Devotion to Mal (Mayon)

Doctrines Mal is a South Indian deity who is also known as Tirumal, Mayon, Perumal, Mayavan, and other names. These names mean a person of black complexion and are an exact translation into Tamil of the Sanskrit Krishna. Mal combines attributes of the Krishna of the Bhagavadgita and the earlier Puranas with attributes of Vishnu and Narayana.
Mal manifests on earth in three modes. First there are his mythical exploits, many being known from stories of the avataras, the incarnations of Vishnu, especially the amorous Krishna. Second, Mal has his own incarnations which are in the statues of many temples in South India. The Alvars, the religious poets who worshipped Mal, name some ninety-five temples with statues having the incarnation of Mal. Third, Mal manifests within the hearts of his devotees.
These three modes of manifestation of Mal gave rise to the Tamil poems and songs of the Alvars, which became the devotional basis for the worship of Mal, which has a mystical and ecstatic form.

History Some scholars have assumed that Mal was an autonomous Dravidian god. However, there is no evidence for this. We find references to Mal or Mayon from the beginning of the common era in the ancient Tamil sangam literature. Mal appears as a god-figure who is largely like Krishna but also with elements of Vishnu. It has been suggested by Hardy that the term "Mayonism" should be used instead of "Krishnaism" when referring to Mal or Mayon.
Developments in Mayonism during the first five hundred years CE were in two religious contexts. In temples the Vaishnava aspects of Mal or Mayon were more important and he was identified with Vishnu-Narayana. In folk religion Mal or Mayon is mainly in his Krishnaite form, especially as the young Krishna dallying with the gopis, the cowherdesses. He plays many games and tricks with these women, such as stealing their clothes when they are bathing and hiding them up a tree. His favourite here in the South is Pinnai (this is a Tamil name but is not the equivalent of Radha, Krishna's usual favourite, but rather Nila or Satya in Sanskrit). She is a milkmaid and for her he subdues seven vicious bulls. The songs, dances, and rituals of this period are characteristically Krishnaite.
From the sixth to the ninth centuries the Alvars brought changes. The Alvars, whose name means "sages" or "saints" were poets and devotees of Mal. In their poems there comes a pronounced orientation to the Vaishnava side of Mal. But they do not make the distinction between Krishna and Vishnu on the basis of the concept of the avataras, the incarnations of Vishnu. The Alvars fuse together the Krishnaite and the Vaishnava in their names of Mal. But the myths expanded in their poems and their erotic devotion are fundamentally Krishnaite. There is no reliable historical evidence for the Alvars. The only reliable source of evidence is their own poetry, which was compiled in the early tenth century by the semi-legendary Nathamuni and modified in the twelfth century.
The devotional poems of the Alvars were adopted by the Vishnu-devoted Shri Vaishnavas, especially during the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The Shri Vaishnavas saw the Alvars as their spiritual ancestors.

Symbols Mal or Mayon is in a dark-faced Krishna form with relevant iconography together with some symbols of Vishnu.

Adherents Mal is especially worshipped in the ninety-five temples named by the Alvars, many of which are Sri Vaishnava temples and many of the adherents are Shri Vaishnavas. There are also adherents in the field of folk religion.

Main Centre
 Tamil Nadu, India.