Lord Skanda-Murugan

Śrī Jnana Pandita
Śrī Jñāna Pandita: Murugan as Expositor of Gñosis with His symbols the Vēl or Spear of Wisdom and vehicle/totem the peacock = Phoenix. Behind Him dawns the rising sun symbolising the awakened mind (bodhi).

Murukan Cult in Cilappatikaram

by S. Kanmani


  1. Introduction
  2. Names and phrases denoting Murukan
  3. Places of worship
  4. Arts related to the cult of Murukan
  5. Mythology related to Murukan
  6. End Notes
  7. Bibliography

0.0 Introduction:

0.1. The purpose of the research paper is to give an extract of the cult of Murukan present in the epic Cilappatikaram.

0.2. In Cilappatikaram there are references to Murukan temples present in the Chola and Pandya capitals, and some other famous temples of Lord Murukan are also mentioned in the epic. The types of temples and the types of the icons enshrined are worthy of study. A large collection of materials based on the fine arts and folklore is present in the epic. From them the music, dance and folk songs in connection with the cult of the Murukan provide ample material for study. An analysis of the mythology related to the cult of Murukan present in the epic may also shed light on the cult of Murukan as it was during the period when the epic was written. The various names attributed to Murukan and the epithets associated with them may also help us to determine the status of the cult during that period.

0.3. The traditional descriptive approch is followed. The epic Cilappatikaram serves as the primary source. The secondary sources are the Cankam anthologies and idylls, including the epic Manimekalai, the counterpart of Cilappatikaram. Commentaries of the commentators and the researches done by modern scholars serve as tertiary sources.

1.0. Names and phrases denoting Murukan:

There are four names attributed to Murukan in Cilappatikaram, namely Cevvel, Netuvel, Arumuka oruvan and Arumukaccevvel. He is also specified as teyvam, iraivan and katavul, the common names used to denote all gods. The explanatory phrases which are used to denote Murukan are based on the weapon vēl, the katampu tree and the mythological elements related to Murukan.

1.1.0. Cevvel

1.1.1 The beauty of Kovalan, the hero of the epic Cilappatikaram, is compared to the beauty of Murukan.

pan teytta moliyinar ayattup parattik

kan tettum cevvel enru icai pokki1

(Women whose speech is sweeter than music praised Kovalan's beauty among themselves. They said that in Kovalan's beauty they could identify Murukan's personality).

The music of velan who performed veriyattu for Cevvel was heard in the Colaimalai.2 Paripatal stands parallel to Cilappatikaram in specifying Murukan as Cevvel.3

1.1.2. Netuvel

Kannaki, the heroine of the epic, climbed up the hill called Netuvel Kunram4 (the hill where Netuvel is enshrined). Many Cankam anthologies and idylls specify Murukan as Netuvel.5 There are also instances where Murukan is called simply Vēl. 6 It is also found with the epithets viral7 and av-.8

1.1.3. Arumuka Oruvan

When Kovalan praises the beauty of his wife Kannaki's eyes, he says that it is Arumuka oruvan who gave his vel to frame them.9 The women of the hills also called Murukan Arumuga oruva.10 They praised his six faces and twelve arms (Arumuka oruva = one person with six faces).11

Paripatal adores Murukan as having six faces and twelve arms.12 Muviru kayantalai is another term equivalent to Arumukam found in Paripatal (muviru = six; kayantalai = young faces).13 Tirumurukārruppatai gives a detailed description of the six faces and twelve arms.14

1.1.4. Cilappatikaram stands unique in attributing the name Arumukaccevvel to Murukan. A temple of Lord Murukan is referred to as Arumukaccevvel Anitikal Kōvil.15

1.1.5. The women of the hills while dancing sing of Murukan as:

kark katappan tarem katavul16

Katampun teyvam17 and iraivan18 (the god who wears a garland of katampu flowers that blossom in the rainy season. Katavul = Iraivan = teyvam = deity). Besides the terms iraivan, katavul and teyvam, the Cankam anthologies and idylls use the terms kuricil and iyavul also to denote Murukan.19 They are also common terms used to denote all gods.

1.1.6. The explanatory phrases used by women of the hills to denote Murukan are as follow:20

  1. alamar celvan makan, son of Lord Śiva who sits under the al tree.
  2. kayilai nan malai iraimakan, son of Lord Śiva who is the deity in the Mount Kailasa.
  3. malai makal makan, son of goddess Parvati.
  4. uruvu nir makonra velenti, He who holds the vel which demolished the mango tree.
  5. alar katampan, He who dwells in the katampu tree.
  6. kolic cevar kotiyon (He who holds the cock flag) and
  7. ven velar (He who holds the vel that brings victory).21
The explanatory phrases found in Paripatal describe the greatness of Murukan.22
  1. Ayteran = charioteer
  2. Varai akalattavan = He who has a chest broad as a hill.
  3. Elulakumali = He who rules over the seven worlds.
  4. Iranku muracinan = He who has a drum that makes a terrific sound.
  5. Marattan = He who destroyed his enemies.
  6. Verikontan = The one on whose behalf veriyattu is celebrated.
  7. Erumai iruntotti elliyum kalai = He who conquered Yaman who rides on the buffalo.

Tirumurukārruppatai also adores Murukan with metaphorical phrases describing Murukan and expressing his qualities.23

  1. Antanar verukkai = the riches of the brahmins.
  2. Arintor colmalai = the collection of the praises uttered by the learned people.

