In ancient times, some people in India followed a code of conduct revealed to them through insights and revelations. This was known as Sanathana Tharma. The essential elements of this code of conduct are, that all beings (human, animals and plants) in the universe are equal & inter dependent and they need to learn to co-exist in harmony. All beings were bound by this Tharma and any good or bad deeds resulted in good or bad Karma which determined one’s life.
At the heart of this Tharma lies God. Following this code of conduct men and women realize the divinity within themselves. Hence Sanathana Tharma became a way of life which was in practice fpr a long time.
Since the people practicing this way of life lived by Indus River, others referred to them as Hindus. Many God realized persons had insights, unfolding the nature of world which were written as Smiritis, Sruthis and other Mahavakyas which explains the essence of Hinduism.
Vedas are insights written between 2000BC to 500AD and in this period people prayed to nature such as fire. Following this Upanishads were written and Mahavakya’s such as “Ekam Sat” (I am Brahman) & “Aham Brahmasmi” (The soul is God), and other philosophical & metaphysical thinking were prominenet. Many researchers assume that as the “philosophical” God was taking over, Puranas came into being, to bring God closer to man/woman through stories.
Scholars also speculate, as old traditions & new concepts conflicted, Saiva Agamas came into being to reinforce traditions. Another way to look at this is to acknowledge worship of nature in the form of fire, water and wind. Later symbols such as Vel & Tridents were brought based on livelihood to bring God into their lives.
Subramuniya Swami States,
“ I believe that religion is the harmonious working together of the three worlds, and this harmony can be created through temple worship, wherein the three worlds become open to one another, and the beings within them are able to communicate”
It is believed that temples are founded by God himself where he appears in a vision or dream of a devotee and gives the relevant instructions regarding the temple. It is in this context that temples were constructed in the past, to create a holy atmosphere to enable people to engage in religious practices to seek liberation. According to scriptures, this is the sole purpose of human lives.
Saiva Agamic Laws
It is said that Agamas were revealed as insights to rishis and yogis. These Agamas expound the nature of the universe and associated events. It further highlights the interaction between Pathy (God), Pasu (Soul) and Pasam (Attachment). It also elucidates the code of conduct required for an individual human being to realize his or her full potential.
They also clarify that which needs to be followed by the society. the village and country to live a holistic and meaningful existence. Agamas also disclose episodes on sculpture, art, astrology, architecture, medicine and knowledge on all matters required by human being to lead an effective and holistic in the world.
There are 28 Agamas and each is divided into Chariya, kiriya, Yoga and Jnana. These explain the duties of human beings and how they may transcend the attachment to the body to enter other dimensions. They further explain the natureof the universe and the three Gunas (qualities Rajas. Thamas & Sathwic) of all living organisms in the universe.
agamas explain temple worship and the manner in which festivities are to be performed. According to these as much as the soul inhabits the body, God inhabitsthe temple. The comparison is made between the temple and the body where head is compared with the holy Sanctum, neck the Artha mandapam, naval the yoga mandapam and feet the Kopuram.
Macrocosm & microcosm
Many learned pundits highlight the fact that the universal design, the macrocosmic design provides the blueprint for temple structures and the human physical frame. There are resemblances in the human physical frame, structure of a temple and the universe.
To explain it further, the human organism not only consists of the gross physical body but also other sheaths such as the energy body. The Chakras are energy centres situated in the energy body and the latent spiritual energy known as Gundalini energy flows through them making them vibrant resulting in bliss and peace. These Chakras may be blocked due to physical. emotional or spiritual disturbances causing distress. The six energy centres are namely Moolatharam situated at the base of the spine, Swathishtana placed near the genitals, Manipura situated at the naval, Anahata situated in the heart, Visuddhi placed on the throat, Ajneya placed between the eyebrows and Sahasrara placed at the top of the head.
Yogis explain when Kundalini energy, coiled as a serpent at the base of the spine begins to rise & reaches the third eye or the divine eye a religious experience takes place, followed by a divine vision which comes about as a result of devotion to the deity. Hence temples are also constructed in such a manner as to enable the microcosm the human body to unite with the macrocosm the universe through worship.
New world view
In recent times, scholars like Fritjof Capra have highlighted the inter-connectedness that has emerged in cosmic science, re-enforcing the similarities between the views of physicists and mystics. They explain the new paradigm emerging as a holistic worldview, seeing the world as an integrated whole rather than a dissociated collection of parts.
Deepak Chopra has created a new revolution in our thinking by presenting a scientific and spiritual approach to the ultimate mystery of life, giving us a breathtaking and awe inspiring version of Divinity and ourselves and highlighting the spirituality in us. He is the voice of our time to articulate ancient wisdom in a language understandable in modern times.
Appling this new unfolding world view spiritual seekers are eager to find the connection that exists between Universal Tharma and human being at all levels including intellectual, spiritual, social and personal level. Finding and following each individual’s unique path brings rewards of inner peace and fulfillment.
Nallur the capital
Nallur was the capital of Jaffna kingdom. The royal palace was constructed in Sankiliyan Thopu. Adjacent to this was the water tank called Yamunari. this spot was prominent and contained other important buildings such as the minister’s palace and Muthirai Chantai where Nallur Kandaswamy temple was built and later demolished to construct a protestant church. Remnants of these structures can still be witnessed.
Kurukkal Valavu housed the original Nallur temple and in the adjacent lands were temples for Ganesha, Shive and Shakthi. This land was occupied by God realized persons who came on pilgrimages from other parts of the island and from abroad. The Kailasa Paramparai yogis and other prominent persons roamed these lands.
Nallur was a hive of activity where literary persons, artists and poets came to entertain the King in his court. According to the cultural practices of the day, there were many religious and cultural buildings and places adjoining the temple.
Historians assert that there is historical evidence to assume that the Temple was built in 1248 AD in Kurukkal Valavu in Nallur. The present Temple is situated in the same location. They further state that the temple must have been built by Puvanehabaku the Minister to Kalinga Arya Chakravarthy. The two prominent literary work, yalpana Vaipave Malai & Kailaya Malai highlight the crucial role played by Nallur Kumaran temple in the lives of people living in the peninsula.
In 1450, AD, northern Lanka was ruled by Kanaka Surya Singa Aryan and Southern Lanka was ruled by Parakramabahu the sixth. the Kings were always vying for power & expansion and Parakramabahu sent for this general Senbaha Perumal to conquer and another important buildings in Nallur and it can be assumed that the temple too was destroyed.
Later in 1467, Senbaha Perumal, tried to make amends by building the temple in Muthirai Chanthai. A large Kumaran temple was built as prescribed in Saiva Agamas and copper Yantras and temple deities equaling any large Indian temple were placed in the temple. The large external walls were built adjacent to Yamunari the water tank in Jaffna. Scholars speculate, that at that time, it might have been the largest temple in Sri Lanka.
Since the temple had tall walls surrounding the compound, it became a target for those invading the island. In 1620, the portugese invaded Jaffna and at one point, General Phillip Oliviera occupied the temple with his troops and utilized the premises as a fort. Oliviera was responsible for destroying many Hindu and Buddhist temples. He made Nallur his residence and in order to please Chistian residents destroyed the Kumaran temple to the ground.
During the Portugese invasion, a yogi named Sikkanthar occupied Kurukkal Valavu. He was well liked by Hindus and Muslims. In the war that took place between the tamils and the Portugese in Kurukkal Valavu, the Tamil regiment was beaten. Bt in this battle many innocent people and spiritual persons living in Kurukkal Valavu died.
In 1658 the Dutch captured Jaffna from the Portuguese. Like their predecessors, they too were intent on spreading Christianity. Towards the latter part of their reign, they relaxed their policies and it is at this juncture that Hindus around Nallur constructed a small Madalaya style building in 1734 in the same location as the second Nallur temple. Because of previous problems, they chose to adopt a Madalaya style. building without a Kopuram where they held Kanthapuranam readings. The building also housed a Vel which was worshipped by the followers.
Under Dutch reign, in 1734, due to the efforts of Ragunatha Mappana Mudaliyar, permission was granted to build the Nallur Temple in it’s original site in Kurukkal Valavu. Krishna Subbiah became the first priest to conduct Pujas in the temple.
The Muslim community inhabiting the premises were rehabilitated, and Kanthaswamy temple was built in it’s original site. Due to previous incidents, a simple style was chosen rather than a conventional temple. Utilising the funds secured from the community Nallur Kandaswamy Temple was built in it’s present situation.
Ancient religious festivals
In olden days, the temple conducted around 55 festivals through out the year. The annual festival was conducted around July to August for 25 days. The idol was carried by devotees and taken on procession on the streets surrounding the temple.
