Mari-Amman Worship Background:


Mariamman Thalattu
[Lullaby to Mariyamman]
Translated by P. R. Ramachander, Kannabiran Ravi Shankar and Dr. Sankar Kumar

[Mari, Mariyamma and Marikamba, all denote a grama devata (village goddess) who is very popular in most of the villages of South India. While most of the people believe that she is the goddess Kali (created by goddess Parvathy to kill Raktha Bheeja) or the form of Renuka Devi who was the mother of Parasurama, some people believe that she isDraupadi, the wife of the Pandavas and yet others believe that she is Vasugi, the wife of Thiruvalluvar. Mostly her form in the temple is ferocious. She is considered as a goddess who would punish, if not propitiated properly. Invariably thepriest in her temples does not belong to the Brahmin caste and the agamas for her worship are very much different from the normal Hindu temples. Most of her temples do not have buildings and in some cases she is represented simply by a granite stone in a village field. In some cases she is represented only by the statue of her head with local villagers believing that the entire village is her body. One of her most famous temple for her is in Samayapuram near the town of Trichy in Tamil Nadu. This temple is built of stone and is architecturally wonderful. There is also a very famous temple for her in the city of Singapore. In many temples, there is a ritual walk on burning embers by her devotees. These embers are never called fire but Flowers. In some other temples the women devotees carry a mudpot containing burning embers kept over Margosa leaves in their bare hand during festivals to please her. In some cases, after bath in the nearby river, women go to her temple dressed in a saree like clothing made of Margosa leaves.Animal sacrifices are often carried out, the preferred animals being goat and buffalo. After the sacrifice the meat ofthese animals is carried round her temples in a bamboo basket. This was also called Karagam and is the forerunner of Karagattam of the present day, which is a dance balancing a pot on the head. Another form of worship is for the devotees to hang on a crane (Chedil) with a hook pierced in their body or tied to the pole by cloth. She is considered tobe responsible for the pox epidemics which used to wipe away entire villages in the bye gone era. People believed that she did not tolerate any clinical treatment for such diseases except worshipping her and caressing the eruptions of the pox (called Muthu - pearls) with margosa leaves. People believed that in a pox affected person, she has come in person and would not go away unless she is propitiated. One such form of propitiation is the singing of Mariamman Thalattu (Lullaby to mariamman) accompanied by fast playing of a small drum. The song written in a folk music styledoes not obey any rules of Lullabies except that it is aimed at soothing the Mariamman rather than the baby, The language used is not literal Tamil but spoken Tamil. It is believed to be ancient but references to instruments like Clarinet (a western musical instrument), reference to the invasion of Marathas etc., indicate that additions to the lullaby took place as per the local times and the imaginative approach of the singer. The Lullaby starts with a prayer to Ganesa and then prayer to Goddess Saraswathi. A request is made to her for help in singing the story of Mari. This is followed by the Lullaby. Though not written in the Stotra style, the lullaby sings praise of Goddess Mari, mentions her various forms, mentions her companions, mentions the acts of devotees for getting her favour, contains in various places of her worship, prayer to her to remove the small pox eruptions from the body etc. More than being poetic, it clearly brings out the utter devotion and the colossal fear in the mind of her devotees. Several references to Puranic gods are made She in some places is referred to as the sister of Lord Krishna (the girl who was born to Yasoda, at the same time when lord Krishna was born to Devaki), there is reference to the yantras in the body, to Sri Chakra worship, to several village gods of Tamil Nadu and so on. There is also mention of her interaction with several Gods of the Vedas and Puranas.]