The Worship of God Murukan in the Hill Country of Sri Lanka
Murukak katavul valipātu, "the worship of God Murukan," is continuously one of the most significant religious characteristics among the various communities of Ilankai (Lanka/Ceylon/Sri Lanka) in general. In particular, the worship of God Murukan is crucial to a historical understanding of the problems of Tamils in Malaiyakam where they live in accordance with the colonial system of plantation economy. The total Tamil plantation population in accordance with the 1981 census was 818,656, and 78 per cent of them living in the estate sector. The presence of Tamils in Malaiyakam - this geographic mountainous region being the heart of the island-generates a new dynamic dimension in the religious, social, economic, and political affairs in the history of Sri Lanka.
In this paper an attempt will be made to highlight the act of worship of God Murukan, as it is found and continuously practised and developed as the Tamil heritage in the Hill country. The worship of Murukan occurs, on the one hand, in the historical context of the European colonial system of plantation economy, and, on the other hand, in the context of traditional Theravāda Buddhism, as well as Caiva Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, and, not least, there is an association to the Vedas in the myth of Murukan and Valli in Sri Lanka.
This investigation, from the historical and comparative perspective of the study of religious, explores four approaches in which the present thesis with special reference to Murukak katavul valipātu, "the worship of God Murukan" in Malaiyakam will be articulated and argumented. First of all, this study deals with the history of Ilankai Malaiyakam Tamils as a historical background, then secondly it explores the origin and development of the heritage of Murukan worship. While, thirdly it discusses the Murukan worship such as it represents the Tiruvilā, "festival" of Murukan; and finally it examines the on going transformation of religions. Before proceeding to the following sequence of the four approaches, we shall, as background, briefly discuss certain important terms.
1.2 Terminological remarks
The transliteration of Tamil words follows the system used in accordance with the Tamil Lexicon, Madras University, and the A Dravidian Etymological Dictionary (DED)1. The name "Ilankai" is a Tamilization of "Lankā". "Ceylon" was used since the Portuguese period, then, constitutionally the island was named "Śrī Lankā" since 1972.2 In addition to these names, the pre-colonial Tamil term "Ilam" is also often used for the island Lanka3.
Some of the terms such as "Indian Tamils," "Hill Country Tamils," and "Malaiyakam Tamils," are concurrently used to identify the population of the plantations in the hilly mountainous regions, as being confined to the Uva, Sabaragamuwa, and Central Province, of Ilankai. The term "Indian Tamils" is used with some hesitation4. There is now an attempt to change the use of the term "Indian Tamils," which was historically connected with the status of the population of plantations with the prefix "Indian" as an identity, to denote the labour force from India during the colonial setting. Instead there is a growing demand among the people for the use of the term "Malaiyakam Tamils".
The new dynamic trend, with the granting of Sri Lanka citizenship, to identify the politically articulated section of the plantation population as "Malaiyakam Tamils" which has its specific social-religious-economic-political significance5. Moreover, the term "Malaiyakam Tamils" is often used to identify them as a political force within the frame work of electoral politics of the island. The Malaiyakam Tamils denote the population in and around tea, rubber, and coconut plantation estates as Tamil labourers, kankāni (kankāni)6, administrators, teachers, and traders in towns and cities. It also refers to those who moved from Malaiyakam not only to the agricultural regions of the North-East, namely Kilinocci, Vavuniyā7, but also to the Colombo district, for other occupational purposes. While this change eliminates the "Indian" and colonial links, it causes a transformation into a distinct Malaiyakam Tamil ethnic identity which distinguishes them from their neighbouring Tamil ethnic communities in Ilankai, namely Yālppānam (Jaffna), Mattakkalappu (Batticaloa), Tirukkōnamalai (Trincomalee), and Kolumpu (Colombo) Tamils8.
The term Muruku means9 "youth", "beauty", "fragrance", and "festivity". Murukan is, among devotees, known by 27 related names10. katavul means "God". One who is both transcendent and immanent11. The words valipātu, "worship", and vanankutal, "adoration" are used in the context of worship. It is important to make a clear distinction between valipātu, "worship", and vanankutal, "adoration"12. While valipātu is used in terms of worship in the context of pūcai, "worship" of the temple services, vanakkam is used in the sense of "adoration", for instance, vantanam in the Buddhist context, or tolutal in the Christian and Islamic contexts. Other terms such as anup, "love", arul, "grace" aram, "virtue", tunpam, "suffering", and vitutalai/vitpēru, "liberation" or salvation, become important in this study.
2. A Historical Background
The History of Ilankai Malaiyakam Tamils
This section will be used as precondition for the understanding of the historical background of the Malaiyakam people. I present a brief view of the historical contexts of the arrival and survival of the Tamils as labour force in Malaiyakam for the purpose of understanding the worship of Murukan as their religious power in the proper historical setting of the island.
The history of Malaiyakam consists of two important mutually related aspects which are (1) plantation agriculture, and (2) the emigration from the Tamil country to Ceylon. The commencement of the history of plantation agriculture and economy and the history of the emigration from the Tamil country as labour force in the coffee, tea, and rubber plantation estates is an important aspect of Malaiyakam during the colonial and past-colonial periods in the history of the island. Most of Ceylon was under foreign rulers from 1505-1947: under the Portuguese 1505-1658, under the Dutch 1658-1796, and then under the British rulers 1796-1947. Although there are indications of arrival of labourers in Ceylon prior to the 19th century, the large scale arrival of Malaiyakam Tamils began in the late part of the 19th and the early part of the 20th centuries.
With reference to the contexts of the last 100 years of the colonial and post-colonial period of the history Malaiyakam of the island, Kumari Jayawardena characterises the history of Malaiyakam in terms of "the history of the plantation" with two contrasing views, on the one hand, an atmosphere of conditional tolerance, and, on the other hand, "a grim record"13.
Regarding the first phase of the history of the plantation workers as labour force, Kumari Jayawardena sums up the issues with their negative implication: "In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the estate Tamils were no targets to ethnic violence; nor was there agitation for their repatriation. As long as they remained a captive labour force, isolated geographically in the hills with no trade union or other type of organisation, possessing neither economic nor political rights, and posing no threat or competition in terms of employment, they could be tolerated, [in spite] of their numbers"14.
On the contrary, with regard to the second phase of the history of Malaiyakam, the following factors provide evidence for her claim that the history of the plantation sector, indeed, constituted "a grim record" of Malaiyakam: "the denial of economic and social justice and basic democratic rights to the largest section of the island's working-class, namely the workers of Indian origin, whose labour on tea and rubber planations provided the country with its main exports and largest foreign exchange earnings."
Subsequently, Kumari Jayawardena points out how the Malaiyakam population confronted different attacks through various means: "by stripping the workers of their voting rights in stages—thereby depriving them of representation at local government and parliamentary level; by creating a mass of stateless persons and eventually subjecting a large section of them to what amounted to forced repatriation to India; by refusing them many of the wage, education, health and social benefits available to other sections of the population; by exposing them to the ordeal of famine condition in the mid-1970s, and finally by subjecting many of them to death, rape, loot and arson during periods of ethnic violence in , 1977, 1981 and in July 1983"15.
Kumari Jayawadarena's analysis of the history of the plantation suggest a general background of the historical context of Malaiyakam. In the midst of this critical context, the survival of the plantation population is important in this study because of its continuity and change with reference to its religious affairs in particular, and its socio-economic-political affairs in general.
