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Full text of "The village gods of South India"

The George A. Wnrburton 
/Memorial Collection 

Presented to 

The Canadian Sctwx)! of MLSSJOILS 
by t\. /\. Hvde, Lsci., Wichita, Kansas. 




FROM-THE- LIBRARY OF 
TRINITYCOLLEGETORONTO 




THE RELIGIOUS LIFE OF INDIA 

EDITED BY 

J. N. FARQUHAR, M.A., D.Litt., 

LITERARY SECRETARY, NATIONAL COUNCIL, YOUNG MEN S 
CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATIONS, INDIA, BURMA AND CEYLON ; 

AND 

NICOL MACNICOL, M.A., D.Litt. 



ALREADY PUBLISHED 

THE AHMADIYA MOVEMENT. By H. A. WALTER, M.A. 
THE CHAMARS. By G. W. BRIGGS, M.Sc., Cawnpore. 

UNDER PREPARATION 

THE HINDU RELIGIOUS YEAR. By M.M. UNDERBILL, B.A., 
B.Litt., Nasik. 

THE VAISHNAVISM OF PANDHARPUR. By NICOL MAC 
NICOL, M.A., D.Litt., Poona. 

THE CHAITANYAS. By M. T. KENNEDY, M.A., Calcutta. 
THE SRl-VAISHNAVAS. By E. C. WORMAN, M.A., Madras. 
THE RAMANANDIS. By C. T. GROVES, M.A., Fyzabad. 

KABlR AND HIS FOLLOWERS. By F. E. KEAY, M.A., 

Jubbulpore. 
"^ 

THE DADUPANTHlS. By W. G. ORR, M.A., B.D., Jaipur. 

THE VlRA SAIVAS. By W. E. TOMLINSON, Mangalore, 

and W. PERSTON, Tumkur. 
^w 

"THE TAMIL SAIVA SIDDHANTA. By GORDON MATTHEWS, 
M.A., B.D., Madras, and J. S. MASILAMANI, B.D., Pasumalai. 



THE BRAHMA MOVEMENT. By MANILAL C. PAREKH, B.A.. 

Rajkot, Kathiawar. 

THE RAMAKRISHNA MOVEMENT. By J. N. C. GANGULY, 
B.A., Calcutta. 

THE KHOJAS. By W. M. HUME, B.A., Lahore. 

THE MALAS AND MADIGAS. By the BISHOP OF DORNAKAL, 
P. B. EMMET, B.A., Kurnool, and S. NICHOLSON, Cuddapah. 

THE DHEDS. By MRS. SINCLAIR STEVENSON, M.A., Sc.D., 
Rajkot, Kathiawar. 

THE MAHARS. By A. ROBERTSON, M.A., Poona. 
THE BHILS. By D. LEWIS, Jhalod, Panch Mahals. 

THE CRIMINAL TRIBES. By O. H. B. STARTE. I.C.S., 
Bijapur. 



121725 

MAY 



EDITORIAL PREFACE 

THE purpose of this series of small volumes on the 
leading forms which religious life has taken in India is 
to produce really reliable information for the use of all 
who are seeking the welfare of India. Editor and 
writers alike desire to work in the spirit of the best 
modern science, looking only for the truth. But, while 
doing so and seeking to bring to the interpretation of 
the systems under review such imagination and sym 
pathy as characterize the best study in the domain of 
religion to-day, they believe they are able to shed on 
their work fresh light drawn from the close religious 
intercourse which they have each had with the people 
who live by the faith herein described ; and their study 
of the relevant literature has in every instance been 
largely supplemented by persistent questioning of those 
likely to be able to give information. In each case the 
religion described is brought into relation with Chris 
tianity. It is believed that all readers in India at least 
will recognize the value of this practical method of 
bringing out the salient features of Indian religious life. 



,) 

THE RELIGIOUS LIFE OF INDIA 

< 

THE VILLAGE GODS OF 
SOUTH INDIA 

BY THE 
RIGHT REVEREND HENRY WHITEHEAD, D.D., 

BISHOP OF MADRAS 



SECOND EDITION, REVISED AND ENLARGED 



ASSOCIATION PRESS 

(Y.M.C.A.) 
5, RUSSELL STREET, CALCUTTA 

HUMPHREY MILFORD 
OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS 

LONDON, NEW YORK, TORONTO, MELBOURNE, BOMBAY, 

MADRAS AND CALCUTTA 

1921 



PREFACE 

THE material for this account of the village gods of 
South India has been gathered almost entirely from my 
own observation and inquiry. I have been able to get 
little help from books, as this is, I think, the first 
attempt at dealing systematically with this aspect of 
Indian religion. It does not pretend to be anything 
like an exhaustive account of all the various rites and 
ceremonies observed in the worship of the village 
deities. The variety of ritual and ceremonial in the 
different districts of South India is almost endless, and 
I have not attempted in this book to give an account 
even of all the various ceremonies that have come 
within my own knowledge. Perhaps it would be more 
correct to call the book "An Introduction to the Study of 
the Village Gods of South India." I believe, however, 
that all the main types of this particular form of 
Hinduism are included in the following pages, and that 
enough has been said to enable the reader to get a 
fairly complete idea of its general character and to 
compare it with similar forms of religion in other parts 
of the world. 

I have to acknowledge the kindness of the Editor 
of The Nineteenth Century and After for allowing me 
to reprint in Chapters IV, VI, and VII portions of 
articles contributed by me to that Magazine. I owe 
the drawings from which illustrations have been made 
to Mrs. Whitehead ; while Miss Stephen, the Archdeacon 



8 PREFACE 

of Madras, and other friends have most kindly supplied 
me with the photographs used for that purpose ; and 
the Government of Madras has generously allowed me 
to use the plates for some of the illustrations which 
previously appeared in a bulletin that I wrote some 
years ago for the Madras Museum. 

A Glossary of Indian Terms and several Indices 
have been included in order to facilitate reference to 
the large amount of unfamiliar detail which the book 
contains. 

HENRY MADRAS. 



CONTENTS 



CHAP. PAGE 

INTRODUCTION .. .. .. .. 11 

I. LEADING FEATURES OF THE RELIGION .. 16 

II. NAMES, CHARACTERS, AND FUNCTIONS OF THE 

VILLAGE GODS . . . . . . . . 23 

III. THE CULT .. .. .. .. .. 35 

IV. MODES OF WORSHIP IN THE TELUGU COUNTRY 48 
V. MODES OF WORSHIP IN THE CANARESE COUNTRY 71 

VI. MODES OF WORSHIP IN THE TAMIL COUNTRY.. 89 

VII. FOLKLORE OF THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH 

INDIA .. .. .. .. ..112 

VIII. PROBABLE ORIGIN OF THE WORSHIP OF VILLAGE 

GODS .. .. .. .. ..139 

IX. SOCIAL, MORAL, AND RELIGIOUS INFLUENCE OF 

THE SYSTEM . . . . . . . . 152 

APPENDIX I . . . . . . . . . . 159 

APPENDIX II .. . . . . . . . . 161 

GLOSSARY OF INDIAN TERMS . . . . . . 165 

INDEX OF THE GODS . . . . jr. . . 167 

GEOGRAPHICAL INDEX . . . . . . 169 

GENERAL INDEX 170 



"1, 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

PLATE FACING PAGE 

/TYPICAL SHRINE OF GRAMA-DEVATA .. ..34 

1 INTERIOR OF S.HRINE WITH STONES AS SYMBOLS 34 

(TYPICAL SHRINE OF GRAMA-DEVATA .. ..35 

[CLAY HORSES OF IYENAR .. .. ..35 

III. KARAGAM .. .. .. .. ..38 

I PUJARI WITH ARATI 39 

IV.] 

