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Shri Idumban

Shri Idumban

Long Long ago Sage Agastya during one of his trips away from his abode at 'Pothigai' created two hills, Sivagiri and Sakthigiri. He wanted to offer his "Nitya Puja" to Lord Shiva and his consort Shakti so he pleaded them to appear on these hills. In response to his prayer Lord Shiva along with his consort appeared one on each hill. At the end of his worship Agastya wanted to take these two hills to his place in Pothigai. Agastya wanted these hills for meditation and tapas. He therefore summoned his asuran disciple Idumban to transport these two hills. Idumban was one of the very few asuran survivors of the suraasuran war between Murugan's forces and those of Surapadman. After surviving the war he had repented and became a devotee of Lord Murugan.

Idumban went accordingly to the Himalayas and took the two hills. He tied them in slings which he hung from the two ends of a gigantic pole which he carried over his shoulder. This is a 'kaavadi'. The mechanism of kaavadi is such that the weights at both ends are balanced with each other. While walking, the weights jostle up and down. They also swing forwards and backwards and also sideways. The carrier walks with rhythmic gait which synchronises with the jostling movement of the weights at both ends. This makes carrying and travels a lot easier. The carrier can walk fast for a long distance, without getting tired. The pole with the slinged weights is called the 'kaavu thadi'. This has come to be called 'kaavadi'.

At this stage, Subrahmanya or Muruga had just been outwitted by His brother Ganesa in a contest for going around the world and He was still smarting over the matter. Ganapati had won the prized fruit (the Gyana-pazham) by simply going around His parents. Long after this, Subramaniyar came, seating on His peacock to find that the prize had already been given away. In anger, He vowed to leave His home and family and came down to Tiru Avinankudi at the Adivaaram (meaning 'foot of the Sivagiri Hill'). Siva pacified Him by saying that Subramaniyae Himself was the fruit (pazham) of all wisdom and knowledge. Hence the place was called Pazham-nee ('You are the fruit') or Palani. Later He withdrew to the hill and settled there as a recluse in peace and solitude.

When Idumban reached Palani and felt fatigued, he placed the kavadi down to take rest. When Idumban resumed his journey, he tried to pick up the kaavadi. But found that the hills would not move. He inspected and found that there was a small boy who was standing at the top of one of the hills. Idumban could not lift the hill with the small boy on it. He tried to chase the boy away. But the boy would not go. Idumban tried to fight with him but only got killed by the boy. Idumbi came and cried and beseeched the boy who was Murugan, to give life to her husband. So Murugan showed mercy and rose up Idumban. Idumban belatedly recognised the boy as none other than his ishta devata Murugan and prayed to Him that:

1) Whosoever carried on his shoulders the kavadi, signifying the two hills and visited the temple on a vow should be blessed; and

2) He should be given the privilege of standing sentinel at the entrance to the hill. Hence we have the Idumban shrine half-way up the hill where every pilgrim is expected to offer obeisance to Idumban before entering the temple of Thandaayuthapaani' (Thandu = Pole; Aayutham = weapon; Paani = Appearance). Since then, pilgrims to Palani bring their offerings on their shoulders in a kavadi. The custom has spread from Palani to all Muruga shrines worldwide.There is another hill nearby called 'Idumban malai', the other hill that was carried by Idumban.

Kaavadi carrying became an important form of a specicial worship which is specific for Murugan. It has become the custom to perform the 'Idumban Puja' after the carrying of Kaavadi for Murugan. It is a part of the whole worship. There are many types of kaavadis. The commonest and the earliest was the type that Idumban carried. That was the original type. Two sembu pots of milk were carried and this was offered to Murugan as abishishegam. If a person were to carry the kaavadi for a long distance, it was some thiirththam which was used for abhishekam for Murugan.

Later on there have been other types like paal kaavadi, panniir kaavadi, pushpa kaavadi, alahu kaavaadi, paraavik kaavadi, ther kaavadi, machchak kaavaadi, etc. The carrying of kaavadi is accompanied by music and beating of drums. A special form of songs called 'kaavadi chindhu' came into being during the 19th century.