Marriammen Feast Nehru Nagar Juhu 2011 Goddess Marriammen, a set on Flickr.
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Māri (Tamil: மாரி), also known as Mariamman (Tamil: மாரியம்மன்) and Mariaai (Marathi: मरी आई), both meaning "Mother Mari", spelt also Maariamma (Tamil: மாரியம்மா), or simply Amman or Aatha (Tamil: அம்மன், "mother") is the South Indian Hindu goddess of rain. She is the main South Indian mother goddess, predominant in the rural areas of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. Māri is closely associated with the Hindu goddesses Parvati and Durga as well as with her North Indian counterpart Shitaladevi. Goddess Mariamman and Goddess Kali are closely associated with each other. Mariamman is a form of Durga who took the form of Kali. She is also addressed often as "Maha Maayi", the southern rendering of the sanskrit word "Maha Maya" - the deluding illusionary power of Lord Vishnu. In the deccan region, "Mariamman" is usually referred to as the sister of Lord Krishna or Vishnu. Festivities for her happen during the late summer - early autom season of "Ashada" or "Aadi". Throughout the deccan region, grand festival or "Aadi Thiruvizha" are taken for Maariamman. Her worship mainly focuses on, bringing rains, curing diseases like cholera, chicken pox, etc., She is worshipped in accordance to the local agamas as "Pidari" or the "Grahma Devatha" usually by non-brahmin priests or in some cases of big temples like Samayapuram Maariamman temple, also by brahmin priests. According to shaktha agamas, she is depicted in sitting posture and might be flanked some times by Ganesha and Subramaniya or Ganesha and Naaga on her sides. She is taken in procession either in a decorated charriot or atop a "Simha Vahana". As "Maha Maya" she find reference as Krishna's sister in Bhagavatha Purana and Maha Bharata were in she is the girl child born to Yashodha and Nand. She is switched to Krishna as per her divine wish to protect Krishna from Khansa. Hence she came to be known as the sister of Krishna. Hence she is prayed for protection from evil.
4 Goddess of disease
5 Fertility goddess
6.1 Sri Ramamirthamman Temple
6.2 Outside India
7 Hindu tradition and worship
8 See also
11 Further reading
12 External links
Erode Mariamman Ther Thiruvilla
In Tamil, the word 'Maari' would mean rain and 'amman' would literally mean mother but here "mother nature." She was believed and worshipped by the ancient Dravidian people to bring rain and hence prosperity to them as their vegetation was mainly dependent upon rain. The goddess was not a local deity, connected to a specific location, close to a certain tree, a rock or a special spot, but worshiped throughout the Dravidian nation. The form of the goddess is only the brainchild of human curiosity through the ages of civilisation. According to some sources,[which?] Maariamman is the same as Renuka or Yellamma and even Sri Chowdeshwari Devi. Sri Thailuramma Devi, Huchamma Devi, Manchamma Devi, Chwodamma Devi or Chowdeshwari are a few considered elder sisters of Maariamman.
As a popular local hindu goddess with a huge devotee base, she was the center of attack by many missionaries and they spread many lies as myths about her origin. One such is given below. One story about the origin of Maariamman is she was the wife of Thiruvalluvar, the Tamil poet, who was an outcast. She caught smallpox and begged from house to house for food, fanning herself with leaves of the neem or margosa tree to keep the flies off her sores. She recovered and people worshiped her as the goddess of smallpox. To keep smallpox away, neem leaves are hung above the main entryways of South Indian homes. It shows how cheap the missionaries went to divulge the truths and invent dishonorable stories on Hindu Gods. For Thiruvalluvar's caste was not known and he was not an out-cast as his works were honoured and a temple was built for him at his birth place. This temple houses both Thiruvalluvar and his wife Vaasuki Ammaiyar. Vaasuki Ammaiyar was never mentioned anywhere as an outcast.
