Monday, 3 June 2013

Muniswaran Worship


(Pictures taken from Google except for the Banyan tree)



Hinduism is a world of its own. It is not a single book religion like the Abrahamic religions. It is actually a collection of various religions, philosophies, doctrines, rituals and practices. In Hinduism, worship of minor deities is also practiced. Although it is not part of mainstream Hinduism, it still plays an important part in the daily lives of many individuals and families.

The worship of minor deities is much more common in rural areas. It is often more of a clan or family affair. The minor deities fall into different categories. One of it is a class of powerful spirits known as Muni.


My family use to offer worship under this tree in Klang.

My interest in Muni worship started at a very young age. I have always been a curious kid. I ask alot of questions.. I still am a curious person. Always looking for more clues and hopefully some answers.

It is perhaps my late paternal grandmother, Letchumy, who ignited the interest in me. I call her Appayee. The rest of my cousins call her Appatha.

Ayee & Atha are synonymous with Amma. Appayee or Appatha simply means Appa's Amma.

She was an ardent worshiper of a particular Muni. This Muni was worshipped under a banyan tree for many generations by my family. The family no longer lives in that area. The kampung has been converted into a park. But the tree is still there.

According to some, the municipal council tried to cut the tree down but they could not do it due to some unknown reasons. They had no choice but to build the road around the area where the tree is situated.

Why were they unable to cut the tree? Did our Muni prevent them? It is still a mystery. Nobody worships under that tree anymore.


A statue of Vaal Muni from India
I wrote about Muni worship in Wikipedia few years ago. It was even compiled as a PDF document and uploaded into my Scribd account. 

Once, a reader from Singapore sent me an email requesting for my permission to use my article. He is from one of the temples and wanted to distribute my article to the devotees there. I do not know if he did distribute it but I was glad that someone actually appreciates my work.


The PDF document can be downloaded here
The Wikipedia article can be read here


Since I have written about Muni worship in Wiki and Scribd, it is time to make a blog post about it.

I have mentioned earlier that Munis are a class of powerful spirits. These spirits are also known as Siva Gana. They are considered to be servants of Siva. Due to their nature, the Munis are classified as guardian deities. 

In Tamil, they are called as Kaval Deivam. Many of these Munis were once human beings. They could have been warriors or sages. Some Munis are said to be of non human origin. Their history is unknown.



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In Hinduism, the very act of touching our parent's feet is considered as a form of worship. Similarly, revering a Muni with rituals is also a form of worship but it does not mean that they are God. There are different levels of worship. The worship of God and the worship of Muni is not the same.

Munis are known by many names. They are called as Muniandi, Muniappan and Munisamy. Only some are called as Muniswaran.

The suffix Iswaran does not indicate Siva as some falsely equate these Munis as an incarnation of Siva. 

Siva does not have any incarnation. He has no birth, no death. This is why Siva is considered as the God.

The King of Lanka in the epic Ramayana, Ravanan, is known as Lankeswaran. Siva, hailed as the Supreme God of the universe is known as Sarveswaran, Parameswaran and even Visveswaran.

Similarly, the Muniswarans are considered as periavar or a higher class of Munis which controls the minor Munis and other spirits. The word Iswaran is synonymous with the word Lord. Therefore, Muniswaran could also be interpreted as Lord of Munis.

Back in the olden days, all Munis were generally called as Muniandi. Today, every Muni temple is being referred to as Muniswaran temple in Malaysia.


The Daksha Yagam Myth
There is a story being spread in Malaysia. This story is fabricated by a popular Gurukkal. According to him, Munis emerged from Siva during one of the Puranic events.

The baseless story can be seen in the following Youtube video.




This story is cooked up. If you do not believe me, try reading the Puranas. There is no mention of any  Muniswarans in the Puranas.


Muni in Scriptures and Songs
Not all Munis are known to have good nature. Some are evil in nature.The famous Kanda Sashti Kavasam by Devaraya Swamigal contains the following verses:

paarka paarka paavam podipada
billi soonyam perumpahai ahala
valla bootham valaashtihap peihal
allal paduthum adangaa muniyum
pillaihal thinnum puzhakadai muniyum
kollivaayp peihalum kuralaip peihalum
penkalai thodarum bramaraa chatharum
adiyanaik kandaal alari kalangida.

