Puramkalan : the God who replaced ‘Kalabhairavan’

Updated: Aug 23

Puramkalan, also known as Gulikan is considered an important deity in the Malabar regions of Kerala. Gulikan is believed to have exceptional powers in Mantras and Tantras. The fable of God Gulikan is related to the story of Markkandeyan.

‘Mrikhandu’, a saint who was a dedicated Siva worshipper had no descendant to lead his generation. Disheartened Mrikhandu, decided to meditate and worship Shiva for a son. The meditation went long and hard. Shiva was pleased with Mrikhandu meditation and appeared in front of him. Siva gave Mrikhandu two choices; either he will give him an intelligent son with only 16 years of lifespan or a halfwit son with long life. Mrikhandu was much sure of what he wanted. He opted for an intelligent son with short continuance. Lord Shiva gifted him with an intelligent and ardent son. Mrikhandu named his son ‘Markkanddeyan’.

Like his father, Markkandeyan was an unwavering Shiva devotee. Mrikhandu and his wife raised their son in pain. But somehow Markkadeyan came to know about his ‘life secret’ from his parents. From there, he began to worship “Mrithyunjayan’. The day the boy turned 16, Yama (the god of death) came to take away the spirit of Markkandeyan. Markkandeyan was unwilling to go with Yama. He hugged the idol of Shiva so tight that Yama’s rope got hold of both the boy and the idol.

Raged with anger Shiva appeared in front of Yama and with his third eye, he turned Yama into ashes. After the execution of Yama, there were no deaths on earth and this affected the balance of nature. As a solution for this cause, Puramkalan emerged out from Siva’s left foot's thumb. From then, Gulikan took the powers of yama and started to diminish people from the earth. Shiva handed over the ‘death rope’ and ‘trishool’ to his son who was born from his thumb. Gulikan is considered the godly form of Yama.

According to the Hindu mythology, Gulikan is believed to have different forms; Vadakkan gulikan, Thekkan gulikan, Choukar gulikan, Mandra gulikan, Maarana gulikan, Karimgulikan, kaaragulikan, Raahu gulikan, Ummatta gulikan etc. Even though the forms change across different regions, the ceremony and the offerings of Gulikan are the same. Precisely there are around 101 forms of Gulikan performed in different versions across the Malabar. Commonly, Gulikan theyyam is performed by artists belonging to Malayar, Pulayar, Nalikkathaya, and Maavilar caste. The major offerings for the Gulikan god are ‘Karimkalasham’ and ‘Kozhiyaravu’. The presence of Gulikan is also evident in astrology and ‘Ashtanaagam’.

Among other ‘mandramoorthi’ Gulikan is given special concern and is worshipped to avoid negative happenings in life. Gulikan is one of the Gods, who have the freedom to travel all around the earth. There are places where people are restricted to stay at a certain time of the day because it is believed to be the crossing path of Gulikan and if anyone hinders the path, they were believed to experience an external force or a supernatural vibe. Some crossings can even cause deaths, says the historical scholar.

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