Murugan, one of the most beloved Gods, especially in South India, has six sacred abodes (temples) located across Tamil Nadu. They are called the Arupadai Veedu (Armory House) of Murugan. Lord Muruga is the son of Shiva and Parvati, and the God of War.
The six most sacred abodes of Murugan find mention in Tamil Sangam literature.
1.Subramanya Swamy Temple, Thiruparankundram
The first among the Arupadai Veedu of Murugan is the Subramanya Swamy Temple at Thiruparankundram. The temple was built by the Pandyas in the 6th century.
The temple stands atop a hillock on the outskirts of Madurai. It has rock-cut architecture and is carved out of the hill. Apart from Murugan, the temple houses the deities of Shiva, Vishnu, Vinayaka, and Goddess Durga.
The Subramanya Swamy temple is the only place where the priests perform Abishekam (sacred wash) to the Vel (spear) and not the deity. This is the place where Murugan married Indra’s daughter Deivanai. The temple is considered the most auspicious place for marriages.
Murugan worshipped Shiva here as Parangirinathar. One unusual feature this temple has is that Shiva and Vishnu face each other. It is a unique aspect of this temple. The Skanda Shashti festival held in the temple in the Tamil month of Aippasi (October -November) is the most important here. This festival marks the slaying of the demon Soorapadman by Murugan. The temple celebrates Brahmotsavam in the Tamil month of Panguni and Karthigai Deepam in the Tamil month of Karthigai.
2.Subramanya Swamy Temple, Thiruchendur
The Subramanya Swamy Temple is the second of the Arupadai Veedu, and the only one among others, situated on the seashore, along the Bay of Bengal. This temple lies in the eastern end of Thiruchendur town in the Tuticorin district.
This ancient Hindu temple is dedicated to Murugan and is located at the site of the battle. A Padai Veedu is one where the Commander-in-Chief stays with his army and then goes for battle. The belief is that Murugan stayed with his army in Thiruchendur and slew the demon, Soorapadman.
The temple celebrates the event every year as Soorasamharam, a re-enactment of the battle in which Murugan was victorious over Soorapadman.
The Raja Gopuram of any temple is generally on the eastern side. However, in the temple at Thiruchendur, the Raja Gopuram is on the western side as the eastern side is very close to the sea. A part of the rocky cliff was bored into, to form the holy sanctum for the deity. Along the high-rolling sand dune on the beach lies a natural spring, called Skanda Pushparani, the Nazhikkinaru. It is a natural phenomenon, and it is believed to have sprung up when Subramanya planted his Vel (spear) on the spot.
3.Dandayuthapani Swamy Temple, Pazhani
The temple is the third among the Arupadai Veedu for Murugan. Located in Dindigul district, the Malai Adivaram (bottom of the hill) is called Thiru Avinankudi. The temple deity here is called Kuzhanthai Velayuthaswami.
Legend has it that the deity here was worshipped by Goddess Lakshmi (Thiru in Tamil), the sacred cow Kamadhenu (Aa in Tamil), the Sun God Suryan (Inan in Tamil), the Earth Goddess (Ku in Tamil) and the Fire God Agni (Di in Tamil). The place thus got the name Thiru Avinankudi.
The main deity Dandayuthapani is in a meditative pose, with his Danda (staff) as his Ayudham (weapon) in his Pani (hands). The main deity is made of Navapashanam, created by Siddhar Bhogar. Murugan appears to be a recluse here. One of the main traditions practiced among devotees here is the tonsuring of the head.
The great poetess Avvaiyar, known for her wisdom, called Murugan, Pazham Nee, and hence the place came to be known as Pazhani. Murugan came to this place after feuding with his family over the fruit of knowledge. Thai Poosam is the most important festival celebrated at Pazhani and is celebrated on the full moon day of the Thai month.
4. Swaminatha Swamy Temple, Swamimalai
This temple is the fourth Padai Veedu that sits on a hill that was artificially created. The temple lies 5 kilometers away from Kumbakonam. The 60 steps to reach the hill temple represent the 60 Tamil years. The shrine of the presiding deity, Swaminathaswamy (Teacher of Shiva), is located atop the hill.
The temple celebrates the incident when Murugan explained the essence of the Pranava Mantram ‘Om’ to his father, Shiva. Legend has it that Murugan became angry with Brahma for disrespecting him when he visited Kailasa. When queried about the Pranava Mantra, Brahma was unable to give an explanation, and Murugan imprisoned him.
Shiva went up to Murugan and asked him to release Brahma from imprisonment. Murugan refused to do so, saying that Brahma was unaware of the meaning of the Pranava Mantra, Om. Shiva asked Murugan to explain and listened to him like an attentive student. On this occasion, he gave Murugan the name Swaminatha Swamy. In this instance, Murugan was the Guru (teacher) to his father. Hence, the place is called Gurumalai or Swamimalai.
The temple celebrates the annual Vaikasi Visagam festival.
5.Subramanya Swamy Temple, Tiruttani
The temple, the fifth of Murugan’s Arupadai Veedu, is located at Tiruttani, in Tiruvallur district. The temple is located 84 kilometers from Chennai and has 365 steps, representing 365 days of the year when Murugan met Valli and married her at Vallimalai.
The beautiful temple sits atop a rock 700 feet above sea-level, with surrounding hills offering a panoramic view. It is said that Murugan came to rest atop this hill to emotionally recover from the battle against the demon Soorapadman, whom he destroyed. His anger at the asuras dissolved here, and he became peaceful. The place is called Shantipuri (abode of peace).
Murugan’s consort Valli asked him to enlighten her on the importance of the hill. Murugan replied that anyone who fervently worshipped him here for five consecutive days would be blessed with the best in life.
The deity blesses people with mental peace and good health. Sri Rama is said to have come here to worship Subramanya after he worshipped Shiva at Rameswaram, after returning from Lanka. The most important festivals celebrated here are Aadi Kritikkai and the New Year Step Festival.
6. Subramanya Swamy Temple, Pazhamudircholai
The sixth temple of the Arupadai Veedu of Murugan, the Subramanya Swamy temple in Pazhamudircholai, is located on the Solaimalai Hill, 20 kilometers from Madurai. It is only in this temple that Murugan is with both his consorts, Valli and Deivanai. The temple sits atop a hill amidst dense forests.
The entrance has a sanctuary called Azhagar Kovil, where Vishnu presides as a defender, protecting Murugan. People worship the deity here as Gnana Shakti and his consort Valli as Iccha Shakti. Deivanai is worshipped as Kriya Shakti. The deity has one face and four hands. The Vel (spear) is made of stone.
Popular legend has it that here Murugan chose to play with the legendary Tamil poetess Avvaiyar, asking her what fruit she wished for, roasted or unroasted. He tested the patience and knowledge of the great poetess in the form of a small boy. Avvaiyar was amazed at the intelligent conversation of the little village boy and realized that he was no ordinary child. She asked him his identity, and after some pleading, Murugan appeared before her and blessed her.
Pazhamudircholai is resplendent with natural springs and herbs. People afflicted with any illness or disease pray at this temple for good health and longevity.