Murugan and Valli – the Chola version

Mr. Sreenivasan had raised a nice question for the previous post on the marriage of Valli with Muruga. Thanks to Satheesh again, we are going to see the original Chola version of the legend in sculpture.

This is a slightly unclear sculpture, and hence we need to infer quite a bit. Its again a beautiful panel, but much withered. It is split into three scenes top to bottom. There is also a smaller panel running right next to it – with a still undeciphered story of Muruga, which we will see at the end.

The full panel can be viewed below, since we have already seen the legend in much detail, we go to the sculpture straight away.

We see Muruga as the old man ( he is carrying an umbrella now) talking to Valli ( who is seated on a much lower Paran)

The next scene – we see a much smaller elephant -more like an elephant calf than a scary raging bull – with muruga who has taken his original form and valli kind of offering a salute!!

The last scene is more unclear – Valli is shown with hands raised upwards – praying?? and the elepant (now it resembles an elephant) with Murugan seated on top going away.

The last two we see the hunters of Valli’s tribe.

The adjacent panel – again top to bottom we see a devotee of muruga praying by a tree, then below we see Muruga ( identified by his cylindrical crown and other regal ornaments) standing next to a seated goddess under an umbrella ( Devasena ??). the last shows him with his two consorts – valli and devasena ( a beautiful depiction) with his peacock sculpted under.

Muruga masquerades as an old man to marry valli

Thanks to Satheesh, today we return to Tanjore Big temple – for another visual feast. The marriage of Valli with Muruga. ( the Tamil portion of this post has been composed – couldnt call it written, by Sri Dhivakar sir). First to give you an idea of the location of the main sculpture of Muruga on his peacock mount and the story panel sculptures around it.

I am basing the explanation of the legend, using the text of Mr. Zvelebil from below site with some slight modifications to suit `our’ audience::

There is a mountain called Valli Malai or Valli Verpu, not far from the village of Merpati, in the Tontainatu country. In a village beneath the hill lived a hunter called Nampi; all his children being boys, he longed for a little girl. On the mountain slope, an ascetic by name of Śivamuni was engaged in austerities. One day a gazelle went by, and the ascetic was aroused by its lovely shape; his lascivious thoughts made the gazelle pregnant.

In due time, the gazelle gave birth to a girl in a pit dug out by the women of the hunter-tribe when they searched for the tubers of edible yam (valli kodi – yam creeper in tamil). The female deer, having found out that she had given birth to a strange being, abandoned the child which was discovered by the hunter-chief Nampi and his wife. Overwhelmed with joy, they took the little girl to their hut and named her Valli.

When Valli reached the age of twelve, she was sent to the millet field – in agreement with the custom of the hillmen – to guard the crop against parrots and other birds, sitting in an elevated platform called itanam (paran), and chasing the birds and other beasts away.

Watch the lovely depiction of valli on the platfrom down to even detailing of the sling.

The sage Narada, who visited Valli-malai and saw the girl, went to Tanikai to informed god Murugan about Valve’s exceptional beauty and her devotion to the god of the hunters.

Murugan assumed the form of a hunter and, as soon as he arrived at Valli’s field, he addressed the lovely girl enquiring after her home and family. However, at that moment Nampi and his hunters brought some food for Valli (honey, millet flour, valli roots, mangoes, milk of the wild cow) and Murugan assumed the form of a tree (venkai, Pterocarpus bilobus).

Watch the sculpture of the tree, at first it puzzled me as to why a tree must be sculpted in a millet field – but after reading more, found the sculpture has gone to the minutest detail …

When Nampi and his company disappeared, the god reappeared in human form, approached Valli and proposed to her. Valli was shocked, lowered her head, and said she would only wed the Lord Muruga. At that moment they heard the sound of approaching drumming and music. Valli warned Murugan that the hunters are wild and angry men, and the god transformed into an old Saiva devotee. Nampi and his hunter’s took his blessings and returned home.

The old man asked Valli for food, and she gave him some millet flour mixed with honey. Then she took him to a small forest pond, where she quenched his thirst from the palms of her hands. Then he told her, “Now that you have satisfied my hunger and my thirst, do satisfy my love for you.” Valli reproached him, and wanted to return to her field.

At that moment, Murugan invoked the help of his brother Vināyaka who appeared behind Valli in the shape of a frightening elephant. The terror-stricken girl rushed into the arms of the Saiva ascetic for protection. The Ascetic asked her to promise that she would marry him, terror stricked ( another version is that the Elephant actually lifted valli in his trunk was about to fling her – and when she accepted, dropped her into the hands of muruga) – she agreed.

See the lovely depiction incl the expression of great fear in valli and the calming ( watch the protective hand over her – a la MGR).

The last panel shows the Old ascetic in the act of throwing is disguise – as you move from right to left, you see him still in his aged form but going into his classic benevolent stance – and above removing his full disguise.

He then embraced valli revealing his real form, with six heads, twelve arms, and seated on his peacock.