I STONE SYMBOL OF POTU-RAZU .. ..39 

V. RUDE SHRINE AT FOOT OF TREE .. ..44 

(RUDE SHRINE.. .. 45 

VI. 1 

(MlNACHI AND THE SEVEN SlSTERS, CUDDALORE. . 45 

VII. BUFFALO SACRIFICE .. .. .. ... 50 

VIII. HEAD OF SACRIFICIAL BUFFALO .. ..51 

IX. SHRINE OF POSHAMMA .. .. ..70 

X. KUTTANDEVAR .. .. .. ..71 

XI. SHRINE OF PLAGUE-AMMA, BANGALORE .. 76 

XII. INTERIOR OF SHRINE OF PLAGUE-AMMA . . 77 

XIII. IMAGE OF HULIAMMA .. .. .. ..80 

XIV. IMAGE OF GODDESS, MYSORE CITY .. ..81 
I SHRINE OF POLERAMMA . . 82 

xv. > 

1 SHRINE AND IMAGES OF BISAL-MARI .. ..82 

XVI. IMAGES OF BISAL-MARI .. .. ..83 

XVII. SHRINE OF PADUVATTAMMA .. .. ..88 

(IMAGE OF GODDESS WITH NAILS DRIVEN INTO 

THE BODY .. . . . . .. ..89 

BUFFALO SACRIFICED TO MOTOR BICYCLE 89 



INTRODUCTION 

THE worship of the village gods is the most ancient 
form of Indian religion. Before the Aryan invasion, 
which probably took place in the second millennium 
B.C., the old inhabitants of India, who are sometimes 
called Dravidians, were a dark-skinned race, with 
religious beliefs and customs that probably did not 
greatly differ from those of other primitive races. 
They believed the world to be peopled by a multitude 
of spirits, good and bad, who were the cause of all 
unusual events, and especially of diseases and disasters. 
The object of their religion was to propitiate these 
innumerable spirits. At the same time, each village 
seems to have been under the protection of some one 
spirit, who was its guardian deity. Probably these 
village deities came into being at the period when the 
people began to settle down in agricultural communities. 
We may see in them the germs of the national deities 
which were so prominent among the Semitic races and 
the great empires of Egypt, Nineveh, and Babylon. 
Where the family developed into a clan, and the clan 
into a tribe, and the tribe into a nation, and the nation 
into a conquering empire, the god of the family naturally 
developed into an imperial deity. But in ancient India, 
before the coming of the Aryans, the population seems 
to have been split up into small agricultural and pas 
toral communities. There were no nations and no 
conquering empires. And it was not till the Aryan 
invaders had conquered North India and had settled 
down in the country, that there was in India any 
growth of philosophic thought about the world as a 
whole. The problem of the universe did not interest 
the simple Dravidian folk. They only looked for an 



12 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

explanation of the facts and troubles of village life. 
Their religion, therefore, did not advance beyond a 
crude animism and belief in village deities. Later on, 
after the Aryans had overrun a large part of India, and 
the Brahmans had established their ascendency as a 
priestly caste, the old Dravidian cults were influenced 
by the superior religion of the Aryans, and strongly 
reacted on them in turn. 

The earliest Indian philosophical systems arose in 
the sixth century B.C., under the stimulus of the desire 
to escape from transmigration. Two of these developed 
into new religions hostile to Hinduism, namely Jainism 
and Buddhism, while others remained in the old faith. 
All exercised a profound influence on the thought of 
India and also modified religious practice in certain 
respects. On the other hand, the crude ideas and 
barbarous cults of the omnipresent aboriginal tribes, 
constantly pressing upon the life of the Aryans, found 
entrance into their religion at many points. Thus the 
old polytheistic nature-worship of the Rigveda, with 
its animal sacrifices offered in the open air, and its 
simple, healthy rules for family and social life, was 
gradually transformed into a great mass of warring 
sects holding philosophical ideas and subtle theological 
systems, and condemning animal sacrifice, yet worship 
ping gross idols, and bound by innumerable superstitions. 
Caste arose and became hardened into the most rigorous 
system of class distinctions that the world has ever 
seen, inspired and justified by the doctrine of transmi 
gration and karma. 

What we now call Hinduism, therefore, is a strange 
medley of the most diverse forms of religion, ranging 
from the most subtle and abstruse systems of philo 
sophy to primitive forms of animism. At the same 
time, the primitive forms of Dravidian religion have 
been in their turn greatly modified by Brahman influ 
ence. For the most part, the same people in town 
and village worship the village deities and the Brahman 
gods. There are a few aboriginal tribes in some of the 
hill tracts who are still unaffected by Brahman ideas or 



INTRODUCTION 13 

customs, but in the vast majority of the districts the 
worship of the village deities and the worship of Siva 
and Vishnu go on side by side ; just as in China 
Confucianism and Taoism are not rival religions but 
complementary creeds. 

To the student of comparative religion the study of 
the weird rites and ceremonies connected with the 
propitiation of the village deities is interesting, because 
it reveals many points of contact with primitive forms 
of religion in other lands, and also because it enables 
the student to see these primitive religious ideas in very 
different stages of development. To the Christian the 
study has a still greater interest, because, amid all their 
repulsive features, these rites contain instinctive ideas 
and yearnings which find their satisfaction in the highest 
truths of Christianity. 

In the second edition I have tried to remedy defects 
and omissions that have been kindly pointed out by 
reviewers, and some chapters have been rearranged. 
It has been difficult, however, to know where to stop 
when attempting to supply omissions. The number of 
different gods and goddesses worshipped all over South 
India is enormous and the variety of local customs 
almost infinite. It is inevitable, therefore, that a large 
number of deities and customs, which are both interest 
ing and important, should be omitted in a small book 
that can only aim at being a brief introduction to a vast 
subject. 

The chapter on the probable origin of the worship 
of village gods (Ch. VIII) has naturally provoked the 
most criticism. In the former chapters I have stated 
what I have heard and seen myself. In this chapter I 
rashly entered the field of conjecture and framed a 
hypothesis as to what may have happened about 7000 
years ago. Naturally I have laid myself open to attack. 
But in spite of the criticisms that have been made on 
my theory, I do not feel inclined to give it up, though 
it must necessarily remain incapable of proof. I am 
still of opinion that the totemistic theory of the origin 
of the sacrifices to the grama-devatas, or village 



14 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

goddesses, as distinct from the offerings made to the 
spirits of ancestors or other deities, is on the whole 
most in accordance with the facts. Professor Elmore, 
in his able and most interesting book, Dravidian Gods 
in Modern Hinduism, criticizes the totemistic theory of 
the origin of the buffalo- sacrifice, which is the most 
important of the sacrifices offered to the grama-devatas, 
on three grounds, mainly because the existing stories, 
current amongst the people, suggest a historical origin 
for the rites. Professor Elmore conjectures from these 
stories that the sacrifices symbolize "the dire punish 
ment and disgrace of a conquered enemy." The cut 
ting off of the head, the putting the foreleg in the mouth, 
the smearing of the nose with fat and the putting of a 
lighted lamp upon the forehead, are, in this theory, 
intended to express " the supreme humiliation of a 
feared, despised, and defeated enemy." So the proces 
sion of the buffalo with a garland round its neck, through 
the village before the sacrifice, is described as "the 
remnant of a triumphal procession in which the enemy 
was exhibited before the disgraceful death." The 
sacrifice, therefore, represents the triumph of the 
Aryan invaders over the Dravidian aborigines and their 
" mad gods." 

