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SKANDA/MURUGAN ---- Can A Symbol of Unity Arise Out of Sectarian Strife?
PERHAPS FEW TIMES IN HISTORY HAVE SO DIRELY NEEDED THE PHYSICAL RETURN OF A DIETY, AND THE LEADERSHIP POTENTIAL THAT HE OR SHE EMBODIES, THAN THE PRESENT MOMENT. Everywhere you look, sectarian strife and tribal conflicts are burning, out of all control. In India there is mutual intolerance and deadly terrorist bombs on trains. Over the border in Pakistan, there thrive schools of thought which preach bigotry and genocide. Muslims are feared and despised in the Christian West, while Jews are demonized in the Arab MidEast. The fundamentalists are taking control everywhere -- and not suprisingly, unleashing the lower natures of man. People are praying for the various Messiahs (the 12th Iman if you happen to Shi'a, Jesus the Christ if you happen to be the President of the United States), and all expect Him or Her to come any minute now. And what if They did Come? -- well, imagine if one particular God did decide to incarnate into the world right now, to teach humanity a new lesson for a new millennium? Not a message of sectarianism, but a message of transcendance -- the transcendance of organized religion itself? Perhaps such a God would arise in India, since India is by definition an example that a million civilisations can live and worship together as One -- witness the achievement of Hinduism! But if a new God came He would not Say "I am a Hindu" or "I am a Muslim" or "I am a Jew". Since, transcendance of sectarianism is the one thing that His whole mission to Earth would be about. Such a God would have to be the Messiah to all religions simultaneously, thus healing the schism which has divided religions since the Dawn of Time. The Great Connector is surely needed... but where will He or She arise, and by what means?
There is already a god which is worshipped by multiple sects and multiple faiths spanning vast religious gulfs, and this is the god known in India as Skanda/Murugan (or Kartikeya). Truly a democratic god, Skanda/Murugan appeals to devotees from every segment of society: Hindus and Buddhists, rich and poor, low caste and high alike bow their head in deference to this deity. Plenty of Muslims also go down before this classical Hindu god, though He is clad in somewhat different garb for their eyes: for them He is really Hazarat Khizr, 'The Green Man' of Hakim Bey fame, the mysterious servant of Allah, and holy teacher of prophet Musa (Moses) spoken of in the Holy Quran (Sura Khalf 'The Cave'). The Green Man is also allegedly the discoverer of the Ma'ul Hayat or Water of Life. ..
In southern Sri Lanka, Skanda (or Kartikeya, or Murugan) is worshipped by both Hindus and Buddhists alike at the temple in Kataragama (Kathirkamam), where he is known as Katragama Deviyo (Lord of Katragama), or Kathiravel, for the Buddhists. Local legend holds that Lord Murugan alighted in Kataragam and was smitten by Valli, one of the local aboriginal lasses. After a courtship, they were married. This event is taken to signify that Lord Murugan is accessible to all who worship and love him, regardless of their birth or heritage.
A GOD FOR ALL PEOPLES ---- Needed Now.
IN SUCH TURBULENT AND DIVISIVE DAYS, SKANDA/MURUGAN IS PERFECTLY SUITED TO UNIFYING PEOPLES OF DIFFERENT RACES AND FAITH, AND REMINDING US (AS FORCEFULLY AS NECESSARY) THAT WE ARE ALL ONE. Skanda/Murugan has that potential, but on the other hand, Skanda/Murugan could easily go the other way, and become a sower of sectarianism and a debator of dispute. The image of Skanda/Murugan is now being paraded
simultaenously as a banner and a call to arms by both sides involved in the current Sri Lankan war, and has become a flashpoint in the ongoing cultural war between Dravidian and Sanskrit based India. The Great Unifier could well become the Great Divider, if His followers are not too careful.
As Sudha G. Tilak reported in the Times of India News Service: "
(Chennai 12 March 1999) Endearing child-god and enduring symbol of Tamil cultural identity, pan-Indian wargod venerated by both sides of the conflict in Sri Lanka, the ancient and beguiling god Skanda or Murukan has assumed many forms over the centuries. Even today, Murukan and his cult are undergoing tumultuous change at the dawn of a new millennium.