2.1. Periodization of the History of Malaiyakam
The following presentation of issues with the chronological periodization will help us to come closer to the problems of Tamils in Malaiyakam. I divide the history of Malaiyakam from the perspective of plantation industry and emigration into three periods: (1) 1800-1900; (2) 1900-1948; and (3) since 1948. This periodization of the history of Malaiyakam is important because the first period precedes the introduction of the coffee plantation stage, the plantation of coffee and its collapse, then it indicates the advent of the tea plantation, with the increase of immigrants as labour force. While the second deals with how the plantation labour force issues became a political problem in the colonical period of pre-independence, and finally the third refers to the process of finding a political solution to the stateless problem and its consequences during the post-colonial period of Independence.
2.2. The plantation agriculture and the labour force
The first period from 1800 to 1900 represents, firstly, the movements of the labour force prior to the coffee plantation. The data16 regarding the movements of labourers from India to Ceylon the following: the Portuguese recruited workers as cinnamon peelers; governor North in 1804 organised labourers from India; governor Browning arranged 5000 Indians to solve the shortage of labour force in Ceylon; and since there was not sufficient local labour to build roads and bridges, 180 labourers were recruited from South India in 1828.
Secondly, the period from 1830 to 1900 represents a seasonal and voluntary movement of emigration from South India consisting mostly of men who, on their own initiative, arrived in Ceylon in search of employment, since Ceylon, as a British colony, recommended economic changes to promote plantation agriculture in the island. The growth of coffee cultivation dominated the island's economic development from 1830 to the 1970's. However, its production was in the process of collapse due to a leaf disease during the 1870's, when the number of workers decreased from 67% in 1880 to 27% in 1891. Its labour demand was seasonal and temporary. Nevertheless, the introduction of tea as the chief plantation product in the 1880's was an economically profitable experiment. Thus the advent of tea plantations between 1891 and 1901 denotes a 68% increase of labourers due to the demand for a regular permanent labour force in the tea estates17.
2.3. The political problem
The second period from 1900-1948 deals with how the plantation labour force issues became a political problem in the colonial period of pre-independence. In this period one important feature of the history of emigration to Ilankai was the family structure of settlement as permanent residence (which confronts political issues). The difference from the previous stage of seasonal and temporary emigration was the family structure. The table illustrates the statistics of the estate population in 1928, with family structure, by specifying, 244, 603 as the figure for the number of male, 236, 304 for female, and 258,409 for children. Hence the total number was 839,316 in 192818.
The emigrants to Ceylon arrived, not from any one particular district, but from different areas of South India including the Tamil country and Kerala. The 1931 Indian Census Report, shows the district-wise contribution to emigration to Ceylon. Percentage wise, Trichinopoly 35%, Salem 18%, Tanjore 10%, Maturai 8%, and other districts 37% contributed to the estate labour while Tirnevelly 40%, Ramnad 15%, Tanjore 8%, Malabar 8%, and other districts 28% contributed to the non-estate labour19.
It is important to note that their religious and social cultural link with Tamilakam was not cut off in the changing conditions, but the transaction and relationship between Ceylon and South India were normal so the immigrants social and religious contacts with their families and relatives could be sustained by travelling to and fro. The data20 shows, that in 1923 the number of arrivals was 89,859, and departures 51, 762, thus, the number of excess arrivals amounted to +38,097. Jayaraman points out that the immigrants in Ceylon took up every conceivable employment. It shows the attitude of change in taking up different occupation rather than maintaining the static traditional caste hierarchical jobs21.
Reasonably the total number of Indian immigrants in the labour force on the plantations had thus slowly increased from the 1820's to the 1930's. The estate population shows a dynamic change: 10,000 in 1827; 50,000 in 1847; 146,000 in 1877; 531,000 (12.9%) in 1911; 602,700 (13.4%9 in 1921; and 818,500 (15.8%) in 1931. The census years 1881,1891 and 1901 did not make a distinction between Indian and Ceylon Tamils22. But their presence on the island from different districts of the Tamil country, (not without any indigenous religious-social-cultural background) has impacted the milieu of Malaiyakam. However, the issue of Indian origin and the legal rights of these people was not any controversial problem in the early period23. But in the 1930's conditions changed, and since then it has gradually become a political problem.
During the first general election in 1931, a political campaign was initiated in the plantation states. Two representatives of the Malaiyakam Tamils, S.P. Vytilingam from Talawakella, and Peri Sunderam from Hatton, were elected. In the 1936 election the two members were S.P.Vytilingam (Talawakella) and the trade union leader K.Natesa Aiyar (Hatton). K.Natesa Aiyar formed the first plantation trade union in 1931. The Ceylon Indian Congress, CIC, was inaugurated24 in 1939 and organized strikes in the plantation sectors in Malaiyakam25. The preparation for the 1941 election was postponed due to the second World War. While the electorate in Malaiyakam had been 145,000 in 1936, it had risen to 225,000 in 1941.
During the colonial period, the British had attempted to keep communal and religious conflicts under control after the anti-Muslim acts of violence in 1915. In spite of their attempt, in the 1930's, ethnic tension against minorities gradually increased. By the time of Independence in 1948, the majority were prepared to raise politically the problematic issues based on ethnicity, language and religion. Consequently, after independence "the first attack" was on "the political rights of persons of Indian origin resident [in Ceylon]."26
2.4 Attempt to solve the problem since 1948
The third period since 1948 refers to the process of finding a political solution to the stateless problem and its consequences during the post-colonial period of Independence. Donald E. Smith states that Independent Ceylon in 1948 give "no indication of the linguistic and religious conflicts and social revolution which were to overtake within a decade. Outwardly, all was calm"27. In the immediate aftermath of Independence in 1948, solving the problem of the Malaiyakam Tamils in terms of citizenship status and rights of the people who resided mainly on the plantations has been a political problem. The citizenship was not granted to them by the Citizenship Act of 1948, which constituted the national identity of the people of Ceylon. Thus the government of D.S. Senanayake enacted legislation in 1948 and 1949 to disfranchise the majority of the plantation Tamil workers who had earlier exercised the right of franchise in the general elections of 1931, 1936, and 1947 in the island. Furthermore, in accordance with the Indian and Pakistani citizenship Act of 1949, they faced, one the one hand, the restriction to persons seeking citizenship to provide the proof of birth for two or three generations in this country. On the other hand, the limitation of voting rights only to those who are citizens of this country was articulated by the Parliamentary Elections Act of 1949. As a result, they lost not only their civil rights which they had exercised since 1931, but also they faced further restrictions that confronted them with the problems of statelessness in Ceylon, since 1948.
Regarding the problem of statelessness, Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India refused to deal with the ideology of repatriation, however, during the post-Nehru period in 1964 and in 1974, two Indo-Ceylon agreements were made to find a political solution28.
First of all, on the 30th of October, 1964, Sirimavo R.D. Bandaranaike and Lal Bahadur Sastri (Prime Ministers of Ceylon and India) reached an agreement regarding 975,000 stateless persons. While Ceylon granted citizenship to 300,000 persons, India accepted repatriation to India of 525,000 persons. Secondly, the governments of Ceylon and India agreed to divide the remaining 150,00 persons equally between them under the Indo-Sri Lanka pact of 27th January, 1974.
Critics point out, on the one hand, how the democratic country of Ceylon could create the problem of statelessness29, and, on the other hand, how both Ceylon and India-India being numerably the largest democratic country in the world, could find a mathematical solution in terms of dividing numbers (like cattle) to the problems of people by means of two Indo-Ceylon agreements neither ascertaining the wishes and freewill of the stateless people in terms of a clear and explicit mandate from them, nor consulting the labour-trade unions which represented them. The agreements, on the contrary, created new and greater problems to the Malaiyakam people, and thus they confronted a number of unexpected consequences in the process of the implementation of the agreements30.
After 15 years of the agreement, the ten leaders of different labour unions-with regard to the implementation of the Indo-Ceylon agreements prepared a "Memorandum31 on Stateless people in Sri Lanka" on the 8th of April, 1980, and addressed to His Excellency J.R. Jayewardene, Presdident. They presented the memorandum on the basis of the following argumentation.
