Vaikasi Visakam is one of the most important festivals amongst the Tamil people all over the world.
It is the birth anniversary of Lord Murugan, who took birth only to put an end to adharma and to uphold righteousness and finish off all evil demonic forces.
The Vaikasi Visakam is also an important day for the Vaishnavites and the Buddhists too. For the Vaishnavites it celebrates Periyalvar’s jayanti and to the Buddhists, it is the birth anniversary, the day of enlightenment and the parinirvana, or final end of Gautama Buddha.
The Vaikasi Visakam falls on the 14th Nakshatra out of the 27 Nakshatras, in the second month of the Tamil calendar, the Visakam on a full moon or a pournami day. Thus the day was in the Tamil month of Vaikasi, under the Nakshatra Visakha. According to Gregorian calendar this is mid-May to middle of June.
Description and introduction of Lord Murugan
Lord Muruga is the God who is known as the God of Wealth, Wisdom and Courage. According to legends, Lord Muruga is believed to be the youngest son born to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Lord Ganesha is the brother of Lord Muruga. The other names that Lord Muruga is credited with are -Lord Senthil, Lord Kumaran, Lord Subramanyam and Lord Shanmugam. He has six faces with which he can have a view of all the directions, like – East, West, North, South, Heaven and hell. Thus there is practically nothing that can escape Lord Murugan’s eyes. Therefore Lord Muruga is Omni present.
The Legend behind Lord Muruga’s birth
Once, the world was being tortured by three terrible Asura or demonic brothers called Soorapadman, Singamuhan and Tārakan. These 3 brothers had amassed great power by praying to the Gods and by intense penance. However, they in order to establish their own rule in the 3 worlds started harassing the Gods. The Gods, helpless finally went to Lord Shiva to appeal for help. Hearing the plea of the Gods, Lord Shiva made 6 sparks emit from his forehead, which filled the entire world with a divine luster. These sparks were carried off by Agni and Vayu to the Ganges, which pushed them inside the lake Lake Saravanai. This lake was filled with lotuses and reeds. The six sparks that came out; inside the lake took the form of six celestial children and were nursed and cared for by six kartika maidens. These six children then were embraced and welcomed by the Divine Mother, where after they became One with six faces and twelve hands. This is the story behind how Lord Shanmugam was born. The six faces of Muruga is said to represent human body, breath, senses, mind, intelligence and ego.
Various avatars of Lord Murugan
Because he is known by many names, Lord Murugan has many avatars also. As Murugan, he is young and very handsome, as Subramanyan he is the su-Brahmanya or the good, all pervading spirit present in the Brahmans. He is the commander-in-chief and sits on a peacock with a Vel as a weapon in his hand. He is also sometimes represented with his two divine consorts known as Devayani and Valli. As Lord Guhan, he stays in the deep dark recess of one’s heart. As Saravanabavan, he had come up or emerged from Lake Saravanai.
Is there any Symbolism behind Lord Murugan’s depiction?
Lord Murugan is depicted as being bluish in color with a peacock as his pet. The color blue in itself signifies eternity, as the sky or the seas which have no limit are perceived to be blue. The peacock is a symbol of vanity and also pride. It is seen to be gripping a snake in its claws. The snake represents all human egos and carnal desires of man. The Vel is symbolic because it represents the removal of negative and evil tendencies. It is a representation of true knowledge.
How is the Vaikasi Visakam observed?
Vaikasi Visakam is a great religious observance followed by numerous Tamilians who are spread all over the world. It is solely to be observed for worshipping Lord Murugan with a special puja on the day. Sarkarai Pongal on this auspicious day is also offered as Prasad or Naivedyam. The poems written in ode to the great God like – Kanda Sashti Kavacham, Subrahmanya Bhujangam, Thiruppugazh (Muthai Tharu Bakthi), and Shanmukha Kavacham are recited and chanted by the devotees with great devotion on this auspicious day. These kavasams are believed to protect everyone from the malevolence of the evil spirits. Devotees also carry milk in milk pots to the Lord Murugan temples to observe the puja on this day. Some people also observe kabbadi which is a form of rigorous physical exercise on this day.
Vaikasi Visakam is celebrated with the most pomp and grandeur in the six temples which are the abodes of Lord Murugan,. The temples are as follows – the Palani Hill Temple, the Thiruchendur Murugan Temple situated at Tuticorin, the Arulmigu Swaminatha Swami Temple located at Swamimalai, the Sri Subramanya Temple situated at Pazhamudircholai, , the Thiruthani Murugan Temple, and the Thiruparamkundram Subramanya Swamy Temple. Thousands of devotees throng these temples on this auspicious day to be graced and be blessed by the Lord for a prosperous life.
This holy festival is observed in Malyasia too with lot of fanfare as there are lot of ex pats Tamilians residing in this country. Devotees visit the famous Batu caves, the Murugan Temple of Kuala Lumpur and the Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Murugan Temple at Penang to pay homage to Lord Murugan on this auspicious day.
Sri Thandayuthapani Temple, the Murugan Hill Temple or the Subramanya Temples are temples in Singapore, where devotees all go to seek divine blessings on this auspicious day.
Vaikasi Visakam as mentioned earlier is an extremely important day for the Buddhists as well. The Vaikasi Purnima, or the Wesak is the day when Gautama Buddha was born in Kapilavastu in the royal family, it is also the same day when he attained enlightenment or Nirvana under the Bodhi tree and it is also the day when at the age of 80, he attained Maha Samadhi or Pari Nirvana. He was the great philosopher who preached the middle path as the way to attain nirvana and to follow the same.
The Vaikasi Pournima, to the vaishnavites is also important as it is the Periyalvar’s jayanti. Periyalvar was a saint who sang about the beautiful childhood of the Lord God Krishna and his mother, Yashoda.