Sunday, June 04, 2006

Kannagi Silai - symbol of chastity?

Yet another typical instance of "Whatever you did, I will undo. Whatever you undid, I will do". But this "kannagi statue" issue prompted a discussion with my family friend yesterday. There is no denying the DMK-ADMK spat and I am neither a ADMK supporter nor a DMK basher.

For the record, Kannagi statue was installed in the DMK rule in 1968 to commemorate the "World Tamil Conference" as it was considered a symbol of Tamil culture. Removed by Jayalalitha Govt. after an "accidental" hit by a lorry and a new service lane is operational where the statue once stood. I have not seen the now re-installed statue.

I have nothing against Kannagi or her statue but I have some doubts whether Kannagi really deserves a statue or not. These are some questions that keep pestering in my mind.

1. Silappadigaram is a great work in Tamil, created by Ilangovadigal. Why can't we have a statue of Ilangovadigal instead of Kannagi?

2. Kannagi is definitely a symbol of chastity, but one of my relative contended that Kannagi is hyped up by male-chauvinistic males as she symbolizes that a 'chaste' wife should do anything for her wayward and unfaithful husband who realises his mistakes after sunset.

3. If Kovalan was sinning, Kannagi should have set him on fire in the first place. Why destroy a city for the sake of king's mistake?

4. That Pandian king deserves a statue: He died the moment he realised he has erred in his judgement.

5. That queen deserves a statue: She died seeing her husband die (Not that I am a votary of Sati!) - which shows her abundant and unconditional love for her husband.

6. How can we have a statue for a city destroyer - for whatever reasons she destroyed it - it is like encouraging violence if Madras High court (which is very close to Marina as well) makes a wrong judgement.

7. I guess Silappadigaram is a work of fiction(?!!!!), this statue might hurt the sentiment of Madurai people - remember how the current Ban Drowns the Code! Also, is it alright to have a statue for a fictional character?


Mathivanan said...

Commendable observations Selva, but you have to look at this from the point of view of our ancient tamil culture. Let me try giving scores based on culture for your concern then you might appreciate.

1. Rama and sita takes the seat in the shrine but neither Valmiki nor Kambar. Harry Potter is given much accolades by all but it is not necessary that one who knows Harry Potter necessarily know JK Rowlings. The characters of fictions are celebrated for their own merits and for what they stand for. What more an ecstasy would a creator have than the characters created by him/her being celebrated like this. Kangi stands for a set of perceived values of the bygone culture. Why should not we have a statue for a character which influenced the total creed. But there is no denying that Ilangovadigal deserves a statue.
2. This is a question pertaining to the evolution of the Human culture, in all cultures this discrimination is done. Men have suppressed women for finding ways to their vices. You can find this in all epics around the world. Now that we men have realized our mistake (rather made to realize) it will not (will not be allowed) reflect in our future writings.
3. In their ethos Kovalan was not termed as a sinner, his lust for the other women was condoned by Kanagi. By any standards of natural justice it is not equitable to have burnt Madurai. But to show the reverence the people of that culture had for justice the writer has exaggerated a bit more. But the people have accepted this exaggeration. King was not different from his kingdom in ancient tamil culture (Mannan evvazhi Makkal avvazhi). If the king is at falter his kingdom is so.
4. The instant death of the King is not considered an extraordinary feat, because it is duty of the king to perish if he could not deliver what is expected of him. ‘Sengol Vazhuvamai’ is a paramount character of a Tamil king.
5. This is also expected from the queen having unconditional love for her king. If we expect so much from Kanagi that she should condone her husband for his lecherous act and exploitations as well. Is that not expected of a queen to share her husbands injustice, that too it is described in the epic as caused because of the king being in an fervent condition with her.
6. You are right it is there to remind of the consequences of a wrong judgment which was vogue in ancient times. But now at least the statue of Kanagi remains. Since the statue is lifeless the statute authorities need not worry, lol.
7. Of course it is pure fiction, but alive in the minds of people. Madurai people feel proud for their immolation to reflect their reverence for justice. They repent for the injustice caused to the expatriates who came to dwell with them, it is against their ‘virindhombal panbu’

PS: I would like to keep the same disclaimer which you have proclaimed.

Vijay Krishna said...

Interesting questions. Mr Mathivanan's take seems correct to me.

My two cents...

Karpu (fidelity) is one of the points emphasised across Tamil literature. That is to say, if all our Tamil poets were bloggers, "karpu" would have been their number one tag on Technorati. It is also one of the differentiating features in Kambar's version of Ramayana.

If Kannagi was the creation of male-chauvinists, can we argue that Rama was the creation of feminists?

WA said...

