Tag Archives: God Ganesh

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 🙂 

Walking with Elephants – my temple experience

At Play. Scene from `Elephantom Origins’ (children’s book) (c) Mani Navasothy. 2012.

After writing my blog this morning on the birthday & mythology of  the Hindu (elephant headed) God Ganesh, I went to attend a training course – on interview techniques. Nothing I don’t know already (must write about that!) but this is one I had to attend. It was in Wimbledon.  So afterwards I tried going to the Ganesh temple. It was packed, and no parking space anywhere!

So I was driving back with disappointment, and memories of my own personal experiences came back to me – which I thought I’d share here, as part of the festive celebrations (in my own way). After all, a temple is where you make it, and Hindu Priests have been known in ancient times to build `inner temples’ meditatively – efforts that had taken them years. It is known that Hindu gods had favoured such inner temples. (another blog to write!)

Back to Elephants – one of the sacred animals in Hinduism – an eastern pagan religion.

The Ride on Elephant

My earliest memory of Elephants, like for most people, was at a Zoo, and it was back in Sri Lanka.  I do recall one occasion where my parents paid for me to go for a ride on a Zoo Elephant.  They are big creatures, and once you mount them, on one of those people-carrier basket things that can hold about 5-6 people at a time, it’s incredible – especially when the Elephant starts walking – away from any tall stands. It gentle wobbles of course and walks slowly. I don’t remember much more, but that is a precious experience to have had. These days people who visit 3rd world countries and nature reserves (africa?) can quite easily have one of these elephant rides. If you get a chance, do have a go. I mean, how often can one say he or she had a ride on the largest mammal on the planet? !

The Temple Elephant

My second Elephant experience was at a Temple – and it was with a Temple Elephant, back in Sri Lanka. It was a sacred special temple, one that my grandmother & family had to hire a coach and drive a day to get to – as part of a pilgrimage. I remember then getting to the booked accommodation (large room, where all of us slept ..with just sheets on the floor). The part that still stays in my mind is the bathing in the nearby river in the evening. It was expected, and there were no other facilities anyway. And straight afterwards, while still wet, we had to make our way up the mountain paths to the temple – for worship.

It was the temple in Kathirkama, where Priests do not speak. They have their mouths covered by a piece of cloth! There is a similar temple in Wales, UK that I have been to, where they do this.

Well, after the Pooja, I was guided to the area where the temple elephant resided. As was tradition,  I was `blessed by the Elephant’  (on the nudge of the Keeper, the Elephant places its  trunk in a blessing manner on my head!) I was a very young boy and what came next was even more previous now to remember. My relatives told me to circle around the Elephant and pray, and also walk under it. So I did – went in from one side, walked under the Elephant, came out the other side from it’s body!

I don’t think it ever occurred to me that if the beast had decided to move in haste or upset, or anything of the sort, I would have been splatted in a second! At the time, I was focused on it as a spiritual experience- and still do.

-Mani