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Maariamman, Maariaatha
Goddess Mariamman

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Māri (/mɒrı/, /maari/, Tamil: மாரி), also known as Mariamman ( /mɒrı əˈmʌn/ Tamil: மாரியம்மன்) and Mariaai, both meaning 'Mother Mari', spelt also Maariamma (Tamil: மாரியம்மா), or simply Amman or Aatha (Tamil: அம்மன், 'mother') is a Hindu goddess of rain especially popular in Tamil Nadu and surrounding regions. She is the main mother goddess predominant in the rural areas of Tamil Nadu and Thirucherai. Māri is closely associated with the Hindu goddesses Parvati[1] and Durga[2] as well as with her northern counterpart Shitala devi. The goddess Mariamman is considered by many to be the incarnation of the Goddess Kali. It is said that when Kali went to southern India as Mariamman, Bhairava followed her as Madurai Veeran. Her festivals are held during the late summer/early autumn season of 'Aadi'. Throughout the Tamil Nadu and Deccan region, the grand festival known as 'Aadi Thiruvizha' is devoted to Maariamman. Her worship mainly focuses on bringing rains and curing diseases like cholera, smallpox, and chicken pox.

Maariamman is worshipped in accordance with the local agamas as 'Pidari' or the 'Grama Devata' usually by non-Brahmin priests or in the case of large temples such as the Samayapuram Maariamman temple, by Brahmin priests also. According to shaktha agamas, she is depicted in a sitting posture, flanked sometimes by Ganesha and Subramaniya or Ganesha and Naaga.[citation needed] She is usually taken in procession in a decorated chariot.

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Mariyamman in Tirisool, 10th century, Chola period, Tamil Nadu, India

Mariamman is a Tamil folk goddess, whose worship probably originated in pre-vedic India. She is the main Tamil mother goddess, predominant in the rural areas of Tamil Nadu. In the post-vedic period, Māri was associated to Hindu goddesses like Parvati,[3]Kali and Durga[4] as well as with her North Indian counterpart Shitaladevi and Eastern Indian counterpart Manasa.

The word Mari (pronunciation: /maari/) has a sangam Tamil origin meaning 'Rain' and the Tamil word Amman means 'Mother'. She was worshipped by the ancient Tamils as the bringer of rain and thus also the bringer of prosperity, since the abundance of their crops was dependent largely upon adequate rainfall. The cult of the mother goddess is treated as an indication of a society which venerated femininity. The temples of the Sangam days, mainly of Madurai, seem to have had priestesses to the deity, which also appear predominantly as goddesses.[5] In the Sangam literature, there is an elaborate description of the rites performed by the Kurava priestess in the shrine Palamutircholai.[6]


The worshiping methods are non-vedic and often accompanied by various kinds of folk dancing.[7] Offerings such as pongal and koozh that are cooked using earthen pots are also made during the festive season. Rituals such as fire walking and mouth or nose piercing are also practised.

At the temple of Samayapuram, which lies six miles to the north of Tirucirapalli, the Hindu system of worship is still seen today for the worship of Mariyamman, which involves a ten-day festival organized by temple authorities during the second week in April. Some continue to use an old village custom of worship by offering chickens and goats to the deity, though the animals are no longer sacrificed but sold after being offered. The main worship of the goddess occurs on the road a mile or two from the temple. A hurried walk and dance carry hundreds of thousands of worshippers along the road to the temple. Many in the crowd have fasted, shaved their heads, and wear bright yellow clothes which are sacred to the goddess. Women and children may carry a pot on their heads decorated with the goddess’s favourite leaves, of the margosa tree. Young men and women, carrying similar pots, are followed by drummers and dance more wildly. Larger men and women carry pots of charcoal fire. Some put themselves through a special tribulation of having one of the sacred weapons, dagger, trident, or spear, inserted through their cheeks or tongues.[8] Through this worship each individual achieves self-realization and awareness of others through samsara and moksha. In this self-realization a bonding with the goddess occurs, which is the underlining reason for the worship.


Erode Mariamman Ther Thiruvizha

One story about the origin of Maariyamman is found in the Mahabharata, where Draupadi, the wife of Pandavas, is said to be an incarnation of Maha Kali. This was known to no one but Sri Krishna. Draupadi, despite being Maha kali, lived like a normal woman, suppressing her supernatural powers. But during the night, when Pandavas was asleep, she would travel to the Villages of Vanniyar (Kshatriya) in the form of Maha Kali. Vanniyars would offer her puja and barley, which pleased her. In time Mariyamman become popular in the Vanniyar villages. In Northern India, Sheetla Devi was worshipped in a similar way, predominantly by the Rajput/Kshatriya community. Sheetla Devi has a similar background story and plays a similar role in protecting villages.

