Swamimalai Murugan Temple
|Architecture and culture|
|Primary deity:||Skanda-Murukan also known as Swaminatha|
Swamimalai Murugan Temple is a Hindu temple located in Swamimalai, 5 km from Kumbakonam on the banks of a tributary of river Cauvery, 250 km from Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, India. The temple is one of the six holy shrines of Murugan called Arupadai Veedu. The shrine of the presiding deity, Swaminathaswamy is located atop a 60 ft (18 m) hillock and the shrine of his mother Meenakshi (Parvathi) and father Shiva (Sundareswarar) is located downhill. The temple has six daily rituals at various times from 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., and three yearly festivals on its calendar. The annual Vaikasi Visagam festival is attended by thousands of devotees from far and near. The temple is maintained and administered by the Hindu Religious and Endowment Board of the Government of Tamil Nadu.
As per Hindu legend, Brahma, the Hindu god of creation, disrespected Muruga (the son of Shiva) at the time of visiting Mount Kailash, the abode of Shiva. The child Muruga got angry with Brahma and asked him how he was creating living beings. Brahma said that he was creating living beings with the help of the Vedas (Hindu scriptures). On hearing the reply, Muruga asked Brahma to recite the texts from Vedas. Brahma started to recite the text with the holy word called Pranav Mantra, "Om". At that time Muruga stopped Brahma and asked him to explain the meaning of the Pranava Mantra. Brahma could not reply and hence Muruga knocked Brahma on his forehead with his clenched fists and punished him with imprisonment. Muruga took up the role of the creator. The Devas (celestial deities) were surprised by the absence of Brahma and they requested Vishnu to negotiate with Muruga to release Brahma. Vishnu could not help and as the last resort, Shiva went to the rescue of Brahma.
Shiva came to Muruga and asked him to release Brahma from imprisonment. Muruga refused to release him stating Brahma was unaware of the meaning of the Pranav Mantra (Hindi: ॐ AUM). Shiva asked Muruga to explain the meaning and Muruga extolled to Shiva the meaning of the Pranava Mantra (Hindi: ॐ ). Shiva behaved like a student to a teacher, listening with rapt attention from his son, giving Muruga the name "Swaminatha Swami". The meaning of this name is "The Teacher of Shiva".
In Swamimalai, Muruga is known as "Balamurugan" and "Swaminatha Swami". The temple is built on an artificial hill. In Tamil language, such an artificial hill is called "Kattu Malai". Another name for this place is "Thiruveragam". There are sixty steps and each one is named after the sixty Tamil years. The first thirty steps lead to the second precint of the temple. The image of Swaminathaswamy is 6 ft (1.8 m) tall. There are golden armours, golden crowns and a diamond lance for Swaminathaswamy. There is a shrine of Vinayagar outside the first precinct. The central shrine houses the granite image of Swaminathaswamy. The first precinct has the images of Dakshinamurthy, Durga, Chandikeswarar and the festival image of Swaminathaswamy. The images of Sundaresawar as lingam (Shiva) and Meenakshi (Parvathi) are located down hill and the first precinct around their shrines have the images of Dakshinamurthy, Durga, Chandikeswarar and Navagrahas. The second precinct and the largest one of the temple houses a marriage hall and the chariot of the temple. The temple is one of the most visited temples in the district.
Swamimalai is one of the Arupadaiveedu, believed to be the six main abodes of Muruga, that mark the different phases of his life. According to Hindu belief, Swamimalai is where Muruga preached what as called as "Pranava mantra" to his own father, Shiva, at a tender age, after arresting Brahma for not answering his question about Pranava Mantra. The teaching capabilities of Murugan is found as one of his identifying features. The cult of Murugan is of pride to the Tamil people who identify six with Murugan connating six directions and six chakras in human anatomy.
Worship and religious practises
The temple priests perform the puja (rituals) during festivals and on a daily basis. Like other Shiva temples of Tamil Nadu, the priests belong to the Shaiva community, a Brahmin sub-caste. The temple rituals are performed six times a day; Ushathkalam at 5:30 a.m., Kalasanthi at 8:00 a.m., Uchikalam at 10:00 a.m., Sayarakshai at 5:00 p.m., Irandamkalam at 7:00 p.m. and Ardha Jamam at 8:00 p.m. Each ritual comprises four steps: abhisheka (sacred bath), alangaram (decoration), naivethanam (food offering) and deepa aradanai (waving of lamps) for Swaminathaswamy. The worship is held amidst music with nagaswaram (pipe instrument) and tavil (percussion instrument), religious instructions in the Vedas (sacred texts) read by priests and prostration by worshippers in front of the temple mast. There are monthly rituals like amavasai (new moon day), kiruthigai, pournami (full moon day) and sathurthi. The major festival of the temple, Vaikasi Visagam, is celebrated during the Tamil month of Vaikasi (May -June). As per Hindu legend, the celestial deity Indra worshipped Subramanyaswamy on the day of visagam star and gained strength to defeat the demon Arikesa. Like other Murugan temples, the worship practises include tonsuring in the temple, ablution of the deity with sandal, panchamirtham (a mixture of five ingredients) and milk are performed by devotees. Carrying milk pots (called palkudam) and Kavadi are other common forms of worship.
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