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Tamil mythology means the stories and sacred narratives belonging to the Tamil people. This body of mythology is a mix of elements from the Tamil culture, Dravidian culture and Indus Valley cultures along with the Hindu religious aspects.
- 1 The Tamil Gods
- 2 The Powerful Tamil Saints :The Siddhars
- 3 The Great Ancient Tamil Continent
- 4 See also
- 5 References
The Tamil Gods
The Tamil literature in parallel with the Sanskrit literature formed a major source of information on Hindu culture. The ancient Tamil epics forms the source of various historical figures in Hindu scripture like Agastya, Iravan, Patanjali etc. Ancient Tamil literature is the source of Hindu deities like Murugan and Kotravai, which were later absorbed in to Hinduism as Kartikeya and Kali. Tamil literature forms the source of history of Nataraja, Meenakshi, Tirupati, Rameswaram.
Murugan (Tamil: முருகன்), also known as Kartikeya, is the Hindu god of war and victory, worshiped primarily in areas with Tamil influences, especially South India, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Malaysia, Singapore and Reunion Island. His six most important shrines in India are the Arupadaiveedu temples, located in Tamil Nadu. In Sri Lanka, Hindus as well as Buddhists revere the sacred historical Nallur Kandaswamy temple in Jaffna and Katirkāmam Temple (also in Sinhala "Katharagama Devalaya") situated deep south. Ethnic Tamils in Malaysia also pray to Lord Murugan at the Batu Caves temple and Thaipusam is celebrated with grandeur.
In a complicated story, he is said to have been born from Agni and Svāha, after the latter impersonated the six of the seven wives of the Saptarishi (Seven Sages). The actual wives then become the Pleiades. Karthikeya is said to have been born to destroy the Asura Mahisha. (In later mythology, Mahisha became the adversary of Durga.) Indra attacks Karthikeya as he sees the latter as a threat, until Shiva intervenes and makes Karthikeya the commander-in-chief of the army of the Devas. He is also married to Devasena, Indra's daughter. The origin of this marriage lies probably in the punning of 'Deva-sena-pati'. It can mean either lord of Devasena or Lord of the army (sena) of Devas. Image:YaudheyaCoin.jpg| A coin, around 200 BCE, of the Yaudheyas with depiction of Karttikeya Image:KarttikeyaWithSpearAndCockYaudheyas.jpg|Karttikeya with Vel and Seval (rooster), coin of the Yaudheyas 200 BCE
(Malayalam: അയ്യപ്പന്),(Tamil: ஐயப்பன்) (also called Sastavu, or Sasta) is a Hindu deity worshiped in a number of shrines across India. Ayyappan is believed to be an incarnation of Dharma Sasta, who is the offspring of Shiva and Vishnu (as Mohini, is the only female avatar of the God Vishnu) and is generally depicted in a yogic posture, wearing a jewel around his neck, hence named Manikandan. Ayyappan may bear a historical relationship to the tutelary deity Aiyanar in Tamil Nadu. The asura princess Mahishi was burning up with anger at the trick the gods had pulled on her brother, the asura king Mahishasura. As Mahishasura was blessed with invulnerability to all men, the gods had sent goddess Durga, to fight and kill him. Thus, Mahishi began performing a fearsome set of austerities, and pleased the creator god Brahma. She asked for the boon of invulnerability, but Brahma said it was not possible so Mahishi planned and asked invulnerability to all men except by the son of Shiva and Vishnu (Both are male & no possibility to give birth to any one). He granted her the boon of ruling the universe and being invulnerable except by the son of Shiva and Vishnu. Since such a person did not exist, she thought she was safe and began conquering and plundering the world.
The gods implored Shiva and Vishnu to save them from this catastrophe. Vishnu found a possible solution to the problem. When Vishnu had taken on the Kurma Avatar, he also had to manifest himself as Mohini, the enchantress, to save the nectar of immortality (ambrosia or amrit) from the demons who were not willing to share it with the gods. If he became Mohini again, then the female Mohini and the male Shiva could have the divine child who would combine their powers and beat Mahishi.
Some versions give a slightly more detailed version of the union of Shiva with Vishnu. One version tells that the asura Bhasmasura had so pleased Lord Shiva with his austerities that Shiva gave him a boon of anything he wished. So Bhasmasura asked for the ability to burn to ashes anything which he placed his hand over. No sooner had Shiva granted this, than Bhasmasura ran after the god, threatening to turn him to ashes.