Still another story about the origin of Maariamman is that she was the wife of Thiruvalluvar, the Tamil poet, who was an outcast.[citation needed] She caught smallpox and begged from house to house for food, fanning herself with leaves of the neem or margosa tree to keep the flies off her sores. When she recovered, people worshipped her as the goddess of smallpox. To keep smallpox away, neem leaves are hung above the main entrances of South Indian homes. A memorial temple houses both Thiruvalluvar and his wife Vaasuki Ammaiyar.[citation needed].Some see this as being in sharp contrast to the life of Thiruvalluvar, wherein he advocated love for all, and therefore regard the story as incredible. However, Thiruvalluvar's reputation could only be affected if the story accuses him of neglecting his wife, who may not yet have been married to him.

The Tamil word 'Muthu' means pearl. In the ancient usage of the language 'Muthu Maari' appears to have been a poetic metaphor for raindrops, which were equated with precious pearls bestowed as the gifts of the Nature goddess. Maariamman was also called Muthu Maariamman, which meant the goddess who gives prosperous rain. From a religious perspective that survived in Mediaeval Europe as the equally poetic doctrine of signatures the pearls of rain may have been thought to heal the pearl-like boils that occur during chickenpox.[citation needed]

A possibly related, and less sympathetic, story involves the beautiful and virtuous Nagavali, wife of Piruhu[citation needed], one of the nine Rishis. One day, when the Rishi was away, the Trimurti came to test the truth of her famed beauty and virtue. Not knowing them and resenting their intrusion, Nagavali turned them into little children. The gods were offended and cursed her, so her beauty faded and her face became marked as if she had smallpox. The Rishi returned, found her disfigured, and drove her away, declaring she would be born a demon in the next world and cause the spread of a disease which would make people look like her. She was called Mari, meaning 'changed.' Both stories are reported by Whitehead[citation needed] and he remarks that in Mysore he was told that Mari meant sakti, power[citation needed].

Local goddesses such as Mariamman who were believed to protect villages and their lands irrespective of the different castes of their worshippers have always been an important part of the religious landscape of South India. However, we can note periods of special significance. The eclecticism of the Vijayanagar period (1336–1565) encouraged folk religion, which became increasingly important as it influenced the more literate forms of religion. In the last two centuries there has been a rebirth of Tamil self-consciousness (see Devotion to Murukan). In the middle of the 20th century, deities such as Mariamman became linked to the 'great tradition' as the strata of society that worshipped the goddess were integrated into the larger social order.


Māri is usually pictured as a beautiful young woman with a red-hued face, wearing a red dress. Sometimes she is portrayed with many arms—representing her many powers—but in most representations she has only two or four.

Māri is generally portrayed in the sitting or standing position, often holding a trident (trisula) in one hand and a bowl (kapala) in the other. One of her hands may display a mudra, usually the abhaya mudra, to ward off fear. She may be represented with two demeanours—one displaying her pleasant nature, and the other her terrifying aspect, with fangs and a wild mane of hair.

Goddess of medicine[edit]

Mariamman cures all so-called 'heat-based' diseases like pox and rashes. During the summer months in South India (March to June), people walk miles carrying pots of water mixed with turmeric and neem leaves to ward off illnesses like the measles and chicken pox.[why?] In this way the goddess Māri is very similar to the North Indian goddess Shitaladevi.

Fertility goddess[edit]

Devotees also pray to Mariamman for familial welfare such as fertility, healthy progeny or a good spouse. The most favoured offering is 'pongal', a mix of rice and green gram, cooked mostly in the temple complex, or shrine itself, in terracotta pots using firewood.

Some festivals in honour of the goddess Māri involve night-time processions of devotees carrying oil lamps.[why?] Mariamman is the family deity for many in the Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu. It is a custom initially to worship the family deity on occasions such as weddings. The worship of a family deity (Kula-theivam), considered most important in any Hindu festival, continues down the generations, providing a clue to the family's origin, since the family deities are usually located within the vicinity of the village to which the family originally belonged.


Most temples to Mariamman are simple village shrines, where both male and female priests perform sacred rituals. In many rural shrines, the goddess is represented by a granite stone with a sharp tip, like a spear head. This stone is often adorned with garlands made of limes and with red flowers. These shrines often have an anthill that could be the resting place of a cobra. Milk and eggs are offered to propitiate the snake.

Some temples have attained sufficient popularity for Brahmins to officiate at them. For example, the Samayapuram temple near the shore of river Cauvery in the northern outskirts of Trichy, maintains a rich agamic tradition and all rituals are performed by Gurukkal of Brahmins.

