Muniandi is the name of a regional Tamil guardian deity. Muniandi actually refers to the Munis that Tamils in India, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka worship. Munis form a class of guardian deities who are classified as Siva Gana. They serve Lord Shiva and his consort, Shakti. The Munis may be kings, former warriors, or sages who attained the status of a Muni after their death. Some of them, however, were originally created as Munis and did not undergo the human life cycle.
The Munis are often worshipped as Kaval Deivam or guardian deity, Ishta Deivam or favorite deity, and Kula Deivam or family deity. Other names for Muniandi are Muniappan, Munisamy, and Aandiappan. There is mention of Munis in the Kanda Shashti Kavasam that eulogizes Lord Muruga. But the Munis described in the verses refer to evil spirits or ghosts in Tamil folklore as opposed to the guardian deity. The Rig Veda says that Munis are well-versed in the magic arts and are capable of supernatural feats. They were closely associated with Rudra (Shiva), a deity who has a connection with mountains and storms and is feared.
Muniandi combines two words, Muni and Andi. ‘Andi’ could mean ‘slave of God’ or ‘ruling’ (as in ruler). The second meaning comes from the word ‘Aandavar’, which means ‘he who rules’. ‘Andi’ is also used for other Gods by Tamils. Brahma is called Virumandi, Vishnu is called Mayandi, Shiva is called Peyandi, and Muruga is called Malayandi. Hence, Muniandi could refer to ‘slave Muni’ or ‘one who rules in the form of Muni’. Munis like Vaal Muni are also called Vaal Muni Andavar and Vaal Muniswaran.
In course of time, Muniandi came to be known as Muniswaran. The Munis who were worshipped as Muniandi earlier were given the suffix ‘Iswaran’ meaning Lord or Ruler. This doesn’t always refer to Shiva. The Lankan king, Ravana, in the Ramayana epic, was also called Lankeswaran. Shiva, the supreme God of the universe, is called Sarveswaran, Parameswaran, and Visveswaran.
Tree Worship (Maram Vazhipadu)
Trees like the Banyan (Ala Maram), sacred fig (Arasa Maram), and Palmyra (Pana Maram) are believed to be used as gateways by the Munis in order to travel between different dimensions. It is said that they also reside in such trees. Tree Worship is believed to be the oldest form of Muni worship.
Stone Worship (Nadukkal Vazhipadu)
Stone Worship was practiced during the Sangam age, more than 2,500 years ago. If someone important died, Nadukkal or Veerarkal (for warriors) were planted in their memory. In Muni worship, it can be either one stone or three stones (or even bricks), decorated with sacred ash (vibuthi), sandal paste (santhanam), and vermilion paste (kumkumam). As a mark of Shiva and Shati, a trident would also be planted.
Statue worship (Uruvam Vazhipadu)
This is a contemporary form of worship in which statues are erected and decorated. These enable devotees to visualize the Muni. Depending on the particular kind of Muni, insignias like the sickle (aruval), sword, and mace are also used. Many theories abound on the origins of Munis. Mythological stories, too, exist in the oral tradition. One of the oldest oral traditions says that Munis were created for protecting Goddess Shakti, who was in the form of Goddess Pachaiamman from 7 Arakar Veerars (Demonic Warriors/ Asuras). At many Pachaiamman temples in Tamil Nadu, one can find statues for these Munis.
The 7 Arakar Veerars are Agni Veeran, Anithanthira Veeran, Thakkapathala Veeran, Thanathanthira Veeran, Ilakana Veeran, Elilkana Veeran, and Ugra Veeran. In recent decades, Gurukkals in places like Singapore and Malaysia have been trying to identify the Munis with Shiva himself by merging the story of Muni with that of Daksha Yagam. These Gurukkals claim that 7 Munis called Saptha Muni emerged from Shiva’s face to destroy Daksha's Yagam or fire sacrifice.
However, written Puranas like the Vayu Purana prove that the Munis or Muniswaran, or Muniandi are not related to the Daksha Yagam. They are not mentioned anywhere in these Puranas.
Apart from their mythological origins, some of the Munis may have a historical origin, too. They could have been former kings, warriors, or sages. Food offerings or Padayals for Munis include both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. But it depends on the type of Muni. For instance, in one of the Pachaiamman temples, only Sem Muni is served non-vegetarian dishes. Paal Muni, who is believed to be of Brahmin origin, is served vegetarian dishes only. The non-vegetarian dish is often cooked after a ritual animal sacrifice.
There are many kinds of Munis. The 7 Munis or Saptha Munis, as listed in one of the ancient Pachaiamman temples, are Muttaiyar Muni, Chinna Muttaiyar Muni, Raya Muni, or Nondi Muni, Jada Muni, Poo Muni, Sem Muni, and Vaal Muni. Kottai Muni is said to be the presiding deity of the annual Jallikattu bullfight in Alanganallur, Tamil Nadu. Paandi Muni is supposedly the chief of the Munis. He is the guardian of the North Gopuram (Tower) of the famous Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple. A legend says that he was the Pandya Emperor Neduncheliyan. Other known Munis include Raja Muni, Lada Muni, Agni Muni, Karu Muni, Veera Muni, Yellai Muni, Rettai Muni, and Kaavu Muni. There is also a concept of Nava Muni (9 Munis).
The deity is worshipped by the Tamil diaspora in countries like Singapore and Malaysia. In Malaysia, migrant Tamils who revered the Munis as their Kula Deivam began Muniandi worship. The family temples they built in the estates and villages later became public temples. As more people started worshipping the Munis, Muni worship became popular. Many contemporary Malaysians are hereditary worshippers of Munis.
Jada Muniswarar matches Shiva’s aspect in its entirety. His entire body is covered with fiery ashes, he has a serpent around his neck and in various forms in his hands. He also appears in the form of Agora and bestows blessings on devotees. Jada Muni is believed to have miraculous powers and can even take the life of Yama by his own foot. All kinds of deities are part of Jada Muniswarar, and he controls them. He can eliminate enemies, evil forces, poverty, and black magic. By performing Jada Muniswarar Homam, we can reap all these benefits.