The Tamil word Muthu means pearl and hence in the ancient usage of the language 'Muthu Maari' was a celebrating, poetic way of telling the rain falls in droplets which were related to pearls given by the nature god for property. Maariamman was also called 'Muthu Maariamman' which meant the goddess who gives prosperous rain. This was wrongly connected to the pearl-like small form of the boils that occur during chickenpox. (Worship could have started due to the fact that chickenpox is a result of extraordinary heat in the terrain and to give rain and save from the disease, but there are no proper evidences to prove this view.)
Neem leaves have proven antibiotic and other medicinal abilities. This was well known to the ancient Dravidian people and found and important role in their day-to-day lives. It was even practise of having a shot of neem oil twice in a year or so to kill germs in the stomach. Neem oil was applied to the hair for other (unknown) reasons. The reason is now known that neem oil keeps ticks and head lice out. Now this use of the neem leaves during a disease has wrongly been comprehended and interpreted in ways of stories. Even a big sum of the Dravidians who created the gods for their benefits in the past seem to look at her today as a 'lowly god' or a god who is worshipped only by non-civilised part of the society. This is not true - only the atheist parties of tamil nadu called the rural folk who worshipped the god Mariamman as non-civilized ( Kattumirandi ). They were properly booted out in the next election. This shows the popularity and the sentiment attached to Mariamman by the local population. She is by no way a 'lowly god'. For example, the Goddess Mariamman of Samayapuram receives the gifts of honour for a sister from Sri Ranganatha Swamy of Srirangam with full honour atop an elephant.
Below is another story which was spread by the missionaries to degrade and demonize Maariamman worship. The fact remains that there was no Nagavali or Piruhu rishi mentioned anywhere in the Vedic and Puranic canonical texts of Hinduism. Neither does this myth is supposed to be among anywhere in the Indian country side.
Another story involves the beautiful virtuous Nagavali, wife of Piruhu, one of the nine Rishis. One day the Rishi was away and the Trimurti came to see if her famed beauty and virtue was true. Nagavali did not know them and, resenting their intrusion, turned them into little children. The gods were offended and cursed her, so her beauty faded and her face became marked like smallpox. The Rishi returned, found her disfigured, and drove her away, declaring she would be born a demon in the next world and cause the spread of a disease which would make people like her. She was called Mari, meaning 'changed.' Both stories are reported by Whitehead and he remarks that in Mysore he was told that Mari meant sakti, power (which was also wrong).
Mariamman is an ancient goddess, whose worship probably originated in the tribal religion of Dravidian India before the arrival of the Aryans and the Brahman religion. The animals were given to the temple of Goddess Maariamman as a token of thanks towards the plentiful received by the villagers. Since many of these villagers cooked and ate the animals, as they were non-vegetarians, and hinduism is not against non-vegetarianism, they offered the food to the Goddess Maariamman as a thanks before consuming the blessed food. This has now wrongly been construed as "Animal Sacrifice".
Local goddesses such as Mariamman who were believed to protect villages and their lands and represent the different castes of their worshippers have always been an important part of the religious landscape of South India. However, we can note periods of special significance. The eclecticism of the Vijayanagar period (1336–1565) encouraged folk religion, which became more important and influenced the more literate forms of religion. In the last century and a half there has been a rebirth of Tamil self-consciousness (see Devotion to Murukan). In the middle of the present century deities such as Mariamman have become linked to the "great tradition" as the strata of society which worship the goddess has become integrated into the larger social order.
Māri is usually pictured as a beautiful young woman with a red-hued face, wearing a red dress. Sometimes she is portrayed with many arms—representing her many powers—but in most representations she has only two or four.
Māri is generally portrayed in the sitting or standing position, often holding a trident (trisula) in one hand and a bowl (kapala) in the other. One of her hands may display a mudra, usually the abhaya mudra, to ward off fear. She may be represented with two demeanors—one displaying her pleasant nature, and the other her terrifying aspect, with fangs and a wild mane of hair.
