Tamil Hindu Encyclopaedia 26: Vishnu/ Maal/ மால் (Post No.11,458)


Post No. 11,458

Date uploaded in London – 20 November 2022                  

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 Vishnu is worshipped from very early days in Tamil Nadu. Tamil’s oldest book Tolkappiam referred to him as Maayon (மாயோன் and Sangam books praised him as Maal. We find Him in scores of places. Many Sangam Tamil poets have his name as Kesavan, Kannan/Krishna, Vinnan/Vishnu, Damodaran etc

 Tolkappiam depicted him as the God of Forest Lands (Mullai) Skanda/Murugan is also allocated the hilly forests. We see the temples of these two Gods in high or raised places. The most famous Hill temple of Balaji/Venkatachalapathy / Vishnu is the northern border of Tamil Nadu. Everyday thousands of people visit Tirupati/ Tirumalai to see Balaji, a form of Vishnu.

In English , Bible is called The Book. In Tamil if someone says The Temple it means Chidambaram Siva Tempe for Saivite Tamils and Sri Rangam Vishnu Temple for Vaishnavite Tamils. Tamils attach the epithet Tiru (Sri) for two stars only (out of 27 stars). They are Tiu Onam and Tiru Aathirai (Arudra) of Vishnu and Siva resectively. They are exactly six months apart in a year. The Tamils have divided the Hindu year equally into two parts and allocated them to Lord Vishnu and Lord Siva.

Tiru = Sri= SIR/English title= Sacred prefix


Now to Sangam Tamil Literature:

Maal- Mullai; Kali.107-32; 123-4; Pari.1-31; 13-6

Maayon in a few places :Puram.57; 291-2; Kali.103-55;

Madu. Line 591; Pari.Thirattu 8-1

Kalittokai and Paripatal (paatal) have most of Vishnu references.

There are 17 verses in Kalittokai for Mullai (forest areas) where we see lot of festivals and dances in praise of Vishnu/Maal

(Linguistic Point: Maal means Black; words like Melanesia, Melancholy are derived from it. In Tamil also Tiru Maal is portrayed as Black)

Kuravai type of folk dance in praise Maal/Vishnu is found in many verses Kali.103 to 108. Vishnu’s attributes clearly show that Tamils were familiar with Bhagavata and Vishnu Purana.

Following epithets are some examples:

God of undiminishing fame– Kali.103-75

One who holds Shining wheel – Kali.104-78; 105-72

Divine Black/ Maal- Kali.107-22

Chest as wide as mountain or as strong as hill- – Kali.108-55

Mullai land was occupied by Yadavas (Aayar in Tamil). Their main work was raising cattle. They organised Bull Fighting occasionally or once a year. Now it is done during Makara Sankaranti which Tamils celebrate as Pongal on 14th January every year.

The Bull Fighting was done only by Yadava caste (Aayar) for the Yadava youths. Yadava women raised strong and powerful bulls and let them into Bull Rings. Yadava youths tackled them. These scenes are described elaborately in Kalittokai.


Here is One interesting Scene Kali.107-22

Tamils are famous for wearing flowers in their heads. Men also did wear In the Sangam period, one lady sent her bull into the Bull ring. One of the bulls was tackled by a youth and his flower was entangled in the horn of that bull. When it jumped violently the flower fell into the lady who raised the bull. Immediately she and her friends and relatives felt that God Maal/Vishnu himself shown him as her future husband; her brothers and father praised the incident as தெய்வ மால் காட்டிற்று (Divine Vishnu himself showed it to us)

 ‘Divine Maal Shown’ (action)– Kali.107-22


Tamil Reference

தேயா விழுப்புகழ்த் தெய்வம்;

தொல் கதிர்த் திகிரியான்;

ஆடுகொள் நேமியான்;

தெய்வ மால்;

மலையொடு மார்பு அமைந்த செல்வன்;

To be continued…………………………………


 Tags- Mal, Mayon, Vishnu, Krishna, Sangam books

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