Shiva called to Lord Vishnu for help. He hide himself in a peepal tree as Bhasmasura ran here and there searching for the god. Vishnu became aware of the events, and decided that he would take the female form Mohini, "the Enchanting", and try to trump the asura's powers. When Bhasmasura saw Vishnu in this form, he was bewitched by her beauty. He earnestly tried to court her. So Vishnu instructed Bhasmasura to hold his hand over his head, and vow fidelity. With this act, Bhasmasura was reduced to ashes.
Vishnu found Shiva and explained the whole affair to him. Shiva asked if he too could see Vishnu in this female form. When Vishnu appeared thus, Shiva was overcome with passion, and united with her. The two gods thus became "Harihara Murthi", that is a composite form of Shiva and Vishnu as one god.
From this union, Lord Sree Dharma Sastha was born. He combined in himself the powers of Vishnu and Shiva. Lord Ayyappan is an incarnation of Lord Sree Dharma Sastha and Lord Ayyappan is a visible embodiment of their essential identity. Sri Ayyappa belongs to Pandya Royal Community. He was the head of a clan. It is believed Sri Ayyappa merged to sri dharma sastha. Lord Vishnu gifted the new-born deity with a little bejeweled bell necklace, so this god is called Manikandan. He is also Known as Dharma Shasthavu,Kerala Puthran.
Perumal (Tamil: பெருமாள்) also Thirumal (Tamil: திருமால்) is the Hindu deity most popular amongst Tamils of Tamil Nadu state in India and in the Tamil diaspora. Perumal is also another name of Lord Vishnu.
Early mention in Sangam literature
Tamil Sangam literature (200BCE to 500CE) mentions mAyOn, or the dark one, as the supreme deity who creates, sustains and destroys the universe. Paripadal 3 describes the glory of Thirumal in the most superlative terms.
Paripadal(3)by kaduvan iLaveyinanAr:
"thIyinuL theRal nI poovinuL naaRRa nI kallinuL maNiyu nI sollinuL vaaymai aRaththinuL anbu nI maRaththinuL mainthu nI vEthaththu maRai nI boothaththu madhalu nI vencudar oLiyu nI thingaLuL aLiyu nI anaiththu nI anaiththinut poruLu nI"
The last line states that Thirumal (Lord Vishnu) is the supreme deity who is the inner controller (Antaryamin) of the entire universe. This is one of the Lord's glories, which is first mentioned in Vedas and later propounded by Alwars in Prabhandams and Sri Vaishnavaite Acharyas in various commentaries.
Popularity in the Tamil Nadu
Thirumal/Perumal is the only deity who has enjoyed the status of Paramporul during the Sangam age. The reference to "Mukkol Bhagavars" in Sangam literature clearly indicates that only Vaishnavaite saints holding Tridanda existed during the sangam age and Thirumal was glorified as the supreme deity whose divine lotus feet can burn all our evils and grant Moksha (Maru Piraparukkum Maasil Sevadi). During the post-Sangam period, his worship was further glorified by the alwars and great Vaishnavite acharyas.
Natraja of Chidambaram
The story of Chidambaram begins with Lord Shiva strolling into the Thillai Vanam (vanam meaning forest and thillai trees - botanical name Exocoeria agallocha, a species of mangrove trees - which currently grows in the Pichavaram wetlands near Chidambaram). In the Thillai forests resided a group of sages or 'rishis' who believed in the supremacy of magic and that God can be controlled by rituals and mantras or magical words. Lord Shiva strolled in the forest with resplendent beauty and brilliance, assuming the form of Bhikshatana, a simple mendicant seeking alms. He was followed by His consort, Vishnu as Mohini. The sages and their wives were enchanted by the brilliance and the beauty of The handsome mendicant and His consort. On seeing their womenfolk enchanted, the rishis got enraged and invoked scores of serpents (nāgas) by performing magical rituals. Lord Shiva lifted the serpents and donned them as ornaments on His matted locks, neck and waist. Further enraged, the sages invoked a fierce tiger, whose skins and dons were used by Lord Shiva as a shawl around His waist and then followed by a fierce elephant, which was devoured and ripped to death by Lord Shiva (Gajasamharamurthy).
The rishis gathered all their spiritual strength and invoked a powerful demon Muyalakan - a symbol of complete arrogance and ignorance. Lord Shiva wore a gentle smile, stepped on the demon's back, immobilized him and performed the Ánanda Tandava (the dance of eternal bliss) and disclosed his true form. The sages surrender, realizing that Lord Shiva is the truth and He is beyond magic and rituals.
