Hill God Murugan and Pongal festival of Tamil Nadu

What has god Murugan (Karthikeya ) got to do with the Pongal festival, the harvest festival of south India, in particular Tamil nadu.  Tagged as the lord of Kurinji mountains in the western and eastern ghats of India, his famous six abodes (''Arupadai veedu'') are mostly natural hill stations but for the Thiruchendur Murugan temple which is on the Eastern shore of Tamil Nadu and Swamimalai which is not a hill, but an  elevated place near Kumbakonam,TN. 

God Muruga or Subramanya is not only popular in the south, but also in  Sri Lanka, Singapore, and Malaysia where a large communality of Tamils live.  

Andavar temple kodaikanaltourism.co.in

Located at a distance of 3 km from the Kodaikanal Lake, Kurinji Andavar Temple is dedicated to Lord Muruga. In Tamil language, the word Kurinji means 'hill region' and Andavar means 'God' and the name symbolizes god's connection  with the hill and the flower Kurinji, which is part of the mountain eco system blooms on the hill once in 12 years.

.Valli Murugan maalaimalar.com
It is said that the flower bloomed last in the year of 2004. According some, the honey from this place during the year when the Kurinji flower blooms has medicinal value. According to the Tamil Sangam literature Kurinji is one of five landscapes classified on the basis of ecology.  As to the link with the hill god with Pongal, this particular Andavar temple, takes it roots in the Puranic episod. Kodaikanal Kurinji Andavar Temple takes its name from the Kurinji flower.

.Kurinji flower. south India. dailythanthi.com

Above image: Kurinji is a name of a shrub flower (Strobilanthes kunthiana) in Tamil and Malayalam. In Kannada, it is Gurige. The speciality about this shrub is it  blossoms once every 12 years in the Kodai hills region in South India. It is found mostly in the Western ghats of south India and Neelakurinji has  vibrant blue-purple flowers.  People make a beeline to the hills when it blossoms. he slopes look like blue-purple  carpet......................

Celebration of Pongal festival at Kurinji Andavar Temple has its origin  in the Hindu  purana.  A tribal girl Valli living in the Kurinji region is an ardent devotee of God Muruga and has fallen in love with him, To test her devotion to him, God Muruga takes the guise of a hunter, beggar and  an old man to seek her hands. Unable to win her hand, he seeks the help of God Ganesh.  Taking the guise of the old man. Muruga  asks for water to quench his thirst. Upon his request Lord Ganesh takes the form of a wild elephant and chases her.  When she has approached the old man, he askes her to marry him and only on that condition, he will drive the elephant away.  Annoyed, she' as turned him away. When the elephant leaves her , both Ganesha and Murugan appear before Valli in their true forms and Valli finally marries the god whom she loves very much. 

The devotees in the Kurinji region offer  prasadam - sacred offering, of pongal made of millet instead of rice to Murugan on the Pongal day that celebrates the harvest season. The main ingredients include kalkandu -sugar in  crystalized form  instead of rice  millet is used to prepare Pongal.  On the Pongal day special  morning abhishekam is done and the god is adorned with special alangaram and garlands.  

Palani hill temple indiadaytrips.com

One of the main abodes of god Muruga is on the Palani hill. which is part of the Kodaikanal mountains. Here, the god' regalia is different. With shaven head, he wears the loincloth - actually,  he appears with no clothing except Kowpeenam  (in Tamil Komanam) with a Thandam, a mark of renunciation.  Named Thandayuthapani, he took this form after losing a challenge (the bet being who comes first after circling the globe) with god Ganesha who goes round his parents -Shiva and Parvati three times as they represent the world. But Muruga with  his vahana peacock,  goes round the globe three times. By the time he gets back  Ganesh has won the coveted prize - a special mango (Gnanapazham) that sage Narada brought to the divine  couple Shiva and Parvati. Upon his failure, Muruga renounces the world and settles down on the Palani hill facing the west direction (Kerala). The tribal girl  Valli from the Kurinji region who fell in love with Muruga,  married  him in Palani upon  his making a compromise with his parents and god Ganesha. 

Hence, Murugan is a prominent god among the tribes of south India  particularly in  Tamil Nadu and to  other Tamil speaking community in SE Asia. Hence Kathikaya is referred to as 'kundru thorum erupavan Kumaran'' in Tamil.