History of Murugan from Pre History to Sangam Part4

The next step would be to review the various religious practices in Murukan worship during early Sangam and try to reconstruct the unwritten history of Murukan.

Since most of the features of Murukan in Sangam have been listed above , I am just listing the other attributes which were not mentioned earlier[6],

  • He was associated with Elephant and peacock
  • Veriyatal of women and Velan
  • Flowers associated with him Katampu ,Kantal,Venkai and Lotus
  • Open field covered with sand or an enclosure(Kottam) appropriately arrayed, is the place where he is worshiped and his dance is performs
  • Kottam can be setup in a house,on river delta or before a Katampu tree decorated with creepers or garland(as a hypothesis which was explained above this tradition of Katampu tree which was believed to possessed by Murukan decorated with creeper or natural creeper formation around the tree might be one of the reasons for association between Murukan and Valli).
  • Kantu a small pillar was used to represent the god
  • Ram sacrifies, offerings of juice of paddy or coconut, sandal paste, red millet, rice, honey ,blood and red and yellow flowers.
  • Posses red Katampu tree and Kanthal flowers
  • He had a sacred power ananku which he could use to destroy the evil and also posses young girls( more on this motif of Murugan Anangu on young girls are given in Love sickness blog)
  • He was destroyer of the Cur

Let us analyse why Murugan was associated with Elephants and peacocks. The association with these two animals might be due to their mere presence in the Hilly region which he presided over. Other possible reasons can be the that ferocity and fighting skill of the Elephant was compared to the War god.

Peacocks dance when rain comes was usually compared to veriyatu of young girls. Since Murukan was associated with fertility and hence rain, there seems to be an association with peacocks and Murukan. In later period Murukan was etymological changed to Murugan i.e. from wrathful killer to beauty; he was associated with peacock for its beauty and joy[6].

Some of these practices which was discussed above in Sangam literature are similar to religious practices of some of contemporary tribes such as Pulaiainas in Anamalai,Kadars of Cochin,Karumbas of North Arcotand Veddas of Srilanka . One of the Scholor Parker notes that Veddas were pre megalithic and moved to Sri Lanka before arrival of Buddhism.This time is nearly same time when megalithic people come to south India. These Hill people might have been descendent of the Neolithic people and might have been scattered to various parts due to the arrival of the Megalithic people[6].

It is possible that the agriculture attributes which was associated with Murugan might have origins in Middle East. There are some striking common features between the Murukan and Dionysian cult of Middle East. Both were gods of hill, both are worshiped with frenzied dance by women . N.Goapala Pillai believes Kavati is related to Liknon(winnowing basket) in which Dionysos is cradled. These similarities might tempt us to believe that megalithic people form the West Asia have influenced the religious cult of Murukan[6].

We have nearly traced the origins of Murgan from earliest recorded time to a period close to Sangam literature. Till now, the God Murugan was formless and worshiped as a spirit initially and later in the form of tree and stone. So when and why did this god get a human form and myth of a warrior who defeated Cur and was Lover of Valli and hence became god of Love?

A very important point to be analysed form the four regional deities is that of Marutam where the deity is the King (Ventan). As George L hart[9] remarks, most of the term we use today to denote the God ,was initially used to denote the King in old Tamil. The best example is Koil. Ko + Il the house of king is now used to denote house of the god. Unlike Sanskrit where terms used for gods were later used to denote kings , in Tamil the words used for Kings were used to denote god. This is an indicator to make us believe that attributes of Kings were also attributed to the god. So as gradually settlements formed and states formed, Murukan also became a Model War Lord-King. As kingdom was formed and slowly people settles with various profession, the court poetry must have been developed. So when ever a King won a battle he was compared to their god Murukan who was considered to be a model war lord. A typical example of attributes of a king passing on to the God is Kurunthokai 1(This poem is in one of my pervious blog).

So gradually with arrival of court poetry Murugan had slowly gained human attributes and accumulated some myths. Similarly due to the earlier myth of Murgan – Valli the poets started using Murugan and Valli as examples of model lovers in their poetry. There is no specific love myth of Murukan and Valli in Sangam. It is usually of the model where one lover quotes to another that what ever love act they are going to perform was already performed by Valli and Murukan.

There is only one final question left, how did the god who was very specific to mountain regions become national god of Tamilians ?

Fred W. Clothey[6] believes that in a certain intermediate stage during the ageis of chieftain-kings of south certain motifs of the Kurunji people were universalized to a degree. The poets who were patronized by the king increasingly started to compare their king to the war God of Kurunji Murugan. Hence Murugan was accepted in all the regions as the war god. It can also be traced that Murugan was worshiped in sandy regions, costal regions and cultivated land. And also Sangam poetry had only two divisions , Akam(Love) and Puram(war). Murugan was quoted in both as either model lover or Model war lord. Hence Tamil Murugan was quoted in every other poem composed then.

So by the late Sangam period the myth of Murgan the war lord and destroyer of Curan and Lover of Valli was popular all over Tamil Nadu.

After word: At end of this essay I would like to detail my approach in this essay. Initially I have read works of Kamil Zvelebil and Fred W Clothey. They had given various hypotheses some of their own and of various other scholars. And with recent development as latest as report in Hindu last week in relation between Pre historic south Indians and Indus valley people made me take view that the I.Mahadevan’s hypothesis on Murugan and Indus Valley should be correct. So I started assuming the Neolithic south Indians were Dravidian speaking people and started eliminating various theories and presented here a possible reconstruction of History of Murugan from Pre History to Sangam period. Most of the details provided here are Hypotheses of various scholars and are not proven history.


  1. ‘Murukan’ in the Indus Script by I.Mahadevan http://murugan.org/research/mahadevan.htm
  2. http://www.hinduonnet.com/2006/05/01/stories/2006050112670100.htm andhttp://www.hinduonnet.com/2006/05/01/stories/2006050101992000.htm
  3. http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/thscrip/print.pl?file=2008050353942200.htm&date=2008/05/03/&prd=th&
  4. Thirumurugan by Kamil V Zvelebil
  5. Smile of Murugan : The History of Tamil Literature of South India by Kamil V Zvelebil
  6. Many Faces of Murukan: The history and meaning of a South Indian God by Fred W. Clothey
  7. Tamil traditions on Subrahmanya Murugan by Kamil V Zvelebil
  8. http://www.flonnet.com/fl2301/stories/20060127003610200.htm
  9. The poems of the ancient Tamil by Gorge L Hart
    Please leave your comments. 

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  1. Very well researched; and written article.

    keep up the great work! 🙂

  2. hai, it is very intresting to read your detailed orguement , but still it confuses us more . Being a tamilian i want to say that murugan must be a aryan ,who is migrated from north to south due to some political problems between his brother and parents ( probably step mother and step brother).

  3. Can you please help where can i get the book “The smile of murugan” written by Kamil Zvelebil

  4. Murukan is nothing but todays Thee caste located at Malbar in kerala 🙂

  5. Dear Mr.KarkaNirka,
    First of all hats-off for this blog(I really liked the flowers of Tamil post); Now my comment on this post –
    I suppose your analysis is based on quite extensive work and I want to appreciate on your effort. But I’d say, a theory work like this must have a ‘heart’, meaning the basis for hypothesis should come from ‘observation’ and not just ‘analysis’. I don’t know why but I feel like sharing this here. Please excuse me if you feel, this comment is inappropriate.

  6. Is there any chance, based on your research, that Murugan was originally a deity of Burma?

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