History of Murugan from Pre History to Sangam part 1

There is very popular saying that the ‘History of Murugan is the History of Tamil culture’. I never knew the importance of this statement. But any body who needs to understand how the Tamil culture has evolved over period of many centuries, one has to understand the evolution that Murugan as deity has undergone.

But my recent study has made me believe that ‘History of Murugan is History of South India from Pre Historic times’!

I am writing an essay heavily based on hypotheses of scholars like I.Mahadevan, Kamil V.Zvelebil, Fred W.Clothey.

Essay in Short: Neolithic people of South India as well as Indus Valley civilization people had shared same language and had a primitive god Murukan.He was worshiped as a spirit.  This essay would trace the possible changes in the pre historic societies which might have caused changes in characteristic of the primitive god to the God poet sang in Sangam period. This essay deals more historical aspects than the philosophical aspects of the Cult of Murugan.

First part: discusses the various pre historic cultures. This is an explanation to various terms which are used in other parts of the essay.

Part two:  discusses various artifacts which makes belive possiblity of the God Murukan to be worshiped by Neolithic people and Indus valley people.

Part three: Discusses his association with Valli, mountains and primitive god Mal

Part four : Discusses the possible transformation from primitive mountain god to National god of the Tamils during the Sangam period.

Part One:

I am going to start my essay with brief definition of terms used to describe various stages of pre historic human civilization in South India.

The Paleolithic Era (“old age of the stone”):

  • The first period in South India’s past is Paleolithic culture of hunters and food gathers.
  • Habitat: Along rivers on the edge of forest upto 2000ft altitude.
  • Places of civilizations (the ones which have been excavated):
    • Banks of Paravar river in Gujarat , near Chennai ,Giddalur in Andhra. Also in Tanjavur,Tirucahrapalli,Madurai.
  • Occupation: hunters and food gatherers
  • Average age of life: 40 years.
  • Tools used: handaxe, cleavers, flakes, discoids, hammer stones and burins.
  • Time period:
    • Earliest Paleolithic era : around 150,000 BC
    • Middle Paleolithic era: around 25,000BC
    • Upper Paleolithic era: around 5000 BC

Origins: Migrated from Africa into India and through out south east Asia(Theory yet to be proved).

The Mesolithic Era or Middle Stone Age :

  • Occupation: hunters and food gatherers
  • Period: 8000-6000BC
  • First stage:
    • Habbitat: Along streams and foothills
    • Tools used: Flaked and core tools
  • Second Stage:
    • Tools used: Flaked and core tools,geometric forms,blades,scrappers
  • Places of civilizations (the ones which have been excavated):
    • Tuticorin, Manglore, Godavari- Krishna regions
  • There is also a possibility that these people also lived during the period when the Neolithic or new stone age people lived in Southern India.

The Neolithic Era or New Stone Age:

  • Time period: 3500BC to 2000BC.
  • Occupation: People made pottery, were settled, developed agricultural technique and domesticated cow, sheep, pig and dog. Hunting was still the primary occupation.

Classification of Neolithic Culture:

  • North East Neolithic culture: use of polished stone, no pottery
  • South East Neolithic culture: use of polished stone, lithic blades(not available in deep south i.e. near south TN) and pottery made by hand.
  • West Neolithic culture (particularly central and northern India): Lithic blades (major tool), pottery made by wheel.

Southern Neolithic culture:

  • Places of civilization: northern Tamil Nadu and Southern Deccan.
  • Early stage :
    • Period: 2300-1800 BC
    • Tools: ground stone axe
    • Characteristics: handmade pottery, domestication of cattles,sheep and goats with forest cattle station.
    • Habitat: Settlement on Hills
  • Second stage:
    • Period: 1800-1500BC:
    • Tools: Stone Blades
    • Characteristics: use of Mud floors, wattle in building and use of perforated vessels
  • Third Stage:
    • Tools: Bronze and copper tools
    • Characteristics: Harder grey and buff pottery, millet raising, cultivation of millet, edible tubers and grain and inhumation (burying) with grave goods.

Development Southern Neolithic culture was independent of the northern Neolithic culture (Indus Valley Civilization).Though there seems to be trade contact and influence between the two cultures.

Chalcolithic Culture or Copper Age:

  • Period: 1800 BC
  • Places of civilization: Deccan and sites near Mysore
  • Characteristics: Domestication of short horn cattle, buffaloes, sheep and goats . Hunting still persisted.
  • This stage did not supersede Neolithic rather it brought more sophistication to the Neolithic stage. It added use of copper and with continuing existence of earlier stone tools.

Megalithic Culture or Huge rock monument culture:

  • Period: around 800-700BC( with current excavation data)
  • Places of civilization: Tiruchur in Kerala, Adichanallur, Chingleput districts, Madurai districts and southern Deccan.
  • Habitat: Rocky hillocks near arable land, bunded and cultivated and also near river banks.
  • Characteristics :
    • Rocks are used to mark burials, usually in sarcophagi(funeral receptacle for a corpse, most commonly carved or cut from stone) and urns.
    • Well advanced irrigation techniques
    • Iron users
    • War skilled people with use of iron lances, arrowheads, dagger blades.
    • Wheel turned pottery
    • Tending animals as sheep and hump less cattle
    • Relatively sophisticated agriculture with a bias for urban life.
    • Persistence with hunting as a profession.

Some elements of this culture are not indigenous. There are lots of theories concerning who these Megalithic builders were. Influences of Central Asia,Iran,Mesopatamian valley ,Persian gulf are usually found. It is general assumption that South Indian megaliths share a common ancestor with those in West Europe around 2000 BC and Anatolian plateau in Iran Dated about 1500BC.

The Megalithic Era extended to around 1 AD. Megalithic period persisted into period when much of Sangam literature was written. The Pandiyas who ruled over the area around Adichanallur practiced inhumation, cist burial and urn burial. The urn burials may not have died out till the Cholas overcame Pandiyas around 11AD.

End of Part 1

Link to Part 2

Please leave your comments.

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  1. அன்புடையீர் வணக்கம்
    தொல்தமிழரின் சிறப்பை விளக்கும் வகையில் முருகனின் வரலாற்றை எழுத முனைந்துள்ளீர்கள்.மனிதன் தோன்றிய இடமாகக் கருதப்படும் குறிஞ்சி நிலக் கடவுள் / தலைவன் முருகன்.
    உலகுக்குத் தமிழரின் பெருமயை இயன்றவரை எடுத்தியம்புவோம். நன்றியுடன் களப்பாள் குமரன்.
    pl.visit http://www.kalappaal.tk

  2. Hi Palani,

    Seems u have Taken a lot of trouble tracing ancient History.I had thought Burials were non Existent in Tamil nadu.
    Learnt something new.



  3. Is the ancient continent of Kumarikhandam, if that is the ancient Tamil name, Antartica, see how india and Antartica fit together and the theorem of pangaea coincide with the tamil legend except for their extravagant dates.

  4. Kumari is for sure not a kandam or continent. It is the lost land of the pandyas to the South of Present Kanya Kumari. Lemuria theory was used earlier to identify kumari as a kandam. But Lemuira theory is outdated and debunked. So most probably the land extended few hundred miles down south got submerged. Any thing beyond this limit of imagination cannot to be proved by present scientific explanations!

  5. according to researcher who used the depth of the sea south of india say that if the sea has rosen to 130 meters due to melting snow the land which was submerged would be from kanyakumari to madagaskar that consist of hills. it is proved that the sea level has risen 130 meters from 10,000 bc to till date.

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