Thursday, January 12, 2017

Legend of Mariamman and Mariamma Temples in Kerala

Goddess Mariamman, who is also called as Mariamma is worshiped widely in South India including some parts of Kerala

Mariamman or Mariamma is considered a pre-Vedic goddess related to rain. Goddess Mariamma is widely worshiped in Tamil Nadu and some parts of Karnataka and Kerala. According to many, Mariamman is an equivalent to the present day Goddess Parvathy and Goddess Durga. According to some legends, Goddess Mariamman has been worshiped by the Dravidians and even now in most of the temples dedicated to Mariamman, there are no Satvik rituals being performed.
Goddess Mariamman is being considered the village deity in many remote villages in Tamil Nadu. The word “Mari” means “Rain” in the Tamil of Sangha period and the word “Amma” means mother. Hence the concept is that Goddess Mariamma has been worshiped by villagers, most of which are totally depending on the agricultural economy to survive for better rains. Mariamma is called as Muthu Mariamman in some places and the argument is that the droplets of rain resemble Muthu (Pearl) and hence the name came.  
There is another belief that she is the incarnation of the North Indian Goddess Kali. Many people believe that Kali went down south where Bhairava followed her as Madhurai Veeran. Major festivals dedicated to Goddess Mariamman will be organized in the summer season. She is being worshiped for better rain and also to prevent diseases like cholera, chicken pox, and smallpox.
There is another legend behind Mariamman being worshiped for preventing diseases such as small pox and chicken pox. The legend says that she was a housewife during the Sangha Period and got affected with small pox. She has been thrown out of her house and hence she started visiting houses in the village and to beg for food. During her journey she used to take a bunch of neem (Margosa) leaves along with her and fanning herself to keep the flies off. Soon she recovered from small pox and the people started worshiping her for a speedy recovery from diseases such as smallpox and chickenpox.
there are many temples belong to Goddess Mariamman in Kerala and the celebration includes processions.

In another legend, she has been depicted as the beautiful Nagavalli, the wife of Saint Piruthu. Once, the Holy Trinity visited her in disguise of children to see her much-acclaimed beauty and charm. At that time the saint was not there and Nagavalli got irritated with the habits of children. She shouted at them without knowing they are the holy trinity. Annoyed with her behavior, they cursed to her to have scars such as the one created by smallpox on her face.
On his return, the saint saw her with an ugly face he got irritated and drove her away from the house. Before pushing her out, the saint cursed her that she will become a demon in her next life and cause diseases to the humankind with which the similar scars will appear on the faces of the human being as the scars on her face.  Later, the saint consoled her saying that people will worship her in her next generation to escape from diseases. Those who support this version of legend point out that the name Mari means the changed one in Tamil and hence the name Mariamman came.
Neem leaves are of great significances in all the rituals related to Goddess Mariamma. It is believed that the need leaves have the power to wade off many diseases including smallpox and chickenpox. Even today, you will find neem (Margosa) leaves hanging in front of the doors of houses in Tamil Nadu and in many other parts of South India.
Mepadi Mariamman Temple is located near Batheri in Wayand district of Kerala

There are four major Temples in Kerala that are devoted to Goddess Mariamman
Akkaparambu Mariamman Temple, Near Tiruvilvamala in Thrissur District
Batheri Mariamman Temple in Wayanad District
Meepadi Mariamman Temple in Wayanad District
Vythiri Mariamman Temple in Wayanad District
Pilakool Mariamman Temple,  near Thalassery in Kannur District.
In Kerala, the festivals in Mariamman Temples will begin in the Malayalam month of Kumbham. In most of the temples, the Goddess Mariamman will visit the houses in the nearby villages. Those who are invoking the divine power of Goddess Mariamma will have to undergo certain rituals for forty-one days. Then they will come to the temple clad in the yellow color dress and cover their face with tamarind powder and saffron powder. After performing several rituals there, the divine power will be invoked in their body. Then they will take a silver pot filled with bunches of neem leaves and start dancing to the rhythm of drums after keeping the pot on their head.
Dancing all the way, they visit all the houses in the village and bless the people.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Legend of Erumeli Ayyappa Temple and Petta thullal

