Fwd: Skanda-Murukan conference

N. Ganesan naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM
Mon Dec 14 16:02:07 UTC 1998

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Murugan and His cult come under the Magnifying Glass

Question: What happens when you take a paradoxical child-god as subject
mix together one hundred and forty or so of his scholars and devotees
six continents for eight days of free-swinging discussions?

Answer: Until December 1998, it never happened. But from 28 December
onwards, the world of Kaumara (concerning Kumara, the young god)
scholarship may never be the same. Scholars and devotees from all over
world will soon descend upon Chennai to meet and interact for the first

For scholars and devotees alike, the event represents a watershed and
ushers in a new millennium of serious interest in the child-god Skanda
Subrahmanya or Murugan as he is variously known in India and around the

Complex Deity
Since late Vedic times in the Sanskrit tradition and perhaps far earlier
among proto-Dravidian and tribal peoples of the South, the vigorous and
complex deity Skanda or Murugan  has exerted  a powerful influence upon
Indian literature and religious thought.

To this day, his cult commands the allegiance of millions of devotees in
South India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and wherever there are expatriate Tamil
communities. And not only Tamils, but millions of non-Tamils as well.

The First International Conference Seminar on Skanda-Murugan will bring
together for the first time scholars of various disciplines sharing a
common interest in the composite Aryan-Dravidian god Skanda-Murugan.
English-articulate devotees from India and other countries in the region
will also give their presentations before the learned audience. Never
before has such an international assemblage met to discuss, praise,
criticise, analyse and humbly try to understand the workings of the cult
Skanda or Murugan as he is best known.

Recognizing the pressing need  for dialogue among scholars and devotees,
early last year an international committee was formed with Tamil
scholar-industrialist Dr. N. Mahalingam as its chairman. Dr. G. John
Samuel, whose Institute of Asian Studies had already hosted an
international Buddhist conference in Madras in 1992, offered to organize
and host the event. No one imagined that the concept would generate such
widespread interest.

Never-ending Story
"The god we know as Murugan the Tamizh Katavul is also known in North
as Skanda-Kumara or Karttikeya," says Dr. Samuel. "Sri Lankan Buddhists
know him as Kataragama Deviyo, their most  popular god."
"Nowadays Murugan has so many foreign devotees also. In Malaysia many of
his devotees are ethnic Chinese. Even Muslims pay respect to al-Khadir,
they call him."

"Indeed, Murugan is a universal archetype who belongs to all peoples and
not to Tamils only," says Samuel.

Some 140 scholars and devotees from all over the world have been
research on a dazzling range of topics ranging from 'Murugan in the
Script' of four thousand years ago to 'The Never-ending Love Story of
& Murugan' and 'Islamic traditions of Kataragama'.

There will also be exhibitions of paintings and books as well as live
performances by outstanding singers and Bharata Natyam dance troupes.
documentaries will be screened continuously. More than a seminar, it
be a scholarly and artistic extravaganza.

"Simply to host so many delegates from twenty-one nations and to give
an opportunity to meet and present their research findings is a great
achievement," says Conference Chairman Dr. N. Mahalingam, adding "It is
also a great honour for everyone involved and for all the people of

Ancient Tamil poetry describes Murugan as having been a tribal fertility
god in remote prehistory. Over the centuries, he has evolved with the
and remains as popular today as he was two thousand years ago. It should
not surprise one, therefore, to find that he and his cult continue to
change, often in startling new ways.

For instance, Murugan of late has entered the digital Age of Information
even while enjoying a resurgence in his following at the grass-roots
village level. For not only has Murugan long been featured in television
documentaries but now he has Internet Web sites of his own (notably

Likewise, the first interactive CD-ROMs on Skanda-Murugan will debut
detailing His legendary career, famous devotees and temples in text,
picture, audio and video all in one package. Side-by-side with CD-ROM
demonstrations there will be continuous showings of video documentaries
Tamil and English. Paintings will be on exhibition, as well as books

Interest in the cult of Murugan is not confined to people of one
alone, so Buddhists, Christians and Muslims as well as Hindus will be
participating. The story of the ancient multi-faceted cult and the
it contains will be told as seen through the eyes of various
Conference observers will hear foreign scholars tell how Murugan is
worshipped in such far-flung places as South Africa, Mauritius, Fiji,
United Kingdom, Malaysia and Singapore.

Foreign devotees from Australia, Europe and America will tell their
stories, often with the help of colour slides and  photos.The Conference
will also host dramatic performances such as Murukan Tiruvilaiyatal  in
Bharata Natyam genre.

An international conference in Chennai bringing together Murukan
and bhaktas  will be an unequaled opportunity for all parties to
findings and insights. Undoubtedly, the First International Conference
Seminar on Skanda-Murukan will long be remembered as a watershed in the
study of one of the world's great religious and literary traditions.

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Patrick Harrigan has been studying the cult of Skanda-Murukan since

The Murukan Conference Website URL is:
First Intl Conference Seminar on Skanda-Murukan
December 28-31, 1998 at:
        Institute of Asian Studies
        Chemmancherry, Sholinganallur
        Madras 600 119 India
        Tel: (091)044-496-1662
        Fax: (091)044-496-0959
        E-mail: ias at xlweb.com
Website: http://xlweb.com/heritage/index.htm

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