Firstly, the ten leaders, by referring to the people of Indian origin, argue "it must be recalled that when Dominion status was conferred on Ceylon on 4th February, 1948, all the people, including the people of Indian Origin who were resident in the Island, were British subjects."32
In Opposition to this status of people, secondly, the ten leaders stress that the government passed "the Citizenship Act No. 18 of 1948 which, while conferring Ceylon Citizenship by descent on other nationalities such as the Sinhalese, Ceylon Tamils, Muslims, Burghers and Malays, denied Sri Lanka citizenship to the people of Indian Origin. Consequently a million people were rendered stateless."
Thirdly, they argue against the Government Act from the perspective of the Human Rights Declaration of the United Nations Article 15 of the Human Rights Charter which states: (1) "Everyone has the right to a nationality"; (2) "No one shall be arbitararily deprived of his nationality". It is clear evidence that the Government Act No. 3 of 1948 was inconsistent to the norm of Article 15 of the UN. Therefore, the ten leaders insist that "the legislative enactments discriminating against a national minority - the Ceylon Indians were, in fact, a flagrant violation of the United Nations "Universal Declaration of Human Rights."33
In addition, the implementation period of 15 years for the Indo-Ceylon agreements terminated in the end of October, 1979, so the ten leaders finally emphasize that the state of affairs of the population of Malaiyakam is "a blot on democracy in Sri Lanka and undermines communal harmony and stands as an impediment to the economic development of the country"34.
We have illustrated some important problematic features of the history of the Malaiyakam Tamils during the three specific periods in the context of the plantation economy with its labour force. Against the historical background, one would suggest that religion did not play a very important role in the society. On the contrary, what is most interesting to be observed is how even the Ceylon Workers Congress, CWC, with Mr. Tontamān (Thondaman), as President, this being biggest trade union in the plantation sector, attempted to use the religious power, such as, a prayer campaign in 198735 for the purpose of obtaining divine guidance to solve the problem of statelessness at a time when the political force democratically and constitutionally had failed to find a reasonable solution to the problem of the Tamils since 1948. In the midst of the controversial features of Maliaykam Tamils, we shall explore how in Malaiyakam the awareness of a sacred/divine sphere is always expressed in terms of Murukan worship with its distinctive characteristics of religious power.
3. Origin and development of the heritage of Murukan worship
This section attempts to characterize the heritage of Murukan worship among the Tamils in Malaiyakam of Ilankai. It shows both a continuity and a change in relation to Tamilakam (the Tamil country/Tamilnātu in India). We have shown how the Malaiyakam Tamils, with their social-cultural-religious background, arrived in Ilankai as a labour force from different parts of the Tamil country in India. In the midst of encountering diverse crises in the new social, cultural, economic, and political conditions of the Hill country, the Tamils gradually established and developed an institution of murukak katavul valipātu, "the worship of God Murukan," as their religious power to express their experience of sacred awareness in the changing context of Ilankai where the traditional Theravāda Buddhism among the Sinhalese constitutes the dominant religion.
3.1 The continuity of their religious power in the context of change
Although the Tamils have been exposed to permanent pressures by political means and by communal violence, they have always been strong enough to resist and react. In spite of the pressures, they have, in terms of ideology, that is, the reciprocal anpu-arul-aram devotional relationship with Murukak katavul in Malaiyakam, maintained the continuity of their religious worship in the changing historical context.
The term anpu in the devotional affairs is used to express a reciprocal relation between man and deity in comparison with the patti (bhakti) trend. While arul, "grace" refers to a divine favour or gift, aram, "virtue", indicates how Murukan maintains aram by controlling Cūr, "the evil power", mythically. The present author's assumption and observation is that people take vows, in the context of the awareness of the sacred, for various purposes and problems. The important point is that when a person/a devotee takes a vow privately, this act involves not only authentic anpu but also aram in terms of a spontaneous/implicit private-personal moral commitment which is expressed when the devotee happily fulfills his vow in public worship with thanks giving offerings. In some cases one spontaneously undertakes a pilgrimage to fulfill his vows. Further from aram is coined as araneri, "way of virture", which refers to "religion" in the wider context.
We have witnessed how various religious activities are consistently being carried out first as regular private domestic worship, then as public temple worship. Some of these activities are performed daily, and others are executed monthly or annually, namely pūcai, "worship", tiruvilā "festival", and tērōttam, "chariot procession". The devotional acts occur on different occasions and in various sacred places, namely in the homes, at kōvils, under the trees, in the fields, hills, valleys, villages, towns, cities, at the murcanti, "three ways crossing", or narcanti, "four ways crossing" of highways and byways of Malaiyakam and other provinces of Ilankai. These sacred acts are also performed when, they undertake pilgrimages to the holy shrines of Murukan, for instance, Katirkāmam, where Murukan Tiruvilā as an annual festival is celebrated on the national-international level, and people from different communities of the island, even from India as well or from other countries participate. Thus they show their authentic devotional anpu relation and reveal aram as their spontaneous moral commitment in fulfilling their vows with thanks giving offerings while they receive arul, "grace" as a divine gift/favour from Murukan. We shall show the significance of a shrine at home and then the gradual development of Murukan worship in the temples.
3.2 The first dimension of the Murukan worship in a shrine at home
We have shown how immigration increased in the context of the family structure, so the structure of the family atmosphere occupies a central position in Malaiyakam. Information we have collected in Malaiyakam36 tells us of the importance of performing domestic worship as daily private worship in a shrine at home continues. For instance, a Murukan devotee emphasizes the importance of his experience of sacred awareness in terms of daily seeing the (divine) sight:
daily at home with love having seen him (his divine sight).
This text suggests the importance of araneri "the way of virtue" or "religion". with its major features38. Daily domestic devotion with the elements of anpu, "love" and arul, "grace" is the way of aram, "virtue" or religion. It also mentions the signifcance of eradicating, tunpam, "suffering" either caused by sickness, or other social-economic-political conditions, or Cūr, "evil power"39, or other means, since it indicates, for instance, acquiring the practical necessities, namely health, welfare, wealth, and knowledge. Finally it points out the religious goal: avarutan inrum enrum vālvatu namatu araneri.
Many homes, when possible, set aside a little space or hang a picture of a deity on the wall to express their daily devotion to Murukan or other deities. The space is regarded as punita itam, "sacred place" or cāmi arai, "divine room" as a shrine at home where small images or pictures of the deities with a religious guru, teacher, or diseased family members are enshrined. There are always vipūti, "sacred ash", cantanam, "sandal paste", karpūram, "champhor", patti, "incense sticks", oil lamps, flowers etc. as sacred elements for pūcai placed in front of the picture/image of the deities. At certain places only vipūti and an oil lamp are kept. Some individuals regularly light the oil lamp and the patti and stand silently in devotion, then take vipūti and put on their tongues as well as set on their forehead as tilakam if he/she wishes. Others just look at the picture of Murukan or other deities as their choice and think of their nalan-palan "health" and "welfare". There is no rigid regulation in this tradition. Each person carries out spontaneous devotional pūcai according to his/her convenience, whether it be in the morning or evening or three times a day.
All members of the family participate in the domestic pūcai either daily or on Friday or on special occassions, festival ponkal, life cycles, and tirumanam, "wedding". Either father or mother or elder brother acts as a priest. He/She performs domestic worship and distributes vipūti as pracātam, "divine favour/gift". This trend of the devotional Murukan worship at the domestic setting in Malaiyakam continues among the Tamils from the early period. There is not much variation in this heritage from generation to generation. My observations show how the third/fourth generation in the family continues this forms of private worship at home.