erumeli sri dharmasastha temple or ayyappa temple has great significances in the rituals of sabarimala
Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple is standing alone among the Hindu Temples in Kerala with its unique rituals and procedures. The devotees have to undertake a continence for 41 days before visiting the temple. Devotees should avoid alcoholic consumption and non-vegetarian food for all these forty-one days and they are prevented from sexual relations also.
There are many other conditions such as wear only black dress, should not wear foot wears etc are also included in the continence. Erumeli Sri Dharma Sastha Temple is an important temple on the way to Sabarimala and it has an important place in the rituals related to Sabarimala. The most important one among those is “Erumeli Petta thullal”.
Before going into the details of “Petta thullal, the legend of Erumeli Sri Dharma Sastha Temple will be told. There are two temples in Erumeli, dedicated to Lord Ayyappa or Sri Dharma Sastha. They can locally called as Valiya Ambalam (Big Temple) and Cheriya Ambalam (Small Temple) The Valiya Ambalam is believed to have constructed by Alambillil Millakkaran, an official working under the local feudal lord Ranni Katha.
Alambillil Millakkaran went to participate in the temple festival of Thiruvambadi Temple and got humiliated by the temple authorities. He decided to construct a temple of his own as a revenge. As he was planning to construct a temple, he had a dream in one night in which a saint came and asked him to go to the holy River Pamba the very next day early morning and to take a bath dipping in it. The saint further told him that he will see an idol of lord Ayyappa there.
The very next day, Alambillil Millakkaran left to have a bath in River Pamba and he got a divine idol of Lord Ayyappa. He brought it to his house. On that night the saint once again came in his dream and asked him to cultivate brown peas in his courtyard and when they ripe send a cow to eat the entire peas. The saint told him that he should let the cow go anywhere after eating the pea and he is instructed to follow the cow. Saint instructed to construct a temple at the place where the cow takes rest.
Being a staunch devotee, Alambillil Millakkaran obeyed the words of the saint and temple has been constructed at the place where the cow took rest. He consecrated the idol that he got from River Pamba inside the temple.
erumeli petta thulla is one of the most important part of sabarimala pilgrimage

Cheriya Ambalam or Kochambalam is located about half a kilometer from the valiya ambalam and that is also dedicated to lord Ayyappa or Sri Dharma Sastha. The legend is that there was an old lady called Puthen veettil Ammoomma who was highly religious. She belongs to the Vellala community. Hearing the stories of Ayyappa killing Demon Mahishi, she realized that Ayyappa is an incarnation of divine power and he asked his son Perusseri Pillai to construct a temple and to consecrate the idol of Lord Ayyappa.
Erumeli Petta Thullal starts from Kochambalam or the small temple and ends at Valiyambalam or the big temple. There are two legends behind the Petta Thullal. One is that Lord Ayyappa with the support of Ambalapuzha Army, Alangattu Army and his compatriot and warrior Vavar conquered Sabarimala which was the hideout of Udayanan, a cruel robber. Petta Thullal is considered as the celebration of victory by Ayyappa and his soldiers. The second legend says that it is to commemorate the victory of Lord Ayyappa over the demon Mahishi.
erumeli vavar mosque is a place to visit on the way to sabarimala

In old days all the Kanni Swamis (the devotees visiting Sabarimala for the first time) used to participate in Petta thullal and it begins on 1st of Malayalam month Dhanu and ends on 30th of Dhanu. Pettathullal by the devotees will continue day and night all these days. However, the petta thullal of Alangattu group and Ambalapuzha group are more popular.
Pettathullal is a ritual and it starts from the Kochambalam. The devotees start the ritual with prayer and then pay respect to Guru Swamy, the leader of the group. Then they will apply sandal paste, ash etc on the body. This costumes is to get a look that resembles tribal warriors. They will wear crowns made with leaves and creepers too. Once the rituals at the temple is over they all march to Kottapadi to the tune of drum beats. From there they will come back to Kochambalam and then visit the Vavar Mosque. Finally, the procession will end at the Valiya ambalam. There they will take round around the temple and through the leaves and sticks over the roof of the temple and will take bath in the nearby rivulet.

