Murugan Bhakti Newsletter No. 17
Special Issue: Kuala Lumpur
Murukan Conference 2003
In this issue...
- Murukan Conference Yahoo Group
- Murukan Conference 3: An Overview
- Tamil articles now available online
- Conference-related articles published online
- Editorial: Whither the Murukan Conference Series?
- Arupadaiveedu - A Multimedia Ecstasy CD-ROM / VCD
- Murukan Conference Newsletter: Features in coming issues
I. Murukan Conference Yahoo
The Murukan Conference Yahoo Group, since 1999, is a
moderated online discussion group devoted to the International Murukan
Conference Series. Its online publication the Murukan Conference Newsletter,
together with the Murukan Conference web site www.Murugan.org, aims to
promote excellence in Kaumara studies worldwide and to make quality research
articles, photos, graphics, and news available online to the international
community of scholars and devotees alike.
This issue of the Murugan Bhakti Newsletter not only highlights
the recent 3rd International Murukan Conference
in Kuala Lumpur, but it also welcomes at long last the launch of online
publishing in Tamil of articles on the Murugan Bhakti Network of web sites.
Tamil readers will certainly welcome this development. It also means that
Tamil Kaumara scholars may now reach a worldwide audience by having their
research articles published online in the original Tamil.
Members of both
moderated online discussion groups, Murukan Conference and Murugan Bhakti, may submit articles, opinions, news,
etc. simply by replying to newsletters. When there is adequate material to
justify a fresh publication, the editor Patrick
Harrigan will compile, edit, and
publish a concise new issue (like this one). In this way, members' mailboxes
never get flooded with group messages, as with some un-moderated Yahoo groups. If you enjoy the Murugan
Bhakti Newsletter, share it with others. If you have a problem (if your
e-mail application does not recognise HTML-formatted text, etc.), ask the editor for help.
II. Highlights of Murukan
The long-anticipated Third International Arulmigu
Murugan Conference Malaysia 2003 held at Batu Caves has finally come to pass,
marking another milestone for Kaumaram and Kaumara studies. Foreign delegates,
mainly from India, had an opportunity to savour Malaysian cuisine and
hospitality, and to marvel at the magnificence of the Batu Caves environment,
which left many delegates spellbound. Malaysian Tamils, who had been slow to
get involved in the Murukan Conference Series in 1998, rolled out the red
carpet to 87 foreign delegates, who were duly impressed by the economic
strides Malaysian society has made in the past few decades.
particular, the Malaysian Organising Committee and Śrī Subramaniar Swamy
Temple Devasthanam, Batu Caves, deserve acclaim for tireless efforts put forth
since 2001, staging the Third Murukan Conference successfully despite heavy
expense (the nominal registration fee charged to delegates did not even begin
to cover the organisers' actual costs per delegate), a SARS epidemic earlier
this year that forced postponement of the Conference, and controversies that
continue unabated even after the Conference adjourned on
Inevitably, comparisons with previous Murukan Conferences
will be made, especially by those who have seen more than one Conference.
Delegates were dazzled by Kuala Lumpur city and by Batu Caves in particular.
But (as generally happens at large conferences) for some delegates the
arrangements and/or organisation of the Conference fell short of expectations.
Even local Malaysian delegates expressed mixed opinions, some complaining that
"too many underprepared scholars spoke" and that much of the work was
"propagandist and hagiographic, rather than carefully researched."
yet, there were plenty of notable exceptions, of well-researched presentations
that were well-received and appreciated, both in Tamil and in English. Most
will be published online. Unlike at the First Murukan Conference where some
foreign delegates were given as little as 10 minutes to make their
presentations, this time every presentation was given 30 minutes or more,
although this entailed sessions being spread over three venues (actually,
three spacious caverns). And there was little of the sense of haste and
confusion that had characterised earlier Murukan Conferences, although this
time the organisation of the sessions had been left to just one or two people
(including the editor) without a single volunteer present to support them, for
Moreover, the Conference organisers succeeded in releasing
a handsome souvenir publication and programme materials, and staging gala
inauguration and valedictory functions. Vegetarian meals, comfortable
(subsidized) hotel accommodations, and luxury bus services all ran smoothly
(if sometimes late). Nightly cultural shows by performers from Bharata Kshetra
Dance Centre and Kirubakaran's choir group, as well as Bharata Natyam artist
Dr. Malati Agneswaran, songs on Lord Muruga by Kalaimamani Kovai Kamala and
others kept delegates in a relaxed devotional mood throughout the Conference
period. Inevitably, slips occurred in the complex (and short-handed)
organisation that left some delegates feeling sore and disappointed, which the
organisers (including the editor) acknowledge with regret.
not be forgotten that an important purpose of international conferences is for
delegates to meet and mingle with one another, forming friendships and
professional alliances that endure long after the conferences themselves. The
Kuala Lumpur Conference, which will continue to bear fruit for years to come,
was no exception.
