Village deities of Tamil Nadu

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Village deities are the patron deities or grama devata of village. They that do not belong to the vedic - Agamic pantheon of Hinduism are found in almost all villages throughout India, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu in particular. They are known as Kaval deivam or guardian spirits in Tamil and Kula Daivam or Local Village Gods. They are associated to a main deity who is generally ascribed as Kuladeivam by various sects of community and clan groups as part of the tracing their generation through centuries.


A shrine to a village god in the Madras Presidency, c.a. 1911

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 graveyards (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 and birds and bells (very similar to Indus Culture). Most officiating priests are pandarams and derive from the local ancestral lineages that had initiated the religious centres generations ago. In ancient times most of the City priests were pandarams.

The worship pattern is non-vedic through Folk tale, Folk Song and Folk arts (Villupattu, Karakattam, Koothhu, etc.). The local priest might offer flowers or Vibhuthi (holy ash) or Holy flowers to the worshippers and may play the oracle role for shamanism.[1]

Categories and folklores[edit]

The village deities in Tamil Nadu have interesting stories behind them. Mainly these village gods come under one of the three categories:

Terracotta companions of Aiyanar. Sanskriti Museums

Guardian deities[edit]

  • Angala Parameswari Amman or Angalamman (Adhi Sakthi - Meaning - The First form of goddess Parvathi. The Origin is Melmalayanoor.)
  • Pavadairayan (The son of Angala Parameswari Amman) (Protector and Family Deity for many people.He has a Sannidhi in all Angala Parameswari Temples.The origin is Melmalayanoor.He is worshipped mostly in Northern parts of Tamil Nadu like Vizhuppuram,Cuddalore,Pondicherry,Thanjavur, chennai etc.)
  • Ayyannar
  • Ayyappan
  • Muniyappan (Protector of the innocent and the valiant, main deity of Ramapuram, Cuddalore)
  • Karkuvel Ayyanar Temple (Karkuvel Ayyanar-Therikudiyiruppu in Kayamozhi, Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu)
  • Veera Maha Kali (Goddess of war and power)
  • Madurai Veeran
  • Ondi Karuppanna Samy, of Sholanganallur and Puthur village in Tiruchi District.
  • Kulumayee Amman Ellai Pidari Amman, of Sholanganallur and Puthur Village
  • Maha Kali Amman, of Sholanganallur Village
  • Karuppanaar swamy (“Karuppu” means black in Tamil and is associated with dark, night, etc.). The typical variants of Karuppu or Karuppu of Eighteen Steps, Sanglilikarupan, Aagaya Karuppu (Thanjavur, Amaravathy), Maarnatu karuppu, Manda Karuppu, Munnadi Karuppu, Samaya Karuppu, Sinna Karuppu, Periya Karuppu, Santhana Karuppu, Thundi Karuppu, Malayala Karuppu, Sappani Karuppu, Sonehkarupu etc.
  • Kaateri Amman (“Kaateri” means vampire)
  • Sudalai Maadan Swamy ("Sudalai Maadan” means guardian of burial ground)
  • Kali or Kali Amman was considered as the causative force for cholera
  • Mari - 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 worshipping the rain goddess as Maari Amman)
  • Muniandi
  • Periyachi Amman - Guardian of children and mothers
  • Sri Pada Muthu Swami at Inam Karisal Kulam.
  • Sri Poovadakari Amman
  • Ellai Amman or Ellai Maari Amman - worshipped in many villages, she is represented by a milestone 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.
  • Thottichiamman - She is believed to be the direct manifestation of Shiva himself without Shakti
  • Thambran - Protector and Family Deity for many people in Tamilnadu
  • Veera Sastha & Malai Arasi Amman
  • Iravu Kaathar - worshipped in villages adjoining Pattukkottai such as Aladikumulai

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

Hero stones and Sati stones[edit]

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 sacrificed 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 remember 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. In time 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 karur).

The "Thee paanch amman" temples in the northern part of Tamil Nadu were basically built to worship widows who were burnt along with 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 Tamil Nadu 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. Kanni amman and Pachai Amman are more common variants of female deities representing the characteristics of Purity and Chastity.

In general, Sati stones have not become part of the 21 sub-deities 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-deities including Isakki Amman, Sonai or Sonai Karuppu and others.

Any person who stood for justice and valiantly fought for justice or lost life for the cause of justice have become part of Hero Stone worship. The more prominent are Pandian Nedunchezhian of Silappadhikaram fame,becoming Pandi Muneeswar along with the support of Samayakaruppu. Madurai veeran and so many other stories run parallel to becoming Folk Deities worshipped by large following and becoming part of Kuladeivam.

Gods to tame evil and devil forces and converting to good powers[edit]

There were Forces or elements which the people were scared of.

Munishwaran or Muniappan in olden days was associated with protecting people, drinking devil's blood, doing good things, bringing in good-effect, etc.

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

Legends from disastrous social events[edit]

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.

