Many Faces of Murukan
The History & Meaning of a South Indian God
By Fred W. Clothey
Reprint of the 1978 Edition
Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers
268 pages, 6" x 9 ½"
This book is a study of one of the most persistent and popular gods in south India and traces the history of the god, dwelling especially on four periods: The earliest known Tamil civilization as portrayed in classical Tamil literature and archaeology; The Northern Epic period as depicted in Epic mythology; the Medieval South as depicted in the iconography and literature of the period; and contemporary Tamil Nadu as expressed in the ritual life of the cultus. In each period, an attempt is made to explore the cultural dynamics and symbolic meanings of the deity's mythology and cultic life.
The god's development includes stages in which he is a lord of hill and hunt in the Early South; a deity who serves as prototype for both ksatriya and brahmana communities in the Epic North; a god who serves as purveyor of Saiva Siddhanta thought and inspiration of Tamil literature in the Medieval South; and a 'high god' who epitomizes the fullness of regional pride and religious aspiration in contemporary Tamil India.
As one of the most popular deities in Tamil India today, Murukan is a particularly apt portrait of how a contemporary people in Asia find identity and meaning through traditional symbols. Murukan's history and meaning combines themes which are classical and 'popular,' 'Sanskrit' and 'Tamil,' traditional and 'modern,' Vaisnava and Saiva. That people of differing walks of life have perceived him in varying, yet consistent, ways even into the present moment makes the cultus of Murukan a fascinating example of man's persisting quest for meaning and fulfillment.
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