1.2. Muruku is the name often used in Cankam literature to denote Murukan.24 It is found in Manimekalai also.25 The name Murukan is derived from the term muruku is also found in the anthologies and idylls.26 The name Cey with various epithets is very common in Cankam literature.27 The name Ceyyon is also found.28 There is also an instance where Murukan is denoted as Netiyon.29 Iyalani, a unique name that means natural beauty, is found in Paripatal30 Besides there are about twenty synonymns for Murukan found in Paripatal and Tirumurukārruppatai.31

1.3. We can tabulate the names of Murukan and their usages in the Cankam literature (see Table I). The new trend of addressing Murukan as Cevvel, Arumuka and Arumukaccevvel is found in Cilappatikaram. Only Paripatal, a collection of songs which belong to a range of periods, gives us data resembling those of Cilappatikaram

The names Muruku, Cey and Vel are the base forms used as such to denote Murukan:

  • Muruku = fragrance.
  • Cey = red complexion.
  • Vel = leader in the earth.

Then the names took the form of base + suffix, viz:

Muruku + an = Murukan
Cey + on = Ceyon > Ceyyon

where the suffixes, on and, an are allomorphs that denote masculine singular noun. The name Netiyon is formed from the adjective netumai (i. e. greatness) and the suffix, on. The base form Vēl was given prefixes which explain the nature of Murukan.

am + vēl -> Avvēl (am = beautiful)
viral + vēl -> Vīralvēl (vīral = valour)
netumai + vēl -> Netuvēl (netumai = greatness)

In Cilappatikaram the way of addressing Murukan took a different direction while framing Cevvel from two base forms. Cey + Vēl, > Cevvēl. Likewise, the way of addressing Murukan took a different dimension when the mythology of the birth of Murukan as one outspring from six persons came into vogue (4.1). In the name Arumukaccevvēl found in Cilappatikaram, the new direction and dimension seem to mingle with each other.

2.0. Places of worship and the holy images enshrined:

2.1.0. There were two types of temples for Murukan:

  1. the kōyil and
  2. the kottam.
Ilankovatikal, the author of the epic, clearly differentiates a kottam from a kōyil. Kōyil is the place of worship where vedic mantras were chanted and offerings were given to the gods through fire. Kottam is a place of worship where there was no practice of vedic traditions. Even dead bodies were taken there.

2.1.1. When the festival for Lord Indra began, the drum from the Vaccirakkottam was carried on an elephant in procession. In the Airavatakkottam a festival pillar was erected. In the Karpakattarukkottam a flag was hoisted to indicate the start of the festival. Lord Indra was given a holy bath. So there were vedic mantras chanted and the holy fire lit as per the vedic tradition in the Civan koyil, Bālarāman koyil, Tirumal koyil, Vacavan koyil, and Arumukaccevvel anitikal koyil (1.1.4). It means that Lord Murukan was enshrined beautifully with six faces in that koyil.

Malati was a midwife. While she was feeding a brahmin child, the child died due to hiccups. Malati was scared to face the brahmin and his wife. So she took the corpse of the baby in her hands and went to Amarar Tarukkottam, Velyanaikkottam, Nilakkottam, Uccikkilan kottam, Urkkottam, Velkottam, Purampanaiyan Val kottam, Nikkantakkottam, Vaccirakkottam, and Pacantaccattan kottam. She prayed to all the gods to give life to the dead child. All the temples visited by her were kottams and Vel kottam is one among them.32 It should be the temple where Vel the weapon of Murukan was enshrined and worshipped. Drums were beaten and conch (kolicceval = cock; kotiyon=He who holds the flag) was blown announcing the sunrise in koliccevar kotiyon kottam at Madurai (1.1.6). Murukan enshrined in the kottam is called Kolicceval Kotiyon.

2.1.2. A Murukan kottam is referred in pura. also.33 Though the terms kōyil and kottam are not found in Tirumurukārruppatai; the differences between those two types of the temples are mentioned. Nakkirar the author of Tirumurukārruppatai, lists the temples of Murukan temples at Parankunram, Alaivay, Avinankuti, and Erakam. The explanation given for the temple at Alaivay clearly states that one of the faces of Murukan was watching the velvi (i. e. the sacrifice done through fire chanting mantras) performed by the brahmins as per the vedic traditions.34

The explanation given for Avinankuti also has a hint of velvi. Intiran who had finished hundred velvis visited the temple at Avinankuti to worship Murukan. This means that the temple of Avinankuti also gives place to the vedic way of worship. All the thirty-three crores of devas came to Avinankuti to worship Murukan.35 They are considered as followers of the vedic cult. The temple at Erakam is specified as the place where brahmins who follow the practice of sacrifice through fire came to worship.36 So these three temples should be considered as koyils as per the explanation given by Cilappatikaram.

Tirumurukārruppatai mentions hillocks sacred to Murukan, each town where festivals for Murukan were celebrated, places where veriyattu was performed, including forests, gardens, lagoons, banks of rivers, lakes, junctions of either three, four, or five roads, the blossoming katampu tree, town halls, trees amidst town halls, symbolic pillars for worship and other nakars as the places of worship of Murukan.37 This long list of places of worship is worthy to be categorised as kottams. So there are both kottams and koyils for Murukan in Tamilnad during the period of Cilappatikaram.

2.2.0. It was beleived that Murukan dwelt in the flowering katampu tree that blossoms in the rainy season. There was also the practice of garlanding Murukan with katampu flowers. References to Murukan associated with the flowers of katampu are already dealt in this paper (1.1.5 & 1.1.6). Alar katampan is a similar phrase found in both Cilappatikaram and Manimekalai.38 Details about Murukan associated with the katampu tree are found in many Cankam anthologies and idylls.39 There was the practice of garlanding the katampu tree and worshipping it as Murukan.40 The flowers were then worn by the vēlan who performed the ritual veriyattu.41

Botanists name this tree as Wendlandia notoniana.42 It is also called as Wendlandia thyrsoidea by another school of scientists. The katampu flowers are pale yellow in colour with remarkable fragrance.43 This fact coincides with the term narun katampu (naru = fragrant).44 The phrase urul inark katampu (the katampu flowers which resemble the wheel and axle of a chariot), can be explained on the basis of the type of corolla and androecium of the flowers.45 They have a tubular corolla with epipetalous stamens, which is the reason for the garland of katampu resembling the wheel and the axle of the chariot.

