Palani Murugan temple
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|Arulmigu Dhandayuthapani Swamy Temple|
|Other names||Palani Murugan temple|
|Proper name||Arulmigu Sri Dhandayuthabani Swami Temple|
|Tamil||அருள்மிகு ஶ்ரீ தண்டயுதபானி சுவாமி திருகோவில்|
|Architectural styles||Dravidian architecture|
|History and governance|
Palani Arulmigu Shri Dhandayuthapani temple (Tamil: பழநி அருள்மிகு ஶ்ரீ தண்டயுதபானி சுவாமி திருகோவில்) is one of the Six Abodes of Murugan. It is located in the town of Palani in Dindigul, 100 kilometres (62 mi) southeast of Coimbatore and northwest of Madurai in the foot-hills of the Palani hills.
Sage Narada once visited the celestial court of Lord Shiva at Mount Kailash to present to Him a fruit, the gyana-palam (literally, the fruit of knowledge), that held in it the elixir of wisdom. Upon Lord Shiva expressing his intention of dividing the fruit between his two sons, Ganesha and murugan,the sage counseled against cutting it. He decided to award it to whichever of his two sons first circled the world thrice. Accepting the challenge, Lord Karthikeya started his journey around the globe on his mount peacock. However, Ganesha, who surmised that the world was no more than his parents Shiva and Shakti combined, circumambulated them. Pleased with their son's discernment, Lord Shiva awarded the fruit to Lord Ganesha. When Kartikeya returned, he was furious to learn that his efforts had been in vain. He left Kailash and took up his abode in Palani hills in South India. It is believed that Karthikeya felt the need to get matured from boyhood and hence chose to remain as a hermit and discarded all his robes and ornaments. He went into meditation to know about himself.
As per another legend, once all sages and gods assembled in Kailash, the abode of Shiva. It resulted in the tilting of earth towards one direction. Shiva asked sage Agasthya to move towards South to balance the tilt. Agastya employed a demon by name Ettumba to carry two hills in his shoulders to be placed in the South. The demon carried the hills down south and rested in a place. When he tried to lift one of the hills, it didn't budge and he found a young man standing at the top of the hill not allowing it to be moved. The demon tried to attack the young man, but was defeated. Sage Agastya identified the young man as Karthikeya and asked him to pardon the demon. Karthikeya readily did so and let the hill remain there at Pazhani. It is a practice followed in the modern times where people carry milk in both their shoulders as a devotion to please Karthikeya. The demon carried the other hill to Swamimalai, which is another abode of Karthikeya.
The idol of the Lord Muruga in Palani, was created and consecrated by sage Bogar, one of Hinduism's eighteen greatsiddhas out of an amalgam of nine poisons or navapashanam. The legend also holds that, the sculptor had to work very rapidly to complete its features, but that he spent so much time in creating the face, he did not have time to bestow but a rough grace upon the rest of the body, thus explaining the contrast between the artistic perfection of the face and the slightly less accomplished work upon the body. A shrine to Bhogar exists in the southwestern corridor of the temple, which, by legend, is said to be connected by a subterranean tunnel to a cave in the heart of the hill, where Bhogar continues to meditate and maintain his vigil, with eight idols of the Lord.
The deity, after centuries of worship, fell into neglect and was suffered to be engulfed by the forest. One night, Perumal a king of the Chera Dynastys, who controlled the area between the second and fifth centuries A.D., wandered from his hunting party and was forced to take refuge at the foot of the hill. It so befell, that the Lord Subrahmanyan, appeared to him in a dream, and ordered him to restore the idol to its former state. The king commenced a search for the idol, and finding it, constructed the temple that now houses it, and re-instituted its worship. This is commemorated by a small stela at the foot of the staircase that winds up the hill.
The idol of the deity is said to be made of an amalgam of nine poisonous substances which forms an eternal medicine when mixed in a certain ratio. It is placed upon a pedestal of stone, with an archway framing it and represents the god Subrahmanya in the form He assumed at Palani - that of a very young recluse, shorn of his locks and all his finery, dressed in no more than a loincloth and armed only with a staff, the dhandam, as befits a monk. It is from His youthful appearance and the staff He bears, that the appellation Bāla-dhandāyudha-pāni, meaning the young wielder of the staff-weapon, is applied to Him.
One curious aspect of the deity is that He faces west rather than east, the traditional direction at most Hindu temples. This is held to be on account of the temple having been re-consecrated by the Cheras, whose dominions lay to the west, and the guardian of whose eastern frontier was supposed to be the Lord Kartikeya of Palani. Another fact that will be remarked upon by any observer, are the rather disproportionately large ears the Lord is endowed with. This is reflective of the faith that the Lord listens carefully to each of his many devotees' prayers and requests. Housed in the garbhagriham, the sanctum sanctorum, of the temple, the deity may be approached and handled only by the temple's priests, who are members of the Gurukkal community of Palani, and hold hereditary rights of sacerdotal worship at the temple. Other devotees are permitted to come up to the sanctum, while the priests' assistants, normally of the Pandāram community, are allowed up to the ante-chamber of the sanctum sanctorum.