Vijay Krishna, er how can Ramayana be the creation of feminists? Wasn't Seetha the one who had to walk through fire to prove her chastity? No one questioned Rama's chastity, not that I know of anyway.

Premalatha said...

imo, it was a record of earthquake and related fire, woven in a story, which also shows the social/cultural set up of that time. :) Better than the mythified Gods and their families and their stories. This is what I think about Silappathikaaram. It is one of my never ending wish-list to read and understand the Silappathikaaram myself, in order to prove or disprove my theory to myself. (I have read 2/3 of the thirukkural myself.. and have an opinion on that too).

I am not for or against Kannagi Silai, it is very irrelevant to me. Not from chennai, so do not have very much senti over the statue.

Vijay Krishna said...

@WA: I threw in the Rama angle only to disapprove of Kannagi as being a creation of MCs. After all, Rama is to male fidelity what Kannagi and Vasuki are to female fidelity.

Selva said...

Interesting replies! I am not refuting your points, I am adding something in response to yours.
1. Valmiki/Kambar created their work to tell the mythological story of Rama, here Lord Rama is more important. At the same time, I agree Kannagi has become more identifiable than Ilangovadigal in the Tamil society now.
2. If it is suppression as rightly pointed out by you, better late than never.
3. True, polygamy (or courting multiple woman)might have been acceptable during those days. But to my eyes, what kovalan did is a sin. My idea abt setting kovalan on fire is also a slight exaggeration!
4. True, as you say, the king is not expected to slip in his judgements. That is a model to be followed even now - JJ and MK need to keep a note of this. I feel the king's mistake is bit less severe than kannagi's though his is the cause of the latter's.
5. I dont know what to say for this point. Everything is expected from everyone, then why have a statue for only one? Just kidding!
6. I admire the statue as a work of art. :)
7. You seem to be a Madurai guy, you must be right here.

According to my basic knowledge of Ramayana, Sita did not err in her ways - it is not expected from a husband to forgive his wife's unfaithful behaviour (as pointed out by WA, there was the agni-paritchai).
Rama is a symbol of an ideal husband (he asked his wife to step on fire)
Kannagi is a symbol of an ideal wife (she forgives her unfaithful husband and sets the city on fire!)
Rama and Kannagi - It seems both are products of male chauvinism and both love fire!

Anonymous said...

My answers

1. i guess no one wanted to build temple for valmiki be demolishing a mosque. Whne you have temple fro Rama and not Valmiki, I think your question needs no further answer

2. Agreed. That was 2000 years ago and that was what expected for a woman and she did that. Right now, if someone goes has a mistress, it will be better if the wife burns him instead of another city

3. I agree that Kovalan had to be burned. The destruction was more symbolic

4. That is his duty

5. May be... then you need to have statues for ALMOST all the queens

6. In the same way we have statues of all great kings. If I am correct Rama and hanuman destroyed Lanka for Ravana's fault...... Same logic... i wonder why you didn't ask this questions earlier

7. WOrk of fiction in the same way Ramayana. Did you think for a moment before destroying Babr Masjid and building Ramar Temple whether it will hurt those from Srilanka. Is it alright to have a statue and temple for fictional Rama

Anonymous said...

The most followed Folk Deity of South India Sudalai Madan also Sudaleswaran or Madasamy is a regional Tamil male deity who is popular amongst the least Sanskritized social groups of South India, particularly Tamil Nadu.
· Sudalai Maadan
· Sudalai Mada Sami
· Sudaleshwaran
· Madasamy
· Maasana Muthhu
· Mundan Sami
· Irulappa Sami
· Mayandi
God of the disposed
He is usually considered to be the caste deity of Konar, Thevar, Paraiyar, Nadar and other castes found in the extreme south of Tamil Nadu. He is very popular in the Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari districts. Shree Sudalai Madan swamy is also called Maasanamuthu or Mundan.
The Esakkiyamman worship is followed where the Madan temples are predominant. Esakki Amman is worshipped for good causes, such as for child birth, for good character in children, for a better society, etc.
Story of Arichandran
Harichandran is revered by all communities for his honesty and his adherence to only the truth at all stages of his life.
Maasana Muthu
Harichandran is also worshipped as Masanamuthu in the Thiruchendur and Thirunelveli districts.
Katterum Perumal
The son of Harichandran, revives after regaining his life from his own funeral pyre, and is worshipped as Katterum Perumal in the Kanyakumari and Thirunelveli districts.

