In the still of the night

by Steven Bonta
Special to Via Negativa. All rights reserved by the author.

In the still of the night, I pay my respects at the Shrine of the Cobra.

Actually, I’m in a tiny sanctum at the fringe of Tattaneri Cemetery, on the edge of a bustling city in Tamilnadu, South India. Here cobras sometimes issue from the fringe of acacias to drink milk offerings left in saucers before the billhook-wielding image of Sonaisami, one of the many ferocious Shaivite demiurges worshipped in the villages and waste places of Tamilnadu. Sonaisami (“Lord of the Tomb”) sports a potbelly and florid mustache, as do the other protector deities, or bhuts, posted on each corner of the roof of the dilapidated shrine. On the back of the building is a terrifying painting of the goddess Kali garlanded with skulls, the corpse of Shiva prone at her feet.

Ordinarily, Lord Sonai’s shrine is neglected, competing as it must with thousands of more attractive temples housing more charismatic gods in a city that styles itself the heartland of Dravidian Hinduism. But tonight, on Shivaratri — the Night of Shiva, nearest thing in the Hindu world to Halloween — Sonai has taken center stage. His niche is lit by oil lamps, and an offering of coconuts, rice, and arrak liquor is spread on the dusty brick floor.

“Do you believe there are such things as cannibals, white man? Here in India, I mean?”

I fumble for a reply to such a typically Indian non-sequitur, setting aside my sweaty barbell as a rat scurries across the dirt floor of the gym.

“I’ve never thought about it, but I suppose not.”

“That’s my saying, too, but this man, he is from the south, from Tirunelveli, and he says his family worships a god whose priests are cannibals.”

The man indicated, a burly, taciturn laborer performing dumbbell curls, speaks no English, so I ask him in Tamil what he is talking about.

He assures me, in perfectly measured tones, that his kuladevan, or family deity, is propitiated by priests who actually eat the flesh of corpses, and that he has seen this rite performed. I ask the name of this god.

“Sudalai Madan,” he answers — “Fiend of the Burning-ground.”

“Is it possible for outsiders to see such rites?” I ask.


My friend Balu and I grow restless. It is well past midnight, and the only living thing we have seen in hours of waiting, besides the swarms of insects buzz-bombing a pair of feeble streetlights, was a lone bicyclist who shot past the silent cemetery grounds without a sideways glance. The dead, however, are very much in evidence. Human remains unearthed by stray dogs from shallow graves lie scattered among the weeds, and some thoughtful soul has placed several bones, including a nearly-intact skull, on the ground in front of Kali’s leering image.

Underneath each of the three large metal pavilions that mark the crematory portion of the cemetery, a corpse is burning. Beside one of these corpses, we find something else: a large circle, marked with tika powder and sprigs of various plants, inscribed in the ashes left from decades of cremations. In the middle of the circle is a small heap of human bones, gathered from the cemetery and broken into bite-sized pieces. A tangle of acacia branches has been dragged over the site, to prevent trespassers like myself from getting a closer look.

Finally, past 1 AM, I hear from the deserted street the sound of voices and the hypnotic wheeze of an udukku or squeeze-box drum.

The sightless eyes stare back at me from a ruined, bloodied face. By his appearance, the man was the victim of some reckless truck driver and, without kin, has been dumped unceremoniously at the entrance to the cemetery, only partially wrapped in a bloody sheet. He will presumably be cremated anonymously, by some of the rough-looking men who labor in the necropolis. On a whim, I approach several of them and ask, feeling somewhat foolish, if they have ever heard of such a thing as people coming into the cemetery at night and eating human remains.

“Oh, that’s tomorrow night,” one of them says, without a twitch of surprise.

“Is a velaikkaran [white man] allowed to see such a thing?”

“Sure. You come tomorrow, around midnight. You’ll see.”

An odd and unexpectedly noisy procession has arrived at Tattaneri Cemetery. Twenty or thirty men, including a uniformed policeman, surround a terrifying figure dressed in colorful black trunks, wearing a wig of long, black tresses, and carrying on his head a gorgeous, flower-draped, spindle-shaped object known as a kapparai. The figure is in a state of frenzied possession, which the Tamils call avesam; he howls and screams and spins wildly, while several of his acolytes help to support him. At the head of the group, a kodangu or soothsayer, who is playing the squeeze-box, along with another drummer, keep up the mesmerizing rhythm as the group pauses right in front of me.

“They worship the god Irulappan [Lord of Darkness],” one of the cemetery workers informs us, “who is the same as the one they call Sudalai Madan in the south.”

At this, Balu becomes uneasy. Later, he tells me that he has heard of this dark god and the fearful secret rites his followers practice. There may be some danger, he suggests. Good Hindus do not worship in the dead of the night. I offer to pay more than the usual fee to Balu, who is a trishaw driver, and his concern appears to abate.

The votaries of Irulappan are surprised and delighted to find a Tamil-speaking white man waiting for them in this secret, desolate place. No white man has ever seen their rites before, and they are eager to show an outsider how religion is really done.

The priest carrying the kapparai suddenly gives a bloodcurdling shriek and races towards the pavilion where the ritual circle has been prepared. The kapparai is jammed into the ash next to the burning corpse, and the priest, still jerking and babbling under the influence of the spirit that controls him, sits down cross-legged in front of the pile of bones. The rest of us crowd around, a ring of expectant dark faces and one pale face, imperfectly lit by a pair of guttering oil lamps. I am ushered to the priest’s side, so that my view will be unobstructed.

“I have heard of such things,” my Brahmin landlord tells me earlier that evening. “These people are not Hindus at all, and I don’t understand why they worship such dark gods. We always say that puja should not be held after midnight, but what they do is not really puja. I think you should be very careful.”

With another howl, the priest scoops up the bones with both hands and stuffs them in his mouth, molars crunching improbably through brittle, sun-bleached fragments of femurs, skulls, and ribs. In a moment, Irulappan has finished his meal, and is ready to grant a wish or two. Leaping to his feet, the wild-haired vessel for the god begins barking auguries to the circle of devotees, who merely look deferentially at the ashes and murmur “Aama, sami” (Yes, lord). One of the acolytes suddenly keels over into a possessive swoon and, as his comrades crowd around trying to revive him, Irulappan departs, and his bone-weary human vessel goes over to the water pump to revive himself.

After a few minutes’ break, in which I am allowed to photograph a cluster of grinning Irulappan sectaries standing around the colorful kapparai, the ritual resumes with the mukkavu, or triple sacrifice of a goat, rooster, and pig. A black kid is presented with a circle of banana leaves, on each of which is placed a pile of rice. As soon as the animal noses one of the rice piles, its throat is cut and the blood mixed with the chosen portion. The other two animals are similarly dispatched, and then the head priest, with two acolytes (including the one who swooned earlier) retires into the acacias to perform the most secretive part of the entire ritual: the rice/blood mixture is hurled into the air, and Irulappan takes it. From within the trees we hear a loud scream, and then the cadre returns. They will say only that the offering was accepted, as always.


Two nights later, I return to the cemetery for a sequel to this ritual (dare I call it osteophagy?), which can only take place during one week out of the year. This time, the same group appears with a different kapparai, a triangle enclosing five faces. A similar rite is performed.

Another group from a different temple shows up as well, larger and more boisterous. Their priests arrive first, eat bones, and then greet the large procession of followers as it surges down the street to the cemetery. Among them are mummers dressed as bhuts, with black mustaches and carrying billhooks and whips. Tonight, evidently, will feature the initiation of one of their acolytes.

A young man in manacles is thrown into the ashes next to a pile of bones, while the rest gather around to watch. The whip-wielding bhuts lash at the devotees, screaming at them to kneel, while the initiate manages to choke down bones and corpse-ashes in roughly equal portions. While all this is going on, in a surreal twist, one of the onlookers hands me his business card. He’s an engineer, he wants me to know.

“Irulappan is a crazy (paitiyam) god,” the head priest of the Irulappan cult tells me several days later. Gone are the trunks, the saidai (black wig), and the garlands of flowers that had been hung over every idol in the temple, including that of the goddess Ankalaparamesvari, the temple matron. In the niche of Irulappan, to the left of the entranceway, the generic black statue within no longer sports the silver pieces that limned its features during festival time, nor the leopard skin denoting his association with Shiva.

“Irulappan is the same as Sudalai Madan in the south, and Mayandi (‘Lord of Illusion’) in the east,” the priest tells me. “He is the crazy son of Shiva, and like his father, frequents cemeteries and burning grounds where he sometimes eats human remains.”

He points to the wall behind him, festooned with the portraits of head priests stretching back several centuries. “This temple is very old, at least four hundred years. When it was built, this was all countryside. Now it is all city, but we keep the old forms of worship alive. I worship like my father, and he as his father before him.”

Author’s note: Transgressive forms of Hinduism featuring some form of ritual cannibalism appear to be very ancient, and center on the so-called “Brahminicide myth,” in which Shiva, in a fit of pique, lops off one of the heads of Brahma. As penance, he is cast out from civilized society, and forced to travel through India as a beggar with the skull (Skt. kapala) of Brahma attached to the palm of his hand, frequenting cemeteries and consuming human remains. The rather mysterious order of the kapalikas, alluded to as heretics in classical Sanskrit literature, seems to have adopted the habits of the outcaste Shiva rather literally, and the kalamukhas (“black faces”) of medieval south India may have done the same. In more modern times, the cannibalistic Aghori sect of Varanasi has received some fairly sensational publicity, while rites similar to those I witnessed in Tamilnadu are described (though never witnessed firsthand) by Eveline Meyer, in her surprising book on the cult of the Tamil goddess Ankalaparamesvari (the matron goddess of the temple where Irulappan was enshrined). The Tamil word kapparai is derived from Sanskrit kapala, and suggests a connection between the secret religion of Irulappan and the brahminicide myth of the kapalikas.

Editor’s note: Other posts by Steven Bonta at Via Negativa include Lament for the fisherfolk of Sri Lanka and Favorite authors on ancient history. My brother Steve recently moved back to the area with his wife and child and currently teaches English at the Altoona College of Penn State. He wrote this essay this very morning, after a spur-of-the-moment request from me late yesterday, and thus didn’t have the time to dig up any of the photos he took of the ritual in time to include them here. I think it’s plenty frightening without them, though. Happy Halloween, y’all.

77 Replies to “In the still of the night”

    The Esakkiyamman worship is followed where the Madan temples are predominant. Esakkiamman is worshipped for good cuases such as child birth and good character children for better society. Etc.
    HARICHANDRAN is revered by nadar community for his honesty and truth speaking at all stages of life.
    Harichandran is worshiped as Masanamuthu in Thiruchendur and Thirunelveli districts.
    KATTERUMPERUMAL- The son of harichandran after his regaining of life from the funeral pyre is worshiped as katterum perumal in Kanyakumari and Thirunelveli districts.

  2. Harms of Sanskritisation

    Written by
    Bagawathi Kolappan

    Nothing encapsulates more effectively the process of sanskritisation than “Maadan Mootcham”, a Tamil short story by noted writer Jayamohan. The protagonist is Appi, an oracle and a priest in the temple of Sudalai Maadan, a folk deity, god of the graveyard.

    Sudalai Maadan, also finds a reference in Saivite literature (Sudalai Podi poosiya ye yullam kavar kalvan). In the folk tradition, the deities converse with the oracle and send across messages to the devotees. (In the Vaishnavite tradition, Thirukatchi Nambi, the teacher of Sri Ramanuja was said to have communicated regularly with Lord Varadharaja of Kancheepuram).

    Appi is more of a friend to Sudalai Maadan than a priest. In their conversations they will share their joys and sorrows. Sudalai Maadan relished meat and arrack. Appi is poor and cannot afford to provide arrack and fried chicken on a regular basis. So he hits upon a plan. Sudalai Maadan could spread some disease which, in turn, would make the villages come begging for mercy. They would of course offer arrack and chicken to propitiate him.

    Such a unique relationship between Appi and Sudalai Madaan abruptly ends after some Namboothiris (Brahmin priests) are brought in to perform Kumbabishekam for the temple (just a thatched roof). As part of the elaborate rituals, the Namboothirirs prepare mouth-watering pall payasam, a sweet drink made of milk.

    Sudalai Maadan, being an irredeemable carnivourous god, feels like throwing up at the sight of paal payasam. Appi is looking helplessly as the Namboothrirs peform vedic rituals, totally alien to the folk tradition. An angry Sudalai Maadan picks up his aruval (sickle) and tries to pounce on the Namboothiris, only to realise the he is unable to move a bit. Poor Maadan is now totally under the control of the powerful Vedic chants.

    One must be in Kanyakumari district to see for himself Maadan Mootcham in reality. Sanskritisation is going on at a feverish pace in almost every village, especially in the trading Nadar community. The temples of folk deities are fast changing and replicas of sanskritised temples with traditional gopuram and vimanam over the sanctum and sanctorum are coming up everywhere.

    “This is totally against folk tradition. Women deities like Mutharamman and Santhana Maraiamman have temples, yes, but they will not fall into the category of the regular temples that we see for the “bigger” Hindu gods. Actually these temples would look like the humble dwellings you see in our villages. As far as Sudalai Maadan is concerned, he never had a roof over his head,” explains Prof A.K.Perumal, an authority on folk culture.

    The sanskritisation process started in the Kanyakumari district in the early 1980s when the Hindu Nadars started asserting their religion, thanks to the RSS and its saffron offshoots. Hindu Awakening conferences organised by Rama Gopalan heading the Hindu Munnani (Hindu Front) accelerated the process. The Sangh Parivar first introduced vilakku pooja (worship with lamps) in Amman temples and involved women in temple affairs. That clicked. Today there is hardly any temple for a folk deity down the rural side that is not conducting Vilakku pooja on Tuesdays and Fridays.

