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[clarification needed] and Durga[clarification needed] 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.[clarification needed]
Festivities for her happen during the late summer, early autumm season of "Aadi". Throughout the deccan region, grand festival known as "Aadi Thiruvizha" are taken for Maariamman. Her worship mainly focuses on bringing rains and curing diseases like cholera, smallpox, and chicken pox.
She is worshipped in accordance to the local agamas as "Pidari" or the "Grama Devata" 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 usually taken in procession in a decorated chariot.
Mariamman is an ancient goddess, whose worship probably originated from pre-Vedic mother goddess cult of Dravidian people before the arrival of the Aryans with their Brahmanic religion.This is well attested by the unemployment of Brahmins in officiating the worshiping rituals of the goddess and by the non-Vedic worshiping method that was embraced by her devotees. 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 but worshiped throughout the Dravidian nation.
The worshiping methods are non-vedic and often accompanied by various kinds of folk dancing. Offerings such as Pongal and Koozh that were cooked using earthen pots were also made during the festive season. Rituals such as fire walking and mouth or nose piercing were also practiced.
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. This temple houses both Thiruvalluvar and his wife Vaasuki Ammaiyar.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
- Marubai temple matunga
- Mariamman Koil, Pilakool
- Mariamman Temple, Ho Chi Minh City
- Mariamman Temple, Bangkok
- Mariamman Temple, Pretoria
- Punnainallur Mariamman
- 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.
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.
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.
- ^ Kolenda, Pauline Pox and the terror of Childlessness: Images and Ideas of the Smallpox Goddess in a North Indian Village in P. Kolenda Caste, Cult and Hierarchy: Essays on the Culture of India (New Delhi: Folklore Institute, 1983) 198–221
- ^ Rigopoulos, Antonio The life and teachings of Sai Baba of Shirdi State University of New York press, Albany, (1993) ISBN 0-7914-1268-7 pages 78, 80, 160, 224, 226, 250
- The Village Gods of South India (London, 1921) by H. Whitehead
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