3.3 The second dimension of the Murukan worship in the Katirvēlāyuta Cuvāmi Kōvil, "Lord of the Radiant (Vēl) Lance Weapon"
We have explored how Murukan
worship is carried out as private worship in the home atmosphere. In this
section, we attempt to show some of the features of public Murukan worship
which occurs at a particular local or regional kōvil,
"temple" milieu. We have chosen the Unukalai Group of tea plantation
estates to deal with tiruvilā of Murukan in a particular temple Malaiyakam,
because the data I collected presents to us historical information of the
gradual development of Murukan worship since the early period of the 20th
century in the Uva Province. One person expresses how they experience the
presence of Murukan in the sorroundings of Malaiyakam:
In this passage the word, kātu, "jungle/forest" refers to the earlier stage of the hill country in the island, that is, before the introduction of the plantation agriculture, and then the kātu is converted into tōttam, "plantation estate". The word, kunru, refers to the "hill country, now known as "Malaiyakam" where there are many kōvilkal, "temples". Kātu also refers to Katirkamam as the sacred place of Murukan in the jungle.
The pantāram41 (non-Brahman priest) community, and the cettiyār42 (merchant) community, were/are sponsors, promotors, or owners or managers of Murukan temples in many places. Kankānikal (Kankāni), those who recruited immigrants from South India to Ceylon as labour force during the colonial period, have also promoted Murukan worship with the financial contribution and the cooperation of the plantation labourers. In many cases of temples in plantation estates of Malaiyakam pantāram and kankāni were coordinated in promoting the worship of Murukan.43
Before the construction of the Unukalai Katirvēlāyuta Cuvāmi Kōvil, "Lord of the Radiant (Vēl) Lance Weapon" in the early stage, the Tamils were in the process of movement as labour force with religious beliefs-practices, and socio-cultural background from different parts of the Tamil country. However, they expressed the awareness of the sacred by an engraved icon of Vēl in the stone as a symbolic representation of Murukan and performed pūcai, "worship". Finally the icon was moved from there and planted behind the temple of the present location.
The Unukalai Group is located on a hill about three miles from Hali-Ela, a town in the Uva Province. It consists of four tea plantation estates namely Unukalai Estate, Ankurumalai Estate, Amirthavalli Estate, and Morakalai Estate. The annual tiruvilā of Murukan takes place 5-15 days at the Unukalai Katirvēlāyuta Cuvāmi Kōvil, as the holy centre of the Tamil communities of four estates. During the tiruvilā season particularly tērōttam links four estates and also Hali-Ela (town) with its multi-ethnic Tamil, Muslim and Sinhalese communities since the 1920's.
The Unukalai katirvēlāyuta Cuvāmi Kōvil is located in the region of the hills. It was built in 1918-1923 by the workers cooperation under the leadership of Murukan devotees Irāmacāmi Mūppan A#ntiyappan kankāni (1880?-January 1, 1951), and Cāmi Cuppaiyā Cellaiyā pantaram, a non-Brahman priest (?-1980) who were promoters of this tradition. At the earlier stage, the use of the engraved stone icon of Vēl indicates a distinct gradual development of worship of Murukan in Malaiyakam since the early part of the 20th century. But now the symbolic permanent stone image Tantāyutapāni, "one who holds a staff as weapon or power", is installed in the sanctum of the temple as Mūlamūrtti. It shows the influence of the holy pilgrim shrine of Murukan in Palani in the Tamil country, South India. Iconographically it refers to Murukan as a youthful ascetic with shaven head, who wears only a loincloth and holds a staff used as a weapon, or as a symbol of power/authority.
On the contrary, what is represented during the tērttiruvilā, "the chariot festival", is the temporary symbolic image of Murukan with his consorts. In other words, Murukan is flanked on either side by the images of Valli and Teyvānai. This representation is placed on a swing in the front room before the inner sanctum. In the temple premises there are places dedicated to other deities. Besides, there are also many other buildings for various purposes with regard to temple services. An architectural design of the kōvil kōpuram, "tower" with the continuation or an attachment to the inner sanctum has been the object of people's admiration since 1918-1923. Pantāram and kankāni attempted rigidly to maintain the sacred atmosphere within the kōvil precinct. They carried out the annual Murukan tiruvilā and tērōttam continuously with the cooperation of the plantation workers.
However, after their death, there has been a change of attitude and diverse opinions have been prevailing among the administrators/managers of the temple party politics and caste conflicts have been taking the upper hand in the issues of the temple's. A few temples of Malaiyakam are facing internal administrative and ownership disputes. Unfortunately the Unukalai Katirvēlāyuta Cuvāmi Kōvil is one of these appearing on the controversial list. Consequently temple issues of Malaiyakam gradually become a religio-political problem. In spite of confronting various conflicts, several attempts are made towards the process of solving the problem for the purpose of continuing the regular daily worship and the annual tiruvilā.
4. The third dimension of the murukan worship represents the tiruvila#, "festival" of Murukan
Malaiyakam represents the performance of tiruvilā, "festival" of Murukan worship as the combination of non-agamic and an-iconic as well as the agamic and iconic forms of worship. In the contradicting iconography of Murukan,44 we find conflicting symbolic representations of Murukan as kulavi, "child", Kumaran, lover of Valli, guardian-god-king, renouncer-celibate ascetic. The word muruku means "youth", "beauty", "fragrance", "festival", and katavul means "God". One who is both transcendent and immanent. However, the icon of Vēl, being the major common symbol of Murukan worship in Malaiyakam, leads to transcend the barriers among people towards the creation of a peaceful festival atmosphere, even during periods of conflict and war.
During the festival season, the importance of Vēl is expressed through the prise of Vēl, the leaf-shaped lance of Murukan: vēl, vēl, vati vēl, vira vēl, verri vēl, "Lance, lance, beautiful lance-sharpened lance, lance of valour, and lance of victory". On the one hand, the symbolic iconic representation of Murukan inspires one to song cilaiyilē cirikkum cuntaran, "the Beautify one who smiles on the icon",45 and on the other, the Tamil literature communicates "the Smile of Murukan"46.
4.1. Tērōttam, "the chariot procession" of Murukan
The popular dramatic worship of Murukan is the yearly Murukan tiruvilā festival on the regional level during the month of July. Tiruvilā celebration takes place in different plantation estates of Malaiyakam. During this festival, specially tērōttam, "the chariot procession" of Murukan is taken for a tour of the territory where he guards/controls evils and maintains aram. The features are similar/related to how a king with his glory takes a tour to visit his subjects and his kingdom. Thus Murukan as Vēntan, "the king", kō, kōn, "king" and tēvarācan, "godking" or "kinggod"47 from the kōvil/kōyil visits his devotees both to show his anpu, "love" and grants his arul, "grace" to the inhabitants by maintaing his aram, "virtue" in the regions. They praise him throughout the procession accompanied by musicians who play mēlam (drums) and nātasuvaram, music instrument like clarinet: vēl, vēl, vati vēl, vira vēl, verri vēl, "Lance, lance, beautiful lance-sharpened lance, lance of valour, and lance of victory".
The tērōttam begins at the Unukalai Katirvēlāyuta Cuvāmi Kōvil which is the center of religious-social-political activities in the estate. The programme of the tiruvilā is organized for 5-15 days. The first day is the flag raising ceremony and Muurkan is known as Cēvalankotyōn, 48 the last day is the karakam nirāttam, "the festival of water and karakam". Three days are allotted for the chariot procession and one day for the annatānam, "the gift of food".