    The vilakku pooja coupled with the Hindu-Christian communal clashes in 1980s gradually changed the outlook of the Hindus, especially Nadars. They started imitating the brahminical way of life. Adi Sankara’s Bhaja Govindam and Suprabhatham wafting from the loud speakers of these temples fill the air, mornings and evenings.

    Another aspect of sanskritisation is the act of dispensing with animal sacrifice. “Animal sacrifice was common in all Mutharamman temples. But today it has been stopped. It is still being practised only in Sudalai Maadan temples” points out A.K. Perumal.

    Agrees Tamil writer Ponneelan. “When I was a boy a minimum of 50 goats would be sacrificed in my village. This has been stopped completely.” The Mutharamman temple in Ponneelan’s village Manikatti Pottal, has been demolished and a big temple modeled as per the Vedic prescriptions has been constructed.

    The images of the village deities are also changing. “We used the paste of lime and sand to make these idols. Now granite idols are installed so that abishekams (bathing the idol in water, milk or sandal-paste) can be performed on them,” points out A.K. Perumal.

    Just as the idols are ‘upgraded’, as it were, the outlook of the devotees too is fast changing. “I cannot think of my lunch without fish. But my wife is not preparing non-vegetarian dishes on Tuesdays and Sundays,” complains Ponneelan.

    This sanskritisation process has also led to tension between Hindu Nadars and Christian Nadars. Only in Kanyakumari district could one see Hindus and Christians in the same families. They used to inter-marry, but that practice seems to be dying slowly.

    “Both sides are very particular about their religion, though there are marriages of convenience. I married a Christian girl, because I was not able to find an employed girl in the Hindu Nadar community. Not every one is following my example,” explained Dr Chandrasekar.

    Whether this process is socially healthy, whether a monolithic culture, implying the deadening of many vibrant traditions, would not leave the society so much the poorer are questions that call for a serious debate

    Movement for NeoPaganism Movement in oriental countries – Tracing back the true value of Sathanar system
    Sathanar Worship is a divine worship binding everyone together leading to self discipline within the soceity group.
    Ayyappa or Sastha worship may be considered to be a recent phenomenon by many, but in the Tamil country He had been worshipped from time immemorial and Tamil literary works like Silappadikaram speak about this. He was worshipped as Ayyanar, Sathan and by other names, according to them.
    There were Tamil poets belonging to the Sangam period who had names like Madurai Koola Vaanigan Sathanar and Seethalai Sathanar and another poet with the name, Ayyanarithanar. Almost all villages in
    the Tamil country in the past and present had temples for Ayyanar at their entrance with huge images of Ayyanar riding the horse.
    Although Satanism and witchcraft have become synonymous in the popular mind for many centuries, they constitute two vastly divergent philosophies and metaphysical systems. Generally speaking, witchcraft, the Old Religion, has its origins in primitive nature worship and has no devil or Satan in its cosmology.
    While some traditional witches seek to control the forces of nature and elemental forces in both the seen and unseen worlds, others are contented to work with herbs and healing. In essence, what many have described as the “power” of witchcraft throughout the ages may be the effective exercise of mind over matter, those abilities in the transcendent level of mind that today we term psychic or mental phenomena.
    True Satanism—although manifesting in a multitude of forms and expressions and having also originated in an ancient worship of a pre-Judeo-Christian god—is today essentially a corruption of both the nature worship of witchcraft and the formal Christian church service, especially the rites of the Roman Catholic Church.
    In contemporary times, many of those who openly claim to be Paganism with ancestrol links to various Satanic groups; Satanists and to belong to organized satanic groups insist that they do not worship the image of the devil condemned by Christian and other religions because the word “Satan” does not specify a being, but rather a movement or a state of mind.
    What Satanists do worship, these individuals explain, is a spirit being commonly known as Sathan in English and Sathanas in Latin. They do not believe Satan to be the Supreme God, but they believe him to be the messenger of God in that he brought to Eve the knowledge of God.
    Satanists believe that there is a God above and beyond the “god” that created the cosmos. The most high God takes no part in the affairs of the world; thus Satanists believe their faith to be the only true religion, insofar as revealed religion to mortals can be understood.
    Generally speaking, the kind of Satanism championed by LaVey and others preaches indulgence in personal pleasure, and it has never pretended to be other than a counterculture alternative to the civil and religious establishments and a relentless foe of conventional morality. But none of the satanic cults, such as the Church of Satan or the Temple of Set, have many points in common with the conservative Christian concept of Satan. They do not worship a Satan that commands demons and seduces human souls into hell. To most of the satanic cultists, Satan represents a force of nature that inspires their own individual expressions of virility and sexuality.

  3. Manjunatha Vadiyar wrote: Are Sathan and Ayyanar the same gods? In Kerala, Cattan(cognates with Sathan of Tamil), the so-called evil spirit, and Sastha(resembles protective Ayyanar) both exists. Is it not possible there were two gods Sathan and Ayyanar? Sorry for my ignorance.


    Movement for NeoPaganism Movement in oriental countries – Tracing back the true value of Sathanar system

    The great symbolic significance, is the rediscovery of TRUNESS of ancestral Paganism. It is believed that Sathanic cult is not believed to be unholy and cruel one as has been propogated. Intellectually, this movement still lacks solidity and consistency, and finds itself associated with a variety of social and political concerns stretching across the ideological spectrum: ethnic revivalism, nationalism, ecologism, feminism, communitarianism, anarchism. Part of the reason is that in European Paganism, , there is no historical continuity, so that (except for the well-documented Greek traditions) there is ample room for guessing and fantasizing about the historical contents of ancient Paganism: an open invitation to romantics and theosophists to project their own pet ideas onto the mute screen of the ancient religion. Perhaps that is why the most consistent neo-Pagan movement arose in Iceland, where the memory of ancient Paganism was best preserved.

    The Icelandic example is being followed in other Germanic countries including North America. Celtic-based revivals are flourishing in Celtic countries or countries with a Celtic past (France, where some 40 different neo-Druid societies of divergent quality co-exist, England and Belgium). Slavic and Baltic countries have their own variety, with Russia and Lithuania being particularly fertile grounds for neo-Paganism. In North America, these movements are partly absorbing those circles which were flirting earlier with Native American spirituality (sweat lodge ceremony). They now accept that the Native Americans themselves don’t appreciate this type of imitation and prefer European-descended people to rediscover their own Pagan heritage. Many Native Americans are rediscovering their ancestral traditions. In Brazil, the black and mulatto populations are taking to the elaborately polytheistic Candombl cult.

    Most of these neo-Pagan groups are still too obviously immature, groping in the dark to trace their historical roots; it is interesting to watch some of them adapt their own rituals and doctrines to new scholarly findings about their chosen ancestry practices .

    It is interesting to note that West is slowly and gradually opening up to the Oriental Heritage traditions of India and China, even while the elites and vast majority of these Oriental countries are still spitting on their own heritage and pursuing westernization. Huge population of Indians living in the middle of these mixed traditions should have no problem finding a worthwhile native cultural alternative to western Anglo Saxon Individualism

    Sathanar Worship is a divine worship binding everyone together leading to self discipline within the soceity group.
    Ayyappa or Sastha worship may be considered to be a recent phenomenon by many, but in the Tamil country He had been worshipped from time immemorial and Tamil literary works like Silappadikaram speak about this. He was worshipped as Ayyanar, Sathan and by other names, according to them.
    There were Tamil poets belonging to the Sangam period who had names like Madurai Koola Vaanigan Sathanar and Seethalai Sathanar and another poet with the name, Ayyanarithanar. Almost all villages in the Tamil country in the past and present had temples for Ayyanar at their entrance with huge images of Ayyanar riding the horse.

    Folk beliefs in “here and now� for solving the local community and locality problems and not in astrological timing and ominous signs or heaven and hell
    Ayyanar or Sathanar phenomenon with huge images of Ayyanar riding the horse in the Tamil country practiced from time immemorial and reported in Tamil literary works .

    The Sathanars were protectors of Dry Evergreen forests of Tamil Country, the major chunck of them have been lost their place due to changes in political power and local beliefs.

    Aiyanar is the main guardian of villages and fields, and he is responsible for the right amount of rain to fall, to ensure a good crop. The deity also sees to it that cattle and other domestic animals prosper and remain unaffected by diseases. At night, Aiyanar and his hordes ride around the village and its fields to keep away all sorts of disturbances and evil influences.In his temples and shrines, the god is surrounded by at least 21 other deities, the important sub deities being Karuppasamy( Karuppanasamy being the oracle role or Kodangi or Shamam to resolve the community problem) and SudalaiMadasamy other subordinates, who help him carry out his duties to protect the local community and nature surrounding it.

    One of these deities – the identity of whom differs in the different regions of Tamilnadu, in Madurai it is mainly the “Dark Godâ€? Karuppan – is Aiyanar’s main associate and has a higher rank in the pantheon than the rest of the gods. Swami Karuppu acts as role of Kodangi or Shamanism to provide trance or arulvakku to solve the problemes of local community. Another imortant sub deity provides the cremation wisdom ie through sudalai madan conception and expressing the concern for ecology and environment.

    Kudirai Mozhi theri located in Southern TamilNadu is believed to be one of the major forest of Ayyanar / Sathanar, surrounded by localities such as Udangudi, Theripanai, Sathankulam, Sasthanvinallur. There are other towns derived from Sathanar such as Sathankudi, Sathur coming from a town (oor) where Sathanar resides.

    Mr. Swift states that richer individuals are less likely to innovate more collectively. Poor people are forced to innovate collectively by their eagerness to grow economically. THis is the basic fundamental in village based sathanar system and it relies on the family, extended family and related clans of a community to focus onness towards Sathanar or Ayyanar System. In one of the local manifestation of Ayyanar the Supreme nature is brought in the form of Sastha emphasizing on Self-discipline and justice for one and all

    Although Satanism and witchcraft have become synonymous in the popular mind for many centuries, they constitute two vastly divergent philosophies and metaphysical systems. Generally speaking, witchcraft, the Old Religion, has its origins in primitive nature worship and has no devil or Satan in its cosmology.

    * – +++++++++++++++++-*
    By Bhagawati Kolappan

    Jeyamohan s story captures the process of Sanskritisation, a term coined by sociologist M N Srinivas. It describes the way the lower castes tend to imitate the customs and rituals of the upper layers in order to gain social respectability.
    The Tamil Nadu government s recent ban on animal sacrifice in temples could be called an attempt at imposing Sanskritisation on the non-Brahmin communities. Such a ban can cut off the umbilical chord that links a sudra with his own god as happens in the case of Appi. Critics argue that it will pave way for the entry of vedic culture and Brahmin priests into the folk temples. It may also lead to the assimilation of folk deities with vedic religion.

    This Sanskritisation process is already going on at a frenetic pace in Kanyakumari district, the most literate region in the state. And various social upheavals are taking place there. To start with, folk gods are being fast replaced by vedic gods.
    Vedic and folk gods are poles apart. Except for the Brahmins, every other community has temples dedicated to their favourite folk gods and goddess. Madan is a generic name and there are a whole lot of Madans, like Sudalai Madan, Pula Madan and Esaki Madan. Goddesses include Mutharamman, Sandhana Mari Amman, Muppidari, Kali and Durgai. The priest of the temple is usually from the community that owns the temple.

    These deities are different from the vedic ones. They are gruesome and evoke fear in the minds of their devotees; not love. They have to be propitiated at regular intervals. Festivals are organised twice a year and animal sacrifices are an integral part of these celebrations. The sacrifices are known as Muppali (killing of three animals, generally goats, fowls and pigs).

    The idols are made of sand and lime. Even the temples housing such deities look quite ordinary, a simple structure under tiled roofs, with nothing to distinguish them from the devotees residents. In many Sudalai Madan temples even the roofs are a luxury. There is no such thing as a sanctum sanctorum in these temples, clearly differentiating them from the Brahminical concept of ritual purity.

    But all this is changing now. Sudalai Madan, his fraternal deities and their temples are undergoing a dramatic transformation, signalling the arrival of the Brahminical culture. This, in a region where the dominant Nadar community,a backward caste, has fought a running battle against the atrocities of the varnashrama dharma.

    The irony is that today concrete miniatures of vedic temples, with gopuram and a vimana above the sanctum, are coming up everywhere. Granite images of gods and goddess are replacing the structures erected from sand and lime. The purpose of installing a granite structure is to perform abishekam (ritual pouring of liquids) as done in vedic temples

    . Once the construction of a new temple is over, Kumbabhisekam, consecration, is by vedic scholars, totally alien to the folk gods and those that worship them. The gods and goddess who once evoked so much fear are now referred with a prefix arul migu (merciful), a misnomer.

    Every Nadar village has a magnificent temple modelled after vedic temples. Economically a dominant community, they lavish a lot of money on temple construction and other festivals.

  4. Till 18th century dry belt of Ramanathapuram jillah was largely least populated due to poor rain, with the dominant communities like Maravars occupying all good locations. Due to the development of agriculture by various migrant communities like Naickers, Reddys and Nadars, business and agriculture developed in other dry locations of Ramanathapuram area.

    Dry areas of Ramanathapuram district is in hot climate and low rain belt range.

    As far as cultivation is concerned. crops such as cotton, groundnut. are cultivated and these crops are the best ones for the black soil and dry climate.

    Nadar people migrated to various villages in the later part of 17th century from Southern Coastal belt. They came for their Bullock-cart load business. In the beginning of 18th century Nadars from Tinnaveli migrated in group for livelihood. In the middle of 18th century Nadars from Tuticorin to escape the forceful conversion pressure by the Portuguese, Dutch and English migrated to Ramanathpuram jillah where there was nil foreign pollution. In 1870’s Nadars from the South Eastern Coast migrated to Madurai and Vaigai Belt for business and settled in due course even in Palani Hill Range centers such as Bodi, Pattiveeranpatti, Kambammettu from where they entered in managing cash crops estates.

