The sacred place for Hindus, nestled around the verdant Sivagiri Hills in the Madurai Region, where Lord Muruga abodes in the form of an ascetic boy relinquishing all his finery, having only one staff called Dhandam, is the Lord Dhandayuthapani shrine at Palani. This is the third shrine and most predominant among the six temples of Lord Muruga called “Aarupadai Veedu”. Palani is otherwise fondly called as “Thiruaavinankudi”.This is the richest temple in Tamil Nadu in terms of the revenue generation by the offerings of the devotees. This is one of the few temples in Tamil Nadu where you can see vehicles disgorging thousands of devotees throughout the year.
OUTLINE OF PALANI MURUGAN TEMPLE:
Palani was the hill top where Lord Murugan settled following defeat by his elder brother, Lord Ganesha. The two had raced around the world to win an apple from their father, Lord Shiva. In anger and defeat, Murugan made his stand for a long time, while Lord Shiva and Devi Parvati and the devatas sang glorious songs in his praise to pacify his anger and bring him back with them to Kailasha. The image of Murugan at Palani is said to be made by a devotee of Lord Skanda known as Bhogar who made it out of the Nava Pashanas (nine herbals/poisons). The temple is itself situated at a hill station by the same name about twenty miles away from Dindigul Junction situated between Thiruchirapally and Madurai. It is said that this is the only place where devotees of Murugan can approach Him with love and faith because it elevates the minds of the pilgrims.
There are two expansive Praharams in the temple. Idols of Vallabha Vinayakar, Subramanya Vinayakar, Nakkerar, Arunagirinathar can be found in the second Praharam that houses the Nayakkar Mandapam. The Rajagopuram is made of five levels. Bypassing the Paravel Mandapam and Navaranga Mandapam, one can approach the sanctum sanctorum of Dhandayuthapani. There is a sannidhi for Bhogar, a holy person who was committed to Lord Muruga and contributed tremendously to him. The Vimanan which rooftops the Garba Graham is made of Gold and offers a staggering and fantastic sight to the Devotees.
LEGENDS & HISTORY OF THE TEMPLE:
There are so many fascinating aspects to the birth and life of Murugan that there are hundreds of legends associated with him. Perhaps the most enduring one that everyone knows is about his spat with elder brother Ganesha. But just like every other legend this too has many hidden meanings that have to be discovered by a true devotee of Murugan. The story involves Narada Muni who travels the three worlds and is always found at the center of chaos (though most of his deeds are actually performed to bring order amongst the chaos that he creates). According to legend, when Narada Muni visited Shiva’s abode in mount Kailasha, the entire family was present: the two sons Karthikeya, and Ganesha and Shiva’s wife Parvati.
Narada offers a golden mango to Shiva saying it is the ‘jnana pazham’ (golden fruit of knowledge) and requests him to eat the fruit. But Shiva seeing his wife Parvati offers it to her. Parvati in turn wants to offer the fruit to her children. Since the fruit cannot be cut in two, a competition is arranged where the first son to go around the three Universes thrice gets the fruit. Karthikeya (who rides the fast-flying peacock) mounts his vahana (vehicle) and sets off on a tour around the Universe. Ganesha, the big-bellied but wise one, knows he cannot beat his brother on his slow moving vahana, the mouse. So instead he circumambulates his parents thrice. When asked why he did that he answers saying his parents are his Universe. Pleased with Ganesha’s love and wisdom, parents Shiva and Parvati give him the golden fruit.
Karthikeya returns from his trip around the Universe only to find his brother already enjoying the fruit. This infuriates him so much that he walks off from Kailasha and settles down on the mountain. Shiva and Parvati come down searching for their son and pacify him saying ‘Pazham-Nee’ – ‘You are the fruit’. Though Karthikeya is pacified, he does not return home with his parents. He stays back on the mountain which later came to be known as Palani (Pazham Nee – ‘You are the fruit’).