2.3. Vel the weapon of Murukan was enshrined and worshipped in kottams. It is very common to find references of Murukan associated with his vel. The vel was bright and had the shape of a leaf. The vel kottam where the vel was enshrined for worship is already mentioned in this paper (2.1.1). Cenkotu the hill where Murukan was worshipped is also referred as venvēlan kunru (venvēlan = He who holds the vel victoriously; kunru = hill).46 Kovalan, the hero of the epic, praises the beauty of his wife Kannaki's eyes, saying that they resembled the weapon of Murukan, the vel.

Arumuka Oruvan
. . . .
ancuvaru netuvel onrunin mukattuc
cenkatai malaikkan iranta ittatu

(The incomparable great vel that frightens enemies was donated by Murukan to frame your dark eyes which have red edges). Murukan who holds the vel was worshipped in Centil, Cenkotu, Venkunru, and Erakam.48 He who has the bright and leaf shaped great vel dwells at Netuvel Kunram.49 Because of his vel, Murukan is addressed as Velenti.50 The anthologies call Murukan Velan, Veloy, and Velvalan as he is holding the weapon vel.51 The weapon was described as being bright and leaf shaped.52

2.4. There were Murukan temples in Centil, Cenkotu, Venkunru, and Erakam. The women of the hills sang and danced in praise of those four temple towns. The hill Cenkotu is given various names like Netuvel Kunram, Venvelan Kunru, and Mancucul Colaimalai in Cilapatikaram.53 A series of events mentioned in the story of Kannaki is said to have happened here. The famous temple of Murukan in Centil is mentioned in the Cankam poetry also.54 The appearence of Murukan there is described in detail in Tirumurukārruppatai.55 He was sitting on the elephant with six faces and twelve arms. The other name used for this town was Alaivay as it is situated on the seashore (alai = waves). Tirumurukārruppatai speaks in praise of Erakam also. Details about the Murukan temple there has already been dealt in this paper (2.1.2).

The present name for the temple town Centil is Tiruccentūr. Even now the Murukan enshrined there is called Centilāntavar. The hill Cenkotu had been identified at present in the Curuli hills which is a part of the stretch of Palani hills. The place is now called Venkaikkanal.56 It is very near to the place of origination of the rivers Vaigai and Periyar. Venkunru is a small hillock with two cave temples 80 kilometers from Chennai. The hillock is now called Tavalakiri (tavalam = white, i. e. venmai; kiri = kunru = hill). The village adjoining the hillock is called Venkunru. There is some controversy over declaring Erakam as Swamimalai.57

3.0. Arts related to the cult of Murukan

Some dances and music related to the cult of Murukan are mentioned in Cilappatikaram.

3.1.0. Kunrakkuravai:

It is an akakkūttu that falls under the category potuviyal. It is a vinotakkūttu performed by the women of the hills. It is a group dance, the subject of which is love and victorious deeds. It is a varikkūttu and a part of it resembles a vacaikkūttu also. The performance as a whole is a iyalpukkūttu.

There is a chapter named Kunrakkuravai in Cilappatikaram. The women of the hills perform a group dance in that chapter. As they are common folk who belong to a community lower than the brahmins, kshatriyas and vaishyas, the dance performed by them is a vinōtakkūttu.58 There was no king or his kith and kin to witness the dance. So it is a potuviyal item.59 All the songs of kunrakkuravai are composed in Tamil, so it is a iyalpukkūttu.60 The commentator Atiyarkkunallar clearly states that it is a varikkūttu. It is mentioned as one among the varikkūttus listed in the anonymous song quoted by him.61 There are many folk elements also present in the songs of kunrakkuravai to confirm the fact that it is a varikkūttu. The specific songs sung during the performance deal with love. The women took bath in the spring of the hills are started their performance.

erronrum kanem pulattal avarmalaik
karrinti vanta putuppunal
karrinti vanta putuppunal
marraiyar urratinom toli nencanre

ennonrum kanem pulattal avarmalaip
ponnati vanta putuppunal
ponnati vanta putuppunal marraiyar
munnatinom toli nencanre

yatonrum kanem pulattal avarmalaip
potati vanta putuppunal
potati vanta putuppunal marraiyar
mitatinom toli nencanre62

(The waters of the spring descend flowing over the rocks of the hills of my lover. I found no reason to be in a tiff with this water. So, let as take a nice bath in this spring whole-heartedly.

The waters of the spring reach here after crossing the precious things in this hill. I found no reason to be in a tiff with this water. Let us enjoy a nice bath.

The waters of the spring come running with the blossoms of his hill. I find no reason to be in a tiff with this water. So came on, let us have a satisfying bath.)

These three songs talk about the same matter three times using different words. This is a character found in folklore and hence this dance is a varikkūttu. The rhythm of the songs reveals that it can be sung in the kummi tune folk tune, which is still in vogue to this day. During festive occasions ladies of the countryside stood in a circle and performed kummi accompained by the kummi song. The action in kummi is to clap the hands according to the rhythm. The difference in between kummi and kuravai lies in the action of clapping. In kuravai the ladies did not clap but they joined hands and went around according to the rhythm. The way in which they joined hands is also explained by the early grammarians.63 The technical term used is Karkatakak kai Kottu. The equivalent term used by the commentator is nantukkai (katakam = nantu = crab; kai = hands; kottu = joined). He adds that while joining hands in that fashion, the central finger and the ring finger face oneself. Holding each others hand in the style of the limbs of the crab is quite a natural way in practice.

The specific kalaiyar koyil kummi tune is very apt to be sung for these three songs. The rhythm is

tannanna natinam tannanna natinam
tannanna natinam tannane
tannanna natinam tannanna natinam
tannanna natinam tannane.