    In 1899 Nadars settled in Thiruthangal and Shivakasi further shattered to Northern Madurai Jillah due to communal clash called Sivakasi Sack where 5000 armed opposite caste-men staged a bloody riot over the Nadar people.

    By this way Nadars migrated and settled in different periods of time under different grounds and for different purpose in Madurai and Ramanathpuram Jillah.

    Another unique thing migrant nadar community is that every family group has a family god of their own to worship. To name a few of them is Karkuvel Ayanar, Arulmigu Kamakshi Amman, Sudalai Irulappan or Madasamy,Karuppa Swamy, Arunjunai Katha Ayanar, Salaikari Amman, Veeriya Kariamman, Peria Andavar, Pechiamman, Kallaal Ayyanar, Niraikulathu Ayyanar and so on.

    Those who had come to new place for settlement had taken a fistful of sacred sand from their native place temple and installed it near their living place as a mark of their native temple and began to worship it. In course of time it has become their family Kuladeivam god and is worshiped by their heirs. Yet some other settlers yearly once go to their native origin worshiped their native Kuladeivam god and return back to new settlements.

    Each son who got married will be considered as a single and separate Thalaikattu i.e. separate family for the account sake of number of families of same clan to worship the family god.
    Apart from worshiping the family god in a grand manner once in a year nadar worship the family god on some special family occasions also. The first sacred head tonsure of the newborn baby will be conducted in the family god temple.

    For new marriage alliance they go to their family temple to have good omen and good symptoms. They call it in tamil “Poo Kati Parthal”.. For other functions like head tonsuring, marriage alliance fixing, opening new business account, the immediate family members will be invited. For routine yearly worship all the pankalees will gather and worship the Kuladeivam family god.

    Most of the Kuladeivam cult include Mayana worship or midnight worship during which time suadalai samy/sonaisamy/irulappasamy get prominence during Shivarathiri period.

  5. Kapalika
    In Hindu culture, Kapalika means bearer of the skull-bowl, and has reference to Lord Bhairava’s vow to take the kapala vow. As penance for cutting off one of the heads of Brahma, Lord Bhairava became an outcast and a beggar. In this guise, Bhairava frequents waste places and cremation grounds, wearing nothing but a garland of skulls and ash from the pyre, and unable to remove the skull of Brahma fastened to his hand. The skull hence becomes his begging-bowl, and the Kapalikas (as well as the Aghoris of Varanasi) supposedly use skulls as begging bowls and as drinking and eating vessels in imitation of Shiva. Although information on the Kapalikas is primarily to be gleaned from classical Sanskrit sources, where Kapalika ascetics are often depicted as depraved villains in drama, it appears that this group worshipped Lord Shiva in his extreme form, Bhairava, the ferocious. They are also often accused of having practiced ritual human sacrifices. Ujjain is alleged to have been a prominent centre of this sect.
    The Kapalikas may also have been related to the Kalamukhas (“black faces”) of medieval South India (Lorenzen 1972). Moreover, in modern Tamilnadu, certain Shaivite cults associated with the goddess Ankalaparamecuvari, Irulappasami, and Sudalai Madan, are known to practice or have practiced ritual cannibalism, and to center their secretive rituals around an object known as a kapparai (Tamil “skull-bowl,” derived from the Sanskrit kapala), a votive device garlanded with flowers and sometimes adorned with faces, which is understood to represent the begging-bowl of Shiva (Meyer 1986).
    • Ankalaparamecuvari : a goddess of Tamilnadu, her myths and cult (ISBN 3-515-04702-6) by

  6. hello sir,
    the diety sudalai madan is my family deity would like to share some info.. donn kno whom to contact.

  7. would be really nice .. if the concerned department could get in touch with me .. my email id is

    may be i cld share a lot more about sudalai madan and essaki amman and the related deities in detail


  8. hello dave !

    so nice to you to reply.well first of al i was happy to see the so called dieities of the dark in the light ( ur website).

    the above mentioned deities are my family deities and I could share more abt it. usually functions are held in the month of may in my native. incase anyone of ur represntatives are here they cld accompany us for the function .

  9. hello everyboday..

    would like to know if all these informations that are given are to know about the deities.. like sudali madan and the other parivar deities or to argue if the sanskritisation process are being enthrusted on to the folk culture.

    worshping madan is there for abt many years. my ancestors have had a professional practise in the field of tantrics have been praying to such gods. my family history indicates abt 500 yrs practise of tantrics using these deities .
    but as one of our frnds mentioned abt thirugnanasmabadar has mentioned abt sudalai which is his first song clearly indicates madan worship and madan has come in to existense long bak

    dont know y these people are against sanskritisation.
    it is only a refined way doing poojas. all these people claim to worship the” god shiva” …. the vedic gods list has no such names . it has only god rudra. the worship pf shiva itself cld be assumed as a folk culturee of worshipin once. but now these people claim that worship of such gods and methods are sanskrtised.

    would have been happy if explanantions on madan and associated deities are concenterated.
    may be would have a better discusion soon

  10. hello dave.. was aniosly expecying some one from ur tem would get in touch.. any way lemme wait till they get back..


  11. Considered by high-caste Hindus in the early nineteenth century to be of extremely low status, the Nadars — toddy-tappers, climbers of the palmyra palm — suffered severe social disabilities and were among the most depressed communities in the Tamil country.

    More than a century back from the Indian history cycle, the Census of India under the British raj too provides a classic example of how states can take a lead role in naming and ranking social groups.

    From their reading of classic Sanskrit texts, raj officials inferred that Indian society consisted of discrete social groups with firmly ascribed rules of conduct and specifically ranked positions in a social hierarchy. They reified the meaning of texts that native interpreters were in the habit of using more flexibly. Starting in 1888, raj officials used the census in ways that were supposed to lend scientific precision to these social categories.

    The census officials under British Raj defined and enumerated: Brahmans, literate persons who perform ritual functions, advise authorities on correct Hindu conduct, and occupy the top of the socio-religious ladder; Gujars, herdsmen, of modest social standing; Jats, sturdy cultivators; Nadars, laborers who climb the coconut palm and whose polluting work of making liquor relegates them to the lower end of the social ladder. Such listings created both a certified reality and resistance to it. The certified social designations became the basis for social policy, which further confirmed the categories.

    However thise census story does not end with a theoretical orthodox document-creating state freezing social phenomena in stereotypical categories run, the state did not succeed in imposing a neo-Brahmanical view of Indian social structure. Civil society groups especially owing to Nadar community background collectively countered the census descriptions by organizing self-help caste associations. The associations mounted legal, administrative and political challenges to the names, occupations and histories that the census imposed on them .

    Specifically, in the case of the cocopalm-climbing Nadars, their caste associations presented evidence to the authorities that many of their caste fellows had left the polluting work of palm liquor production, developed clean habits by personal renunciation of liquor intake and became merchants, and that by history they had been part of Kshathriya clan or regional lords. Hence they were incorrectly named, characterized, and ranked.

    Nadar associations vigorously lobbied the authorities to change what the census said about them and encouraged thousands of Nadars to offer a different occupational description to the census takers.In the Nadar story we see the creation and re-creation of identity and status as a result of interaction and contestation between state and civil society.
    One of the major achievement was that Nadars while turning away from their traditional occupation by leaving the toddy processing to jaggery and distilling Palm juice to make arrack, were keen to be members of local community associations to take up cluster based mercantilism network.

    One great aspect of their movement is their adotption to clean habits shying away from the traditioanl toddy which came for praise from every national leader of the freedom struggle period; especially from the Father of Nation “Mahatma Gandhijiâ€?, even from the British Raj officials and then spiritual heads of higher communities. After a long legal and social struggle and with the continued exhibition of good character by the entire set of community, their old name of ‘Shanar’ was abandoned and the honorific title ‘Nadar’ was adopted. Due to success of Self Respect Movement, the Justice Party government adopted the change in this community term in all public records from 1921

  12. God of the dispossed

    Sudalai Madan is usually considered to be the caste deity of Konar, Thevar, Paraiyar, Nadar and other castes found on extreme south of Tamil Nadu. He is very popular in the Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari district.First Sudalai madan swamy coming from Sorkkam.

    [He is first in stay Seevalaperi Tirunelveli Dist.] Mr. Masanak Konar handle of the temble. shree sudalai madan swamy is called like masnamuthu and mundan.

    [edit] Rituals and priests
    Most Sudalai Madan (also referred as Irulappa samy or Mayandi samy) temples are officiated by non-Brahmin priests. Amongst Paraiyar, the priests are called Valluvar. His name suggests an association with death and cemeteries. Sudalai Madan in offered sacrificial birds and goats by his devotees unlike in Sanskritized Hindu temples.

    Sudalai Maadan, is one among the 21 sub folk deity of Ayyanar-Sastha clan and considered as god of the graveyaIn Sastha Ayyanar temples and shrines, the god is surrounded by at least 21 other deities, the important sub deities being Karuppasamy( Karuppanasamy being the oracle role or Kodangi or Shamam to resolve the community problem) and SudalaiMadasamy other subordinates, who help him carry out his duties to protect the local community and nature surrounding it. Folk beliefs in “here and now� for solving the local community and locality problems and not in astrological timing and ominous signs or heaven and hell. rd. Mayana Pujai is offered as a special ritual for Sudali Maadan God.

    Sudalai Maadan, also finds a reference in Saivite literature (Sudalai Podi poosiya ye yullam kavar kalvan). In the folk tradition, the deities converse with the oracle and send across messages to the devotees.

  13. hello !

    as refered above Mr.ABCS.. was telling us abt the sacrificial birds ad goats which is not in sanskritization process.
    guess we know that amongst the 4 vedas one imp veda called the atahrvana veda the base for tantrics has lot of sacrificial practicies. The vamachary tantra involves alot of sacrifises.
    so giving sacrifises is not new.

    may be im not sure abt the communal identifiations given to deities but im tryin to explore more abt it. i am not nadars nor thevars .. i am saiva pillai frm tirunelveli district. sudalai maadan is our family deitiy so wil have to chek with the above satement abt maadan & (nadar + thevar) communities

    see it so believed that sudalai the son of shiva and parvathy.. came down frm heaven.when all the other sons of shiva have vedic rituals y not for sudalai. the sanskritisation process is only a refined way of performing poojas.
    let us take it for the sake of argument and lets go bak to few centuries bak. man did not have big ideas abt the gods & only the nature was worshiped & then only the stones etc .. arnt we not praying to gods of diff calsses today. does tht mean the old heritage is over. then we can even conclude tht the non brahimical standards have even influenced the much more olden ways of praying to gods.

    it would be nice if we share some informations abt the deities rather thaan commenting the sanskritisatioon process


  14. Villupattu, Kanian koottu and Udukkadipattu, prevalent in the villages of South India, are also folk story telling traditions. Stories like Sastha, Sudalai Madan kathai, Draupadi Amman Kathai, Kovalan Kathai, Muttuppattan Kathai, etc are narrated.

    Not so lucky seven
    Tamil Nadu: Story, drumbeats, rhythm and dance
    By V.R. Devika

    Kaniyan koothu is a distinctive tradition performed by the members of the Kaniyan caste along with music and dance. It was mostly seen at rituals in Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari districts and at theSudalai madan festival. Kaniyan koothu is said to be a remnant of
    human sacrifice and many performers are expected to drop some blood from their fingers or tongues with the offerings to the Sudalai madan.

    A group consists of seven members. The leader, Annavi, is the main ballad singer. His assistant sings along with him. There are three makutam (percussion) players¡ªfor high pitch, low pitch and onereserve for variations and replacements. Two men are dressed as
    women. As the Annavi narrates the story, percussion is provided by the makutam players and the dancers whirl around in rhythm. A performance can take place all through the night. The story of the goddess is the sasta kathai. The story of the male god is matan kathai. The stories of the goddesses are similar except that of Uchimaakaali.

    Each temple has a separate story written on palm leaf, and only this story is sung there. The story becomes the core ballad of the temple and then there are Kelvikathai stories requested by the audience.

    The performance begins with Vinayaka tottiram (prayer to Ganesha) and Kuruvati (at the feet of the Guru or teacher) which are obligatory. The dancers and the singers reach high levels of
    vibrancy as the narration picks up.

    Late Rama Subbu Kaniyan used to claim that this art form is more than 400 years old. A 16th century palm leaf, Daiva Silaiyaar Virali Thoothu, refers to Kaniyan koothu.

    Today, many of the expert Kaniyans are no more and the youngsters of the families migrate to towns in search of lucrative jobs.


    Ancient Tamils are very much attached to the soil of their birth places. So always a “PidiMan� is carried from the place of origin and pidiman concept is fulcrum of peripheral ancestor worship in the newly settled place. In most cases the good spirits in the ancestoral path is chosen as Main Focal point for ancestoral worship.

    The process of having a Prime Folk Deity as Ayyanar or Madan along with madha worship or Madha/ Amman or Good Spirits (those ancestors of specific group who gave up life for good cause for the society) is the decision of particular ethnic group collective identity philosophy.

    In the same time, one realise that Vedic Gods and Peripheral folk Deities are poles apart.

    While Madha / Amman deities or good spirits are by and large social historical incidents, the evolution of Prime Peripheral Folk Deity and associated Kaval Deivangal have a version of story where in they provided protection to a larger section of particular locality or village on a higher level such as struggles between different communities, different culture or language people etc.

    Prime PERIPHERAL FOLK DEITIES Aiyanars & Madans —
    And Other Kaaval Deivangal ( Associate Community Guarding Deities.)

    People have strong faith in their few selected ancestor’s role as the Saviour of the local community at times of extreme hardships and they have recorded their chief sacrificing role to protect the people, property and even the proudness of the society. These legandry people have evolved to be Ayyanars and Madans and are propitiated as Peripharal Folk Deities’. Though their myths appear to be shrouded in mysteries, most of them have a documented historical record for being selected to the role of Prime Peripheral Folk Deities to guard the fields and people’s wealth of particular locality.

