the Devas (Celestials) and Valli is the pretty daughter of the hunting tribe. In another words the former belongs to the Heavens and the later to the mountainous regions of this world.
Murugan with His consorts is described in Paripadal thus: "O Lord Muruga, perhaps wishing to reside in this world even as you reside in the Heavens, you reached Katampu tree, the significance of which is hard to comprehend even by the wise; you married Valli in order to make the people of this world live in happiness in the same manner as you do for the Devas in the upper world; which marriage is in fact a contrast to your marriage to Teyvayanai".
The marriage of Teyvayanai to Murugan signifies that the Atman (Soul represented by Teyvayanai) seeks the union with Brahmatman (represented by Murugan) and the marriage of Valli signifies that at times Brahmatman seeks the union of Atman. Later commentators and the Saiva Siddhanda Philosophers have interpreted the consorts of Murugan as being His inherent energy. Teyvayanai is Energy of Action (Kriya-Sakthi) and Valli is Energy of Desire (Iccha-Sakthi). But in actual worship however, the Supreme place of honour is reserved for Murugan although He accompanies Teyvayanai and Valli.
It is also said that Teyvayanai and Valli are daughters of Vishnu, the maternal uncle of Murugan and by His marriage Murugan acts as a link between the Vaishnavaites (worshippers of Vishnu) and the Saivaites (worshippers of Siva).
Lord of Six Faces
Murugan is popularly depicted as having six faces and twelve arms. The poets like to address Him as "Arumugan" - Lord of Six Faces.
The sacred functions of Murugan as having six faces are described as thus :
- One face sheds rays of Light and removes the dense darkness shrouding the world;
- One face with gracious look lovingly showers boons on his devotees who praise Him with Love and Joy;
- One face watches over the sacrifices of the Brahmans who perform them without deviating from the strict Vedic traditions;
- One face like full moon, which brightens all the quarters of the world, lights the sages' minds to enable them to search for hidden Truth;
- One face with raging heart performs battle-sacrifice-destroy His enemies and
- One face smiles lovingly on His young consort, the pretty daughter of the hunting tribe
Other Descriptions of Murugan
- "the Child of Kottravi" - the Goddess of Victory (Durga)
- "the Child of the Ancient One"
- "the Captain of the Heavenly Hosts"
- "the Lord of the Mountain Region"
- "the Lord who holds the Victorious Spear"
- "the Heroic Lord with the Victorious banner gained in war"
Some of these descriptions suggest that Murugan was the War God of the Tamils.
While checking one's weight, keeping the body supple, reflexes sharp, and the mind alert, fasting helps him to gain greater control over his involuntary muscles. Through fasting one can improve his discipline and increase his will power. It also helps him to be pure in thought.
The person who carries the kavadi should be in a state of extra ordinary purity attained by means of fasting for a certain period of time. It is often said that a forty-eight day (mandalam) fast is required but most devotees fast for lesser periods. The devotee should be on a strict vegetarian diet abstaining from all kinds of pollution (theetu) such as abstaining from sex, sleeping on the floor and eating from his own private utensils. He should not shave and if inauspicious events such as death were to occur he should not even participate in the function as the pollution would cling to him however vigorous his fast had been.
Fasting is thus not just limited to the intake of food but include the temporary renunciation of all physical pleasures and luxuries. Through his abstinence the devotee disciplines his body and mind and enters into a whole realm of spiritualism. It is a personal experience between him and Lord Murgan.
Why Light Camphor?
Hindus have great faith in light as the supreme symbol of God who dispels darkness, which is associated with evil, fear and ignorance.
The light of the camphor, as it dispels this darkness, signifies the overcoming of evil through virtue, fear through courage and ignorance through knowledge. As the camphor burns itself out, so we pray that our own ego is burnt up likewise and that we should be redeemed from all our sins, problems, mental and physical stress and shall be left with everlasting peace, joy and bliss.
Why Do Hindus Break Coconut?
The Hindus believe that the coconut is the purest form of offering that one can render unto God. The fruit is unique in many respects.
The sweet, nectar-like water that it holds is pure and untouched by the human hand. The tree draws from its very base to its highest level. The coarsely knit outer fibers of the coconut represent the jealousy, greed, lust, selfishness and other vices of man, which must be broken up and removed if one is to penetrate and reach the white inner purity and thereafter taste the sweet untouched nectar of spiritual purity and bliss.
No other fruit has the three distinct eyes of the coconut. These symbolise the Trinity of Evolution - Creation, Preservation and Dissolution. The eyes also represent the three eyes of man - the two physical eyes plus the third or 'inner eye' can penetrate the false, outer facade and reach the ultimate truth. It alone distinguishes right from wrong.
The composition of the coconut is characteristic of the three elements of man. The hard, outer shell, with its coarse fibers, represents the physical composition. The inner white fruit represents man's psychological element, and the untouched water signifies his spiritual composition. Having been offered to God by way of prayer, the coconut is then eaten by Hindus as blessed food or prasadh in the belief that it has now received divine vibrations from God and will therefore give us good health and prosperity.
Why Do Hindus Use Ashes?
Nothing in this world is everlasting. Everything is perishable. Even this physical body of ours ceases to function some day and is said to be dead.
Our mortal remains are then cremated and turn to ashes, or buried, which then rot and become dust.
The Hindus place ashes on their foreheads to remind themselves, of this universal truth - nothing is everlasting ... the ultimate is dust.
The Ashes serve to remind one to cast aside his petty jealousies, suspicions, selfishness and other evil qualities, and to live in harmony with one another - to love, respect and serve his fellow beings while he can.
The holy ash is so prepared that it richly abounds in medicinal properties and contains high curative qualities. It can be placed on the forehead, rubbed over the body or taken internally to relieve pains, illnesses and anxiety.
When used in prayer with the manthras, it becomes highly potent, wards off evil, overcomes problems and brings happiness, peace and harmony to the individual as well as the household. Its power is truly dynamic.
The ash is the creation of the element fire, which dissolves everything. Thus the sacred ash dissolves all our ills and brings us good health, peace and prosperity.
Compiled from the book "GLORY OF MURUGAN" - Thaipusam Special Issue. The article compiled by Mr. A. Palaniappan.