Historians state that the festivals were conducted according to the Dravidian traditions and customs of the then Tamil community living in Nallur. However over the years integration and fusion of customers and traditions took place to reveal the mingling of Agamic traditions and non-Agamic traditions to offer a comprehensive tradition promoting peace and harmony.
Nallur festivals took place primarily in the nights. Large processions carrying torch lights and petromax lamps illuminated the entourage. Gigantic drums were beaten and women clad in shimmering outfits danced in front of the deity as it proceeded through the streets.
Ragunatha Mappana Mudaliyar Sumuha
A tradition that has been in existence for a long time is to recite certain stanzas and verses to acknowledge and express gratitude to Rakunatha Mappana Mudaliyar, the person who was responsible for the construction of the present temple for Nallur Kandaswamy. One of this Katiyam is as follows:
“Hail King of Kings
who is omnipresent
with Gajavalli & Mahavalli
Sri Subramanya appears
at His feet
Hail devotees of Shiva
also present, Ragunatha Mappana Mudaliyar”.
Initially, Nallur Kumaran temple was constructed in accordance with Saiva Agamas, in later years decisions were taken to avoid constructing a sthupi and adopt a Madalaya style. The prime reason for this decision was to avoid unwanted attention of the foreign invaders. However, in later years, this decision led to criticism from local traditionalists.
Many conventional Tamils disapproved the community style construction and the absence of a sthupi as prescribed in the Saive Agamas. They were critical of Vel worship in the temple and insisted on having statues. Following this, statues of Murugan, Valli & Thevasena were brought from India but due to other events which took place at that time, decisions were taken to conserve the deities in Thenmaratchi Kanthaswami temple.
Debates raged between traditionalists & reformists, this caused much unpleasantness and eventually, attempts were undertaken tp re-construct the temple in accordance with Saiva Ahamas. However, rumour has it that, Kumaran appeared in the dream of a devotee to assure that the present format was to his liking.
During the erection of the nallur temple in 1734, bricks and stones were utilized for constructing the building, Later on in 1899, the first bell was mounted. Consequently, the Vasantha Mandapam was re-furbished. The Temple stands at the corner of temple Road on the west side and Point Pedro Road on the south side. Beyond the road was the holy water tank called the Theerthakeni.
During the 1970’s the land between the temple and the Theerthakeni was acquired with a view to construct two inner courts to accommodate the increasing crowd. The outer court now goes round the Theerthakeni increasing the circumference of the temple prescient.
This outer court consists of public roads and private land belonging to the temple & other residents. During festival times, the deity comes out on a Vahanam to parade round the temple.
The temple is also surrounded by other religious, cultural and social institutions. these buildings together with the temple complex constitute Nallur village which has a unique bonding with Nallur Kanthaswamy and the temple.
The temple faces the east and exhibits an ornately carved five storied front Kopuram, 6 bell towers and the Kopuram of Arumugaswami. As one walks in the direction of the temple, it looms ahead as a majestic structure towering above reaching the nether worlds. The large magnanimous walls, painted in red and white, remind us that we are approaching the fort of our Lord.
One of the spectacular experiences devotees hold close to their heart, is the walk they make towards the temple for the Palli Elichi (Waking up) puja. As one walks down the totally desolate Point Pedro Road, the Kopuram seems ominously close with OM MURUKA set in neon lights.
The ornately sculptured tower is silhouetted against a dark sky with a full moon turning night into day. The total silence is disrupted only by the palm leaves swaying in the breeze. Captured by the magic of the moment one walks steadily across the sandy path towards the home of Saravanabava.
On the eastern side facing the temple is the famous theradi, where the ther/chariot is parked. This area was used by Yogis and Swamis for meditation. In recent times Chellappa Swami and Yoga Swami sat under the bilva tree by the theradi in meditation.
Even now this remains a spot where devotees gather to meditate. The steps leading to the ther has been used by devotees to chant Kanthapuranam.
The entrance hall has an intricately designed arched ceiling, which appears like floating clouds between two worlds. Two gigantic, creatively carved teak doors studded with multitude of brass studs lead into the inner court.
On either side of the doors stand two magnificently carved temple guards- Thuvarapalar. Walking towards the temple, through the artistically designed entrance hall into the inner court, one experiences awe, splendor and devotion.
The fore court is large & flanked by the innermost court which displays, exquisitely embossed copper ornaments, contrasted against a vibrant burnt orange wall. The holy sanctum housing the hallowed Vel is visible through an archway elaborately designed in intricate embossed shimmering copper plates. Rows of glittering oil lamps, elaborate filigree ornaments, daintily designed structures enhance the aesthetic quality of the temple.
The innermost court houses deities of Muthukumaraswami & the two beautiful consorts, Shanmuga & the two elegant consorts. At the far end temples accommodating lord Ganesha, Valli & Thevasena, Santhana Gopalar, & Gajavalli appear compact and majestic under a golden roof.
The north western corner is referred to as Chithamparam and reveals a massive portrait of the cosmic dancer Lord shiva A colossal, artistically carved oil lamb decorates the Chithamparam corner. there are 108 dancing poses of the cosmic dancer Lord Nadarajah which capture the imagination of the truth seekers.
To the north of the inner court is the Nanthavanam which accommodates a wide range of flowering plants and fruit trees. There is an exquisitely designed pond with water lilies and other aquatic foliage exhibiting a carved canopy. The garden is opened to the public on certain festive days.
The imaginatively designed Vasantha Mandapam boasts a magnanimous portrait of Kumaran & his two graceful consorts. The Vasantha mandapam accommodates the Utsavmurthy and during festivities, large crowds gather opposite the Vasantha Mandapam. The corridor opposite stretches through the inner court into the 2nd court & expands into the outer court yard.
Adjacent to this is the temple for Vairavar which opens into the outer court. the large patio opposite is utilized by devotees for meditation. Literary scholars too constantly use this spot for sathsang. Adjoining this is a large hall which incorporates the Yoga mandapam and the temple for Soorya.
The second court
The second court exhibits elaborate corridors revealing, creatively painted flamboyant scenarios of Kumaran’s antics and puranic scenarios. the birth Sanmuga and the six Karthigai maids, Kumaran with Auvvayar, marriage to Indra’s daughter Thevasena, courtship with Valli, Surapandara’s destruction, Somaskantha with his family and Thandayuthapani are elaborately depicted in vibrant hues. Larger than life portraits of the Arupadai Veedu-Thiruparankuntram, Swamimalai, Palani, Palamuthirsolai, Thiruthani and Thiruchenthur are strategically placed on the passage walls.
There are other portraits of Meenakshi, Abirami and Sabarimalai Ayappan. A captivating portrait of Soorya in his glory with the dynamic houses is portrayed in vibrant violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange and red. These majestic postures and elaborate styles, innovatively presented, capture the imagination of devotees inspiring them to sing, dance and meditate.
Several massive, ornately carved, saffron coloured, sandy pillars are strategically placed creating depth and space adding splendor to the surroundings. During festivities, even as the Lord makes his rounds inside the temple, the innovatively designed environment adds glamour to festivals transporting devotees to another sphere of existence.
The arch shaped ceiling reveals bright hued frills together with glittering star like studs & coloured lights. Exquisitely carved Yali structures are placed to enhance the aesthetic quality of the Temple.
The TheerthaKeni is in the middle of the second court surrounded by large corridors exhibiting paintings. The large steps on all four sides lead to the water. Many wind chimes are placed round the Theerthakeni. They jingle in the breeze to make harmonious tunes.
The temple housing the lone Nirguna aspect of Thandayuthapani is kept at the far end. The deity faces Shanmuga across the Theerthakeni. during Shanmuga Archana, six theepams are performed for Shanmuga and one for Thandayuthapani. This is one of the spectacular sights that captures the attention of the devotees and stays with them for ever.
Temple in the millennium
In recent years, extensive construction work took place in the temples. Experienced structural engineers explain that Vastu Sastra demands building structures to be constructed in granite and stone. Agama Sastras also state that temples should have the touch of the earth “boosparism”. This is achieved by constructing tunnels with reinforced concrete which is than filled with sand in order to have the touch of the earth.
Recently, the unfolding of a unique temple, one that blends tradition and modern architecture, one that is in harmony with the holistic principles of the five elements (fire, water, earth, wind and space), has been witnessed. This temple, in the present fast changing world, has delicately balanced ancient customs and traditions with modern methods and techniques to create a unique opportunity for the devote to encounter and experience another dimension.
Kanthapuranam states that Skanthagiri was established by the Devas for Shanmuga. They chose the Deva architect Visvakarma to construct the dream palace fit for a king.
Skanthagiri was constructed in a beautiful location and had artistically designed palatial buildings, with many intricately carved gigantic pillars and multitude of large & small jingling bells. there were many water tanks, and courtyards together with large walls and elaborately designed towers and roofs.