Genesis of Mutual Assimilation and Diveristy-Preservation[edit]

The third category contains certain less spoken characters in the great epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata. For example, there are many temples dedicated to Draupadi (Panchali) and Dharmaraja (Yudhishthira) in the Northern parts of Tamil Nadu. Temples dedicated Gandhari (mother of the Kauravas), Kunti (mother of Pandavas) and Aravan (the son of Arjuna and the serpent princess Ulupi) are found in Tamil Nadu.

The Vedic and non-Vedic poeople assimilated from each other. The Vedic Priests followed 'Let knowledge come from all directions of the universe' and the non-Vedic Priests followed 'everyone is our own people and every land is our own'. Even though there are diversified characteristics between the Vedic and the folk tradition, various communities inducted these deities in their spectrum; they created various sthalapuranas which emphasized the relation between these gods and goddesses from differing traditions. For example, a male deity called Kuttandavar is worshipped in many parts of the Tamil country, especially in South Arcot district. The image consists of a head like a big mask with a rubicund face and lion’s teeth projecting downwards outside the mouth from the angles of the upper jaw. According to legend the creation of Kuttandavar, the god of Indra, is for the crime of murdering a Vedic priest, became incarnated in the form of Kuttandavar, and a curse was laid upon him that his body leaving only the head. These types of stories need to be carefully examined, because they are regarded as the kuladevatas by the oppressed and downtrodden people. In these circumstances they also altered the structure of these deities into either elated or cursed form.

The popular deities have evolved significantly over time. For example, Mariamman, another deity of subalterns, is highly influenced by the Vedic rituals. She is usually garlanded with skulls. But recently, the skull garland has been replaced by the lemon garland. Her poor outlook has been altered into a pleasant one. Sometimes these restructuring processes led to the degradation of the deities. When they stress the holiness of the deities of Vedic tradition at the same time they denied the holiness of the deities of the folk tradition. They described the gods and goddesses of folk tradition either as watching deities to the deities of Vedic religion or they venertaed these deities as capable of curing most potent contagious diseases.

The process of inclusivism can also be seen in the popular temples dedicated to the deities of folk religion. For example, the increase in the number of devotees to Samayapuram, Punnainallur, Vazhangaiman Mariamman temples in Tamil Nadu boosted the financial position. It attracts the Vedic priests to switch over their interest to Mariamman on account of the financial benefits. They not only dominate during the time of worship, but also on various other occasions. They have introduced the custom of Kumbhabhishekam. In addition to this, they have made Mariamman as a Suddhadevatas (non-vegetarian deity). With regard to the temples of folk tradition Vinayakar, Murugan, Iyyappan and others, Vedic deities are replaced by the deities of folk tradition such as Aiyanar, Madurai Viran and Karuppannasamy. Even the people of the folk tradition have begun to follow some customs and habits of higher castes in order to raise their social status and that is eroding some of Hinduism's colossal Diversity.

Typical temples for "Kaval Deivangal"[edit]

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. Certain temples on the highway attracts vehicles on the road, there is a practice of visiting such places before undertaking a journey.

These temples are usually in the open space and will not have traditional Gopurams like any other temples but in some villages like Sholanganallur and Puthur In Tiruchi district have Gopurams of their Kaval Deivangal for Kulumayee Amman and Ondi karuppannasamy. 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.


During the recent decade or so the Jathara(Thiru Vizha in Tamizh or Festival in English) of Sammakka Saralamma the village deities in the Telangana has become very popular among the locals,which is now in fact the largest tribal festival in the world.Many Telugus and the neighbouring Marathis worship the village deities of Sammakka and Saralamma.[2][3]

This shows the traces of worship of native Dravidian deities,not only in Tamil Nadu but also in Andhra Pradesh,Telangana and other south Indian states.

During the Tamil month of Masi and Panguni, Kulumayee Amman Festival is celebrated in Puthur and Sholnganallur villages in Tiruchi District of Tamil Nadu. During that time Marulali of the respective village suck the blood of the Goats with the blessings of Ondi Karuppu. 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.

Mayana Pujai is mostly practiced in midnight during the worship of Irulappasamy or Sadalaisamy.

Of special mention is that of the traditional "Theru Koothu" and “Villu Pattu”; it is a dance-drama (Koothu) enacted on the street (Theru).[4] 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.

Worship of Goddess ANKAMMA: Ankamma is also known as Angamma, Ankalamma, Angalamma, Ankali, Angali, Ankala Parameswari, Angala Parameswari. She is worshipped with these names in Andhra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu. Ankali and Kali are one and the same goddess. Ankamma is considered to be the mother of Trimurtis. The most important part of Ankamma Kolupu is that a midnight puja was performed with the help of ballads by making a colorful Rangoli with wheat flour, turmaric powder, kumkum, black charcoal powder, etc. At the end of the puja, the devotees sacrifice a goat. The devara kolupu / veerla kolupu is normally performed on some special occasions by individuals or by community as a whole. During the worship singers recite historical stories about warrior ancestors.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1] Archived September 15, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Sammakka Saralamma Jatara
  4. ^ "Therukoothu". 16 February 2013. Archived from the original on April 11, 2013.

External links[edit]