Lord Skanda-Murugan

Synopsis: "Dance Representations of Bala Murugan in Kunruthoradal Temples of the Western Ghats region of Tamil Nadu"

Prof. Malati Agneswaran M.F.A., Ph.D.

Concepts of divinity are derived through meditation, inspiration through intense bhakti, or divine revelation - all these psychic processes may be the same stream of consciousness. What differentiates them from other thought processes is the feature that they are not the result of logical process of reasoning.

Logical reasoning is the ultimate test for acceptance of a conclusion, for deductive thought is derived from premises and knowledge that has already been accepted. The internal consistency of any argument is based on the deductive mode of logic.

Yet there is the other uncharted course of thought, which is inductive in nature. All scientific inventions are through inspired ideas some of which have been 'proved' in the deductive sense and others are hypotheses that have been accepted because they are useful, although they are yet unproven.

The concept of God is mentally apprehended as an energy in any theological system. This cornucopia of energy is sought to be represented concretely by the artist - the sculptor, painter, dancer, poet - and the divine inspiration that activates them all is the same source of energy.

The Siva concept or Sivatvam is one that is manifested mainly in an abstract form in the monolith or linga that symbolises energy. However, iconographically there have been other representations of Sivatvam in the form of Natarajar, Ardhanarisvarar, Dakshinamurti and so on.

The concept of Siva is also continued in the iconographic references of his Son, born of the sparks from his third eye (which is the representation of Siva's subtle energy), namely, Murugan. Murugan is worshiped as a independent major deity, and yet his association with Siva is seen in the ancient name of Ceyyon by which he was known during the Sangam period of Tamil civilisation.

The concept of Murugan, through the concept of Siva is linked to the concept of Surya and energy. The ancients 'saw' with their inner eye or concentration, the concrete symbols of the divine concept and this was immortalised in iconographic representations that are worshipped in temples, in the sannidhis of the different deities. These representations of divinities have in their turn inspired the artists of other media who have written devotional songs (Appar, Sambandar, Sundarar, Arunagirinathar and others), and in dance have followed the iconographic details.

The present paper seeks to introduce the iconographic pattern and demonstrate through choreography in the dance form of Bharata Natyam, the expression of divinity as Bala Murugan to be seen in the temples of western part of Tamil Nadu, specifically in the mountains of the Western Ghats. Murugan is the god of the hills, who is said to dance on the mountaintops, symbolizing the rising of the sun on the mounts at dawn.

Murugan giving upadesam to Agastya Muni (15536 bytes)
Bharata Natyam artist Dr. Malati Agniswaran depicting Murukan. The right hand shows abhaya mudra through the pataka hasta whereas the left hand show vel through the shikhara hasta.

Qualifications: B.A. (Hons.) German, B.F.A., M.F.A. PH.D. (Dance); diplomas in Saiva Siddhanta, Comparative Mythology and Theatre Arts.
Designation: Reader & Head of Dept. of Bharatanatyam, Nalanda Nritya Kala Mahavidyalaya, Mumbai University.

Official address:
Nalanda Nritya Kala Mahavidyalaya,
Plot A-7/1, N.S. Road
No.10, J.V.P.D. Scheme
Ville Parle (West), Mumbai - 400 049.

Residential address:
8/61, Shyam Nivas,
Bhulabhai Desai Road,
Mumbai - 400 026

Telephone: 364 9807/611 0003.
Telefax: 262 2028
E-Mail: agnimala@hotmail.com

See also Prof. Agneswaran's article "Legends of Karttikeya in Purulia Chhau".