    Madan is a generic name and there are a whole lot of Madans, like Sudalai Madan; Pula Madan and Esaki Madan. These deities are different from the Vedic ones.


    The village priest (poojari) is chosen from any community , but traditionally from very backward communities who can recite some simple mantras in Tamil and to perform the basic rituals of lighting a lamp, reciting some tamil folk songs & prayers, doing an offering, taking a karpoora aarti etc.

    PROCESSION OF GRAND CLAY SCULPTURE: The elephants and Horses made of clay are taken out of the kiln that morning and taken around in a procession with Ayyanar.

    OFFER OF CLAY FIGURINES: It is the custom to offer small terracotta snakes, rats and other pests to Ayyanar during the annual festival. Children try their hand at making rodents and other clay animals and offered it to the deity

    TAMIL FOLK ARTS: Folk dancers perform as the procession goes around the streets of the heritage centre.

    TAMIL MUSIC AND VOCAL RECITAL: Music and a vocal recital in praise of Ayyanar are a must.

    FLOWER OFFERINGS: A “Poothattu” procession is held for “housekeepers” of the different “houses” who go around with trays of flowers.

    Offering terra cotta figurines are practice of the Tamil people to Folk Gods as a thanksgiving for wish fulfillment of their various wishes of the life: the chief being childless couple whose prayers for a child are answered offer a clay cradle and a child.

    Priority in these assembly places for worshipping Peripheral Deities are Kitchen and Dining places since annual feasting together by the affliated society members is considered as the prime factor to bring social togetherness. The most important event is Family and community problem solving through trance state or Kodangi Roles within the community group that iis the hall mark of Folk Cultural system. Kanian Koothu and Villupattu are directed towards the trance oracle stage and bring shamanism within the people


    Entering Cremation Ground or Mayana Kuzhi are the typical celebration associated with Sudalai Worship or Worship of Crematorium ground.

    At Otthaipanai Sudalaiaandavar temple in Sirumalanji, near Nanguneri in south Tamil Nadu, over a lakh devotees, congregate during the bi-annual festival . The Ooyikkadu Sudalai Andavar fame is well known in Thirunelveli district.
    This practice is also prevalent in Sudalai Maadasamy temple at Arumugamangalam, Saastha Malai temple at Marukaalthalai, Oththappanai Sudalai Andavar temples at Vijayanarayanam and Sirumalanji, Kallaththiyaan and Saasta temples at Naduvakurichi.

    The main festival is Trance dancer visiting Cremation ground. Before the trance dancer leaves for the cremation ground in traditional robes of Sudalai Andavar, members of all communities, including the nadars, the dalits, the yadavas and the thevars, and all the neighbour hood community would go to his house to invite him to start the ‘yatra’. The Trance Dancer or Saamiyadi dons the traditional robes and begin his journey to the cremation ground. Sudalai Andavar will go to the cremation ground and occupy the paran [alter] to accept the any offerings by the devotees. Later he can deliver ArulVakku or KuriCHol to the relieve the pains of distressed people.

    In the Indian Subcontinent, the dead bodies are burnt in fire,
    The “sudalai” or “mayaanam” is the place where
    the dead bodies are buried or burnt. Sudalai Madan is the power or wealth or community that gains from the simple knowledge of `mayaanam’ and doing the funeral pyres and burials, ie every one’s last place is reserved and showing the way of leading the life filled with purpose of justice for all without any individual fear.

    Kanian Koothu for receiting the local purpose of Sadalai Madan Kathai can be mostly seen at rituals in Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari districts and at the Sudalai madan festival. Kaniyan koothu is said to be a remnant of human sacrifice and many performers are expected to drop some blood from their fingers or tongues with the offerings to the Sudalai madan.

    Sudalai comes from `sudu’ meaning `burn’. sudukadu is the `funeral ground’ (similarly idukadu is burial ground).
    sudalai originally meant funeral ground and sudalai madan is the god who protects the funeral ground from evil spirits.

    Still after large scale implementation of Vedic systems in Madasamy temples, the worshipsudalai as God of Ashes and Crematorium continues in presence of
    large annual gathering of community Folk. Several Madans continue tobe having no forms on empty peedams or conversely the globalominpresent concept that death chases every one’s life.

    Prof. Vijayalakshmi Navaneethakrishnan describes with vigour and expressiveness, the way the`Sudalayandi’, the God of the Ashes as hewalks in the darkness holding a torch, from his fort to the crematorium to cleanse theplace of ashes and impurities.

    The faith in Sudaliyandi was symbolic of the concern that the
    ancient population had for the environment-she clarifies.

  17. ABCS — very informative material. Aside from some mention in Eveline Meyer’s book on Ankalaparamecuvari, there is no literature of which I’m aware in the English language on Sudalai Madan (aside from a brief mention in the 19th-century book, Land of Charity, by a British author, that mentions a Malayalam cemetery deity called “Shudala Madan). This material is hence very interesting to Western Indologists who either cannot read Tamil, or who (like me) can read Tamil but aren’t familiar with the sources you cite. You might consider adding this material to the Wikipedia entry on Sudalai Madan, as this is (in my opinion) an aspect of Tamil traditional religion that (unlike the Ayyanar cult, e.g.) has not received the attention it deserves in spite of being widespread and very significant, particularly in the southern part of Tamilnadu.
    Vinod and ABCS–What, if any, is the connection between Sudalai Madan/Irulappan/Mayandi and Sonai? Sonaisami always seems to be associated with cemeteries as well, and in Madurai at the sudukadu where the above-described rituals involving Irulappan took place, there was also a shrine to Sonai, as well as an image of Sonai at the Ankalaparamecuvari temple where Irulappan was also worshipped.

  18. hello abcs !
    are you frm the tirunelveli district seem to give a lot of information.yes sudalai madan mayana vettai is very famous in the deep south.

  19. hello steve

    sudalai madan and mayandi are the same. but irulappa swamy is called as irula madan in the south( tirunelveli district)

    madan worship can be performed at 12 pm nd 12 am
    but in the case of irula madan( irulappa swamy) it shld be done only after dark sets in as far as i know.


  20. Gods of clay, men of craft


    The connection between the craft and worship is special to Ayyanar temples.

    KEEPING vigil: Ayyanar on the horse.

    THE verdant fields, the unusually thin and tall coconut trees and the tail end of Nagamalai Mountains make Melakkal the kind of village many urban travellers would romantically and affectionately dream of. Even the long wait for the bus only seems appropriate.

    Signs of change

    As you approach the village, the ubiquitous tea kadai greets you with a loud film song. It is not the radio that blares, but the television. Down the road, the grocery shop is using an electronic weighing machine and crates of soft drink are piled at the entrance. At the bend, a makeshift petrol bunk sells petrol in empty soft drink bottles. Concrete houses, newly-laid marble steps, a big school and girls commuting 25 km daily to study in engineering colleges are telltale signs of change.

    However, on the outskirts of the village, the figures of fierce-looking Karuppusami on horseback with a scary demon by his side and Ayyanar on another horse, looking calm but assertive, are signs of a different kind. They are signs of continuing traditions — of craft, myths, rituals and caste politics.

    Ayyanar and his retinue of 21 gods are worshipped as protective deities. Ayyanar with his whip and Karuppusami, his most important companion with a moustache and an aruval (a large sickle), are eternally vigilant and stand guard on the outskirts of the village.

    Ayyanar temples are not architecturally elaborate. The principal deities — Ayyanar and consorts Pushkala and Purnakala — are sculpted in stone and enclosed in a small shrine. Other deities are made either in clay or stucco. While the gods of stone remain inside the shrine, gods made in clay are kept in open air. Ayyanar and Karuppusami sit on horses as tall as 20 feet and greet you at the entrance. At a few places like Mazhaiyur near Pudukottai, attendant gods like Semuni are not part of the Ayyanar temple but have their own place and votive horses.

    Natarajan Velar is the priest of the Melakkal temple. His narration of the temple history and the cult of Ayyanar have no reference to dates, kings and texts. All he can say is that it is a hoary tradition and his family has served as priests for ages. Scholars may describe Ayyanar worship as ancient and connect it with the Jains or Sastha, Vishnu and Shiva, but Natarajan seems to remain outside such concern. He enjoys a special relationship with the god he takes care of; so do the other velars. Velars are a community of potters and they make the idols and serve as priests.

    Special connections

    The connection between the crafts and worship is special to Ayyanar temples. At an auspicious time, the villages collect money and commission the priest and his family to make new terracotta horses for Ayyanar and, if necessary, a new Ayyanar too.

    A handful of earth from the village is given to the priest who is also the potter. The clay is then chosen carefully and the earth given is mixed with it. Two kinds of clay are scooped from a relatively dried-up water body. In the wet bed, clayey earth locally known as Karambai and a little grainy sandy earth called Paruman are collected. It is then mixed with elephant dung and river sand in suitable proportions. The legs of the horse are made first. Next, the body is finished and then the head. Shifting the parts is an important process. A makeshift bamboo and other improvised cradles are used. The parts are joined together and stitched with clay. There are variations to this process. In the Pudukottai region, instead of elephant dung, paddy husk is mixed to ensure better bonding. When the horse is ready, it is carried in a procession to the temple and placed by the side of the Ayyanar. The old ones are removed and kept aside to disintegrate.

    The festival is elaborate. A few dance in trance and goats are sacrificed. The head and legs of the animal are given to the priest as his share. At times, the fleshy thighs are also shared. When I asked a priest how they managed to sacrifice animals despite the prohibition, he smiled ingeniously.

    Being a priest does not pay Natarajan. But he has managed to balance his aspirations to earn better and the yearning to stay with traditions by turning priest after his retirement. So did Rajendran, at the Singampidari temple near Madurai.

    Earlier, the priests had lands donated to them. Velars are not agriculturalists and hence leased their lands to the wealthy and dominating caste groups in the village. Some could never recover their lands from the powerful lessees. A few have lost properties for other reasons as well.

    The potter-priest relationship associated with Ayyanar worship may not be the same in the future. Rajendran’s two sons are employed in private firms in big cities and have less to do with the temple. People like Krishnamoorthy in Arapalayam have left pottery and making Ayyanars to his brother. While his brother earns Rs. 2, 000 by making five horses and two gods, he claims to earn Rs. 20, 000 from his catering business. His brother makes up by selling pots and clay stoves on a busy street in Madurai.

    However, the future is not bleak for Rangaswamy and his sons. They are recognised craftsmen and are busy touring many parts of India and selling terracotta artefacts. Based at Mazhaiyur, they still make horses and terracotta gods for the village, but are not priests. Rajathi at Varapur near Pudukottai manages to continue her father’s craft tradition through her self-help group. Some have successfully managed to remain with the crafts.

    Changing craft of Votive horses.

    It’s not just the economics; even the iconography and the crafts have changed. At a few places Ayyanar now appears with an aruval. At Kochadai, just outside Madurai, Muthiah Sami and Ayyanar have acquired metallic utsava murthis or processional icons that are taken on vahanas or vehicles during festival days. This was largely absent in village temples. Prof. Aiyanar at Madurai Kamaraj University points to many more differences and relates them to the changing socio-economic conditions. He even identifies specific caste symbols in the icons. A research scholar in the same university describes how Jain Tirthankaras in abandoned caves have been converted to Karuppusami. All that is required is a simple brush stroke that can paint a moustache over the abandoned Jain gods. Gods appear to be as malleable as their material. However, a few desiring permanency and cost reduction have started to make Ayyanars in solid brick and mildly reinforced cement work.

    At every Ayyanar temple, there is a shrine located away from and outside the boundary wall of the main temple. It is the shrine for the fiercely reassuring Sonai Sami, the God of the Dalits. Even today, at a few places, the Dalits — though they enter the Ayyanar temples freely — are reluctant to go near the sanctum. The shrine for Sonai Sami is alloted exclusively for Dalits. During festivals, their offerings are not easily offered to the main gods. One of the priests said this is not an issue since everyone knows their place. It looks like some practices that ought to have changed have not yet changed

  21. Festive fervour – Monsoon Festival at DakshinaChitra

    Two South Indian festivals — Ayyanar and Adiperukku — . Adiperukku celebrated on the 18th day of the Tamil month of Adi pays tribute to the life sustaining force of water. The festival also welcomes the much-awaited monsoon. People living on the banks of the Cauvery offer pujas to the river. Ayyanar, the folk deity of Tamil Nadu, has a shrine on the outskirts of every village.

    The villages of Tamil Nadu have special deities such as Ayyanar, Madurai Veeran or Karuppaswamy, who are considered to be guardian angels of the village. According to common belief, not only do these deities scare away evil spirits and protect the villager against evil, diseases and ill fortune but also punish the erring villagers.

    Statues of these guardian deities are found especially at the boundaries of villages. It is very common to find statues of horses (it is believed that the deities ride around villages on horses) and weapons such as spear, machete, spears etc.

    Many villages in south Tamil Nadu celebrates “Kuthirai Eduppu�, where fresh statues of horses and weapons are offered with sacrifice of poultry or cattle to the deities.

    Ayyanar Shrine from Tamilnadu
    Ayyanar worship is popular from Madurai and the Pudukkottai area up to Vriddhachalam. Ayyanar is a popular village guardian deity who lives on the outskirts of the village in a thickly wooded sacred grove. His role is to protect the village from evil with the help of his associate Karuppusamy, who rides a tiger and is also worshipped.

    The highlight of Ayyanar shrines is the large terracotta horses and elephants which provide Ayyanar his transport to ride around the village at night. The priest of the Ayyanar shrine is from the potter community.

    The Ayyanar shrine at DakshinaChitra was constructed by Muthuswamy Kolalar, the priest of the Ayyanar shrine in Melkalpoondi, in South Arcot district. To prepare for the shrine, the neem tree, itchli tree, peepul tree, banyan tree and vembu maram, were planted at the site, in accordance with the priest’s instructions. Back in Melkapoondi, the priest did a puja (with beads and bones) to ascertain whether the god was willing for another shrine to be built. He was. Then the priest came to Madras to see if the DakshinaChitra site suited Ayyanar. It did.

