|That lower class people had no introduction to the puranas and that they had no relation to it is simply a fraud perpetrated by the Folklore Center Palayamkottai and the Madurai Divinity College.
The Vedas were considered merely as books for rituals. Hence only those who conducted rituals alone read them. The Gita and the Vedanta were not spoken of as meant for everyone. It was meant for those who crossed devotion and worship and searched for true knowledge. In all the communities, those who knew these were a miniscule number.
The puranas and epics belonged to all people of India in their respective forms. For every community, there were different forms of the same stories from the Puranas. That lower class people had no introduction to the puranas and that they had no relation to it is simply a fraud perpetrated by the Folklore Center Palayamkottai and the Madurai Divinity College.
Have you ever known that the puranas and the epics are the sole basis for all the folk arts of Tamil Nadu? There are around two hundred folk arts in the Nellai region like the Therukoothu, Tholpaavaikoothu, Pulluvan Paatu, Villupaatu etc. All of them still narrate stories form the puranas and the epics. Even today, over a hundred of them continue to be staged without facing extinction. All the local deity festivals for the past two centuries have been conducting them only. The people who act in them playing parts and those who watch them are all from the lower classes only.
When special dramas arrived, they staged dramas from the puranas. When silent movies came, they were movies on the puranas as well. Your village or your family is very surprising. If they really do not know a little bit about all these things, they certainly live in an interesting illusory world. Their special state should be separately studied. One cannot examine Hindu religion or Tamil society on that basis.
You say that you and the Hindu form of worship do not have any relationship. This is a statement made without any knowledge merely by believing in hearsay. There are four ways of approaching divinity in the Hindu religion. One, padayal (offerings) and sacrifice. Secondly, poojas and prayers. Third are the Vedic rituals.Fourth, dhyana (meditation) and yoga. Any folk deity would be within the first two forms of worship only.
Do your offer prayers to your Karuppaswamy? Or a joint prayer session? You would light a lamp or a torch. You would deck it with flowers, offer food and worship it, wouldn’t you? And you would share the food as sacred prasadam. What is this but Hindu worship? This what Hindus do in the Fiji Islands, South Africa and in Nepal. This is what is done to Thiruchendur Murugan as well. It is sacred ash (thiruneeru) that is smeared on Karuppaswamy and Sudalai. You would know this if you went to a Karuppaswamy temple.
There would be life sacrifice and food from meat in a Karuppaswamy temple. In a temple for a larger deity, vegetarian food would be offered. There would be a few differences in the materials and in the words used, that is all. This is because a few centuries ago, Thiruchendur Murugan became a god for a larger set of people. Hence, he moved towards a form of worship common to all the people. Life sacrifice existed till around a hundred years ago in several of the great Hindu temples for major godheads.
Any small deity would continue to exist somewhere in the Hindu common tradition. It will definitely not be completely outside of it; even the deities of the Dalits and tribal people. How far within it depends on how big the worshiping community is, how wealthy, how educated and how much social status it possesses. The deity of a community gains as much importance within a larger tradition (and merges with it) as the extent to which the community gains stature in society.
That’s why Hindu religion is not thrust down your throat. Who is there is to do so? Does someone come door to door for religious conversion? Do they distribute pamphlets or do they campaign with loudspeakers? There are no evangelists for Hinduism. Counter campaigns happen from all quarters with the utmost rigor.
It’s you who force yourself into the Hindu religion. This is the history of the past five or six thousand years. Every community jostles for social power. It searches for its own place in society. Once it reaches there, it establishes itself there. Soon their deities gain prominence. Convincing proof for this is the great prominence gained by Badrakaliamman temples of the Nadars and the importance being gained by Mariamman temples of the Vanniyars.
Watch the roadside when you go. You will notice brand new Ammans and Karuppaswamys standing up out of the concrete. A few people from the community that worships those deities would have earned money in Dubai. As they move up the social ladder and slowly gather authority, their deity will move towards the current core of Hindu religion. If it has to move towards the centre, it should have a dialogue with the centre. It should transform itself. It should seize the centre. That is what is continually happening.
This is what is happening in your village as well. When smaller deities turn into larger godheads, their appearance and rituals get transformed. When Karuppaswamy which seeks life sacrifice is worshipped as the All-Pervading ruler of the universe, it has to become a god which has compassion for all living beings. After that, it is not possible to offer life sacrifice to it anymore. It transforms into the Graceful Lord Karuppaswamy.
There is no question as to whether this is right or wrong. This has been the way culture has functioned in the Indian subcontinent for the past five thousand years. This is how Hinduism was formed. This society has grown and has progressed forward. Our intellectuals who scream that this is cultural colonialism shamelessly dance to the tunes of proselytizing forces that uproot and destroy entirely the worship of local deities.
Hence, if you ask if you are a Hindu, I would say that yes, you are a Hindu. Hindu religion is not an ear-marked region. It is an expanse in which several fronts continue to be in dialogue. You and your deities are already a part of this vast Hindu expanse. From what you have said, it appears that you continue to move towards the general way of life. You are one among the group of people who are gaining ground within the Hindu religion and are making themselves the new core.
Translated by Madhuram Team