Goddess of disease 
The Nanalthidal Mariamman,Kattucherry near Porayar,Tamil Nadu
Mariamman cures all so-called "heat-based" diseases like pox and rashes. During the summer months in South India (March to June), people walk miles carrying pots of water mixed with turmeric and neem leaves to ward off illnesses like the measles and chicken pox.[why?] In this way, goddess Māri is very similar to North Indian goddess Shitaladevi.
Fertility goddess 
Devotees also pray to Mariamman for familial welfare such as fertility, healthy progeny or a good spouse. The most favoured offering is "pongal", a mix of rice and green gram, cooked mostly in the temple complex, or shrine itself, in terracotta pots using firewood.
Some festivals in honor of goddess Māri involve processions carrying lights. In the night, the devotees carry oil lamps in procession.[why?] Mariamman is the family deity for many families in Thanjavur district,Tamil Nadu.It is usually a family custom to initially worship the family deity for any family occasion such as wedding. Many families even have a custom of inviting the family deity first for all occasion in the family.The family deity(Kula-theivam)worship is considered more important in any Hindu festival. The family deity worship runs many generation and it also gives a clue to the origin of family,because the family deities are usually located within the vicinity of the village where the family belongs.
Mariamman temple in a village in Tamil Nadu
Main shrine to Mariamman in the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Most temples to Mariamman are simple village shrines, where non-Brahmins act as lay-priests using non-agamic rituals. In many rural shrines, the goddess is represented by a granite stone with a sharp tip, like a spear head. This stone is often adorned with garlands made of limes and with red flowers. These shrines often have an anthill that could be the resting place of a cobra. Milk and eggs are offered to propitiate the snake.
Some temples have also attained enough popularity that Brahmins officiate at them. For example, the Samayapuram temple near the shore of river Cauvery in the northern outskirts of Trichy, maintains a rich agamic tradition and all rituals are performed by Gurukkal of Brahmins.
Punainallur, near Thanjavur (Tanjore), is the location of another famous Māri temple. Legend says that Mariamman appeared to the King Venkoji Maharaja Chatrapati (1676–1688) of Tanjore in his dreams and told him she was in a forest of Punna trees three miles distant from Tanjore. The King rushed to the spot and recovered an idol from the jungle. Under the king's orders a temple was constructed, the idol installed and the place was called Punnainallur. Hence the deity of this temple is known as Punnainallur Mariamman. Mud replicas of different parts of the human body are placed in the temple as offerings by devotees pleading for cure. It is said that the daughter of Tulaja Raja (1729–35) of Tanjore, who lost her eyesight due to illness, regained it after worshiping at this temple. Shri Sadasiva Bodendral is said to have made the Moola Murthy of Goddess Maariamman from the mud from the ant hill where snakes had resided.
Erode Mariamman temple festival is grand one in Tamil Nadu. Three mariamman goddess named small, mid and big mariamman in three corners of city combines to a festival at every April month of season. It has ther thiruvilla and all devotions to God which ends in Cauvery river to stack away the kambam(Mariamman's husband) into the flowing river water.
Other important temples of Mariamman in Tamil Nadu are in the towns of Veerapandi, Theni, Anbil (near Trichy), Narthamalai, Thiruverkadu, Salem, Virudhunagar and Sivakasi, Vellore. In Chennai (Madras), a famous Mariamman temple is the Putthu Mariamman—the Putthu (ant hill) is across the road from the temple and is located on the Velachery Main Road.
Singer Harini rendered in 2012 a song on Samayapuram Mariamman deity which became part of the album OM NAVA SAKTHI JAYA JAYA SAKTHI. The song narrates the power of Sakthi as Samayapuram Amman which has the Peruvalai River as Punya Theertham as believed by people in that area.
Another famous Mariamman temple is situated in the state of Karnataka, in the town of Kaup, seven kilometers from the famous temple town of Udipi.