I must confess that this explanation seems to me 
very far-fetched and improbable, and entirely out of line 
with all that we know about the origin and meaning of 
sacrifice and ritual among other peoples, and it is open 
to the fatal objection that it compels us to assume that 
these buffalo-sacrifices originated at a comparatively 
late date, long after the Aryan invasion of North India 
and subsequent to the advance of the Aryans into 
South India, when the struggle with the Dravidians 
was over and the triumph of the Aryans assured. 
The stories which I have given in Chapter VII, and 
those which Professor Elmore gives in his book to 
support his theory, obviously belong to the time when 
the Pariahs of South India, who were originally a 
leading clan among the Dravidians, had been dethroned 
from their position and reduced to a state of seivituUe 



INTRODUCTION 15 

and degradation by Brahman influence. But it seems 
to me quite clear that the worship of the grama- 
devatas and the buffalo-sacrifice belong to a very 
much older period than this, and go back to the 
days long before the Aryan invasion, probably to the 
time when the Dravidian clans first came to India and 
settled down to an agricultural life. If that is true, it 
is impossible to interpret the meaning of rites and 
ceremonies which originated about 3000 or 4000 B.C. 
at the latest, by the light of legends which represent 
historical events that took place about three thousand 
years later. 

Again, in view of the facts that agricultural deities 
all over the world have been mainly female, and that 
many of the rites and ceremonies connected with the 
worship of the grama-devatas are obviously related to 
the harvest, I must still maintain my opinion that the 
reason why the grama-devatas are female is because 
they were originally agricultural deities. Professor 
Elmore s view, that the Dravidian deities are female 
because the Dravidian women were specially quarrel 
some, vindictive and jealous, and that their tempers 
and curses made people feel that it was wise to pro 
pitiate female spirits, seems to me a very improbable 
explanation, even if it were certain that Dravidian 
women were as much " adepts in the use of bad langu 
ages and vigorous terms of defamation " six thousand 
years ago as some of them are to-day. 



CHAPTER I 

LEADING FEATURES OF THE RELIGION 

THE worship of the Village Deity, or grama-dcvata, 
as it is called in Sanskrit and in Tamil, forms an 
important part of the conglomerate of religious beliefs, 
customs, and ceremonies which are generally classed 
together under the term Hinduism. In almost every 
village and town of South India may be seen a shrine 
or symbol of the grama-devata, and in every village 
the grama-devata is periodically worshipped and pro 
pitiated. As a rule this shrine is far less imposing 
than the Brahmanical temples in the neighbourhood ; 
very often it is nothing more than a small brick 
building three are four feet high, or a small enclosure 
with a few rough stones in the centre ; and often 
there is no shrine at all ; but still, when calamity 
overtakes the village, when pestilence or famine 
or cattle disease makes its appearance, it is to the 
village deity that the whole body of the villagers 
turn for protection. Siva and Vishnu may be more 
dignified beings, but the village deity is regarded 
as a more present help in trouble, and is more 
intimately concerned with the happiness and prosperity 
of the villagers. 

(a) The origin of this form of Hinduism is lost in 
antiquity ; but it is certain that it represents a pre- 
Aryan cult of the Dravidian peoples, more or less 
modified in various parts of South India by Brah 
manical influence ; and some details of the ceremonies 
seem to point back to a totemistic stage of religion. The 
normal function of the grama-devata is the guardian 
ship of the village, but many of them are believed to 



LEADING FEATURES OF THE RELIGION 17 

have other powers, especially in relation to disease and 
calamity. 

(t>) The village deities and their worship are widely 
different from the popular Hindu deities, Siva and 
Vishnu, and the worship that centres in the great Hindu 
temples. 

1. Siva and Vishnu represent forces of nature : 
Siva symbolizes the power of destruction and the idea 
of life through death, Vishnu the power of preservation 
and the idea of salvation. Both these deities and the 
system of religion connected with them are the outcome 
of philosophic reflection on the universe as a whole. 
But the village deities, on the other hand, have no 
relation to the universe. They symbolize only the facts 
of village life. They are related, not to great world 
forces, but to such simple facts as cholera, small-pox, 
and cattle disease. 

2. Then, in the second place, village deities, with 
very few exceptions, are female. Siva and Vishnu, and 
the principal deities of the Hindu pantheon, are male. 
Their wives, it is true, play an important part in Hindu 
religious life Kali especially, the "black one," the 
wife of Siva, is the presiding deity of Calcutta, and is 
one of the chief deities of Bengal but, speaking 
generally, in the Hindu pantheon the male deities are 
predominant and the female deities occupy a subordi 
nate position. This is characteristic of the genius of 
the Aryan religion, but in the old Dravidian cults a 
leading feature was the worship of the female principle 
in nature. It is possible that this is due to the fact that 
the Aryan deities were the gods of a race of warriors, 
whereas the Dravidian deities were the goddesses of an 
agricultural people. All over the world, the gods of 
war are mostly male, while the agricultural deities are, 
for the most part, female ; and this naturally arises 
from the fact that war is the business of men, whereas, 
among primitive peoples, the cultivation of the fields 
was largely left to the women, and also from the fact 
that the idea of fertility is naturally connected with the 
female. All over Southern India, therefore, the 

2 



18 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

village deities are almost exclusively female. In the 
Tamil country, it is true, most of them have male 
attendants, who are supposed to guard the shrines and 
carry out the commands of the goddesses ; but their 
place is distinctly subordinate and almost servile. One 
of these male deities, however, lyenar, has an inde 
pendent position. He generally has a shrine to himself, 
and is regarded as the night-watchman of the village. 
The compound of his shrine is generally crowded with 
clay figures of horses, great and small, on which he is 
supposed to ride round the village during the watches 
of the night, to keep off evil spirits. In the Telugu 
country, too, there is a being called Potu-Razu, who 
figures sometimes as the brother, sometimes as the 
husband, of the village goddess, and sometimes as 
merely an attendant ; but I have never met him as an 
independent deity and have always been told that sacri 
fice is never offered to him alone, but only in conjunc 
tion with one or more of the goddesses. 

3. Then, in the third place, the village deities are 
almost universally worshipped with animal sacrifices, 
Buffaloes, sheep, goats, pigs, and fowls are freely 
offered to them, sometimes in thousands. In the 
Tamil country, this custom is curiously modified by 
the influence of Brahmanism, which has imbued the 
villagers with the idea that the shedding of blood is 
low and irreligious, and it is remarkable that no animal 
sacrifices are ever offered to lyenar. The male 
attendants accept them eagerly, and take toddy and 
cheroots into the bargain ; but lyenar is regarded as 
far too good a being to be pleased by the sight of 
bloodshed. 

4. Again, the pujaris, i.e. the priestly ministrants, 
the men who perform the Pujd, i.e. the worship, are 
not Brahmans? but are drawn from all the other castes. 



1 The whole Hindu people in North India may be likened to 
a great step-pyramid, consisting of five stories. These are 
exclusive groups, marked off from each other by deep distinctions 
in religious and social standing and in ideal function : 



LEADING FEATURES OF THE RELIGION 19 

It is hardly ever possible to make any general 
statement about any subject in India without at once 
being confronted with facts which seem to prove 
that you are wrong ; accordingly, I may mention that I 
have found cases where Brahmans officiate as pujaris at 
the shrines of village deities. I came across one such 
case at Negapatam ; while, at Bangalore, I actually 
found a case where a Brahman widow was the minis- 
trant. About three miles from Tanjore, too, there is a 
temple of Mariamma served by Brahman priests. But 
no animal sacrifices are offered at the central shrine 
where Brahmans minister. In one corner of the temple 
area there is a separate shrine with an image of Mari 
amma where animals are regularly sacrificed ; but at this 
shrine no Brahmans officiate. I believe that it is the 
only temple or shrine of Mariamma in South India 
where there are Brahman priests. But then, in these 
cases the Brahman pujari never has anything to do with 
animal sacrifices. These are always conducted entirely 
by men of lower castes, and, even so, it is a degradation 
for a Brahman to be connected as pujari with a shrine 
where such abominations take place ; but, according to 
the Indian proverb, "For the sake of one s stomach 
one must play many parts." Setting aside these 
exceptional cases, it may be stated generally that no 

C Aboriginals, reckoned pure 
Sudras : servants ] and admitted to the tem- 

( pies. 

Outcastes, Panchamas (i.e. fifth- J Unclean, untouchable ab- 
class men) I originals. 

