Lord Muniandi is a regional Tamil guardian deity. The deity Muniandi refers to the Munis worshipped by the Tamil people. Muni refers to a class of guardian deities which are classified as Shiva Gana. They are servants of the Supreme God Shiva and his female half Shakthi. The Munis could refer to former warriors, kings or sages who achieved the status of a Muni after their human death. Some of the Munis worshipped were merely created as Munis and did not go through the human life cycle. The Munis are worshipped as guardian deity, favourite deity and family deity. Muniandi is also known as Lord Muniappan, Lord Aandiappan and Lord Munisamy.
Forms of Worship
Tree Worship– The trees as such as Banyan, Sacred Fig and Palmyra are believed to be the gateways used by the Munis to travel between different dimensions. The Munis are also believed to reside in such trees. Tree worship is the oldest form of Muni worship.
Stone Worship– In the Muni worship, it can be divided to either a single stone or three stones (or bricks), decorated with sacred ash (vibuthi) marks, sandal paste and saffron paste. A trident is planted as a mark of Lord Shiva and Goddess Shakthi.
Statue Worship– This is the most contemporary form of worship. Statues are erected and decorated to help the devotee visualize on the Muni. Other insignia such as sickle, sword and mace will be used depending on the type of Muni.
During the last few decades, Gurukkals in Malaysia and Singapore have been trying to equate the Munis to Lord Shiva himself by fusing the story of Muni into the story of Daksha’s Sacrifice. According to these Gurukkals, 7 Munis known as Saptha Muni emerged from the face of Lord Shiva to destroy Daksha’s fire sacrifice. However, reference in written Puranas such as Vayu Purana has proven that the Munis worshiped today as Lord Muniswaran or Lord Muniandi have got nothing to do with Daksha’s Sacrifice . They were never mentioned in these Puranas.
Besides mythological origins, some Muni may have their own historical origin. They could be former warriors, sages or kings. Both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes are served as food offerings depending on the type of Muni. For example, in one of the temples, non-vegetarian dishes are only served for Lord Sem Muni. Lord Paal Muni believed to be of Brahmin origin is only served vegetarian dishes. The non-vegetarian dish is usually cooked after conducting ritual animal sacrifice.
This deity is very popular among the Tamil people within Tamil Nadu. In Malaysia too, Lord Muniandi worship was started by Tamil migrants who had the Munis as their primary form of worship. The family temples which were built in the estates and villages later turned into public temples. Eventually, more people started worshiping these Munis and it became popularized. Most modern day Malaysian or even Singaporean Hindus are hereditary worshipers of these Munis. Moreover, they have accepted this deity as one of the main deities of worship.
Muniandi to Muniswaran
Eventually Lord Muniandi came to be identified as Lord Muniswaran. The Munis who were worshiped as Lord Muniandi in the past were later given the suffix “Iswaran” which means Lord or Ruler.
For the well being of the family, the eldest son performs this pooja and it is usually only performed by men. These poojas are offered with liquor, cigars and non-vegetarian food laid out on banana leaf. Village functions include offering of sacrificial roosters, goats. This pooja is also an annual ritual which is performed on the first Sunday of the month the pooja was initially started in (if for some reason the pooja is not performed on the first Sunday it should be done on a different Sunday but only in that month).