Saturday, February 14, 2009


Many thousands of years back, the Tamilans worshipped Nature as Muruku (a Tamil word meaning: 'youthfulness, tenderness, fragrance, etc'). Temples were constructed in natural settings -- around forests, hilly areas, waterfalls and seashores. Tiruchendur temple is one among them, but it has a special significance. It was here that Lord Murugan arrived with his band of warriors to fight against the Asura, Soorapadma. So a temple was constructed at Tiruchendur for Lord Murugan in rememberance of this.
Soorapadma was a very powerful Asura who was causing immense hardships to Devas and mankind alike by his wicked deeds. The Devas appealed to Lord Shiva to spare them from the tortures of Soorapadma. Lord Shiva in response to their appeal told them that He would produce a Son from His Sakti to annihilate Soorapadma.
Lord Shiva generated six powerful sparks from His third eye called Netrikkan. Lord Vayu (god of air) and Lord Agni (god of fire) carried these sparks to river Ganges. Goddess Ganga carried them to Saravana Poygai, a holy pond.The sparks became six divine small male babies. By God's grace, six divine water nymphs (the six Krittikas) nurtured these babies.
When Lord Shiva and Parvati Devi came to earth to behold these babies, Goddess Parvati embraced all the six infants at once and made them into a single child with six faces and twelve hands. From Goddess Parvati Devi's anklets, nine shaktis appeared. Veerabahu and lakhs of soldiers emerged from these Nava Shaktis. These men headed by Veerabahu became the warriors of Lord Murugan. Lord Shiva for His part gave Lord Murugan a vel (spear) called Vetrivel destined to give success at all times (Vetrivel - spear of success). He also endowed him with eleven Rudras. Eleven Rudras were changed into eleven arms.
With the blessings of His divine parents, Lord Murugan came to Tiruchendur with His armed group. He immediately sent Veerabahu as an emissary to Soorapadma and asked him to release all the Devas imprisoned by him. But the Asura refused. So Lord Murugan had no option but to wage war against Soorapadma and his legions. It lasted for ten days.
Lord Murugan defeated the Asuras and converted Soorapadma into a peacock and a cock. The peacock or Mayil became the vehicle of Lord Murugan. Therefore He is also called Mayilvahanan. Ceval or cock adorned his flag.Hence,He is called Ceval kodiyon.
The guru (teacher) of Devas Lord Prahaspati, Lord Indra, Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and all the Devas hailed Lord Murugan's victory and worshipped him nine times (Nava Kala Pooja). Lord Murugan in turn worshipped Lord Shiva in the form of Linga called Sivalinga. Since Lord Murugan and the devas emerged victorious at Tiruchendur, it is also called as Jayanti Nagar as Jaya means victory.
Lord Murugan blesses everyone who worships Him. He extends His arul or supreme grace to all those who pray before Him. He removes all the ills of people who come to Him. He never lets down His disciples. Worship Lord Murugan at Tiruchendur and seek His blessings. He will present everything to you. He will bless you with a blemishless and peaceful life.

Pujas, Abhishekas and Processions

The protocol for daily worship here is known Kumara Tantram. Eight times a day, poojas are done to Lord Subramanyar. On Vishakam nakshatiram day as well as during Chittirai Vishu and Aippasi Vishu, special pujas are done to the Lord.
Every day, processions are carried out in the inner sanctum and on the last Friday of every month, the uthsava murti is taken on a procession in the outer prakaram, along with his consorts. Special processions are conducted on days like Karttikai, Vishakam asterisms and Sashti.
Pujas are conducted daily to the deities. The timings in the table at right have been attested by the Sthaladhâr Sabhâ and are current as of Kanda Sashti 2001. The major daily pujas are:
Mudal-kâlasandhi, Ciru-Kâlasandhi and Periya-kâlasandhi
Ardha-jaman or Rakkalam
Palli-arai Dîpârâdhanai or the Lord's rest
Worshippers receive here the Lord's prasâdam of sacred ashes put into pannîr leaves known as ilai vipûti. The significance of the peculiar custom followed in almost all the Saivite temples in the district has to be connected perhaps to the introduction of Potris as the archakas of this foremost temple, and who thus perpetuated their aloofness without a physical contact with the worshippers. And it may even be the pannîr leaves have a peculiar sanctity and the retention of the magnetic effects of the prasadam.
Abishekas are conducted to the principal deity, Subrahmanyam, thrice during the day and to Shanmukha on every Visâka Nakshatra in the month and on the first of Chittirai and Aippasi months.
On the last Friday of each Tamil month, Senthil Nâyakar with His consorts are taken round the outer giri-prakâra of the temple in procession on mayil vâkanam as an ubaya kattalai by the Nadar community, out of an endowment trust fund from Nagercoil. Processions within the inner prakaras are conducted on every monthly Tiru-Kârttikai, Visâkam, Sashti and on the first of every Chittirai and Aippasi months.