Tērōttam, the "chariot procession", begins at the Murukan temple. During the chariot procession, Murukan is represented by the temporary symbolic image of Murukan with his consorts, that is, he is flanked on either side by the images of Valli and Teyuvānai. The chariot arrives at the Hali-Ela railway station where it waits at least one hour for the devotees who come with the offerings to Murukan and to get his vibūti, "sacred ash" as a divine favour/gift. People from the surroundings assemble at the Station. It is a multi-ethnic group, some Tamils and Muslims and the majority consisting of Sinhalese participating in the Murukan worship. The procession slowly continues to Hali-Ela. Before entering the town, there is Hali-Ela Pillaiyār Kōvil where the Tamil community from the Rokkettanai estate also join in this place with offerings and get his divine favour.
The streets are filled with worshippers of different communites. Most of them carry offerings of different kinds. Coconuts have been piled by the side of the street to be broken as offerings. As the chariot slowly moves along the street and stops in front of each shop, they come forward with trays of traditional offerings and get his grace. One person from each family carries the offering. Each tray of offering consists of flowers, garlands, of flowers, fruits-bananas, coconuts, betel leaves, kunkuman, "red saffron power", cantanam, "sandal paste", karpūram, "champhor", patti, "incense sticks", (sometimes) a cotton or silk red scarf etc., which are well arranged in a tray. Each tray of offering is passed to the priest Pantāram/Pūcakar, he places it in front of God Murukan and performs pūcai.
In the context of a discussion, with this researcher, Cāmi Celliayā, Pantāram, (non-Brahman priest) expressed the following silent prayer to Murukak katavul as his personal devotional experience of how he appealed to the deity, while performing his daily pūcai in Murukan temples in different places of Uva Province. Systematically he presented various social-economic-political affairs of the people to Murukan. Finally he emphasized not only the importance of eradicating tunpam, "suffering" in order to liberate them, but also the significance of their attaining vitu, salvation by his arul, "grace" as the goal of Murukan worship:
Then he places some vibūti and flowers as pracātam, "divine grace, gift, favour", on the tray which is returned to the devotee. With joy and happiness they share the pracātam, the blessings of Murukan, among the family members, friends, and neighbours. It is a common trend.
Finally the chariot arrives at the murcanti "crossroads of three ways" as a meeting point where the chariot stops for more than one hour. At this murcanti, where three roads and the Nuwara Eliya road join, while the third, the Badulla road, links with them by a bridge. One person expressed his view that Murukan tiruvilā builds a bridge among various communites in the region to transcend barriers. Likewise two rivers, of which, one flows down along the Pantāravalai road and the other along the Nuwara Eliya road and thus both join at Hali-Ela with the third river which then continues its course.
With this natural hilly
mountainous geographical setting of Malaiyakam, one person who witnessed the
Murukan tiruvilā for many years in his life made this very
important comment on the arul, "grace" of Murukan:
The Murukan tiruvilā makes it possible for the multi-ethnic Tamil-Muslim-Sinhalese communities (of Hali-Ela), as trade center, sorrounded by the Tamil population of the tea plantation estates on the hills as well as several agricultural villages of Sinhalese to meet-to mingle with the devotees and to participate in the worship of Murukan on this sacred occasion of tērttiruvilā.
At this murcanti, "three ways crossing" as a meeting point, all of the mentioned groups witness the climax of the tērtiruvilā of Murukan. Several devotional activities are accompanied by kāvatiyāttam, which is a decorated pole of wood with an arch over it, carried on the shoulders with offerings and dance, particularly in the Murukan valipātu.51 Participating in the worship they take up vows, and fulfill vows, with thanks offering. Karaka āttam is a decorated water-pot is carried on the heads, and the participants dance in procession in fulfilment of a vow52. In addition, performance of the coconut breaking offerings, also offerings of fruits, and flowers, are common.
These devotional acts occur along the street as the chariot procession proceeds throughout the night, in various places in front of homes, under the bo-tree-the Buddhist center, at the Amirtavalli petrol station, at the Amirtavalli Christian Cross, and at the Pokāmatatta Pillaiyār Kōvil. Finally the chariot procession of Murukan ends at dawn on the second mile from Hali-Ela and then slowly turns back towards the Unukalai Katirvēlāyuta Cuvāmi Kōvil. When it arrives, the annatānam, "the gift of food" pūcai begins at noon and food is served freely to all the devotees.
4.2. Tiruvilā of Murukan at Katirkāmam
Many participate in the tiruvilā of Murukan at Katirikāmam on the national-international level. Malaiyakam Tamils encountered the myth of Murukan and Valli,53 common to the peoples of Ilankai and the Tamil country in India. Murukan is predominant in the historical milieu of the Tamil tradition, in contrast to Kumāra-Skanda in the Vedic, epic, purānic mythic atmosphere. Murukan is different from Skanda, particularly in his loving union with Valli. Attempting to apply a comparative perspective, Zvelebil observes that Murukan is "the god of love; not a chaste and fierce bachelor, but the lover of Valli..."54. In other words, Kumāra-Skanda remains a bachelor, while Murukan loves and marries Valli in the spontaneous reciprocal anpu tradition, both in Ilankai and in the Tamil country. The prevailing mythic theme of reciprocity in the love relationship (between Murukan and Valli) reflects a situation anteceding colonialism, probably even Buddhism, in the island.
Already in this distant period, Katirkāmam was constituted as Murukan's sacred festival in the kātu, "jungle", where almost all the communities of Ilankai, and even some devotees visiting from India, met. Thus even in pre-colonial periods all communities apparently participated. The participating groups were, and still are today, made up of Hindu Tamils, Buddhists, (Christians, Muslims) and Vātas55- all taking part in the tiruvilā of Murukan. Moreover, they carry out pilgrimages to worship Murukan at Katirkāmam for a variety of purposes, not without problems, however, Katirkāmam is now visited by people throughout the year.56 The performance of tēnkāy utaittal, "the cocount breaking" ceremony at the foot of the icon Vēl, muti kotuttal, "hair-giving offering" at the riverside, and carrying offerings of fruits, flowers, and garlands of flowers to the main Murukan kōvil are common. The participants devotionally carry out the kāvati āttam 57 and the karaka āttam58 as mentioned above as well as timitittal, "firewalking" in fulfilment of a vow on this occasion. They there take up nērttikkatan, "vows", for various purposes, and happily nērttikkatan nivartticeytal, "fulfill vows", with nanri kānikkai, "thanks [giving] offering" occur.
They return home from their pilgrimage, after worshipping Murukan, tiruvilā, for example, at Katirkāmam in Ilankai and Palani in Tamilakam, some with cantanam pūci, "sandal paste applied", on their shaved heads, after the hair offering, while other have applied vipūti, "sacred ash", and pottu, "tilakam", worn on their foreheads. They distribute the piracātam, "divine grace gift", which they have received from Murukan after the offerings have been made to him, in the form of boiled rice, fruits, coconuts, vipūri, cantanam , kunkumam to the relatives, neighbours and friends without any regard to social barriers of caste, ethnicity, language, religion, politics or economic status. It is evident that Murukak katavul valipātu leads them to peace and freedom by transcending the elements of conflict and hatred in the island. In the midst of several problems and sufferings, due to the social, political, and economic conditions in Malaiyakam, they not only express their joy and happiness through these religious acts of valipātu, tiruvilā and tērttirunāl of Murukan. They also smile with/through "the Smile or Murukan.