For online versions of local Malaysian press coverage
of the Murukan Conference in English and Tamil, see The
and the Malaysia Nanban articles of
4.11.2003. More articles, photos, and opinion pieces about the Conference will
appear in the Murukan Conference Newsletter and on the Murugan.org web site in
the weeks and months to come. If you wish to publish your review, report, or
opinion about the Conference, submit it as a ‘reply' to this newsletter.
III. Murugan.org commences
publishing in Tamil
From inception in 1996, the Murukan
Conference Series and Murugan Bhakti web sites have aimed to accept and
publish quality articles not only in English, but also in Tamil and other
Indian languages. For technical reasons, however, Internet publishing in Asian
languages involves additional layers of difficulty, including choice of
available fonts, keyboard complexity, and editing complexity. Since English
has been the language of choice for most Internet users since the birth of the
Internet, and so much English material remains unpublished, Murugan Bhakti
website have focused almost entirely upon publishing in English, except for a
limited number of sacred texts
Now all that has
changed. Around the world, Tamil scholars are becoming more adept at using
personal computers and Internet to read, write, and exchange documents in
Tamil script. The Murugan Bhakti Network of 11 Kaumara websites is proud to inaugurate
Tamil language publishing for Tamil scholars, devotees, and public alike,
beginning with the main web site, www.Murugan.org,
where most Murukan Conference papers appear. There is no charge for
As of release of this Newsletter, the following articles
are now available online (Tamil articles require Bamini font to
- Malaysia Nanban: "3vathu
arulmigu murukan maanādu camaya arignarkal thirandanar"
- " Murukap Perumanin
Virathankalum Vizhakkalum" by Santhi Navukarasan
- " Peranda Boomiyil Perinbam
petra Sasan Bhoganathar" by M.S. Mathivanan
- "Kabilarmalai Arulmigu Balasubramania Cuvami Tirukkovil" by Dr. Cu.
Murukan Conference participants and others who would like their
Tamil language papers to be published online should send a soft copy as a Word
document in Bamini family of fonts. Simply reply to this newsletter, or mail
to the editor. Accompanying graphics (scanned photos, etc.) may also be sent
as compressed .JPG files of 100 kb or less each. Note that Tamil papers will
be published ‘as is', i.e. authors are responsible for submitting papers in
IV. Conference-related articles newly published at
The Kuala Lumpur Conference
concluded only ten days ago, yet already Conference articles in Tamil and
English are already being published on the Murugan.org web site at a brisk
rate. If you would like your research paper to be included on the Conference
web site, send a soft copy tothe Editor. Photos
and other graphics may also be submitted for inclusion in published articles.
These should be sent as scanned .JPG files of 100 kb or less each. If you have
any questions or doubts, reply to this newsletter to contact the Editor.
The Murukan Conference programme-schedule of paper presentations is
now being published at:
As of the time of release of this Murukan Conference Newsletter, the following
articles have been freshly published on the
www.Murugan.org website since the Conference adjourned
(Tamil articles require Bamini
font to display):
- The Star: "Cultural
Performances at Batu Caves during Murukan Conference"
- Malaysia Nanban: "3vathu
arulmigu murukan mānādu camaya arignarkal thirandanar"
- "Batu Malai Śrī
Subramaniar Swamy Devasthanam" by R. Nadaraja
- "Thai Pusam at
Batu Caves, Malaysia" by Swami Guhabhaktananda
- "Worship of Murukan and
the Zodiac" by Ramakrishna Rao
- "Murukan, The Protector
and Healer" by Prof. Mrs. V. Balambal
of Bala Murukan in Kunrutoradal Temples" by Malati Agneswaran
- "Nallur Kumaran: History, Layout,
Festivals & Worship"
- "The Soul within the
Roles of Skanda-Murukan" by Brahma Kumari Pari
- "Devaraya Swamigal's
contribution to 'Murukanism'" by Sivagami Paramasivam
- "How the International
Murukan Conference Series began" by Patrick Harrigan
- "Murukap Perumanin
Virathankalum Vizhakkalum" by Santhi Navukarasan
- "Peranda Boomiyil Perinbam
petra Sasan Bhoganathar" by M.S. Mathivanan
- "Kabilarmalai Arulmigu
Balasubramania Cuvami Tirukkovil" by Dr. Cu. Balusamy
V. Editorial: Whither the Murukan
Now that fanfare surrounding the Third
International Murukan Conference has subsided, delegates and observers may
reflect upon what took place in Malaysia. While the press provided an upbeat,
even frivolous, portrayal of the organisers' heroic (and expensive) efforts,
everyone present knew that, behind closed doors, the powers that be were
brokering deals based less upon scholarship or devotion than upon calculations
For many participants, there was a sense of
resignation, of helplessness in the face of the inevitable. For the faithful,
however, there was implicit trust in the maxim "Ellam avar ceyal", that behind
it all, Lord Murukan the Master Puppeteer was taking full advantage of
peoples' individual weaknesses (vanity, pride, ambition, etc.) as part of His
own unfathomable Game plan. For most, if not all participants, however, Lord
Murukan's ‘plan' is a matter of faith rather than speculation, let alone
knowledge (which, after all, is His alone).
