Lord Skanda-Murugan

Synopsis: "Cankam Age Murukan at Velimalai"

Dr. S. Padmanabhan

The ancient Tamils lived happily with Dame Nature and called God as Murukan which denotes natural beauty, sweetness, fragrance, happiness, youth and finally godliness. Subsequently the abstract form of Murukan became the concrete form of Murukan. After the advent of Aryans in the South, several legends of the North came to be associated with Murukan, the primitive and pre-Aryan God of the ancient Tamils, who came to be called as Subrahmanya, Kārttikeya, Skanda, Kumāra and Shanmukha. Kamil V. Zvelebil, a Czech scholar and a great lover of Tamil in his book Tiru Murugan mentioned that Murukan was "originally a tribal God". The undoubted antiquity of Murukan cult is attested by Tolkāppiyam, the oldest work in Tamil literature. The author of Tolkāppiyam called Murukan as Ceyon and classified him as the god of hilly regions.

The ancient Tamils worshipped Murukan with the Vedda (hunter) girl Valli alone. But today people worship Murukan as Subramanya along with Valli and Teyvayānai (Devasenā). While the early Cankam works Nattinai and Ayinkurunūru describe Murukan as the husband of Valli, the later Cankam works Tirumurukārruppatai and Paripātal described him as the husband of two wives Teyvayānai and Valli. While Kanta Purāna considered Valli as the second wife of Lord Murukan the traditional order is Valli-Teyvayānai and not Teyvayānai-Valli. The archaeological findings at Melakarantai near Ettayapuram in Chidambaranar district revealed images of Murukan and Valli only; no image of Devayanai was present.

Due to Aryanisation, Murukan of the Tamils with one wife Valli became Subramanya with two consorts, Valli and Teyvayānai. It is an important fact to be noted here that Teyvayānai was the daughter of Indra, the high god of Aryans during Vedic period. Thus Murukan was aryanised. It is clear that the word Murukan is purely of Dravidian. We neither find the Murukan in Sanskrit literature nor are there any temples dedicated to Murukan in the North. Several Cankam works including Tolkāppiyam describe Murukan as the god of mountain regions. But Subrahmanya or Skanda or Karttikeya or Shanmukha is not considered as a god of mountains in the North.


The Velimalai temple of Murukan with Valli is situated in the beautiful natural surroundings on the lap of the mountain Velimaial in Kanyakumari District. In the sanctum sanctorum stands Murukan of 8'8" high with Valli of 6'2" high. The image of Murukan with Valli worshipped in the temple at Velimalai resembles that of Murukan celebrated in the early Cankam period.

There is some evidence to suggest that Murukan was worshipped in the lost continent of Kumari and that the form and mode of worship of Murukan in Cankam period are same at Velimalai in Kanyakumari District, the remnant of the lost continent. The events of Kuravarpatukalam held at Velimalai during the Tamil month of Pankuni also suggest that Murukan had only one wife Valli and the presiding deity of Velimalai temple is undoubtedly pre-Aryan and it belongs to early Cankam Age.