Please see and see that my sins are powdered,Let the black magic and great enmity go away,Let great devils and those who shake their tails,Let the uncontrollable Muni, which creates problems,Let the back yard Muni which eats babies,Let the ghosts with fire in their mouth,Let the ghosts which steal my speech,And let the Brahma Rakshasas which follow ladies,Run away screaming when they see me.

According to Rig Veda, the Munis are trained in various magic arts and believed to be capable of supernatural feats. They were particularly associated with Rudra (Siva), a deity who is also connected with mountains and storms and more feared than loved. The following is based on the translation of the Rig Veda by Ralph T.H. Griffith in 1896,

HYMN CXXXVI. Kesins. 
1. HE with the long loose locks supports Agni, and moisture, heaven, and earth:He is all sky to look upon: he with long hair is called this light.
2 The Munis, girdled with the wind, wear garments soiled of yellow hue.They, following the wind's swift course go where the Gods have gone before.
3 Transported with our Munihood we have pressed on into the winds:You therefore, mortal men. behold our natural bodies and no more.
4 The Muni, made associate in the holy work of every God,Looking upon all varied forms flies through the region of the air.
 5 The Steed of Vata, Vayu's friend, the Muni, by the Gods impelled,In both the oceans hath his home, in eastern and in western sea.

6 Treading the path of sylvan beasts, Gandharvas, and Apsarases,He with long locks, who knows the wish, is a sweet most delightful friend
7 Vayu hath churned for him: for him he poundeth things most hard to bend,When he with long loose locks hath drunk, with Rudra, water from the cup.


Mariamman. Mari is the Tamil word for rain.
Munis are also mentioned in Mariamman Thalattu, a lullaby dedicated to Goddess Mariamman. There are some references to other deities in this lullaby. The following are the reference made to Vaal Muni (Muni with the sword) and Sem Muni (The Red Muni).

Vaal muniyum Sem muniyum vandu koluvirundar,
Kathan karuppanodu kattazhagar veethu irundar,
Thotiyathu chinnanum, durai magamum thaan irundhar,


The Vaal Muni and Sem Muni came and sat with her, 
The Kattazhagar (handsome one) sat along with Kathan and Karuppan,
The Chinnan of Thottiyam and Duraimagan (Son of the Landlord) sat withher,



Munis can be worshipped in many forms. It is usually done according to the customs of the family.

Tree Worship (Maram Vallipadu)
The trees as such as Banyan (Ala Maram), Sacred Fig (Arasa Maram) and Palmyra (Pana Maram) are believed to be the gate ways used by the Munis to travel between different dimensions. The Munis are also believed to reside in such trees. Tree Worship is the oldest form of Muni worship.

Stone Worship (Nadukkal Vallipadu)
The Stone Worship was mentioned even during Tamil Sangam ages more than 2,500 years ago. Nadukkal or Veerarkal were planted to commemorate the death of someone important.

In the Muni worship, it can be divided to either a single stone or three stones (or bricks), decorated with Saivite sacred ash (vibuthi) marks, sandal paste (santhanam) and saffron paste (kungkumam).A trident (soolam) is planted as a mark of Sivan and Sakthi.


Statue Worship (Uruvam Vallipadu)
This is the most contemporary form of worship. Statues are erected and decorated to help the devotee visualize on the Muni. Other insignias such as sickle (aruval), sword and mace will be used depending on the type of Muni.


A popular Muniswaran temple in Chennai.
Legend
There are many legends on the origins of Muni worship. One of the most popular legends is from the Pachaiamman Temple of Tamil Nadu. This temple is located in the district of Tiruvannamalai just about 2km north of the famous Arunachaleswara Temple.

According to the original legend, Munis were created to guard Goddess Pachaiamman against 7 demons. These are the names of the 7 demons:

Agni Veeran
Anithanthira Veeran
Thakkapathala Veeran
Thanathanthiran Veeran
Ilakana Veeran
Elilkana Veeran
Ugra Veeran

It is also mentioned that the demons were actually 8 in number. After killing them, Vaal Muni gave the head of the demons, one for each of his brothers and kept two for himself.

The Munis are usually represented as 7 brothers. They are called as Sapta Muni. 

Different temples give a different list of Munis. 