Marubai temple matunga
Mariamman Koil, Pilakool
Mariamman Temple, Ho Chi Minh City
Mariamman Temple, Bangkok
Mariamman Temple, Pretoria
Samayapuram Mariamman Temple
Sri Ramamirthamman Temple, Erumaipadukai
Sri Mahamariamman Temple, Kuala Lumpur
Sri Mahamariamman Temple, Penang
Sri Mariamman Temple, Singapore
Mariamman Temple, Pretoria
Sri Ramamirthamman Temple 
Sri Ramamirthamman Temple is a famous temple on the banks of the River Vennar near Needamangalam; the beautiful village is called Erumaipadukai. Shri Maan S.Ramachandran pillai is the founder of Ramamirthamman Temple. This amman kovil thiruvilla was very famous; many people celebrate this amman kovil year festival.
It is believed by the devotees that the Goddess has enormous powers over curing illnesses and hence, it is a ritual to buy small metallic replicas, made with silver or steel, of various body parts that need to be cured, and these are deposited in the donation box. Devotees also offer mavilakku (Tamil: மாவிளக்கு), a sweet dish made of jaggery, rice flour and ghee.  Offerings of raw salt is also made to the Goddess by the rural devotees. The temple attracts thousands of devotees on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays, the holy days for Ramamirthamman.
Outside India 
There are many Mariamman temples outside of India, in Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Fiji, Guyana, Vietnam, Germany and South Africa, the product of efforts of the Tamil diaspora. Some notable temples include the Sri Mariamman temple in Singapore, a Mariamman temple in Pretoria, South Africa, as well as one in Medan, Sri Mariamman Temple Karachi Pakistan, Indonesia.
Hindu tradition and worship 
In Hindu tradition, Mariamman is the sister of Lord Vishnu (Sriranganathar) and called Mahamaya.
The Samayapuram Mariamman is worshiped on the first day of the Tamil month of Vaikasi by the Iyengar/Srivaishnava Brahmins of Srirangam. They claim that she is the sister of Lord Renganath (a form of Vishnu) of Srirangam. This is the second most prominent temple in Tamil Nadu, following Palani, on the basis of income.
Another version of the traditions suggests she is the mother of Parasurama, Renukadevi who is appeased for rains. She is also known as Sri Chowdeshwari Devi in most of the parts of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. In Mysore region she is worshiped as both Chowdeshwari Devi and as well as Mariamman. There are many instances where Mariamman has appeared to people in form an old woman wearing red sari with green bangles and three mangalsutras.[clarification needed] She is also regarded as the Gramdevata[clarification needed] of certain villages, thus reducing the incidence of contagious disease in these villages. Another version depicts her as Pattalamma, goddesses of truthfullness and punctuality. She is said to punish any villager failing to practice these virtues.
In reference to Sanskrit stotras, it is suggested Mariamman is not sister of Lord Visnu rather feminine aspect of Lord. The Lord incarnates in this form during Kali yuga, when knowledge is almost void or ignorance at peak. Even few refer or map to other female goddess like Renuka devi, none of them have been proved or validated. The Mariamman represents core aspects of Lord in form of curative aspect to signify direction and awakening of knowledge. She is referred as MahaLakshmi, Mahasaraswati and MahaKali. Varamahalakshi is dedicated to Mariamman. It also represents finite aspect of infinite qualities.
Goddess Marriammen Goddess Of Fertility Peace And Humanity, a photo by firoze shakir photographerno1 on Flickr.
Devotion to Mariamman
India has always been a land of villages and in the context of village life the most important and powerful divine presence is the gramadevata, a deity identified with the village. A village may have several gramadevatas, each with its own function. Village deities are more numerous than Indian villages, though some are known throughout a region and one of these is the goddess Mariamman (Also called Mari, Mariamma, Maryamman. In the Puranas she is known as Marika.) who has devotees all over South India.
The village belongs to the goddess. Theologically she was there before the village and in fact she created it. Sometimes she is represented only by a head on the soil, indicating her body is the village and she is rooted in the soil of the village. The villagers live inside or upon the body of the goddess. The goddess protects the village and is the guardian of the village boundaries. Outside the village there is no protection from the goddess. The village is a complete cosmos and the central divine power of the village is the goddess. The relationship between the village and the goddess is primarily for the village as a whole and not for individuals. Mari can mean sakti, power, and amman is mother, so she is the mother-power of the village.
