Thiruchendur Murugan Temple – Worship & Rituals
Kanda Sashti Celebrations:
In most Murugan temples, Kanda Sashti festival is celebrated for six days only. In some temples it is celebrated for seven days, with the divine wedding of Lord Murugan the day after Sashti. But in Thiruchendur the festival is held for twelve days; the first six days of Kanda Sashti comprise Sashti Vratam (the vow of Sashti) and Sura Samharam (the annihilation of the demon, Sura), on the seventh day it is the divine wedding of Lord Murugan and Teyvannai, and in the next five days, the Lord in his wedding gear appears and blesses in the Unjal Sevai that is, sitting on the swing.
Offerings to Lord Murugan:
At Thiruchendur, every day nine times poojas are performed for Lord Murugan. During these poojas different naivedyam (food offerings) like dhal Pongal, kanji (gruel), dhosa, Appam, ghee-rice, balls made of cooked green gram and jaggery are offered. Though there are many temples for Lord Murugan in Tamilnadu, six temples are specially worshipped as padai Veedu (armory house). Where the Commander-in-Chief who goes for battle stays with his army is called his padai Veedu. Accordingly, Thiruchendur is the only place where Lord Murugan with his army stayed, when he went to destroy Surapadman. But we also call Arupadai Veedu the other five temples along with Thiruchendur.
Lord Murugan won and accepted Surapadman on Sashti (sixth day) of the waxing moon (bright) night (Valar Pirai) of the month Aippasi. This day is celebrated as Kanda Sashti. This incident happened at Thiruchendur and hence, the Kanda Sashti festival is celebrated in this place with all grandeur. In the Kanda Purana of Mahabharata, two other causes are indicated for the celebration of Kanda Sashti festival, apart from the extermination of Surapadman.
Once, a few sages conducted yaga (sacred fire worship) with a behest to get a son for the welfare of the world. It was begun on the New Moon day and went on for six days. From the fire erupted out of the sacrificial altar (yaga kundam), six seeds – one seed each day for six days respectively – were collected. Lord Murugan was born on the sixth day, when all these six seeds were made as one. The Mahabharata asserts that the day of the birth of Lord Murugan is the Kanda Sashti Day.
In the Kanda Purana, Kachiyappar Sivachariyar says that the Devas, in order to become powerful to challenge the asuras, carried on a vow by soliciting Lord Murugan to be in the kumbham (sacred pot) for six days. Lord Murugan blessed them likewise. This incident is remembered as Kanda Sashti and celebrated after Aippasi New Moon day – so says Sivachariyar.
At Thiruchendur, on the first day of the Kanda Sashti festival during early morning Jayantinathar (Lord Murugan) comes with his spouses Valli and Teyvannai, representing the primary deity. The yaga commences in the hexagon shaped sacrificial fire altar (yaga kundam) for the victory of Lord Murugan. Around the altar, Lord Siva, Goddess Sakti, the Four Vedas, Lord Murugan, Valli, Teyvannai, Maha Vishnu, Vinayaka, the Seven Gurus, Vastu Brahma, the Devas, the Sun, the Ashtadhik Balakas (the guards of the eight sides), the Dwara Balakas (the Entrance Securities) - all these devatas are made to rest in the kumbhams. The yaga is conducted till noon and after the pooja Jayantinathar goes to the Shanmugavilasa Mandapam. On the sixth day, the Lord without his spouses, comes to the seashore and kills Suran. After this, the Victorious Lord with Valli and Teyvannai returns to the yaga Salai.
Abhishekam to the Mirror:
Jayantinathar then comes to the sanctum of Mahadevar at the paved corridor. At that time, a mirror will be placed before him. The priest will conduct the Abhishekam to the image of Jayantinathar reflected in the mirror. This is called chayabhishekam (Chaya means shadow). This Abhishekam is performed to cool down the victorious Lord Murugan. The tradition is that Lord Murugan himself enjoys seeing this Mirror Abhishekam. The Lord returns to his sanctum and with this, the event of Surasamharam (the annihilation of Sura) comes to an end.