Once Indra killed a demon, even though the demon did not harm anyone. This act brought a curse upon Indra that forced him to continue wandering until he was walking around looking for a way where no one would tell him which way to go will redeem him from his sin. After much wandering, Indra was freed from his suffering through the power of a Shivalingam in a forest, and so he built a small temple at that site.
It so happened that at that time in South India there was a Pandyan king called Malayadhwaja Pandiyan ruling a small city by the name Manavur, which was quite near to this Shivalinga. He was the son of Kulashekara Pandyan. He came to know about the Shivalinga and decided to build a huge temple for Shiva in the forest Kadambavanam (vanam means forest). He also developed the region into a fine princely state called Madurai.
The king was childless and sought an heir for the kingdom. Shiva granted him his prayers through an Ayonija child (one born not from the womb). This child was three years old and actually the incarnation of goddess Parvati the consort of Shiva. She was born with fish-shaped eyes. It was said that the extra breast would disappear when she met her future husband. She was named Mīnachchi, (meaning fish eyed) from the words mīna (meaning fish) and akṣi (meaning eyes). Mīnakshi also means "the one who has eyes like that of a fish". Fishes are said to feed their younger ones with their eyes, similarly goddess looks after her devotees. Just by her sight our miseries disappear.
She grew up to be a Shiva-Shakti personification. After the death of the king, she ruled the kingdom with skillful administration.
In one of her expeditions she went to the Himalayas and there, on seeing Shiva, her extra breast disappeared. Many of the gods and goddesses came to witness their marriage.
At the wedding celebrations the gods refused to have the served food unless Shiva performed a majestic dance for everybody gathered at the place. At this there was the dance of Chidambaram, the cosmic dance in front of his wife Minakshi. It epitomised and merged all life force and beauty into one whole. In the end Minakshi was merged with the shivalingam and became the representation of life and beauty.
There is another legend that talks about why the North Tower (called as "Mottai Gopuram") does not have that many sculptures. Bhootaganas were supposed to finish the construction of the temple towers during the night. Legend says that bhootaganas completed all three towers but while in the middle of building the north tower sunrise happened halting the completion of the north tower. A Tamil poem shows the goddess Meenakshi as a girl washing crockery and pots (which consist of all the worlds). This is a daily task, because her husband Shiva repeatedly messes up the universe, which Minakshi must once more sort out and clean.
- Shiva wanders through the courtyard of space
- destroying your work again and again,
- and then comes before you dancing.
- You never get angry.
- Every day, you just pick up the vessels.
In thirty words, Minakshi becomes a global icon for all who deal with 'impossible' children (or husbands). Themes and activities of early childhood run through the poems. God in the little child is worshipped and protected amidst the toys in the kitchen and back yard
Kannagi or (Kannaki), a legendary Tamil woman, is the central character of the South Indian epic Silapathikaram (100-300 CE). The story relates how Kannagi took revenge on the early Pandyan King of Madurai, for a mistaken death penalty imposed on her husband Kovalan, by cursing the city with disaster.
Kodungallur Bhagavathy Temple was built to commemorate the martyrdom of Kannagi. It is said that sixth avatar of Vishnu, Sage Parasurama built this temple for the prosperity of the people. According to the old chronicles, this Bhagavathi temple was created in the heart of the town many centuries ago to serve a special purpose.
Legend says that, after the creation of Kerala by Parasurama, he was harassed by a demon called Daruka. To kill this evil demon, Parasurama prayed to Lord Shiva for help. As advised by Shiva, Parasurama constructed the shrine and installed the Shakti Devi as Bhagavathi. The deity in the temple, it is believed, is Parashakthi herself. According to legends, it was Bhadrakali who killed the evil demon Daruka. She is worshiped as goddess Pattini in Sri Lanka by the Sinhalese Buddhists, Kannaki Amman by the Sri Lankan Tamil Hindus' (See Hinduism in Sri Lanka) and as Kodungallur Bhagavathy and Attukal Bhagavathy in the South Indian state of Kerala.
Kannagi is also viewed as a brave woman who could demand justice directly from the King and even dared to call him "unenlightened king" ("Thera Manna", Vazhakkurai Kathai, Silappathikaram).