Punainallur, near Thanjavur (Tanjore), is the location of another famous Māri temple. Legend says that Mariamman appeared to the King Venkoji Maharaja Chatrapati (1676–1688) of Tanjore in his dreams and told him she was in a forest of Punna trees three miles distant from Tanjore. The King rushed to the spot and recovered an idol from the jungle. On the king's orders a temple was constructed there, the idol installed, and the place was called Punnainallur. Hence the deity of this temple is known as Punnainallur Mariamman. Mud replicas of different parts of the human body are placed in the temple as offerings by devotees pleading for cure. It is said that the daughter of Tulaja Raja (1729–35) of Tanjore, who lost her eyesight due to illness, regained it after worshipping at this temple. Shri Sadasiva Brahmendra is said to have made the Moola Murthy of the Goddess Maariamman from the mud from the ant-hill where snakes had resided.

Salem Kottai Sri Periya Mariamman temple which is located in the heart of the city, the Aadi festival celebrated for 22 days.

The Erode Mariamman temple festival is a grand one in Tamil Nadu. The worship of three Mariamman goddesses named Small, Medium and Large Mariamman (residing at three separate localities within the city) is combined in a festival every April. It features the thiruvilla, along with all the other devotions to God, and ends at the Cauvery river with the purificatory immersion of the kambam (effigy of Mariamman's husband) in the flowing waters of the river.

The Karur Mariamman temple festival, which is celebrated at the end of May each year, is another notable festival held in honour of the goddess in Tamil Nadu.

Other important temples of Mariamman in Tamil Nadu are in the towns of Veerapandi, Theni, Anbil (near Trichy), Narthamalai, Thiruverkadu, Salem, Virudhunagar and Sivakasi, Vellore. In Chennai (Madras), a famous Mariamman temple is the Putthu Mariamman: the eponymous Putthu (ant-hill) being located across the road from the temple on the opposite side of the Velachery Main Road.

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In 2012, the singer Harini composed a song about the Samayapuram Mariamman deity which was featured on the album Om Nava Sakthi Jaya Jaya Sakthi. The song narrates the power of Shakti as Samayapuram Amman and equates the Peruvalai River with Punya Theertham, as do the people in that area.[9]

Madurai is home to the Theppakulam sri Mariamman Temple, a noted focus of devotion, primarily to the goddess but also to the Maruthuvachi (= doctor/midwife). Periyachi Amman (or Pechi Amman), who was deified for her skill and heroism. The temple possesses a large theppakulam. Here the Panguni festival is the main event of the religious calendar. The devotees of The goddess Mariamman observe the 'poo choridhal' flower festival, and in the month of Aadi many women honour her with fasting and prayer.[clarification needed]

Another famous Mariamman temple is situated in the state of Karnataka, in the town of Kaup, seven kilometres from the famous temple town of Udipi.

There is also a famous and highly-regarded Mariamman temple in Urwa, a residential area of the city of Mangalore, where through the power of the goddess many miracles have been reported to occur. The temple is known familiarly as Urwa Marigudi.

Sri Mariamman temple in Medan, Indonesia
  • Sri Muthumariamman Temple, Negombo
  • Matale Sri Muthumariyamman Temple, Matale-Sri Lanka

Outside India[edit]

Mariamman Songs

There are many Mariamman temples outside India, in Mauritius, Sri Lanka (Mari Mata Temple Rattan Tallow Akbar Road Saddar Karachi Pakistan, in Karachi 5 Mari Mata Temples, Rattan Tallow Temple Soyam Parghat Temple. In Karachi five temples of Mari Mata). Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Fiji, Fiji Maha Shakti Mata Temple Nadi and Suva, Guyana, Vietnam, Trinidad and Tobago, Germany[10] and South Africa, the product of efforts of the Tamil diaspora. Some notable temples include the Sri Mariamman temple in Singapore, Sri Mariamman temple in Bangkok, a Mariamman temple in Pretoria, South Africa, as well as one in Sri Mariamman Temple, Medan, Sri Mariamman Temple Karachi Pakistan, (Marathi Peoples Calling=Mari Aayi)(Shri Mari Mata Temple Rattan Tallow Akbar Road Saddar Karachi Pakistan.) Indonesia.[citation needed]

There are also many Mariamman temple in every state of Malaysia. Some notable temples include the Queen Street Sri Mahamariamman Temple, Penang in Georgetown, Lorong Kulit Sri Muthu Mariamman Temple in Georgetown, Sri Rudra Verra Muthu Mahamariamman Temple in Air Itam, Sri Maha Mariamman Devasthanam in Arau, Sri Maha Mariamman Devasthanam in Alor Setar, Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Sungai Petani, Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Ipoh, Sri Nagamuthu Mariamman Temple in Taiping, Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Gopeng, Sri Mahamariamman Temple, Kuala Lumpur, Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Klang, Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Chukai, Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Port Dickson, Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Kuantan, Sri Veera Sundara Muthu Mariamman in Kulim, Raja Mariamman Temple in Johor Bahru, Sri Maha Muthu Mariamman Temple in Tumpat, Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Kuching and Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Sibu.