Time Temple Function
5:00 am Temple opens
5:10 am Suprabhâtam
5:35 am Viswarûpam
6:15 am Udayamartandam Abhishekam
7 am Udayamarithanelam Dîpârâdhanai
7:30 to 8:30 am Kâla Sandhi Pûja
10:30 am Vehi Kâla Abhishekam
12:00 Utchikâlam Dîpârâdhanai
5 to 5:30 pm Sayaratchai Dîpârâdhanai
7:15 pm Ardha-jaman or Rakkâlam Abhishekam
7:45 pm Rakkâlam Dîpârâdhanai
8:00 pm Ekântam Potri Archanai
8:30 pm Ekântam Dîpârâdhanai
8:45 pm Ragacêyam
8:45 to 9:00 pm Palli Arai Dîpârâdhanai
9:01 pm Temple closes


Masi Festival
The Tiruchendur Brahmotsavam of Masi during February-March each year wherein all the three temple cars are dragged and the festival is conducted for twelve days concluding with a Teppam or Float Festival is much esteemed.
It is particularly an occasion for jubilation, as one and all and especially those who could not till recently enter the temple precincts can have his darshan which is so dear to the heart of his bhaktas. The Pachchai Sattuppadi or the floral decoration of the deity in all green on the eighth morning is especially one which none would wish to miss in the festival.
The temple cars are drawn on the tenth day of the festival, and the Theppam float on the 11th day concluding the festivals. They are huge attractions to all the country folk around, who come in large numbers and participate in dragging, and bringing them to their stands.
The great Masi Festival begins at the Tiruvizhâ Mandapam in Tiruchendur town from where Devasthanam priests (see picture at lower right) ceremonially bring the Masi festival flag in procession on elephant-back throughout the town and to the Devasthanam where, early the next morning, it is raised on the kodi maram (temple flag pole) amid much pomp and colorful ceremony.
The Masi festival is noteworthy also for the reason that during most of the days, popular discourses on religion are arranged to be given by scholars of merit and also musical performances, in furtherance of the cultural advancement of the congregation, propagation of religious knowledge, and the resuscitation of arts.

Kanda Sashti vows
Murugan bhaktars traditionally regard Kanda Sashti as an opportunity to undertake such vows as:
• fasting for six days on fruit or similar light diet;
• offering annadanam, the 'gift of food' to the Lord and His devotees;
• shaving off the hair from one's head as an offering (even women too);
• singing Tiruppukazh or bhajanai as offerings; or
• performing angapradakshina, literally 'body circumambulation', etc.
Angapradakshina is a specialty at Tiruchendur. During Kanda Sashti one may see hundreds of men, women and children rolling the 400-500 meters around the shrine with heads towards the deity in the early morning hours. Fasting is also very common not only at Tiruchendur but among traditional Murugan devotees all over the world. These acts loosen one's attachment to the body and help to draw one's attention towards the ever-present absolute Reality that transcends life and death.
Many also regard vows as small ways of obtaining the Lord's grace or repaying His generosity. Treat Tiruchendur Murugan with respect and affection, and He will return your affection many times over. Though full of might and danger for the heedless and proud of this world, towards His friends He is tender and supportive, if also inscrutable.
What to see at Tiruchendur Kanda Sashti
During Kanda Sashti, Tiruchendur throngs with tens of thousands of bhaktars from all over Tamil Nadu, especially from southern districts. Many are old hands who come year after year. Hence, Tiruchendur Kanda Sashti is also an annual convention of sorts for the Lord's devotees. Unlike at many modern temples, there are no loudspeakers blaring film music. Yet during Kanda Sashti in recent years a closed-circuit television system allows devotees (hundreds of whom camp out inside the massive stone temple for six days or more) to view the rituals in the yaaga salai as well as cinema classics of Murugan devotion such as Kantan Karunai.
Outside the Devasthanam, especially in the outer praharam or circumambulatory corridor, parties of devotees may be seen singing bhajanai and performing kummi, dancing in group circles while clapping hands and singing. At the large open-air lecture hall nearby, hundreds enjoy the non-stop program of devotional talks by learned devotees. Of course, the seashore is very near and there are always hundreds there as well enjoying the most famous beach in Tamil Nadu. Just fifty meters from the beach is Naazhi Kinnaru, the miraculous freshwater spring which Lord Murugan is said to have created with His Vel to quench the thirst of his warriors after the great battle. For young and old alike, Tiruchendur Kanda Sashti is an unforgettable occasion.
Festival climax: The Surasamharam Battle
The high point of Kanda Sashti, of course, is on the sixth day when the Surasamharam or 'Destruction of the Titan' takes place. At many Murugan temples this is ritually re-enacted, but nowhere is it re-enacted on such a scale as at Tiruchendur, where the actual battle is believed to have taken place in pre-history. On that day, half a million devotees descend upon Tiruchendur to witness the final shoot-out on the vast beachfront. Nowadays the event is also telecast on Indian radio and television for millions more to see.

