Lord Muruga or Subrahmanya, the son of Lord Shiva, has annihilated all
the evil forces of demons. He is said to be reside in six embattled field-camps
called Padaiveedus. Palani and Thirupparakundram in Madurai district are
two such holy places. They are hillocks described in mythology as carried
by a giant called Idumban slung on the two ends of a pole placed on his
shoulder. This Idumban became one of the principal devotees of Lord Subrahmanya.
He has a shrine half-way up the Palani hill and receives the first honours
from all devotees proceeding to worship Subrahmanya. Actually the worship
of Lord Subrahmanya without paying homage to Idumban is considered ineffective.
The carrying of Kavadi by pilgrims is symbolic of Idumban carrying the
hillocks, the abodes of the Lord slung on a pole.
There are several kinds of Kavadis- the milk and rose-water
Kavadi being the principal ones. The central shaft of the semi-circular
wooden structure is placed on the shoulders and the pilgrims dressed in
yellow costume and decorated with garlands, undergoing many privations
to fulfill vows. They dance their way through the streets and up the hillock
under the hypnotic music provided by the drum, the pipes and the tom-tom.
It is a Tandava as opposed to the Lasya form of dance.
Extreme devotion prompts some Kavadi dancers to disfigure their lips.
The lower lip is pierced through for the insertion of a copper or brass
ring, often with a view to maintain silence. The dancers subject themselves
to rigorous austerities and try to get rid of their ego, anger, lust and
other vices. They dance to the tunes of Kavadi-c-cindu, sung by admiring
groups of devotees who follow the dancers. The divine songs are rendered
in charming music by a trained singer and repeated by others in chorus
and the emotion-chocked dancer goes into raptures hearing them. Sometimes
they react by shifting the Kavadi over their shoulder, head, nose etc.
in see-saw position displaying great artistry with many a pose and movement
in rhythm, unaided by hands.
Kavadi-c-cindu, a peculiar folk art of Tamil genius has
blossomed into a literary and technically brilliant form. It gives a lilting
tune and inspiration to listeners and relieves the bearer of the Avid
of physical pain. It is also called Vazhinadai-cindu. It is sung
by pilgrims while trekking long distances, to forget the tedium.
The Kavadi-c-cindu is sung not only by pilgrims on the
march but also in temples. In some temples, it is sung on the last day
of Navarathri in different metres. In Tiruchendur and in Palani, the cindus
are sung with Nadaswaram before the deity starts in procession. These
songs describe the romantic relationship of Muruga to Valli.