There has been a visible resurgence in both worship and research concerning the cult of Murukan, especially among Tamils spread across the globe but also among non-Tamils. Conferences, Web sites and temples have been appearing with renewed vigor in the name of the playful warrior son of Hindu gods Shiva and Parvati, whose worship once flourished in North India as well as South...
""Both in Tamil Nadu and abroad rival schools of thought contend in claiming Murukan. Some argue in favor of the worship of Murukan as a purely 'Tamil god' as opposed to the Aryan Skanda of Sanskritic lore. The atheistic Dravidian political movement, others say, has hijacked the deity and misrepresented him as a cultural symbol...
"Propaganda pamphlets of the LTTE are also known to quote liberally from Tamil verses on Murukan. And yet, as researcher Patrick Harrigan is quick to point out, the same god is also the most popular and powerful deity of their Sinhalese opponents, who know the god as Kataragama Deviyo.
"Murukan is such a flexible deity that he is regarded as a religious reference point by diverse people in Sri Lanka and elsewhere," says Mr. Harrigan. He observes that in recent decades the number of women and non-Tamils participating in practices like pada yatra has been on the rise. "This is a god who accepts worship from anyone -- Tamils, non-Tamils, high caste, low caste or no caste at all. Anyone can make a vow with the god and he delivers. Hence his widespread and still growing popularity comes as no surprise."
KATARAGAMA TEMPLE ---- A Role Model for the Union of Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam Under the Banner of Skanda/Murugan.
IN THIS AGE OF CIVILISATIONAL CONFRONTATION AND THE REVERSION OF THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF MEN TO ESSENTIALLY TRIBAL DISPUTES, ONE PLACE SHINES AS A BEACON FOR THE POTENTIAL OF INTERFAITH DIALOGUE AND COMMUNION. I am referring of course to the Kataragama Jungle Shrine in Sri Lanka. In a nation torn apart by war, this shrine provides a role model for interfaith understanding that other institutions (for example, the Vatican) could learn from. As Patrick Harrigan reported: "To this day, an inviolable curtain of secrecy surrounds the inscrutable activities of Kataragama Skanda, whose Esala (July-August) festival is celebrated by Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and indigenous Vedar forest-dwellers alike... To scholars and devotees alike, Kataragama occupies a hallowed place among the shrines of the ever-youthful patron god of war, poetry, love, and mystery. Thanks in part to its isolation on the margins of Sinhala. Tamil, and Muslim societies, Kataragama preserves an ensemble of archaic beliefs and ritual practices, much of which date from remote antiquity. As such, Kataragama is a veritable fountain of information about timeless mysteries that were once common to all peoples worldwide."
In olden days, Katagama was famed across the Muslim world. According to Islamic tradition our forefather Adam (alai) first descended to earth in Serendib (modern Sri Lanka) upon Adam's Peak. From the very beginning it seems that Serendib was the nearest of all places on earth to heavenly Paradise. And a great deal of this divine endowment is still preserved in Serendib to this day.
As the contemporary author M.C.A Hassan observes:
"In olden days, people held this place in such reverence that a Muslim traversing the wilds in the entire Eastern Province and parts of the Northern Province shuddered to refer to Kataragama by name. If one were to inquire from another as to where he was going the latter's answer often was "to the Khizr region". The surrounding hamlets were listed as places receiving the patronage and blessings of Hazarat Khizr.
"The heart of the 'Khizr region' of Serendib, therefore is none other than Kathirkamam or Khizr-gama as the place is also known among Sri Lankan Muslims, many of whom, remarkably, claim to have seen the ancient living prophet Hayat Nabi (Arabic: 'living prophet') or Khizr himself. To this day, the reputed site of the Ma'ul Hayat in Kathirkamam is occupied by an old Islamic house of prayer also known as Khizr Maqaam or 'the (spiritual) station of al-Khizr.'"
WHAT MUSLIMS CAN GAIN FROM SKANDA ---- The Spring of Life
PETER WILSON (AKA HAKIM BEY) SAID HE BELIEVED THAT KHIZR STILL MOVED AMONG THE HUMAN POPULATION, REMINDING US OF OUR DIVINITY. If the Green Men is among us, why can't he take the form of Skanda (the one the Tamils call Murugan), and unite Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam into a new super-religion?