Though the story on this level seems like a simple fight between siblings, the other meanings that can be discerned are many. For instance, one has to overcome ego to attain the ‘fruit of knowledge’. Though people believe that the fight between the brothers has not abated to this day, it is not entirely true. In the wooing and marriage of Valli-Murugan, Ganesha plays a very important role. He assumes the form of a terrifying elephant to frighten Valli who, otherwise very brave, is scared of elephants.
The fight for the fruit of knowledge is not the only time that Murugan appears human-like, even if his wisdom is beyond compare. The story is to make devotees understand that wisdom as shown by Lord Ganesha lies in everyday life. Mother and Father are the first true Vedas the other two being Guru and God. The temple built at Palani is for the worship of Murugan in the form of Dandayudhapani (‘the one holding the staff’). Here Murugan has renounced the world and is in his jnani stage. In the present age of Kali Yuga, Murugan plays a very important role so He is also known as Kali Yuga Vardhan. The great sages of ancient times were foresighted enough to know that people in Kali Yuga will never have enough time or the patience to undergo the rigorous penance required to experience divine grace. That is the reason why things were simplified so that just chanting the name of Kali Yuga Vardhan Murugan would be enough to start the journey of enlightenment.
SPECIALITIES OF PALANI MURUGAN TEMPLE:
Amongst the many festivals celebrated in South India, the Thaipusam festival has an elaborate preparation. It is celebrated on the full moon day during the month of ‘Thai’ (January—February), but devotees start the preparation forty-eight days in advance. A strict purification ritual is followed to help them purge themselves of all physical and mental impurities.
The ‘Kavadi’ that is carried during the festival consists of two pieces of semi-circular steel or wood which is bent in the middle and attached to a cross-like structure. This is then balanced on the shoulders of the devotee. Flowers and peacock feathers are used to decorate the Kavadi. Carrying the Kavadi is not a simple process; it symbolizes transcendence of desire. The devotee actually gives up worldly pleasures like physical relationships and alcohol, and follows a strict regimen of sleeping on the floor, eating a vegetarian diet and bathing in cold water. Such practices make them spiritually fit to carry the Kavadi for Murugan.
The origin of Kavadi and its significance to Murugan is steeped in mythology and is a fascinating account for devotees to understand one more aspect of Murugan’s character. Lord Shiva had entrusted two hillocks to the saint Agastya. Agastya (aka Agastiyar), a dwarf sage had, according to legend, visited Podiyamalai in the south of India at the command of Lord Shiva, to maintain the equilibrium of the earth during Lord Shiva and goddess Parvati’s marriage. Most of the prominent gods (and many sages) gathered at Kailasha mountain during the wedding. Hence, to maintain a balance of good forces and divine power in the south, Agastya was asked by Lord Shiva to stay in the south during this wedding. Such is the glory of Agastya!
The two hills entrusted by Shiva were called Shivagiri and Shaktigiri and Agastya wanted them to be installed in the South where he lived. After the epic battle between devatas and asuras Idumban (an asura) repented for his actions and prayed to Murugan for a pardon. He was granted this pardon so he then became a disciple of Agastya. The Sage Agastya, himself, was a great Murugan devotee and it is believed that Murugan taught the Tamil language to the sage when he moved from the north to south of India. When Agastya wanted the two hillocks moved he asked Idumban to carry it for him to which Idumban readily agreed. He carried the two hillocks slung on his shoulders, like a Kavadi. When he reached Palani he was too tired to continue the journey so he placed the two hills and rested awhile. After some time when Idumban wanted to continue his journey he could not lift the hill and found a small boy wearing just a ‘kaupeenam’ (loin-cloth) sitting on top of the hill. Idumban asked the boy to vacate the place so he could carry the hill.
The boy of course was Murugan who had arrived in Palani after losing the ‘fruit of knowledge’ to his brother Ganesha. Murugan was in a rebellious mood when he reached a place called Tiru Avinakudi. When Idumban found the boy on top of the hill, he did not realize it was his ishta devata (favorite god) Murugan. And hence, a fierce battle ensued. Idumban was slain. But as always, Murugan restored Idumban back to life.
