Kula Deivam or Tutelary

and Family Deities

– Santhipriya –


In the history of tutelary deities, a very important and interesting aspect  is that the prime deities like Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and Goddess Parvathi have not been adapted as tutelary deities in their original form, but only their subordinate manifestations have been adapted as tutelary deities. This confirms the belief that the prayers of the devotees are actually answered by prime divines, whether one worship tutelary deities or directly prime divines.  But the prime divines do not answer direct prayers and accept them only when it comes through their subordinate deities who have manifested as per Lord Brahma’s norms for several purposes. If the direct calls are answered by the prime divines, then there would be no role for subordinate deities to manifest and the Parabrahman act on earth through Lord Brahma will collapse.

Let us see an example on prayers.  Goddess Kanchi Kamakshi has been the tutelary deity of some family and they regularly pray her for some boons. Even as they pray Goddess Kanchi Kamakshi, their prayers actually reach only Goddess Parvathi who answer them through her emanation Goddess Kanchi Kamakshi who was worshiped and therefore one need not run to temples to separately worship Goddess Parvathi seeking the same boon.  Similar is the act of other prime divines on prayers passed through their emanations. This is the true answer to those who ask why so many manifestations have been released by the prime divines to seat them in different temples and shrines with specific prayer norms to beget specific boons.

Though the reason for several manifestations in different appearances have been already answered in previous parts clarifying that to enact certain drama of Lord Brahma, several manifestations in different appearances were needed at different periods of time.  Therefore, one must clearly understand that the title tutelary or family deities are only extended arms of the very same prime divines in different appearances as manifested from time to time for many reasons and their divine powers need not be underestimated.

Like in the present management system which function through proper channels in which one face several hurdles and obstacles posed by the intermediates before presenting them for award in which some fail to get desired effect, some succeeds, similarly in the same manner the divine calls are also set to be routed only through emanations of the prime deities, so that those emanations can conduct several tests by way of hurdles and obstacles for two reasons- one to wipe out the karma (past sins) on those who pray and the second   reason being to test the true spirits of divinity of those who pray.

Probably because of above reasons we hardly see prime divines like Lord Shiv, Lord Vishnu, Lord Brahma, Goddess Parvathi or her manifestations like Goddess Saraswathi have not been seen in the category of tutelary deities of any family, but some families have Goddess Mahalakshmi, the another incarnation of Goddess Parvathi as their tutelary deity. The reasons are not clear for these variations.

Like present day computer, Lord Brahma had super computer to meticulously work out details of space where specific sets of divines of various nature, angels or other souls are to manifest for certain acts. Guiding and guarding specific no of souls in each space were entrusted to each of the tutelary and other divines to be assisted by sub divines of various nature whose space of manifestation were also earmarked.  The divines so prefixed for protecting each of the souls in a particular space if failed to adhere to the norms and violated them by intruding into others domain, they lose their divine power over time. 

Similarly, when a family who held a specific deity as their tutelary or family deity, if chose to ignore the worship of the adapted family deity for any reason, the act will be construed as heinous crime and seven generations (not seven of seven19) of the defaulter’s family will bear the brunt of the divine anger. Their successive generation family members have to get rid of the sin with several special acts of worship and prayers to appease the anger of their family deity.

The tutelary deities and other divines who were assigned specific space will go and manifest only in the earmarked spot (spot does not mean a one square feet or square yard in size, but spread over few square meter area). Lord Brahma established this norm so that the deities and divines earmarked to a particular space need not get confused over the spots where they can manifest.  At the same time after manifesting in an area, the deities ground their divine powers in those spots and get themselves enshrine on the same spot either in a shine or even in open spaces in any form as they desire. There was no norm stipulated for it and those divines were also permitted to choose an appearance and form of their liking and convey the same to the humans either through their dreams or through those in trance to ensure that their statues or idols of worship are accordingly carved out by the people for enshrining in the spot where they manifested. One clear norm of Lord Brahman was that wherever they manifest,  that spot will be fully sanctified with grounded divine energies  of those who manifested there  so that those who reach and pray in the spot are given invisible divine energy protective cover that guards and guides them in many ways in their life. 

Can a divine who has originally manifested in the space earmarked for them, again manifest in another space?  This doubt arises because the same deity in the same form is found in many other temples spread in different spaces and the pundits in those temples say that one can offer prayers to the same deity in any of the temples where they have been enshrined. The suggestion is incorrect and not permitted as per Brahman norm. At the same time the Brahman norm does not prohibit praying the same deity in any  of the temples spread in different spaces and those who pray will certainly receive the blessings in the normal manner20 as bestowed to everyone.

It involves two crucial issues. Let us see this example. Supposing ‘x’ deity has manifested in  No 1 space. In a situation the same deity ‘x’ has also been found enshrined in different temples in different other spaces in the same form after performing Vedic rites and rituals meant for consecration ceremonies. The issue here is,  instead of visiting the main temple in space  No-1 to offer worship which was becoming increasingly difficult because of certain factors like terrain conditions, whether they can skip the prayers on the main temple and offer prayer to the same deity in the same form in any other temple? Is it acceptable ?  Such a thinking will certainly be faulty because the real divine power energies  of ‘x’ deity lay grounded only  in the prime temple spot where they had originally manifested.  20In other temples even though  the same deities have been enshrined with full vedic rites and rituals  which also draw and ground certain amount of power energies of the same deities (the rituals in fact are prayers seeking the divine energies to be ground there), the effect will be far different than the direct divine energy one may receive, which will be the blessings from the drawn divine energy. This is what is stated as begetting blessings in normal manner. The direct divine energies float in the space there and  intrude into the bodies of those who go and offer prayers there. This is what is seen as vibration21 as felt by many of the devotees while praying in the specified place.