However, this relationship is not a simple one. In some places, Mariamman is invoked three times a year to regenerate village soil and protect the community against disease and death. Other places may have an important Mariamman festival. Mariamman is not a peaceful and benign goddess. She can be vindictive, inexorable, and difficult to propitiate. Essentially she is a personification of the world's natural forces, but specifically she is a goddess of smallpox, chickenpox, and other diseases. Her role is ambivalent for she both inflicts the diseases and protects the village from them. The onset of disease or disaster causes special worship or a festival of the goddess, for they are caused by demons let in because the goddess's defences have broken down or because the goddess is angry at being neglected. Mariamman reminds people that their ordered world can be shattered at any time and worshipping her makes one's view of reality less fragile. When the villagers are afflicted, so is the goddess invaded by demons. The villagers and the goddess are suffering the invasion of the village together and that is why one can say that the goddess causes the epidemic. The goddess suffers most but cannot contain it all and spreads it to the villagers, who help her deal with it. Mariamman is especially favourable at this time to those suffering from the disease, for they are helping her bear the burden of the demonic attack.
Blood offerings of animals are commonly sacrificed at festivals of Mariamman, but this is not invariably the case. Whitehead in his classic study The Village Gods of South India (1921) found at the village of Vandipaliam in Cuddalore district that at an annual festival of ten days to Mariamman no animal sacrifices were ever offered or on any other occasion at the shrine. At Shiyali in Tanjore district during the sacrifices of animals to other gods at the festival (of all the village gods) a curtain is drawn in front of Mariamman.
History One story about the origin of Mariamman is she was the wife of Tirunalluvar, the Tamil poet, who was a pariah, outcaste. She caught smallpox and begged from house to house for food, fanning herself with leaves of the nim or margosa tree to keep the flies off her sores. She recovered and people worshipped her as the goddess of smallpox. To keep smallpox away they hang nim leaves above the doors of their houses.
Another story involves the beautiful virtuous Nagavali, wife of Piruhu, one of the Nine Rishis. One day the Rishi was away and the Trimurti (an image with three heads representing Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva) came to see if her famed beauty and virtue was true. Nagavali did not know them and, resenting their intrusion, turned them into little children. The gods were offended and cursed her, so her beauty faded and her face became marked like smallpox. The Rishi returned, found her disfigured, and drove her away, declaring she would be born a demon in the next world and cause the spread of a disease which would make people like herself. She was called Mari, meaning 'changed.' Both stories are reported by Whitehead and he remarks that in Mysore he was told that Mari meant sakti, power.
Mariamman is an ancient goddess, whose worship probably originated in the tribal religion of Dravidian India before the arrival of the Aryans and the brahman religion. According to tradition, among the Dravidian mountain tribes as in Coorg in southern Karnataka, human sacrifices were offered to Mariamman. These were replaced with animals and as we have seen, in some villages no animal sacrifices are offered. Here we can see a historical gradation.
Local goddesses such as Mariamman who protect villages and their lands and represent the different castes of their worshippers have always been an important part of the religious landscape of South India. However, we can note periods of special significance. The eclecticism of the Vijayanagar period (1336-1565) encouraged folk religion, which became more important and influenced the more literate forms of religion. In the last century and a half there has been a rebirth of Tamil self-consciousness (see Devotion to Murukan). In the middle of the present century deities such as Mariamman have become linked to the "great tradition" as the strata of society which worship the goddess has become integrated into the larger social order.
Symbols At the centre and source of the village is a boddhu-rayee, navel stone, with which the goddess is associated. As mentioned in doctrines, the goddess may be represented by only a head on the ground, as her body is the village. To protect the village, shrines and symbols of the goddess are often placed at the boundaries of the village. These symbols are usually simple, rough, unhewn stones, five or six inches high and blackened with anointing oil, or there may be a stone pillar. If there are shrines these will often be crude simple structures.
