Palani Murugan


Palani Āndavar, Lord of Palani, honoured by gods and rishis
Palani Āndavar, Lord of Palani, honoured by gods and rishis
Palani Āndavar, Lord of Palani, honoured by gods and rishis
Palani Āndavar, we love you!

by R.K. Das


The most famous temple dedicated to Lord Subrahmanya is Palani in the district of Madurai in South India. In the South, Lord Subrahmanya is deeply venerated and is held in great adoration cannot be a temple in the South where a separate place is not dedicated to Lord Subrahmanya.

Sage Agastya was praying at Kailasa to Lord Siva and Uma to appear on the top of two separate hills created by him, one hill called Sivagiri and the other Saktigiri. They appeared in fulfillment his wish.

As Siva and Uma appeared on the two hills, Agastya worshipping them and wanted to take the two hills to Podikai Hill in the South, his abode. Lord Siva agreed to this request of Agastya. Agastya commissioned Idumban, his disciple, to bring them. To enable Idumban to carry them with ease, the Sage initiated him in certain mantras, acquainting him also with the route.

Idumban bore the hill slung across his shoulders in the form of a Kavadi, one on either side using the Danda. Of Brahma as the rod and the snakes of the earth the ropes to tie thern, and turned towards Podikai Hill, the mountain abode of Sage Agastya. When he came to Palani he was bewildered to the route, when he received guidance from a king passing that way mounted on a horse. He went in the direction shown to him, but being fatigued, placed the Kavadi at Palani and took rest.

When Idumban was resting at Palani, Lord Subrahmanya was coming away from his parents, discomfited in a contest with his brother Ganapati. The legend says that Iswara, seated with Parvati, once called to Him His two sons Ganapati and Subrahmanya, and addressing them, said: "I have a rare fruit in my possession and shall give it to that one of you, who goes round the world and returns to me first."

Subrahmanya, eager to win the prize, started on his peacock at once, which flew with its Divine Burden quicker than lightning, while Ganapati sat quiet until his brother disappeared out of sight and then, slowly rising, went round his parents and asked for the fruit, saying: "All the worlds that are, that were and that will be are within you and, by going round you, I have gone round all of them. Therefore the fruit is mine."

Parvati and Parameswara were delighted with the reply and gave him the precious fruit (pomegranate). Long after this was over, Subrahmanya came sweating, on his peacock, only to find that he had been outwitted.

The story should not be taken literally. It is the philosophy in it, which is essential. The lesson briefly stated is, that God being known, everything else is known and no study of the external world, however comprehensive that may be, can ever yield us the precious fruit of wisdom.

"Knowledge of course will come, but wisdom with its peace and bliss will linger on the shore." Ganapati outwitted his brother by sheer wisdom. Lord Subrahmanya was not very much satisfied with this explanation of his father and in anger came away to Tiruvannagudi, the place at the foot of the Sivagiri Hill. Then he came to Sivagiri Hill itself. When Balasubrahmanya got angry for not receiving the fruit and went into seclusion, Siva pacified him saying that the fruit was not separate from him (Subrahmanya) and he himself was the fruit [Pazham (Palam) -fruit; nee-you].

Lord Subrahmanya forsook all worldly garments and with kaupeenam (loincloth only) and a baton staff in hand, he became a recluse. Finding the two hills nearby, he got on the top of one and rested. When Idumban wanted to lift his Kavadi to continue his journey, he could not lift it, as Subrahmanya had already got on the top of one and it was heavy. He investigated the reason and, finding an intruder on the top of the bigger hill, he challenged him to get down.

Subrahmanya would not Idumban raised his club to attack but Subrahmanya immediately killed him. Idumbi, finding her husband dead, looked at the top of the hill and, finding Lord Subrahmanya. There, she prayed to him to give back the life of her husband who had acted indiscreetly due to ignorance of the identity of the intruder.

Agastya was instantly found to be present on the scene. Agastya being the preceptor of Idumban imperceptibly protected him in the journey throughout, as is the custom with Hindu preceptors who are considered as God incarnate to their disciples. He also appealed to Subrahmanya for mercy. Idumban was restored to life and to Subrahmanya's grace.

Idumban prayed to Muruga that he might be allowed to stand ever at His portals as dwarapalas, and also that whoever offered vows with the Kavadi be blessed. Lord Muruga granted these boons to him. Since then pilgrims to Palani bring they're offering on their shoulders in a Kavadi.

The hill is 450 feet in height, reached by a flight of 659 steps. The idol is composed of Navapashanam. (Nine different kinds of poisons) blended together in certain rare proportions, the resultant substance resembling wax. The mixing of the nine poisons was done by a Muni called Bhoga. Some say that the constituent of the image is an amalgam of nine minerals.

The body of the deity is not smooth and seems to have been either scraped out or corroded by age. It is said that some Siddha Vaidyas of the locality, who knew of the miraculous curative and preservative properties, of the image, scraped the body of the deity in the unknown Apparently unnoticed and used the same for curing otherwise incurable diseases of men. The touch of the body is believed to work cur, wonders.

