Video: Demon War (Sooran Porr)- Hindu festival of Victory

Soora Por (meaning `Demon war) is a annual  Hindu festival..  that takes place in late Autumn, after Diwali (festival of Light). It is the culmination of a highly sacred week of prayers and rituals called the `Kanthashasthy fasting’ dedicated to the warrior god Murugan (also known as Karthikeyan, Velavan and many other names).

Murugan is the son of Shiva & Parvathi, and brother of the elephant headed god Ganesh. Murugan was born by the act of god Shiva opening his third eye and 6 divine sparks shooting out, and settling on 6 lotus flowers in a lake. Each spark then became a small baby and were nursed by sacred nymphs of the lake. When Shiva’s wife the Goddess Parvathy went to visit them, she embraced them all, and all 6 children amalgamated and became one child – Murugan!

Sooran Porr is the day when Murugan defeated a major demon (`Sooran’) in a battle (`Porr’). Hence the name `Sooran Porr’ – meaning `Demon War’. During this war, the demon is said to have attacked the god Murugan several times, and each time was defeated by being beaded. And following each beheading, the demon sprouted another head and came to attack the god Murugan again. Finally the god not only struck his head off with his sacred spear (called `Vel’) but split his chest, where upon the demon shape-shifted into a mango tree. This too tried to attack the god, and Murugan split the tree truck open with his sacred spear once more. And from the split tree, a Cockerel and a Peacock flew out (aspects of the demon), to attack the god as a last resort. Murguan immediately tamed the Peacock and turned it into his carrier, and transformed the Cockerel into a Victory-flag.

This is why in all graphical representations, Hindus depict this Warrior God Murugan as being seated on a Peacock, and holding a flag with a picture of a Cockerel on it.

Giants of Hindu Festivals - Mani NavasothyThe battle itself is re-enacted every year in Hindu Temple grounds all over the world, using idols and large statues  (Giants) of the god Murugan and the demon. Devotees fast for the 5 preceding days, and on the last day, attend the temple, and carry these idols and giant statues as part of the festivities and processions. The enactment can take anything from half an hour to a few hours, as each stage of the battle is carefully attended to. It is usual for the head Priest to stand by the idol or statue of the god Murugan and `use the sacred spear’ to attack the `Demon’. Usually it takes about 10-12 devotees (highly strong men) to carry he large statue of the Demon, and to put it through various rigorous battle movements – of attacks, withdrawals, threats, swings and turns.

The exact date of this `Sooran Por’ varies according to the Nakshathra positions (Hindu astrology has 27 Nakshathra positions through which the Moon passes through each month, in addition to the 12 zodiacs and 12 house positions), but it usually falls towards the middle of the month of November, which has the name `Karthikai’ and hence the god himself has another name deriving from the month,`Karthikeyan’.

[This article was originally written for `Gaian Times Magazine #6  November 2012].

-Mani Navasothy

ps. As this blog has now had over 35,000 views, and this happens to my 275th blog post..I thought a bit of celebration was in order. Being spiritual, I thought writing about this `Hindu festival of Victory’ was an appropriate blog 🙂 

2 thoughts on “Video: Demon War (Sooran Porr)- Hindu festival of Victory

  1. Soora or Surapadman was the eldest of 3 demon brothers and 1 sister who were the children of the Sage Kasyappa and the demon Maya. It symbolises what can happen when a pure soul is engulfed by Illusion. The term “a” added to sura becomes demon, but sura is heavenly or a being of light. Padma is lotus. There is a play on words where the lotus is supposed to symbolise super-consciousness so this is an irony of heavenly superconscious if it is born from Illusion – because in actuality it is not superconsciousness but rather than awareness, it is super-ego. Surapadman is sometimes depicted as a giant black elephant.

    The spear was the crystalisation of his mother’s essence in her pure energy form. It is a broadhead javelin for throwing and close combat.

    Both trees and mangos may symbolize the power of Sakti; trees often represent procreation avid fertility, and mangos (a “heaty” or metabolism-increasing fruit) may signify desire and lust, while water is the element of sakti, and the oceans are the ultimate earthly expression of water’s power. Surapadman’s attempt to take the shape of a mango tree within the ocean, a tree that seeks to smother the world, may thus be seen as the final dramatic determination of the ego to assert full control, and to obliterate all spirituality. The splitting of the tree produces two birds––the rooster and the peacock––which both attack Murugan. In classical Tamil the term “maram” (tree) also signifies an individual full of anava or ego. The two properties which in combination form anava are yām (or the ‘I’ of individual assertion), and ennathu (denoting the possessive self). Yām is symbolized in the form of a rooster as it struts around with its chest puffed out, while ennathu is seen in the vanity of the peacock as it spreads its feathers. Just as Murugan tames both birds with a single loving glance, and incorporates one as his standard and employs the other as his mount, so he first subdues anava and transforms the lower forces of yām and ennathu into pure awareness, so that the soul is forever bound close to him in grace and love. On becoming his flag, the rooster respresents time as the crowing rooster does when the sun rises (and I am told that different types of rooster crow at different hours but I have no verification of this) and the day dawns and the peacock, which is a bird with flight represents space. Hence the power that operates through time and space.

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