Rituals and priests
Most Sudalai Madan (also referred as Irulappa samy or Mayandi samy) temples are officiated by non-Brahmin priests. Amongst Paraiyar, the priests are called Valluvar. His name suggests an association with death and cemeteries. Sudalai Madan in offered (or sacrificed) birds and goats by his devotees, unlike in the Sanskritized Hindu temples.
Sudalai Maadan, is one among the 21 sub-folk deity of the Ayyanar-Sastha clan of worship and is considered as the god of the graveyard. In the Sastha-Ayyanar temples and shrines, the god (Ayyanar) is surrounded by at least 21 other deities, among which the important sub-deities are the Karuppa samy (Karuppanar, being the oracle or the Kodangi or the Shamam who resolves the community problems), Sudalai Mada samy and other subordinates, who help him carry out his duties to protect the local community and the village. The village folk believe in these Gods for solving the local community and locality problems and do not believe the astrological timing or the ominous signs or in heaven and hell.
Mayana Pujai is offered as a special ritual for the Sudalai Maadan God.
Vijayalakshmi Navaneethakrishnan, a professor in the Department of Folk Arts at the Madurai Kamaraj University (MKU) says
The traditions and ethics set by our forefathers have positive values like humaneness, love, brotherhood and discipline. "Every aspect of our ancient culture has its own objective. Each custom has been carefully codified. Apart from spiritual aspect, even personal habits have been welldesigned." She lists out various the nomenclatures of the `Karuppannasamy' (Ondi Karuppu, Nochi Karuppu,....the list seems to be endless), the art of `kolam', the benefits of regional-specific patterns of prayers and worship. All testify her in-depth knowledge of the overall spiritual, cultural and traditional systems that prevailed in the various parts of Tamil Nadu.
Her performances on stage thus are not just mere entertainment shows, but an attempt to trace the rich cultural heritage of the folk scenario. She relates the symbolic significance behind each custom and helps the audience to understand it. She describes with vigour and expressiveness, the way the `Sudalayandi', the God of the Ashes as he walks in the darkness holding a torch, from his fort to the crematorium to cleanse the place of ashes and impurities. The faith in Sudaliyandi was symbolic of the concern that the ancient population had for the environment- she clarifies.
Sudalai Maadan, also finds a reference in the Saivite literature (Sudalai podi poosiya, yen ullam kavar kalvan). In the folk tradition, the deities converse with the oracle and send across their messages to the devotees.Sudalai Maadan relishes meat and arrack and hence He is an irredeemable carnivorous god. However, in the Kanyakumari district, Sanskritisation is going on at a feverish pace in almost every village, especially in the trading Nadar community. The temples of folk deities are fast changing and replicas of Sanskritised temples with the traditional Gopuram and the Vimanam over the sanctum sanctorum are coming up everywhere.
“This is totally against folk tradition".
Women deities like Mutharamman and Santhana Mariamman have temples but they will not fall into the category of the regular temples that we see for the 'bigger' Hindu gods. Actually these temples would look more like the humble dwellings you see in our villages. As far as Sudalai Maadan is concerned, he never had a roof over his head,” explains Prof. A.K.Perumal, an authority on folk culture.
Another aspect of Sanskritisation is the act of dispensing with animal sacrifice. “Animal sacrifice was common in all Mutharamman temples. But today it has been stopped. It is still being practised only in Sudalai Maadan temples” points out A.K. Perumal.
The images or the idols of the village deities are also changing. “We used the paste of lime and sand to make these idols. Now granite idols are installed so that Abishekams (bathing the idol in water, milk &/ or sandal paste) can be performed on them,” points out A.K. Perumal.
Due to this Sanskritisation process in the Kanyakumari district, folk gods are being fast replaced by Vedic gods. Vedic and folk gods are poles apart. Except for the Brahmins, every other community has temples dedicated to their favourite folk gods and goddesses. Madan is a generic name and there are a whole lot of Maadans, like Sudalai Madan, Pula Madan and Esaki Madan. Goddesses include Mutharamman, Sandhana Mari Amman, Muppidaari, Kali and Durgai. The priest of the temple is usually from the community that owns the temple.
These deities are different from the vedic ones. They are gruesome and evoke fear in the minds of their devotees; not love. They have to be propitiated at regular intervals. Festivals are organised twice a year and animal sacrifices are an integral part of these celebrations. The sacrifices are known as Muppali (i.e., killing of three animals, generally goats, fowls and pigs).
The idols are made of sand and lime. Even the temples that house such deities look quite ordinary, a simple structure under tiled roofs, with nothing to distinguish them from the devotees or the village residents. In many Sudalai Madan temples even the roofs are a luxury. There is no such thing as a Sanctum sanctorum in these temples, clearly differentiating them from the Brahminical concept of ritual purity.
But all this is changing now. Sudalai Madan, his fraternal deities and their temples are undergoing a dramatic transformation, signalling the arrival of the Brahminical culture.
The irony is that today concrete miniatures of vedic temples, with gopuram and a vimana above the sanctum, are coming up everywhere. Granite images of gods and goddess are replacing the structures erected from sand and lime. The purpose of installing a granite structure is to perform abishekam (ritual pouring of liquids) as done in vedic temples
Once the construction of a new temple is over, Kumbabhisekam or a consecration ceremony, is done by the vedic scholars, totally alien to the folk gods and those that worship them. The gods and goddesses who once evoked so much fear are now referred with a prefix Arul migu (or merciful), a misnomer.
In Folk culture, Kapalika means "bearer of the skull-bowl", and has reference to Lord Bhairava’s vow to take the Kapala vow. As penance for cutting off one of the heads of Brahma, Lord Bhairava became an outcast and a beggar. In this guise, Bhairava frequents waste places and cremation grounds, wearing nothing but a garland of skulls and ash from the pyre, and unable to remove the skull of Lord Brahma fastened to his hand. The skull hence becomes his begging-bowl, and the Kapalikas (as well as the Aghoris of Varanasi) supposedly use skulls as begging bowls and as drinking and eating vessels, in imitation of Shiva.
Although information on the Kapalikas is primarily to be gleaned from classical Sanskrit sources, where Kapalika ascetics are often depicted as depraved villains in drama, it appears that this group worshipped Lord Shiva in his extreme form, Bhairava, the ferocious. For the outsiders, They are also often falsely accused of having practiced ritual human sacrifices due to the system getting into the hands of vested greedy persons behind wealth. Ujjain is alleged to have been a prominent centre of this sect.
The Kapalikas may also have been related to the Kalamukhas (”black faces”) of medieval South India). Moreover, in modern Tamilnadu, certain Shaivite cults associated with the goddess Ankalaparameshwari, Irulappa sami, and Sudalai Madan, are known to practice or have practiced ritual cannibalism, which is not exactly ture, and to center their secretive rituals around an object known as a Kapparai (Tamil: “skull-bowl,” derived from the Sanskrit "kapaala"), a votive device garlanded with flowers and sometimes adorned with faces, which is understood to represent the begging-bowl of Shiva. Ankaala parameshwari : a goddess of Tamilnadu, her myths and cult need to be studied as parallel to Sudalai Madan worship. To understand that it is connencted with Cannibalism, the reality of Sudalai Madan worship need to realised through the group worship where they consider as family deity for several generations in South Tamilnadu.
Outside India
The deity is also popular amongst certain segments of the Tamil diaspora in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, RĂ©union and the French overseas territories in the Caribbean sea.
External links
· Sudalai Madan temple and animal sacrifice
· Sudalai Madan amongst Indian origin Tamils
· South Indian Deities And Their Relative Following in Tamil Nadu
· Secularism and Religious Violence in Contemporary India
· Madurai Veeran