When devotees sit by the Theerthakeni witnessing the temple Kopuram & intricately carved roofing silhouetted against the sunrise, where only palm leaves sway in the wind and birds wake up to the dawning world, it feels one is in Skanthagiri the home of our Lord.
Spirituality in Management
In Nallur temple, devotees point out the lone figure reverentially known as “Esaman,” seated in contemplation totally in harmony with his surroundings. They say he is the architect assigned to create Skanthagiri in Nallur. Kumaradas Mappana Mudaliyar, the present custodian of the Kandaswamy temple, hails from the Mappanar Dynasty and enjoys the position as the tenth custodian commencing from Don Juan Rakunatha Mappana Mudaliyar. Visitors to the temple see the humble energetic figure mingle with the workers to complete construction work.
Devotees respect him for offering archanas even in this millennium for a rupee. He is admired for the precision and punctuality with which festivals are carried out in the Temple. Worshippers take pride in Alankara Kanthan and his exquisite paraphernalia, moved by the tender love and care that has gone into planning each festival.
His management skills are very much appreciated when year after year he turns problems into challenges, with divine grace they say. His team of employees and volunteers are eager to fulfil their roles and responsibilities and be part of the Nallur scene as they say follows instructions from ‘Kandaswamy.’
It is through worship and meditation that we communicate with the super conscious worlds. Within the temple precincts of the first world., Brahmins gather, to commune with the second world Devas in the presence of the third world Gods. Festivals offer an opportunity for devotees to express their love and devotion to God.
Pujas are worship performed to the deity to invoke and establish a psychic connection with the God. these rituals are carried out by Brahmin priests with immense love and devotion.
Nallur Temple is re-known for the meticulous manner in which Pujas are performed at the precise times. Daily six Pujas are conducted. These are the Palli Elichi Puja, 5 a.m Puja, 10 a.m Puja, 12 noon Puja, 5 p.m Puja & Artha Sama puja.
Conforming to Saive Agamas the Temple conducts Satha utsav (Daily festivity), Satha Agni-homa (daily fire homa) & Satha kala (always at a particular time). Other religious practices too are performed, to increase bhava & bakthi in the temple. Many attribute these religious practices for the increasing divinity of the Temple.
One of the unique pujas performed in the Temple is the Palli Elichi, effected every day at the Brahma Mugurtham. Devotees gather at 4 a.m to participate in this ceremony. All gather outside the closed temple doors as the Priest sings with intense devotion.
“The cukoo sings, so does the cockerel
Kurukkal chants the conch blows,
Stars are disappearing, morning light is appearing,
This is the desired time for prayers
Deva, show us your blessed Divine feet,
Lord Shiva who resides in Thiruperunthurai
One who is beyond our senses, Yet easily known,
My Lord! Won’t you awaken!”
- Manikka Vasagar (in Tamil)
This symbolizes waking the god within us. The deity is placed on an intricately carved chariot and drawn through the inner court by ardent devotees into the holy sanctum.
Many comment this as the time to witness genuine devotion as devotees beseech their personal God for his love & grace through supplication. This is a pious & emotive experience. The bhava infused in these personalized ceremonies is essentially the component that touches every soul. Such sacred rites play a part in increasing devotion leading to higher stage in the spiritual path.
The second phase of this Puja is the Artha Sama Puja performed at twilight when the deity is brought back to the sanctum where the two elegant consorts Thevasenai & Valli remain during the day. Thevarams are sung and the deity is left with the two consorts.
On the first of every month the Sankiranthi Theertham is carried out at 6 a.m in the Nanthavanam. A special ceremony is carried for Kanthaswamy and the two consorts adjacent to the pond. This involves an abishekan with milk, honey and ghee followed by an arathi. On this day gates of the Nanthavanam are opened to the public.
Every month on Karthigai day the divine Vel and the two graceful consorts adorned in exquisite finery are brought out on a vahanam to parade the inner court and outer court.
Monthly, a special puja is performed for Muthukumaraswami involving an abishekam with milk, honey, fruits and ghee followed by an arathi.
A special archana effected for Lord Shanmuga almost daily involving, an abishekam with cool coconut, pure milk, sweet honey and exotic fruits. Holy ash is sprinkled, subsequently vibrant yellow chandanam is applied and the deity is cleansed with sparking spring water.
Following this, Lord Shanmuga is attired in contrasting silks and satins as he majestically sits on his peacock. The graceful Thevasena & elegant Valli are dressed in flamboyant outfits. Gorgeous colourful garlands are placed one after another on the idols presenting an awe inspiring picture.
The Priest chants mantras with immense devotion to commune with the Lord and establish a psychic connection on behalf of the worshippers. Six arathis are performed by six Brahmin priests. Simultaneously, an arathi is shown for Thandayuthapani. this archana captures the imagination of spiritual seekers and helps them make a mystical connection with the might Thevasenathipathy.
Thai Pongal, is the day of celebration for farmers following harvest. A special abishekam is performed for the deity.
Thai Poosam denotes Goddess Shakthi granting the powerful vel to Shanmuga. On this day, the deity and consorts ascend the Manjam cart to be drawn round the temple by ardent worshippers.
At Nallur temple, the Arurtha Tharisanam is depicted through 6 panjalathis performed for Lord Shanmuga and one for Lord Shiva situated at the base of the seat expounding Father is son principle. Priests then take the Arathi to the cosmic dancer Lord Nadarajah in the Chithamparam corner.
Panguni utharam denotes Kumaran’s marriage to Devasena. This is followed by the Tamil New Year. Kanthapuram reading sessions start and finish on October.
Lord Shanmuga celebrates his birthday on Vaihasi Visaham. A special abishekam takes place for the deity with milk, honey and fruits followed by an arathi.
Lord Shanmuga was established in Nallur temple around this time and on that particular day a spectacular, 1008 Sangabishekam is performed with pomp and glamour. Subsequently, the deity adorned in fine silks and satins weds Thevasena & Valli with all the bells ringing in unison. To be present in the temple, at that particular time, with all the bells ringing in unison, is as experience of an aesthetic quality which words fail to describe. One should only try to experience it & not speak about it.
Skanthashasti takes place for 6 days when worshippers congregate in the Temple, as it remains open all day, to observe strict Vrata & read Kanthashasti kavasam.
In the evenings Muthukumaraswami, prepares for battle with Surapadman. Dressed in vibrant battle garments, he parades the inner and outer courts carried by ardent devotees. The arrogant demon Surapadma is up to his illusory demonic tricks teasing the Lord. On the fifth day Lord Shanmuga reveals his visvarupam, depicted by 6 arathis.
Finally, Lord Shanmuga adorns regal battle garments and ascends the Sliver goat to battle with the demon, only to wield his lance to destroy Surapadma’s ego & grace him to become his emblem & vahanam. The following day Muthukumaraswami weds Thevasena & Valli.
This festival is observed for ten days, Thiruvembavai songs are sung very morning while worshippers observe vratas.
Brahmin priests have a responsibility to perform pujas with bhava & bhakthi whereby they invoke the deity and establish a psychic connection on behalf of the spiritual seekers.
Devotees, point out a particular priest, immensely devoted to the deity he serves, and refer to him with respect as “Kurukkal”. They say he performs pujas with total devotion & supplication to the many deities, infusing bhava and bakthi into the pujas he performs.
It is sad, that his family was involved with the temple for many years, yet, he severed connections to seek employment elsewhere. A crisis in his life brought him back to Nallur and since then he has dedicated his entire life to serve Kumaran. Many devotees portray him as the steadfast soldier who serves the Thevasensthipathy.
The Annual Festival
Nallur Kumaran is popularly known as Alankara Kanthan. True to this, the deity beautiful adorned in delicate silks and jewels presents an awe inspring picture captivating the hearts of devotees.
Each year, the Annual festival is conducted for 27 days during July or August. It commences with the flag hoisting ceremony, and ends with the water cutting ceremony which signifies cutting all worldly attachments. All festivals are meticulously designed & carried out to present a memorable experience for the worshippers.
The entire village participates in the preparation. Temple employees polish brass lambs & ornaments. Volunteers sweep & clean the compound. Village residents decorate their homes & streets with mango leaves, coconut strips, flower & plantain trees. Kolam designs associated with the deity are artistically sketched in the frontage. Many keep kumbams outside their homes. Other religious and cultural buildings in the vicinity prepare pandals to accommodate devotees from far and near.
The Jaffna Municipal Council is a partner in action and cordons off the temple compound to make it a user friendly pedestrian piazza covered in golden sand. It establishes stalls for street vendors to sell clothing, trinkets, gadgets, toys, books and food. Prominent schools in Jaffna send volunteers from senior classes to control the crowd. The Sri Lanka Ambulance Service offers First Aid facilities and the Police Force establishes a temporary station to provide security services for the devotees.