Mariamman's colour is yellow and sometimes a stone is adorned with a yellow dress, only a small part of bare stone emerging at the top. Sometimes there is only a spear or trident thrust in the ground in place of the goddess-stones. In larger villages a slab of stone may be carved with a rough figure of a woman, who may have four, six, or eight arms, or none at all, and the arms hold various implements such as a knife, a shield, a drum, a bell, a devil's head, and a three-pronged fork. It is common to have a fixed stone image in the shrine and to use a small portable metal image in processions. Mariamman can be represented as riding naked on an ass with a winnow on her head and a broom and water-pot in her hands. Sometimes there is no image and the goddess is represented by a brass pot of water decorated with nim leaves. The nim tree is sacred to Mariamman. In poor villages an earthenware pot is used.
During the ceremonies of the goddess there is a symbolic marriage. Although the goddess is sometimes said to have a consort, she is really married to the village, so the goddess and village can nourish each other.
A blood sacrifice at her festival can appease the goddess to withdraw her anger symbolised as the heat of disease or it can symbolise the defeat of the invading demon. Traditionally a buffalo was offered. After it was beheaded, its leg was thrust into its mouth, fat from the stomach was smeared in its eyes, and a candle was lit on its head. It was then presented to the goddess. This humiliation of the victim symbolises the defeat of an enemy, the demon who causes the epidemic or disaster.
Village festivals are filled with symbolism. At a festival in Karnataka, the Mariamman image is first painted in bright colours and put in a shelter of nim leaves and a sheep sacrificed to placate the goddess. Then a he-buffalo is sacrificed by untouchables and the head put in a pit before Mariamman. The blood and parts of the buffalo are mixed with rice and put in a large basket. This is caraga and it is carried in procession by untouchables followed by other villagers carrying sickles and weapons to guard it. At other shrines sheep are sacrificed and mixed with the caraga, which is then sprinkled on the fields and along the boundaries of the village, thus regenerating the soil and protecting the village. Even vegetarian farmers believe that the soil needs blood and if it is not given then human lives will be taken.
Festivals without animal sacrifice may offer boiled rice, fruit, flowers, cakes and sugar, and incense and camphor are burnt. There is Abishegam, ceremonial washing of the image twice a day, with water, oil, milk, coconut milk, turmeric, rose water, sandalwood, honey, sugar, limes, and a solution of the bark of certain trees, separately in a regular order. The image of the goddess is carried twice a day on the shoulders of devotees around the village and there may be a car procession one day. Under brahmanical influence, the image can be towed around a tank.
At many festivals an important role is played by a Matangi, a low caste woman who is unmarried and holds the office for life. She is a living symbol of the goddess and becomes possessed by the goddess, dancing wildly, using obscene language, spitting at devotees, and pushing people around with her backside. The festival reverses social norms and the Matangi's behaviour, which would ordinarily be highly polluting, is purifying and people seek out her spit and insults.
Adherents Millions of villagers across South India worship Mariamman, especially in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Mariamman is one of the deities worshipped in almost every Tamil village. Nearly all members of a village participate in the goddess's festival, even brahmans and Muslims. The different castes to some extent mix freely. This is not the case in daily life. The ritual topography of a village in Karnataka, for example, has an inner village inhabited by the purest castes and the rest live outside this. The shrines of the goddess would be in the outside part of the village. The oldest, largest, and most important Hindu temple in Singapore is the Mariamman Temple, which was established early in the nineteenth century.
Pilgrims at a Mariamman festival wear mostly yellow, the colour of the goddess. Some men dress as tigers and other animals. Pilgrims may come because of a specific fear or debt or because one of their family has a disease associated with the goddess or they themselves have recovered from the disease. Particular castes are associated with Mariamman, such as fishermen and builders on the coast of Tamil Nadu. Pilgrims fast before the festival and bring offerings, such as money in a propitious amount, say one hundred and one rupees. Some pilgrims have made vows to Mariamman to walk on fire, carry burning pots on their heads, or perform covadi, when they swing suspended on hooks through their flesh.
Main Centre There is no one main centre for Mariamman.