Foreigners are held unclean, and are called mlecchas. In 
South India, it is to be noticed, the farmers, artisans, and trades 
men are all classed as Sudras, and the Kshatriyas are practically 
non-existent. The population, therefore, is divided, into three 
main groups : the Brahmans of Aryan blood ; the Sudras, who 
are Dravidians, admitted to the temples ; and the Outcastes, 
who are partly Dravidians and partly still older inhabitants, not 
admitted to the temples. 



20 THE VILLAGE GODS OP SOUTH INDIA 

Brahmans are the priests of village deities, but that the 
pujaris are drawn from all other castes indiscriminately, 
while an important part in the worship, especially that 
connected with the buffalo-sacrifices, is even taken by 
Outcastes. As will be seen later on, the buffalo- 
sacrifice has special features of its own, and seems to 
retain traces of a primitive form of worship, which may 
possibly have originated in totemism. 

In addition to the grama-devatas, who are in a 
special sense the village deities, there are a large 
number of spirits of all kinds, male and female, who 
are worshipped by the villagers. The worship of 
departed ancestors played an important part in the old 
Dravidian religion and is still universal all over South 
India. So men and women, boys and girls, who have 
died violent or untimely deaths, or who have been notor 
ious for their power or even their crimes, are frequently 
worshipped after death. It is probable that a large 
proportion of these gods have been reverenced for 
centuries , but many are of quite recent origin. Some 
were originally people who were murdered, or who 
during their lifetime were feared for their power or 
their crimes, or women who died in child-birth. It is 
easy to observe a deity in the making even at the 
present day. 

A district superintendent of police in the Telugu 
country told me that in 1904, at a village some twelve 
miles from Ellore, two little boys, minding cattle in the 
fields, thought they heard the sound of trumpets 
proceeding from an ant-hill. They told the story in 
the village, and at once the people turned out and did 
puja to the deity in the ant-hill. The fame of the deity s 
presence spread like wild-fire far and wide, and the 
village became the centre of pilgrimages from all the 
country round about. Every Sunday as many as 5,000 
people, men and women, assembled before the ant-hill, 
and might be seen prostrate on their faces, rapt in 
adoration. The incident illustrates the ease with which 
a local cult springs up in India and suddenly becomes 
popular over a large district. 



LEADING FEATURES OF THE RELIGION 21 

Another instance came to my notice a few years ago 
at Bezwada. A small boy, the son of well-to-do 
parents, was murdered near the town for the sake of his 
ornaments, and thrown into the canal. The body was 
discovered and placed under a tree near the bank of the 
canal, at a place where three roads meet. A little after, 
a small shrine, about a foot and a half high, was built 
by the parents under a tree to the spirit of the murdered 
boy. Then some one declared that he had made a vow 
at the shrine and obtained his desire. The fame of the 
shrine at once spread, the spirit of the boy rose quite to 
the rank of a minor deity, and a local worship speedily 
sprang up and became popular. When I last saw the 
shrine it had been enlarged and had become about 
twice its original size. 

About sixty years ago a Hindu widow, named 
Ramamma, lived between Bezwada and Hyderabad, 
farming some land left her by her husband. After a 
time she contracted immoral relations with one of her 
servants, Buddha Sahib. Her brother was so angry 
that he murdered them both. Then the cattle-plague 
broke out ; and the villagers connected it with the 
wrath of the murdered Ramamma, and instituted special 
rites to pacify her spirit. And now, whenever there is 
cattle-plague in the district, two rough wooden images, 
about two feet high, are made to represent Maddha 
Ramamma and Buddha Sahib, and, with two images of 
local goddesses as their attendants, are put on a small 
wooden cart and dragged in procession at night round 
all the principal streets of the village, accompanied by 
fireworks, music, and nautch-girls (i.e. dancing-girls of 
loose character connected with Hindu temples). 
Finally, the cart is dragged to the boundary of the 
village lands and thrown into the territory of the 
adjacent village, in order to transfer to it the angry 
spirit of Ramamma. 

Temples have been built to Plague-amma during 
the last ten years, as a result of the prevalence of 
plague. 

Special reverence is paid to persons who come to 



22 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

an untimely end, e.g. to the spirits of girls who die be 
fore marriage, but when the circumstances of their 
death specially strikes the imagination of the general 
public, the reverence which is ordinarily confined to the 
family expands into a regular local cult. 

Then, again, there is the spirit of the boundary 
stone, the spirits of hills and rivers, forests and trees, 
the deities of particular arts and crafts, who are wor 
shipped by particular classes of the population. The 
worship of serpents, especially the deadly cobra, is 
common all over South India. In one village of the 
Wynaad I came across a Mission school which was 
visited almost daily by a large cobra, which glided 
undisturbed and harmless through the school-room. 
Neither teachers nor pupils would have dared to kill it. 
Constantly they fed it with milk. In many tow r ns and 
villages large slabs of stone with figures of cobras, often 
two cobras intertwined, carved in bas-relief are seen on 
a platform under a large tree. They are worshipped 
especially by women who want children. 



CHAPTER II 

NAMES, CHARACTERS, AND FUNCTIONS OF 
THE VILLAGE GODS 

(a) THE names of village deities are legion. Some 
of them have an obvious meaning, many are quite un 
intelligible to the people themselves, and I have often 
failed to get any clue to their origin, even from native 
pandits. They differ in almost every district, and often 
the deities worshipped in one village will be quite 
unknown in other villages five or six miles off. In 
Masulipatam on the East Coast, in the Telugu country, 
the following were given me as the names of the village 
deities worshipped in the district, viz. Mutyalamma, 
the pearl goddess (amma or amman is only a female 
termination) ; Chinnintamma, the goddess who is head 
of the house ; Challalamma, the goddess presiding over 
buttermilk ; Ghantalamma, the goddess who goes with 
bells ; Yaparamma, the goddess who transacts business ; 
Mamillamma, the goddess who sits under a mango tree ; 
Gangamma, the water goddess, who in this district is 
the protectress against small-pox. 

But, at a village about twenty miles from Masuli 
patam, I found that fifteen different goddesses were 
worshipped in the neighbourhood, of whom only four 
were identical with those of Masulipatam. Some were 
named after the villages from which they had been 
imported, e.g. Addankamma, the goddess from Addanki, 
and Pandilamma, the goddess from Pandil ; others had 
names derived from common objects of country life, e.g. 
Wanamalamma, the goddess of the tope, Balamma, the 
goddess of the cart, and Sitalamma, the water goddess. 

In the Ellore district, farther west, the deities 



24 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

worshipped are chiefly Gahgamma, who is sometimes 
called Mahalakshmi (one of the names of Vishnu s 
wife), and sometimes Chamalamma (another name of 
Kali, the wife of Siva), and Poleramma, the boundary 
goddess, and Ankamma, who is regarded as the goddess 
of cholera and disease generally. 

Farther west than Ellore, across the hills, in the 
Cuddapah and Kurnool districts, the village goddess is 
often known simply as Peddamma (great goddess) or 
Chinnamma (little goddess). In many villages, how 
ever, of these districts these names are unknown, and 
the village deities are called Gangamma, Polamma, 
and Sunkalamma, etc. In some villages the village 
deities consist of Potu-Razu and his seven sisters, 
who are known by various names. In one village 
they were given me as Peddamma, Isondamma, 
Maramma, Arikalamma, Nukalamma, Vasukota, Ellam- 
ma, and Arikamma. 

Again, Kaliamma or Kali is said to be the only one 
of the village goddesses whose name is found in the 
Vedas. She is an avatara, or incarnation of the eight 
powers of the universe. The story told about her is 
that a demon named Mahishasura (the buffalo demon) 
gave great offence to Siva, and was condemned to death. 
But, owing to a privilege bestowed on him by Siva 
himself, he could not be slain by the Trimurti 1 nor by 
any male deity. So the task was given to Kali, who 
successfully accomplished it, and so won a place among 
village deities. 