Then the women started singing in praise of Murukan's heroic deed of slaughtering Curan:

cirkelu Centilum Cenkotum Venkunrum
Erakamum ninka Iraivankai velanre
Paripatalrum pauvattin ulpukkup pantorunal
curma tatinta cutarilaiya velvele64

(It is the vel in the hands of the Lord who dwells in the meritorious Centil, Cenkotu, Venkunru and Erakam that is bright and leaf shaped. Once He went into the sea which surrounds the world to demolish Cūran in the form of a mango tree).

The matter is dealt in two more songs using different words, epithets and explanatory phrases. Thus there are two types of songs; one that deals with love and the other that deals with heroic deeds. Then the ladies sang and laughed at their mother's ignorance. Without knowing the affair of her daughter; the mother proceeded to arrange for velanveriyattu. There are four songs sung with this theme.

iraivalai nallay itunakaiya kinre
karivalar tancilampan ceytanoy tirkka
ariyalmar rannai alarkatampan enre
veriyatal tanvirumpi velanvaru kenral

ayvalai nallay itunakai yakinre
mamalai verpanoy tirkkavarum velan
varumayin velan matavan avanir
kuruku peyark kunram konran matavan

(O! my friend with bangles in the forehands! Isn't it a comedy?! While the reason for my illness is my lover who lives in the cool hills where pepper grows in plenty, my mother finds no way to cure me. She thinks that it is due to Lord Murukan who dwells in the flowered katampu tree that I am ill. So she calls velan to come and perform veriyattu.

Oh, my friend with choice bangles! Isn't it a comedy? The velan will be coming to cure the illness caused by my lover who lives in the great hills. If velan comes, he is foolish. If he is going to be possessed by Murukan; then Murukan is more foolish than velan.)

Usage of words of rebuke is a common motif found in folklore. The ladies call both Murukan and velan as matavan, i. e. fool. So we have another reason to describe kunrakkuravai as a folk art, hence varikkūttu. Besides the satirical comment of the love-stricken girl about Murukan and velan, it makes it clear that a part of kunrakkuravai belongs to the category vacaikkūttu.66 Then the subject of their songs turn to be a prayer wishing success to their love.67 There are three songs which have the following rhythm.

tanatana tanatana tanatana tanatana
kayilainan malaiyirai makanainin matinutal

tanatana tanatana tanatana tanana
mayiliyal matavaral malaiyartam makalar

tanatana tanatana tanatana tanana
ceyalaiya malarpurai tiruvati tolutem

tanatana tanatana tanatana tanana
ayanmanam oliyarul avarmanam enave

(Oh! the son of the Lord who dwells on Kailasa! We worship the lotus like feet of your wife Valli, who belongs to the clan of Kuravars, the lady with the elegance of the peacock and moon-like forehead, to bestow good wishes to marry my lover and to prevent any allaiance with other men). Thus kunrakkuravai proves to be an art related to the cult of Murukan.

3.2.0 Kutaikkūttu and Tutikkūttu:

These are purakkūttus and they fall under the category potuviyal.68 They are variccantikkūttus related to the mythology of Murukan slaughtering Curan. They had specific songs, specific musical instruments and specific make-up for the dancer.

3.2.1 Matavi performed eleven types of dances in the city Pukar during the festival for Indra. Two among them are kutaikkūttu and tutikkūttu.

. . . makkatal natuvan
nirttirai arankattu nikarttu munninra
curttiran katanton atiya tutiyum
pataivilt tavunar paiyul eytak
kutaivilt tavarmun atiya kutaiyum

(Admist the great sea, in the beach of an islet which served as a stage, he who competed with the worthy opponent Curan danced tuti. The army of avunars won over by Murukan were subjected to torment. The kutai was broken down. He performed the dance of kutai in front of them).

The author of the epic continues that she had specific make-up for these dances. Tuti is a type of drum. It was usually beaten in battles to evoke the feelings of valour. The dance of Murukan for the drum beats of tuti was called tutikkūttu. The esteemed kutai (umbrella) of the enemy was broken down. When he danced with the kutai in his hand it was called kutaikkūttu. As these dances deal with war and victory they are termed purakkūttus (counterpart of akakkūttu). The people of Pukar saw Matavi's dance. So these dances belong to the potuviyal category. Matavi was a professional dancer. She systematically learnt the art from the age of 5 to 12. Her arankerram or first solo performance was before the king. So these dances performed by her were classical in nature. Hence they are variccantikkūttus (counterpart of varikkūttu). Ilankovatikal also states that these dances have to be performed either in a erect posture or in a seated posture.70

3.2.2 The difference between tutikkūttu and kutaikkūttu mentioned by the early grammarians (quoted by Atiyarkkunallar) is that kutaikkūttu has to be danced in the seated posture. There are fields yet to be studied regarding these dances. Does the story of Murukan slaughtering Cūran belong to Aryan mythology or to Tamil mythology or is it a combination of both? Depending on the answer they can be categorised either as ariyakkūttu or Tamilkkūttu or a different one.71 The social status of a kanikai (e. g. Matavi) is above the ilikulam, i. e. lower community. So these two dances have to be categorised as cantikkūttus (counterpart of vinōtakkūttu).

3.3.0. Velanpani and Veriyattu:

Veriyattu is a ritual dance performed by the common folk to learn the reason for the ill health of people and to cure them. A place was arranged to perform veriyattu. The person who sang and performed veriyattu was called vēlan. It was believed that he would be possessed by the spirit of Murukan during the performance. It is a vinōtakkūttu and falls under the category potuviyal. It is one among the items of varikkūttu.

3.3.1 Cilappatikaram specifies the velanpani heard in the Colaimalai where Cenkūttuvan with his wife came to enjoy the beauty of nature.72 The women of the hills sang among themselves that the mother is arranging for veriyattu (3.1.1).