As mentioned earlier the pettathullal of Alangadu group and Ambalapuzha group are more popular. Ambalapuzha group will begin their Pettathullal in the morning of 27th of Dhanu month. Alangattu group will start their thullal afternoon. It is believed that Vavar will go to Sabarimala along with the Ambalapuzha Group. Hence the Alangattu Group will not visit Vavar mosque, on their way to valiya ambalam.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Legend of Thiruvathira, an Exclusive Festival for Women

Thiruvathira kali is a traditional group dance of Kerala played by women on Thiruvathira festival
Thiruvathira Kali
Thiruvathira star in the Malayalam month of Dhanu is regarded as the birthday of Lord Shiva. It is also believed that Goddess Parvathy joined him on this day after a long penance. The legend says that the Goddess could not influence the mind of Lord Shiva and took the help of Kamadeva, the god of erotic desire. Kamadeva shot his arrow of flowers to Lord Shiva and changed his mindset. Shiva was meditating all these time and became angry when the arrows of flowers disturbed his mind. Furious Lord burned down Kamadeva into ashes and then he accepted Parvathy as his partner.
As per the belief prevailing in the state of Kerala, this happened on the Thiruvathira star of Malayalam month Dhanu and hence, the women started celebrating the festival of Thiruvathira. Rather than a festival, it is a ritual where the women start observing continence since the Revathi star that comes seven days before Thiruvathira. Women will have only one-time rice food and will have fruits all other times. On the seventh day, i.e. on Thiruvathira day, rice food will be avoided completely and will have only fruits. In some areas, they will cook porridge using powdered arrowroot and will have it. In central Kerala, people will make a special dish on that day called, “Thiruvathira Puzhukku” using raw banana, cowpeas (Black Eyed Peas), Chinese Potato (Koorkka), Greater Yam (Kachil), Yam and Colocasia. All these will cook well and then will mix with a paste of Green Chilly and Coconut. After mixing it will be heated for a while and pour a few teaspoons of coconut oil before letting it cool. This dish will be the main food on Thiruvathira day in central Kerala.
Thiruvathira puzhukku, a special dish made on Thiruvathira festival in Kerala
Thiruvathira Puzhukku

It is believed that it was Goddess Parvathy who observed continence like this for the first time and her aim was to get Lord Shiva as her husband. Hence, it will be girls who observe the ritual mostly. Even married women will observe it for the well being of their spouses.
On Makayiram Star, the previous day of Thiruvathira another special dish will be made which is called as “Ettangadi”. This is made with eight varieties of tubers, raw-banana, dried coconut etc. At first, eight varieties of tubers and raw-banana will be roasted in live coal and then they will be cut into pieces. Dried coconut, plantain fruits, and sugar cane also will be cut into small pieces. Then the Jaggery will be melted. These small pieces of tubular, banana etc will mix with the jaggery liquid along with cowpeas, sesame, and Bengal gram. Once, the “Ettangadi” is prepared it will be offered to Lord Ganesha, Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvathy and Lord Moon before having it. Usually, this will be done on the previous night of Thiruvathira and on the Thiruvathira day rice food will be avoided.
On the Thiruvathira day, the women and girls who are observing Thiruvathira Continence will wake up in the early morning and will have the bath. In old days, they used to go to the nearby pond or river to take bath in groups. They used to spend a lot of time in the water with different water sports and swimming. No men will be present nearby. Then they will visit the nearby temple. They have to visit Shiva temples on Thiruvathira day and offering of tender coconut to the lord is an important part of the ritual.
Ettangadi Puzhukku is another special dish made on thiruvathira festival in Kerala

As mentioned earlier, Thiruvathira is an exclusive women’s festival and women are allowed a lot of freedom on that day. They can spend the whole day by swinging, playing traditional group dance form “Thiruvathira Kali” and singing devotional songs. They are not supposed to sleep in the night and the celebrations will get extended to the early morning next day. Then they will have the bath and visit the temple to conclude the continence. Adorning the hairs with ten variety of flowers which is called as “Dasa Pushpam Choodal is also an important part of the ritual.
In old days, only the women belong to the upper cast of then prevailing Hindu caste hierarchy used to celebrate Thiruvathira but today it has become a Hindu festival and women from all castes celebrate it. When the rituals related to Thiruvathira are more of spiritual types, the festival has great significance in the social perspective also.
Dashapushpam or ten varieties of flowers will be used to decorate the hair on Thiruvathira festival in kerala
Dasa Pushpam (Ten Varieties of Flowers)

Probably this may be the only women festival and on this day, women enjoy enormous freedom. They do not have to get engaged in daily household duties; instead, they can enjoy the festival. Thus, this festival celebrates the womanhood.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Legend of Thiruvairanikkulam Temple Where the Temple of Goddess Parvathy Opens only for 12 days in a year

