In Tamil Nadu, South India, there are thousands of Hindu temples and many of them are several centuries old. Most of them were built by the maharajahs of Chola, Pandya and Pallava dynasties. These temples are dedicated to lord Vishu, Shiva and various goddesses. Among the goddesses, worshiping of Mariamman is quite common, hence temples dedicated to Mariamman are quite numerous in the nook and corner of Tamil Nadu. Among the well-known Mariamman temples, Samayapuram Mariamman occupies a foremost place. It is one of the few popular temples dedicated to Goddess Sakthi and she is being worshiped here as Mariamman.
This famous temple is about 15 km from Tiruchirappalli on the National Highway (NH-45) and is being visited by thousands of devotees everyday. For a devout Hindu, visiting this temple is a must. People ridden with all kinds of problems visit this Sakthi temple for remedy, cure and peace of mind. Especially people with health problems come here in large numbers for intense prayer and meditation.
The presiding deity, Samayapurathal or Mariamman is actually Parasakthi and is made of sand and clay like many of the traditional Mariamman deities. In many places such deities are associated with termite hill (in Tamil ''Karayan Puttru'').
A century ago smallpox was a dreaded infectious disease and people were really scared of it because there was no standard medication for it. Small pox, being fatal and painful, one had to follow strict diet during that period. Healing process is also slow. Prior to the discovery of smallpox serum - anti dote by Dr. Edward Jenner (1796), an English doctor, Indian people had no other recourse to mitigate the impact of this disease except prayer and local herbal treatment that mainly included Neem leaves, coconut water and food restrictions. Particularly seasoning of spices with oil in the house was strictly avoided ad this would aggravate the pain. The highly pious people prayed to goddess Mariamman for the cure of smallpox - in local parlance 'Ammai' or Vaaisoori'. Once their family members are cured for good and back to normal, they will visit the nearby Mariamman temple for thanks giving and prayer to express their gratitude to Her.
Goddess Mariamman, it is strongly believed, has the mystical and divine power to cure any harmful disease or ailment. In the by-gone days, Goddess Mariamman was synonymous with smallpox.
The following are the fascinating features of this temple:
01. Unlike many other Hindu deities, there are no abhishekams (sacred washing or anointing conducted to the main deity, but instead the "abhishekam" is done to the small stone statue in front of it.
02. The offerings at the temple made by the devotees vary. People, who have various physical ailment such as eye problems, leg problems, etc., come to this temple for cure. They buy metallic or silver images of body parts such as eyes, legs, etc and put them in the donation vault (Hundi).
03. Devotees also make an offering of ''Mavilakku,'' (Tamil - Maa Villakku) a sweet dish made of jaggery (country sugar), rice flour and ghee.
04. Offerings of raw salt is also made to the Goddess by the devotees from rural areas and there is a place for it in the temple.
05. The mind-boggling offering that is common in many Mariamman temple is ''Thee -methith-thal'', meaning walking barefoot over a bed of red-hot charcoal, holding a hot mud-pot in bare hands. This type of prayer requires extreme physical endurance, commitment and devotion. Both men and women actively participate in this kind of ritual. Days before and after this ritual, devotees are required to take bath regularly, spend time in prayer and shun non-vegetarian food and liquor. Married couple should observe celibacy.
06. There is yet another form of prayer called ''Samiyattam'' in which extremely devoted people go into a trance and in a hypnotic state, talk in a hysterical way. This is considered as an act of communication by God. However, rationalists say this is nothing but hysteria and not an act of devotion.
07. In all Mariamman temples, Sundays are the most auspicious days and thousands of people throng these temples to unload their frustrations, financial commitments, etc.
08. Chithirai Car festival on the first Tuesday of the month – April-May attracting devotees exceeding seven lakhs. ''Poo Choridal''(showering of flowers) on the last Sunday of Masi – February-March and Vaikasi Panchaprakaram festival (May-June_ are celebrated very devotionally when the crowd would be in many lakhs.
King Vijayaraya Chakkaravarthi built the present day form of the temple and the temple is 1,000 to 2,000 years old.
"South Indian temples".
"Facts about Samayapuram".
"Facts about Samayapuram".