The day prior to the flag hoisting ceremony, Vairavar seated on a dog vahanam, diligently inspects the grounds for security and safety. Temple employees set fire to a bundle of straw and drag it round the temple. this is called Mothu kattal. This is done to ward off evil spirits.
During the annual festival, every morning at 10.30 special puja is performed for the Utsav murthy in the Vasantha mandapam.
The divine Vel studded with rubies, emeralds and diamonds is set against a vibrant hued background surrounded by beautiful flower arrangements. The two consorts Thevasena & Vall are clad in delicate silks and gauzes with intricately designed ornaments elegantly placed round their dainty necks, hands & waist. Numerous elaborately engraved glittering gold chains and trinkets accentuate the beauty of the deities.
The Kurukkal performs the ceremony utilizing ornately carved lambs of different shapes and sizes. A coconut is broken to imply that the entourage may move into the inner court. The orchestra plays Shanmuga Priya raga, Lord Shanmuga’s favorite and the deity seated on a vahanam is carried round the inner court.
On their return to the Vasantha Mandapam, Yaha Puja is performed and Arathi shown. It is a moment of reckoning, to make that connection with the beloved personal God, standing in front so majestically yet full of divine love. Many devotees have experienced a mystical connection with the deity.
Flag hosting (1)
The auspicious flag, woven by devotees of Muthirai Chantai is hosted in the morning. Saiva agamas highlight the interaction between Pathy (God) Pasu (Soul) and Pasam (attachment) rope. It also elucidates the detachment and devotion required for the next few days for an individual human being to realize his/her full potential.
Presided by Lord Ganesha, Kanthaswamy Thevasena, Valli, the flag is hoisted. Amidst ringing bells, confetti of flowers and mantras chanted by Brahmin priests (clad in red), the flag is hoisted and a pact is made with God.
In the evening, the holy Vel is seated on a Silver peacock. The two consorts are placed on a Silver swan and the entourage is carried round the outer court. the priests, musicians, bhajan singers and devotees follow the deities.
During the next 9 days, in the evenings, pujas are discharged for the divine vel & the two elegantly attired consorts who then ascend vahanams to parade the nner and outer courts. Different vahanams such as Silver swans, Yellow swans, Silver goats, Silver peacock, Mahara vahanam (elephant & lion), Kamadenu & Green parrots are utilized.
On the 10th day, Muthukumaraswami and the two consorts, adorned in shimmering silks and satins in vivacious colours, displaying ornate jewellery and fragrant flowers regally ascend the beautifully carved Manjam cart and are drawn round the temple.
The next consequent days 11th to 17th sees, the divine Vel together with the consorts tour round the temple while the 3 deities are accommodated on separate vahanams. These are Yellow swans, Green parrots, Silver peacocks, Karam Pasu, Coiled snake, Majestic lion and Mahara vahanam.
On the day of “Karthigai” Natchathiram, the admirable Muthukumaswami with the beautiful Thevasena & demure Valli decorated in finery befitting royalty ascend the flower Saparam covered n flowers of different hues presenting a dynamic mosaic design. The entourage presents a captivating picture and is drawn away amidst Arahara Arahara Arohra chanted by the ecstatic crowd.
The subsequent 4 days sees the divine holy Vel together with the two consorts seated on separate vahanams such as Silver peacocks, Sacred cows, Silver goats and Idumban & Idumbi. On the 20th day evening the deity proceeds to the inner court accompanied by large drums known as perihai.
On the 20th day morning a melodious flute recital takes lace and Santhana Gopalar majestically reclining on Athiseshan snake vahanam parades the grounds. In the evening the three deities ascend the Kailaya vahanam which depicts the ten headed Ravana lifting Mt Kailash.
On the 21st day morning classical Karnatic music programme is conducted. Goddess Gajavalli, regally seated on a lion vahanam parades the ground. In the evening the holy Vel and the beautiful consorts decked in pink and white Mussanda flowers appear before the devotees to present an awe inspiring picture. The entourage then descends towards the inner court accompanied by musicians singing thevarams only to ascend the golden chariot offering a spectacle to capture the imagination of devotees, transporting them to the world of Devas. The entourage parades the outer court.
On the 22nd morning the Thandayuthapani festival takes place. thevaram are sung for an hour. Then Lord Ganesha appears on the mouse vahanam followed by Kumaran on his peacock. On losing the mango to Ganesha, Kumaran adorns ochre robes to appear as Thandayuthapani. In the evening the holy Vel and consorts are accompanied by priests chanting Mantras as they go round the inner court. The entourage proceeds to the outer court with the deities mounted on sevenhorses, three on one side, three on the other and Kumaran on a single Red horse, in the middle, also known as Oru Muha Thiruvila.
On the 23nd evening, the holy Vel studded with a large glittering diamond, and contrasted against a striking shimmering dark background is encircled by rows and rows of radiant flower garlands. The two consorts Thevasena & Valli are dressed in ibrant contrasting silks with brocade waist garments accentuating their dainty waists. Several, artistically designed shimmering jewellery are draped across the three deities presenting a captivating scene.
The entourage parades round the inner court accompanied by ringing bells. they move to the outer court towards the colossal Sapparam parked facing the Temple. This mammoth construction is made out of red & white squares to tower above all other contraptions in the vicinity, but equaling the Kopuram, which is known as the largest moving structure in the island.
As the deities approach the Sapparam, hundreds of umbrellas in vibrant colours with tassels and trinkets present a guard of honour. A loud horn is below creating a rather special and moving experience. Once the deity ascends, the Sapparam the vel is drawn round the temple by large number of devotees amidst the chanting of arohara arohara.
The highlight of the festival is the Ther chariot ceremony. It commences at Brahma Muhurtham when devotees from far and near gather to witness the glamorously attired Lord Shanmuga, King of Kings and commander in Chief of the celestial armies, regally seated on an elaborately designed silver throne to accept Shanmuga Archana. He is the mighty Thevasenathypahty who fearlessly wields the Vel, lance of light and spiritual knowledge which overcomes the demons of darkness.
As though the heavens opened, the bells ring, conch blows, orchestra reverberates, confetti of flowers are strewn and tens and thousands of devotees throng the temple preciects to catch a glimpse of Lord Shanmuga and win His grace Arohara, Arohara repeat the devotees as the deity arrives regally at the entrance surrounded by the entourage.
As Lord Shanmuga steps out majestically, time, which never stops in Nallur temple, stands still for one moment, only to capture the beauty of our Lord as he accepts the confetti of lotus the beauty of our lord as he accepts the confetti of lotus flowers showered by the deva’s of the Second world.
The deity progresses towards the Ther, to ascend the Ther amidst all the commotion and is pulled away by ardent devotees. There are no words to describe this spiritual experience as devotees live through intense emotions only to be catapulted to the realm of Gods.
The majestic Lord Shanmuga and his elegant consorts, draped in vibrant green, decorated in his favorite maru & marikolunthu foliage filling the air with fragrance return to the temple. Festivals offer an opportunity to awaken love and devotion for the God in our hearts.
Water cutting (25)
Lord Ganesh, Vel, Thevasena & Valli and Sandeswarar arrive at the Theerthakeni on their vahanam the Silver mouse, Silver peacock, Silver swans and Silver bull respectively to preside over the water cutting ceremony.
The flag is taken down & the deities clad in pure white, seated on their vahanams parade the temple in silence which denotes the illusory aspect of life. Devotees who participated in the festivities break coconuts to bring it to a closure & express gratitude.
The wedding is a colourful affair. The beautiful attired Thevesena, occupies the courtyard opposite Lord Shanmuga. The gigantic oak doors are shut.
The handsome Muthukumaraswami clad in ceremonial princely regalia, is accompanied by Valli, adorned in flamboyant garments He requests Thevasena to open the door and she refuses. This scenario is enacted by temple personnel through devotional songs. Kumaran gets the door open & pacifies Thevasena to marry them both.
The wedding party then ascends the Golden ratham to stand on the elevated ratham with the inky blue sky as their background. Bright neon lights accentuate the captivating scenario.
Vairavar goes round the temple on his dog vahanam and pays his gratitude and brings the festival to a closure.
Synergy in the Temple
A programme of this magnitude demands strategic vision and planning, with multitude of skilled professionals to implement it effectively. Even then, human error & human limitations can interfere with the success of the programme.
SYNERGY means one plus one is greater than two. This concept is utilized in modern management to achieve positive results. This metaphysical principle when applied for the benefit of many leads to success. These principals are applied by spiritual persons in various disciplines in life including personal, organsational and community development to be of advantage to be of advantage for many persons.
