Sthala Puranam and the Legend of Kavadi
Agasthya and Idumban
Agastya, a sage, ordered his disciple Idumban to carry the hills Sivagiri and Sakthigiri to south. Idumban asked the help of Brahma, who is the God of creation, provided Idumban with his ‘Dhanda’-a solid rod. Idumban balanced the mountains on both the ends of the rod and carried them. After traveling a long way, Idumban decided to grab some rest and placed the mountains down.
Lord Shiva’s Challenge and Lord Muraga’s exile
Meanwhile, Naradha Maharishi, another sage, had brought a divine fruit known as the ‘Gnanappazham’ - Fruit of Knowledge and gifted it to Shiva and Parvathi. Lord Shiva told his sons Lord Ganapathy and Lord Murugan that the first one among them to circle the globe or world would win the fruit. Accepting the challenge Lord Murugan quickly set off on his vehicle, Mayilvaganam- the Peacock. But Ganesh just circled his parents and said that parents are his world. The astute reasoning impressed Shiva and so he gave the Gnanapazham to Lord Ganesh. When Lord Murugan returned, he was very disappointed with Lord Shiva’s decision. So he left his parents and came to Thiru Aavinankudi at the adivaram (foot of Sivagiri hill). Shiva calmed him down by saying that Lord Murugan himself was a fruit of all knowledge (Pazham nee- Pazham is fruit and NEE means you: that you are the fruit of knowledge) and hence the name Palani had evolved. Later on it is said that Lord Murugan settled down in Palani as a hermit just with a loin cloth and stick symbolizing humbleness and simplicity.
Idumban’s Mistake and the Resulting battle
In the mean time Idumban had decided to resume his journey and came up to lift the Sivagiri hill, but with Lord Murugan taking the form of a child and standing upon hill it was impossible to do so. Idumban mistaking Lord Murugan for an ordinary child told him to get off the mountain. Lord Murugan refused. In the fight between them Idumban tasted an unusual defeat in the hands of the celestial child Murugan. Only after suffering a crushing defeat had Idumban understood that he had fought with the divine Murugan. He had realized his mistake and asked Lord Murugan to fulfill two wishes.
Idumban's Wishes and the Beginning of Kavadi Tradition
1. He should be given the opportunity to stand as guard -Dwaraga Balan of the Lord-at this Murugan’s abode.
2. Whoever takes a Kavadi, symbolizing the mountains, as a vow to this holy shrine must be blessed.
Kavadi is the vow in which People have to shoulder the two vessels connected to the both ends of a stick, each at one end. The baskets will be full of offerings like milk or tender coconut or Annam/ rice as per their wish. They will have to carry the kavadi and its contents to Lord Murugan at Palani.
Symbolization of Kavadi
Now just think of Idumban carrying the hills Sakthigiri and Sivagiri tied to a celestial stick on his shoulders and his request to Lord for the devotees.
Now let us understand what is the Real significance of Kavadi by splitting the word and we get ‘Kavi’- saffron, the colour denoting abstinence and ‘adi’ -here it implies pilgrimage. So Kavadi is a process of accepting the Divinity’s power over all Mortals. It is the symbolism of humbleness in life and faith in god. So the devotee takes a pledge of abstinence for a certain period of time and travels to Palani by foot. He should lead a life of simplicity and humbleness without ego during this time. This small practice is expected to be extended throughout his life making him a good human being.
There are different kinds of Kavadi:
In palkavadi, the devotee bears milk in form of kavadi to offer Lord Murugan.
In annakavadi, the devotee bears food such as cooked rice as an offering to Lord Murugan.
Saravana Poigai is a sacred pond at Thiru Aavinankudi at the adivaram of Sivagiri.
The belief is that an individual’s sins are washed away once he takes a dip in this pool. There is a precondition that one must take a dip at Saravana poigai and then only enter the temple.
The Story of Saravanapoigai:
Saravana poigai was originally considered to be the pool in Himalayas, from which the Divine Lord Murugan emerged on the will of Lord Shiva.
All Devas complained about the misdeeds of Surabadman and his Asuras. Then Lord Shiva opened his third eye and emitted six fire sparks. All these six sparks were turned into six beautiful babies in Saravanapoigai.Goddess Parvathi made all of them into one baby with six faces and so the name came-Arumugam.