Lord Murugan, commonly known as the “Tamil God”, is the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi and is worshipped by Tamil communities throughout the world. Tamil sangam literature glorifies Murugan as the “Red God seated on a blue peacock, young and beautiful”. Lord Murugan has many names, such as Subrahmanya, Shanmukha, Kaartikeya, Skanda, Kumara, Devasenapati, Saravanabhava, Guha, Swaminathan and many more. In Tamil literature, there are five types of land explained, those being Kurinji (mountainous region), Mullai (forest region), Marutham (agricultural region), Neithal (coastal region) and Palai (desert region). Lord Murugan was the leader of the mountainous region and is called Kurinji Aandavar. Hindus believe that the presiding deity of this kali yugam is Lord Murugan whose weapon, the spear or “Vel”, symbolizes victory, restoring peace, harmony, and destroying all evil forces, therefore Murugan is called “Kaliyugavardhan”.
The story of the six faces of Murugan
Lord Shiva is called Panchaanana, meaning the Lord with five heads. Those five heads represent the five elements of nature, namely, Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Space. Combine these five elements with Shakti (Pure Consciousness), and Lord Murugan was born. He is called Shadaanana means the six-headed.
Once there was a demon (Asura) named Tarakasura, who was very powerful and defeated all the devas and enslaved them. Tarakasura, through his penance, got a boon from Lord Brahma that he can only die at the hands of the son of Lord Shiva. To save the devas from the asuras, Lord Shiva created a powerful form who would not only defeat Tarakasura, but also become a universal teacher, possessing the highest levels of knowledge.
So Lord Shiva emitted divine fire sparks from his third eye, which represents the element of space, while Agni(the fire God) and Vayu(the Wind God) carried the sparks and dropped them into the sacred River Ganges. The divine mother Ganges carried the sparks in the form of flowing water into the Saravana Poikai Lake, where the sparks were split into six infants. Each infant was placed into their own beautiful Lotus and nurtured by six women called Karthigai Pengal. These women later reached the constellation as six stars. Goddess Parvathi watched the beautiful infants grow, and she embraced all the six boys and gave them one form of Lord Murugan with six heads, and twelve hands. This form of Lord Murugan is known as Arumuga Swami. Fridays are considered auspicious for worshipping Lord Murugan. Kanda Shastii Kavasam is a hindu devotional song written by Devaraya Swamigal, a powerful piece of Tamil literature sung in praise of Lord Murugan.
Kanda Puranam is one of the greatest religious epics in Tamil literature written by Kachiappa Sivachariar, the priest of Kumarakottam in Kanchi. Sivachariar primarily describes the victory of Murugan over the asuras and their King Surapadman, and how Lord Murugan saved the devas from Surapadman. There are also episodes of Skanda’s marriages with Deivanai and Valli, and also that of his parents Lord Shiva and Parvathi explained in this epic.
Thaipoosam is one of the biggest festivals celebrated in different parts of the world by the devotees of Lord Murugan. The significance of the festival is celebrating the victory of the Lord over the asuras, and that good will always triumph evil. Devotees carry pots of Milk, flowers, and fruits on their shoulders as offerings to the Lord.
The Six Abodes of Lord Murugan
Arupadaiveedu refers to the six abodes of Lord Murugan showing the six different forms of Murugan pertaining to the six different events that took place in his life. The six abodes are Thiruparankundram, Thiruchendur, Palani, Swamimalai, Thiruthani and Pazhamudircholai.
The poet Nakeerar of the Sangam Age has sung many songs in praise of Murugan, and the most well known composition called “Tirumurugartrupadai” describes the six most important abodes of Lord Murugan.
The Six Abodes of Lord Murugan are as follows:1. Arulmigu Subramaniya Swamy Temple (Thiruparankundram) - Thiruparankunram, Madurai district - Marriage with Deivanai
The Subramaniam temple at Thiruparunkundram is situated six miles south of Madurai. It is a cave-temple located up on a small hill which was built in the 8th century by a king named Maravarman Sundara Pandiyan. Murugan is worshipped as Subramaniyan at the shrine, and this is where he got married to Deivanai, the daughter of Lord Indra.