Muttaiyar Muni 
Chinnai Mutaiyar Muni
Raya/Nondi Muni
Jada Muni
Poo Muni
Sem Muni
Vaal Muni
Veda Muni

Vaal Muni
Sem Muni
Karu Muni
Natha Muni
Veda Muni
Jada Muni
Lada Muni


In 1996, the Sri Pachaiamman Mannarswami Trust was formed comprising 6 hereditary Agamudaiyar families of Tiruvannamalai whose ancestors have been traditionally serving Goddess Pachaiamman at a location at the south east slope of Arunachala for many generations. The site of the current Temple is believed to have originated sometime during the Chola period (8th to 11th Century). But the Temple, as we now know it, is only about 120 years old.


Saptha Munis in another temple

Since Munis are spirits, it is common to have animal sacrifice as part of the worship. Usually male goat or rooster will be slaughtered for them.

However, animal sacrifice is not done for every Muni. Only for certain Muni. It is usually done on a new moon day. The sacrificed animal is then cooked and served to the devotees.

In Malaysia, stout is offered for the Munis but the actual liquor to be offered is patta sarayam and toddy. This is because Muni worship existed even before stout was introduced to Tamil Nadu.


Muniandi worshipped by the Velama Naidus of Madurai

Sri Muniandi Villas of Madurai famous for their briyani and non-vege dish. This chain of resturants was started by the Velama Naidu community of Madurai. It was named after the Muni worshipped by them.

Vineeta Sinha's book provides an ethnographic documentation of urban-based Hindu religiosity in contemporary Singapore and makes an important contribution to the global study of religion in the diasporas.
Today, the Muni worship has spread among the Tamil diaspora outside India. Temples have been built in honor of the Munis. 

These temples were originally private family temples. It later got converted into public temples and more people started worshiping these Munis. Many Muni devotees of today are probably just 2nd or 3rd generation worshipers. Most of them are not hereditary worshipers.

Probably this is why some of them take Muni worship for granted and deviate from the original worship.


May the brave Muniswara protect us all!
- Comments

35 comments:

  1. Hi Sharmalan...good stuff! By the way, do you have the Potri Mantras or just any other related mantras for this God? Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have two books in Tamil. There are some mantras in it. Since I am not a trained priest, I cannot guarantee any of it as necessary or effective. Here is one:

    Om kanagavasaya vidmahe
    Soola hastaya deemahi
    Tanno Muniswaraya prachodayat

    ReplyDelete
  3. I will see if I can scan the books and upload it to Scribd as e-book. You can then download it. Will update once I get it done.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you anne. It would be highly helpful for me to understand this topic.:-)

      Delete
  4. Hi Sharmalan,

    It is great information... I am gald that you had your appayee to just let you know about Muni's.. Muni is my family god but I do not know anything about them... I am in search of more information nether my parents have any information... Basically my mother tongue is telugu.. but my ancesters lived in a village near by vellore your explanation have some logic.. Please let me know any reference you can from books also I am searching about all muni's I always wanted to build a temple for my kuladeivam... until I have in depth knowledge I will not be able to do this...

    Please send me your contact mail ID to smarty.ss@gmail.com

    Kind Regards,

    Sudharshan

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sudharshan,

      I have two books in Tamil which I am yet to scan and upload. Will try to get it done.
      Have you contacted your relatives back in the village? They may have more details on the particular Muni which you worship.

      Delete
  5. hi sharmalan ,
    First of all I would like to thank for this information .Our family worships Muneeswaran from some generations.I heard from elders that one day Muneeswaran appears to our forefathers who is waiting for the children blessed them with children from then onwards we are worship the God as our kuladiavam .In between most of our grandfathers generations left the worship they faced so many odds .they realized and back to the worship.We are the family being elders in the family we continue to worship the god till date .
    Being curious regarding worship I was trying know some thing regarding our ancient family tradition this info helped me a lot by the way we worship to paal muniswaran .there is mention of name in this article but I would like to know some more info Please let me know any info ::munikrishna.pacha@gmail.com .
    My mother tongue is Telugu but my family is from a village near by Tamil nadu .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Munikrishna

      Thank you for appreciating the blog. Hope it helped. I regret that I have no further details on Paal Muniswaran. I guess your only option will be to check with the local temples in Tamil Nadu. The famous Pachaiamman Temple of Tiruvannamalai has about 21 or more gigantic statues of Muniswaran. Perhaps you can contact them and get more details.

      Best Wishes

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  6. Being curious devotee of paal muniswaran I am trying to know about our ancient family tradition .this is so useful can you please send me any further info regarding Paal muniswaran .my mail ::munikrishna.pacha@gmail.com
    any small info can be appreciated .Thanks in advance and for your great article

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't have much details about him but I learned that he was once a Brahmin. This is why they don't serve asaiva padayal for Paal Muni.