Once Idumban realized it was his beloved Murugan, he prayed to Murugan and requested that whoever carries a ‘Kavadi’ to the temple of Palani should be blessed by the Lord. Idumban also has the privilege of standing sentinel at the hill. Accordingly, to this day devotees going to the Palani temple carry a Kavadi on their shoulders and pay their obeisance to Idumban first since his temple is situated half-way up the Palani hill. This story shows that Murugan rewards sincere devotion and he embodies the inner-light and grace needed to transform a person no matter what their past may have been. His sincere devotees not only become a part of Him but they also become a part of his legends.
NAVAPASHANAM IDOL OF LORD MURUGAN:
The deity of Palani is known as Dandayudhapani Swami, the Lord having the Staff in his Hand. The deity at the sanctum sanctorum is made out of an amalgam of nine minerals popularly called Navapashanam. Some people say it is a combination of medicinal herbs. It consits of the following items : Veeram, Pooram, Rasam, Jathilingam, Kandagam, Gauri Pasanam, Vellai Pasanam, Mridharsingh, Silasat. The deity is in a standing position with a baton in his hand. He has the look of a person who has renounced all worldly pomp. He has just a loincloth besides the baton. He is a mute messenger of the great precept ‘Renounce all to reach Me’. The icon is unique in the whole world. It was made by siddha Bhogar by combining nine poisonous substances (Navapashanam). Murugan signifies beauty and Lord Murugan of Kurinji land is the god of Beauty and Youth.
PANCHAMIRTAM AND RAKKALA SANDANAM:
Lord Muruga is Abhisekapriya (enamored with anointment), particularly Panchamirta. The Devasthanam offers panchamirta, vibhuti and different things which are sold for sensible cost. Panchamirtam, is not only a delicious and nourishing food, but also has astonishing properties which keep it in a condition that is suitable for consumption over a long period of time without refrigeration. The Devasthanam has now made arrangements to manufacture Panchamirtam by using electrical means. Panchamirtham is prepared by this temple by mixing of proportionate quantity of Bananas, Sugar, Ghee, Honey, Seedless Dates, Cardamom and Sugar Candy. It is hygienically prepared and filled by Automatic Machine. Panchamirtham is filled in half kilo pet jars and laminated tins and sold in different location like Hill Temple, Rope car Station, Winch Station, PathaVinayagar Temple , Thiruaavinankudi Temple and the Bus Stand Information center.
PALANI MURUGAN TEMPLE POOJA TIMINGS:
Every day, as many as six Kala Poojas are performed to the main deity. The schedule of the Poojas and Alangarams of Palani Andavar are as follows:
Every day, as many as six Kala Poojas are performed to the main deity. The schedule of the Poojas and Alangarams of Palani Andavar are as follows:
|Vishvaruba Dharsanam||5.40 A.M|
|Vila pooja||6.50 A.M|
|Sirukala Shanthi Pooja||8.00 AM|
|Kala Shanthi Pooja||9.00 A.M|
|Uchi Kaala Pooja (Afternoon pooja)||12.00 P.M|
|Sayaraksha (Evening) Pooja||5.30 P.M|
|Rakaala Pooja||8.00 P.M|
There is a big bell on the temple premises that is rung at different points of time in the day in order to indicate the Pooja timings. Depending upon the timing, one can have a Darshan or a glimpse of the deity dressed thusly.
