Palani Murugan temple
The Hill Temple of Palani is one of the most famous temples of Murugan in India. It is located in the town of Palani, 100 km southeast of Coimbatore and a similar distance northwest of Madurai, and in the foot-hills of the eponymous Palni Hills.
Legends of the TempleGoing by legend, the idol of the Lord Muruga in Palani , was created and consecrated by the Sage Bhogar, one of Hinduism's eighteen great ascetics (siddhas), out of an amalgam of nine poisons or navapashanam. A shrine to Bhogar exists in the southwestern corridor of the temple, which, by legend, is said to be connected by a subterranean tunnel to a cave in the heart of the hill, where Bhogar continues to meditate and maintain his vigil, with eight idols of the Lord.
The idol is said to be made of an amalgam of nine substances, and placed upon a pedestal of stone, with an archway framing it. It represents the god Subrahmanya in the form He assumed at Palani - that of a very young recluse, shorn of his locks and all his finery, dressed in no more than a loincloth and armed only with a staff, the dhandam, as befits a monk. It is from His youthful appearance and the staff He bears, that the appellation Bāla-dhandāyudha-pāni, meaning the young wielder of the staff-weapon, is applied to Him.One curious aspect of the idol is that it faces west. Another fact that will be remarked upon by any observer, are the rather disproportionately large ears the Lord is endowed with. This is reflective of the faith that the Lord listens carefully to each of his many devotees' prayers and requests.
The Temple is situated upon the higher of the two hills of Palani, known as the Sivagiri. Traditionally, access to it was by the main staircase cut into the hill-side or by the yanai-padhai or elephant's path, used by the ceremonial elephants. Pilgrims bearing water for the ritual bathing of the idol, and the priests, would use another way also carved into the hill-side but on the opposite side.The sanctum of the temple is of early Chera architecture while the covered ambulatory that runs around it bears unmistakable traces of Pandya influence, especially in the form of the two fishes, the Pandyan royal insignia. The walls of the sanctum bear extensive inscriptions in the old Tamil script.
Surmounting the sanctum, is a gopuram of gold, with numerous sculptures of the presiding deity, Kartikeya, and gods and goddesses attendant upon him.In the first inner prahāram, or ambulatory, around the heart of the temple, are two minor shrines, one each, to Shiva and Parvati, besides one to the Sage Bhogar who is by legend credited with the creation and consecration of the chief idol. In the second outer prahāram, is a celebrated shrine to Ganapati, besides the carriage-house of the Lord's Golden Chariot.
The most esteemed form of worship at the temple is the abhishekam - anointment of the idol with oils, sandalwood paste, milk, unguents and the like and then bathing it with water in an act of ritual purification. The most prominent abhishekams are conducted at the ceremonies to mark the hours of the day. These are four in number - the Vizha Poojai, early in the morning, the Ucchikālam, in the afternoon, the Sāyarakshai, in the evening and the Rakkālam, at night, immediately prior to the temple being closed for the day. These hours are marked by the tolling of the heavy bell on the hill.
After the abhishekam, it is the practice to dress the idol of the Lord, in an act called alangaram, in one of several guises - the most common being the Raja, or king, the Vaitheekan, or priest, the Vedan, or hunter and the Aandi, or monk, which last is the most celebrated in Palani, because it is the nearest to the natural form the Lord assumed at Palani as an anchorite, having withdrawn from all the celestial riches of his father's court at Mount Kailash. In addition to worship within the precincts of the temple, an idol of the Lord, called the Uthsavamoorthy, is also carried in state around the temple, in a golden chariot, drawn by devotees, most evenings in a year.
One of the chief traditions of the temple, is the tonsuring of devotees, who vow to discard their hair in imitation of the Lord of Palani. Another is the anointing of the head of the God's idol with chandaṇam, or sandalwood paste, at night, prior to the temple being closed for the day. The paste, upon being allowed to stay overnight, is said to acquire medicinal properties, and is much sought after and distributed to devotees, as rakkāla chandaṇam.
Besides regular services, days sacred to the god Subrahmanyan are celebrated with pomp and splendour every year. Some of these festivals are the Thai-Poosam,Pankuni-Uthram, the Vaikhashi-Vishakham and the Soora-Samharam. Thai-Poosam, which is considered, by far, the most important festival at Palani, is celebrated on the full moon day of the Tamil Month of Thai (15 January-15 February). Pilgrims after first having taken a strict vow of abstinence, come barefoot, by walk, from distant towns and villages. Many pilgrims also bring a litter of wood, called a Kāvadi, borne on their shoulders. Others bring pots of sanctified water, known as theertha-kāvadi, for the priests to conduct the abhishekam on the holy day.