THE WORD MURUGU.
The following information, which the Rev, Dr. G. U. Pope of Oxford has kindly sent me in reply to an enquiry about the root idea of முருகு, will, I hope, be of interest to some of the readers of your valuable journal.
"I think முரு really means 'perfume,' and is thence given to the tree, under which dances in honor of their hill-deity were performed by ancient South Indians.
I am sorry to say that there is no great interest felt here in Tamil literature.
The glossaries to my Kurral and Naladiyar have been carefully compiled.
On the strength of the above suggestion, the different meanings of the word in question may be, I believe, satisfactorily accounted for as follows.
முருகு (1) Perfume, or, by Synecdoche a flower.
(2) 'Akil' (agallochum), the wood being sweet scented.
(3) Honey, which is collected by bees from the flowers of plants.
(4) Toddy, which is sweet as honey, or which is obtained from the spadix of the Palmyra or coconut trees.
(5) Youth or the flower of age. Compare also the expression the bloom or bud of youth.
(6) Beauty, which attends Youth and fades with age.
(7) Elevation (of mind) or high spirits, which distinguish youth from old age.
(8) Murukan or the Dravidian hill deity in honor of whom dances were performed under the Muruku tree; or Karttikeya with whose attributes Murukan was invested after being admitted into the Hindu Pantheon. (Vide Dr. Pope's Extracts from Purra-Porul-Venba-Malai. Padalam 2nd Para, last but one).
(9) A festival, originally dances and feasts in honor of Murukan; முருகியம் is a drum, probably used on these occasions.
(10) An ornament (for the ear), which adds grace or beauty to the person of the wearer.
முருகு – the lemon tree has no connection with the above word but is an incorrect form of முருக்கு so called on account of the thorns common to that tree and the Indian coral tree or Moochie, which is very fragile and serves only for fuel. The root is முரு found in the verbs முருங்கு and முருக்கு respectively meaning to perish and to destroy.
In his edition of Nighandu 1st part, A. Kumaraswami Pulavar of Jaffna says that Murukan (Subramanya) was so called on account of his being the younger son of Siva.
As this explanation may not satisfactorily account for the application of the word Murukan to a demon or a demoniac, and as Murukan is represented as the son of Kottavi or Kotti, the great Demoness of the South, in Purra-Porul-Venba-Malai which is, according to Dr. Pope, more than a thousand years old, there can be little doubt that Murukan also was originally a demon of the south and that the name should be dealt with agreeably to this notion.
S. W. COOMARASWAMY.