23 April 2009

The Story of Idumban

Yesterday I attended a function at the Subramanya Temple located on the Vellore Road, opposite the Collectorate. The Temple itself is only about 40 years old but the statue of Lord Muruga, ensconed in the Temple's shrine room is much more ancient and hails from the Siva Temple at Kadaladi.

In 2003 work was started on the enlargement of the Subramanya Temple -- which appears in the below photograph. The work was finished in 2006 and abhisekham was performed in 2007.

Even though Lord Muruga is a loved God in Tamil Nadu, there aren't many Muruga Temples in Tiruvannamalai -- so I enjoyed my visit and while there learnt more about this gentle God.

And heard the story about Idumban, who is represented in the below photographs.

The story of Idumban

Sage Agastya wanted to take two hills -- Sivagiri and Saktigiri -- to his abode in the South and commissioned his asuran disciple Idumban to carry them. Idumban was one of the very few asuran survivors of the suraasuran war between Murugan's forces and those of Surapadman. After surviving the war he had repented and became a devotee of Lord Murugan.

At this stage, Subrahmanya or Muruga had just been outwitted by His brother Ganesa in a contest for going around the world and He was still smarting over the matter. Ganapati had won the prized fruit (the Jnana-pazham) by simply going around His parents. Long after this, Subrahmanya came seated on His peacock to find that the prize had already been given away. In anger, He vowed to leave His home and family and came down to Tiru Avinankudi at the Adivaaram (meaning 'foot of the Sivagiri Hill'). Siva pacified Him by saying that Subrahmanya Himself was the fruit (pazham) of all wisdom and knowledge. Hence the place was called Pazham-nee ('You are the fruit') or Palani. Later He withdrew to the hill and settled there as a recluse in peace and solitude.

Idumban bore the hills slung across his shoulders in the form of a kavadi, one on each side. When he reached Palani and felt fatigued, he placed the kavadi down to take rest.

When Idumban resumed his journey, he found that he could not lift the hill. Muruga had made it impossible for Idumban to carry it. Upon the hilltop the great asuran spotted a little boy wearing only kaupeenam and demanded that he vacate at once so Idumban could proceed with his task. The boy, who was yet in a fighting mood, refused. In the fierce battle which ensued, Idumban was slain but was later restored to life.

Idumban belatedly recognised the boy as none other than his Ista Devata Murugan and prayed to Him that; whosoever carried on his shoulders the kavadi, signifying the two hills and visited the temple on a vow should be blessed; and he (i.e. Idumban) should be given the priviledge of standing sentinel at the entrance to the hill. Hence the Idumban Shrine is half-way up Palani Hill where pilgrims are expected to offer obeisance to Idumban before entering the temple of Dandayudhapani Swami. Now the general custom is for pilgrims to Palani to bring offerings on their shoulders in a kavadi. The custom has spread from Palani to all Muruga shrines.

Muruga, in His aspect as Lord Dandayudhapani, stands for tyaagam or renunciation. Eschewing all wordly possessions, the only apparel He has chosen to retain is a loincloth called kaupeenam.
[The Hill Temple of Muruga by Somalay]

To learn more about the 'Skanda Cult in Tamil Nadu,' check this link here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I always wondered about the story of this statue - thanks for the information.