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Muniandi is a regional Tamil guardian deity. The deity Muniandi refers to the Munis worshipped by the Tamil people. Muni refers to a class of guardian deities which are classified as Siva Gana. They are servants of the Supreme God Siva and his female half Sakthi. The Munis could refer to former warriors, kings or sages who achieved the status of a Muni after their human death. Some of the Munis worshipped were created as Munis and did not go through the human life cycle.
The Munis are worshipped as Guardian Deity (Kaval Deivam), Favourite Deity (Ishta Deivam) and Family Deity (Kula Deivam). Muniandi is also known as Muniappan, Aandiappan and Munisamy.
Mentions in Kandar Shashti Kavasam
There are mentions regarding Munis in the Kandha Shasti Kavasam. However Munis that were mentioned in the verses refer to types of evil spirits or ghost that is prevalent in the Tamil folk fore in contrast to the guardian deity. The famous Kandar Shashti Kavasam by Devaraya Swamigal contains the following verses:
paarka paarka paavam podipada
billi soonyam perumpahai ahala
valla bootham valaashtihap peihal
allal paduthum adangaa muniyum
pillaihal thinnum puzhakadai muniyum
kollivaayp peihalum kuralaip peihalum
penkalai thodarum bramaraa chatharum
adiyanaik kandaal alari kalangida.
Please see and see that my sins are powdered,
Let the black magic and great enmity go away,
Let great devils and those who shake their tails,
Let the uncontrollable Muni, which creates problems,
Let the back yard Muni which eats babies,
Let the ghosts with fire in their mouth,
Let the ghosts which steal my speech,
And let the Brahma Rakshasas which follow ladies,
Run away screaming when they see me.
Reference in Rig Veda
According to Rig Veda, the Munis are trained in various magic arts and believed to be capable of supernatural feats. They were particularly associated with Rudra (Siva), a deity who is also connected with mountains and storms and more feared than loved. The following is based on the translation of the Rig Veda by Ralph T. H. Griffith in 1896,
HYMN CXXXVI. Kesins. 1. HE with the long loose locks supports Agni, and moisture, heaven, and earth:
He is all sky to look upon: he with long hair is called this light.
2 The Munis, girdled with the wind, wear garments soiled of yellow hue.
They, following the wind's swift course go where the Gods have gone before.
3 Transported with our Munihood we have pressed on into the winds:
You therefore, mortal men. behold our natural bodies and no more.
4 The Muni, made associate in the holy work of every God,
Looking upon all varied forms flies through the region of the air.
5 The Steed of Vata, Vayu's friend, the Muni, by the Gods impelled,
In both the oceans hath his home, in eastern and in western sea.
6 Treading the path of sylvan beasts, Gandharvas, and Apsarases,
He with long locks, who knows the wish, is a sweet most delightful friend
7 Vayu hath churned for him: for him he poundeth things most hard to bend,
When he with long loose locks hath drunk, with Rudra, water from the cup.
Reference in Mariamman Thalattu
Mariamman Thalattu is a lullaby dedicated to Goddess Mariamman. There are some references to various deities in this lullaby. The following are the reference made to Vaal Muni and Sem Muni.
Vaal muniyum Sem muniyum vandu koluvirundar,
Kathan karuppanodu kattazhagar veethu irundar,
Thotiyathu chinnanum, durai magamum thaan irundhar,
The Vaal muni and Sem muni came and sat with her,
The Kattazhagar (handsome one) sat along with Kathan and Karuppan,
The Chinnan of Thottiyam and Duraimagan (Son of the Landlord) sat with her,
Meaning of Muniandi
The word Muniandi is a combination of two words, Muni and Andi. The word Andi could be defined in two ways. One referring to slave of God and the other ruling (as in ruler). The second explanation could be derived from the word Aandavar which literally means he who rules. The reason for this explanation is the word Andi being used for other Gods in the Tamil Hindu pantheon.
Please refer to the following examples:
- Brahma - Virumandi
- Vishnu - Mayandi
- Siva - Peyandi
- Murugan - Malayandi
As such, the word Muniandi could refer to a slave Muni or he who rules in the form of Muni. Munis like Vaal Muni are also known as Vaal Muni Andavar and Vaal Muniswaran.
