ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Missing Links: Is the Āṟupaṭaivītu a Network of Temples?


Peres Ofer - Heidelberg University, South Asia Institute, Heidelberg, Germany


28 – South Asian sacred spots: Nodal Points in Webs of Connections


 The cult of Murukan is one of the largest cults in Tamil Nadu, with numerous sacred sites dedicated to this god throughout the region, which function as popular pilgrimage centers. Among them, a group of six temples, conventionally called āṟupaṭaivīṭu (“the six army camps”), are considered the most venerable for Murukaṉ devotees. Each of these six temples, located in various parts of the Tamil region, is related to a specific episode in Murukaṉ’s ‘biography,’ and each has its own practices and ritual cycle. Although the idea of a set of six places that are dearest to Lord Murukaṉ exists already in the earliest Tamil references to the deity, the association of these places with specific mythological episodes, as well as their identification with actual geographical locations, are presumably much later. Moreover, the meaning—religious, symbolical, and practical—of being a part of a ‘temple network’ such as the āṟupaṭaivīṭu remains an open question. This paper offers a preliminary examination of the links between some of these six sites, according to the traditions of the temples themselves, recorded in early modern literary sources, with a particular emphasis on the Tamil talapurāṇam (“temple legend”) genre.