Sometimes the manifested divines also intrude into rocks or boulders or other lifeless objects (lifeless in outer appearance though each has their own invisible life in them) and deliberately remain grounded or remain in anthills few years before they were dug out. Once they enter into the rocks or boulders, they reshape the structure of them matching with the appearance preferred by them. Centuries later  their statues were dug out as commanded by them and enshrined and worshiped. Those statues had their divine energies fully grounded in them and therefore in those temples where the original idols have been installed has the divine’s true energies floating in space.

21 The floating divine energies that embrace the body of the devotees places invisible cover over them lasting for some period (the period for which the said temporary protection lasts is not known) of time that may block the entry of negative energies intruding into them. Perhaps this is the reason why the ancestors have laid out the practice of visiting the tutelary deity temples at least once a year to retain the protective cover of divine energies on them. It does not mean that the other devotees who visit the same tutelary deity’s temples are denied the protective cover. Anyone who visit the shrine and offer prayers, they too are provided positive energy rays in the form of blessings and protect them for some time, but not to the extent of those under the protective covers of  tutelary deities. Perhaps this is the reason why the ancestors have laid out the general practice of asking the members to visit the temples at least once a day to get the protective cover of divine energies on them. However it is generally said that one has to visit the main temple site of their tutelary deities at least once in four years to retain the invisible divine protective cover.

The lineage of a family is the decedents of the same family members. Centuries old tradition was that every family owned a family deity and their entire lineage worshiped them.  Their  main objective was  to ensure that the members in their lineages were safeguarded in all aspects in their life as everyone believed that the  family deity was more powerful in protecting a family compared to the protection one got from other  divines.  Beliefs were widespread that only with the grace of the family deities who were worshiped by their ancestors, the souls of demised family members  also remain in peace wherever they may be, and similarly the life of the surviving members of the succeeding  lineage flourish.

19What is seven of seven generation concept? It is simple formula in Brahman norm.  The seven of seven generation consists of forty-nine lineages of the family. Seven across and seven down in each below. See table below to understand the 49 generations work out.

It is always said that the tutelary deities safeguard seven of seven generations of a family ( in Tamil ‘ezhezhu jenma vaarisugal’ ). The true meaning of this is that a tutelary deity of a family safeguard the interest of 49 lineages of the same families and the 50th generation will be free to choose another deity as their tutelary deity or continue to  worship the same deity.  A catch here again. If the 50th generation opts the same deity as tutelary deity, then the next 49 generations in their lineage will also have to continue the worship of the same deity. But it never happens so say the pundits. No tutelary deity is worshiped by continuous 49 generations and the link misses somewhere on mid-way because the lineage of a family is kept continued only through the direct male members of the family. The female members in the families after their marriage are obliged to only adapt husband’s side deity.

Generally, the Brahman rule was that a family do not survive beyond 49 generations because in the lineage chain some member may not have male issues, and some may not have children too. Therefore, at some point of time under those circumstances, the continuation of worship of tutelary gets disconnected much before a lineage reaches 49th generation so say the pundits. 

In the past, most of the families remained together under one family head (joint family concept). The families consisted of grandpa, son and grandson, all lived under the same roof. Almost every one in the family lived under the same roof, or if the members were more and could not be accommodated in a small house, some of the family members along with their kids lived in nearby neighborhood  so that on occasions of important events all of them can join together and celebrate the function as one unified family.  On those important days all of them would  together go to the temple and worship their tutelary deity. The practice was  continued  by the succeeding lineage members. This is how the concept of worshiping the tutelary deity of the first generation kept on flowing down amongst the members of their lineages.

In the Vedic period the father was head of each family and none reversed his dictum  nor felt ashamed of toeing their father’s line.  It was priority to maintain the togetherness of the families, and those family members who  disrespected or revolted against the unity of the family were either discarded or condemned by other family members. What the practice prevailed then was that after the demise of  father, the first son in that family  automatically gained the status of family head.   In this manner when the great great grand father to the youngest son in their lineage kept on worshiping a specific deity in a specific temple in their village,  it  became their family deity la tutelary deity.  

Even though many idols of deities were unearthed from ground, only a few of them were enshrined in temples, rest laid in open spaces and under the trees in the rural areas. They were worshiped by several families for centuries. Over periods of time many of those villages became cities. Some of those village temples slowly grew into magnificent temples during the reign of great kings who wanted to establish bigger temples when they heard of the powers of those deities. Thus many of the temples which were initially consecrated with the statues and idols unearthed in many ways (Swayambhu idols) either became the tutelary deities to some of descendants of families or remained as temples of commoners. This is also the  reason why the temples and tutelary deities as  worshiped by most of the family members were still found  in remote villages or difficult to reach terrains in forested areas, over the hill, fields and other remote places.