At Cuddalore I visited a shrine of the goddess 
Minachiamman at the village of Devanampatnam. It 
stands on the seashore on a low ridge of sand. There 
is no building, but an oblong space about 20 by 12 feet is 
enclosed on three sides by rows of clay figures, the 
eastern end towards the sea being left open. On the 
western side of the oblong, facing the sea, there were 

1 This word is used for an image with three heads, representing 
Brahma, Vishnu, and S"iva as a triple manifestation of the 
divine nature. 



NAMES, CHARACTERS, AND FUNCTIONS 25 

two small clay figures, apparently a man and a woman, 
seated in the centre. They were about a foot high 
with the remains of old garlands on them. To the 
left and right of them were figures of seven virgins 
(or Saptakannigais), very well modelled in clay and 
about nine inches high. In front of them and beside 
them were the figures of male guardians and atten 
dants. On each side of the images of the virgins was a 
figure of a large round fish, with open mouth and staring 
eyes, and seated on the back of each fish were the 
figures of a man and a woman. The pujari of the 
shrine told me that the woman was Minachi the fish- 
goddess, and the man Madurai-Viran. Beside each 
fish were figures of guardians and attendants. 
The north and south sides of the oblong, which are 
about twenty-one feet in length, are formed by clay 
figures of horses and elephants, some of them with men 
on their backs. The elephants are quaint creatures, 
very like horses with trunks. The horses are not 
in this case steeds of the god lyenar, but simply 
the attendants of Minachi and the seven virgins. 
Animal sacrifices, consisting of goats, cocks, etc., 
are offered to these deities once a year at an annual 
festival. The people at the shrine gave the name of the 
fish as something like ullai ; but the translator of the 
district and sessions court of South Arcot told me 
that the fish on which Minachi and Madurai-Viran are 
seated is the ullan fish, which is a sea-fish that runs 
up the river in flood-times, when the bar is open, and 
generally travels a considerable distance till it meets 
with an anicut or some similar obstacle. It gets very 
fat and-is a favourite dish. The goddess Minachi, who 
is seated on it, is commonly worshipped by fishermen, 
who swear by her name. She is the goddess worship 
ped in the great temple of Madura together with the 
god Siva. Madurai-Viran is a male attendant of nearly 
all the village goddesses throughout the Tamil country, 
and he is generally represented by a small conical stone 
or the image of a man carved in bas-relief on a stone 
slab, standing outside the shrine, 



26 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

The Saptakannigais (the seven virgins), or Akasa- 
kannigais (the heavenly virgins), are the tutelary 
deities of tanks, and the figures of the Kannigais seated 
in a row are often carved on a small stone and placed 
on tank bunds, especially at places where the tank has 
been breached. In the North Arcot district they are 
described as female creatures who are very quarrel 
some, and, when they fight, breaches are caused in the 
tanks by the stamping of their feet. At the same time 
they are supposed to protect tanks, and when the flood 
rises to a dangerous point, it is said that one of the 
Kannigais, in the shape of a little child, runs through 
the village knocking at the doors and calling up the 
villagers to come and protect the bund. It is believed 
that people walking alone along a tank bund have some 
times met the Saptakannigais, going in procession 
with horses and torches, and that any one who sees them 
invariably dies. The district judge told me that, in a 
case which came before him in the North Arcot district, 
a man who really died by a fracture of his skull, because 
a cousin of his had hit him on the head with a thick 
sugarcane, was reported to have died as the result of 
meeting a procession of the Saptakannigais on the tank 
bund, and that the village magistrate excused himself for 
not reporting the man s death, because he considered 
it to be a death by natural causes. 

A male deity, called Kuttandavar, is worshipped in 
many parts of the Tamil country, especially in the 
South Arcot district. At the village of Devanam- 
patnam, near Cuddalore, I saw an image of this god in 
a small shrine built of brick, with a rough pandal of 
bamboos, thatched with cocoanut leaves, in front of it. 
The image consisted of a head, like a big mask, about 
three feet high, with a rubicund face, strong features, 
moustaches turning up at the end, lion s teeth project 
ing downwards outside the mouth from the angles of 
the upper jaw, and a tall conical head-dress, called in 
Tamil Krittam. Below this stone there was a small 
stone head about one and a half feet high, which was a 
miniature of the larger figure. It was finely chiselled and 



NAMES, CHARACTERS, AND FUNCTIONS 27 

the people told me that it was the work of the stone-masons 
who made the new images of Tirupapuliyur temple, t 
Both images had the mark of Vishnu on their foreheads, so 
also had the pujari of the shrine. The pujari said that 
the images represented the god Kuttandavar, and he told 
me the following legend about him. The god Indra, for 
the crime of murdering a Brahman, became incarnated 
in the form of Kuttandavar, and a curse was laid upon 
him that his body should rot away, leaving only the 
head ; with the result that no one would give him his 
daughter in marriage ; because, if they were married in 
the morning, his body would rot away before the even 
ing and so the bride would become a widow and the tali 
be cut. Sri Krishna, however, took pity on him, 
assumed the female form of Mohini, and consented 
to be married to him in the morning, and then, as he 
vanished all but the head, the tali was cut in the even 
ing. In memory of this event, during the festival, 
which is celebrated in the month of Chitrai (April), a 
crowd of men dressed as women come to the shrine 
with talis on their necks. In the evening at sunset the 
tali is cut, because the god has died and all the people 
dressed as women have become widows. The festival, 
therefore, is necessarily limited to the day-time. Fowls 
and goats are sacrificed to the god a little distance in 
front of the shrine. The festival is attended by all non- 
Brahman castes. The people who showed me the 
shrines said that Kuttandavar is so named from an 
Asura, or Demon or Kuttu, whom the god killed. But 
as Kuttandavar is especially the god of the actors or 
dancers, or Kuttadis, who are very numerous in South 
Arcot and are a sub-division of the Padaiyachi caste, it 
seems likely that the name is derived from Kuttadi 
(a dancer or actor). I was told that wherever the 
Vaniyars or Padaiyachis are in great numbers, for instance, 
in the South Arcot, Coimbatore and Salem districts, 
and in the city of Madras, one is sure to see a large 
number of shrines of the god Kuttandavar. The worship 
of this god is, however, not considered to be very 
respectable. There is apparently no immorality con- 



28 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

nected with his worship, but more respectable members 
of the caste do not like men dressing like women. 
The members of the Padaiyachi caste, therefore, who 
have been educated in recent years and have risen 
in the social scale, tend to give up the worship of 
Kuttandavar.. 

I have often seen on the seashore of Madras a 
conical heap of sand, about three inches high, standing 
on a small platform of sand, with camphor and incense in 
a small earthenware vessel or in a heap of old netting. 
The conical heap of sand represents the goddess 
Kanniamma, the grama-devata of the fishing village. 
The fishermen have told me that she is the goddess who 
gives them fish and enables them to make a living, and 
that they make these offerings to her when fish are scarce 
and they have reason to think that she is angry. This 
illustrates the characteristic feature of all animistic 
worship. Its chief if not only motive is to propitiate 
the angry deity. Probably something of the same 
feeling lurks beneath the custom of Roman Catholic 
fishermen, when they bring holy water from the church 
and sprinkle it on their nets after they have toiled all 
the day and caught nothing. Probably the object of this 
custom is to exorcise a malignant spirit from the 
nets. 