18 Steps Karuppan of Alagar Kovil and Madurai Veeran

Village gods and heroes - worship of Hero Stones in Tamil Nadu, India

UNESCO Courier, March, 1984 by R. Nagaswamy
Village gods and heroes - worship of Hero Stones in Tamil Nadu, India

UNESCO Courier, March, 1984 by R. Nagaswamy
Potters enjoy a special status in Tamil Nadu.
Unlike potters in other parts of India they wear the “sacred thread” of the “twice-born” (see caption page 13), which elsewhere is reserved for higher castes, and they frequently act as unofficial guardians of the smaller village temples. This hereditary task enhances their standing in the community and gives them the material advantage of a share in the offerings made to the gods of meat, fruit and money. Although their main activity is the making of pots and similar domestic utensils, Tamil potters are famed for making the largest terra-cotta statues in the world. Figures of horses, which can be as much as seven metres in height, are much in demand as offerings, especially to the god Ayanar. They are believed to serve as chargers for his warriors when they make their nocturnal patrols to keep demons away from the villages.
Terra-cotta images of popular deities (wise men or heroes) are also sometimes of monumental size, although in recent years these have tended to be made of brick and cement. Traditional methods are still used, however, for small or medium-sized ex voto objects or statues offered to a deity–a statue of a child in thanks for its birth or recovery from sickness; models of feet, hands or other limbs or parts of the body, for recovery from injury or illness; even of animals (usualy cows and more rarely dogs and cats). The presentation of a statue to a temple often involves the performance of quite complicated rites, but, even for the most humble votive offering, the critical moments is the placing in position by the potter of the eyes, the final, essential, life-giving gesture before installation in the temples.