4.3. The worship of Murukan without any iconographic representation
One of the historical examples is Katirkāmam59 in Ilankai, where one can witness the continuity of the worship of God Murukan in the absence of any icon or iconographical image of him, in the midst of later changes. In 1982 Dr. Davy described a visit to Katirkāmam, which "attracts pilgrims not only from every part of Ceylon, but even from remote parts of the continent of India... Of all the gods, the Kataragama God is the most feared... I was never able to induce a native artist to draw a figure of it.60"
After the beginning of this century, Sir Ponnampalam Arunacalam writes in 1924 concerning God Murukan at Katirkāmam in terms of Tamil kantali that "he is adored at Kataragama, no image, form or symbol being used... Kataragama thus holds a unique place among his numerous places of worship in India and Ceylon.61" Paul Wirz also emphasizes in the first English version of his (German: Kataragama die heiligste Ceylons) volume, Kataragama, the Holiest Place in Ceylon, (1966) that "the whole region around the holy place of the god of Kataragama is called Deiange Kele, i.e. God's Jungle... there are no sculptural representations of the deity in any forms inside the temple."62 It shows that an icon or iconographical representation is consciously not used or avoided, in other words, it points out a conscious in-iconic attitude to express their awareness of the divine.
Murukan is represented in the Cankam or pre-Pallava Tamil literature63 in the Tamil country by an icon, that is, kantu, i.e., either a wooden pole or stump or planted stone or Vēl, "spear."64 Further manram, "open space," is regarded as kantu or the place of worship. Among 27 names of Murukan,65 Kantan is one of them. Both Muruku and Kantam means "fragrance."66 From this perspectives, the present writer assumes that Kantan might have been derived from kantali kantu, kantam, rather than Skanda. In this context, before we proceed to discuss the Skanda popularity in Northern India, we shall briefly investigate Murukan worship in Tamil literary heritage in Tamilakam in South India.
When the unexpected political and religious conflicts and changes took place in the Tamil country,67 either no attention was paid to Murukan worship or the worship was reduced or replaced or transformed with the mythic tradition of the newly arrived dynasty, according to its religious sectarian priorities, favouring either Buddhism or Jainism or Śaivism or Vaisnavism. In this context, it is important to note that the Tamil literary evidence shows "Murukan, (as) the Tamil deity par excellence."68 There are at least 69 direct and 27 indirect references to Murukan, exclusive of the Tirmurukārruppatai and Paripātal in the Cankam-pre-Pallava Tamil literary category. The Tolkāppiyam describes Murukan as Ceylon, "the Red One", as the main God of kurin~ci, the hilly mountainous regions. Of the Ettutokai, "the eight anthologies," Paripātal deals with Murukan worship and description of nature.69 The Pattupāttu is a collection of ten long idylls. The first of ten anthologies constitutes the main work on Murukan: Tirmurukārruppatai, "a guide to holy Muruka(n)." The author Nakkirar continues his work in the ārrupatai framework to guide devotees to receive the gifts of grace from the deity Murukan rather than material gifts from the kings. Nakkirar's work Tirmurukārruppatai is important for three reasons: the description of the universal character of the murukak katavul valpātu; the integration of the historical and mythic traditions; and the standard description of the iconography of God Murukan.
His devotional guidance to devotees to approach Murukan in various sacred places of Tamilakam70 inclusive of Kunrutōrātal, "every hill as a sacred place" of Murukan reveals not only the reciporcal anpu, "love" relationship between devotees and Murukan, but also their spontaneous moral commitment in terms of the fulfillment of aram, "virtue", in the context of awareness of the sacred/divine. Consequently, he points out how they experience Murukan's response, in other words, Murukan approaches them and manifests his reciprocal devotional anpu-arul-aram, "love-grace-virtue" relationship in terms of an~cal ōmpumati arival ninvaravu, "feat not, I know why you have come".71 On the one hand his heroic act controls cūr,72 "the evil power", and eradicates tunpam "sufferings", to offer freedom, thus he liberates them and maintains aram. On the other hand, Murukan grants them peral arum paricil, "the priceless gift which is difficult to obtain otherwise", in order to attain vitutalai, "liberation", or vitupēru, "salvation", in the sense of innē peruti ni, "you will at once and now obtain."73
Nakkirar introduces a universal perspective on Murukan worship in six holy places in the Tamil country including kunrutōrātal, and integrating the Cera-Cōla-Pāntian kingdoms of the Tamilakam. His concept of kunrutōrātal cosmology denotes every hill as a sacred place of Murukan. Probably this concept is inclusive of all of Ilankai, according to some scholars argumentation regarding Murukan worship.74 Moreover, the Kantapurānam of Kacciyappa Civācāriyar is believed to have been composed in the 14th century when probably there was a revival of the worship of Murukan during the Vijayanagara period in the Tamil country. In this connection, A#rumuka Nāvlar published the Kantapurānam in prose in the 19th century. This book occupies a significant place in the devotional literature studied by the Śaivites of Yālppanam. In the 14-15the century. Arunakirinātar experienced the anpu, "love", arul, "grace", and aram, "virtue" of Murukan in his daily life. As a result, his writings Tiruppukal, Kantaralankāram, and Kantaranubūti created a revival in the worship of Murukan. Arunakirinātar became "the most ardent devotee of Murukan, wandering from temple to temple thoughout Tamilnātu, Ceylon and northern India, and singing the praises of Skanda"75. He also praises Murukan at the Katirkāmam kōvil, the sacred place in Ilankai76. From Anurātapuram of the tenth century A.D., two Tamil inscriptions mention the existence of Kumāra Kanam, "group managing the affairs of the Murukan Temple"77. In the 1950's the influence of Kurin~ci and Kumaran is seen in the Murukan kōvil known as Kurin~ci Kumaran Kōvil at the University of Peradenya in Ilankai.
Skanda popularity reached its peak during the period of the Imperial Guptas in Nothern India. During the regin of both Kumāra Gupta I, 415-455 A.D., and his son Skanda Gupta, 455-467 A.D. this deity enjoyed his political legitimation. H. Kulke and D. Rothermund point out that the "transformation of history into myth was in keeping with the programme of the Gupta rulers."78 But the popularity of the deity in Northern India seems to have declined after the Gupta age. In Gupta inscriptions, Kārttikeya is mentioned alone, but he is not in any way connected with Śiva. However, in the post-Gupta period, from the 7th century onwards, the war-God becomes a regular member of Śiva's family, and thus he is called son of Śiva.79 Iconographically, the earliest form which Skanda was worshipped in the South is the Somāskanda group, during the Pallava period, as the genealogy of the Pallava kings denotes for example, Śiva-Skandavarman. Skanda-Kārtikeya enjoyed some popularity in the period of the Pallavas. He appears in the seventh-century Somāskandas sculptures of Śiva. A large number of such sculptures are found at Mamallapuram.80
Murukan had attained the political legitimization of the Pāntiya kings. The Pāntiya ruler, Varakun II, had demonstrated his faith in Murukan worship at Tiruccentūr. He donated 1400 gold coins for the purpose of conducting worship at the temple during the latter part of the 9th century81. The Cōlas also presented the lands for the worship of Murukan. The Cōla king Parantaka I invaded Ilankai in 948. So there was an alliance of the Pāntiyas, the Keralas and Sinhalas against the Cōlas. Vēlupillai concludes that this association of kings has been responsible for the introduction of the kōvil institution of Kantacuvāmi worship in 948 A.D. There are two Tamil inscriptions from Anurātapuram of the tenth century A.D. which indicate the group who manage the affairs of the Murukan Temple82.
The name Kantan after the composition of Kantapurānam, and Arunakirinātar's Kantaralankāram, Kantaranupūti, became very popular as the revival of Murukan worship took place during the Vijyanagar period. The name Kantacuvāmi is very popular in Yālppānam. However, the use of Vēl in the Kantacuvāmi temple of Nallūr in Yalppānam raised the iconographical controversy in the late 19th century: "Is Kantacuvāmi the deity who is represented here? No-it is the Vēlāyutam the weapon called Vēl"83.