The temple festival brings about much joy and happiness to many people. The SYNERGY effect of many committed persons together with divine blessing make events in the temple a grand success.
Puranas are Hindu mythological literature which contain ethical and cosmological teachings and explain God, humans and the world through a wide range of stories.
Hinduism rests on Vedas and Agamas including Shruti’s, Smritis and Puranas. These purana’s are known as the sacred lore. Scholars are beginning to appreciate the deep psychological wisdom preserved and transmitted in the form of puranic legends.
The puranic traditions reveal the Hindu Trinity as Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva responsible for creation, protection and destruction. They have 3 consorts who enable them in their tasks as shakthi the power, namely Saraswathi, Lakshmi and Durka.
According to the puranic lore, Shiva and Shakthi have two sons. the elders is Ganesha, the elephant headed God, who is the bestower of Brahnavam (OM mantra) and the remover of obstacles. The youngest is Murugan, the Kali Yuga Varathan, who wields the lance to remove ignorance and liberate his father and the six headed Shanmuga the Thevasenapathy.
One aspect of Kumaran is the six headed Shanmuga, the energy of Lord Shiva. Puranas narrate, that Devas were harassed by the demon Surapandara. Unable to withstand the demonic maya techniques they supplicated to Lord Shiva who sent forth his energy from his third eye into Saravana poihai in the form of six rays which manifested as six children and when held together by Shakthi mystically became the six headed Shanmuga.
This represents Jnana (knowledge), vairagya (dispassion), bala (strength), kirti (fame), sree (wealth) and aishwarya (divine powers). Goddess Shakthi offered the Vel that symbolizes victory and the celestial army of which Shanmuga became King.
He offered an opportunity for demon Surapandara to make peace with the Devas and since this did not come to fruition, battled with Surapandara to defeat him and make him the emblem in his flag and the peacock vahanam. This story is enacted during Kanthashashti festival.
In the temple, the admirable deity with beautiful countenance expressing care, compassion, affection, wisdom, valour and peace is seated on the peacock as the Thevasenapathy.
The other aspect of Kumaran is Thandayuthapani which is the nirguna aspect free of maya.
Puranas state, that sage Naratha presented Lord Shiva with a mango, and Lord Shiva said he would offer it to the fastest of his sons to circuit the world. Ganesha, the wise one, went round his parents, won the race and claimed the mango. Kumaran went round the world on his peacock, and on his return realized he had lost, hence he renounced material things to become Thandayuthapani.
In Nallur Temple this nirguna aspect Thandayuthapani is accommodated at the southern end of the temple beyond the Theerthakeni. The large lifelike deity with an all knowing smile captivates the hearts of devotees. Very often he is dressed scantily, only in a loin cloth, depicting his renounced status.
On Fridays a special abishaham is performed in milk and honey followed by an arathi. This is a spectacular event and one sees Swaminathan in this form.
The courtyard at Plani, is quiet and spacious covered in golden sand. Spiritual seekers meditate in this area. It is an extremely pious and quiet place.
Another aspect of Kumaran is the Kali Yuga Varatha, the savior of this yuga. His consort Devasena represents kriya sakthi (Duty) and Valli, icha sakthi (Desire) and Kumaran is Jnana sakthi (knowledge). He is the one who destroys maya (delusion) in his devitees. This is the saguna form of Kumaran (with sakthi).
Muthukumaraswami and the consorts participate in the festivals going out on processions. The large deity in a standing pose has an appealing countenance and dresses in silks and satins to appear like a Prince. One witnesses Kali Yuga Varathan in this form.
He is described as beauty, youth & sweetness. Devotees behold him as son, broher, lover, warrior, pundit, enunciate & savior. They cultivate an intimate relationship with the many forms. Bhava (feeling) is essential for bakthi (devotion). The saguna form of God offers an opportunity to the mind to comprehend that the almighty is the dweller of all hearts.
Arurtha Tharisanam: Father is son
Kanthapuranam, states that, Kumaran the child God enjoyed pranks and on one occasion, at the request of Pragaspathy, revealed his visvarupa. Those present witnessed the entire universe in His form. All gods, all living things & matter were confined within His form including Shiva, Brahma & Vishnu & their consorts.
In nallur temple the Arurtha Tharisanam is depicted by six panchalathis and performed on festivals connecting Lord Kumaran to Lord Shiva. Many devotees have had visions of a lingam buried below the deity of Lord Shanmuga confirming that Shanmuga is Shiva: father is son.
Kanthapuranam reading in Nallur
Kanthapuranam was first written in Sanskrit later written in Tamil by Kachiappa Sivachariyar. Sclars assume, is it was brought to Jaffna by Yarlpadi at the same time it was written in India. They believe Arumuga Navalar introduced Kanthapuranam reading to the Tamil community in Sri Lanka.
In Nallur temple Kanthapuranam reading plays a significant role. It starts in April following the Tamil New Year festival and finishes a few days before Mahothsavam.
Kanthapuranam illustrates that Ego (Surapandara), Karma (Singamuhan) and Maya (Tharaha) are present in all human beings. Lord Kumaran (jnana) together with Thevasena (Kiriya Sakthi) and Valli (icha sakthi) overcomes ego, karma and maya (not destroy but overcome) for “what is there cannot be destroyed and what is not there cannot be created”.
THE SPIRITUAL TEACHERS
According to Hinduism, there are four paths leading to the realization that God and soul are one. These are Chariya, Kiriya, yoga and Jnana margas. the last one is essentially the wisdom, the yogic experiential knowledge of the highest order including the realization that God and soul are one.
From time immemorial, many Hindu saints and sages were dedicated to God and attained grace. These realized souls are the embodiment of God, an individual soul in union with God. Spiritual awakening and the truth of oneness with God was taught by these realized saints and sages.
In Nallur, refined Tamil and Saiva path (Saivaneri) flourished as many saints and sages lived and roamed the city. This authority of teaching the truth, it seems rested with these God realized persons.
During 1500’s many sages & saints travelled regularly between India & Sri Lanka on pilgrimages. A sage named Sikkandar lived in Kurukkal Valavu and was well respected by the Hindu & Muslim Communities. Historians assert that he attained liberation & his Samadhi was kept in Kurukkal Valavu.
In Nallur, during the 1800’s the responsibility of teaching spirituality fell on to the Kailasa paramparai. This yogic lineage is traced back to an unknown Rishi who lived in MT Kailas (1770-1840).
Very little is known about this rishi other than that he was ordained by his guru into the siddar line and was a liberated soul. He had many miraculous powers and later initiated Kadai Swami in to the siddar line.
It is said that Kadai Swami worked as a District Judge in South India and in the course of his duty had to pass a death sentence on a criminal. This brought about a conflict in his mind and he chose to renounce his worldly responsibilities to seek the real meaning of life.
He approached the rishi and received extensive training instructions and theekshas and was named Muthianandaswami. His mission was to go to Sri Lanka to revive Saivaism. Muthiananda Swami arrived in Velanai, a small island off the northern coast and later went to the peninsula. He carried out many discourses, performed miracles and trained four disciples to carry on his work. Since he spent time in the bazaar he was affectionately called as Kadai (bazaar) Swami. He attained was affectionately called as Kadai (bazaar) Swami. He attained samathi (1810-1875) and a shrine was built n Neeraviadi.
Chellappa was the son of a farmer who lived in the eastern side of Nallur temple surrounded by farmlands. He studied in Central College and later worked in the Kacheri but exhibited little interest in worldly pursuits and was irresistibly drawn to Kumaran and the path of devotion.
Kadai Swami initiated Chellappa Swami as the next guru into the siddar line and made him sit by the theradi so that people may get an opportunity to have his tharshan. Chellappa swami was a librated soul who possessed many miraculous powers yet, appeared as a mad man and very few realized his divinity (1840-1914).
This librated soul, seated by the theradi was in communion with Kumaran and enjoyed an intense relationship with the deity. He initiated many other disciples but the lineage continues through Yoga swami. Chellappa Swam’s samathi is in the centre adjacent to the temple. Devotees at the Centre narrate his life story through devotional songs.
Based on his insights, he revealed some Maha vakyas:
Another spiritual seeker called Yoganathan was drawn to Kumaran. He was born in Maviddapuram, and was raised by his aunt in Colombuthurai, later employed as a store – keeper in Kilinochchi and finally renounced worldly life to join Chellappa Swami in Nallur.
Yoga swami (1872-1964) devotedly attended to his master while continuing his sadhana. On one occasion, Chellappa swami asked him to meditate for 40 days on the steps leading to the ther. Following this Yoga Swami was initiated into the siddar line.
Soon, as though drawn by the mystical, magnetic puiip of kumaran, Yoga Swami embarked on a pilgrimage (Patha Yatra 1910) from the sacred shrine of Nallur to the holy temple in Kathirkamam. The journey was arduous but he withstood the trials and tribulations to reach his beloved Kumaran in Kathirkamam.