Although it is the monumental architecture of India’s classical temples which usually overwhelms the visitor, it is the country’s folk temples, several times greater in number, that reflect the living faith of the people.
India’s village temples owe their origin to a belief in the various manifestatiions–malevolent and benevolent–of the spirit of nature, and to a conviction that God dwells in all animate and inanimate phenomena–trees, rivers, mountains, water-tanks, the sea, lightning and the wind.
They are also connected to the fertility cult so widely prevalent throughout the ancient world. Faith in the Mother Goddess led to the personification of every village settlement in a grama devata, a village Goddess who protects the villagers, decides their fate and guides them like a fond mother.
Another concept that has made an important contribution to the development of village Gods is the worship of heroes who laid down their lives for the sake of their country or community. These heroes were commemorated and worshipped by the erection of Hero Stones or Memorial Stones, thousands of which are found in Tamil Nadu and other parts of India.
The erection of Hero Stones and the adoration of the dead hero as the saviour spirit of the community may be considered as an extension of the prehistoric cult of erecting megalithic tombs. The Hero-Stones are in the form of a dolmen with three upright slabs erected in the form of a small chamber on the back slab, facing the front. The representation of the hero on the slab takes various forms. The simplest shows him in the act of fighting with a spear, or bnow and arrow.
In a number of cases the event relating to the death of the hero, the period and the people who erected the stone are recorded in the local language. In Tamil Nadu over 600 inscribed memorials dating from the fourth century A.D. almost until the present day have recently been found.
It is necessary to know something about Hero Stones in order to understand the social background of the village temples. Often the Stones stand beneath shady trees in simple surroundings. Long swords, spears, or tridents are placed in front of them, as well as terra-cotta horses painted in folk style. It was believed that the spirit of a hero resided forever in each monument, bestowing benefactions on the community. The spirit was dreaded, loved, adored and worshipped and was considered the saviour of the community.
Some regional as opposed to village deities found in Tamil Nadu arose from the cult of a hero’s death. One of them, Maduraiviran, who is worshipped in central Tamil Nadu, was a seventeenth-century hero who defended the country valiantly and was later put to death by its ruler after a love affair. The romantic element and the hero’s tragic end at the hands of the very ruler he had fought for created such an aura around him that soon his spirit was recognized as a most powerful divinity and his temple was found in every village. The most important feature of his temple is the huge figure of a horse placed either in front of him or carrying him. People believe that his spirit ascends the horse after dusk, and goes around the village protecting the people at night.
Another factor in the development of village temples was the veneration of women who died in heroic circumstances. One such death that was popular was that of the chaste wife who committed sati, that is, she died voluntarily on her husband’s funeral pyre. Recorded evidence for such customs is available from the beginning of the Christian era. The spirits of women who die in such circumstances are said to be very powerful, protecting the community and also severely punishing wrongdoers.
In all these instances of the worship of the dead as the village gods, the offering consists of all types of food and other things that had pleased the dead person while he was alive. Offerings of animal flesh and liquor are quite common models of worship. Animals sacrifice is often misunderstood and blown up out of proportion. It arises out of the eating habits of the people. The simple concept behind this offering is that whatever one eats is first ceremoniously offered to the deity. The cock, chicken and goat are offered in the presence of the deity, cooked and then consumed by the worshipper. There are some temples where even specially prepared cigars are offered.
Festivals are conducted annually for the village gods or are specially arranged either to ward off natural calamities, epidemics or threats to the community which are of human origin. They are celebrated with great pomp and show. The presence of the deity is felt so powerfully that to utter a lie in its presence, it is believed, brings calamity to the teller. Many disputes, such as proof of adultery, repudiation of loans received and other such matters are settled even to this day in the village temple. In many villages in the interior there is no need for civil or criminal courts to decide the nature of punishments. The temple of the village god, the impersonal spirit that permeates and rules the society is sufficient to take care of evildoers.
The village deity wards off all diseases. If a person is affected in any part of his body, or the whole, he prays to the deity for a cure and offers a replica of the afflicted member made of terra-cotta, wood or metal. Or a full terra-cotta figurine representing a human form is made and placed with devotion in front of the deity. For happy child birth, a terra-cotta figure of a child in a cradle is offered. To ward off cattle diseases, large or small clay figures are likewise placed in the temple. Several hundred such terra-cotta figurines can be seen in front of many village temples. And on all such occasions the folk artist (mainly the village potter) is honoured with new cloth, garlands of flowers, special food and money. In fact the cult of the village god was mainly responsible for sustaining and fostering folk arts.
The cult of the village gods has also been a fount of inspiration for folk music and dance. Several hundred folk ballads and songs are connected with the adoration of village heroes, and during festivals they are sung by village minstrels for hours–sometimes throughout the night. So spirited are these folk songs that even people who are in their houses rush towards the sound of the music in a trance and sometimes thousands of people can be seen on these occasions, marching, singing and dancing.
This expression of devotion often takes the form of walking barefoot over fire, piercing one’s body with decorated needles or lances, or carrying firepots in one’s arms. Both men and women take part in such devotions.
The conservatism of the village folk is revealed in their forms of dress, ornamentation and mode of singing, which can be traced back several centuries. For example, in the Alagar festival held in Madurai during March and April, several thousand villagers dress themselves in colourful costumes, and wear dresses and ornaments similar to those that can be seen in sixteenth-century paintings and sculptures. Another festival in Farur attracts several thousand men, who dress as women and move through the streets singing and dancing. In another interesting festival, held in a suburb of Madras, several men and women clad in neem leaves circumambulate the temple of the village goddess several times. The fact that such customs–referred to in literature at the beginning of the Christian era–have survived to this day, very near the capital of the State, shows the powerful hold these faiths have over the people.
Sometimes such folk beliefs and customs are superimposed on the classical temple. There is a celebrated temple at Alagar Koil near Madurai where worship is performed by orthodox Vishnavite Brahmins according to classical rites. In the entrance tower of the temple is the figure of a folk god, “Karuppan of the steps” or 18 steps Karuppan. The Karuppan, the spirit of the hero who guarded the temple and lost his life when defending it from robbers, is held in greater veneration by the village people than the main classical deity, Vishnu. When the annual festival for Vishnu is celebrated, several million people assemble to adore both Vishnu and the 18 steps Karuppan who is often worshipped in the form of a main door in this specific temple. Such a superimposition of folk customs, music and dance on classical temples can be observed in many places and seems, at least for the casual spectator, to abolish the dividing line between the folk temple and the classical temple.