2. Thiruchendur Murugan Temple (Thirucheeralaivaai) - Thiruchendur, Thoothukudi district - Destroying the asura Surapadman
The main shrine of Murugan is called Senthinathan, and the two Utsava murtis of Thiruchendur Murugan are Jayanthi Nathar and Shanmukhar. Of all the six abodes, this is the only abode located near the seashore. Lord Murugan destroyed the asura Surapadman here, using his Vel(spear) given to him by his mother Parvathi. He also used the Vel in the naazhi kinaru (sacred well) to get water for the people when there was a drought. The Naazhi Kinaru is located south of the temple and devotees use the well water to cleanse themselves prior to worshipping the deity. The Soorasamharam festival is celebrated every year, rejoicing the victory over Surapadman and the asuras by Skanda, combined with the Kandha Shasti festival.
3. Palani Murugan Temple (Thiruvavinankudi) - Pazhani, Dindigul district - Lost the Gnana Pazham
Lord Murugan enshrines as Lord Dandayuthapaani holding a staff (Dandam) in the popular hill temple of Palani. According to ancient mythology, the origin of the temple is based on a story where the sage Naratha presented the fruit of Knowledge (Gnana pazham) to Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva decided to give to one of his sons Ganesh and Muruga, and held a competition between the both of them. The competition was that the fruit would be handed over to the son who first circled the world three times. Murugan immediately took his vahana(vehicle), the peacock, and fled to circle the world. But to Lord Ganesh, the world is his parents and nothing else meant more to him. Hence, he walked around his parents thrice, and won the fruit of Knowledge. When Murugan returned, he found that his elder brother had already won the fruit. Out of sheer disappointment and frustration, he left Kailash and stood atop the Palani Hills.
4. Swamimalai Murugan Temple (Thiruverakam) - Swamimalai, kumbakonam - Preaching the Pranava Mantra “OM”
Lord Murugan is worshipped as Balamurugan and as Swaminatha Swami. The temple is said to be the place where Murugan preached the meaning of the Pranava Mantra “OM” to his father Lord Shiva. Hence this abode is known for its uniqueness, where the son is the teacher and the father is the student. The vahana of Murugan in this abode is an elephant instead of the peacock, and it is believed that the elephant, named Airavatha, was gifted to Murugan by Lord Indra.
5. Thiruthani Murugan Temple (Kundruthoraadal) - Thiruthani, Thiruvallur district - Marriage with Sri Valli
Lord Murugan enshrines in this temple as Tanikaslam. In this abode, he got back his inner peace after the war with the asuras. The name Thiruthani means "blissful repose" and it is here that Lord Muruga met Valli and fell in love with her. The divine marriage between Lord Murugan and Sri Valli took place in this abode. The main festival of the temple is Aadi Karthigai, where thousands of devotees carry kavadees (a wooden structure) on their shoulders. The kavadee is symbolic of burdens going on in one’s life, and devotees pray to the Lord to remove their burdens or sufferings. The devotees cheerfully carry the kavadee, singing devotional songs of Muruga, and dance their way up to the temple.
6. Pazhamudircholai Murugan Temple (Pazhamudircholai) - Pazhamudircholai, Madurai district - Darshan to devotees with both his consorts
Lord Murugan in this shrine is known as Kurinji Nilam Kizhavan, and stands along with his consorts Deivanai and Valli, which makes it the only temple amongst the six abodes where he blesses his devotees along with his consorts. The temple is also known as Solaimalai temple, and stands on the slopes of the Alagar hills, about twelve miles east of Madurai. The temple has three shrines worshipping Lord Ganesha, Lord Murugan with his consorts, and Lord Shiva.
The Grand Panel of Arupadaiveedu - The Six Abodes of Lord Murugan