Kannaki Amman

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Kannaki Amman
Goddess Kannaki.jpg
Tamil languageகண்ணகி அம்மன்
AffiliationParvati, Pattini
SymbolAnklet, Neem leaves
MountPigeon (Lion as Shakti)
ConsortKovalan (Sivan in deified form)

Kannaki Amman (Tamil: கண்ணகி அம்மன் Kaṇṇaki am'man, Sinhala: පත්තිනි දෙවියෝ pattiṉi teviyō, Malayalam: കണ്ണകി ഭഗവതി kaṇṇaki bhagavati) is the deified form of Kannagi, the heroine of the great Tamil epic Silapathikaram, worshipped mainly in Sri Lanka and Kerala. As the goddess of chastity, rain and fertilization, she is well praised by the Malayalis and the two main ethnicities of Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankan Tamil Saivites and also by the Sinhalese Buddhists as Pattini Deviyo.

The plaintive Life of a Woman turned goddess[edit]

Silapathikaram, the literary work of Ilango Adigal describes the poor life of Kannaki with her husband merchant Kovalan, who lost his all wealth during his life with a lavish courtesan dancer called Madhavi and travelled to Madurai to start a new life. While kovalan selling anklets of Kannaki for money in Madurai, he was misunderstood as the thief of Pandya queen's anklet and beheaded by King's order without any inquiries. Kannaki became furious and advocates at the court of the King and by breaking the anklets, she proves that anklet seized from Kovalan is hers. Pandya King shocked and died while Kannaki took an oath to express her chastity by burning the City, Madurai. Then, She wanders towards west and at Neduvel Kunram, She became a celestial goddess.

Kannaki Cult at Tamil Nadu[edit]

Silappatikaram and its sequel Tamil epic Manimekalai have the evidences that Kannaki was praised as goddess even during the lifetime of Manimekalai, the daughter of Kovalan and Madhavi. Silappatikaram tells about the Kannaki worship of another Pandyan King "Vetrivel Cheliyan" for relieving from drought and curse of her on Pandya Nadu.[1]

Kannaki was mainly praised for rain, and became the goddess of Mari or Rain and got the name "Mari Amman".[2] Silappatikaram confirms Mari Amman is none other than Kannaki by stating that Kannaki burnt Madurai in Friday of Aadi month.[3] which month is celebrated as the "month of Mari Amman" in Tamil Nadu.

However Vattapparai Amman at Thiruvottiyur still commemorate as Kannaki Amman. Siruvachur Mathura Kaliyamman temple, Mangala Devi Kovil in Idukki District are the other few temples where their connection with Kannaki still remembered.

Kannaki Cult at Kerala[edit]

Kannaki cult, perhaps initiated by the rulers of Chera lineage in Kerala, is still preserved in the form of Bhagavati cult.[4] The famous Bhagavati Temple at Kodungallur which was the former capital of Cheras remembers its ancient interaction with Kannaki cult in its Sthala Puranam.[5][6] Though the deity of the temple is still observed as Bhadra Kali, she is often praised by the devotees as Kannaki and Muthumari in Kodungallur.

Attukal Bhagavati Temple, Moothanthara Karnaki Amman Temple and so many Bhagavathy temples are believed to be located on the journey of Kannaki to Chera Nadu after the burning of Madurai.[7]

Kannaki cult of Sri Lankan Tamils[edit]

Sri Lankan beliefs on Kannaki are intermediate to Silappatikaram and common Sri Lankan Beliefs. Eastern Sri Lankan and Vanni Tamils praises her as "Kannakai Amman". There are so many evidences in Yalpana Vaipava Malai, chronicle of Jaffna Kingdom confirms that Kannaki cult was also popular in the period of Arya Chakravarthis (1215–1624) in Northern Sri Lanka. The author of Sri Lankan epic on Kannaki equivalent to Silappatikaram, "Kannaki Vazhakkurai" recited in Eastern Kannaki Amman temples, is believed to be written by one of the Aryachakravartis Jeyaveeran (1380 – 1410CE).