The influence of Katirkāmam towards other parts of Ilankai has been reported in the sense of non-āgamic and āgamic tradition. While Vēluppillai84 places the Nallūr Kantacuvāmi temple within the āgamic tradition, Patmanātan places it within the non-āgamic tradition by emphasizing the iconography of God Murukan at the Nallūr kōvil of Yalppānam. Patmanātan states that "there is no iconographic representation of Murukan in any form in the sanctum. What is represented is the Vēl, "spear", in place of the deity. To make matters worse, the Vēl is flanked on either side by the images of Devayānai and Valli, the consorts or Saktis of Murukan. This situation is unprecedented and without any parallels in the Hindu tradition"85.
5. The ongoing transformation of religions
In accordance with established evidence, the investigation by some modern research scholars refers to Murukan worship and festival as one of the major factors in the ongoing "transformation" of religions, particularly Buddhism inIlankai. In other words, the observations and contributions of such scholars open a new dimension in the worship of Murukan in the history of the island.
Richard Gombrich's and Gananath Obeyesekere's contribution, under the title, Buddhism Transformed, religious change in Sri Lanka is worthy of a brief review in this study. They argue, that "great social change will, in due course, entail great religious change, however complex the causal process"86.
According to their argumentation for "Buddhism Transformed", the first half of the book up to Chapter 5 raises the developments in the "spirit religion", and the second half, chapters 6 to 11 is dedicated to Buddhism87. To show the difference between the "spirit religion" and Buddhism, a distinction based on the conception of religion, in comparison with the Western conception of religion refers to "belief and action" with regard to the supernatural beings. Likewise they emphasize that religious life of the Sinhala Buddhists - with a few exceptions-has "always" involved "belief and action" with reference to worship of deities and of supernatural powers. Thus, the "spirit religion" as a traditional institution in the society. It denotes the elements of the "non-Buddhist part of the religion of Sinhala Buddhists".
In spite of this distinction, their use of "spirit religion" even includes the idea that the worship of Murukan at Katirkāmam from the Buddhist perspective, is indistinct. It is not clear how they arrive at this view. By comparison, the Katirkāmam tradition has a distinct characteristic and makes a vital contribution, to the diverse communities of the island compared with other traditions and institutions which their study referred to. While they treat the rise of Katirkāmam as the first phase of social change and the deties in chapter 3, they argue that he comes first among four guardians. Seeking the favour of Natha was totally reduced after the fall of the Kandian Kingdom in 1815. Further their findings point out that Katirkāmam receives more visitors than Visnu and Pattini. The former has a Buddhist link and the latter is related to a heat-disease as well as the fact that she is a female deity.
Consequently, Gombrich and Obeyesekere emphasize that Katirkāmam was not only frequently visited than "any other deity for every kind of purpose", but also that "he was most preeminent in modern spheres of activity". Furthermore, that Katirkāmam tradition also inspires someone to perform new rituals or pūcai. For instance, chapter 11 deals with Bodhi Pūjā.88
Moreover, two chapters, 5 and 12, exclusively deal with Katirkāmam. In fact, particularly chapter 12 shows how spirit religion and Buddhism are "interacting" at Katirkāmam.89 They deal with important materials concerning the Katirkāmam tradition in the 5th chapter entitled "Kataragama, a Center of Hindu-Buddhist Syncretism". In this chapter their purpose is to describe "the past of Kataragama in myth and history,"90 in order to compare and contrast with what has recently taken place.
To begin with the popularity of the shrine, they indicate that Katirkāmam, as an ancient religious center in modern Sri Lanka, situated in the jungle in the southeast of the island, attracts the indigenous visitors. While the pageant of the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy is more of a cultural entertainment than "an object of piety", Katirkāmam is regarded as "spiritual solace"91 and it also represents places of pilgrimage and religious festivals. Although the month of July-August is the important religious festival season of the year, Katirkāmam is now visited by people of "all social classes and all nominal religious affiliations" throughout the year.
5.1. The reality of the physical layout of Katirkāmam
The atmosphere of Katirkāmam is related to a small river, the Mānik Gangā. The pilgrims and devotees bathe in the river, then cross the river and join a kāvati group who with the accompaniment of music, dance along the way to the shrine and carry offerings to the deity and finally get vibūti as divine favour. The following passage points out the importance of the sacred area of Katirkāmam such as it has developed in recent years from the Buddhist perspective:
"Once one crosses the river, itself a symbolic act, one is in the larger area of the Kataragama shrine premises. The main shrine of the god is a small, unimpressive building; next to it is a yet smaller shrine for the god's elder brother, Ganesa, and close to Ganesa's shrine are two recently constructed shrines for Visnu and the Buddha. The area of the main shrine is connected to the shrine of the god's mistress Valli Amma by a narrow street a few hundred yards long. The back of the main shrine is connected by a similar street to the ancient Buddhist stupa, the Kiri Vehera, with its beautiful white dome dominating the landscape. On the left of the god's shrine, but physically separate, is the shrine of his legitimate spouse Devasena or Tevānai Amma. This shrine is of considerable importance for Hindus, but not for Buddhists. There are many other subsidiary shrines scattered over the sacred premises. The mosque is near the Valli Amma shrine. The central drama of the annual festival is the grand procession that leaves the main shrine for the Valli shrine every night for fifteen days. It celebrates the god's joyous union with his mistress Valli Amma. A notable feature of this pageant is that the god does not visit the shrine of his first wife and legitimate spouse, Teyvānai Amma (Devasena).92
Red colour represents the Katirkāmam deity Murukan, and white is the colour of the Buddhist Kiri Vehera. However, with reference to the relation between Hindu and Buddhist sacred places, the general understanding is that Katirkāmam is a collective representation of both Hindu and Buddhist perspectives and their mutual relationship. But this understanding has changed with new developments.93 The above passage shows the construction of the new shrines not only for Visnu but also for Buddha, from the Buddhist point of view.
Concerning this implication, Gombrich and Obeyesekare emphasize the unique feature of the physical layout of Katirkāmam. First of all, they point out that the pilgrim must "cross the river and enter the shrine premises: this forces him to pay attention to the god before the Buddha since the Kiri Vehera, the Buddhist part of the complex, lies well beyond the god's shrine (devale). This seems to violate the norm that one must worship the Buddha before going to the devale". Secondly, they indicate that, "in spite of the distance to the Kiri Vehera the pilgrim in fact can pay homage to the Buddha before Skanda: the Buddha has been brought into the devale premises. In the shrine room to the right of the god's shrine stands a large Buddha sculpture. And a Buddhist temple has recently been built almost at the very entrance of the shrine. Once inside the shrine's premises the pilgrim also has a chance to pay homage to the Buddha at the large to tree behind the shrine of the god. This is supposed to be a sapling from the sacred be tree at Anurahapura, itself a sapling of the very tree under which the Buddha achieved Enlightenment; and hence the bo tree represents the Buddha himself or is at least a symbol of the Enlightenment".94
Contrary to the implicit motivation of the new development, Gombrich and Obeyesekere conclude that "in reality the physical layout practically forces the pilgrim to pay homage to Skanda before the Buddha. As he enters the premises he immediately faces the shrine of the god: it is not possible to ignore him and by pass him to go to the Buddha. One must at least smash a coconut (as an offering) on the rock slab [at the foot of Vēl, spear] in front of the shrine and acknowledge the god's awesome presence".