    On July 31, 1992, after the shrine had been built and a week after the priest had arrived with one helper, work began on the terracotta figures. The elephant and the two large horses were prepared by mixing clay with straw, left to dry and then fired on site in a kiln of brick and mud, built around it.

  22. Mr.Steven and Mr. Vinod,

    Please excuse me, if I trouble you with a lot of material which are in order. Of course every one has their regular work to concetrate.

    I am surprised that after several centuries there is a beginning by few individuals to understand and identify what are the positive features of Ayyanar or Sathanar system along with 21 sub deities the chief being Sudalai, Karuppasamy, Isakki, Kali and SOnai etc.

    May be it will take several years of concerned intelligent people piece together available information to formally represent the great Orient Folk Community System of sub-continent such as India praticed through Kuladeivam cult, some light can be thrown on the better way of social life for the modern chaotic world to bring back orderliness









  24. Divine guardians

    The Ayyanar deities are believed to protect travellers and punish erring villagers

    STRONG PRESENCE Scaring away evil spirits
    Nobody would have missed the sight of little shrines on the outskirts of towns and villages, surrounded by desolate terracotta figures of horses, demons with raised swords in their hands, and bearded sages in meditation … This is the temple of Ayyanar, a village deity, who often takes his abode on the bank of water sources and on the outskirts of villages. He has a duty of guarding the village from evil spirits, protecting travellers and punishing erring villagers. One such temple is Sri Villayuthamudaiya Ayyanar Koil in Kochadai.

    Stepping into temple, one sees Ayyanar on a white horse with demon-like structures (Bootha kanagal), Muthiah Swamy on another horse and a white elephant in which Ayyanar came from `Indraloga’ to earth. Even before entering the sanctum sanctorum Moola Ayyanar established during the period of Shenbaga Pandian is seen with his consorts Poorna and Pushkala.

    Guardian deities

    Though the prime deity is Ayyanar, it is often called Muthiah Swamy Koil, a guardian deity of Lord Ayyanar. Usually, in many temples the guardian deities (kaval theivangal) get prominence and temples are often called by their names, says Muthu Venkatachalam, managing trustee of the temple. Later on, the temple was named after Muthiahsamy, a form of Lord Vishnu. He had come all the way from Kerala and took refuge under the grace of Lord Ayyanar. The unique feature of the temple is that guardian deities of the temple Lord Muthiah Swamy and Karruppasamy share the `sannithanam.’

    Although there are many facts to substantiate that the temple is more than 2000 years old, nobody has ever been able to know the exact date of its foundation. It is also believed that Pathanchali Munivar, father of yoga, practised meditation under the tamarind tree of the temple.

  25. Views Supporting Animal Sacrifice

    Professor A. Sivasubramanian, who has done intensive studies on folk deities, the forms of worship and the practices followed in the temples of the “people’s godsâ€? in the southern districts, told Frontline that these deities have some special characteristics. For instance, most of them are “slain heroesâ€? among the devotees’ ancestors. These deities, he said, were kept in the open, unlike in the mainstream temples, only to provide easy access to the poor and the socially deprived sections, which were generally denied entry into caste Hindus’ temples in many areas. The poojaris (priests) of the village deities normally belong to the caste group that controls the temples. The rules were kept flexible in order to suit the local people’s needs. For instance, unlike in the mainstream temples, there is no rigidity about the timing of worship, keeping in mind the village poor, who are mostly wage-earning agricultural workers.

    Sivasubramanian said that in many villages the `kodai’ festivals played a unifying role among caste-ridden rural communities of varied backgrounds and conflicting interests. Animal sacrifice was practised not only in Hindu folk temples, but also in darghas and churches, although without the approval of the clergy. He cited the Anthoniyar “templeâ€? at Puliyampatti, 35 km from Tuticorin, where Hindus join Christians in offering worship and animal sacrifice “in fulfilment of vowsâ€?. Referring to the prevalence of animal sacrifice among Muslims, the professor said the practice among them was to donate the hide to the dargha and partake the meat with others in community feasts.

    Any attempt to homogenise the temples of folk deities would only lead to the end of the plurality of Hindu society, Sivasubramanian said. The Sangh Parivar had already brought under its control several temples. In these temples they have fixed the worship timings, appointed Brahmin poojaris, made the rules rigid and installed idols of mainstream gods such as Siva (in the form of Linga), Vinayagar and Murugan. A few years ago, when a Brahmin poojari objected to animal sacrifice in one such temple for a village deity in Coimbatore on the grounds that it could not be done in a temple that had a Linga, the people removed the Linga and went ahead with the sacrifice. At the temple of a folk deity in Tuticorin, when the newly appointed Brahmin poojari objected to animal sacrifice because the temple now also had an idol of Murugan, devotees performed the sacrifice after hiding the idol behind a curtain. Such developments would only create further divisions in village communities in the southern districts, which are known for caste-related violence.

    A study by the Tirunelveli-based Human Rights Organisation on the practices in 564 temples in Tirunelveli and Tuticorin districts revealed that the “kodai� festivals had some positive elements. Although Dalits were normally denied entry into 240 of these temples, they were allowed to participate in the festivals. Dalits shared the meat of the sacrificed animals with the people of the Thevar community, with which they are at loggerheads most of the time. Any attempt to disturb the balance may aggravate the caste-related problems in these sensitive areas, the study felt.

    The Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers Association has said that the State government’s action against animal sacrifice would affect the right to worship of Dalits and other backward sections of the people and would only unwittingly help the Sangh Parivar bring thousands of village temples under its control.

    After sensing the all-round protest against the move, the Federation of Village Temple Priests, believed to be a Parivar organisation, has urged the State government not to enforce the ban on animal sacrifice in temples, since the move is “impractical�. “Animal sacrifice can be banned only if the majority of people stopped eating non-vegetarian food,� said federation president S. Vedantam. CPI(M) State secretary N. Varadarajan said in a statement that there could be no two opinions about the irrational nature of the belief in animal sacrifice. “All the same, it is an age-old belief with cultural overtones, involving the right to worship of Dalits and people from other backward communities and also the religious sentiments of these people,� he said. “Attempts at educating these people and improving their social and economic status should necessarily precede efforts to put an end to such superstitious beliefs,� observed Varadarajan

  26. Legend

    As per the legend, it is believed that Ayyappan (in Kerala) was brought up by Lord Indra. But soon, as Indra was not able to maintain `Ayyappan’ (Ayyanar in Tamil Nadu) he left him in the hands of Kulalar community people, who requested Ayyanar to save them at difficult times. “Since then people of our community have been performing pujas for Lord Ayyanar,â€? says Mr. Muthu Venkatachalam.

    He further says that it should be `Kaiappan’ and `Kaiyyanar’ because they were born out of Lord Siva and Lord Vishnu, who had taken a form of Mohini to help the devas.

    The Muthiahsamy temple has 21 deities —- Villayuthamudaiya Ayyanar (presiding deity), Muthiah Swamy, Karrppasamy, Agni Veera Badrar, Karuppayee Amman, Sangili Karuppu, Kazhuvadi Karuppu, Meyyandi Amman, Nagappasamy, Sannasi, Adipoojari, Pechiamman, Muthu Karuppasamy, Irulappasamy, Veeranasami, Rakkayee Amman, Irulayee Amman, Sappani, Sonai, Muniyandi, and Badrakali —- and 61senaigal (servants or agents).

  27. Festivals, pujas and beliefs at Muthiasamy Aiyyanar Temple

    The people celebrate two festivals for the temple in the months of Masi and Purattasi. The three-day festival during Masi will be celebrated by people from various places while the Purattasi-month festival is celebrated only by the people of Kochadai village, says Mr. Venkatachalam.

    Masi festival is an annual affair of the temple, but Purattasi festival is celebrated only after getting the sanction from the lizard on the palm tree in the temple. Every Tuesday (Purasttasi) the villagers gather near the palm waiting for the kavili for four weeks. If the signal is not sounded the festival will be cancelled, he says.

    `Sulaiaadu puja’ is performed for Rakkayee Amman in which the stomach of a pregnant goat is ripped open to take out the lamb, which will be buried, alive on the temple premises. `Pavadai puja’ formerly called `Paaladai puja’ is performed for Lord Muthiah Swamy wherein curd rice is distributed as prasadham to devotees.


  28. The animal sacrifices in almost all southern state villages for Chief Folk Deity(Kaliamman), Central Folk Deities (Mutharamman, Kaliamman, Isakkiamman), Peripheral Folk Deities in the form of Amman/ Matha Goddesses are a
    matter of distant past in most of the Nadar community settlements and the practices had disappeared several decades before the Legal restrictions of recent past. One cannot find presence of a past symbol of Pali Beedam in several of these sacred grove premises which later became abode of gopurams.

    Only certain variants of Male Prime Peripheral Folk Deities Madans (Sudalai, Karadi, Pandri), some Associate
    Peripheral Folk deities (such as Chonai samy, Chappani Samy) continue with the practice of animal sacrifices (Paran erudhal or paran eri udhiram kudithal by trance fellow) but expected to be on a declining trend with the possibility of extinction in the near future.

    It is believed that some of these Folk Deities were fond of eating Non Vegetarian food in their life duration and hence the offering of Non- vegetrian food is very significant but they in fact do not warrant
    animal sacrifices.

    Several people strictly follow 2 days vegetrianism in a week mostly Tuesday and Friday or Saturday or Sunday according to the beliefs they possess in certain cults.

    Influence of Ayya Vaikuntar and His movement

    The socio-religious reforms of Ayya Vaikuntar had enkindled
    rethinking on many social issues.

    Socio-Religious Reforms on Animal Sacrifice

    Social organizations of this day are condemning the practice of
    animal sacrifice in temples. But Ayya Vaikuntar raised his voice
    against this practice 150 years ago. In those days, the people of
    South Travancore were very poor and uneducated. The reigning
    sentiment was one of fear rather than of piety towards God. People sacrificed animals. He preached against this practice in his holy books.

    In those days, animal sacrifice was conducted even in very big
    temples by high caste Hindus. The palipeedam as seen in almost all the temples bear testimony to this fact.

    Ayya said those who practiced sacrifice were not His people. His followers took His words in the right sense and there is no room for this evil practice in Ayyavazhi.

    Vegatarianism and Discipline

    Ayya Vaikuntar was a vegetarian and He advised the people to be vegetarians. In those days, most of the people of this region were non-vegetarians. Ayya recorded in His holy book that people would not eat without fish even a single day. Further, consuming toddy and tobacco was a daily occurance among the lower castes.

    Ayya Vaikuntar’s preaching brought about a change in the society. He practiced what he preached. People followed Ayya Vaikuntar’s example.

    Ayya knew fully well that these people would not become strict
    vegetarians, all of a sudden. So, he advised them to be vegetarians at least twice a week, Friday and Sunday.

  29. Thanks to Mr.Lars Kjaerholm and Mr.Steven Bonta there will be large scale introspection of Various Folk Deity Cutlures and PRactices and accepting this system beyond continent boudaries in this century.

    Aiyanar and Aiyappan in Tamil Nadu : Change and Continuity in South Indian Hinduism

    The Aiyappan Cult : The Meeting Ground of Hindu Militancy, Egalitarianism and Universalism

    By Lars Kjaerholm

    one might expect kula deyvam worship to die out, but the opposite seems to be the case. This is understandable once we consider, that the equality in the Aiyappan cult is only “in the eyes of Aiyappan”. It is my hypothesis, that kula deyvam worship has an important role to play in the somewhat schizophrenic situation with two very different versions of the same sod existing simultaneously. Kula deyvam worship seems to be the part of Tamil tradition, which is able to create a unity out of the village religious complex and the newly arrived Aiyappan cult.

    People who had forgotten or ceased to worship their kula deyvam, and who took a renewed interest in the family deity, renovated the family deity temple, and gathered all the relatives at the annual kula deyvam festival.

    The kula deyvam and its worship is of great importance in Tamil Nadu, but may easily be overlooked, because the deity is never represented in people’s homes in any visible form, although numerous other god’s may be represented either with prints or small bronze statues.

    Nevertheless, the kula deyvam is always thought of as present in the house, and whenever the family is afflicted with disease or financial problems, some coins are offered at the kula deyvam temple. The kula deyvam still looms large in the religious life of the family. Often family members—mainly the women—see the deity in their dreams and receive messages from it.

    Someone in the family may also get possessed by Karuppaswami for Kodangi/shamam role in Kuladeivam culture or any other village deity and in oracle fashion tell the family which offering to make to solve a particular problem.

    We may briefly sketch the Aiyanar and 21 sub deities worship as a closed religious-economic village system largely devoted to solving family, social, mental, health and economic problems of the villagers. This system involves no higher deities and no Brahman priests.

    This practice is structured on the improtance of local natural elements and against the fundmentals of globalisation, materialism and consumerism


    There are also a number of sub peripheral folk deities who are worshipped during PariVettai with equal reverence to Prime Folk Deity during Spring Festival celebration in Sacred groves (solaiVanams or Paimbozhil or Nandavanams). The General practice of Prime Peripheral Folk Deity Sastha or AIyanar to reside along with the parivaram of 21 subordinate deities and 61 co-ordinate deities.

    Karuppu, Sudalai, Chonai (Sonai) and Chappani (Sappani) are some of the most common subordinate Folk Deities.

    At the temple for Chonai, one of the lesser deities associated with Aiyanar, a bull is brought in front of the temple. It is decorated with flowers and painted. A rope made of wet hay is now tied to the bull, and some of the men challenge the bull to chase them. Erukkampoo malai is supposed to be made for this celebration.