On the next day that is on the seventh day, the holy wedding of Lord Murugan and Teyvannai is performed. Lord Indra not only gives Teyvannai in marriage to Lord Murugan for having defeated the Asura but also renders service by becoming the holy peacock. This marriage happens at Tiruparankundram, the first Patai Veedu. At Thiruchendur, the holy wedding between Lord Murugan and Teyvannai is performed on the next day to Kanda Sashti since it is the place where Surapadman is vanquished.
During the morning of that day, Teyvannai goes to the Tapasu Mandapam and will do her tapasya to get married to Lord Murugan. In the evening Kumara Vitankar (another Utsava murthi), representing Lord Murugan goes to the Tapasu Mandapam seated on his peacock vehicle, garlands Teyvannai and gets engaged. Towards midnight, both reach the Tirukalyana Mandapam. There the wedding is performed. The next day, the Lord with Teyvannai goes in street procession. The next three days the Lord in the Tirukalyana Mandapam will be on the Oonjal (swing) and bless the devotees.
Turmeric Bath (manjal neeratu) for Lord Murugan:
During the festivals in the villages, maidens enjoy pouring turmeric water on boys on whom they have a customary claim for marriage. In a similar way, in this place also the turmeric bath is conducted to Lord Murugan. On the last day of Kanda Sashti festival, Lord Murugan with his spouse Teyvannai goes in street procession. At that time, the devotees receive the Lord who has had his wedding in their village and to contain the rage happened due to the battle with Suran, joyfully pour turmeric water on the Lord.
Triple Lord Murugan:
Lord Murugan is an incarnation of Lord Siva. He as a Guru to his father taught the meaning of the Pranava mantra OM. He imprisoned Lord Brahma since Brahma did not know the meaning of the same mantra. After extinguishing Suran, He married Lord Vishnu’s daughter. He was bound by the affection of his uncle, Lord Vishnu. Thus, Lord Murugan is related to all the three Lords, Trimurthis. To indicate this, Lord Murugan at Thiruchendur appears as an incarnation of Trimurthis, Lord Siva, Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma during the festivals conducted in the months of Avani and Masi.
On the evening of the seventh day of the festival, He is adorned with red dress and appears as Lord Siva. At the dawn of the 8th day, He is dressed in white and graces us in the form of Lord Brahma and during the noon he appears in green dress signifying Lord Vishnu. At Thiruchendur, the Rajagopuram is on the western side of Lord Murugan’s sanctum. Here, Lord Murugan faces east looking at the sea. The Rajagopuram should be opposite to the Lord in the east; since the sea is there in the east, the Rajagopuram is erected in the west.
As the threshold of this gopuram is higher than the rostrum (Peetam) of the prime sanctum of Lord Murugan, it remains always shut. During the Kanda Sashti festival in the midnight of the Divine Wedding day, this door will be opened. At that time, however, the devotees will not be allowed to enter through that door.
Four Utsava Murthis:
Generally, there will be only one Utsava Murthi for the primary deity of any temple. But in Thiruchendur there are four Utsava Murthis: Shanmukha, Jayantinathar, Kumara Vidangar and Alaivai Perumal. The specialty is that all these four have separate sanctum each. Kumara Vidangar is called Mappillai Swami meaning the Bridegroom Lord.
Sandana Malai (Sandal Hill):
Of the six padai Veedu of Lord Murugan, it appears as though Thiruchendur alone is located in the seashore and the other five are hill-temples. In reality, Thiruchendur is also a hill-temple. This temple is situated in the Sandal Hill at the seashore. Hence, this sacred place is called Gandhamadhana Parvatam. In course of time this hillock has disappeared. Even now, near the sanctum of Perumal in the second paved corridor and near the Cave of Valli, we can see the Sandana Malai bulging out as a small mound.