More down to earth, at the
ground level where conferences are planned and executed, there are other
questions that present themselves to discerning observers, viz:
- What is the purpose of holding international conferences on Kaumaram?
- What should be the purpose of research into Kaumaram?
- Will Kaumara studies some day fall into the hands of vested interests who will exploit it for their
own political and/or commercial aims?
As an illustration of how
vulnerable Kaumara studies are to distortion and misuse, the Malaysian press
gave prominence to the irresponsible remarks of a few participants who,
for the sake of gaining attention, declared that "no research is necessary for
community that does not know its own history, and has not analysed and
understood its own sacred literature and traditions in terms that command the
respect of other communities, is in danger of falling prey to its own
intellectual weakness that remains hidden under a cloak of smug
self-satisfaction. Today India especially ranks high on the target lists of
missionaries of Semitic religions, who would feel no remorse about breaking
the backbone of a non-Semitic religion like Hinduism. And yet, modern Tamils
around the world, flush with newfound material wealth, build more and more
extravagant temples, while neglecting the cultivation of religious knowledge.
The result may be seen in the children of ex-patriates, and even in
children in India, who have less and less use for Hindu values, and consider
religion as a relic from the past. The message is clear: Hindus (read: Tamils)
must come up to international standards of excellence in theological
scholarship and knowledge, or face extinction at the hands of religious
In the heady days of its founding, the Murukan Conference
Series presented itself as a rallying point around which Kaumara scholars
could meet to exchange research findings and set standards so that, some day,
Kaumara theology would command respect not only in the southernmost state of
India, but across India and around the world. This could only happen by
systematically encouraging higher expectations and higher standards for
Kaumara researchers, educators, and theologians.
‘Reign of Quantity'
What happened? The movement
abruptly lurched in the opposite direction. Instead of promoting higher
standards, it was decided that no standards should be applied at all. Instead
of promoting quality scholarship, it was decided to make a show of quantity,
of presenting more papers, of more words, by more ‘experts' from more nations.
In the total absence of standards, anyone with a little education may pass
himself off as a ‘Kaumara scholar' or theologian. The Malaysian delegates'
observationthat "too many underprepared scholars
spoke" and that much of the work was "propagandist and hagiographic, rather
than carefully researched" only confirms that Kaumara scholarship, rather than
improving, is becoming the playground of dilettantes, amateurs who dabble in
Kaumaram, write a few pieces of bombastic hagiography, and pride themselves on
the ‘contribution' they have made to Hinduism.
A few figures will
illustrate the point. The
First International Conference Seminar on Skanda-Murukan in 1998, which was conceived as a closed seminar for at most a
few dozen dedicated professional scholars of Kaumaram. Instead, it was thrown
open to the very people who recently declared in Malaysia that "no research is
necessary for Kaumaram."
The First Conference attracted the
participation of 135 scholars from 23 nations on six continents. Many came in
the sincere belief that Kaumaram was on the verge of becoming a field of
reputable scholars. Hundreds more attended crowded session as observers. The
‘Conference' looked and sounded more like a bazaar or mela than an assembly of
scholars. As mentioned, delegates who had come from distant countries were
shocked when told that they would be given only ten minutes to make their
presentations. At one stroke, the ‘Reign of Quantity' had seized control of
Not surprisingly, the First Murukan Conference was
the biggest Murukan Conference in terms of numbers. It also drove many serious
scholars away from the Series. Despite bigger budgets, long campaigns, and
loud proclamations about the numbers of delegates who will attend, Conferences
have so far failed to attract top-notch scholars, who keep away from melas.
According to the organisers' own
press release of 20.10.03, the Third Murukan Conference "expects to pull a crowd of 10,000
devotes" (sic). Even at that late date they declared, and the press dutifully
reported, that "More than 200 delegates from over 20 countries and about 250
local delegates have registered with us to attend this spiritual and academic
conference. A total of 96 papers will be presented by leading scholars who
have international reputation."