The Kannagi cult was especially popular among the coastal folk who consider her as their guardian deity since she was the daughter of a rich sea-trader of Kaveripattinam. Since most of the coastal folk were converted to Catholicism during the Portuguese rule, became most of the Kannaki shrines converted to churches of Our Lady.[8] The remaining temples of Kannaki were transformed into Agamic Raja Rajeshwari and Bhuvaneshvari Temples as Kannaki was considered as a Jain lady by the activists of Saiva movement of 19th Century in Jaffna in the leadership of Navalar.[9]

Kannaki is mainly praised once in a year during the Vaikasi month (May–June) of Tamil Calendar in Batticaloa and Ampara Districts. The Festival is called as "Cadangu", "Kathavu Thiraththal" and so on. Kalyanak Kaal Naduthal (Planting Wedding Pillar), Vazhakkurai Paaduthal (Reciting the verses of "Kannaki Vazhakkurai"), Kulirthi Paaduthal ("Singing Cooling verses") are the common rituals observed in these days. The festival days are differing temple to temple from three days to seven days. In the end of Festival the sanctum of Kannaki temple is closed and it will be only opened before starting next year "Cadangu".

Kannaki Cult of Sinhalese[edit]

Pattini Deviyo

Although the hierophant of Kannaki is fully transformed into Bhagavathy Cult and Mariamman Cult at Kerala and Tamil Nadu respectively, Sri Lanka Still preserves the Kannaki Cult in its own form. Sinhalese praises her as "Pattini Deviyo" (The chast one goddess). Their folks on that goddess also differ from Silappatikaram and see her as an avatar of Bodhisattva.[10] She was born as a mango in the garden of Pandi King and neglected by him and kept in a boat to sea and grows up at Choli country and at last, she fulfilled her purpose - killing the evil Pandi King[11] and hired as one of the guardian gods of Lanka by Lord Buddha.

The grant Festival of Sri Lanka - "Kandy Perahera" was initially started for hailing only the Hindu gods Kannaki, Vishnu, Kataragama along with Natha. The holy tooth relic of Lord Buddha was annexed in the procession during the period of Kirti Sri Rajasinha of Kandy Kingdom. (1747 - 1782) according to the request of Upali Thera, a Burmese Buddhist monk.[12]

"Polkeliya"(Coconut fight),"Gammaduwa"(village rituals) and "Ankeliya" (horn play) are the main three aspects of the Sinhalese Buddhist Pattini cult. There are well known Devales are at Kandy, Nawagamuwa and Panama for Pattini Deviyo.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Silappatikaram, Vanji Kantam
  2. ^ T. Madhava Menon(2000), "A Handbook of Kerala" p.229
  3. ^ Silappatikaram, Katturai Kaathai, Line 133-136
  4. ^ Bertold Spuler (1975) "Handbook of Oriental Studies, Part 2" p.111
  5. ^ The Illustrated Weekly of India, Volume 111, Issues 13-25 p.33
  6. ^ Chummar Choondal (1980) "Kerala Folk Literature", p.37
  7. ^ Biju Mathew (2013)Pilgrimage to Temple Heritage pp.50,51,62,292
  8. ^ Ph.D. Ragupathy, Ponnampalam (1987). Early Settlements in Jaffna: An Archaeological Survey. University of Jaffna: Thillimalar Ragupathy. p. 217.
  9. ^ "The journal of Asian studies - Volume 49, Issues 1-2" (1990)p.88
  10. ^ Richard Francis Gombrich, Richard Gombrich, Gananath Obeyesekere (1988) "Buddhism Transformed: Religious Change in Sri Lanka" pp.30,31
  11. ^ Gananath Obeyesekere (1990) "The Work of Culture: Symbolic Transformation in Psychoanalysis and Anthropology" p.28,46,129
  12. ^ "Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka" (2004)Volumes 47-48, p.86

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