    Terracotta figures Purpose of Puravi Eduppu or Kudiraiyeduppu

    The role of terracotta is very important. The figures must be made of clay, which represents the powers of renewal inherent in the earth – from the birth of new plants to animal and human offspring. – the soul takes a new life after the decay of the body just as a new plant is born after the death of the old. This is also the cyclic role of the clay – it represents the horse, etc., for a certain time : as it slowly disintegrates and goes back to mother earth, it is time for the creation of a new figure. In fact, the new figure is often made from a handful of clay from an old figure to which more clay is added. The main figure of the Mother Goddess and the male deities must be “renewed” every one or two years, hence they were never, traditionally, made of any other material besides clay. The entire phenomenon is closely associated with prayers for fertility. The votive offerings are generally always made of clay and left in the open to go back to the mud where they came from. In time, the grove gets cluttered with clay images of gods, goddesses and animals, particularly horses, popular in most sacred groves all over the country, from the Ayyanar horses of Tamilnadu to the Bankura horses of West Bengal. Why the horse? Because, say the people, it is considered next in importance only to man.

  31. Mr.Steven Bonta,

    Thanks for providing opportunity to collect all the materials and provide in one place for the matter related Ayyanar/Sathanar system along with information Sudalai, Karuppu, Sonai etc.

    Though I know that the celebrations in Folk deity temples is no more in the same old oriental folk cultural style, vedicisation and modernism has crept into making the system no more capable of sustaining village centre ancestral system that was practiced for several centuries, in fact time immemorial. The practice of this system make the people tolerant, simple, modest with chastity as their prime need of the family life.

    For the last 2 years I am looking for people who do share related information and reasearch on similar folk deities. I am happy to found about you (Tamil speaking white? in a state filled with English speaking Tamils).

    Hope You take a lead role in rejunevating the Tamil Folk System through dissemination of information and cultural practices and thanks once again.

  32. Kaval Deivangal:

    Generally all the 21 sub deities of Ayyanar-Sathanar are called as Kaval Deivangal. Most of the Ayynar shrines come under by categorizing under specific local variant of Kaval deivam and the important fact is ayyanar himself should be considered as the central focal point of kaval deivams. But due to change in times, people have forgotten the stand alone kaval deivam such as sudalai, sonai, pechi, etc located in different locations are infact attachment to some of the nearby local Supreme Peripheral Folk Deity namely the Ayyanar.

    Worship of village Ayyanar or Sathanar deities with clay horse system is very popular in Tamil Nadu and is much more ancient than Vedic worship. It dates back to the Sangam age and represents the oldest Dravidan way of worship. 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 are located in either the same premises or located in different places of the locality, for eg. Amman deities may be installed in centre of the village, Sonai, Sudalai or Formless Nadukkal deities may be installed close to grave yards (cemeteries or 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 and simple and small worship areas. Weapons such as a trident or a lance or sickles are also associated with these shrines. In Vedic connection Sathanar became a local manifestation of Sastha Power and there are uncountable local manifestations of Sastha power in differnt versions.
    We also see lots of terracotta horses, elephants, clay dolls & birds and bells. Most officiating priests are non-Brahmins or any local community people or Velars and derive from local ancestral lineages that had initiated the cult centers generations ago.
    The worship pattern is non-vedic through Folk tale, Folk Song and Folk arts (villupattu, Kargam, koothu etc. The local priest might offer flowers or Veeputi (holy ash) to the worshipers and may play a oracle role for shamanism.

  33. FOrmless worship of Hero Stones/Sati Stones

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

    1. Stones with possession of Natural Forces / natural Energies passed on it by creative collective transcendental form.
    , Karuppanaaswamy (“Karupu� means black in tamil and is associated with dark, night, etc), Katerri amman (“Katerri� means vampire), Sudalai maadan swamy (“Sudalai� means burial ground/pyre and “Sudalai maadan� means guardian of burial ground). Kali was considered as the causative force for cholera, Maari was considered as a causative force for smallpox, chicken pox, mumps and measles (Maari in Tamil means rain and since the rainfall cooled the otherwise hot area and protected people from summer sicknesses like viral infections, people started worshiping the rain goddess as Maariamman). The “Ellai amman� worshiped in many villages is actually a mile stone 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 paying to them for safe journey. Thus, slowly these mile stones attained the position of village goddess.
    There are other various natural energy worship in the form of Mutharamman, Muthalamman, Pachi thaniyamman, Pachaiyamman, Pal Pazhakkari amman etc.
    2. Hero Stones (Nadukkal or Veerakkal) and Sati Stones.

    Hero stones are the stones provided for the Males who sacrifice their life for good causes and Sati stones are the stones provided for females who sacrificied their life for certain specific purpose especially for chastity and purity.
    The second category includes people who lived and lost their lives for their community and hence their community members still remembered them and worship them. This group also includes persons who were killed by injustice and hence were worshiped in order to save the village from their wrath. The worship for the fallen brave warriors is one of the popular forms of worship in early Tamil poetry2 ‘tolkAppijam’ gives an elaborate description in six stages in the planting of stone, beginning with looking for a suitable stone and ending in 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. During latter period these “nadukalsâ€? became Ayyanar shrines. Other warrior gods include Madurai veeran (who lived near Madurai), Kaathavarayan (who lived near Tanjavore) and Annammar swamigal (who lived near Coimbatore). The “Thee paanch ammmanâ€? temples in northern part of TN were basically built to worship widows who were brunt with their husbands funeral pyre as part of “Saathi”. “Maachani ammanâ€? temple at Polaachi was built to worship a young girl who was killed by a “Konguâ€? king since she unknowingly ate a mango from his garden. The “Palayanoor Neeliâ€? was 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 Tamilnadu and Kannagi worship are considered as part of Sati stone worship system. In general Sati stones have not become part of 21 subdieties 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 subdieties including ISakki, Sonai and others.

  34. 3. Stones to tame Evil and Devil Forces and converting to good powers:
    Forces or elements which people were scared with. Munishswaran-muni in olden days was associated with killing people, drinking blood, doing mischievous things, brining in ill effect, etc Peichi amman (“Pei� means devil) also covered under this form.
    4. Legends
    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 prominence. Chitra Pournami is celebrated grandly in memory of Sati women and Kannagi worship.
    4. Genesis of Vedic Connections:
    The third category is certain less spoken characters in the great epic of Ramayana and Mahabharata. Like you see lots of temples for Draupathi (Panchali) and Darmaraja (yuthistran) in the Northern parts of TN. You also see temples for Kanthari (mother of kouravas), Kunthi (mother of Pancha Pandavas) and Arravan (the son of Arjuna and the Manipuri princesses Chitrankatha) in TN. Sanskritization of village deities: During the bakthi movement in TN (mainly Adishankara’s Advaitha philosophy) many of these village deities slowly got enfolded into the main stream Hindu religion and thus gained the status of demi-gods. Thus, the various forms of Muniswaras were incarnated as the vedic Saptharishis and their successors (“Muniâ€? in Sanskrit means sage and since sages were very popular during Vedic period it was easy to incarnate munishswarans as the fierceful form of sages who accompanied goddess Durga (in the form of Pachai amman) during her fight with a demon king).
    The Kerala Sastha became Hariharaputra and the TN village deity Ayyanar became another incarnation of Sastha or Ayyapan. Same way Karuppu, Sudalai, Mari, Kali etc and every other local folk god connected to Vedic Gods and new evolutionary and imaginary stories came into wide acceptance by entire folk group. Later this imaginary Vedic connection had to be in effect to prevent against the large scale conversion to Foreign religions which mercilessly campaigned to eliminate local cultures and practices so that their propogating religious philosophy can become dominant.

  35. The incarnation of Sudali maadan as Siva’s son is not very popular or not a convincing story as it is narrated. The connection of Iasakki to Sudali is also not properly narrated.

    It was easier for the Village goddesses to get enfolded into the main stream since all of them were considered as various manifestations of goddess “Sakthiâ€?. Thus original right centre natural Saktha-Tantric worship got embroiled into Dattatreya’s thirupura rahasyam to become widely followed Vedic Sakthi worship of recent times. Thus the various forms of Kali and Maariammans were considered as various incarnations of goddess Parvathi. It was much difficult for the male counterparts to enter the mainstream since it means establishing an association with a Vedic male god. Since there were two main Vedic gods namely Siva and Vishnu, it was difficult to choose between them. For example, there is no story what so ever with respect to “Perianndavarâ€? who is a popular family deity in north TN or “Perisamyâ€? who is his equivalent in south TN.
    “Kaval Deivangal” or Guardian Angels:

    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 from entering the village.

    These temples are usually in the open space and will not have traditional Gopurams like any other temples. You can see big statues of Gods with weapons like bow and arrow; swords, knifes and other protective weapons. There also will be statues of Goddesses, and animals in these temples

    During the Spring Seaon in Tamil Months of Karthikai (Sokkappanai during Karthigai Dheepam), Thai (Thaipoosam), Masi (Masi Kalari- Shivarathiri); Panguni (Panguini Uthiruam; and Aadi (aadiperukku); Festivals will be conducted in these temples. The tradition is that the commencement of the festival will be with that of a hoisting of the flag and tying “Kappu.” At this time, villagers neither can go out of the village to different village or come into the village from a different village.

    Especially one that of traditional “Theru Koothu”; It is a dance-drama(Koothu) enacted on the street(Theru). 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 earlier days, these was the 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. But later days, the bureaucratic society exploited the innocence of the people, which led to blind faiths that are being followed even these days

  36. Religion & Philosophy » Hinduism » Singapore

    A New God in the Diaspora?, Muneeswaran Worship in Contemporary Singapore

    by Sinha, Vineeta About This Book

    A New God examines the worship of a Hindu deity known as Muneeswaran in contemporary Singapore. The strong presence and veneration of this male deity on the island, and the innovative styles of religiosity now associated with him, justify calling Muneeswaran a ‘new’ god from the Diaspora. The author documents a neglected aspect of local Folk Hinduism and the ritual domain surrounding guardian deities (kaval deivam) such as Muneeswaran. She raises a broader question: why has this Folk deity, brought from Tamilnadu to Malaya more than 170 years ago, such a strong appeal for young Singaporean Hindus three and four generations removed from their Indian origins. Her exploration of these issues provides an ethnographic documentation of urban-based Hindu religiosity in contemporary Singapore, and makes an important contribution to the global study of religion in the diasporas

  37. hello steve ..!

    rightly said may e it wil take few more years to join up to put all the informations together as a single piece.

    about sudalai madan he is considered tyo be the son of shiva.. if itis not convincing then even no god .. like ganapathy and murugan can be claimed as son of shiva. if u read carefully no god has come out frm the womb of any female deities. rama and krishna have lived with man as noraml humans and have sufferd death like any normal human beieng.

    so it goes the same way for sudalai madan too.
    for essaki if u track doen u have no clue when essaki worship started .mqay be i wil give u one clue try to take detials on dhumavathi another incarbation of shakthi . a widow form


  38. so krishna and rama are exceptions.

    madan is considerd to be the son of shiva. madan denotes every aspect of is only believed that he was born from a flame with the blessings of shiva on the request of parvathy.

  39. Friends,

    For a totalizing interpretation of the kapparai in relation to the Tamil cult of Ankalamman, read

    before reading the whole essay on the TS of the DîkSita.

    The most comprehensive analysis of the pan-Indian kapparai = Brahmâ’s 5th head may be found at



    P.S. My test above reveals that it’s impossible to post a comment if the “Website” field is not left empty.

  40. Friends,

    For a totalizing interpretation of the kapparai in relation to the Tamil cult of Ankalamman, read

    before reading the whole essay on the TS of the DîkSita.

    The most comprehensive analysis of the pan-Indian kapparai = Brahmâ’s 5th head may be found at



    P.S. My test above reveals that it’s impossible to post a comment if the “Website” field is not left empty.

  41. svAbhinava, I’m very sorry that you’ve run afoul of the automatic spam catcher (Akismet). You must understand that this site gets around 1000 spam comments a day, many of them quite revolting, so I have no choice but to rely on an automated system that sometimes makes mistakes. Prompted by your comment, I have just gone in and found your two errant comments and flagged them as “not spam,” which I hope will teach Akismet to let you through after this with no further hitches. It’s hard to know why it flagged some but not all of your comments – possibly it didn’t like whatever URL you were trying to leave. But in general, the use of the website field per se shouldn’t trigger it.

    If this happens again, please let me know right away, either via a comment here or through the Contact form (see sidebar).

    – Site Owner

  42. Hi Dave,

    Thanks for intervening so promptly. I’d appreciate it if you could draw your brother Steven’s attention to the links I’ve provided. I enjoyed reading his description of the cremation-ground ritual around the kapparai. My wife, Elizabeth, and I know Eveline Masilamani-Meyer, who had taken us around her fieldwork sites in Tamil Nadu. We also discussed the Ankalamman cult, and the link I provided is to my review subsequent to these discussions.

    An acquaintance is currently completing a documentary film on the related cult of Gangamma at Tirupati. In fact, the immediate occasion for my discovering your blog was a Google search prompted by his email to me yesterday morning.

    Regards (to Steven also),


    P.S. I just posted an extract from “In the Still of the Night” to several of my e-groups with a link to your blog site.

  43. hi..!
    steve …
    the function in my native place is to be held on 18th and 22nd of this month . it is when the rituals for madan take place and then the mayana vettai takes place . as u said u are bisy this year may be next year u could join. in case u have any of ur associates here in inda they coould witness it

  44. Happy to note that people taking active ineterest to make an effort piece down to put together the Folk practices and its philosophy. Folk culture and traditional practices are aimed to to bring unity within a particular sect or clan group to mutually help themselves to resolve the problems and not exactly the God to descend to show his immediate avataram to help people in difficulties. May be people like Mr.Vinod take a little extra effort to go beyond comprehending what is being widely quoted material on Vedic connection of Sudalai etc, to understand the real purpose of Amman and Ayyan worship of Dravidian system and help in bring back folk traditions in the worship group to bring back rural liveliness in Folk deity worship intead of Abishekams and such related practices.