The reality, of course, was quite
different, as anyone who attended can testify. Instead of "over 20 countries",
only eight were represented (Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Singapore,
Australia, South Africa, and Germany in numerical order). Few registered
Malaysian observers even bothered to attend. At the inaugural function for
"10,000 devotes", the organisers put out only around 800 chairs—far more than
Why the inflated attendance figures? Why the need to
quote large figures, at the expense of truth? If only two or three outstanding
scholars or devotees had agreed to attend and address the Conference, that
alone would provide ample justification for such an event. But when a
conference gives the podium to a hundred or more speakers, naturally the
standard drops as informed speakers are crowded out and lost in the din of
bombastic harangues by under-qualified and under-prepared speakers. Even the
vital minutes for questions and answers had to be cut to the barest
Fourth Murukan Conference
proof that the Conference Series is being manipulated by vested interests
emerged from Day One, when the spokesperson for the Sri Lankan delegation,
Mrs. Shanthi Navukarasan (who is also Director of the Department of Hindu
Religious Affairs of Sri Lanka) openly appealed at the
inaugural function for the Conference organisers to honour the first
resolution passed unanimously at the First Murukan Conference in 1998, that the next Conference should be held in Sri Lanka.
Behind the scenes, it transpires, Indian organisers for months had
been desperately searching for a foreign country to host the 4th Murukan
Conference. Any foreign country, that is, except Sri Lanka. First, in April
2003 they announced in Chennai at a fund-raising function that the 4th
Conference would be hosted by South Africa. But the South Africans could not
be easily persuaded, and declined. At the last minute, the tiny island-nation
Seychelles with its small Tamil community was pressed to accept the task.
They, too, declined citing the heavy expenditure required, and endorsed Śrī
Lanka's bid instead.
What did the Indian organisers decide? To relent,
accept the will of the international community, and honor their pledge to let
Sri Lanka host the Conference? Instead, they maintained a wall of stoney
silence, followed by an abrupt announcement that the Fourth Murukan Conference
would be held in Pudukkottai.
Why in Pudukkottai? Is it a renowned
centre for Kaumara scholarship? Or is it an ancient centre of Murukan
devotion? Hardly. Rather, the organisers hope that, by holding the next
conference in a small town away from urban centres like Chennai or Madurai
that are home to large populations of educated Hindus, they can control the
next conference proceedings to their full satisfaction.
despite the fact that the administration of Palani Dandayudhapani Swami Devasthanam had twice extended an
invitation to host the next Murukan Conference that is held in India. Given a
choice between Pudukkottai and Palani, most delegates by far would choose
world-famous Palani Devasthanam with all its temples and conference
Is there is another, brighter, way to understand the course
of events that has put the Murukan Conference Series on a descending path that
is making the conferences more and more parochial and provincial, and less
dedicated to the ideals that served as its original inspiration? If so, the
Editor would like to hear from anyone who can enlighten him.
your opinion, write to the Editor by replying to this newsletter.
VI. Arupadaiveedu Multimedia
A comprehensive multimedia CD-ROM / VCD on Lord Muruga
entitled Arupadai Veedu - A Multimedia Ecstasy has been released by
Cybervalley Systems, India. With exclusive coverage on each arupadai
veedu temple, the CD-ROM/ VCD is a must buy for all those who wish to
explore the temples, legends, various festivals, holy waters associated with
the temples, and other important details.
This multimedia CD-ROM is
meant for all personal computers with Windows operating systems. The video
contents in the CD are also compatible with most VCD / DVD players in the
market. The CD is in Tamil, but an English language edition will also be
released soon. The cost of CDROM is US $10/= (Including postal charges
- across the globe).
To lean more about the CD-ROM, view sample graphics,
and/or to order, click here.
VII. Murukan Conference Newsletter: Features in
- Future of the International Murukan Conference Series: News and views
- Announcements of National Conferences and special presentations
- Multi-media: Using PowerPoint application to create digital presentations for public show
- Standard Diacritics: How to create articles for publication
with diacritical marks on your PC
- When will Murukan Conference research articles ever appear in print?
- Style Sheet: International publishing standards for correct formatting of footnotes, bibliographies,
- Readers' choice: send your articles or suggestions for publication
view this special issue of the Murugan Bhakti Newsletter online, go to:
For enquiries, or to submit articles/opinions for publication, contact the editor: firstname.lastname@example.org
Murugan Bhakti Newsletter No. 17: Newsletter of the Murugan Bhakti Network
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