Yoga Swami dedicated several devotional songs to Nallur Kandaswamy. These are recorded in the anthology of sacred poems titled Natchinthanai. He writes:
“O men of Lanka,
attach yourselves by treading a virtuous path
to the holy feet of Murugan,
who pervades all,
Also is knowledge of all &
beyond the beyond stands.
Repeatedly prostrate to those feet &
Victory will be yours”.
Yogaswami took residence under a tree in Columbuthurai which later became his Ashram. He edited a spiritual magazine titled Siva Thondan (Servant of Sive) which was printed from the Siva Thondan Nilayam in Jaffna.
YogaSwami revealed Maha Vakyas These are:
Subramuniya was born in affluent America but had an imperative desire to tread the spiritual ath. He searched for his guru in India & arrived in Sri Lanka. They say, he was taken to Nallur temple where he had a vision revealing Yogaswami as his guru.
He joined Yoga Swami in and was initiated into the spiritual path as Subramaniya Swami. He spent time in Nallur, Columbuthurai and established a retreat in Alaveddy before returning to the ashram in Hawaai. Subramuniya Swami attained liberation (1927-2001).
Subramuniya Swami;s disciple known as Velanswami came to Sri Lanka and spent time in Nallur, Alaveddy and Colombuthurai before returning to Hawaai to spread Saivaism. He continues the spiritual awakening and teaching started by his gurus of the Kailasa Paramparai.
Nallur Kandaswami temple offers an environment conducive for meditation. Not very many temples situated in the heart of a city could boast such idyllic surroundings. the magnificently constructed temple offers large courtyards, spacious corridors including the water tank, garden with mature trees and sculptured pillars.
The enclosed area prevents unwanted intrusion and creates a peaceful atmosphere. There is absolute silence in the compound which is disturbed only by natural sounds. The leaves of trees rustle in the gentle breeze, passing birds chirp and sing, myriads of wind chimes placed round the Theerthakeni create musical jingles.
Many devotees sit in yogic postures. Through sathsang one discovers the powerful spots which is conducive for meditation. the courtyard opposite Lord Shanmuga, the line connecting Lord Shanmuga & Thandayuthapani, the courtyared before Vairaver & Theradi are some of the sacred sought after spots. sathsang also reveals Chakra thyana carried out by devotees focusing on the seven charkas. Sometimes devotees reveal personal mystical experiences. They exhibit a peaceful and harmonious aura.
God realized persons
In Nallur temple, there are many devotees seeking liberation and some God realized persons. Present day God realized persons are recognized and revered by the locals.
The story reveals that, one science teacher who was interested in spirituality, spent much time trying to seek the meaning of life. Once, he suffered an ailment and experienced excruciating pain. Doctors advised surgery but in a dream, he was instructed by a celestial being to visit Nallur temple. In desperation he abandoned everything and reached the temple. Here he lived with his pain surving on Theertham as medication and undertook a rigorous regime of meditation for many years. Affectionately known as “Master” he is looked after by the local devotees.
He spends time by the Theradi in contemplation or in sathsang. If requested he conducts discourses on Saiva Siddanantha. Worshippers say he is Kumaran’s modern sidder.
PILGRIMAGES & MYSTICAL EXPERIENCES
Pilgrimages and associated religious practices are undertaken by all religions. It is not all devotees who indulge in such practices. Some spiritual seekers are either prompted or experience a magnetic pull to undertake a journey or a ritual. Following this personal motivation, either in solitude or in groups, pilgrims set out to reach the destination of the deity who exerted the mystical, magnetic full prompting them to undertake that particular ritual.
It is not only ordinary devotees and spiritual seekers who have set aside a daily you tine to follow another routine associated with spiritual practices. Saints and sages too have been lured by deities.
Long periods of practice at divine locations with powerful vibrations sensitize devotees and enable them to read a subtle inner and outer sign which facilitates their progress in the spiritual journey. The guru/shishya relationship too is essentially about the Gurus. Helping the shishya in this path of learning to comprehend the Truth. Pilgrimages enable spiritual seekers to advance in their spiritual quest.
In India, one of the sacred and arduous pilgrimage is the Mount Kailash yatra. Pilgrims climb snow covered mountains to further perambulate the holy mountain.
The Char dams pilgrimage involves journeys to Badrinath, where the temple is situated on the banks of Alaknanda river. Kedaranath temple exhibits a pyramidal lingan and is built near river Mandakini. Ganotri is where river Ganga touched the earth and was received by Lord Shiva. At Yamunotri the temple is adjacent to Yamuna river which originates from Champasar Glazier.
Another Holy Char dam pilgrimage involves journeys to Dwaraka in the wast, Badrinath in the north, Rameshwaram in the south and Puri Jaganath in the east of India.
Arupadai Vedu is a popular pilgrimage for Kaumarar and includes journeys to the six Kumaran temples. In Thiruparankundram, Kumaran married Thevasena and is associated with the Mulathara chakra. In Thiruchendur, situated by the beach, Lord Shanmuga the warrior & Thevasenapathy established the camp to battle with Surapandaram. This is associated with Swathistana chakra.
Palani is situated on a mountain and Thandayuthapani the enunciate is the deity. This temple is associated with Manipuraham chakra. Swamimalai houses Swaminathan the brahmachari who preached OM mantra to Lord Shiva and is associated with Anahata chakra.
In Thiruthani, Kumaran appears with his two consorts the elegant Thevasena & beloved Valli and is associated with Visuddhi chakra. In Palamuthircholai, Kumaran graced Auvvayar with knowledge & appeared as a small boy. It is associated with Ajneya chakra.
Selva Sannithy to Kathirkamam
From time immemorial, many devotees have undertaken this arduous route to reach their cherished idol. It is said that Arunagiri Nathar too made this journey to pay homage to his beloved Murugan in Kathirkamam. Spiritual seekers apprehensively wait for a call from the deity before embarking on this yatra.
The journey starts from Selva Sannithy and a batch of dedicated devotees set off on foot. They are joined by the pilgrims from Nallur. The group then proceeds to Vattapalai Amman temple in Mullaitheevu. They journey through idyllic Veruhal Murugan temple in Trincomalee and rach picturesque Sithandi Murugan temple in Batticaloa.
Even as the journey proceeds pilgrims engage in personal walking meditation which offers an opportunity to observe the inner self and experience mystical happenings and learn to read subtle sings and understand the spiritual meaning of life. They also engage in religious devotional songs fostering bakthi, promoting love and oneness with God. The ritual sharing of food and shelter promoters universal love and creates an awareness of the oneness of all beings.
The spiritually bonded group journeys on to sacred Mandur, holy Tirukovil before reaching the hallowed Kathirkamam. The journey is strenuous and involves walking through rough paths and jungle routes. All are totally dependent on Kumaran’s grace fpr a safe journey. It takes around 2 months for the group to complete the entire journey. By that time pilgrims would have had deep mystical experiences and insights which advance them in their spiritual journey.
The German Swami Gauribala, a disciple and good friend of Yogaswami walked this Patha Yatra twenty five times Yogaswami undertook the Yatra in 1910. Patrick Harrigam an American Kaumaran has walked several times. Theo Kruszewsk a research student from the USA joined the group to complete the pilgrimage. There are hundreds and thousands of simple village folk who brave the ethnic conflict and the wild animals to complete the pilgrimage.
Many devotees have undertaken the return pilgrimage from Kathirkamam to Selva Sannithy via Nallur temple. They set off thorough Hambabtota passing Valava river and reach Kalutura. From there they pass Panathurai and Kalkissai to reach Colombo.
Murugan temples on route
Archaeological finding reveal that Kumaran worship has been in existence in Sri Lanka for a long time. North and east coast of Sri Lanka exhibits many ancient Kumaran temples.
Selva Sannithy Murugan Temple in the north is situated near Thondamanaru beach in natural surroundings. Pujas are performed by Shamans in a non-Agamic manner. A devotee was awarded a silver Vel which he placed in Selva Sannithy temple and the deity is known as Anna Kanthan.
Maviddapuram Kandaswami Kovil is situated in the north in Tellipalai. A Chola proncess in India Suffered an ailment and was advised to seek treatment in Sri Lanka. As prescribed the princess bathed in Keerimalai beach and was cured. In order to thank her personal god Kumaran she built the temple. This idol is referred to as Abisheka Kanthan.
Nallur Kanthaswami temple is in the north situated in the old capital of the Tamil Kingdom. It is surrounded by other cultural and religious institutions offering variety of humanistic activities for the community. The holy sanctum reveals a Vel and Pujas are performed according to Saiva Agamic traditions. The deity is known as Alankara Kanthan.