Here the vēlan who is expected to perform veriyattu belongs to the clan of kuravars who live in the hills, a community lower than the brahmins, kshatriyas, and vaiśyas. So veriyattu is a vinōtakkūttu. Neither a king nor his relatives was expected to witness it. Only the people of the hills indulge in the ritual. So veriyattu falls under the category potuviyal. As it is a ritual performed by the common people it is invariably a segment of folklore. So veriyattu is one among the variety of varikkūttus. The anonymous song quoted by Atiyarkkunallar (cf. note 61) refers to velanpani as kantanpattu. (velan = kantan; pani = pattu).

3. 3. 2. Tirumurukārruppatai speaks about the appearance of vēlan in detail.73 Not only vēlan but women were also possessed by Murukan74. Perfumes, flowers, grain and goats were offered to Murukan.75 The place specified for veriyattu was decorated with clean sand.76 A rustic orchestra (with songs) was arranged for the performance.77 The practice of determining a doubtful matter with the use of numerology-based kalanku preceded veriyattu.78 The dance named kuravai proceeded veriyattu.79 Lovestruck girls, when subjected to veriyattu, call Murukan as matava (i. e. fool) satirically.80 There are plenty of stray references too in the Cankam poetry about this veriyattu.81

4.0. Mythology related to Murukan:

The mythology of Murukan occuring in Cilappatikaram deals with Murukan's birth, his childhood, his wife Valli and his heroic deed of slaughtering Cūran.

4. 1. 0. Murukan's birth:

Murukan was born as the son of Lord Śiva. Six Krttikā maidens nursed him on the flower beds in Śaravana, a marsh of reeds. Still his rightful mother is considered to be goddess Parvati.

4. 1. 1. Instances of the parents of Murukan are already dealt in this paper (1.1.6). The Lake Śaravana and the six Krttikā maidens who delivered and nursed Murukan are praised by the women of the hills during the performance of kunrakkuravai.

caravanap pumpalliyarait taymar aruvar
tirumulaip paluntan . . .

(He was delivered on the flower beds in the Lake Śaravana by the six Krttikā maidens. They gloriously nursed him)

4.1.2. The term alamar celvan for Śiva, the father of Murukan, is found in the epic Manimekalai and elsewhere in Cankam poetry.83 His mother is denoted by the same term malaimakal besides korravai and palaiyol in Tirumurukārruppatai.84 Paripatal gives a detailed account of the Lake Śaravana and the six nymphs who nursed him.85 Lake Śaravana was in the Himalayas filled with blue waters. Murukan was born on the lotus flowers there. The six rishis agreed with their respective wives who wished to bear Murukan in their womb. They gave birth to six infants as Murukan. Tirumurukārruppatai tells of Agni bearing the precious seed delivered by Lord Śiva in his hands, so that the six rishis' wives could conceive Murukan and deliver six children, namely Murukan.86

4. 2. 0. Murukan's childhood:

4. 2. 1. Murukan has a cock flag. His vehicle has mayil. Reference to the cock flag of Murukan is already been mentioned in this paper (2. 2. 1). His vehicle mayil is praised by the women of hills as nilapparavai (nila = blue; paravai = bird).87

4. 2. 2. Paripatal explains in detail how Murukan had his cock and peacock. God Agni, pleased to see the valour of the child Murukan, created the cock from his body and presented it to him. He held the cock in his hands.88 Indran, the king of heaven, was amazed to see the valour of the child. So he created the mayil from a part of his body and presented it to Murukan. He held the mayil also in his hands. The cock served as his flag too.89 The cock flag was erected in places where Murukan was worshipped.90 He was called by the name of his flag too. The detailed account of how Murukan had his mayil is also dealt in Paripatal Tirumurukārruppatai seems to be unique in saying that mayil serves as his flag.91 Purananuru also refers to his mayil.92

4. 3.0. Valli, Murukan's beloved:

4. 3. 1. Valli the consort of Murukan belongs to the clan of kuravars. The women of the hills worshipped both Valli and Murukan. They sang that when Murukan appeared before them, Valli would accompany him.93 They also compared heroines with Valli.94

4. 3. 2. Paripatal says that Murukan loved the flower-like damsel Valli. It explains that Murukan married her and she is a lady of the kuravar clan.95 Tirumurukārruppatai speaks of Valli sitting beside Murukan as his wife. 96

4. 4 Murukan slaughtering the cūran:

Murukan fought with Cūran riding on his elephant Pinimukam. The battle took place after he demolished and crossed the hills Krau&ntiled;cam. Then he went into the sea and reached an islet where he killed Cūran using his vel, thereby demolishing the power of the avunars (the clan of cūran). His battle with Cūran is dealt repeatedly in Cilappatikaram97, several anthologies and idylls98 without contraditions. Paripatal gives a logical explanation that Murukan laid a road to cross the hill Krau&ntiled;cam by cutting it down with the vel.99

On tabulating the above-mentioned mythological elements found in the Cankam anthologies, idylls and the twin epics, it is evident that their significance attains a new dimension in Cilappatikaram, Paripatal and Tirumurukārruppatai (see Table II).

The mythology of Murukan's birth, his cock flag, mayil vehicle, his wife Valli, and the destruction of hill Krauncam are the later elements that mingle with the cult of Murukan.


Addressing Murukan as Cevvel, Arumuka and Arumukaccevvel is a turning point found in Cilappatikaram There were two types of temples for Murukan. The figure of Murukan with six faces was enshrined in koyils where vedic tradition was followed. There were also kottams where either vel or Murukan was enshrined. No vedic traditions were followed in kottams.

