Nallur Kandaswami:
The embodiment of loveliness

by Sivanandini Duraiswamy

Nallur Kandaswami Kovil, Jaffna
Nallur Kandaswami Kovil, Jaffna
Pulling the festival car at Nallur
Devotees prepare to pull the giant car during the Nallūr festival

The world rejoices and the many adore As the Sun of Glory riseth for the world's joy" are the opening lines of the celebrated Sangam work depicting Lord Murugan as the Supreme One riding across the luminous sky bringing joy to all. This is the beauteous picture that we see as we gather for the grand annual festival in Nallur. Lord Murugan called variously as Nallur Kandan, Kandambam, Shanmugan to mention a few, appears regally riding over the thousands and thousands of heads as He circumambulates the Temple giving darshan to all.

"Year succeeded year as I drank deep of the Temple festivities and took my fill of the sight of Kandan. How beautiful and full of peace they were/are and the world's ills seemed so far away and unreal."

The ancient Tamils saw Him as an embodiment of loveliness and beauty, ever young and fragrant. They had worshipped Him, for more than five or six millennia and this faith and devotion that they had for Him have been embedded in their collective consciousness.

The archaeological findings of the Indus Valley Civilization and the ancient remains unearthed at Adichanallur resounding endorse not only the pre-historic origin of the indigenous Murugan but also His primordial nature. He is represented in mythology, iconography and painting as a deity - youthful and benign portraying the Hindu ideals of grace, beauty and wisdom.

The Tamils were able to visualize His peaceful contenance as Skanda or Karttikeya and portray. His charm and grandeur as Saravanabhava into their works of art and beauty which may be the creative touches of the pen, chisel or brush.

These corpuses of the artists contain graphic references to Him in poems, sculptures or paintings. In these profiles, we see Him evolving from the hilly tracts of Kurunji lands, blossoming into a universal image of the entire Tamil race - Tamil kadavul.

It was Amma who said "Hurry! Let's go to Nallur, Surrender yourself to the magical environs of Murugan in Nallur and you will feel the peace and calm of sanctity." This young Hindu who had lived most of his life abroad was wondering what all this was about, but seemed mesmerized by his mother's words.

Both mother and son went to Nallur and he continues. "As we emerged from the side-lane Chetty Street in Nallur into the huge quadrangle in front of the Temple, I realized that nothing quite prepares one for this life time experience. The sheer magnitude of the crowds that early morning awaiting the Lord's arrival, instantly overwhelmed me with a sense of peace I had never experienced before. A quietude of the spirit descended on me.

There was a strange mystic aura as the thousands and thousands of devotees stood in prayer. The whole atmosphere was an inspired burst of creativity - both stunning and exuberant. I felt that after having lived abroad for so long understanding only a little of Hindiusm, this was going to be a new beginning for me. The Tamil saying "It is a blessing to see thousands of heads bowed in prayer," seemd so true.

"On the dot, the Lord arrived at the entrance resounding with the cascading mantras chanted by seveeral priests, the blowing of the conch shell and the music of Nadaswaram. Suddenly an outburst of "Arohara, Arohara" reverberated through the devotees as they saw the Lord in all His regalia.

Time seemed lost in an infinite timelessness! The atmosphere vibrated with spirituality. And at that moment my perception of life changed. The overwhelming feeling that I had, made all my cares and needs of earthly existence disppear.

"And the Lord moved as the chariot was drawn by hundred of devotees. It was then that I understood the important of my father's words earlier that morning. "Let me lend my shoulder even for a moment and feel that I too had helped to draw the chariot. This is important for me. "The chariot's vadam" the rope that is tied to it, is drawn by the devotees.

Nallur Kanda Swami Kovil festival

"The moment I see the sacred feet of the Lord of Nallur,
I slumber into forgetfulness knowing that He is my refuge."
- Yoga Swami

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Nallur Kandan's annual twenty five day festival is a grand cultural and spiritual fiesta, a festival of colour, creativity and joy mingled with deep piety. It is one of the most intricately choreographed and spiritually powerful rituals in our Tamil Hindu culture.

"Nallurān tiruvadiyai nān ninaiththa māthiraththil ellām marappenodi kiliya," the moment I see the sacred Feet of the Lord in Nallur, I slumber into forgetfulness knowing that He is my refugee."

sings Yogar Swamigal expressing in a telling way the very feelings that the devotees have as they see the Lord emerging over the sea of heads." These thoughts of that young pilgrim are indeed poignant. The Nallur experience was special and as the spirit of quietude descended on him he poured out his feelings.

Chequerred history

The town of Nallur in jaffna is a flourishing centre of Hinduism. It is tucked into the heart of the Tamil homelands. It was a capital that had seen the rise and fall of the Jaffna empire where places of political, religious and cultural importance were built. These include the old Sankiliyan palace, Navalar Adheenam, Chellappa Swami Samadhi and more importantly the Nallur Kanthan Temple.

Nallur is a montage where the annual festival co-exists with the ever changing times but remains an enthralling spectacle of the colourful Tamil-Hindus. The Temple lives on from the past alongside the present - a gentle continuity absorbing the spirituality of the devotees, the numerous mantras cascading from the Sanctum, the sound of the conch shells and the rhythm of the Nadaswaram music constantly recreating the magic moments of Nallur Kandan's darshan.

The Temple beckons us. "Come and see for yourself and discover your own Nallur Kandan. It is an experience and you are bound to fall in love with the Lord residing in Nallur as you get involved in His mystery and realize that He is in reality also within you. And as you discover Nallur, you would perhaps discover a new dimension of yourself."

Courtesy: The Sunday Observer (Colombo) of Sunday, 5 September 2010

See also:
"Nallur Kandaswami Kovil" by Prof. S. Pathmanathan
Vel Worship in Sri Lanka
Sacred sites of Lanka map