Verugal Murukan Kovil in Trincomalee is situated in an idyllic location surrounded by Veruhal river and Veruhal mountains. The annual festival is attended by many devotees from the eastern province. This is a popular temple in the east, like Nallur temple for the north. Brahmin priests carry out the pujas but festivities are conducted in a manner very similar to that of Kathirkamam.
Sitthandi Sithira Velayutha Swami Kovil in Batticaloa was established by sage Sikandi. The holy sanctum has a Vel and Brahmin priests perform rgular pujas according to Saiva Agamic laws.
Kathirkamam emple is surrounded by deep wld forests and stands adjacent to Manikka river. The holy sanctum has a portrait of Lord Shanmuga. Behind this are further six invisible curtains enclosing a holy casket containing the mystical Yantra. Shamans or Kapurala carry out pujas in a non-Agamic manner.
Kailasa to Kathirkamam
A Kumaran devotee, Patrick Harrigan asserts that though pilgrimages are offered relatively low status in the hierarchy of religious practices, the Patha Yatra to Kathirkamam embodies profound metaphysical truths while serving as a matrix for the exploration of subtle lecels of religious practices. People turn up in large numbers to attend this pilgrimage.
He further states that Patha Yatra offers an opportunity for the comprehensive exercise of body, mind and spirit and highlights the Mount Kailash and Kathirkamam are in the same meridian like the spine with the Moolathara Chakra at the base and Sahasrara Chakra at the top. This axis connection was recorded by other Hindu religious sages too.
Yougaswami & Patha Yatra
Yagaswami undertook the Patha Yatra to Kathirkamam from Nallur temple. Having completed a forty day Tapas he was asked to fend for himself by his Guru ChellappaSwami. As though summoned by the deity in Kathirkamam, he undertook the pilgrimage in solitude.
Later he revealed that the pilgrimage offered an opportunity to meet people of diverse creeds and habits and related how he confronted wild animals but escaped harm. At various places he chose to meditate and lose himself in contemplation. He also felt oneness with the universe and on reaching Kathirkamam spent many days in meditation on the hilltop at Kathiramalai.
On his return journey through Hambantota he was met by a devotee who had a dream requesting him to purchase a return rail ticket and hand it over to Yagaswami.
Sri Lanka was part of the continent of Lemuria which escaped sinking. Historians assert that Murugan worship followed by Dravidians continued in Sri Lanka. Evidnce of Brahmi inscriptions suggests Murugan worship prevailed in ancient Sri Lanka.
To this day, north and eastern coast reveals a plethora of Murugan temples where Vel worship is predominant. They also disclose non-Agamic pujas conducted by Shamans or Kapuralas. It is apparent that Agamic and non-Agamic traditions have intertwined to offer a more holistic tradition to create peace and harmony.
Murugan as Tamil God
Tholkappiam the oldest Tamil literary work available, declares Seyon the “Red one” as the god of Kurinchi hill country & he is Murugan who adorns red garments. Tamil Sangam literature also confirms Murugan worship by the Tamil community.
Tholkappiam dedicate many stanzas to Murugan. Paripadal narrates about Murugan. Tamil Kanthapuranam, written after Sanskrit Skanthapuranam has undergone fusion of the Tamil Murugan & Sanskrit Skantha.
Velan to Murugan
Literary documents reveal that Velan the tribal character of the Kurunchi/hill regions. exhibited tribal characteristics attributed to him by the then tribal devotees. As time progressed evolutionary transformation from totemism to tribalism occurred and eventually culturism ascertained.
Hence Velan the tribal god underwent transformation to emerge as the cultural Tamil God Murugan. Various research carried out by historians and cultural anthropologists together with folklorists and art historians reveal this transformation in a systematic manner.
Hinduism propagates the belief that God is immanent in all things. Hence, from ancient time Hindus have singled out the Vel to be a sacred object to be worshipped and adored. Temples have been built to establish the Vel in the holy sanctum & pujas performed to venerate the Vel.
Vel worship can be understand in the spiritual, anthropological, socio cultural & psychological dimension. The Vel became a powerful hunting weapon for the tribesman, for a king the Vel was a powerful weapon to defeat his enemy. At present it has become the Jnana Vel to pierce ignorance & librates man from delusion.
Skantha – Murugan
Scholars that the Sanskrit god Skanda and Tamil god Murugan stem from distinct sources. In the Aryan traditions, earliest Vedic sources, have associated Skantha god with Jnana. However in Dravidian traditions early Murugan has been a warrior god who taught through example and less through words.
Over the years the fusion has taken place and the deity Skantha-murugan who is two yet one has emerged. Skantha-Murugan is also known as Kanthswami, Kumaran, Kumarathampiran and Kumarakkadavul. He is also the 6 headed Lord Shanmuga.
In the eastern region in Sri Lanka, researchers have explored Skantha-Murugan cult to discover the prevalence of different types of worship. These include several old practices and new cultic practices whereby new cultural systems are emerging.
Skantha – Kumara
As much as the Tamil community looks upon Skantha Muruka as the custodian of Tamil language, the Sinhala community looks upon Skantha Kumara as the guardian and custodian of Sinhala language.
Early Brahmi inscriptions too refer to the prevalence of this cult. Ancient shrines in Anuradhapura and Kotte reveal many sheines for Skantha- Kumara. At present he is identified with Lord Skanths (Sanskrit) Arumugaswami (Tamil) or Kataragama Deveiyo (Sinhala).
Kataragama has long been identified as the abode of Skantha-Kumara. Various literary pieces and folklore narrate the love story between Valli the Vedda chieftain’s daughter and Skantha – Kumara.
Since the peace process commenced many Sinhala devotees and spiritual seekers have started attending Nallur Temple. Pilgrimages are organized for these non-Hindu Skantha-Kumara worshippers who travel long distances to attend the auspicious Palli elichi puaj.
Kaumaran is a sect of Hinduism and has Skantha-Murugan at it’s centre. Traditional Kaumaram, advocates humility and devotion, meditation and public service as the surest way to devotion, meditation and public service as the surest way to arrive at genuine mystical understanding (Jnana), devotion (bakthi) and above all, divine grace (arul).
Kaumaram also argues for primacy of practice over scholarship, and devotion over dry argumentation. The mystical Kaumara tradition is essentially about Skantha-Murugan a wielding the lance to remove ignorance and librate his disciples. He is the guru who imparts knowledge withoutneed for discussion.
Murugan as Avathar
Kanthapuranam reveals Murugan as the avatar, who in his love for the devotees, was born to help his devotees to overcome evil and realize their divine nature. The story expounds the significance of his divine mystical avatar.
Kanthapuranam highlights Kumarans leelas, Bala Murugan’s antics, thevasenapathi’s battle with Surapandara and victory, how in this compassion he changes Surapandara to the cockerel and peacock and not annihilate him. This is followed by the marriage to Thevesena, later his courtship and marriage to Valli.
A living tradition
The veddas or the indigenous dwellers of the south believe in Kantha Yakko the Spirit of the Mountain associated with Skantha – kumara by Sinhalese and Skantha – Murugan by Tamils. They claim to have had sightings of the Sprit wich is surrounded by mystery.
The veddas reveal that the Spirit of the Mountain fell in love with Valli the human daughter of the Vedda chieftain and took the form of Skantha – Kumara to elope with her. They claim that Skantha-Kumara never left Kathirkamam. Since many devotees travel between the murugan temples on pilgrimages, they carry stories and folklore associated with Kumaran.
Murugan the eco warrior
Anthropologists and literary historians assert a close connection between Murugan and ecological issues. No other God has been associated with nature and natural surroundings as much as Murugan. In ancient Tamil literature he is identified with Kurinchi/Hill lands.
Similarly, Murugan is portrayed as living in hill temples. In India, most of Murugan temples are on hills and hilltops. In Sri Lanka too Kathiramalai in Kathirkamam exhibits a Murugan temple.
Murugan is also portrayed as an eco warrior. In the Kathirkamam tradition it is apparent that the Kataragama Theviyo is portrayed as a eco warrior dwelling in the forests and many Veddas would refuse to enter certain areas of the forest for fear of disturbing Kantha Yakko. This would is one of topsy turvy paradox, mystery and enchantment.
Murugan worship has spread round the world. Through it is said to have it’s roots in India & Sri Lanka devotees who left the Indian sub-continent for economic reasons took with them the religious and cultural practices to their new homes. Currently Murugan shrines are built in America, Britain, Fiji, Mauritius, Malasiya, Singapore Canada, Austalia, New Zealand and many other countries.
Several International conferences held on Murugan Cult. This offers opportunities for devotees to carry out research and present papers. Through this exercise many scholars engage in extensive research and always reveal new information about Kumaran and Kumaram. This is shared amongst Kaumara devotees.