Muniandi to Muniswaran
Eventually Muniandi came to be identified as Muniswaran. The Munis who were worshipped as Muniandi in the past were later given the suffix Iswaran which means Lord or Ruler. This may not necessarily refer to Siva. The King of Lanka in the epic Ramayana, Ravanan, is also known as Lankeswaran. Siva, hailed as the Supreme God of the universe is known as Sarveswaran, Parameswaran and even Visveswaran. (By, M. Kalimuthu)
Forms of Worship
Tree Worship (Maram Vallipadu)
- The trees as such as Banyan (Ala Maram), Sacred Fig (Arasa Maram) and Palmyra (Pana Maram) are believed to be the gateways used by the Munis to travel between different dimensions. The Munis are also believed to reside in such trees. Tree Worship is the oldest form of Muni worship.
Stone Worship (Nadukkal Vallipadu)
- The Stone Worship was mentioned even during Tamil Sangam ages more than 2,500 years ago. Nadukkal or Veerarkal (for warriors) were planted to commemorate the death of someone important. In the Muni worship, it can be divided to either a single stone or three stones (or bricks), decorated with Saivite sacred ash (vibuthi) marks, sandal paste (santhanam) and saffron paste (kungkumam). A trident (soolam) is planted as a mark of Sivan and Sakthi.
Statue worship (Uruvam Vallipadu)
- This is the most contemporary form of worship. Statues are erected and decorated to help the devotee visualise on the Muni. Other insignias such as sickle (aruval), sword and mace will be used depending on the type of Muni.
Origin of Muniandi
There are many theories on the origins of these Munis. There are also mythological stories passed down orally for generations. According to one of the oldest oral tradition, the Munis were created to protect Goddess Sakthi in the form of Goddess Pachaiamman against 7 Arakar Veerars (Demonic Warriors - Asuras). Various Pachaiamman temples in Tamil Nadu, India has statues for these Munis.
These are the names of the 7 Arakar Veerars:
- Agni Veeran
- Anithanthira Veeran
- Thakkapathala Veeran
- Thanathanthiran Veeran
- Ilakana Veeran
- Elilkana Veeran
- Ugra Veeran
During the last few decades, Gurukkals in Malaysia and Singapore have been trying to equate the Munis to Sivan himself by fusing the story of Muni into the story of Daksha Yagam. According to these Gurukkals, 7 Munis known as Saptha Muni emerged from the face of Siva to destroy Daksha's fire sacrifice (yagam).
However, reference in written puranas such as Vayu Purana has provern that the Munis worshipped today as Muniswaran or Muniandi have got nothing to do with Daksha Yagam. They were never mentioned in these Puranas.
Besides mythological origins, some Muni may have their own historical origin. They could be former warriors, sages or kings. Both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes are served as Padayals (food offerings) depending on the type of Muni. For example, in one of the Pachaiamman temple, non-vegetarian dishes are only served for Sem Muni. Paal Muni believed to be of Brahmin origin is only served vegetarian dishes.
The non-vegetarian dish is usually cooked after conducting ritual animal sacrifice.
Forms of Muniandi
There are many forms of Muni. Here are the list of 7 Munis known as Saptha Muni (7 Muni) in one of the ancient temples for Pachaiamman:
- Muttaiyar Muni
- Chinna Muttaiyar Muni
- Raya Muni alias Nondi Muni
- Jada Muni
- Poo Muni
- Sem Muni
- Vaal Muni
Kottai Muni is the presiding deity of the annual Jallikattu bullfight in Alangganallur, Tamil Nadu.
Paandi Muni, the guardian of the North Gopuram (Tower) of the Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple is believed by some to be the chief of the Munis. According to one legend, he was Emperor Neduncheliyan of Pandyan Kingdom.
The other known Munis are Raja Muni, Lada Muni, Karu Muni, Agni Muni, Veera Muni, Rettai Muni, Kaavu Muni and Yellai Muni.
There is also another concept of Nava Muni (9 Muni) instead of 7.
The deity is also popular amongst the Tamil diaspora outside Tamil Nadu. In Malaysia, Muniandi worship was started by Tamil migrants who had the Munis as their Kula Deivam. The family temples which were built in the estates and villages later turned into public temples. Eventually, more people started worshipping these Munis and it became popularised. Most modern day Malaysian or even Singaporean Hindus are hereditary worshippers of these Munis. Moreover, they have accepted this deity as one of the main deities of worship.
- Vineeta Sinha. A new God in the diaspora?: Muneeswaran worship in contemporary Singapore. NUS Press.
- Muneeswaran Poojai - Pon.Moorthy
- Muniswaran Vallipaadu - Murugan Poosari