(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|
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.
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.
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.|
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.|
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:
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.
Chinnai Mutaiyar Muni
|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.|
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!