Lord Skanda-Murugan

34th Annual Meeting
Southwest Conference on Asian Studies
University of North Texas, Denton, U.S.A
October 7 - 8, 2005

Panel 5: Religion in Asia
Chairman: Dr. Johan Elverskog
Presentation of Paper by Valluvan Sivagnanam

Evolution of the Asian Deity Murukan from the Indus Valley Prototype Ahmuvan and his Role as a Mediator in the Process of Cultural and Religious Spheres with Linguistic and Astronomical Implications

The syllables ah, mu, van define the primordial god Ahmuvan who also functions as a cosmic man in terms of identity construction for a natural man from pre-history to the present and Ahmuvan bridges the link to the process of cultural continuity from pre-history to the present and parallels Murukan who is the god of Tamil language.

The word Ahmuvan defines the micro – macro correspondence in terms of art, myth, astronomy and architecture in Indian cultural and religious context and Ahmuvan as a lord of space and time has played a key role in ritual chronometry.

 The festivals that are being conducted for god Murukan in Asia justify his relationship to Ahmuvan and the words Ahmuvan and Murukan have stood as a definition of religious and cultural symbolism in time and space over several millenniums from Indus valley to Tamil Nadu in southern India.


Ahmuvan as seen in an indus tablet

 2. Ahmuvan as written in the Indus tablet

The Indus tablet (G.R. Hunter, 1934) shows an elongated anthropomorphic figure (No: 1) with a trident shaped protuberance in the head surrounded by a loop from head to toe from both sides of the figure and pipal tree leaves attached to 13 smaller loops that come out from the bigger loop. The reverse side of the tablet is inscribed with the Indus sign sequence No: 4307 10 (No:2)* and comprises the signs for the Constellation Draco, Lord of space and time and Sky, which can be interpreted as ‘The constellation Draco is established by the Lord of Space and Time in the sky' and can be read from right to left as Ahmuvan. This deity finds his parallel with the God Murukan of the Tamil tradition of southern India. 1.1

Ahmuvan stood for the time period during which the constellation Draco held the key position in the northern night sky from around 10500 B. C. onwards. Draco and Orion are the partners in a great celestial see-saw that is being performed over several thousands of years and Ahmuvan must have been worshipped and venerated as a primordial God of the Indus valley civilization. 1.2

The Draco Sign is read as 'Ah'

In 10,500 B.C. Draco marked the north meridian when the Orion marked the south meridian (Graham Hancock, Santha Faiia, 1998) and Draco surrounded the pole of the ecliptic in 6,000 B.C. It is circumpolar at higher altitudes and rotates slowly around the north pole of the sky. 2.1

The notion of unmoving pole star around 3000 B.C. refers to the Alpha Draconis of the Draco constellation in Indus valley and the Gamma Draconis of the same is named as the zenith-star since it almost lies in the zenith of Greenwich. The Draco had dominated the northern night sky during several thousands of years and must have influenced the minds of the ancients. They should have venerated and worshipped it as a powerful deity with awe and wonder since it occupied a large area of the northern night sky. 2.2

3. Tamil Alphabet AH         Tamil Vattezhuthu AH        Indus Sign AH

The Tamil alphabet which is read as AH metamorphosed from an earlier script, Tamil Vattezhuthu that is also read as AH has its origin from the Indus sign  denoting the Draco constellation read as AH too. (No: 3). 2.3


The unmoving North Pole star of the Vedic times is the Alpha Draconis and the Greek God Hercules displayed the Draco in his shield. Draco was associated with the Egyptian deity Isis Hathor and pictured as a cow and held a powerful position in myth and astronomy in China. So the constellation Draco had occupied an important position all over the ancient world. 2.4


AHalso stands for the primal expression sounded by the human beings by opening the mouth naturally and may have inspired the way for linguistic communication and invention of language. 2.5


Alpha Draconis was 0.6 degree away from the heavenly pole in 2780 B.C. and this period corresponds to the Indus valley civilization. Approximately the time period from 10500 B.C. to 2500 B.C. can be understood as the Draco phase of the Indus valley civilization and possibly the Ursa Major phase followed the Draco phase. 2.6



The Indus sign sequence No: 1487 00 can be interpreted as ‘the constellation Draco is in the sky' (No: 4)* which is read as Ahvan. And the sign of Draco is self-evident in the northern night sky. 2.7




The Kanaga Sign is Read as Mu


5. Kanaga Sign Indus Sign  Indus Rock Art Sign


The structural relationship between the Kanaga sign, Indus sign and Indus rock art sign (No: 5) shows a remarkable resemblance. All these variations represent a symbol for space and time and a source of life energy, which is none other than the sun itself. 3.1

The Kanaga sign is a religious symbol of the Dogon people of West Africa and worn by the male members as masks during the funerary dance rituals to satisfy the spirit of a dead person. The Kanaga sign stands for the primordial energy and acts as a mediator between earth and heaven. In Indus rock art this Kanaga sign is identified as Kadavul, the name for God in Tamil (S. Gurumurthy, 1999) and it is also a symbol of Cosmic Purusha that is drawn in the exteriors of houses as an auspicious symbol in southern India. 3.2

The Indus anthropomorphic figure is represented by the Kanaga sign and can be interpreted as the symbol for a primordial God and a Lord of space and time with an astronomical meaning primarily denoting the three positions of the sun with its north, east, south directions over the yearly motions. This sign may explain various time periods and also other celestial positions. 3.3

The syllable mu, which forms the root of the word Murukan, is the name of the God for the Tamil language and explained as a Lord of space and time. Mu also forms the root for the Tamil word ‘moondru', which is the name for the numeral denoting three. The Lord Murukan is also called as Kanthavel. 3.4

The root syllables mu and ka both refer to Murukan and Sun. The Egyptian word ka denotes the spirit or soul and the Kanaga sign represents the pivotal three positions occupied by the sun during the equinoxes and the solstices in the sky. 3.5


The Indus sign sequence No: 4632 00, can be interpreted as ‘The Lord of Space and Time is in the Sky' (No: 6)* which is read as Muvan. 3.6

The Sky Sign Is Read As Van

 The U or inverted U is the symbol for the sky in Indian art symbolism (K.C. Aryan, 1981). When the Uis affixed with four strokes in the top, it becomes the Indus sky sign. The four strokes stand for the four directions- north, south, east and west. The Uis read as Van as the same denotes the sky in Tamil. 4.1

The primordial God of Indus valley - Ahmuvan, stands inside a bigger loop embedded with 13 smaller loops with pipal tree leaves attached to it possibly denoting 13 time periods as found in the astronomical calculations of the Mayan. The bigger loop stands for the sky dome or the celestial arc of the god as found attached to the Indian Gods in temples. It is termed as Thiruvatchi in the Tamil agama tradition. 4.2

The syllable ‘an' denotes the God in ancient Sumerian culture and the suffix -an is common in naming male persons in the Tamil tradition of southern India. Hence Ahmuvan can be called as a deity of the sky and heaven. 4.3

* Numerous Indus signs are present in Southern India as rock art signs (Refer I. Mahadevan, 1977 for Indus signs, sign sequences and S. Gurumurthi, 1999 for Indus rock art signs). Read the sign sequences in the order of right to left.


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The author N.S. Valluvan of Chennai, India, may be contacted by e-mail at: nsvalluvanart@yahoo.co.in

"'Murukan' in the Indus Script" by Iravatham Mahadevan
"Deciphering the Indus Script" (book review) by Richard Solomon
"Indus Graffiti as Rock Art and their Astronomical Implications" by N.S. Valluvan

Index of research articles on Skanda-Murukan