However, there is one essential difference between the classical temple and the folk temple. In the former there is a trained family of worshippers, the priests, who perform the daily acts of worship and the rites of periodical festivals as prescribed. In other words, there is an intermediary between the devotee and the divine. The priest’s presence is accepted as a necessity; he can perform acts of worship while the rest of the community pursues its daily tasks and goes to the temple only when in need.
In the village temples communication between the devotee and the deity is direct and so the feeling of attachment is more intimate. The divine spirit is always present in the village temple and anyone can go and worship directly. Whatever the offering, or whatever the form in which it is made, the village god is pleased. This is why the village temples remain so popular.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

Anonymous said...

Historical Tradition
Generally all the 21 sub-deities of Ayyanar (ancient Tamil name: Sathanar) are called as Kaval Deivangal. Most of the Ayyanar shrines come under this by categorizing under specific local variants of Kaval deivams and the important fact is that Ayyanar himself should be considered as the central focal point of all Kaval deivams. But due to the change in times, even Kaval deivams such as Sudalai, Sonai, Pechhi, etc located in different locations are wrongly referred to as an individual temples; which are, in fact, an attachment to some of the nearby local Peripheral Folk-Deity namely, the Ayyanar.

Worship of the village Ayyanar or Sathanar deities with clay horse system is very popular in Tamil Nadu and is much more ancient than Vedic worship. It dates back to the Sangam age and represents the oldest Dravidian way of worship.

[edit] A Typical Shrine
Most of these village deities have their shrines on the periphery (border or outskirts) of the village as a representation of their Village Guardian position. Hence they are referred as "Peripheral Folk Deity". 21 associate deities and 61 servant deities are located in either the same premises or located in different places of the locality, for e.g.: Amman deities may be installed in the centre of the village but the Sonai, Sudalai or the Formless Nadukkal deities may be installed close to grave-yards (cemeteries or burial and sometimes, also near memorial centres).

These Village deities are either represented in the form of a huge, fierce statue or as a simple stone. Most of these temples are not closed premises but are simple and small worship areas. Weapons such as a trident or a lance or sickles are also associated with these shrines.

We also see lots of terracotta horses, elephants, clay dolls & birds and bells. Most officiating priests are non-Brahmins or any local community people or Velars and derive from the local ancestral lineages that had initiated the cult centers generations ago.

The worship pattern is non-vedic through Folk tale, Folk Song and Folk arts (Villupattu, Karagam, Koothhu, etc). The local priest might offer flowers or Veeputhi (holy ash) or Holy flowers to the worshippers and may play the oracle role for shamanism.

