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.
The 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].
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 🙂