Thiruvairanikkulam Shiva temple is situated in Aluva in Ernakulam district
Thiruvairanikkulam temple is located near Aluva in the Ernakulam district of Kerala. Although the presiding deity is Lord Shiva, the Temple belongs to Goddess Parvathy attracts more devotes because of its unique feature. The temple of Parvathy will open only for 12 days in a year starting from the Thiruvathira star of Malayalam month Dhanu (mid December to mid January). Even the temple festival is being celebrated during these 12 days.
The legend behind the temple goes back to the period of “Parayi Petta Panthirukulam”, the most popular myth of Kerala depicting the story of a woman belongs to a lower cast who gave birth to twelve children. On those days, Airanikkulam has been reigned by Akavur family who were Brahmins. As the time passed there aroused a dispute among the family members and a section of Akavur family moved to nearby Vellarapilly village. During these days Akavur Chathan of Parayipetta Panthirukulam came to this family as a dependent. He stood with the section of family that moved to Vellarapally and moved along with them to the new place.
There is a Shiva Temple in Airanikkulam which has been regarded as the family deity of Akavur Family. Even after moving to Vellarapilly, they used to visit this temple. Once a Brahmin belongs to this family planned to visit the Airanikkulam Temple and to spend his rest of life there. He asked Chathan to accompany him and to help him with day to day affairs when he is staying back in the temple. They reached the banks of River Periyar and got disheartened to see no boats for crossing the river.
Akavur Chathan took a large piece of granite and made a boat using the same. They crossed the river and reached the temple. Days have passed and years too. The Brahmin became older and developed a strong desire to go back to his home and to be with his family members but at the same time he felt sad that he will have to leave the temple and lord Shiva to be with his family. However, he decided to go back and went to the sanctum Santorum. He prayed with a heavy heart to Lord Shiva to allow him to go back. He heard a divine voice permitting him to move.
He took his umbrella made of palm leaves and started his journey. He felt that the umbrella is heavier than it used to be. However, he did not tell anything about it. They took the granite boat to travel back and on the way the Brahmin had to answer to nature’s call. Chathan moved the boat to the nearby forest.  The Brahmin stepped out of the boat taking his umbrella. To his surprise, the umbrella was lighter then. When he asked about it, Akavur Chathan told him not to worry. After a few minute they started their travel and as soon as they reached the Manakkaparambu, the place where the present day temple is situated the Brahmin got down from it and Chathan overturned the granite boat. Even now the stone is there and used to be called as Chathan Para (Stone of Chathan in local language Malayalam).
Thiruvairanikkulam Shiva Temple in Aluva Kerala

hat area was a dense forest on those days and after a few days of the arrival of Brahmin from Airanikkulam Temple, a woman belongs to a lower caste rubbed her sickle on the stone to sharpen it and shocked to see blood oozing out from it. Being informed by the locals, The Brahmin from Akavur Mana reached there along with Chathan.  On being asked, Chathan told the Brahmin that it is none other than Lord Shiva of Airanikkulam Temple. According to Chathan, Lord Shiva, pleased with the devotion of the Brahmin, came along with him sitting on the umbrella. As soon as it has been placed in the boat, the lord too shifted his place from the umbrella to the boat. That is why the Brahmin felt the umbrella heavy at first and then lighter.
Then a Brahmin priest from Punalloor Mana did rituals to please the lord. Then a temple has been constructed and consecration has been done.
The temple is with round sanctum sanctorum and just behind that there is a temple dedicated to Goddess Parvathy. This temple will open only for twelve days and the twelve-day festival is called as Nada Thurappu uthsavam or festival of Temple Opening.

Legend Behind Nadathurappu utsavam

Thiruvairanikkulam mahadeva kshethram in ernakulam district kerala

It is believed that none including priests were allowed inside the temple kitchen after a specific time. It is believed that Goddess Parvathy will enter the kitchen during that time to cook food for her husband Lord Shiva. Once, a priest became curious and he intended to check whether it is true or not.
When the priest came to the kitchen in the night, he saw Goddess Parvathy in her full costume and shouted “Amme… Devi…. (Oh.. . Mother Goddess…) out of devotion. Hearing the voice the Goddess turned back and saw the priest. She became furious as the priest broke the tradition. Out of anger, she told the priest that she does not want to stay back there and she is leaving the place.
The priest could not bear those words. He fell on her feet and requested wholeheartedly to stay back there. Pleased with his devotion she told him that she will visit the temple only on the birthday of her husband Lord Shiva and will stay back for only twelve days. Thiruvathira star in the Malayalam month of Dhanu is considered the birthday of Lord Shiva and hence on that day every year the Goddess will visit the temple and stay back for twelve days. All these twelve days, nobody will enter the temple kitchen after a specific time as it is believed that the goddess will be busy there for cooking food for the lord.