Maariamman temple Sri Lanka www.alamy.com|
|Muth Maariamman temple Sri Lanka www.alamy.com|
In Tamil, the word 'Maari' also means rain and 'Amman' literally means mother, hence she is "mother nature." It is believed that the ancient Tamils worshiped her to bring copious rain for the crops, etc. Plenty of rain assured them of good harvest, vegetation and potable water, improving their prosperity and welfare.
In almost many villages, people strongly believe the goddess protects their lands, crops and the different communities living there, forming a strong religious landscape of the villages.
In many parts, she is considered an avatar of Kali, the Goddess who destroys the evil and saves the good. As a matter of fact in Tamil Nadu, the people, especially women have an obsession for her. Her mount (Vahana) is mostly lion and her defensive weapon is Soolam – trident. Though she is portrayed as a goddess with Ugraham –fierce looking, in reality, she has been kind to the dedicated devotees who seek Her refuge, reposing lots of trust in her. Thousands of people, who sought her blessings and divine guide in times of trials and tribulations, are blessed with desirable results
Major festivals associated with Maariamman are held during the late summer, early autumn season of "Aadi". Throughout Tamil Nadu "Aadi Thiruvizha" is celebrated on a grand scale and devotion. Almost in all towns and villages in the month of April people in groups take out procession, carrying a pot of milk on their head called "Paal Kudam" (in Tamil Paal means milk, Kudam means pot), walking barefoot to the nearest Maariamman temple. They sometimes walk several kilometers with their mind focused on the deity, unmindful of scorching summer hot sun.
Some Amazing facts:
01. The goddess is believed to cure heat related diseases like rashes, etc. During the summer months, devotees carry pots of water mixed with turmeric and Neem leaves and undertake padhayatra (walking barefoot) to the nearest Maariamman shrine to ward off illnesses like the measles and chickenpox.
02. Paal Kudam, devotees carrying a pot of milk to the nearby temple, is a religious undertaking commonly followed by millions of devotees in Tamil Nadu. Both men, women and even children walk barefoot to the place of worship. When undertaking a religious offer, normally devotees walk barefoot for many kilometers to the temple to fulfill their commitment or vow..
03. Normally Sunday is the most auspicious day and the Maariamman temples are crowded on this day every week.
04. It is a taboo to go to Marriamman temple without taking a bath. When undertaking a religious commitment, ardent devotees invariably avoid non-vegetarian food, liquor, etc.
05. Maariamman is also considered a fertility goddess and couples undertake Virutham - fast as part of their prayer.
06. Both Vedic and non non-Vedic methods are followed with respect to worship of Maariamman in the temples. Part of the worship includes various kinds of folk dancing and these make the atmosphere vibrant. In many temples one can see women going into a trance and in extreme cases they reach a sort of semi-unconcious state. In small villages mostly Poojaris or Poosaaries (non Brahmins) conduct the puja ritual with devotion in the Sanctum. However, when temple consecration is held, Brahmin pundits conduct the main rituals helped by Poojaries.
07. At many Maariamman temples one can see one or more anthills, supposedly the abode of live cobra(s) and devotees offer milk, etc to the anthills.
08. During festival times cooking of Pongal or Koozu in earthen pots by women folks is common. So are fire walking, nose and ear piercing rituals. As part of fulfillment of their prayer, lots of devotees have their head shaved. There is a separate hall for tonsuring near the temple premises.
09. The goddess is closely associated with Neem or Margosa tree. Her favorite garland is mainly lemon fruits, besides flowers.
10. Unfortunately only in remote villages in Tamil Nadu, animal sacrifices are common, despite the Government ban. Mainly male goats and roosters are sacrificed and there is a separate place called Bali Peetam. Temple poojaries appointed for this purpose conduct the ritual. Animal Welfare Association is fighting for a complete ban on this primitive practice.