The posture is standing one with a stout stick in the right hand that is called Dandam and therefore the deity is called Dandayudhapani (Dandam, plus Ayudham plus Pani-Dandayudhapani; meaning, ha, stick as weapon in his hand). At the neck there are Rudrakshas in the form of a garland. Here Subrahmanya is a Sadhu (ascetic), has renounced all worldly connections, To this deity abhishekam (ablution) is made from sunrise to sunset with different materials.

Six daily pujas are:

  1. Darsan: 6 o'clock, morning Viswarupa;
  2. Kala Sandhi;
  3. Sirkala Sandhi;
  4. Uchikalam (mid-day);
  5. Sayarakshai (evening);
  6. Rakkalam (midnight or 10 P.M.)

The sculptor Siddha Bhoga, who made the idol out of the nine poisons, descended into the cave on his eternal journey and never came back again. People say that he would come in due time again. This saint performed consecration of the deity as Śrī Dandayudhapani in the central shrine of the hill. His sanctum is now a small shrine in the corner of the south western corridor of the inner quadrangle on the hill.

Navadurga, the Goddess, as Śrī Bhuvaneswari, is in worship here, with a Marakata Linga. An underground passage below the sanctum is pointed out as the place whereinto the mysterious sage entered and never appeared again. The passage is also spoken of as leading From here to the Garbhagriha of Śrī Dandayudhapaniswami sanctum sanctorum.

Abishekam (holy purificatory anointments) are of various kinds such as:

  1. Gingelly oil;
  2. Trivaipudi;
  3. Rice powder;
  4. Turmeric powder
  5. Panchamritam (5 sweet ingredients. But Panchamritam, now consists of more than five ingredients namely, plantains, cane jaggery, sugar- candy, honey, ghee and raisins, dates, etc.);
  6. Tender coconut water or mango juice or any fruit juice according to the desire of devotee;
  7. Milk and honey;
  8. Rose water;
  9. Sandal pas
  10. Ash (Vibhuti).

After each ablution decoration and dressing different poses are done like the dress of a Vyadha (hunter), Prince Balayogi and the like. The various alankaras are:

  1. Raja alankar, (as a prince);
  2. Vedan (hunter);
  3. Sandal paste;
  4. Balasubrahmanya. (Boy);
  5. Vibhuti (ascetic or a recluse).

These decorations alter the figure of the idol to a romantic spiritual sphere. There was also an alankaram as a female, which has now been discontinued.

The principal festivals are Tai Poosam in January,' Panguni Uttaram in April, Agni Nakshatram in May, Visakham in June, Skanda Shashthi in November, besides other periodical and monthly festivals of the Saivite calendar. The temple car is dragged thrice in the year, in Vaikasi, Tai, and Panguni festivals. Also the Silver Ratha is, drawn round the town temple in Tai and around the hill in Panguni. The Panguni Uttaram.Celebration of ten days duration in April is by far the most crowded and the chief festival of the year.

Many persons especially from Kerala State make a vow to, perform the first feeding of their babies in front of the deity. Cheraman, the great ruler of Kerala, was a great devotee of this deity and he made enormous endowments of land for upkeep and performance of daily religious rites and periodical festivals. He constructed the principal sanctum of the deity too. A figure of the King on horseback, engraved on the southern wall of the principal shrine, is an indication pointing to this.

Muruga is the special deity of Kurinchi the highlands, like Malabar, and faces towards the west in this t emple, perhaps towards the direction of the Kerala highlands. This may be the reason for the presence of considerable number of pilgrims from Kerala. It may be that as the Kerala King Cheraman favored the temple his subjects were also attracted.

It may also be explained in the way that the magnetic attraction of Dandayudhapani extends towards the direction he looks. The deity is not confined to religious- minded Hindus. Mohammedan call the deity as, Palani Baba and worship the deity at the rear side of the, temple. The entrance is to the outer prakaram where religious lectures and speeches are delivered. Mohamedans perform their prayer on the verandah round the sanctum sanctorum at the rear.

There are innumerable mandapams on the steps leading to the top of the hill where the temple is situated. By its side, at a distance of a stone's throw, there is the other hill originally brought in Kavadi by Idumban, and it is called Idumban Malai. The figure of Idumban is here to be seen at the foot of Muruga as securing His grace.

The sthala vriksham of Palani is the kadamba tree (Eugenia racemosa), the fragrant flower of which is a favourite of Lord Subrahmanya, and the trees form an avenue on the Southern Giri Veethi with a Nandavana Teertham. A well-constructed small tank, the Saravana Poigai, is the Teertha of this hill temple and it is located close by.

It is the traditional sacred water wherein Muruga took his six-faced form as Shanmukha or Arumugam and assumed besides, the names Saravanabhava (born in Saravana, a Himalayan lake), Skanda ('the leaper') Karttikeya (from his foster-mothers, Krittikas-the Pleiades) an Gangeya or Gangesa (from the association of Ganges).