In the 1990 book Green Man, William Anderson describes Khizr as "the voice of inspiration to the true aspirant and committed artist. He can come as a white light or the gleam of a blade of grass, but more often as an inner mood. The sign of his presence is the ability to work or experience with tireless enthusiasm beyond one's normal capacities."
In his 1993 book Sacred Drift, Essays on the Margins of Islam, the forementioned Wilson writes: "When you say the name of Khezr in company you should always add the greeting Salaam aliekum! since he may be there... immortal and anonymous, engaged on some karmic errand. Perhaps he'll hint of his identity by wearing green, or by revealing knowledge of the occult and hidden. But he's something of a spy, and if you have no need to know he's unlikely to tell you. Still, one of his functions is to convince skeptics of the existence of the Marvelous, to rescue those who are lost in deserts of doubt and dryness. So he's needed now more than ever, and surely still moves among us playing his great game."
Wilson/Bey (like Skanda this man has many names) even goes on to speculate what form an incarnated Khizr might take. And his conclusions turn out pretty much like mine! Wilson/Bey writes: "Khezr might well be induced to reappear as the patron of modern militant eco-environmentalism -- Khadirian Environmentalism would rejoice simultaneously both in [Nature's] utter wildness and its 'meaningfulness.' Nature as tajalli (the 'shining through' of the divine into creation; the manifestation of each thing as divine light), Nature as an aesthetic of realization.'
"With the wealth of esoteric lore, environmental products and medicines sprouting from the renaissance of his beloved cannabis, it seems that Khizr is once again trying to communicate to humanity through his most holy of plants.
"Interestingly, there are legends of Khizr in which he is dismembered and reborn. As well, certain prophecies connect him with the end of time and the revealing of esoteric truths."
WORTHY SON OF SHIVA ---- Lifted from Prof. Dr. Mrs. V. Balambal's Facets of Murukan.
SKANDA/MURUGAN HAS A TRULY GREAT DIVINE HERITAGE. All puranas and works referring to Murukan (Murugan) authentically state that Siva (Shiva) and Muruka are one and the same. The light of Siva in the form of six circles gave way to six-faced Murukan also known as Kanda. He and Siva are one and the same. (Tirumantiram: Enthaipiranukku Irumunru Vattamai) Siva has six faces and as Kanda also has six, both are same, though they are named differently (Tirumantiram Arumukathil Atipati) Lord Siva created Murukan at the request of the devas who were tortured by Surapadma and the asuras. It is quite interesting to note that from his own six third eyes Siva brought out six fire sparks which were handed over to god Vayu who in turn gave to Agni who deposited the same in Ganges, who in turn took the fire to the Saravana tank near Himalayas. The six fire sparks became six babies taken care by six Krittikai maidens. Siva and Parvati reached the tank and the six babies taken in one embrace by Sakti became Arumuka (six faced) with six heads twelve eyes and hands and one body. He became the worthy son of Siva by defeating the asuras, gracing the devotees, and becoming very knowledgeable. All the five natural elements are associated with the birth of Murukan. Siva himself is the controller of all the five elements."
Another account of the birth of Skanda has this to say: "Sati, the consort of Shiva immolated herself at the shakti of the Daksha Yagna, which was later destroyed by Shiva. Shakti was reborn as Uma, or Parvati the daughter of the mountain king Himavaan (the Himalayas). Shiva withdrew himself from the universe and engaged himself in yogic meditation in the Himalayas.
"In the meanwhile, the aforementioned demon Surapadman (known off region to region under slightly different names, or majorly different names, whatever the case may be) was ravaging the earth and tormenting its sentient beings. It was realized by the gods that only the son born of Shiva and Parvati could lead the gods to victory over Tarakasuran, Surapadman and their demon companions. They plotted with Kaama, the Lord of Desire, to shoot a flower arrow at Shiva, as he sat in self enforced meditation, so as to make him fall in love with Parvati. When Kaama aimed his arrow at Shiva, he opened his third eye and burned him to ashes instantly. Upon hearing the pleas of Kama's wife Rati, he brought back Kama to life, in flesh and blood for her sake, and in a formless state for others.
