Lord Skanda-Murugan

Palani, Kavadi and Idumban

How Murugan, Idubam and Kavadi came to Palani

Idumban, the first Kavadi bearer
Idumban, the first Kavadi bearer
Ganapati employs cunning to cheat Murugan
Ganapati employs cunning to cheat Murugan of his prize.
Idumban, the first Kavadi bearer
Idumban, the first Kavadi bearer
Palani, where Lord Muruga sheds his abundant grace
Palani, where Lord Muruga sheds his abundant grace

Sage Agastya wanted to take two hills -- Sivagiri and Saktigiri -- to his abode in the South and commissioned his asuran disciple Idumban to carry them. Idumban was one of the very few asuran survivors of the surāsuran war between Murugan's forces and those of Surapadman. After surviving the war he had repented and became a devotee of Lord Murugan.

At this stage, Subrahmanya or Muruga had just been outwitted by His brother Ganesa in a contest for going around the world and He was still smarting over the matter. Ganapati had won the prized fruit (the Jnana-pazham) by simply going around His parents. Long after this, Subrahmanya came seating on His peacock to find that the prize had already been given away.

In anger, He vowed to leave His home and family and came down to Tiru Avinankudi at the Adivāram (meaning 'foot of the Sivagiri Hill'). Siva pacified Him by saying that Subrahmanya Himself was the fruit (pazham) of all wisdom and knowledge. Hence the place was called Pazham-nee ('You are the fruit') or Palani. Later He withdrew to the hill and settled there as a recluse in peace and solitude.

Idumban bore the hills slung across his shoulders in the form of a kavadi, one on each side. When he reached Palani and felt fatigued, he placed the kavadi down to take rest.

When Idumban resumed his journey, he found that he could not lift the hill. Muruga had made it impossible for Idumban to carry it. Upon the hilltop the great asuran spotted a little boy wearing only kaupeenam and demanded that he vacate at once so Idumban could proceed with his task. The boy, who was yet in a fighting mood, refused. In the fierce battle which ensued, Idumban was slain but was later restored to life.

Idumban belatedly recognised the boy as none other than his ista devata Murugan and prayed to Him that:

  1. Whosoever carried on his shoulders the kavadi, signifying the two hills and visited the temple on a vow should be blessed; and
  2. He should be given the priviledge of standing sentinel at the entrance to the hill.

Hence we have the Idumban shrine half-way up the hill where every pilgrim is expected to offer obeisance to Idumban before entering the temple of Dandayudhapani Swami. Since then, pilgrims to Palani bring their offerings on their shoulders in a kavadi. The custom has spread from Palani to all Muruga shrines.
Anyone can carry kavadi
Anyone can carry Kavadi

Muruga, in His aspect as Lord Dandayudhapani, stands for tyāgam or renunciation. Eschewing all wordly possessions, the only apparel He has chosen to retain is a loincloth called kaupeenam. But His bhaktars never tire of offering Him costly garments and enriching His wardrobe with luxurious royal clothes which are used to adorn Him when His devotees yearn to see the Lord in the vesture of a King. For indeed, His state is that of a Swami or sovereign Lord.

from Palani: The Hill Temple of Muruga (Madras, 1975) by Somalay for Arulmigu Dandayudhapani Swami Temple, Palani.

For contributions and further information please contact:

The Joint Commissioner/Executive Officer
Arulmigu Dandayudhapani Swami Devasthanam Office
Adivaram Palani - 624 601 India

More about Palani
Palani.org Palani Murugan website