This shrine is referred to as the third of the six and many other favourite hill resorts of Muruga, in the Tirumurugarruppadai. Nakkeerar, the poet, praises the spot in many lines and gives a description of the aerial procession i gods and goddesses of surpassing beauty. The hero of course is Muruga the warlord of the gods, in whose train the other celestials follow.

Krittika Nakshatram, is the most propitious time for worshipping Karttikeya or Lord Subrahmanya.Astral influences are highest during Krittika and other festival occasions when lakhs of people visit the place. (The, sanctity of the temple and efficacy of prayer at this hill temple ha far and wide.

It is said that as many as 700 abhishekams are done in Krittika days and hundreds daily. But the slim figure of Muruga has withstood their effects for centuries, most miraculously, beyond human explanation.

In the temple precincts there are two cocks, one white and the other brown. The white one is six years old and the brown one eight years, brought as chicken by somebody and left in the temple unnoticed. They are fed also. They come and sit on the metal flags at the Balipeetham the time when prayers are offered. Each takes its own seat and they never fight with each other and do not even interchange seats. Their silent sitting on the edge of the flags of Lord Subrahmanya all; the time provides thought to a sensible man to ponder whether these two birds were devotees of the Lord in their past life, degenerated to the press state for some sins committed by them.

Incurable diseases like leucoderma and asthma are cured here by use of Abhishekam water. Modern physicians say that millions of bacteria are stored in idol and anything taken out of the touch of the idol by Abhishekam also infected with the bacteria which grow in geometrical progress.
Palani, the timeless centre of Murugan devotion

Palani, the timeless centre of Murugan devotion

This is the reason of preservative quality of the articles offered abhishekam. This oblation (prasadam) filled with bacteria when taken internally cures the diseases of man and is a wonder cure. This system of curing diseases is called siddha vaidyam in Tamilnad.

It is an empirical truth that the oblations made to Dandayudhapani do not get putrefied for months and years when preserved, as it had holy touch of the body of the Lord. Only Panchamritam made of fruits honey, etc. is offered in the form of purificatory ablution over the It is experienced by many that the sandal paste which is pasted on the night, to be removed only next morning, isimpregnated by the contact of the body with miraculous healing powers.

When the fleeting touch of the holy idol can preserve the offerings for months and years, it is no wonder that the sandal paste, through contact with it all night, is surcharged with supernatural powers. Numerous instances of such miraculous cures are reported, and desires of pilgrims are largely satisfied, which makes them visit the place again and again. For this special power of the image, Palani is considered to be the most sacred of all the six places of Subrahmanya's divine presence.

Devotees on vow carry miniature kavadis, which are available on hire locally, on their shoulders and climb up the steps to the sanctum sanctorum to propitiate Him. This is a daily sight in the temple.

Palani is about two miles by road from the nearest railway station Palani on the Southern Railway on the Dindigul-Coimbatore route. The Devasthanam maintains well furnished and conveniently located choultries for the benefit of pilgrims. At the top of the Hill there is arrangement for food and tiffin also, served by a catering arrangement of the Devasthanam.

The Devasthanam is very rich. There is a Hundi box in front of the temple where pilgrims and devotees place their contributions. There are landed properties, shops and houses given on rent, etc., which yield nearly Rs. 11 lakhs a year. It is one of the richest temples in South India. A College of Hindu Theology has recently started under the auspices of the Devasthanam. It is affiliated to the Madras University.

There are many temples in the vicinity. Śrī Mariamman, the village tutelary goddess, is held in great esteem and annual festival to Her in March attracts large crowds of worshippers offering pots of burning fire.

Peria Udayar Temple
The main shrine dedicated to Śrī Brihadeswara or Peria Udayar, represented by a Swayambu Linga, and others to Nataraja and Vishnu and the sanctum for the goddess is significantly absent. Śrī Brihannayaki or Perianayaki Amman Temple is a very famous temple of the town.

Nine miles west of Palani the "Hill of the five", or Iyiramalai or Aivarmalai is associated with mythological legends. The hill is 1402 feet high above the sea level. The local tradition says that at this hill the five Pandava brothers took their rest during the last years of their exile of 13 years. On the north-eastern side, the rock of which it consists overhangs and forms a natural shelter 160 feet long and 13 feet high.

It might have served as resting-place for a while to the Pandava brothers. This has now been protected and shrines for Draupadi, Palani Azidavar and Vinayaka have been constructed. The cleft in Aivarmalai was also doubtless a Jain hermitage in the centuries of the Christian era, which is evident from the 16 rock-cut representations of the Jain Tirthankaras on the face of the overhanging rock.

Dharmapuram, about 27 miles away, is spoken of as Viratapuram Śrī Maruda Kaliamman temple near-by is believed to be the place the Pandava. Arms were kept hidden on a Vanni tree. Kadattur, 14 from Dharmapuram, was where Virata's cattle were led away; Karatholuvu, 12 miles off was where the cattle were seized and impounded; Tirupur, 32 miles, where the cattle were retaken; Palani and Varahagiri places where Arjuna did penance and secured Siva's grace; Aivarmalai, itself where the Pandavas abided incognito.

Courtesy: R.K. Das