In the Mysore country I came across quite a different 
set of names for the village goddesses. Atone village, 
near Bangalore, the name of the goddess was Mahesvar- 
amma (great goddess), also called Savaramma (she 
who rides on horseback). Her sister, Doddamma, and 
her brother, Munesvara, share in the worship paid to 
her. At another village a goddess, called Pujamma 
(she who is worshipped), was shown to me. She was 
said to be the local goddess of the M&digas, the lowest 
section of the Outcastes in the Telugu country ; but at 
the same time the Sudras 1 make vows to her, to induce 
her to ward off diseases from their homes, and then 
fulfil their vows by sacrificing buffaloes or thrusting 

1 See note on p. 19 above. 



NAMES, CHARACTERS, AND FUNCTIONS 29 

silver pins through their cheeks. Annamma is the 
principal goddess at another shrine in Bangalore City, 
and in the same shrine are six other deities, Chandesvar- 
amma, Mayesvaramma, Maramma (the cholera god 
dess), Udalamma (she of the swollen neck), Kokka- 
lamma (the goddess of coughs), Sukhajamma (the 
goddess of measles and small-pox). 

At some villages a little distance from Bangalore 
the deity was simply the grama-devata, the village 
goddess. In Mysore City the grama-devata is know as 
Bisal-Mariamma (Bisal in Canarese means sunlight, 
and I was told that Mart means saktf or power). The 
deity seems to have been originally connected with 
sun-worship. I was told that her shrines are never 
covered with a roof, and one of the symbols represent 
ing the deity is a brass pot full of water with a small 
mirror leaning against it, called Kimna-Kannadi, i.e. 
eye-mirror. 

There are seven Mari deities, all sisters, who are 
worshipped in Mysore. All the seven sisters are 
regarded vaguely as wives or sisters of Siva. 

In Mysore villages Mahadeva-Amma, the great 
goddess, and Huliamma, the tiger-goddess, are found ; 
and doubtless there are countless other names in the 
Mysore State for the many deities who are worshipped 
as the guardians of the villages and the averters of 
epidemics and other misfortunes. 

It is quite probable that, originally, in South India 
the village goddesses had all quite simple names, such 
as Uramma or Grama-devata, both meaning village 
goddess, or Peddamma, great mother, and that the 
imagination of the villagers gradually invented special 
titles for their own guardian deities. But at the present 
time the village deities consist of a most miscellaneous 
collection of spirits, good, bad, and indifferent, who 

1 The chief Hindu gods are held to be actionless, far with 
drawn from the bustle of the universe. In each case, however, 
the god s energy manifests itself in his wife, who is called his 
Sakti. Those Hindus who worship Kali, the wife of Siva, are 
called Saktas. For Mari see also p. 32. 



30 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

baffle all attempt at classification, enumeration, or 
explanation. A few of them, like Mariamma and 
lyenar, have won their way to general respect or fear 
among the Tamil people ; and, where Brahman influence 
is strong, there has been an obvious attempt, as we 
have seen, to connect the village goddesses with the 
popular worship of Siva or Vishnu; but it is more than 
doubtful whether, originally, they had anything to do 
with either Saivism or Vaishnavism. The stories told 
about them in the folklore of the people, which re 
present them as avataras, i.e. incarnations of Siva, 
were probably quite late inventions, to account for 
names and ceremonies whose meaning had long been 
lost. 

(b) The characters of the goddesses vary consider 
ably. The villagers do not regard them as evil spirits, 
but neither do they regard them as unmixed benefactors. 
They are rather looked upon as beings of uncertain 
temper, very human in their liability to take offence. 
At Cocanada the pujaris told me that the village god 
dess, who is significantly called Nukalamma from a 
colloquial Tamil word meaning "to beat," causes all 
sorts of trouble and is dreaded as an evil spirit. But 
when an epidemic of cholera breaks out, they, curiously 
enough, install another goddess, called Maridiamma, in 
her place, and offer sacrifices to her instead of to 
Nukalamma, a proceeding calculated, one would have 
thought, to give dire offence. 

Mahakali, i.e. great Kali, is another form or avatara 
of the same goddess. She is supposed to be a deity of 
furious temper, and to be the cause of the prevalence of 
cholera. She is also known as Vira-Mahakali 1 or Ugra- 
Mahakali, 2 to denote her rage and fury. 

Another deity of similarly violent temper is 
Arigalamma, who is worshipped largely in the Coim- 
batore district. The idea seems to be that all who 
worship the Ashta Sakti, or eight powers of the 

1 Vlra is a Sanskrit word meaning heroic. 
1 Ugra is a Sanskrit word meaning fierce. 



NAMES, CHARACTERS, AND FUNCTIONS 31 

universe, will attain to bliss, while the others will be 
destroyed by Angalamma. The people worship her to 
avoid falling victims to her unquenchable anger, since 
her main object is believed to be to devour and consume 
everything that comes in her way. She is said 
especially to have a great relish for bones ! 

Another deity of a very different disposition is 
Kamachiamma, 1 whose name implies that she is full of 
good and gracious qualities. She is reported to have 
been born a Brahman girl, and then to have become the 
avatara of one of the Ashta Sakti. 

Another benevolent deity is Thuropathiamma, who 
is reported to have been the wife of a Rishi and a very 
virtuous woman ; so, in her next birth, she was allowed 
to be born a king s daughter. Accordingly when 
Thurupatham, King of Panchala, offered a puthray&gam 
(putrayaga, i.e. a sacrifice to obtain a child) she came 
forth from the fire. She afterwards became the wife 
of the Pandavas, the five brothers famous in the great 
Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, and is regarded as one of 
the Ashta Sakti. 

(c) The functions of the different goddesses are not 
at all clearly marked in the Telugu country. The 
people often told me " They are only different names 
for the same goddess." In some places there is a 
special cholera goddess, e.g. Ankamma, and in others 
a special small-pox goddess, e.g. Garigamma ; but as a 
rule the infliction and removal of epidemics and disasters 
is a general function of all goddesses alike. On the 
other hand, in the Coimbatore, Tanjore, and Trichino- 
poly districts of the Tamil country, where the people 
have been for many generations past far more influenced 
by civilization and Brahmanism than in the Telugu 
country, I found that the functions of different deities 
were far more differentiated and that often elaborate 
stories were current as to their origin and characters. 
For example, one of the deities worshipped in almost 

1 Sanskrit Kamakshi, " the love-eyed one," an epithet of Kali, 
the wife of S*iva. 



32 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

every village in the Tamil country is Mariamma or 
Mari, the goddess of small-pox. 

It is noticeable that Mariamma is not found in any 
temples dedicated to one of the seven sisters, as she is 
considered superior to them in power and much worse 
in temper. The seven sisters are supposed to be kind 
and indulgent, while Mariamma is vindictive and inexor 
able and difficult to propitiate. The boundary goddess 
is worshipped in the Tanjore district under the name 
of Kali, and her special function is to prevent 
any evil coming from without into the village of which 
she is the guardian, while the seven sisters are 
supposed to guard against any evil arising within the 
village itself. Though Mariamma keeps herself aloof 
from the seven sisters, I came across, in the South 
Arcot district, a shrine dedicated to Kanniamma (who 
was said to be another form of Mariamma and to 
preside over small-pox), in which were clay images of 
seven brothers. The youngest, called Muni (ghost), 
was the tallest and was represented by a larger clay 
figure seated on a raised platform, with his six smaller 
brothers standing beside him. 

