Known as the Tamil God, worship to Lord Muruga is one of the biggest festivals for Hindus in South Africa. 400,000 devotees carry kavady here on the southern tip of the great Dark Continent, paying homage to this Tamil God and allowing the vibrational energies to transform our consciousness. I can only estimate the global numbers in awe and wonder why this grand event goes so unacknowledged.
Even Hindus ourselves have minimal understanding of what kavady is. I remember my mother taking me to the temples when I was younger, and because I used to always get sick or injured, she told me to carry the kavady, but I was so young and immature that I never understood anything. I just remember the manja (turmeric) water doused over my new white clothes, syringaberry leaves thrashed over my head and the smells of marigolds, incense, and sambrani all around. I then got into an unhealthy relationship and stopped practicing Hinduism, creating years of spiritual distress only later on to find my way to the now. It is a strong spiritual space; one where I am allowing myself to be transformed by the tangible energy of this Tamil God.
As with all Hindu prayers, a flag raising is done at the temple to signify the start of kavady. I attended each day where offerings, meditations, and discourses were provided. It was only my third consecutive year and the second time at Buccluech Temple; and the most powerful in my experience of kavady. So who is this Murugan...the Shunmuga? Who is the one we call Soobramunian and chant Vel Vel Vetri Vel to? Who is the energy that we invoke when we shout Haro Hara at? I had all these questions and here is my humble attempt to explain...
Hindu mythology says that Muruga, being the son of Shiva and Parvathi, had a duel with his brother Ganesha about who was the greater between them. Shiva gave them a task by asking them to go around the world three times and Muruga was secure that he would win so dashed off to circumnavigate the globe thrice. Ganesha contemplated and went around his parents three times, acknowledging them as his world, and subsequently won the battle between him and Muruga - receiving the prized fruit. On his return, Muruga found out that he lost the battle, when Ganesha was eating the fruit, and left in a rage of fury riding his peacock. Subsequently, there was a sage who wanted to take two hills ‘Shivagiri and Shaktigiri’ to his home and he instructed his disciple Idumban to carry them over his shoulders – think about the kavady and the milk hanging on either side as these two hills. In the angry state, Muruga found himself in Tiruavinakudi. Idumban found that the hills could not be lifted because Muruga was sitting firmly on Shivagiri as a recluse. There was a battle in which Idumban was killed. He was later restored to life and became the greatest devotee of Muruga, declaring that anyone who carries a kavady on his shoulders will be blessed. Idumban was given the honour of being a sentinel and gatekeeper to Lord Muruga before entering the temple. Since the beginning of time, worshippers of Lord Muruga have been carrying this kavady.
I had to go deep within to understand what this was all about. As mentioned in my previous articles, I am a devotee of Adi ParaShakti and this is a familiar relationship because I can connect to the Great Mother’s energies quite easily. I did not understand the energy of Muruga and each day I had to figure it out. His consorts are IshaShakti and KriyaShakti – desire and action. These two Shaktis work together to create transformation in the consciousness so that we may eventually act and think on a subconscious level with the confidence of Muruga. I eventually got to see Muruga beyond the images of him as a child or young boy, and beyond his powerful weapon – the vel. I opened my consciousness to the presence of this energy and was so surprised at how powerful its vibrations were. My frontal lobe was dancing with ecstasy and what can be closely described as love. It was a very different and much more significant high from any alcohol or schedule-5 pain killer I had ever consumed. This is Muruga.
I am a 7am girl, yet I woke up effortlessly at 04h45 on the morning I carried kavady. I bathed, put on my sari which I can now tie in a matter of minutes, took my decorated kavady to my car to fetch my friend Cindy and drove to the Temple. I was excited and honoured to be a part of the procession. I was so humbled that people I knew and loved rallied around me to help me on this day and I even watched as some were reacting to the powerful energy of Muruga in the most powerful way. The first day, 21st January, also known as the ‘main day’ saw around 300 devotees carry their kavady but I chose to do my prayer on the Sunday 27th which was the public day and the walk was much further – 1.7 kilometres from the new temple site to the current site. The chanting and procession got a lot of attention from onlookers of other races. As many know, South Africa is the rainbow nation, and I live in a multicultural city. I can only imagine them thinking how otherworldly this was - what with all the bright orange marigolds and colourful saris, peacock features and brass pots, body piercings and barefooted throngs drumming to 'Vel Vel Vetri Vel' while carrying a decorated structure on their shoulders or pulling a chariot in honour of Muruga.
I had a strategy session at work two days after my prayer and prepared my colleague that I might have a scab from a piercing. What a balance of these two worlds between boardroom and spirituality. She, being Catholic and Caucasian, did not understand, so I explained that the principle can be similar to carrying a cross and leaving it at the feet of Jesus except that this practice started in B.C. and the feet are Murugas. It can be considered a penance in order to ease emotional and spiritual bondage. But beyond all of that, it is about transformation. I am very privileged to have been a part of this experience and absolutely loved every single moment of it. I believe that I am different from two weeks ago and I cannot wait for next year’s Thaipoosam kavady.
Now it’s time to get into the swing of 2019...an exciting year ahead as I will have one more little person to call me aunty just like my little almost four-years-old tempestuous Murugan already.
Vel Vel Vetri Vel! Muruganikku. Haro Hara!