  45. Dear Mr.Steve,

    Your question was

    What, if any, is the connection between Sudalai Madan/Irulappan/Mayandi and Sonai? Sonaisami always seems to be associated with cemeteries as well, and in Madurai at the sudukadu where the above-described rituals involving Irulappan took place, there was also a shrine to Sonai, as well as an image of Sonai at the Ankalaparamecuvari temple where Irulappan was also worshipped.

    So far, There are no staright answers. What so far the interpretation is Sonai is part of Kodangi Karuppasamy since the observation is that Sonaikaruppsamy & sudalaikaruppasamy are seen several Sastha temples. However when by chance if I land up with better explanation from FOlk tale or FOlk song, I would try to provide the details.

    I may provide some more big explanation, if you all bear with explanation of 21 kaval deivam or Guardian Angels

  46. Social Harmony through KulaDeivam-Guardian Angels Cult

    “What good did the creature of the earth do to the clouds that pour the rain? So indeed should you serve society seeking no return. There is no pleasure in this world or in the other world equal to the joy of being helpful to those around you. Do not lose the opportunity for this rare pleasure. That alone is a gift which is given to the needy. Gifts to others are in the nature of business
    transactions wherein what is given is expected to be duly returned”


    (THIRUKKURAL is one of the greatest poetical composition of antiquity written ever in Indian Literature)
    It was believed that as opposed to the western notions of a highly individualistic family, it was the eastern model of the “self, embedded in relationship with others” family and community, which would play a crucial role in taking care of the young, youth and aged within a family & joint family system. But it is observed that every eastern model joint family and community life have been collapsing at a greater speed to follow up in line with western notions of individualism. What is the missing link in western notion that is noted as unique quality of eastern model.

    The innumerable megaliths found in our motherland are not of much architectural significance, but they speak of the customs and traditions of the ancient community of the land erecting memorials at sites of mortuary rites for the ancestors who sacrificied their lives for various causes.

    These places later became the annual meeting grounds of the community groups and gave rise to occult temples of ancesteral worship.

    While the custom of father male form of lineage worship can be observed by and large, the protecting deities of the villages were always in female form, who were worshiped in open sacred groves.

    For eastern model to survive Nature and Humble qualities to be revered, preserved and befriended. A community folk life thrives on maintaining purity, modesty, simplicity, chastity and revering the beautiness of the local nature and their community clan lineage association, joint and extended family system through lineage associations celebrating seasonal pagan festivals bearing connection to local seasonal welcoming events and important events of ancestoral path such as continuation of cultural integrity through oncoming new generation within the community and maintaining the fertility of mother earth where the community thrives.

  47. The tradition of maintaining sacred groves and sacred trees generates humane and humble view of the sacredness of all life, and that humans are but one link in the symbiotic chain of life and consciousness of entire creatures under the grace of sun living on the earth.
    Several of these hypaethral temples now turned into Vedic shrines had trees, stone symbols of Mother Godesses like Kaaliamman or other naturalistic or animistic image as objects of worship. The continuity of this early culture can be observed to be maintained inin the folk arts and crafts, cult rituals, protecting of trees in sacred groves.

    The settlement of community group in different places initiated worshipping Mythical or Vedic God as the supreme tutelary deity (such as Sastha avatharam of Siva or Vishnua) and a normal local human hero deity as Ayyanar or Sathanar Paradevatha, the personal deity of all the people living there.

    This dual worship of ordinary human in the ancestoral path with the colossal significate provided by connection to Vedic structure is rather unusual and confusing to the layman but it is not unique. Several community settlements have dual Deities; the mystic power as the tutelary God and the manifestation of human Ayyanar or Sathanar human power in the ancestoral link as personal family God.

    Ayyanar or Sastha is provided with shrines at the various Boundaries of the settlement and scattered around the periphery of the concentrated economical region, so that related community people realize the power of lineage and family associated life.

    Sastha is deified Wisdom whose blessings make the followers intelligent enough to achieve wordly success and paradoxically, great enough to realise the fickleness of prosperity. Sastha is god of Wisdom, Justice, Self-discipline and Self-control. The system emphasizes detachment from wealth through ego negation and maintaining the integrity of relations towards the waning phase of an individual life.

    In physical and practical village terms, Sastha is the divine Hunter, the fiery deity who protects the virtuous and destroys the vicious, not a smiling god full of benevolence only. Similarly Kodangi Wisdom (Oracle Wisdom) and Sudalai Wisdom (Cremation Wisdom) are considered as knowledge for protection and humiliation.

    Several community worship has traced Ayyanar or Sastha as the god of human fertility or human race wisdom. Through ayyanar worship system one can trace back their generations to several centuries back and forth and such a unique system is uncommon in other races. In fact every human race from Israel to United states long for searching, identifying and maintaining their ancestral lineage roots and in Ayyanar system this methodology for ancestral lineage is simplified for easy tracing.

    In lifefront, The forest where Ayyanar hunts is the dense human mind where insatiable carnivorous desires loam about. Sastha stalks the base qualities of man, sins like jealousy, treachery, tendency to grab other’s wealth & properties and laziness and provides an opportunity to destroy the various human evil characters while performing as part of family life.

    So, he is the guide leading His followers through the dangerous hills and dales of life to goodness. But that is the final step; first, he gives all the wordly pleasures in the young initial phase of the life. After the material pleasures to the point of satiety to prepare them for the blissful release and renunciation in the later phase of the life. In his allegorical manifestation. He gives wordly happiness and in His trasscedental Omnipotence, He folds the followers to His blissful wisdom. That is the unique concept of personal or family deity on the various phases of attachment and detachment in an individual’s life. The power of Ayyanar or Sastha have manifested as several local God of wisdom in various community settlements in different periods of time but what they preach is universal bare truth about fickleness of human life. Such wisdom can be realized if there is a overall approach though what is widely practiced as Ayyanar with 2 female consorts, supported by 21 guardian angels and 61 servant angels.

    Twenty One Guardian Angels and 61 Servent Angels in famous Maduari Kochadai temple.
    1. The Muthiahsamy Ayyanar temple has 21 deities —- Villayuthamudaiya Ayyanar (presiding deity),
    2. Muthiah Swamy,
    3. Karrppasamy,
    4. Agni Veera Badrar,
    5. Karuppayee Amman,
    6. Sangili Karuppu,
    7. Kazhuvadi Karuppu,
    8. Meyyandi Amman,
    9. Nagappasamy,
    10. Sannasi,
    11. Adipoojari,
    12. Pechiamman,
    13. Muthu Karuppasamy,
    14. Irulappasamy,
    15. Veeranasami,
    16. Rakkayee Amman,
    17. Irulayee Amman,
    18. Sappani,
    19. Sonai,
    20. Muniyandi, and
    21. Badrakali —- and 61senaigal (servant angels or demi-god agents).

    In south tamilnadu Thaliadisoali colony or typical ayyanar temples in udangudi and thiruchendur for several of the guardian angel temples, the main Characteristic of various family clan lineage of the community is associated with the Brother-Sister relation of the few Associate Folk Deities can be found.
    1. Muthu Malaiyamman or Malayamman (Female Deity)
    2. Periyasamy or Periandavar (Male Deity)
    3. Lada Sannasi or Sannasi (Male deity)
    Karuppan Associate Folk Deities:
    4. Periya Karuppan or Adi Puchari
    5. Padhinettampadi Karuppan
    6. Chappani Karuppan or Chappani sami
    7. Munnodi Karuppan or Mandi Karuppu
    8. Karuppayee Amman (female deity)
    9. Sangili Karuppan (Karuppuswami with the Chain)
    10. Sinna karuppan or Smaya karuppu or Samayan
    11. Ponottakkaran or Muthu Karuppu (Karuppaswami)
    12. Idumban or Muniyandi samy
    Sudalai Madan and related Folk Deities:
    13. Veerabadhran or Veeraputhiran
    14. Viranan or Bairavan
    15. Pon Madan or Irulappan or Sudalai Madan
    16. Rakkachi amman or Rakkayi Amman (female)
    17. Esakki Amman or Isakkiamman (female)
    18. Sonai Karuppan or Chonai sami
    19. Pon Madathi or Irulayi amman or Sudalayi amman (female)
    Other Female Associate Folk Deities:
    20 . Bhadrakali amman (female)
    21. Pecchi Amman (female)
    One more typical Folk deity temple.

    Palakkad, popularly known as the Granary of Kerala and famous for the historical monuments. It has been blessed with one of the rarest temples of South Kerala that is of Goddess Sri Pechiamman. The Idol is fiery in appearance but the GODDESS is most benevolent and is facing unusually towards North. LOCATION: Temple is located at kulalapalayam (Presently Pechiamman Nagar) Kalpathi, the heritage cultural village on the bank of Kalpathi river a tributary of Holy river Bharathapuzha.
    IDOL: The Idol is of Goddess
    21 Folk Deities:
    1. Sri Pechiamman having fiery appearance along with twenty five deities viz:
    2. Uchiama Kali Amman,
    3. Mari Amman,
    4. Periya Pechi,
    5. Kunkuma pechi ,
    6. Manchama pechi,
    7. Pappathi Amman,
    8. Sangili Karuppan ,
    9. Aakasa Karuppan,
    10. Chudala Karuppan (Sonaikaruppan)
    11. Karuppa Swamy,
    12. Periya Karuppan,
    13. Lada Sanyasi,
    14. Madhura Veeran,
    15. Bommi Amman,
    16. Vella Amman,
    17. Agni Madan, (Madasamy)
    18. Madathi,
    19. Madayyan,
    20. Irulappan,
    21. Muniswaran.
    Main deities and standard deites like Nagarajan
    22. Ganapathi,
    23. Subramanian,
    24. Nagarajan
    25. Haraharan, (ayyanar)
    26. Iyangar,

    To emphasize the chastity as prime importance, the Deities such as Kanni amman of North Tamilnadu, pacchai amman of west tamil nadu and seelakkari amman of South Tamilnadu are most likely to be found along with these 21 deities.

    1. regarding to 21 deities of Shasta the one of the important deity is sangali boothatar u can find this diety in sorimuthu ayanar kovil and all temples of sangali boothathar before starting their temple functions will be here to get the chain used by the trance dancer hit himself which will not have any wounds this deity is a vegetarian no sacrifies are given to him

  48. ABCS – I’m flattered that you continue to use this comment thread as a forum. But you have so much information to share, I wonder if it might not be a better idea for you to start a blog of your own? is the best of the free services – highly recommended. Their search engine optimization is quite good, provided that you assign each post appropriate categories/tags; people with an interest in this sort of thing will find you. You could incorporate images, hotlinks, and all kinds of stuff you can’t do here.

    Of course, if you do so, be sure to let the readers of this thread know about it.

  49. Respected Sir,

    I request to the details for The AYYANAR AND KARUPPANA SWAMY hole of the structures , story and picutres.
    Please Sir Kindly Help me.
    Thanking You,


  50. Folk Cultural art for peace

    IT WAS well past midnight in the month of Marghazhi, when she was performing a folk dance, balancing back and forth a bunch of Neem leaves she was holding in the right hand in tune with the beats, representing a rural goddess.

    It took a while for the audience to realize that the performance had ended, even though she disappeared backstage with hands folded in a `pranam’. “That is the power and influence the folk art still wields among the masses,” says Vijayalakshmi Navaneethakrishnan, a professor in the Department of Folk Arts at the Madurai Kamaraj University (MKU).

    The traditions and ethics set by our forefathers have positive values like humaneness, love, brotherhood and discipline. “Every aspect of our ancient culture has its own objective. Each custom has been carefully codified. Apart from spiritual aspect, even personal habits have been welldesigned.”

    Strong dismay

    She holds a strong dismay over what she terms `misleading and misinterpretation’ of many of these customs by present-day lyricists. And precisely that is why she has taken upon the responsibility of using folk art as a powerful weapon for creating awareness about the rich values emphasised in our culture. “An oil-bath has a specific purpose and our ancestors have laid out the dos and don’ts for every Wednesday and Friday when a husband and wife take the bath respectively,” she says while explaining a diametrically opposite interpretation for this in a lyric.
    Every minute of her three-hour performance brought out the much-forgotten customs relating to multifarious activities of mankind that were in vogue in the past centuries in different parts of the Then Pandi Seemai, Kongu Nadu, and Nadu Nadu. “I keep my audience informed of the various aspects of ourtradition.”
    She lists out various the nomenclatures of the `Karuppannasamy’ (Ondi Karuppu, Nochi Karuppu,….the list seems to be endless), the art of `kolam’, the benefits of regional-specific patterns of prayers and worship, a reminder of lyrics like the one sung by P. Leela (Saandhu pottu kalakalakka, Sandhana pottu gilu gilukka from ‘Sivagangai Seemai’ film of yesteryears). All testify her in-depth knowledge of the overall spiritual, cultural and traditional systems that prevailed in the various parts of Tamil Nadu.

    Prof. Vijayalakshmi’s performance was not just entertaining, but also was a venue that showcased myriads of ancient rituals and practices in their respective contexts.

  51. To trace the origin of folklores

    Profound faith

    To drive home the significance of a folk song sung during the course of irrigating a field, she brings a conical brass vessel tethered to a rope, which had been used in the hoary past. She has a profound faith in the significance of folk art for imparting positive values among the masses.

    According to her, one should not look upon this art as a means for an assured livelihood. Many affluent foreigners were even turning to this art form for peace. She firmly believes that folk art could be a source of spiritual solace and mental peace. She narrates how her audiocassette on lullabies was of much help to an Indian lady living in a foreign country, who did not know what to sing to put her baby to sleep.

    Her memories take her back to 1985 when the All India Radio, Madurai, sponsored a half an hour programme at the village of Kuruvithurrai. She went to the root of the customs and the rituals of the village and the response to her show was overwhelming. Since then, along with her husband, Prof. Vijayalakshmi has traversed far and wide in the villages in Tamil Nadu to trace the origin of folklores.