The Temple is situated upon the higher of the two hills of Palani, known as the Sivagiri. Traditionally, access to it was by the main staircase cut into the hill-side or by the yanai-padhai or elephant's path, used by the ceremonial elephants. Pilgrims bearing water for the ritual bathing of the idol, and the priests, would use another way also carved into the hill-side but on the opposite side. Over the past half-century, three funicular railway tracks have been laid up the hill for the convenience of the pilgrims, and supplemented by a rope-way within the past decade. The sanctum of the temple is of early Chera architecture while the covered ambulatory that runs around it bears unmistakable traces of Pandya influence, especially in the form of the two fishes, the Pandyan royal insignia. The walls of the sanctum bear extensive inscriptions in the old Tamil script. Surmounting the sanctum, is a gopuram of gold, with numerous sculptures of the presiding deity, Kartikeya, and gods and goddesses attendant upon him.
In the first inner prahāram, or ambulatory, around the heart of the temple, are two minor shrines, one each, to Shiva and Parvati, besides one to the Sage Bhogar who is by legend credited with the creation and consecration of the chief idol. In the second outer prahāram, is a celebrated shrine to Ganapati, besides the carriage-house of the Lord's Golden Chariot.
The most esteemed form of worship at the temple is the abhishekam - anointment of the idol with oils, sandalwood paste, milk, unguents and the like and then bathing it with water in an act of ritual purification. The most prominent abhishekams are conducted at the ceremonies to mark the hours of the day. These are four in number - the Vizha Poojai, early in the morning, the Ucchikālam, in the afternoon, the Sāyarakshai, in the evening and the Rakkālam, at night, immediately prior to the temple being closed for the day. These hours are marked by the tolling of the heavy bell on the hill, to rouse the attention of all devotees to the worship of the lord being carried out at that hour. On a quiet day, the bell can be heard in all the countryside around Palani.
After the abhishekam, it is the practice to dress the idol of the Lord, in an act called alangaram, in one of several guises - the most common being the Raja, or king, the Vaitheekan, or priest, the Vedan, or hunter and the Aandi, or monk, which last is the most celebrated in Palani, because it is the nearest to the natural form the Lord assumed at Palani as an anchorite, having withdrawn from all the celestial riches of his father's court at Mount Kailash. In addition to worship within the precincts of the temple, an idol of the Lord, called the Uthsavamoorthy, is also carried in state around the temple, in a golden chariot, drawn by devotees, most evenings in a year.
One of the chief traditions of the temple, is the tonsuring of devotees, who vow to discard their hair in imitation of the Lord of Palani. Another is the anointing of the head of the God's idol with chandaṇam, or sandalwood paste, at night, prior to the temple being closed for the day. The paste, upon being allowed to stay overnight, is said to acquire medicinal properties, and is much sought after and distributed to devotees, as rakkāla chandaṇam. Traditionally, the hill-temple of Palani is supposed to be closed in the afternoon and rather early in the evening to permit the Lord to have adequate sleep, being but a child, and therefore, easily tired by the throngs of devotees and their constant importunations. A tradition that is not very well known is that of the Paḷḷi-Arai or bedroom, wherein, each night, the Lord is informed of the status of the temple's accounts for the day, by the custodians of the temple, and then put to sleep to the singing of an ōdhuvār or bard.
Panchamirdam (mixture of five) is believed to be a divine mix prepared by Vinayagar at the end of the divine encounter. He mixed honey, dates, banana, raisins and jiggery and distributed it to Shiva and Karthikeya. The practice is followed in modern times where the devotees are provided Panchamirdam as a Prasad.
Besides regular services, days sacred to the god Subrahmanyan are celebrated with pomp and splendour every year, and are attended by throngs of devotees from all over South India. Some of these festivals are the Thai-Poosam, the Pankuni-Uththiram, the Vaikhashi-Vishakham and the Soora-Samharam. Thai-Poosam, which is considered, by far, the most important festival at Palani, is celebrated on the full moon day of the Tamil Month of Thai (15 January-15 February). Pilgrims after first having taken a strict vow of abstinence, come barefoot, by walk, from distant towns and villages. Many pilgrims also bring a litter of wood, called a Kāvadi, borne on their shoulders, in commemoration of the act of the demon Hidumba who is credited by legend with bringing the two hills of Palani to their present location, slung upon his shoulders in a similar fashion. Others bring pots of sanctified water, known as theertha-kāvadi, for the priests to conduct the abhishekam on the holy day. Traditionally, the most honoured of the pilgrims, whose arrival is awaited with anticipation by all and sundry, are the people of Karaikudi, who bring with them the diamond-encrusted vél or javelin, of the Lord from His temple at Karaikudi.
Over the years, some believe that the idol has been wearing away or dissolving, by virtue of its repeated anointment and ritual bathing. However, long-time devotees and priests of the temple maintain that they perceive no visible change. Since Hinduism forbids the worship of an imperfect idol, suggestions have been made, at various points of time, to replace it, cover it, or stop some of the rituals, which could have resulted in its erosion. A new 100 kg idol was consecrated on 27 January 2004, but coming under severe criticism from orthodox believers, was displaced and worship of the existing idol restored, shortly thereafter.
Darshan (meaning open to the public) hours are from 6.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m. On festival days the temple opens at 4.30 a.m.
- Vilaa Pooja (6.30 a.m.)
- Siru Kall Pooja (8.00 a.m.)
- Kaala Santhi (9.00 a.m.)
- Utchikkala Pooja (12.00 noon)
- Raja Alankaram (5.30 p.m.)
- Iraakkaala Puja (8.00 p.m.)
- Golden Car Darshan (6.30 p.m.)
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