History of Murugan from Pre History to Sangam part 3

So still Murukan is Spirit and has no human form , but the legend Valli and Murukan was very famous around 4-3 BC. So what were the possible reasons for this legend?

In the very late stage of Neolithic period, the some people had developed the skill of basic cultivation. They had started cultivating millets. Every agricultural society has a inherent female deity of fertility, the concept of Ammans(in south),ur Ammas (ur as in ‘en sontha ur’ –my native place). Ur Amma was the protective mother goddess of the ur(village). Ur Amma is the prototype off all Amman worship in Tamil Nadu[4]. Still in Tamil nadu we have various Amman deities like Kamakshi Amman, Meenakshi Amman.

Kamakshi,Meenakshi,Neeli all of whom are native Dravidian Ur Ammas who later got integrated into the Brahminic religion as wife’s of Shiva.

On this basis if we assume that the Neolithic agriculture had their own Ur Amma, we have records of only two female deities in the pre historic times they were Valli and Korravai. Both of them were associated with Murukan. Valli was known to be his wife/lover and Korravai as his mother by the Sangam time.

If we analyze the two female goddess of the Dravidians, Valli is always attributed to mountainous region till Sangam time and Korravi is regarded as goddess of war and victory and attributed to Palai(waste lands/deserts) and some times to hilly regions[5]. From these attributes we can probably say Korravai as a later god since in Neolithic period there were no wars and people mostly stayed in hills. Valli would have possibly been a goddess of fertility for the shifting cultivation type agriculturalist during the later Neolithic period.

Now let us analyze the etymology of the name Valli which gives more insight to notion of Murukan and Valli being lovers. Valli according to Dravidian etymology means creeper.This creeper has stemmed roots and has wild and cultivable species. The cultivable species have edible bulbous roots. Valli is listed in one of the 99 typical plants of Krunji region by Kapilar in Kurunjipaatul . One kind of plant which has tuber is sweet potato creeper and in Tamil it is still known as Valli kilangu[5].

There are two possible reasons why this Valli got associated with Murukan[6]:

  • One being, Murukan was very popularly believed to posses some trees. Creepers usually grow around the trees for support. The creeper’s entwining itself around the tree is analogous to mating of lovers and dependence of weak partner on another.
  • The other being Murukan is said to possess young girls and some times make them dance in excited fashion(Veriyaatu).Young girls waist are always compared to creepers. So initially Murukan who was associated with young girls got gradually associated with the creeper Valli.

But still Murukan is Proto Hunter god with no particular form. So how did he acquire characteristics of a wrathful killer and god of love and youth? This can be attributed to the fact that the Megalithic builders were migrates from different land (mostly West Asia). With them they brought advanced agriculture. These people might have adapted the deity already present in South, possibly ascribed to Murukan some of the more advanced agricultural attributes.

Megalithic culture also witness use of Iron. With advent of weapon more advanced weaponry were created and used. This might be the period where the Proto Hunter God – Murukan acquired his most important feature the Lance. Also by this time people had started domesticating animals. And Murukan by then must have been associated with domesticated animals like cock.

Even though not a conclusive proof, the excavation of Adichanallur Megalithic site points towards possibility of a goddess of fertility and Male god who could be associated with Lance, cock and gold mouth plates (this tradition is still persistent, when taking Kavadi male devotees process with skewers through their cheeks, and through their tongues, to prevent speech whilst they make their sacrifice of pain. Sometimes elaborate metal plates cover a devotee’s entire mouth)[7]. One of the possibilities might be that the Male god was Murugan and the female deity either Korravai or Valli.

As advances in agriculture came the permanent settlements and moving away from hills to other parts. As permanent settlement came in the concept of cites came in and gradually a state with King or chieftains was developed. With development of different states the possibilities of war also developed. This development should have affected the most popular deity then Murukan. Slowly Murukan must have acquired the role of war god.

With people moving away from hills and settling else where , the Basic concept of Five land should have developed. Kurunji being hill settlement, Neital being settlements near sea, Marutam being fertile lands, Mullai being forest and Paalai being waste lands.

