Those who visit the Temple of Lord Subrahmanya, Murugan at Palani, would notice a Temple for Idumban in the Hills.
This is the legend.
Sage Agastya wanted to take two hills — Sivagiri and Saktigiri — to his abode in the South and commissioned his asuran disciple Idumban to carry them.
Idumban was one of the very few asuran survivors of the surāsuran war between Murugan’s forces and those of Surapadman.
Idumban collected the hills, and tied them to a simple shoulder pole by means of sacred serpents which were used in the place of ropes.
This was the prototypical Kavadi. Near the forest at a site now known as Palani. Idumban, weary, set the hills down while he rested.
When he attempted to resume his journey, he found that the hills were stuck to the ground
. Upon ascending the slopes he encountered a youth clad only in a loin cloth, holding a staff, and “…shining like a thousand suns.
” This youth claimed the hills as his own. In the subsequent fight, Idumban was killed. Both Agastya and Idumpi (Idumban’s wife), interceded and pleaded on Idumban’s behalf, and Murugan restored Idumban to life.
Idumban requested that he remain forever at the portal of Murugan’s shrine. Murugan duly appointed Idumban as official gatekeeper at his temple and advised that henceforth all who worshipped Murugan with a Kavadi would first acknowledge Idumban.
This is named as Idumpan Pooja.
The kavadi consists of two semicircular pieces of wood or steel which are bent and attached to a cross structure that can be balanced on the shoulders of the devotee.
It is often decorated with flowers, peacock feathers (the vehicle of God Murugan) among other things. Some of the kavadis can weigh up to 30 kg.
The preparations start 48 days before the two-day Thaipusam festival. The devotees purge themselves of all mental and physical impurities. They take only one vegetarian meal per day and 24 hours before Thaipusam, they must maintain a complete fast. The devotees prepare themselves by following strict purification austerities that include:
- Transcendence of desire
- Shaving of the head
- Following a vegetarian diet and refraining from alcohol
- Sexual abstinence
- Bathing in cold water
- Sleeping on the floor
- Regular prayers
Kavadis of many kinds.
Popular is Pal Kavadi(Milk is filled in two receptacles,and carried on the shoulders)
Other Kavadis are.
The most spectacular practice is the vel kavadi, essentially a portable altar up to two meters tall, decorated with peacock feathers and attached to the devotee through 108 vels pierced into the skin on the chest and back. Fire walking and flagellation may also be practiced. It is claimed that devotees are able to enter a trance, feel no pain, do not bleed from their wounds and have no scars left behind
- Whosoever carried on his shoulders the kavadi, signifying the two hills and visited the temple on a vow should be blessed; and
- He should be given the priviledge of standing sentinel at the entrance to the hill.
Hence we have the Idumban shrine half-way up the hill where every pilgrim is expected to offer obeisance to Idumban before entering the temple of Dandayudhapani Swami. Since then, pilgrims to Palani bring their offerings on their shoulders in a kavadi. The custom has spread from Palani to all Muruga shrines