Daily six pooja’s are performed with different form of Alangaram to the Lord murugan.
|6.40 A.M||Vizhapooja Sathu||Sanniyasi Alangaram|
|8.00 A.M||Sirukala Santhi||Vedan Alangaram|
|9.00 A.M||Kalasanthi||Balasubramaniyar Alangaram|
|12.00 P.M||Uchikkalam||Vaitheekal Alangaram|
|5.30 P.M||Sayarakshai||Raja Alangaram|
|8.00 P.M||Rakkalam||Pushpa Alangaram|
In the temple, the pooja or the abishekam is done with the following items:
1. Gingelly Oil
3. Rice Powder
4. Turmeric Powder
5. Panchamritam ( Plantains, Cane Jaggery, Sugar candy, Honey, Ghee, raisins and Dates)
6. Tender coconut or Mango Juice or any fruit
7. Milk or Honey
8. Rose Water
9. Sandal Pas
10. Vibhuti (Ash).
FESTIVALS OF PALANI MURUGAN TEMPLE:
Festivals are celebrated to commemorate some bygone events of supreme significance that ushered in memorable eras of peace and prosperity in the land, by persons of extraordinary intellectual brilliance or spiritual eminence. People keep in remembrance of certain momentous moments and honor the illustrious people instrumental for establishing Jagatkalyan. It is but natural that they turn out to be days of great rejoicing consuming incalculable sums of money and materials.
These gala days knit mankind together and give occasions for solidarity among them. They are of course, inaugurated first in heaven and man being created in the image of the highest God is emulating the ennobling tradition since the down of intelligence. The numerous Jayanthis, Vardhanthis etc. of both Gods and humans stand in testimony of this all commendable tradition.
Every temple celebrated certain days held dear to the Archamurthi together with those responsible for building and expanding of the temple, wherein the adorable murtiabides and displays his powers for making his children progress on righteous path. Here in this temple, many kinds of periodical celebrations take place. Why the temple calendar is over crowded with big red dots indicating the innumerable auspicious days of the temple. Though every day is a festival day here with various kinds of programs and offering of sevas to the lord, certain days are deemed very auspicious and they draw lakes of devotees from far and near, when the whole hill metamorphoses into Bhulokaswarga.
Panguni Uthiram, Thaipoosam, Kandasasti, Agni Nakshatram take precedence over the rest of days, like Vaikasi Visakam, Thai Amavasya, Tamil New Year day, Margali Masa Special sevas etc,. All the festivals are celebrated with matchless devotional fervor, when the whole town overflows with yatris causing insurmountable hardships to temple authority and Government. Each major festival has certain special ritualistic prayer services that mark it out from there.
Thai Poosam is a very important festival, associated with pilgrimage to Palani. Devotees from Tamil Nadu reach Palani by foot (Pada Yatra) and worship. Begining with flag-hosting at Perianayagi Amman Temple, this festival runs on for 10 days. Kavadi of various types (with holy water, sugar, flowers, tender co-conuts, etc., ) are offered to Murugan at Palani On the 6th day, there is procession of Lord Muruga with Valli and Deivanai in the Silver Car. During this, Kavadi dance and rural musical-dance are performed. On the 7 th day there is “Thai Thaer” (wooden Car) and thousands of devotees participate in this. On the 7th day “Chinna Kumarar” goes round in His Golden Car.
Panguni Uttiram also is a very important festival here, and is celebrated for 10 days, devotees carry kavadies with holy water (from sacred rivers), sugar, tender co-conut etc. During these ten days, we can see various rural dances like “Oyilattam, Thappattam, Dhidumattam, Velanattam, Samiyattam”etc., along with rural songs. The rural music is an important part of Paunguni uthiram festival.
The main feature of Panguni Uthiram is the offering of “Theertham” (Posts of Holy water) from Kodumudi. Lord Palani Āndavar is given abhishekam with this holy water. The devotees carrying Kavadi to Palani sing Kavadi – songs throughout their ‘Padayathra’ and these songs are ancient oral songs.
On the first day, there is flag hoisting at Tiruvavinankugi Templeand on all the 10 days Lord Muthukumara Swamy with Sri Valli and Sri Deivanai goes in procession around the Palani Hill. On the seventh day there is “Car Festival” and this is attended by thousands of devotees. During these days the Lord also is given special reception and pooja at many ‘mandapams’ in the Palani Adivaram area. It is a grand sight to see Lord Muruga with his concerts during these processions.
