VALLI MALAI: Pongi means ‘bubbly’ or ‘bubbling over.’ ‘Malai’ means ‘hilly’. When sweet rice bubbles over the pot it is Ponggal. Goddess Valli is also known as Pongi at Vallimalai. Murugan bhaktas hold Valli Malai in extreme reverence, This sakti peetam is of power and beauty. Valli malai is ‘child-sized’ in comparison with the parent Mount Kailasa, where Lord Siva abides in cold silent majesty. Pongi Malai is the birth place of Murugan’s sweetheart Valli.
The Murugan temple on Valli Malai shines in bliss with Lord Muruga along with Valli and Devayanai. Behind the temple there is a pond, the Saravana Poikai. Near this is another temple attributed to Goddess Valli. There are 444 steps leading to another Murugan temple carved in a single rock. In a recent event, it is said that when bhaktas tried to remove a large stone for renovation purposes, incense smell was emanating from the chamber below and they had visions of siddhas and rishis seated in yoga posture. The chamber was then closed back with the stone. Indeed this place is also called Siddha Bhumi and was within the vicinity of Valli’s ashram and where Lord Karthikeya became the Vengai Maram.
It is said that the whole of the hill appears designed to please the goddess of Valli Malai for her to be bubbling with joyful and happiness. After all, as Pongi, she has the spirit of a twelve-year old girl to match divine Murugan who remains Kumara. Kumara means youth or youthful. The young love birds are believed to romp around the mountains and symbolically play hide and seek with their devotees. They are amidst lovely animals, birds and insects, flora and fauna. The stunning beauty of Valli Malai with its pools, fresh greenery, caves and unusual rock formations stands as mute testimony to the continuing presence of the ever-youthful Goddess Valli.
The pond from which she drew water to quench the thirst of Her Lord, is still existent here. This pond though in an open ground, does not receive the rays of the sun. Pongi in this context, refers to the Her bhava in which is overflows with youth, beauty and devotion. It is unquestionably believed that Valli’s spirit lives in Valli Malai while Pongi lives in the hearts of her devotees.
MYTHOLOGY: The often narrated mythology is one in which Lord Ganesha match-makes Lord Karthikeyan and Valli. Lord Ganesha and Lord Skanda are children of the Divine Couple, Shiva-Shakti. Skanda takes many forms. As Lord Shanmuga, He is depicted to have six faces. He also manifests as Kartik, Karthikeyan or Murugan. As Lord Subramanya, he bestowes, jnana or the knowledge of Brahman.
King Nambirajan was the king of the hill tribes called Kuravas. They reside in ghats or terrains located in the southern part of India. Nambirajan prayed earnestly to Lord Siva for a daughter. Pleased with his prayers and sincerity, the Lord causes a baby girl to be found in the Kathirgamam forest. This forest is sometimes said to be in Lanka. Nambi names the child Vallinayaki. It is said that both Valli and Deivayanai are siblings born to Lord Vishnu in their previous births.
Over time Valli blossoms into a graceful beautiful lady. Passing by the ghat, Lord Karthikeyan casts his eyes on Vallinayaki. He was mesmerized with her beauty. He disguised himself as a bangles seller and approached her. She looked at the wide array of bangles and bought some from him. Karthikeya did not take her money but instead exchanged the bangles for corn flour soaked in honey, a kurava delicacy. Thereafter they embarked in a smooth conversation. But in her wildest dreams, Valli had visualized Lord Muruga to be her potential ‘thalaivan’ or hero.
The conversation was interrupted by Valli’s possessive brothers. Lord Karthikeya did not want to pursue or quarrel or fight them. So he swiftly changed his form into a stump, the Vengai Maram. This is said to still exist in the Velimalai temple. Thereafter Karthikeya went away only to suffer a separation from Valli. In wanting to see her again he then assumed the form of a tribal king from the Veduvan Kulam. He locates her in the forest hills and as he was just beginning the cooing, the brothers appeared again to throw in the spanner. These interruptions can be frustrating even to Gods!
Karthikeya quickly disappeared but this time around he decided to be an old ascetic from the Himalayas. Neigh, the innovations of the love-locked! Now, seeing a harmless old man, the brothers left. However Valli was not taken up with an old fellow with beard and stuff. Aren't we all sometimes blinded by the outer looks? Lord Karthikeya was disturbed by Valli's cool response and also the constant interruptions by her brothers. So He went to his brother, Lord Vinayaka for guidance. Lord Ganesh assured “There would not be any impending problems the next time You meet Valli….be assured that You would be united with Valli as soul mate.” Lord Ganesha, as we are all aware is the Remover of obstacles. He removes all the obstacles in the path of those who revere Him with their pure heart and soul.
Some legends say that Karthkeya appeared as a macho, the third time around and Valli falls for him. In the meantime, Valli also returns home with the clandestine love affair, or ‘kalavu’ coming to an end abruptly. The mother also notices that she is not herself, you know, the I can't sleep, can't eat business.... But her ‘kama noi’ or love-sickness is taken for evil spirits visiting her. So some legends say that Ganesha capitalizes on this to send Karthikeya as a shaman-priest.
With Ganesha’s assurance, Karthikeyan either as a saddhu or a robust man, heads for the forest. As he was meeting Valli, Lord Vinayaka appeared as a wild elephant. It threatened to crush the pair and Ganesha put up a good show for his brother. Ganesha's trunk can do wonders, so this time it was doing some service for the brother. Valli was petrified and embraced Karthikeya. Frightened, she said that she would offer him anything if he protected her from this wild creature. The Lord asked her hand in marriage. She willingly agreed after Ganesha pulled more stunts. Ganesha smiled and went away leaving the pair to be in yoga. Soon enough, Valli found out that her future husband was none other than Lord Subramanya whom she prayed for ab-initio. They were duly married as husband and wife. The tribe members prayed to him and had a high regard for Lord Karthikeya. The divine couple then moved to Thiruthani which is one of the Arupadai Veedu. This myth is fondly recalled by Muruga bhaktas as ‘Murugan Tiruvilaiyadu’ and expressed in folk music, dance and street dramas.
Yogi Ananda Saraswati