Guru Peyarchi (moving of Jupiter planet) at this Temple:
At Thiruchendur, Lord Murugan appears as Gnana Guru. In this sacred place, Guru Bhagawan narrated the history of the asuras to Lord Murugan, before the Lord vanquished them. Hence, this holy place is considered as the Holy Place of Guru. Medha Dakshinamurthi in the paved corridor is seen sitting on four different seats, namely Koormam (tortoise), the Eight Serpents (Ashta Nakankal), the Eight Elephants (Ashta Gajas) and the Medha Malai (Wisdom Hill). On his rear side is the stone banyan tree on which are perched the four Vedas in the form of parrots.
As he graces with knowledge and wisdom, He is called as Gnanaskanda Murthi. Generally, Dakshinamurti is seen with fire and udukkai (small drum tapering in the middle) in the hands; here He appears with maan and mallu (antelope and axe-like weapon). Worshipping Thiruchendur Murugan on the Guru Peyarchi day will ward off the ill effects caused by the planet Jupiter.
Lord Murugan who came here to extinguish Surapadman appears as Lord Subrahmanya with four arms. A notable aspect is that he appears in an ascetic posture holding flowers in his right hand performing Siva pooja. His tapasya should not be disturbed; so, there is no paved corridor for him. His primary Utsava Murthi, Shanmukha, is in a separate sanctum facing south. There is a corridor to go around and worship him. The same pooja and other protocol offered to the primary deity are given to him also.
Procession with new Deepavali Dress:
We all happily celebrate Deepavali - the day when Lord Vishnu annihilated Narakasura - by wearing new dresses. In the Thiruchendur temple also all deities are adorned with new dresses on the Deepavali day. At dawn, all the retinue gods of this temple are smeared with sandal paste. Then the new dresses are carried in the silver palanquin in a procession and the deities are decked with them. It is believed that since this place where Lord Murugan wedded Theyvanai, Lord Indra gifts new dresses to his son-in-law and his retinue for Deepavali.
Darshan of Pancha Lingam:
Lord Murugan performed a thanksgiving Siva Pooja after he won Surapadman. He, in this same form appears with a lotus flower on his right hand. Like a Siva devotee, He wears a matted hair on his head. On his left rear-side wall, there is a lingam. The Deepa Aradhanai (worship with light) is first given to the Lingam and then only to Murugan. In the sanctum of Shanmukha also there is a Lingam behind the deity.
Both these Lingams are in darkness and could be seen only in the Deepa Aradhanai light. Besides, adjacent to the sanctum of Murugan on the right side is the sanctum of Pancha Lingam. The tradition is that the Devas come to worship them during the month of Markazhi. Opposite to the prime sanctum of Murugan are found Nandi, the carrier of Lord Siva and the divine Peacocks.
Every day, after the noon pooja, the priests carry milk and rice in a vessel, in a procession with the usual musical fanfare and immerse it in the sea. This is known as Ganga Pooja. In the Saravana Poigai here, a sculpture is presented with Lord Murugan as six kids crawling on six lotus flowers with the Krittika maidens at the center.
The Devas made a complaint to Lord Siva to put an end to Surapadman who was oppressing them. Accepting their plea, Lord Siva from his third eye created six fire-sparks. Lord Murugan was born from that. Later, obeying Lord Sivas order, He came here to remove Surapadman. At this time, Guru Bhagawan, the Preceptor of the Devas, was in tapasya in this place praying for the darshan of Lord Murugan, Who appeared before him and stayed here. Through Guru Bhagawan he also learnt the history of the asuras. He sent as messenger His commander-in-chief, Veerabahu to Surapadman, but he refused to listen to Lord Murugan’s words. Later the Lord went with his battalion and killed him.
Guru Bhagawan requested the Lord to remain in this place where he had the Lord’s darshan. At the behest of Guru, the Lord continued to be here. Guru Bhagawan soon after, called Vishwakarma the divine Architect to erect the temple. Lord Murugan was called Jayanti Nathar since he routed Surapadman. After a while, this name became Senthil Nathar. The place was also called Tirujayantipuram (Jayanti or victory) and in due course became Thiruchendur.