About the Book
The book chronicles in detail the avatar of Lord Murugan. The story follows, in general, Kanda Puranam (KP), a magnum opus in Tamil, composed by Kachiappa Sivacahariar, many centuries ago. There is one major deviation in regard to the advent of Murugan. In the book, Lord Shiva's consort Paarvathi has a small, but significant role, whereas in KP She makes no contribution. The change has been made to help one understand the rationale for Shiva's divine wedding for the emergence of Murugan. It would also link up the race between Murugan and his brother Ganesha and the subsequent penance of Murugan in the Palani hill. The penultimate chapter outlines a description of some of the important Murugan temples in India and Malaysia. The last chapter tries to illuminate the essence of the philosophical advice given by Saint Arunagirinathar. Viswanathan is married and blessed with three children and five grandchildren. A banker by profession, he retired from State Bank of India as Deputy Managing Director in 1996. His book on Industrial Finance, now in its 4"edition, is regarded as a reference manual by officers of various banks. He now conducts training classes for bank officers on the subject of lending. He is also a regular contributor of articles on finance to major Indian financial dailies.
Sri R. Viswanathan is an ardent devotee of Murugan (Karthikeyan), the second son of Lord Shiva. His faith in Murugan has been an enduring source of strength throughout his life. In the past decade, Viswanathan has given discourses on Lord Murugan at different locations in India and abroad. His discourses on the Lord and His six holy abodes (Arupadai veedu) in Chennai on the Tamil New Year's day have been well attended and appreciated. He has a particular attachment to the teachings of poet-Saint Arunagirinathar, one of the chosen and eloquent devotees of Lord Murugan.
The slim volume in your hands is an attempt to chronicle in detail the Avatar of Lord Murugan known in north India as Karthikeya, the second son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Paarvathi. It includes a brief description of some of the important temples where Murugan is the presiding deity in India and Malaysia. The last chapter tries to illuminate the essence of the philosophical advice given by saint Arunagirinathar one of the chosen and eloquent devotees of the Lord in Tamilnadu. Murugan is one of the innumerable deities worshipped by Hindus. The genius of ancient Hindu sages is that though there are a large number of deities in the pantheon of Gods and Goddesses, most of them are related to each other in some way or the other. There are three main Gods namely Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, each identified with one job: creation, preservation and destruction. Their respective consorts, Saraswathi, Mahalakshmi and Paarvathi are the power behind the Gods, wielding the powers of wisdom, wealth and will power.
The beauty of Hindu religion is that each practitioner could have one favourite deity (Ishta Devatha) but is free to pray to other God/Goddess whenever needed. Thus, while the deities are many, Hindus do not fight among themselves in the name of one's favourite path to the same God, unlike some other major religions, where killing in the name of God is not unheard of among the people praying to the same God. Of course, no Hindu kills another Hindu because they have different favourite deities. The essence of Hinduism is distilled in the famous Sanskrit saying "Just as the water drops falling from the skies ultimately reach the vast ocean, so the prayers to all Gods will reach one Supreme Being by whatever name called".
Lord Murugan is the younger of the two sons of Shiva and Paarvathi. It is axiomatic that Murugan has a special place in the hearts of a large majority of Tamil speaking Hindus, whether they live in Tamilnadu or elsewhere. The Lord is known all over south India, but a few Hindus in north India know about him and those who are aware call him by the name of Karthikeya. There is an apocryphal legend about this. Once Lord Shiva was getting tired of listening to prayers from all corners of India. So He devised a neat division of labour among the four members of His immediate family. Murugan was sent to the south, his elder brother Ganesha to the west, their mother Paarvathi to the east and Shiva placed Himself all over the country.
The legend about Ganesha and Murugan (Karthikeya) varies between South and rest of India. In south, Ganesha is a bachelor and Murugan has two wives. In other places, it is the reverse, Murugan being the bachelor and Ganesha having two wives. Married women in Maharashtra would not even go to Karthikeya temple for fear of being abducted! The story of Murugan was perhaps first chronicled in Sanskrit in Skanda Purana (SP), a mini epic compiled many centuries ago reportedly by many sages (some people in the know claim that it was authored by sage Veda Vyasa, who wrote the epic Mahabharatha). SP was followed by the famous Sanskrit poet Kalidasa's poem Kumara Sambhava. About 700 years ago, Kachiappa Sivachariar, an ardent Tamil devotee of Murugan composed a magnum opus, the Kanda Puranam (KP) which describes in vivid detail the Lord's advent and accomplishments. This monumental work comprises 10,345 poems of four lines each. Legend has it that the poet wrote them at the rate of 100 poems every day. He placed every day's outpourings before the image of Lord Murugan in a temple and got the approval of the Lord before proceeding further.
KP follows in certain broad aspects SP. There are three main differences. First, in the way Murugan came into being: SP says that he came out of the fire sparks that were emitted by Shiva's male force and KP asserts that they came straight out of the foreheads of the six faces of Shiva, including one known only to enlightened sages. Second, in SP, Murugan has only one wife Deivayanai, whereas KP describes two wives, Deivayanai and Valli. In fact, Valli is described as a Tamil girl and Tamils consider her as their own Goddess. Third, SP talks of Murugan killing one demon, Tarakasuran while KP describes three demons who are brothers, the chief of them being Surapadman. Some people might trace a similarity with Ramayana, where Rama had to face Ravana and his two brothers. Further, in both the epics, the demons had one sister each who was maimed: by Rama's brother in Ramayana and by Indrani's guard in KP.
Even KP is somewhat inaccessible to Tamil speaking people. Many abridged versions of KP in prose in Tamil and a few in English have been published. But a good number of persons with Tamil as their mother tongue are not quite conversant with the Tamil script. This applies especially to those Tamils settled outside Tamilnadu in India and the Tamil Diaspora outside India and Sri Lanka. They are generally comfortable in English. Keeping them also in view, I have attempted this book. I have followed the Kanda Puranam, but have taken the liberty to make some changes. The most important is the manner in which Murugan came out of Lord Shiva's forehead. Many Hindus are aware that the devas (angels) fervently prayed that Lord Shiva, who was then without a consort, should get married to Paarvathi so that the divine couple could beget a son who will destroy the demon Surapadman. Both SP and KP mention that Manmadhan (cupid) was deputed to induce Shiva to marry Paarvathi and the holy wedding took place. Afterwards when Murugan emerged from Shiva, Paarvathi had no direct role as per SP or KP. In my story, the Goddess makes a small, but significant, contribution to the advent of Murugan. From this change, a plausible rationale has been drawn for the race between Murugan and Ganesha and the subsequent penance of Murugan in the holy Palani hill. I have also vastly abridged the story to suit the needs of fast paced life in the present times.
Brief outlines of some of the important temples dedicated to Murugan in India and one in Malaysia are included. The last chapter contains some gems of philosophical wisdom handed down to us by one of the greatest devotees of Murugan by name Arunagirinathar, a saint composer nonpareil.
Let me dedicate this book to the innumerable devotees of Lord Murugan, who have found great solace in praying to Him.
In writing this book, all the members of my family offered full support. My profuse thanks are due to Sugunavathi, my wife, Ramya, my daughter, Vidya & Nandini, my daughters-in-law, Rajesh, my son-in-law and Guhan & Kumaran, my sons.
I request the indulgence of dear reader for any inadvertent errors that might have crept in.
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