[edit] Categories & Folk-Lores
The village deities in Tamil Nadu have interesting stories behind them. Mainly these village gods come under one of the three categories:

[edit] Stones with possession of Natural Forces/ Natural Energies passed on it by creative collective transcendental form
Karuppanaar swamy (“Karuppu” means black in Tamil and is associated with dark, night, etc)

Kaateri amman (“Kaateri” means vampire)

Sudalai Maadan swamy (“Sudalai” means burial ground/ pyre and “Sudalai maadan” means guardian of burial ground)

Kali or Kali Amman was considered as the causative force for cholera

Maari or Maari Amman was considered as a causative force for smallpox, chicken pox, mumps and measles (Maari in Tamil means rain. Since the rainfall cooled the otherwise hot area and protected people from summer sicknesses like viral infections, people started worshiping the rain goddess as Maari Amman)

Ellai amman or Ellai Maari Amman worshipped in many villages is actually a mile stone which demarcated the boundaries of two villages.
In olden days, people when they travel from one village to another village started relaxing near these stones and in due course started praying to them for safe journey. Thus, slowly these milestones attained the position of village gods and goddesses.

There are other various Natural energy worship in the form of Muthaaramman, Muthalamman, Pachai Thanni Amman, Pachaiyamman, Pal Pazhakkari amman etc.

[edit] Hero Stones and Sati Stones
Hero stones (Nadukkal or Veerakkal) are the stones provided for the males who sacrifice their life for good causes. Sati stones are the stones provided for females who sacrificied their life for certain specific purpose, especially for chastity and purity.

This category includes people who lived and lost their lives for their community and hence their community members still remembered them and worship them. This group also includes persons who were killed by injustice and hence were worshipped in order to save the village from their wrath. The worship for the fallen brave warriors is one of the popular forms of worship. The early Tamil poetry 'Tolkappiyam' gives an elaborate description in six stages in the planting of such a stone: beginning with looking for a suitable stone, until the institution of formal worship.

The portrait of the hero is often decorated with peacock feathers. Some poems refer to spears and shields erected around the planted stones. Offering of Naravam (toddy = alcohol) to the spirit of the fallen hero, represented in the planted stone, is mentioned in some verses. During latter period these “nadukals” became Ayyanar shrines. Other warrior gods include Madurai veeran (who lived near Madurai), Kaathavarayan (who lived near Tanjavore) and Annammar swamigal (who lived near Coimbatore).

The "Thee paanch ammman" temples in northern part of TN were basically built to worship widows who were burnt alongwith their husbands' funeral pyre as part of the "Sathi" or "Saathi" or "Sati".

The “Maachani amman” temple at Polaachi was built to worship a young girl who was killed by a “Kongu” king since she unknowingly ate a mango from his garden.

The “Palayanoor Neeli” was a girl who was betrayed and cunningly killed by her husband and who took revenge by killing him in her next birth. Further, several love pairs who have lost their lives due to caste animosity are also being worshipped as village deities in several villages.

Seelakari amman in various parts of South Tamilnadu and Kannagi worship are considered as a part of Sati stone worship system. These goddess are most revered Female deities for their purity and chastity as they are considered as the prime focus of the way of Tamil women. In general, Sati stones have not become part of the 21 sub-dieties of Ayynar but at some places Seelakari amman is considered as part of 21 sub deities. A more detailed research is required to identify clear clarity on various sub-dieties including Isakki Amman, Sonai and others.

[edit] Stones to tame Evil and Devil Forces and converting to good powers
There were Forces or elements which the people were scared of.

Munishswaran or Muniappan in olden days was associated with killing people, drinking blood, doing mischievous things, bringing in ill-effect, etc.

Peichi amman (“Pei” means devil) also covered under this form.

[edit] Legends from Disastrous Social Events
These legends include social suppression stories such as Kannagi, Nallathangal - out of which various worships were created to remind the people not to commit or repeat the same social mistakes of the past. Purity and Chastity of women were given more reverence and prominence. Chitra Pournami is celebrated grandly in memory of Sati women and Kannagi. Nallathangal and similar stories represent the poor familial support leading to the suicide of womenfolk & children. These emphasize moral stories and not to repeat such mistakes again.

[edit] Genesis of Vedic Connections
The third category contains certain less spoken characters in the great epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata. Like, you see lots of temples for Draupathi (Panchali) and Darmaraja (Yudhistran) in the Northern parts of TN, you also see temples for Ganthari (mother of the Kauravas), Kunthi (mother of Pancha Pandavas) and Aravan (the son of Arjuna and the Manipuri princess Chitrankatha) in TN.

Sanskritization of the village deities: During the bakthi movement in TN (mainly due to Adishankara’s Advaitha philosophy), many of these village deities slowly got enfolded into the main stream Hindu religion and thus gained the status of demi-gods.