On the sixth day of Kanda Sashti, Lord Senthil Andavar and his army of devotees engage the army of supertitan Cur in battle on the beach at Tiruchendur and vanquish them in an hour-long running battle. At last Cur hides in the form of a monstrous mango tree (below) at the bottom of the ocean, but Murugan hurls his Vel and splits the tree/demon into a cock and a peacock.

Needless to say, it is a challenging task to come anywhere near the battle site. Specially-erected barriers and hundreds of special duty police are there to hold back the massive and exited crowd. But if you are adventurous and light-footed it is possible to enter into the midst of the action, taking care not to get trampled in the process.
In brief, the Surasamharam goes like this. Around 3pm or so, a huge palanquin bearing the titan Gajamukha ('Elephant-faced') is carried by men of a local caste group down to the beach where he stands and dares Senthil Andavar to come out of His temple and fight. Some say that Gajamukha is "Surapadma's brother". But the most ancient Tamil traditions mention only the terrible and cruel Soor ('Terror' personified) who is described as a shape-shifter who can take any form and who cannot be killed. More recent traditions speak of Surapadma and his three 'brothers' who successively confront Murugan and are annihilated each in turn.
Not one to turn away from a fight, Lord Murugan emerges from His Kanda Sashti Mandapam borne on a smaller palanquin by Brahmin men devotees. In the form of a modest-sized brass likeness of the Lord with His Vel or spear held aloft ready to hurl, He is garlanded with lemons, an essential ingredient of South Indian ritual magic. The Lord and His Vel gleam brightly in the afternoon sunlight with the Bay of Bengal as a stark backdrop. He appears relaxed but ready for single-handed battle.

Above: Cur's forces fire live rockets at Senthil Andavar. Below: Tiruchendur Iyer families

The asura then runs around his divine Adversary borne by his loudly shouting troops, first clockwise, then counter-clockwise while Lord Senthil Andavar and His troops just remain at ease. Then the asura stands back and suddenly charges face-on but halts and draws back. He does this three times but the Lord is undisturbed. So the asura and his troops haul out and fire a missile (a real firecracker-sized rocket guided by a string between two poles held aloft). The missile heads straight towards the Lord, but something happens and the missile stops and turns back towards its senders, causing a roar of delight from the Lord's supporters. To film this properly, one has to get so close to the asura that sparks are flying at one's face and there is a real danger of getting trampled. The Lord and His troops then charge at the asura with lances drawn and with full battle cry. One young Iyer among them, who represents Lord Murugan, thrusts his spear at the asura and beheads it. The crowd instantly roars its approval.
Then the asura army withdraws some fifty meters and regroups. A new head (of Simha-mukha, the 'Lion-faced' titan) is mounted on the asura's body and again the same things happen. Four times the procedure is repeated; the fourth time Surapadma himself (or his head rather) is represented by a live cock. When Surapadma is vanquished, symbolically he split by the Lord's Vel into the cock and the peacock, the Lord's banner-symbol and vehicle-totem respectively. On the following day (the seventh) there is the Tiru Kalyanam or marriage of Senthil Andavar to Lord Indra's daughter Devasena or Teyvanai Amman as She is best known -- the crowning acknowledgement of the Lord's triumph. This occurs at Tirupparankundram near Madurai but the same marriage is also celebrated in grand style at Tiruchendur.


The Tiruchendur Devasthanam and sacred area date from hoary antiquity. Some stone columns and inscriptions date from a thousand years ago, though most of the present temple dates from later periods. Literary evidence, however, including notably the Tirumurukarrupadai, indicates that Tiruchendur has been regarded as exceptionally sacred at least since the early Christian era and probably far earlier.

According to tradition, after the final battle on the beach at Tiruchendur, Lord Murugan felt remorse for His role in slaughtering Surapadma's demonic army. He therefore built a shrine nearby to His Father Lord Siva and worshipped Him there. Technically, therefore, the temple is dedicated to Lord Siva. Yet the mulasthanam deity is Lord Senthil Andavar Himself standing in a majestic and relaxed pose facing east towards the sea, alone and without His consorts Valli and Devasena.


Tiruchendur in the far south of Tamil Nadu is renowned among Murugan devotees everywhere as one of the greatest of the Lord's Aru Padai Vidugal, literally 'Six Battle Camps'. Indeed, it is here that Murugan and his deva-sena or army of celestials confront and vanquish the titan Surapadma and his demonic horde. This momentous struggle is annually re-created at Tiruchendur on the sixth day of Skanda Sashti, the 'Six (days) of Skanda'.