Many Hindu devotees make it a point to take Kavadi to Murugan temples, especially during Thaipusam. In South India, many devotees take Kavadi to the Murugan Temple in Palani after observing severe austerities which include begging in houses. So, what is the significance of Kavadi? The popular myth or legend behind taking kavadi is associated with Idumban and Muruga.
Idumban was a highly devoted student of Sage Agasthya. One day Sage Agasthya asked Idumban to bring two hills occupied by Lord Muruga. The two hills were Shivagiri and Shakthi giri. As a trial Idumban first lifted them up and both the mountains came up easily. Satisfied with his effort he kept them back and started preparing to take them to his Guru Agasthya.
Now, Lord Muruga was watching all this from a distance. He decided to test Idumban’s determination as well as his devotion for his master. Lord Muruga took the shape of a small child and stood atop a hill.
Idumban tried to pick up the hill but was unable to do. He kept on trying in vain and saw a child atop the hill. He asked the child to get down but the child stood his ground. The child did not move out after repeated requests and this enraged Idumban. He lost his patience and attacked the child but to his amazement all his warrior qualities could not move the child and instead he got hurt in the process.
Now, Idumban gained his composure and looked at the boy and suddenly realized who the child really was and folded his arms in reverence. Soon, Lord Muruga appeared before him and was pleased with his determination and devotion and appointed him as his guard. Lord Muruga declared that people who carry Kavadi, which symbolizes the hills of burden taken by Idumban, will be blessed. The Kavadi symbolizes the two hills that Idumban carried and people who carry Kavadi are given preference in Murugan temples.