Now let us analyze the gods mentioned in Tolkapiyam of each region in,

  • Ceyon(Kurunji): The red one also called Sevvel and Murukan.The god is associated with Mars, beauty and abstract notion of beauty. He was a god of war,love and pre matrimonial sex, ’free love’ (kalavu), procreation and youth.
  • Mayon(Mullai):The black one, the god of semi nomadic pastorals. He was later identified with Vishnu as Krishna.
  • Venthan(Marutam):Marutam being fertile lands , had permanent settlements and hence the concept of state with a king have first appeared here. The protective deity of this region is the King himself. Later this deity Ventham or Ko got associated with Indra since he was King of the gods.
  • Varunan(neithal):It is possible that this Aryanisation represents ‘lord of ocean’,possibly Katalon,in Proto Tamil. He was god of the fisherman community and later to the sea trader and people in naval activities.
  • Paalai didn’t have any god since there was no particular land associated with it. But usally Korravai is attributed to Paalai region in Sangam literature.

There are two important features we have to look into from the above description:

There are two gods namely the Black one and the Red one.

So why there are two gods based on colour?(interestingly Red and black colours hold importance even today in Tamil Nadu-see all party flags!).

For this an explanation is given by unknown commentator of Tolkapiyam who says ‘ black and red are symbols of anger’. Interestingly there are many common attributes between these two gods.

This made Dr. Kamil Zvelebil to put forward this hypothesis that both Mayon and Ceyon were initially the same god, that is Proto Mayon and Proto Ceyon were the same. Both Mayon and Ceyon are manifestation this original god war and youth and the protective deity of people. Both Mayon and Ceyon were worshipped by animal sacrifices and orgiastic dances[7].

S.A. Tylor suggest that since Krishna was a composite deity like later Subramanya Muruga, the pastoral aspect and the black color of the god Krishna must have been derived form the god Mayon.

Another point of view with basis of K.Zvelebil’s hypotheses is that The Proto –Mayon-Ceyon might have been Murukan. And when megalithic people came in with agriculture and when irrigation techniques were used, the people who resided in hills moved away to the pastoral lands of Mullai and Marutam. This possibly would have caused the spilt of Proto god into Mayon and Ceyon. With Ceyon being the hill god was still associated with the proto god Murukan.

H.Berchet has found conformity between the early Tamil and early Sinhalese region. There are four protective deities in group and preside over different parts of the country. Mayon, like Uppalavanna who presides over place one and blue in colour; Ceyon like,Kataragama, the god of hills and red in colour who presides over place two and so on. This can be attributed to the fact that there has been heavy interaction between Megalithic South Indians and Megalithic Sri Lankans. Dr. Sudharshan Seneviratne, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka has quoted the megalithic period, south India and Sri Lanka “had shared a culture going all the way to the pre-historic period”[8]. Not only were megalithic burials similar, but paleo-biological and biological research showed that there were significant technological and cultural traits in common between the two regions. In fact the copper was imported from Sri Lanka during Megalithic period by the South Indians according to him.

So it can be safe to assume region based God system was introduced during the Megalithic period.

End of Part 3

Link to Part 4

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  1. Vettuva kula god is Murugan.

    Murugan’s wife is vettuva kula girl.

  2. Vettuva kula god is Murugan.

    Murugan’s wife is vettuva kula girl.

    Murugan came from hunting background.

  3. Hello,

    Basic flow of civilization is that civilizations started on top of mountains closer to lakes with hunting as occupation. As cultivation and agriculture became more systematic they moved down to plains. This nature of humans have been expressed in their divinity too. Even as the people moved out of hills, during sangam and pre sangam there lived tribes up on the hills. So they still continued to hold muruga as Hunting god where as in other places more attibutes of King was given to him. Attributes of the god are more a reflection of the socio-economic status of the people.


  4. I’m coming in Sri Lanka in july-august 2010, I’m an italian journalist, but more from thirty years I’m studying original goddesses. I should desire to meet the voice of Valli. If some old and sage woman of Munda or Vedda people desire meet me, please write to: antonella.barina@libero.it. Thanks. Antonella Barina (Venice, Italy)

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