In the Tamil districts of Tanjore, Trichinopoly 
and Cuddalore, the names of village deities most 
commonly met with are Pidari, which is often used as 
a generic name of village deities, Mariamma, Kali, 
Seliamma, Draupati, 1 and Ahgalamma. Mariamma 
is the commonest of them all, and her function is always 
to inflict or ward off small-pox. Pidari is supposed to 
act as guardian against evil spirits and epidemics, 
especially cholera. Kali is often regarded as especially 
the protectress against evil spirits that haunt forests 
and desolate places, and against wild beasts. In some 
parts she is the special goddess of the bird-catchers. 
But in some villages she is also the guardian against 
cholera. Except, however, in the villages near Tanjore, 
I hsve not met with Kali in the capacity of a boundary 
goddess. In other places there are curious ceremonies 

1 This is for Draupadi, the heroine of the Mahabharata. 



NAMES, CHARACTERS, AND FUNCTIONS 33 

connected with the boundary-stone, ellai-kal as it is 
called, and I was told in one village that in the boundary- 
stone reside evil spirits, which it is the object of the 
ceremonies to propitiate. In another village I found 
that there was a festival to a goddess called Ellai- 
Pidari. 1 

(d) Male deities. Next to Mariamma, the deity 
that is most universally worshipped among the Tamils 
is lyenar, and, as already stated, he is the one village 
deity, largely worshipped in the Tamil country, who 
seems to be an exception to the general rule that the 
village deities are female. In almost every Tamil 
village there is a shrine of lyenar, who is regarded as 
the watchman of the village, and is supposed to patrol 
it every night, mounted on a ghostly steed, a terrible 
sight to behold, scaring away the evil spirits. He has 
always a separate shrine, and is not, like Munadian 
and Madurai-Viran, 2 simply an attendant of a local 
goddess. His shrine may be known by the clay or 
concrete figures of horses ranged on either side of the 
image or piled about in the compound of the shrine 
in admired confusion. The horses are offered by 
devotees, and represent the steeds on which he rides 
in his nightly rounds. He is regarded by the villagers 
as a good and benevolent protector, of far higher 
character than the disreputable Madurai-Viran. 

Another male deity, of much inferior character to 
lyenar, who is sometimes worshipped separately, is 
Karuppanna. As a rule he is simply one of the 
subordinate male attendants of the village goddess : 
but in some places I have met with separate shrines to 
Karuppanna, where he presides as the chief deity. At 
one of these shrines worship was offered exclusively by 
Pariahs? At another place the evil spirit residing in 
the boundary-stone was called Ellai-Karuppu. 

In one village in the Trichinopoly district, I came 

1 See below and cf. p. 101. 

J Vlran is the Tamil form of Vlra, hero. 

1 The chief group of Outcastes in the Tamil country. 

3 



34 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

across a male deity known as Raja Vayan (King 
Father), who was represented by four or five stakes, 
about five or six feet high, with iron spear-heads on 
top. The spears were stuck on one side of a stone 
platform under a tamarind and an areca tree, and 
reminded me of the wooden stakes representing Potu- 
Razu in the Telugu country. In one shrine belonging 
exclusively to the Pariahs of a village, I found that the 
chief deities were all male and not female. Whether 
these independent and semi-independent male deities 
have in all cases developed out of the subordinate male 
attendants of the village deities, or whether they belong 
to another Dravidian cult, it is difficult to say. 






PLATE I 




TYPICAL SHRINE OF GRAMA-DEVATA 




INTERIOR OF SHRINE WITH STONES AS SYMBOLS 

34 



PLATE II 




TYPICAL SHRINK OF GK AMA-DKYATA 




CLAY HORSES OF IYHNAR 



CHAPTER II 

THE CULT 
SHRINES, SYMBOLS, MINISTRANTS, FESTIVALS 

Shrines. The shrines of the village deities, desti 
tute of uniformity or comeliness, are characteristic of 
this whole system of religion. They represent the 
dwelling-places of petty local deities concerned with the 
affairs of a petty local community. They express the 
meanness of a religion of fear. There is nothing about 
them to suggest feelings of adoration or love. Some of 
the shrines, especially in the Tamil country, are fairly 
large buildings, ornamented with grotesque figures, 
almost rivalling in size and architectural features the 
local temples of Siva and Vishnu. The shrines of 
lyenar are distinguished by figures of horses great and 
small, on which he is supposed to ride round the village 
every night to chase away the evil spirits. But the 
majority of the shrines are mean little brick buildings of 
various shapes and sizes, often no more than four or 
five feet high, with a rough figure of the deity inside, 
carved in bas-relief on a small stone. In many villages 
the shrine is simply a rough stone platform under a 
tree, with stones or iron spears stuck on it to represent 
the deity. Often a large rough stone with no carving 
on it is stuck up in a field or under a tree, and serves 
for shrine and image alike. The boundary-stone of 
the village lands is very commonly regarded as a 
habitation of a local deity, and might be called a shrine 
or symbol with equal propriety. 1 In many villages of 

1 See above, p. 33, 



36 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

the Telugu country there is no permanent shrine at all, 
but a temporary one is put up made of bamboo and 
cloth to accommodate the deity whenever a festival is 
held. It seems probable that this "tent of meeting" 
represents the primitive use, and that the permanent 
shrine was a later development, when individual wor 
shippers began to make offerings in times of domestic 
trouble, and when the village community as a whole 
realized more fully the need of help and protection in 
the ordinary affairs of daily life. 

Symbols. The images or symbols, by which the 
village deities are represented, are /Imost as diverse as 
their names. In some of the more primitive villages 
there is no permanent image or symbol of the deity at 
all ; but a clay figure of the goddess is made by the 
potter, or the goldsmith, for each festival and then cast 
away beyond the boundaries of the village when the 
festival is ended. In other villages the deity is repre 
sented simply by a stone pillar standing in a field, or on 
a stone platform under a tree, or in a small enclosure 
surrounded by a stone wall. Often the stones, which 
represent the different deities, are simply small conical 
stones not more than five or six inches high, blackened 
with the anointing oil. It is difficult to see anything at 
all peculiar in them which in any way fits them to be 
symbols of the goddesses or their male attendants. In 
more civilized parts a slab of stone has the figure of a 
woman roughly carved upon it, sometimes with four, 
six, or eight arms, holding various implements in her 
hands, sometimes with only two arms, and sometimes 
with none at all. 

Here is the description of a typical image which I 
saw in the Trichinopoly district. It was a stone figure 
of a woman, about two and a half feet high, with eight 
arms, and in her hands a knife, a shield, a bell, a devil s 
head, a drum, a three-pronged fork, a goad, and a piece 
of rope r 1 truly a collection of articles worthy of a 
schoolboy s pocket ! Another image of the goddess 

1 Most of these objects appear in the hands of images of Siva 
or of his wife Kali. 



THE CULT 37 

made of the five metals (gold, silver, brass, copper, 
and lead) was kept, strangely enough, in the temple of 
Siva, about two hundred yards off, for use in processions. 
It is very common in the Tamil districts to find a stone 
image fixed in the shrine, and a small portable metal 
image, which is used in processions during the festival. 1 

Very often, too, the goddess is represented in 
processions by a brass pot filled with water and decorat 
ed with margosa 2 leaves. I saw one of these brass 
pots in a shrine of Kaliamma at Shiyali, in the Tanjore 
district. It was about a foot high and a foot in diameter 
at the base, and had four tubes sticking out just below 
the neck. In other Tamil villages, where the image is 
fixed in the shrine and there is no metal image to carry 
in procession, an earthenware pot is used, filled with 
water and decorated with margosa leaves. 

At Irungalur, in the Trichinopoly district, I found a 
small enclosure sacred to Kurumbaiamma, outside the 
village, without any image or sacred stones in it at all, 
and I was told that during the festival a small pandal 
(i.e. booth) of leaves is erected in the enclosure, under 
which a small earthen pot, curiously decorated, is placed 
to represent the goddess. The pot is filled with water, 
and has a silver two-anna piece ( 2d. ) put inside it. Some 
cocoanut and oleander flowers are stuck in the mouth of 
the pot, surrounded and concealed by a sheaf of mango 
leaves, tied together by tender shoots of the banana tree. 
This bunch of mango leaves is then decorated with 
flowers, a small pointed stick of bamboo, with a lime 
stuck on the end, is inserted at the top of the bunch, and 
by the side of the lime a small silver umbrella with a 
silver handle. The decoration varies locally. This 
decorated pot is placed on a small platform of sand, and 
about eight measures of rice are heaped round the base 
of it. It is called karagam, i.e. the pot, and is carefully 
prepared at the chief local shrine of Kurumbaiamma, 

1 This practice is borrowed from Hindu temples. 

1 The margosa or neern tree is an evergreen bearing white 
flowers, Melia Azadirachta, and is frequently associated with 
village divinities. 



