Albedil M. F. The myth of the young god: Dravidian version
Margarita F. ALBEDIL — Doctor of Historical Sciences, Leading Researcher Fellow, Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera) of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Russia, St. Petersburg)
ABSTRACT. The young god is a protagonist of a wide range of myths about dy- ing and resurrecting gods known in the ancient agricultural civilizations of the Old World. The most famous examples are the ancient Egyptian Osiris, the Sumerian Du- muzi, the Hittite Telepinus, etc. There is no generally accepted interpretation of these myths and characters. Usually they are interpreted as fertility gods, and the corresponding myths as calendar ones. The plots of myths are varied, but some basic struc- tural components of these myths can be identified: the youthful age of the character, his struggle with the demon, love affair with the heroine of the myth, the motive of death and resurrection (or disappearance and return). The South Indian (Dravidian) version of the young god, known as Murugan, is usually not included into this typology. However, it can be useful to analyze the complex and multi-level semantics of this character. His image is deeply rooted in the Dravidian tradition as Murugan has been known at least since the time of proto-Indian civilization (III–II millennium BC). The cult of Murugan was reflected in the poetry of the ancient Tamils, which existed in the first three centuries of our era. Typologically, the character shares the common features intrinsic to the aforementioned characters. But while the latter left the historical scene together with the civilizations that gave birth to them, Murugan eventually gained more and more popularity in the Dravidian (especially Tamil) area. As a result, he became a truly national Tamil deity, a marker of Tamil ethnic identity. Such a long historical preservation of his image in the Dravidian tradition opens up opportunities for a deeper study of the myths of the young god.
KEYWORDS: young god, dying and resurrecting gods, calendar myths, Dravidian tradition, Tamils, cult of Murugan
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