Thus, the various forms of Muniswaras were incarnated as the vedic Saptharishis and their successors (“Muni” in Sanskrit means sage and since sages were very popular during Vedic period it was easy to incarnate munishswarans as the fierceful form of sages who accompanied goddess Durga, in the form of Pachai amman, during her fight with a demon king).

The Kerala Sastha became Hariharaputra and the TN village deity Ayyanars have been transformed into several local incarnation of Sastha or Ayyapan.

In the same way, Karuppu, Sudalai, Mari, Kali etc and every other local folk god were connected to the Vedic Gods, and new evolutionary and imaginary stories came into wide acceptance by the entire folk group. Later this imaginary Vedic connection had to be in effect in order to prevent the large-scale conversion to foreign religions which mercilessly campaigned to eliminate the local cultures and practices so that their propagating religious philosophy can become dominant.

The incarnation of Sudalai maadan as Siva’s son is not very popular or is not a convincing story as it is narrated. The connection of Isakki to Sudalai is highly mischievous in Vedic stories.

It was easier for the Village goddesses to get enfolded into the main stream since all of them were considered as various manifestations of goddess “Sakthi”. Thus the original right centre natural Saktha - Tantric worship got embroiled into Dattatreya’s Thirupura Rahasyam to become the widely followed Vedic - Sakthi worship of recent times. Thus the various forms of Kali and Maariammans were considered as the various incarnations of goddess Parvathi. It was much difficult for the male counterparts to enter the mainstream since it means establishing an association with a Vedic male god. Since there were only two main Vedic gods namely Siva and Vishnu, it was difficult to choose between them.

For example, there is no story what so ever with respect to “Periyandavar” who is a popular family deity in north TN, or “Periyasamy” who is his equivalent in south TN.

[edit] Typical Temples for "Kaval Deivangal" or Guardian Angels
These deities are always found in the outskirts of the Village. The maintenance of the temple of these deities is taken care by the whole of the village. It is believed that these Gods shoo away all evils and devils from entering the village.

These temples are usually in the open space and will not have traditional Gopurams like any other temples. You can see big statues of Gods with weapons like bow and arrow, swords, knives and other protective weapons. There also will be statues of Goddesses, and animals in these temples.

[edit] Festivals
During the Tamil Months of Karthikai (Sokka Paanai during Karthigai Dheepam); Thai (Thai poosam, Makar Jyothi of Ayyappan); Masi (Masi Kalari - Shivarathiri); Panguni (Panguni Uthiram considered as the auspicious birthday of Ayyanar); Aadi (Aadi Perukku) and Vaigasi (Vaigasi Visakam), festivals will be conducted in these temples. Generally, a mass convention assembly of large number of related family member gathering is organized during the Spring season for a period of 2 to 3 days. For the annual mass convention festival, the tradition is that the commencement of the festival will be with that of a hoisting of the flag and tying "Kappu." After this time, villagers neither can go out of the village to different village or come into the village from a different village.

Of special mention is that of the traditional "Theru Koothu" and “Villu Pattu”; it is a dance-drama (Koothu) enacted on the street (Theru). The Koothu performers dance and recite songs/ narrations which often end with moral quotes. Through these kind of performances, the villagers are told what is good and what is bad; also the do's and don'ts.

Since the earlier days, these were the only means of media that took messages to the people.

People who always had greater belief in God agreed with the decisions that was taken by the committee members. More importantly, it is the belief of the village people that the Karuppu samy God is being disguised in the form of the man who predicts the future. This belief system about Karuppu samy is called the "Arul vaaku" in several parts of Tamil Nadu. The social issues will be discussed through the temple fore-tellers (Kodangi) whom the people usually consider as the voice of the Karuppa sami deity. When Lord Karuppa sami addresses the people in different villages through Kodangi, different issues and dimensions on social, cultural and psychological aspects of people and society are reviewed for possible solutions.

But in the later days, the bureaucratic society exploited the innocence of the people, which led to blind faiths that are being followed even these days without any real effort to address the problem for resolutions.

Anonymous said...

who is kathavarayar??? what is his history??

Anonymous said...

To the author of this blog:

Sillapathikaram is only one of the five great literature in tamil. In 3 of 5 other lit, the herione will punish/kill the husbands. Hence not popular. Manimekalai hovered mainly on Buddhism, hence was quitely suppressed.

Kannagi is a symbol of incompetent wife. Who gave her the Statue - Dr.Karunanidhi, who has 3 wives!

Second, Ramayanam is also a fictional story - it started as urban legend story to spread bravery in Indians against foriegn invations. Now, everyone will be so afraid to even touch the sanctum sanctorum of Ramayanam.