Hindu tradition[edit]

In Hindu tradition, Mariamman is the sister of Lord Vishnu (Sriranganathar) and called Mahamaya.[citation needed]

The Samayapuram Mariamman is worshipped on the first day of the Tamil month of Vaikasi by the Iyengar/SrivaishnavaBrahmins of Srirangam. They claim that she is the sister of Lord Renganath (a form of Vishnu) of Srirangam.[citation needed] This is the second most prominent temple in Tamil Nadu, following Palani, on the basis of income.[citation needed]

Another version of the traditions suggests she is the mother of Parasurama, Renukadevi who is appeased for rains. She is also known as Sri Chowdeshwari Devi in most of the parts of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. In Mysore region she is worshipped as both Chowdeshwari Devi and as well as Mariamman. There are many instances where Mariamman has appeared to people in form an old woman wearing red sari with green bangles and three mangalsutras.[clarification needed] She is also regarded as the Gramdevata[clarification needed] of certain villages, thus reducing the incidence of contagious disease in these villages. Another version depicts her as Pattalamma, goddesses of truthfulness and punctuality. She is said to punish any villager failing to practice these virtues.[citation needed]

In reference to Sanskrit stotras, it is suggested Mariamman is not sister of Lord Visnu rather feminine aspect of Lord.[citation needed] The Lord incarnates in this form during Kali yuga, when knowledge is almost void or ignorance at peak. Even few refer or map to other female goddess like Renuka devi, none of them have been proved or validated. The Mariamman represents core aspects of Lord in form of curative aspect to signify direction and awakening of knowledge. She is referred as MahaLakshmi, Mahasaraswati and MahaKali. Varamahalakshi is dedicated to Mariamman. It also represents finite aspect of infinite qualities.

Thalattu Songs Tamil

  • The Nanalthidal Mariamman, Kattucherry near Porayar, Tamil Nadu

  • Mariamman temple in a village in Tamil Nadu

  • Main shrine to Mariamman in the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Mariamman Thalattu Tamil

See also[edit]


  1. ^'ஆயி உமையானவளே ஆதிசிவன் தேவியரே' (Oh Mother Uma, Consort of Siva!) - Mariamman Thalattu, Goddess Mari Prayer.
  2. ^'The truthful Kali who guarded the homesteads sat with her, The Kali sat together with Durga continuously with her' _Mariamman Lullaby [1]
  3. ^'ஆயி உமையானவளே ஆதிசிவன் தேவியரே' (Oh Mother Uma, Consort of Siva!) - Mariamman Thalattu, Goddess Mari Prayer.
  4. ^'The truthful Kali who guarded the homesteads sat with her,The Kali sat together with Durga continuously with her' _Mariamman Lullaby [2]
  5. ^Manickam, Valliappa Subramaniam (1968). A glimpse of Tamilology. Academy of Tamil Scholars of Tamil Nadu. p. 75.
  6. ^Lal, Mohan (2006). The Encyclopaedia Of Indian Literature (Volume Five (Sasay To Zorgot), Volume 5. Sahitya Akademi. p. 4396. ISBN8126012218.
  7. ^M.K.V.Narayan, Exploring the Hindu Mind: Cultural Reflection and Symbolism, Readworthy, 2009, pp 93
  8. ^Younger, Paul. 'Journal of the American Academy of Religion.' A Temple Festival of Māriyamman (1980): 493-513. ATLA Religion Database. Web. 28 Sept. 2014.
  9. ^Samayapuram Mariamman Song by Harini
  10. ^'Temples : Sri Maha Mari Amman Temple, Germany'. Dinamalar. 2007-12-28. Retrieved 2011-10-29.


  • ^ Kolenda, Pauline Pox and the terror of Childlessness: Images and Ideas of the Smallpox Goddess in a North Indian Village in P. Kolenda Caste, Cult and Hierarchy: Essays on the Culture of India (New Delhi: Folklore Institute, 1983) 198–221
  • ^ Rigopoulos, Antonio The life and teachings of Sai Baba of Shirdi State University of New York press, Albany, (1993) ISBN0-7914-1268-7 pages 78, 80, 160, 224, 226, 250

Further reading[edit]

  • The Village Gods of South India

External links[edit]

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