From the perspective of "Kataragama as a catalyst for change, "Gombrich and Obeyesekare make this significant statement: "the invasion of Sinhala religious life by Tamil bhakti religiosity"95 is an important theme in their account of cultural change. From that point of view they attempt to show how that Katirkāmam has become not only a meeting place, but also "a great melting pot of Sri Lankan society". They argue that it is "the one place where all the religions of the nation-Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Catholic, and Protestant-meet and mutually influence one another. The different kinds of groups who congregate here are receptive to all sorts of new ideas, some transient, some lasting, some trivial, some profound"96. As an evidence they exemplify one important new idea in chapter 11 how a young man performed the Bodhi Pūjā as a new Buddhist ritual at the bo tree behind the main shrine in 1981. Another feature is the Sinhaliciation of the Tamil firewalk is dealt with in chapter 12: "Sinhala Firewalkers and the Buddhist Appropriation of Kataragama". In this chapter they discuss a number of invented versions of myths to justify the Sinhaliciation of the Muruman worship. Nevertheless, Gombrich and Obeyesekare state that "a Buddhism that has appropriated Katargama cannot remain unaffected by it"97. Finally, as an illustration, they show in chapter 13 how new ideas in the spirit religion and in Buddhism influence and complement one another.
5.2. Myths and History
The myth of Murukan and Valli is common to South India and Lanka and to Hindus and Buddhists alike. The reciprocal love affair between Murukan and Valli is an important tradition in the island. This myth is connected with another myth of contest between two brothers in the family, that is, the mother Uma summoned two brothers Ganesa and Murukan to circle the world and told them that whoever won the race would be rewarded with a mango fruit. While Ganesa circled around his mother, his brother Murukan went around the world on his peacock vehicle. Ganesa won the mango fruit, and as a result, Murukan left his wife Teyvānai and arrived in Lanka and met Valli, at that point their love affair commenced in the island.
There is a literary evidence for the existence of the myth of Murukan and Valli in Tamil tradition. Specially Gombrich and Obeyesekere refer to Narrinai 82:4 the Cankam or pre-Pallava Tamil literature, and to the Kantapurānam 14th century text. They cite the summary of the Tamil text Kantapurānam of Kacciyappa Civācāriyar from 14th century to indicate the standard version of the myth. According to the Kantapurānam tradition two daughters of Visnu were born as Teyvānai and Valli to marry Murukan. After Murukan defeated Surapadma (the evil power), Indra gave his daughter Teyvānai in marriage to Murukan. The love relation between Murukan and Valli, as daughter of Kuravar continued in the hunting and agricultural setting with the conventional problems, and finally Murukan married Valli.
After the long citation of the Kantapurānam text, Gombrich and Obeyesekere state the Vātas, Sinhalas, and Tamils of Sri Lanka have "all localized the myth" in Katirkāmam. They emphasize that "the idea that the events in the myth occurred at Kataragama is also well known in South India and has influenced their traditions". However one important observation is that its influence in Yālppānam is well established, but not in Katirkāmam.
In the Vāta tradition the deity is referred to as Kande Deviyo, the god of the mountain"98 The issue of the Vāta lineage of Valli and the priest from the same lineage continues at Katirkāmam. Although there was a change in the meat offering practice at Katirkāmam after the Buddhist influence since the 1950's, Zvelebil shows that the god's consumption of meat is an "ancient tradition" coming from the deity of the mountain folk in South India99. In the midst of Buddhiciation and Sanskritization, the tradition maintains its association with people from the mountains. Gombrich and Obeyesekere argue, that "it is, of course, impossible to determine whether the myth of Skanda and Valli Amma was diffused in the Vāta country from South India or whether it was a part of an ancient myth shared by the wild people of both South India and Sri Lanka and continued through oral tradition among contemporary Vātas". However, Gombrich and Obeyesekere point out that the myth was not introduced into Katirkāmam by the plantation workers, but it is evident that the continuous Murukan worship among Tamils in Malaiyakam is one of the major causes for the transformation of religions in the island.
Dealing with a synoptic history100, in spite of the fact that "the deity has long been known in Sri Lanka", it is not clear why they state that the sources do not permit us to trace the vicissitudes of the Kataragama cult in ancient and medieval times". However, in their exploration, Gombrich and Obeyesekere refer to (1) Mahāvamsa (ch.57, verses 8-9) as the first reference to the deity from the 7th century. There was no other reference to the deity before the 14th century. During the 14th century there are three references: (2) The literature and inscriptions of 14th cent. refer to Skanda as one of the guardian deities; (3) The Lankātilaka inscription of the 14th century refers to the images of the deity; (4) Nikāya Samgrah refers to Skanda Kumāra among 4 guardians of the land;. (5) Reference to him in the Sandesa poem in the 15th century and also religious songs refer to a shrine dedicated to him in the Kotte kingdom; (6) The Jinakālamāli written in Siam in 1516 refers to Khattagama (Katargama) as one of the guardian gods of Sri Lanka.
Regarding the importance of the deity in the Kandyan kingdom (1474-1815) Gombrich and Obeyesekere indicate that (7) Skanda was the "great God" for Knoz in 1681101. (8) In the 19th century John Davy wrote that the deity was not loved but feared, and he could not get an artist to draw his picture102. (9) In 1765 the Dutch governor by the name of Falk wrote an account of Kandyan religion, including the deity of Katirkāmam. (10) In the Kandyan city, Skanda was one of the four guardian deities. One important feature is that the Skanda shrine in Kandy is the only Sinhala shrine where a Tamil Brahman priest officiates, but not a Sinhala kapurāla. Gombrich and Obeyesekere are of opinion that it has been the focus of interaction between Hindusim and Buddhism. The Tamil Brahman priest served important needs in the court of Kandy. To begin with Rajasimha II (1635-1687), the Kandyan kings married princesses from South India. Since 1707 the Kandyan kingdom was in the hands of the Nayakkars and they not only embraced Buddhism, but (11) they also extended their support to Murukan. (12) In the middle of the 18th century, Kirti Sri Rājasimha, the patron of the Buddhist revival, was also a Śaivite but in private life a devotee of Murukan103. Moreover, (13) the pantārams104 and āntis as priests (non-Brahman) and ascetic devotees of Murukan strengthened the worship of Murukan since the 13th and 14th centuries in Ilankai105.
5.3. A challenge
The devotional activities, valipātu, tiruvilā and tērttirunāl, of Murukak katavul as a religious power in Malaiyaka with their distinctive characteristics in the encounter, contribute a challenge both to the ideology of Sinhalese Theravāda Buddhism, and to the traditional ideology of Tamil Śaivism towards reinterpretation, and transformation, as a new development in the contemporary perspective. Thus the static condition of Ilankai is gradually changing. One noteworthy event with important and dynamic characteristics, in the process of change, is that the continuation of "the very things that the Buddha" questioned in Hinduism found acceptance in Buddhism. With reference to the close relationship between these two religions, it is evident that "there is hardly a place of Buddhist devotion" without the influence of Hinduism on Buddhism106.
Moreover, with reference to the continuity of the worship of Murukan from the pre-Buddhist period of Ilankai history, Sir Ponnampalam Arunacalam states that Murukan valipātu has "suffered no decline in Ceylon from the introduction of Budhism 24 centuries ago. The Kataragama god (Kataragama Deyyo) has a shrine in every Buddhist place of worship, and plays a prominent part in its ceremonials and processions. In the great annual perahera of Kandy, he had always a leading place: Buddha's Tooth, now the chief feature of the procession, formed no part of it till the middle of the 18th century, when it was introduced by order of King Kirtti Śrī Rajasinha to humour the Buddhist monks he had imported from Siam"107. However, in accordance with the observation of Gombrich and Obeyesekere that the Buddhist pageant of the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy is more of a cultural festivity than "an object of piety" in the contemporary context. On the contrary, Murukak katavul valipātu in Katirkāmam always continues, in the midst of changes, as place of pilgrimage, tiruvilā, "festival", and thus Katirkāmam is referred to as "spiritual solace"108 in the island.
See also the authors's "Tirumurukarruppatai: Directing on the Way to Holy Murukan"