    Her performances on stage thus are not just mere entertainment shows, but an attempt to trace the rich cultural heritage of the folk scenario. She relates the symbolic significance behind each custom and helps the audience to understand it. She describes with vigour and expressiveness, the way the `Sudalayandi’, the God of the Ashes as he walks in the darkness holding a torch, from his fort to the crematorium to cleanse the place of ashes and impurities. The faith in Sudaliyandi was symbolic of the concern that the ancient population had for the environment- she clarifies.

    The couple found an avid admirer in the former chief minister, MGR, who enthralled by their performance at the World Tamil Conference held in Madurai in the 1980s, offered a blank cheque to them at the end of the programme. “I could not speak for tears,” Ms. Vijayalakshmi recalls. “I told him I was a professor and returned the cheque. But it was aninspiring encounter.”
    Sore with visual media

    Expressing her concern over the bad influence of the obscene sequences propagated by the visual media, she feels the censor board has to make itself more assertive. Meanwhile, her own conviction that the folk tradition was thereal base of any individual’s cultural existence only prompts her to be more innovative and creative in field to reach out to the masses

  52. Mr.Dave,

    If you may furthur permit, I prefer to provide compiled details on Folk life and related folk arts, folk food culture etc in this forum. Since there are very limited people (not even a handful of people ) who are interested in keeping the folk culture alive, all the originality of Folk forms have been lost and thus turning the folk system to a valueless system. Hence only if Westerners are intersted and consolidating details related Folk practices of South India, I would like to join as a member in those team.

    I am very much fascinated by your topic on Festival Trees which I feel is equivalent to movement for Sacred Groves of India in yesteryears.

    Kind Regards for tolerance and patience expressed towards my details.

  53. hello Mr.Steve & Mr.Dave

    its been a long i havent loged in.i have promised to write few details wil do it this week.

  54. Aiyanar System and Family Values.

    Once again, we are in Tamil Nadu.

    Here the god Aiyanar holds an important position in
    the local villages because of the values installed in
    family and community life. Aiyanar worship represents
    a non-learned,
    non-Vedic form of worship. Often community life and
    family values are valued than individualist life
    mode. So a large number of gods at least 61 divine
    servant agents are prsent along with atleast 18 to 21
    associate dieties. A family life or community life
    cannot be smooth and happy only if there is place to
    accept and accommodate every kind of people.

    But with the divine nature, Often Aiynar is pictured
    riding on a white horse, fighting against demons and
    evil gods that are
    threatening the village.


    The Aiyanar temple priests are often from the Velar
    caste; the potters of Tamil Nadu or within that
    particular community clan group which forms a large
    group of family associations . They inherit their
    role as priest from male family members, and it is not
    unusual that as many as eight family members hold the
    same position who often act in the role of Kodangi for
    solving local issues.


    An Aiyanar temple reflects the social hierarchy which
    exists in the villages of Tamil Nadu. The gods are
    ranked according to the social and economical hierachy
    in the village, and as in social life, the highest
    ranking gods are
    vegetarian, whereas the lower ranking ones are
    non-vegetarian. A temple is often not a building, but
    one or more figurs giving importance to each and every
    ancestoral local god who are collection of people
    belonging to various community groups.


    There are many kinds of festivities in connection with
    village temple festivals. At the temple for Conai
    (Sonai), one
    of the lesser deities associated with Aiyanar, a bull
    is brought in front of the temple. It is decorated
    with flowers and painted. A rope made of wet hay is
    now tied to the bull, and some of the men challenge
    the bull to chase them.

    Texts:Aiyanar and Aiyappan in Tamil Nadu
    In recent years, the Aiyappan Cult has attained an
    enormous popularity. It has spread from Kerala and
    into Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka and is
    now moving even further north. Obviously, this fairly
    conventional bhakti cult is seen by many as the answer
    to their religious and social needs.

  55. Ancestoral Worship through AnkalaParameswari system

    The Goddess of Anger in Saktha Worship
    The unique feature of Indian tradition is that God is worshipped in many forms. Almighty is like the ocean which is formless expanse but many waves arise in that like that all forms of God are one and the same. It is for the sake of His devotees that He appears as many. In His boundless compassion He accepts His devotees in whatever form the devotee wishes to conceive Him depending upon the maturity and understanding of that devotee.
    When the traditional plain worship system got reformed into Vedic connection initiated by Adi Sankara, there formed six main sects of worship in Hinduism as codified by Adi Sankara and one of them is Saktham, worship of Mother Goddess . The Worship of Mother Goddess as Shakthi energy or power was there even during the Indus valley civilization period itself. Mother Goddess is worshipped in different forms and names in every part of India. One such form is Angala Paramaeswari. The worship of Angalaeswari also called Angalamman is more prevalent in the state of Tamilnadu. There are many Vedic legends associated with this form of Mother Goddess.
    In local native tradition Angala Eawari is sometimes consorted by Gurusamy or Valagurunathar. The most important Associate Folk Deity Angalamman is Pavadai Rayan.

    © Meenakshi Subramaniam writes:

    “Angala” originally derives from “ahankara” or “anger”. The most defied of the village goddesses or Kaalis Angala Parameswari is anger personified. A famous temple has been dedicated to her at MelMalayanur, a hamlet near Senji township in South India.
    “She is the very form of extreme passion.” says the high priest at Mel Malayanur ” Her graces and boons are instant and long-lasting.” The temple is located right in the middle of a huge cremating ground.
    Any harming of a elderly person or spiritual or highly respected person results in ,i. Brahmahathi Dosham or the Curse of the Murderer. According to one local legendry tale, the more and more boons and favours Angalamman grants, the better are her chances of the curse being removed.
    This is the tale of Angala Parameswari, exacts angry tributes form her devotees., but grants them life and riches beyond measure.
    A festival celebrated here during February-March is famous for Simimasana kollai. During the festival many pilgrims cook large quantities of various kinds of grain and set it out in the burning ground. This offering to the goddess is believed to grant wishes. Lots of devotees throng to the temple during Ammavasai (New Moon day).The prime festival for the Temple is celebrated with full splendor and mass devotee participation. Karagam, Paalai and Kaparai were carried in honour of Sri Goddess. Deity is considered as the protector and nurse-maid of children and mothers. Newly born babies after their 1st month are placed at Her feet to receive blessings for good health and long life. It is common for expectant mothers and those wishing to be so to seek her blessings by offering special prayers
    Sri Angala Parameswari Pooja One legend that is commonly associated with Sri Angala Parameswari is that She destroyed the dynasty of the evil king Vallala who ruled Thiruvannamalai and freed the subjects from ill-treatment and tyranny. At the request of her devotees She took the form of a Naga Malai (snake hill) and settled in the place called Melmalaiyanur and is worshipped in the same form ever since.
    Another legend associated with Angala Parameswari is that she destroyed the dynasty of the evil King Vallala who ruled Thiruvannamalai. The king ill treated all his subjects, unable to tolerate his tyranny the subjects went to Mother Goddess and begged her to save them from the clutches of the evil king. To help Angalaeswari destroyed the seven tier fort of the king, also killed the two fierce tigers guarding the fort and out of their skin, nerves and intestine she created an percussion instrument called Pambai and she vanquished the evil king and also destroyed the foetus of the king in the womb of his wife and thus She wiped the progeny of the evil king and saved Her devotees for future also.
    At the request of Her devotees She took the form of a Snake hill and settled in this place called Melmalaiyanur. She is worshipped in the same form still today.
    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, Tamilnadu. 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.

    Maha Shivratri day is most auspicious for Mother and a 10 day festival including Graveyard Pooja and chariot festival is celebrated every year. On New Moon days and Fridays devotees throng Her temple to get Her blessings.

  56. Dear sirs,

    I have recently found out that my kula theivam is Aiyanar. I have mixed parentage whereby my mum is chinese and my dad is tamil, but unfortunately he died when i was still young. I have totally lost my Indian linage until recently when i had my new house ‘Gragaprathesam’ when the priest informed me that lord Aiyanar came and that he is my kula theivam.

    I wish to know more of him and if possible my possible root in india.

  57. Tracing the lineage will be possible if you are able to identify atleast one close clan or atleast distant extended clan relation from your father’s relations.

    If any one is not able to exactly trace their village peripheral deity (the deity can be in the name of aiyanar or sometimes called in the name of kaval deivam karuppasamy or some amman temple), one generally considers to visit Aiyappa shrine till the time they could exactly locate their village diety. Read the material by Kajaerholm, Lars (1984). “Aiyanar and Aiyappan in Tamil Nadu: Change and Continuity in South Indian Hinduism”. Folk. Dansk Ethnografisk Tidsskrift Kobenhavn 26: 67-92

  58. hi steve,dave..!

    its been long that i had time to read the blogs again i feel this community has become silent.

    cheer up


  59. Its been very interesting going through this thread. I agree with Dave that ABCS should start his own blog.

    I have also been fascinated with Ayyanar worship since my childhood as we used to be taken to a wonderland of which we had no idea growing up in Bangalore.

    My fathers Ayyanar temple is in Elayangudi village near Karaikudi and it had an interesting feature in the form of Rama Sita and Hanuman standing outside the sanctum made of clay whilst the Ayyanar and the other dieties were of Granite.

    This temple was strictly vegetarian and puliogare and panchamirtam was provided. But even as a child I knew the practice and rituals were different to the Vedic temples I visited.

    There is only thing for me to add to this thread regarding the 21 dieties. I have noticed the names of Singama Karuppar, Nondi Karuppar ( a lame statue ) worshipped in the temple with their own space. Kali is still worshipped in open space with no form and no woman is allowed to worship her. There might be a local story to it.

    Anyway it is always interesting going back to that little village and the temple on its outskirts worshipped by people who have a link to that village. The local villagers themselves do not worship at this temple. Probably they go to the villages they come from to worship their own Ayyanars or Karuppars!

  60. My native village is Boothangudi in Chidambaram Taluk, Tamilnadu
    on the bank of Veeranam Lake.(Chennai gets water from our village)
    We have constructed and performed Thirukkudamuzhukku or Kumbabhishegam on 19th April 2010 for the new temples of Paavadairayan along with temples of Periyaandavar and Periyanayagi as renewed worship for Kula daivam which was forgotten for sometime. (There were indications in families which lead to the revival and construction of temple).
    Incidentally Ayyanar with Poorna and Pushkala in a combined stone statue also has been now Housed in a new temple in the village now.

  61. Hi Steve

    Im just back from my native after the grand Kodai ( Thiruvilla) . This Kodai is very famous in Tirunelveli District and as discussed before the deities worshipped are Sudalai Maadan Essaki amman Pechi and other Parivar devathas totalling to 21. Hm.. great time. You promised to mail mail me when your coming to india. We will have one more fuction in the month of July – august 2011 may be if your going to be in india around that time you can also join for the Pooja

    not much time left …mail me if you have some free time Steve. is my new email id


  62. the diety sudalai madan is my family deity and i would like to know some info about our deity and his history etc. in Wikipedia and google there are lot of info which is not related to each others..that is why i am so confused now. pls help me out to collect the exact info about sudalai madan and pls send me some sudalai madan villu pattu audio or video files and useful links if you have!!! @ ..thanks
    Best Regards,


  63. In SUN TV’s “Nijam” program, today they were covering the noise that was raised about the Melmaraiyanur AnkalaParameswari temple deity having “walked” away to a neighboring village. In the beginning of the program, they “casually” mentioned that only 20 to 30 years ago, a human being would be ritually murdered at the temple’s annual festival and the burnt ashes distrubuted to the people. And then they moved on to cover the less important nonsense about the deity walking away. While I’m fuming at the utter inhuman callousness of SUN TV (about whom I will lodge a complaint separately), does anyone know if the news about the murders are authentic? We have to bring the murderers before law.

  64. Solai seri kazhumaram festival:

    Does anybody here know about Solaiseri village in thirunelveli where kazhu maram sacrifice of pigs will take place for sudalai madan swamy?

    Or any other temples where kazhu maram is used to sacrifice bali pooja?

  65. Hi Steve/Dave

    This year the Kodai festival in my native is tentatively happening on the 18th May & 22nd May. In case you are in and around India you can come along to witness the same. The major Deities like Sudalai/Essaki etc will be offered sacrifices and grand poojas will be done.


  66. Hi,

    I’m Ramesh from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I need help from member’s here to provide me information about my family Kuladeivam which is “Solaiyappa Swamy”.

    My father and his siblings didnt do any pooja or yearly prayers to kuladeivam for almost 20 years after my grandfather passed away. I as eldest grandson would like to continue the yearly prayers for my family Kuladeivam.
    I never been to India before and therefore, i need members here who stay at India now to help me provide few information which is :

    1) Location of Solaiyappa Swamy temple in India which i found two temple recently from internet search which is Aathi Swamy temple at Tiruchendur and another one at Eppodhum Vendram, Ettayapuram, Tirunelveli. Am i correct? Please correct me if i’m wrong. But i cant get details about this both temple and person to contact there.

    2) History of his temple’s

    3) Picture’s Gallery if u visited both temples or from anyone who visited the temple before

    4) Way of pooja’s performed to Swamy and thing’s to offer him

    5) Contact number details for the temple’s and temple priest.

    I personnaly cant wait to see my family Kuladeivam and if possible to have Solaiyappan Swamy temple’s vibuthi, piece of sand and swamy picture to put infront my house since I just move to my own new house.

    U can mail me if you have anything to share or mail me any website that provide information on “Solaiyappa Swamy” and his temple’s in India. My e-mail add : Thanks a lot. Appreciate your help on sharing information.

  67. hi

    regarding to sudalai madan temple currently only 4 temples were worshiped by brahmins all animal sacrifice is also present two in valliyur and one in aravankurachi and one in agaram.

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