      Delete
  7. can you explain about sem muni

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sem Muni is the Red Muni. Not a vegetarian Muni.

      Delete
  8. HI THERE. HOW CAN I GET NONDI MUNI PHOTO? AND WHERE CAN I FIND THE TEMPLE? I REALLY APPRECIATE YOUR KIND INFO. LOOKING FOR YOUR FEEDBACK. THANK YOU.

    ReplyDelete
  9. hi there
    would like to know abt madurai veeran
    how many face does he have????

    ReplyDelete
  10. hi there
    i want to know more abt madurai veeran
    how many faces he have???

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hi,
    Thnk you for the sharing.
    I would like to check with you something that i have been seeking for. Can sellakumaraswamy be taken as Muniswaran?

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi,
    Thanks so much.
    Can Sellakumaraswamy be considered as Muniswaran?

    ReplyDelete
  13. hi can i know who is the oldest muni referred as kilavan......i was told that he is older than raja muni and retired.....can pls tell the muni name..?

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi anne,

    Thank you for the article. Now i understand why they slaughter goats back in our estate at a Muni temple. Do you have any information regarding veerabhadran, aanggaraveeran, aghoraveeran and so on. I was told that there were seven of them. But, i don't know anything about them. Veerabhadran is my family's Kaaval Deivam.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Veerabadra manifested from the anger of Siva. He appeared during the Daksha Yagam. Learn the Veerabadra Kavacham. Google for the lyrics and meaning. You can get the audio from Youtube.

      https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=3NhjEd_VjTY

      Delete
  15. Hi to all
    Can I know about the Jada Muniswaran history ? Did he have wife ?

    ReplyDelete
  16. Hi everyone ,
    I need some information about Jada Muniswaran ? History ? and also Did he have any wife ?
    Did we need to serve him vegeterian foods only ? Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  17. hi thilagawathy.

    there is a temple in Madurai tamilnadu for jadamuni.shall try to get some details .please contact me in ramansamy@gmail.com after 10 days

    ReplyDelete
  18. Hi,

    My family deity is pal muneeshwaran. This god is not comes under the 7 varieties of Muni. Is this God different?

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hi,

    My family deity is Pal Muneeshwaran. I heard 7 different variety of Muneeshwaran. Is this God a one more variety of Muni or different?

    ReplyDelete
  20. hello sir. My paternal family worships munni (as kulatheivam). The munni was said to be in a tree! but later that withered away recently! is it a bad omen? There is no proper ancestral notes about this! can you please provide any info to find whether he still dwells in there?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The arul that was in the banana tree has left.All arul has to be regularly energised with prayers.If not it will leave.Not to worry.Since ayya is ur kula devatha,he has a bond.If u can,think of ayya and place a nei vilakku at ur doorstep every thursday.It is able to reach out till heaven.If u are not sure of his name then say "om sri muneeswaraya namaha" and call out to him as your kula deivam.He will be very pleased.He comes fast.
      -Anbe shivam

      Delete
    2. The arul that was in the tree has left.All arul has to be regularly energised with prayers.If not it will leave.Not to worry.Since ayya is ur kula devatha,he has a bond.If u can,think of ayya and place a nei vilakku at ur doorstep every thursday.It is able to reach out till heaven.If u are not sure of his name then say "om sri muneeswaraya namaha" and call out to him as your kula deivam.He will be very pleased.He comes fast.
      -Anbe Shivam

      Delete
  21. Vanakam sir, this is such a good article about guardian deities and you inspired me to write blog and do research about this mystic world. Like the other readers of your blog, I have a question too. Do you know anything about Kula Devas ? My family has been worshipping one deity as Kula Deivam for few generations. Her name is Kateri Amman, I'm looking for her history and origins. I hope you can help. Thank you in advance. Om Shakti.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Vanakamm
      The word Kateri காட்டேரி may come from two words Kaadu காடு (jungle) and Eri ஏரி (lake). From what I understand, Kateri Amman are female deities originally worshipped in these areas. Kateri may not refer to one specific deity but could be a generic name for such deities. They are said to be ferocious. Maybe similar to the Dakinis or Yakshis. If you have a photo of your kula deivam, then you can learn about her worship and conduct proper rituals at home. The best is to take a picture of her shrine in your ancestral village.

      Delete