Forms & names
Murugan is worshipped as the Six Headed Shanmuga, Karthikeya, Saravanabhava, Kumaran and Thevasenapathy. The other form is the Nirguna form Palani, Thandayuthapani, Kanthaswami and Swaminathan.
The child God is portrayed as Somaskantha and Bala Murugan. The Sagunam form is called Subramanya, Murugan and Kumaran.
Murugan is also known by several other names. These include Subramanyam, murugan, Murugiah, Kanthan, Kanthappu, Kuhan, Velan, Kadamban, Karthigeyan, Vallimanalan and Palaniappan.
The others are Thesihan, Shanmugan, Skanthan, Thevasenan, Kankeyan, Kumaran, Sakthitharan, Arumugan, Kurunchivanthan, Seyon, Senthan, Sevvel, Selvakodiyon, Silamban, Mayon, Maruhan and Visahan.
Murugan devotees include:
Kali Yuga Varathan
Kali Yuga is the present Yuga which commenced around 3000 years prior to the birth of Christ. Sages and saints have forecasted this to be a dark era when traditional values will be challenged. It is presented as a period when materialism would be the priority and spirituality would be of less importance.
Even as problems increase, human being turn to God to resolve their problems and seek peace and harmony in their chaotic life. Learned scholars have asserted that Kumaran is the deity of Kali yuga and is called Kali Yuga Varathan.
He is the Jnana sakthi who wields the Vel that destroys ignorance and offers knowledge to his devotees. Kumaran has taken the avatar to save his devotees from suffering. One has only to ask with faith and devotion, Kali Yuga Varathan will immediately grant the boon. In his love for the devotees he has taken the avatar.
The worship of Kumaran today is deeply influenced by the Aryan tradition which has changed the native style of worship into a highly institutionalized form of worship. This involves rituals performed according to Saiva Agamic laws by the Brahmin priests in a temple. This also involves pujas and abishekams and chanting of mantras carried out according to laws prescribed by seers and sages.
However, literary scholars anthropologists and historians strees the prevalence of religious rituals at village level amongst local tribal and peasant folk. Hence traditional Dravidian worship is essentially about non-agamic rituals performed by local folk directly to the deity rather than through a Brahmin priest. These may be carried out in temples directly to a deity which does not follow prescribed laws.
In Kaumara tradition, vows and vow-fulfillment plays an important and critical role. the legend highlights Kumaran as the Kali Yuga Varathan who has taken the avatar to help devotees who surrender to him. It may be the reason Kaumara devotees routinely make vows to carry out rituals in return for his grace or his benefaction to meet life’s challenges.
In Sri Lanka, Dravidian forms of non-agamic ritual practices are prevalent amongst Kumara devotees. These can be observed in the Kumaran temples in the north and eastern districts which involves offering cooked food for the deity, Velan attam, Kavadi, Angaprathishtai, Vratas, Water pandals, Annathanam, Fire walking and carrying Camphor pots.
Devotees congregate in the temple with ingredients to make sweet cakes known as Mavilakku. This requires thinai (pulse), honey, ghee & fruits which are mashed into a dough and little lamps are made. Utilising ghee these lambs are lighted automatically baking the sweet cake. Devotees offer this to the deity.
These offering take place during Thirukarthigai festival. Kumaran is said to have fallen in love with Valli in the fields of Thinai. Apparently, she won his heart offering sweet cakes and devotees continue the tradition.
The bhava and bhakthi infused in ritualistic worship enables the devotee to see the deity in his saguna forms as a person with the same likes and dislikes as they have. Bhakthi progresses and leads to the knowledge that the God outside also lives inside.
Velan attam is essentially about losing one’s self to god through dance. this practice was first recorded amongst Kurunchi hill tribes but is even now seen amongst the Vedda tribes folk of Kathirkamam and Kumaran temples in Sri Lanka. In recent times research is carried out to compare and contrast these non-Aganic rituals with the Agamic traditions and recognize and appreciate the relevance and usefulness of both practice for devotees.
A person called Velan, the priest of Kumaran performs a ritual dance known as veriatal. A priestess known as Theveratti too engages in performing the ritual dance. This is comparable to the uru dance performed by male and female devotees who completely lose themselves in the dance. As the tempo increases participants drift into a trance and dance energetically. Someone who appears like a local priest or priestess uses bunches of neem leaves to calm the person in the trance.
Kavadi is an offering made to the deity and can be understood in a socio psychological framework. The devotees, through Kavadi, symbolically unload his or her negative qualities and surrenders to the deity. This signifies the repentance of human beings which leads to prayers for redemption in life. Traditional kavadis are made out of a wooden frame and decorated with shimmering multi coloured foils. On either side of the rectangular frame bunches of peacock feathers are displayed. Some kavadis exhibit red and white glittering decoration which replaces peacock feathers. During festivities, large number of devotees carries these kavadis turning the outer court yard into a sea of red and white décor glittering in the sun.
Devotees perform a ritual dance carrying the kavadi. Young and old alike carry large or small kavadis according to their capability and known as Atta kavadi. Pal kavadi, involves devotees carrying a pot of milk on their heads and trek to the temple and perform an abishekam for the deity. Thula kavadi exhibits a devotee suspended from a contraption and brought from village further a field. Sethil kavadi involves the devotee piercing his hands and face with small vels.
Angaprathistai is done to seek penance or offer gratitude to the deity. Men clad in veshti’s tied up like a shorts, roll on the ground with hands held above. This is an extremely difficult task and demands intense devotion and determination. As devotees do the angaprathishtai in the outer by other devotees who hail “Arohara” “Arohara”.
Women too do angaprathishtai to fulfill a boon or to express their gratitude to the deity. This ritual is different to that of men. Women crouch on the floor then stand up to take a few steps in front before crouching again. This is repeated till the entire inner or outer court is covered and the devotee reaches the starting point. During festivals many female devotees undertake this task following the chariots carrying the deities.
This is not necessarily a Dravidian ritual but is undertaken with zest in the village. Vratas involve abstinence from food in the morning and attending the temple before consuming lunch. Many observe this practice on Fridays night through the year.
Karthigai vrata is observed on Karthigai day every month when devotees bathe and purify themselves and abstain from breakfast while praying with faith and devotion. Naratha Rishi observed this Vrata for 12 years and won the grace of Subramanya.
Kanthashashti is an important vrata for lord Shanmuga. Devotees abstain from food during the day and consume liquids in the evening. This is performed for six days while devotees engage in prayers and reads Kanthashati kavas am. Many spend the entire day at a Kumaran temple.
Water pandals are established by different Religious organizations to offer water and liquid diets to devotees. During festivities devotees undertake long journeys to and from the temple. These treks attempted in hot weather debilitate devotees and they require refreshments.
As much as Christians and Muslims tithe a percentage of their income to their Church and Mosque, Hindus are expected to feed and clothe those who are less fortunate. This custom is still prevalent amongst many Hindus. Extra food is cooked in some homes to be offered to swamis or beggars who visit their homes.
In Kumaran worship vows and vow fulfillment play a grave role. One of the most difficult tasks is walking on burning coals. Devotees make a pact with Kumaran and carry out vows involving extreme faith and devotion.
A fire is started with wood, which leaves piping hot embers like a burning carpet. Devotees pray, sing and dance working themselves into a trance. Then one by one they walk on the burning coals and thank Kumaran for his grace. This requires extreme faith and devotion and offers deep religious experience.
Male and female devotees carry pots which contain burning camphor. They place these pots on their head and walk round the temple. Usually the devotee is accompanied by his or her family who ensures safety of the person while furnishing further camphor for the pot. Bundles of neem leaves are carried by the group to be used as a disinfectant in the event of accidents. This is a common sight in urugan temples in Sri Lanka.
Rituals & Nallur Temple
The Kaumara tradition demands intense involvement from the devotees, and immediate response from the god. Intense ritualistic practices offer an opportunity for devotees & spiritual seekers to connect with the saguna form of the deity at a deep level. These observances grant peace & prosperity for devotees & mystical unfolding of the truth for spiritual seekers.
Nallur Kanthaswami Temple complies with Saiva Agamic traditions in it’s administration of solemn ceremonies to the deities. It delicately balances ancient traditions of the land & extends faculties for devotees & spiritual seekers to engage in ritual to seek fulfillment. During festive seasons many worshippers engage in a plethora of non-Agamic rituals. This enables them to connect at a deeper level of experience meaningful psychological & spiritual experience.
An ardent devotee & god realized person referred to as “Sthupalar”, burns frankincense for Nallur Kanthan. Patiently he carries out his duty with total surrender and dedication. They say that he conversed with Kumaran and was in communion with him. It is said, even during evacuation, “Sthupalar” stayed with Kanthan.