Lord Skanda-Murugan

Synopsis: "The Vijayanagar period revival of the cult of Murukan: A historical background"

A. Pandurangan

The cult of Murukan received a new impetus in Tamil country under the rule of the Vijayanagar viceroys. The Muslim invasion and the rule of the Sultans in Madurai for over a century completely shattered the social, political and religious fabric of the Tamils. From the very early days and later through the Pallavas and Pandyas the Tamil people achieved economic prosperity and cultural maturity. The imperial Cholas took them forward to the regions of Greater India. The zenith of Tamil civilization was rudely shaken by the Muslim invasions from the North.

The cruelties of Muslim rule in the Tamil country have been recorded by Muslim historians themselves. The alien tyranny came to an end by the timely intervention of Kumara Kampanna, the commander of Vijayagar. Though Vijayanagar rulers revived the Hindu religious activities, they were either Kannadigas or Telugus. The Tamils could not identify themselves wit the new rulers. They yarned for a deliverer, a messiah to rescue them from this alien. They therefore chose the age-old, but temporarily overshadowed, Murukan of their Cangam times as their new messiah. Arunakiri's Tiruppukal and Kacciappar's Kanta Puranam should to be analysed in this background.

The paper attempts to probe the historical background for the emergence of the Murukan cult during Vijayanagar period. Cankam classics depict Murukan with the valiant war god. During the evolution of the bhakti age, Murukan was relegated to a secondary position as the son of Lord Siva. He was depicted as sitting between Siva and Uma in Somaskanda forms. Though Saivism built numerous shrines for Siva, they did not build not exclusively for Murukan. The emergence of Arunakiri and Kacciappar, the bards of the Murukan cult, gave a new impetus to its revival.