"His penance disturbed, Shiva fell in love with Parvati. However, the sparks of the fiery seed of Shiva were unbearable; even the fire God Agni could not bear them; this fire was then transported by the river Ganga into the Sara Vana forest, where Sara Vana Bhava was born. He was raised by the six Kartika damsels. Parvati combined these six babies into one with six faces, ie. Shanmukha. Shanmukha, or Kartikeya the supreme general of the devas, led the army of the devas to victory against the demons. The six sites at which Kartikeya sojourned while leading his armies against Surapadman are Tiruttanikai, Swamimalai, Tiruvavinankudi (Palani), Pazhamudirsolai, Tirupparamkunram and Tiruchendur. All these sites have ancient temples glorified by the Tamil poems of Tirumurugaatruppadai of the Sangam period (prior to the 3rd century CE)."
Yet another account has stated: "There are six legendary bases (Aaru Padai Veedu) for Murugan. They are Pazhamudhircholai, Pazhani, Swamimalai, Thiruchendur, Thiruparankunram and Thiruthani.
"In Sri Lanka major temples like Kataragama (Kadirgamam), Nallur (Jaffna), Thondaman Aru and Peradeniya (Kandy) are devoted to him.
WHO WAS THE REAL SKANDA/MURUGAN? ---- Some Various Accounts.
NOW WE COME TO THE TAMIL ACCOUNTS OF THE GENESIS AND HISTORY OF SKANDA/MURUGAN. The Tamil version of Skanda Purana (Kandha Puram) was written by Kacchiappa Sivachariyar (1350-1420 A.D.) of Kumara Kottam in the city of Kanchipuram. He was a scholar in Tamil and Sanskrit literature, and a votary of the Shaiva Siddhanta philosophy.
According to legend, Kachiappa Sivacharyar would leave each day's compositions in the sanctum sanctorum of the Murugan shrine at Kumarakkottam, to find it returned in the morning with corrections, presumed to be made by the deity himself. Hence, the Kanda Puram is widely considered to be an authoritative account of Murugan.
In the Kandha Purana, Kartikeya (otherwise known as Skanda or Murugan, remember?) is the destroyer of Taraka and also of his elder and more powerful demonic brothers, Soorapadman and Simha-mukhan. Shiva let out a stream of fire from his third eye on his forehead, that split into six streams. Each landed as a baby on a lotus in a lake called Saravana Poigai.
Six women, called Karthigai Pengal, literally Woman of the Pleiades saw the babies and each took one with her to look after. On the day of Karthigai, Parvati united the six children into a six-headed child, unable to cuddle all of them together. This is also the origin of a common Tamil name of the deity, Arumugan or Shanmugan, which literally means "one who has six faces".
Apart from the festival of Karthigai, the Thai Poosam festival, celebrated by Tamil communities worldwide, commemorates the day he was given a Velor lance by his mother in order to vanquish the demons.
In the process, Skanda/Murugan created the Peacock!
HOW SKANDA/MURUGAN CREATED THE PEACOCK ---- By Splitting a Mango Tree.
SAKTI ALSO KNOWN AS PARVATI, THE AFOREMENTIONED UMA, KORRAVI, ETC, IS A POWERFUL GODDESS, AS EVERYONE SHOULD BE AWARE OF. She is said to be the greatest creator and she is very righteous and even fought with Siva to uphold justice. Her cosmic dance with Siva gives answer to various questions of philosophers and sages. Anyway, Sakti gave her powerful spear to Skanda when he started his expedition against Surapadma, the aforementioned powerful Asura king. To subdue him, Murukan had to use the Saktivel (Sakti's aforementioned powerful spear) which parted the mango tree into peacock and cock. In Cankam literature, Murukan is referred to as Ceyon ('red one' or 'bright one') and Korravai Celvan (son of Korravai). Even puranas state Sakti's love for Skanda and her concern to pacify him when he lost the mango to his brother and left for Palani in anger.
Contact the author Rob Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Anticopyright May 2005.