Cithirai Festivals – Chitra Paurnami:
On this day, a ten-day festival is conducted at Arulmigu Lakshminarayana Perumal temple. At the Periyanayaki Amman Temple also, Lord Muthukumara Swamy, along with Valli and Deivanai, rides in the silver car along the streets around the Temple.
Agni Nakshatram is one of the important festivals at Palani. During the last seven days of Chitrai and the first seven days of the following month (i.e. Vaikasi) the devotees of Lord Muruga go around the Hill by foot, early in the mornings.
As per the Palani mythology, it is considered holy to worship the Hill temple from afar or from near or go around it. It is also called Girivalam. It is an age old practice. In ancient days the siddhas, rishis, saints and other noble persons followed this practice. Girivalam gives mental peace, the medicinal herbs around the hillock cure many physical diseases. Nowadays people go around the temple by wearing kadamba flower.
VAIKAASI FESTIVAL (VISAKAM):
Vaikasi Visakam is celebrated for ten days. At the Perianayaki amman temple, it is celebrated for 10 days with procession every day. There is car festival on the 10th day (i.e Visakam). Visakam is Lord Muruga’s birthday star. This is celebrated at all Murugan temples.
During the Tamil month of Aani (third month of the Tamil year) Annabhishekam (abhishekam with fragrant cooked rice) is conducted at Tiruvavinankudi Temple, Hill Temple, Periyanayagi Amman temple and Periyavudaiyar Temple. On Aani Uthiram Day, abhisekam is performed to Lord Nataraja and a procession is conducted with the Lord in the Company of the icons of the four Tamil Saints.
FESTIVALS IN AADI:
Aadi Perukku: From Perianayaki Amman Temple, Lord Kailasanathar and Amman go to Periyavudaiyar Koil and after performing “Kannimar Pooja” return in a procession.
Aadi Krithigai: This is celebrated in a grand way at Palani. Devotees carry flower-Kavadi to Lord Muruga and Worship.
Aadi Amavasai: On this day many devotees offer ‘tonsure’ on the banks of Shanmuga River and climb the hill for worship. In the book of Palani mythology this has been mentioned in the chapter on ‘Shanmuga Nadi’. Devotees consider that they get cleansed of their sins once they bathe in the Shanmuga River.
Aadi Laksharchana: At Periyanayaki Amman Temple, this is conducted well, and Amman (Goddess Periyanayaki) is given special abhishekam and decoration. On the last day of the function, Amman is adorned with the “Golden Kavacham”.
KANDHA SHASTI (SOORA SAMHARAM):
Kanda Shasti is a very important festival at Palani, during the six days in the month of Aippasi (7th Tamil month). This is based on the mythological story of Lord Muruga Killing the demons. On this day only (once in a year) the Lord comes down the Hill, and after vanquishing the demons,ascends the Hill again.
This is associated with Kandhar Shasti. The four demons (Gajamugan, Tharagan, Singamugan and Surapadman) are won by the Lord. It is a grand sight to see the dramatic representation of this. On this day devotees observe total fasting as they consider that this will offset all their sins.
From Tirugnanasambandar’s statement “Ancient Karthigai day”, we known about the age-old practice of this festival. It falls on Karthigai day in the Tamil month of Karthigai. It is celebrated for ten days and daily “Chinna Kumarar” goes in processionin the small golden carriage. On Karthigai day, he goes inthe Golden Car. On the 10th day, woman devotees light lamps and worship Murugan. This is done in Tiruvavinankudi, Periyanayagi Amman Temple and the Hill Temple. This is a very important day for devotees. Every month also, on Karthigai day, devotees visit Palani.
During the Tamil month of Markazhi (ninth month) the Hill Temple opens at 4 A.M and recital of Tiruvembavai is done. The early morning Pooja is done in all the main temples in Palani. The recital of Thiruppavai is done at Perumal temple.