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The Powerful Tamil Saints :The Siddhars
Siddhars (Tamil: சித்தர்) are saints in India, mostly of the Saivaite denomination in Tamil Nadu, who professed and practised an unorthodox type of Sadhana, or spiritual practice, to attain liberation. Yogic powers called Siddhis are acquired by constant practice of certain yogic disciplines. Those who acquire these Siddhis are called Siddhas. These sidhars can be compared to Mystics of the western civilization. Siddhars are people who are believed to control and transcend the barriers of time and space by meditation (Yoga), after the use of substances called Rasayanas that transform the body to make it potentially deathless, and a particular breathing-practice, a type of Pranayama. Through their practices they are believed to have reached stages of insight which enabled them to tune into the powers hidden in various material substances and practices, useful for suffering and ignorant mankind. Typically Siddhars were saints, doctors, alchemists and mysticists all at once. They wrote their findings, in the form of poems in Tamil language, on palm leaves which are collected and stored in what are known today as Palm leaf manuscript, today still owned by private families in Tamil Nadu and handed down through the generations, as well as public institutions such as Universities all over the world (India, Germany, Great Britain, U.S.A.).
In this way Siddhars developed, among other branches of a vast knowledge-system, what is now known as Siddha medicine, practised mainly in Tamil Nadu as Traditional native medicine. A rustic form of healing that is similar to Siddha medicine has since been practised by experienced elderly in the villages of Tamil Nadu. (This has been misunderstood as Paatti Vaitthiyam, Naattu marunthu and Mooligai marutthuvam. While paati vaitthiyam or naatu marunthu is traditional Tamil medicine and mooligai marutthuvam is ayurvedic medicine.) They are also founders of Varmam - a martial art for self-defence and medical treatment at the same time. Varmam are specific points located in the human body which when pressed in different ways can give various results, such as disabling an attacker in self-defence, or balancing a physical condition as an easy first-aid medical treatment.
Tamil Siddhars were the first to develop pulse-reading ("naadi paarththal" in Tamil) to identify the origin of diseases. This method was later copied and used in ayurvedha.
Siddhars have also written many religious poems. It is believed that most of them have lived for ages, in a mystic mountain called Sathuragiri, near Thanipparai village in Tamil Nadu.
Abithana Chintamani states Siddhars are either of the 9 or 18 persons enlisted, but sage Agastyar states that there are many who precede these and follow 9 or 18 persons. Many of the great Siddhars are regarded to have powers magical and spiritual.
The 9 siddhars
The 9 listed as Abithana Chintamani states is as follows:
- Gadaendranathar or Gajendranathar
There are totally 18 siddhars in the Tamil siddha tradition.see Siddhar
Powers of siddhars
The siddhars are believed to have had powers both major and other ‘minor’ powers. They are explained in detail in various yogic as well as religious texts. They also have the power converting their mass to energy and thereby travel in space in light speed to different universe.
- Anima (shrinking) -- Power of becoming the size of an atom and entering the smallest beings
- Mahima (illimitability) -- Power of becoming mighty and co-extensive with the universe. The power of increasing one's size without limit
- Lagima (lightness) -- Capacity to be quite light though big in size
- Garima (weight) -- Capacity to weigh heavy, though seemingly small size
- Prapthi (fulfillment of desires) -- Capacity to enter all the worlds from Brahma Loga to the nether world. It is the power of attaining everything desired
- Prakasysm (irresistible will) -- Power of disembodying and entering into other bodies (metempsychosis) and going to heaven and enjoying what everyone aspires for, simply from where he stays
- Isithavam (supremacy) -- Have the creative power of god and control over the sun, the moon and the elements
- Vasithavam (dominion over the elements) -- Power of control over kings and gods. The power of changing the course of nature and assuming any form
The Great Ancient Tamil Continent
|Lemuria/ Kumari Kandam|
|Type||Hypothetical lost continent, equated with the lost land of Kumari Kandam named in the Kanda Puranam and alluded to in Sangam literature|
Kumari Kandam30,000 B.C. to 16,000 B.C (Tamil:குமரிக்கண்டம், Kumarikkaṇṭam) is the name of a supposed sunken landmass referred to in existing ancient Tamil literature. It is said to have been located in the Indian Ocean, to the south of present-day Kanyakumari district at the southern tip of India.