The tradition of worshipping the katampu tree as Murukan was prevalent in the days of Cilappatikaram also. There were famous Murukan temples in Centil, Cenkotu, Venkunru and Erakam. Kunrakkuravai, velan pani and veriyattu were the folk arts related to the cult of Murukan performed by the common folk. Tutikkūttu and kutaikkūttu were classical dances performed for the common folk. Kunrakkuravai can be categorised under akakūttu, vinotakkūttu, potuviyal, varikkūttu, vacaikkūttu and iyalpukkūttu; veriyattu can be categoried under vinotakkūttu, varikkūttu, potuviyal, tutikkūttu and cantikkūttu. The mythology of Murukan's birth, his cock flag, mayil vehicle, his wife Valli and the destruction of the hill Krau&ntiled;cam are the later elements that mingle with the cult of Murukan. Paripatal seems to be parallel with Cilappatikaram in every aspect.

End Notes

  1. Cilappatikaram, Mankala Valttup Patal, lines 38-39
  2. Cilappatikaram, Katcikkatai, line 25
  3. Paripatal, song 5, line 13; Paripataltirattu, song 11, line 2
  4. Cilappatikaram, Katturai Katai, line 190
  5. Paripatal, song 21, line 50; Kurincippattu, line 174; Maturaikkā&ntiled;ci, line 614; Perumpanarruppatai, line 75; Tirumurukārruppatai, line 273; Kuruntokai, song lll; Narrinai, song 173, 288; Akananuru, song 22, line 6; 98, line 27; 120, line 1; 272, line 15; 382, line 5; Purananuru, song 55.
  6. Paripatal, song 8, line 61; Purananuru, song 396
  7. Ainkurunuru song 250; Patirruppattu song 11-1. 6
  8. Paripatal, song 9, line 36
  9. Cilappatikaram, Manaiyaram Patutta Katai, lines 49-52.
  10. Cilappatikaram, Kunra. song 18
  11. ibid, song 9
  12. Paripatal, song 21, line 67
  13. Paripatal, song 5, line 10
  14. Tirumurukārruppatai, lines 83-102
  15. Cilappatikaram, Intiravilavuretutta Katai, line 170
  16. Cilappatikaram Kunra. song 14
  17. ibid, song 20
  18. ibid, song 8
  19. Paripatal, song 5, line 13; 17, line 49; Kunrakkuravai song 39, line 27; Ainkurunuru song 243; 257; Kurincippattu, line 209; Kuruntokai, song 87; Akananuru, song 13, line 3; Narrinai, song 34, line 10;251; Tirumurukārruppatai, lines 274, 276.
  20. Cilappatikaram, Kunra., song 7, 15-17, 20.
  21. Cilappatikaram, Urkan Katai, line 10; Valttukkatai, song 10
  22. Paripatal, song 8, lines 64, 86; 9, lines 44, 58; 17, line 21; 18, line 14; 21, line 38.
  23. Tirumurukārruppatai, line 263
  24. Maturaikkā&ntiled;ci, lines 181, 611; Tirumurukārruppatai, 244; Narrinai song 34, line 11; 47. line 10; 225; Ainkurunuru song 245, 247, 249, 308; Kuruntokai, song 362; Purananuru song 56, line 14; 259; Akananuru, song 118; line 5; 181, line 6; 232; Paripatal, song 8, line 65; Patirruppattu, song 26, line 12.
  25. Manimekalai, Manimekalateyvam vantu tonriya Katai, line 14
  26. Purananuru song 16; 23, line 4; 299; Paripatal, song 5, line 50; 8, line 81; Akananuru, song 1, line 3; 59, line 10; 98, line 10; 158, line 16; Porunararruppatai, line 131; Tirumurukārruppatai, line 269
  27. Paripatal, song 5, line 13; 6, line 69; 21, line 53; Kuruntokai, song 1; Akananuru, song 266, line 21; Purananuru song 14, 125, 209; Kurincippattu, line 51; Perumpanarruppatai, line 457; Tirumurukārruppatai, lines 271
  28. Purananuru, song 56, line 8
  29. Akananuru, song 149, line 16
  30. Paripatal, song 19, line 5
  31. Paripatal, song 5, line 14; 8, line 17; 9, lines 71, 82; 14, line 18; 18, lines 41, 42; 21, line 17; Tirumurukārruppatai, lines 255-257, 260-262, 264, 268, 270, 276.
  32. Cilappatikaram, Kanattiram uraitta Katai., line 11
  33. Purananuru, song 299
  34. Tirumurukārruppatai, lines 94-96
  35. Tirumurukārruppatai, lines 160-167
  36. Tirumurukārruppatai, lines 181-188
  37. Tirumurukārruppatai, lines 72-77, 192-247
  38. Cilappatikaram, Kunra., song 11; Mani-Palikkarai Pukka Katai, line 49
  39. Tirumurukārruppatai, lines 10-11; 225-249 ;Maturaikkā&ntiled;ci, lines 613-614; Kuruntokai, 3. 87; Paripatal, song 6, line 55; 19, line 2; Kunrakkuravai, song 101, lines 13-14; Akananuru, song 138, line 11
  40. Kunrakkuravai, song 106, line 28-29; Paripatal, song 17, lines 2-3; Kurincippattu, lines 174-177
  41. Akananuru, song 98, line 16; 382, line 3.
  42. Mathew, K. M., Illustrations on the Flora of the Carnatic Series, p. 349
  43. Gamble. J. song, Flora of the Presidency of Madras, p. 588
  44. Narrinai, song 34, line 8
  45. Paripatal, song 5, line 81; 21, line 10
  46. Cilappatikaram, Valttukkatai-song 10
  47. Cilappatikaram, Manaiyaram Patutta Katai, lines 49-52
  48. Cilappatikaram, Kunra. , song 8
  49. Cilappatikaram, Katturai Katai, line 189
  50. Cilappatikaram, Kunra., song 7
  51. Tirumurukārruppatai, lines 61, 111, 265; Kurincippattu, lines 51-53; Kunrakkuravai song 27, line 16; 104, line 14; 105, line 17; Paripatal, 14, line 18
  52. Akananuru, , song 59, line 10
  53. Cilappatikaram, Katturai Katai, line 195, Kunra., song 3; Katcikkatai, lines 7-8; Varantaru Katai, lines 53-59; Valttukkatai, song 10
  54. Purananuru, song 55, lines 18-19; Akananuru, song 266
  55. Tirumurukārruppatai, lines 199-125
  56. Irakavaiyankar, Mu. , Ceran Cenkūttuvan, p. 91 footnote; Kovintaracan, C. Kannaki Kottam-Tamilaracu, 1972.
  57. Pattuppattu, Part I, Naccinarkkiniyar(commentator), p. 177; Iracamanikkanar, Ma. Pattupattaraycci, p. 130; Cilappatikaram, Arumpatavuraiyum Atiyarkkunallaruraiyum, p. 512.
  58. The dances are classified on the basis of various schemas by the early grammarians. Atiyarkkunallar in his commentary on arankerru katai mentions seven twin types of dances. The twins Cantikkūttu and vinotakkūttu are one among them. They were categorised on the basis of the clan of people who perform it. Early grammarians who have laid down the rules for dances; quoted by Atiyarkkunallar have said that only ilikulattor (i.e. people of a lower community) perform dances like kuravai, tolpavai (doll dance), etc. and they are the items of vinōtakkūttu. Therefore the counterpart Cantikkūttu must have been performed by the upper class people. (Cilappatikaram Arumpatauraiyum Atiyarkkunallar Uraiyum, pp. 80-90)
  59. The twins vettiyal and potuviyal were differentiated on the basis of the audience. Dances performed for the king, his family and relatives were categorised as vettiyal. Those which were performed for the common folk were categorised as potuviyal. (Cilappatikaram arumpatavraiyum Atiyarkkunallar uraiyum, pp. 80-90)
  60. The twins iyalpukkūttu and tecikkūttu are not explained in detail by Atiyarkkunallar. But we may conclude that the classification is based on the diction of the songs used for the dance because tecikam means words which do not have a Tamil origin (Kalakattamilakarati, p. 571). Dances accompanied by Tamil songs without foreign words are called iyalpukkūttu because the words of Tamil origin are otherwise called iyarcol. (iyal + col, iyarcol; col = word)
  61. The twins varikkūttu and variccantikkūttu were differentiated according to the folk and classical elements present in the dances. The old anonymous song quoted by Atiyarkkunallar gives a long list of items which comprise varikkūttu. Games like pantatal, kalanku, ammanai, pallankuli, unti, vantu, calal and kol were played accompanied by particular songs. So they are noted as varikūttu. People sing while they work. They are categorised as labourers' dances like avaliti, pampatti, tuntil, punavetu, cittu, palli etc. There are also devotional dances like kuravai, kaman makil cintu, putpapanam, kantan pattu, etc. The list extends further. The dances mentioned here are the various items of folklore which are accompanied by songs. If varikkūttu is to be associated with these folk dances; then variccantikkūttu should denote the classical dances. (Cilappatikaramarumpatauraiyum Atiyarkkunallar uraiyum, pp. 80-90)
  62. Cilappatikaram, Kunra., song 4-6
  63. Cilappatikaram arumpatauaiyum Atiyarkkunallar uraiyum, p. 441
  64. Cilappatikaram, kunra., song 8
  65. Ibid, song 11-12
  66. Vacaikkūttu was also called nakaikkūttu or vitusakakkūttu. Both of the terms nakai and vitusaka hint at the sense of humour in that type of kūttu. Besides it has been stated that in vacaikkūttu the dancer should be able to caricature the appearances of various things. Therefore the humour caused in vacaikkūttu was due to the statirical element present in it. So we can infer that the counterpart pukalkkūttu should mean the dances without satire and humour. (Cilappatikaram arumpatauriyum Atiyarkkunallar uraiyum, pp. 80-90)
  67. Cilappatikaram, Kunra., song 16-18
  68. The schema underlying the twins akakkūttu and purakkūttu is the subject matter treated in akam and puram, which forms the major divisions in the songs of the Cankam age. Dances which deal with passions and emotions such as love and affection comprise akakkūttu and those which deal with war, victory and benevolance comprise purakkūttu.
  69. Cilappatikaram, katalatu katai, lines 49-53, 63-65
  70. Cilappatikaram, arankerru katai, lines 14-15; pp. 80-90
  71. Ariyakkūttu comprises the various dances performed about the puranic stories of the Aryans. Therefore the counterpart Tamilkkūttu refers to the dances which are based on the Tamil puranic stories.
  72. Cilappatikaram, Katcikkatai, line 25
  73. Tirumurukārruppatai, lines 190-216
  74. Tirumurukārruppatai, lines 241; Purananuru, song 259; Kuruntokai, song 366; Pattinappalai, lines 154-158
  75. Narrinai, song 47, lines 7-10; Purananuru, song 366; Paripatal, song 17, lines 2-3; Tirumurukārruppatai, lines 222-249; Akananuru, song 22, 232, 242, 272, 292; Kuru, song 53, 263, 362
  76. Ainkurunuru , song 248, 249; Akananuru, song 22; 98; 38, lines 8-21; 382, lines 3-7
  77. Akananuru, song 22, lines 5-11; 38, lines 8-21; 98, lines 9-20; 138, lines 9-13; 382, lines 3-7 Pattinappalai, lines 154-158; Maturaikkā&ntiled;ci, lines 610-615
  78. Narrinai, song 47, lines 7-10; Ainkurunuru , song 245; 248-250, Akananuru, song 195, lines 13-15
  79. Maturaikkā&ntiled;ci, lines 610-615
  80. Narrinai, song 34, lines 9-11
  81. Narrinai, song 251, lines 6-7; 273, lines 3-5; 351; Kuruntokai, song 111; 360; Ainkurunuru , song 241-250; Akananuru, song 59, lines 10-11; 114, lines 2-3; 182, lines 16-18; 388, lines 18-21; Kurincippattu, lines 174; Paripatal, song 5, lines 14-15; 9, line 44; Malaipatukatām, lines 149-150
  82. Cilappatikaram, Kunra., song 10
  83. Kunrakkuravai, song 81, line 9; 83, line 14; Tirumurukārruppatai, line 256; Manimekalai-Malarvanam pukka katai, line 144
  84. Tirumurukārruppatai, lines 257-259
  85. Paripatal, song 5, lines 44; 8, lines 12-16; 9, lines 3-7
  86. Tirumurukārruppatai, lines 253-255
  87. Cilappatikaram, Kunrakkuravai, song 15
  88. Paripatal, song 5, lines 55-60; 64-68
  89. Paripatal, song 17, lines 48-49
  90. Tirumurukārruppatai, lines 38-39, 217-220, 227-249
  91. Tirumurukārruppatai, line 122
  92. Purananuru, song 56
  93. Cilappatikaram, Kunrakkuravai, song 15-18
  94. Ibid, line 3
  95. Paripatal, song 14, line 22; 9, lines 8, 67
  96. Tirumurukārruppatai, lines 101-102, 175-176
  97. Cilappatikaram, Kunra., song 7-10, 12; Katalatu katai, lines 49-53; Katturai Katai, lines 188-189
  98. Paripatal, song 5, lines 1-7, 9, lines 70-71; 11, lines 17-18; 17, lines 21-49; 18, lines 1-4; 21, lines 8, 66; Tirumurukārruppatai, lines 45-46, 59-62, 275-276; Maturaikkā&ntiled;ci, lines 181-182; Perumpanarruppatai, lines 457-458; Kuruntokai, song 1; Patirruppattu, song 11, lines 3-7; Akananuru, song 59, lines 10-11; Kunrakkuravai, song 27, lines 15-16; 93, line 26; 93, line 26; 104, lines 13-14; Manimekalai-Manimekala teyvam vantu tonriya katai., lines 13-15
  99. Paripatal, song 5, Ll. 9-10