References in Tamil literature
There are scattered references in Sangam literature, such as Kalittokai 104, to how the sea took the land of the Pandiyan kings, upon which they conquered new lands to replace those they had lost. There are also references to the rivers Pahruli and Kumari, that are said to have flowed in a now-submerged land. The Silappadhikaram, one of the Five Great Epics of Tamil Literature written in first few centuries CE, states that the "cruel sea" took the Pandiyan land that lay between the rivers Pahruli and the mountainous banks of the Kumari, to replace which the Pandiyan king conquered lands belonging to the Chola and Chera kings (Maturaikkandam, verses 17-22). Adiyarkkunallar, a 12th-century commentator on the epic, explains this reference by saying that there was once a land to the south of the present-day Kanyakumari, which stretched for 700 kavatam from the Pahruli river in the north to the Kumari river in the south. As the modern equivalent of a kavatam is unknown, estimates of the size of the lost land vary from 1,400 miles (2,300 km) to 7,000 miles (11,000 km) in length, to others suggesting a total area of 6-7,000 square miles, or smaller still an area of just a few villages.
This land was divided into 49 nadu, or territories, which he names as seven coconut territories (elutenga natu), seven Madurai territories (elumaturai natu), seven old sandy territories (elumunpalai natu), seven new sandy territories (elupinpalai natu), seven mountain territories (elukunra natu), seven eastern coastal territories (elukunakarai natu) and seven dwarf-palm territories (elukurumpanai natu). All these lands, he says, together with the many-mountained land that began with KumariKollam, with forests and habitations, were submerged by the sea. Two of these Nadus or territories were supposedly parts of present-day Kollam and Kanyakumari districts.
None of these texts name the land "Kumari Kandam" or "Kumarinadu", as is common today. The only similar pre-modern reference is to a "Kumari Kandam" (written குமரிகண்டம், rather than குமரிக்கண்டம் as the land is called in modern Tamil), which is named in the medieval Tamil text Kantapuranam either as being one of the nine continents, or one of the nine divisions of India and the only region not to be inhabited by barbarians. 19th and 20th century Tamil revivalist movements, however, came to apply the name to the territories described in Adiyarkkunallar's commentary to the Silappadhikaram. They also associated this territory with the references in the Tamil Sangams, and said that the fabled cities of southern Madurai (Ten Madurai) and Kapatapuram where the first two Sangams were said to be held were located on Kumari Kandam. These sangams may have overlapped in parallel to the third historic sangam; the second century BCE Tissamaharama Tamil Brahmi inscription detailing the thiraLi muRi (written agreement of the assembly) was excavated a few miles from the coast of the historic Tenavaram temple, Matara, Sri Lanka.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Tamil nationalists came to identify Kumari Kandam with Lemuria, a "lost continent" posited in the 19th century to account for discontinuities in biogeography. In these accounts, Kumari Kandam became the "cradle of civilization", the origin of human languages in general and the Tamil language in particular. These ideas gained notability in Tamil academic literature over the first decades of the 20th century, and were popularized by the Tanittamil Iyakkam, notably by self-taught Dravidologist Devaneya Pavanar, who held that all languages on earth were merely corrupted Tamil dialects.
R. Mathivanan, then Chief Editor of the Tamil Etymological Dictionary Project of the Government of Tamil Nadu, in 1991 claimed to have deciphered the still undeciphered Indus script as Tamil, following the methodology recommended by his teacher Devaneya Pavanar, presenting the following timeline (cited after Mahadevan 2002):
- ca. 200,000 to 50,000 BC: evolution of "the Tamilian or Homo Dravida",
- ca. 200,000 to 100,000 BC: beginnings of the Tamil language
- 50,000 BC: Kumari Kandam civilisation
- 20,000 BC: A lost Tamil culture of the Easter Island which had an advanced civilisation
- 16,000 BC: Lemuria submerged
- 6087 BC: Second Tamil Sangam established by a Pandya king
- 3031 BC: A Chera prince in his wanderings in the Solomon Islands saw wild sugarcane and started cultivation in Present Tamil nadu.
- 1780 BC: The Third Tamil Sangam established by a Pandya king
- 7th century BC: Tolkappiyam (the earliest known extant Tamil grammar)
- Kumari Kandam appeared in the The Secret Saturdays episodes "The King of Kumari Kandam" and "The Atlas Pin." This version is a city on the back of a giant sea serpent with its inhabitants all fish people.
Loss and imagination
Sumathi Ramaswamy's book, The Lost Land of Lemuria: Fabulous Geographies, Catastrophic Histories (2004) is a theoretically sophisticated study of the Lemuria legends that widens the discussion beyond previous treatments, looking at Lemuria narratives from nineteenth-century Victorian-era science to Euro-American occultism, colonial, and post colonial India. Ramaswamy discusses particularly how cultures process the experience of loss.
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