Bibliography, Tamil

  1. Ainkurunuru, Commentary by Perumalaippulavar Po. Ve. Comacuntaranar, Kalakam, first edition reprint 1966.
  2. Akananuru, Commentary by Na. Mu. Venkatacami Nattar and R. Venkatacalam Pillai, Pakaneri Ta. Vai. l. Tamil Cankam Publication, reprint, 1968.
  3. Ankayarkanni, I. Cilappatikarattil Kanappatum Icaippatalkal, VIII World Tamil Conference Rotary Fund for Editions publication, 1994.
  4. Cilappatikaram, Commentary by Atiyarkkunallar, 8th edition (Chennai: Kapir accukkutam) 1968.
  5. Iracamanikkanar, Ma., Pattuppattaraycci-cennaip palkalaikkalakat tamiltturai veliyitu, 1970.
  6. Irakavaiyankar, Mu. Ceran Cenkūttuvan, 6th edition (Trichy: Palaniyappa Bros.) 1974.
  7. Kalakattamilakarati, 3rd. edition (Chennai: Kalakam publications) 1974.
  8. Kalittokai, Commentary by Naccinarkkiniyar, 2nd edition, (Madras: Kalakam) 1978.
  9. Kovintaracan, Ci, "Kannaki Kottam", in Tamilāracu August 1, 1972.
  10. Kuruntokai, Commentary by Perumalai. Po. Ve. Comacuntaranar, 2nd ed. (Madras: Kalakam) 1965.
  11. Manimekalai, Commentary by Pe. Po. Ve. Comacuntaranar, 1st ed. reprint (Madras: Kalakam) 1975.
  12. Narrinai, Commentary by Pinnattur Narayanacami Aiyar, 2nd ed. (Madras: Kalakam)
  13. Paripatal, Commentary by Perumalaippulavar Po. Ve. Comacuntaranar, 1st ed. reprint (Madras: Kalakam) 1975, Kalakam.
  14. Patirruppattu, Commentary by Auvvai. Cu. Turaicamippillai, 1st ed. reprint (Madras: Kalakam) 1973.
  15. Pattupattu, Vol I, Commentary by Perumalai. Po. Ve. Comacuntaranar, 1st ed. reprint (Madras: Kalakam) 1978.
  16. Pattupattu, Vol II, Commentary by Po. Ve. Comacuntaranar, 1st ed. reprint (Madras: Kalakam) 1966.
  17. Purananuru, Vol. I, Commentary by Auvvai. Cu. Turaicamippillai, 5th ed. (Madras: Kalakam) 1967.
  18. Purananuru, Vol. II, Commentary by Auvvai. Cu. Turaicamippillai, 2nd ed. (Madras: Kalakam).
  19. Subramanya, Mu. , Cilampuccelvam, 1st. ed., (Madras: Maraimalai Accakam) 1973.

Bibliography, English

  1. Gamble, J. Flora of the Presidency of Madras, Vol II, (London: Adland & Sons) 1921.
  2. Mathew, K. M. Illustrations on the Flora of the Tamilnadu Carnatic, Vol II, The Flora of the Carnatic Series, (Trichy: Rapinat Herbarium) 1982.

Dr. S. Kanmani wrote her PhD thesis for Madurai Kamaraj University on 'Countries and Towns in the Cilapatikaram'in 1992. Sheis now Reader in Tamil at S.F.R. College, Sivakasi.

For more inforation, contact the author:

S. Kanmani
Reader, Tamil Department
S.F.R. College for Women
Śivakasi - 626123 India

See also related articles:
"Murukan in Cankam Literature: Veriyattu Tribal Worship"
Index of research articles on Skanda-Murukan
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