38 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

about a mile outside the village, and during the festival 
is treated exactly like the goddess. It is taken round in 
procession on the head of a pujari to the sound of tom 
toms 1 and pipes ; offerings of fruit and flowers are made 
to it ; a lamb is sacrificed before it, and it is worshipped 
with the orthodox prostrations. 

The use made of the karagam is also worth notice. 
The following is from an article by Mr. F. J. Richards, 
I.C.S. : 

The cholera goddess is popularly believed to be 
the mother of the washerman. He is therefore chosen 
to officiate as the pujari, as the son alone can hope to 
succeed in propitiating such a fierce divinity. 

"A karagam is prepared ; and the village washerman 
bathes early in the morning and places it on his head. 
Then, holding a sickle in one hand and margosa leaves in 
the other, he goes through the village dancing. Before 
the karagam procession takes place, all the villagers 
pour large quantities of ragi gruel into the big iron 
buckets used for baling water. When two or three 
of such buckets are filled, the poor people of the village 
are fed. The washerman dances at the place where 
the food is distributed. After dusk, when the procession 
passes through the village, sheep are sacrificed at the 
important centres in the village, and the blood collected 
in a mud vessel. The washerman, with the karagam 
on his head, goes on dancing through the limits of the 
village, preceded by the village musicians. At the 
point where his village borders on the adjoining village 
he places the karagam and the blood which had been 
collected at the different places of sacrifice, and returns 
home after taking a bath on his way. The goddess is 
believed to be propitiated by this, and any further 
attacks of cholera are attributed to the perfunctory 
discharge of this duty by the washerman. The sacri 
ficial victims are sheep only, and the method of sacrifice 
is decapitation. The deity is thus propitiated and 

1 A tom-tom is a native drum. It is usually shaped like a 
small barrel, and beaten at both ends with the hands and fingers. 



PLATE III 




K A RAG AM 



- 



I LATE IV 




ITJARI WITH ARATI 




STONK SYMBOL Oh I OTl -KA/.r WITH STAKK 1-OK 
IMl AI.I.NT, ANIMALS 



THE CULT 39 

carried beyond the village limits. The villagers of the 
adjacent villages in their turn carry the karagam to the 
border of the next village, and in this way the karagam 
traverses many miles of country, and the baleful influence 
of the goddess is transferred to a safe distance." 1 

At another village I found that Kaliamma was 
represented by seven brass pots, without any water 
in them, one above the other, with margosa leaves 
stuck into the mouth of the topmost pot, as well as by 
an earthenware pot filled with water and also adorned 
with margosa leaves. It is possible that the seven 
brass pots represent seven sisters, or the seven virgins 
sometimes found in Tamil shrines. The people them 
selves have no idea what they mean, but can only 
say that it is Mamul, i.e. custom. 

At Mysore City, in the Canarese country, I found, 
as stated above, 2 that the goddess was represented by 
a small metal pot full of water with a small mirror 
leaning against it. In the mouth of the pot two, four, 
or six betel* leaves are placed, always an even number, 
and the pot is decorated with a bunch of cocoanut 
flowers. The pot is called Kunna-Kannadi, eye-mirror, 
or Kalsa, and is used, I was told, as a symbol of deity 
in the preliminary ceremonies of all the Brahmans. It 
is evidently connected with sun-worship, which in 
Mysore seems to have strongly influenced the cult of 
the village deities. 

Another curious symbol much used in Mysore is 
called arati.* It consists of a lamp made of rice flour 
about six or eight inches high, with the image of a face 

1 Quarterly Journal of the Mythic Society, Jan., 1920, p. 108. 

8 P. 29. 

8 Betel is a pepper plant, the leaf of which is wrapped round 
the nut of the areca palm and eaten by Indians as a digestive. 

* The waving of a lamp in front of an image of a god is an 
orthodox Hindu custom. It is also frequently observed in the 
case of kings and other great personages. The object is to ward 
off the evil eye and other harmful influences. It is performed 
only by married women or nautch-girls. The name of the lamp 
and of the act of waving is arati. See Dubois, Hindu Manners 
and Customs, p. 148. Hence the symbol described in the text. 



40 THE VILLAGE GODS OP SOUTH INDIA 

roughly represented on one side of it by pieces of silver 
and blotches of kunkuma, 1 red paste, stuck on to 
represent the eyes, nose, mouth, etc. Sticks of incense 
were stuck in the lamp all round, and on the top were 
about four betel leaves stuck upright and forming a sort 
of cup with a wreath of white flowers below them. An 
arati was brought to me at Mysore by the pujaris for 
my inspection. It was a quaint object, and seemed like 
the relic of some harvest festival of bygone days. 

A common symbol of the village deities is simply 
a stick or a spear. It is very common in the Tamil 
country to see one or more iron spears stuck in the 
ground under a tree, to represent some village deity. 
The idea seems to be that the deity is represented by 
his weapons. In the Telugu country Potu-Razu, the 
brother or husband of the village goddess, is sometimes 
represented by a stone, sometimes by a thin wooden 
stake, like an attenuated post, about four or five feet 
high and roughly carved at the top. It faintly resembles 
a spear, and is called Sulam, which in Telugu means a 
spear. 2 Sometimes this stake stands beside a slab of 
stone representing Potu-Razu. At one village the 
symbol of Potu-Razu is a painted image made of wood, 
about three feet high, representing a warrior, sitting 
down with a sword in his hand, and carrying a lime and 
nine glass bangles belonging to his sister Ellamma. 
Beside each foot is the figure of a cock, and in the shrine 
is kept a large painted mask for the pujari to wear at 
festivals, as he dances round the image of Potu-Razu. 
But elaborate images of Potu-Razu of this kind are not 
very often found. 

Another symbol akin to these stakes and spears is 
the Nattan Kal in the Tamil country. Nattan means 
" planted " and Kal means " a stone " or " post." The 
Nattan Kal is the first post of a nuptial booth, set up at 
an auspicious moment, painted red and white, adorned 

1 See p. 50. 

1 Siva s spear is called Sual in Sanskrit, and his trident is 
triSiila, three-spike. 



THE CULT 41 

with various decorations, and worshipped with offerings 
of cocoanuts and flowers. The symbolism is obscure. 

The name is also applied to a small stone set up at 
the entrance to a village, which, according to a writer in 
the Indian Interpreter, who reviewed the first edition 
of this book in the January number, 1917, "is said to 
represent all the other Nads which are comprised in 
the particular district to which that place belongs," 
and is worshipped on the occasion of a marriage. The 
reviewer thinks that "it is evident that it points back 
to a time when people were not so numerous or so 
widely separated, and when all could come to the 
marriage festivities," and that "when that time passed 
some means had to be found for the representation of 
the others "; for this purpose a stone was erected to 
symbolize the clan and worship offered to it. It is 
probable, however, that the stone placed at the entrance 
of Tamil villages is akin to the Boddu-rayee, or navel- 
stone, set up at the foundation of a village in the Telugu 
country, as described below on page 60, which probably 
represents, like the boundary- stone, the spirit of the 
land on which the village is built. 

The Nattan Kal set up for the wedding-booth may, 
in the same way, represent the spirit who presides 
over the procreation of children, and may possibly be a 
phallic emblem, like the lingam of Siva. 

Why stones or posts should in this way represent 
spirits it is difficult to explain. I have given below on 
page 148 what seems to me a possible explanation. But 
it must be admitted that all explanations can only be 
regarded as more or less probable hypotheses. 

The shrines and images or! Kogillu, a village in the 
Mysore country not far from Bangalore, are typical of 
that part of the country. At the extreme entrance to 
the village, near a tank, stands a small shrine of stone 
and mud sacred to the goddess Pujamma (she who is 
worshipped). On the stone door-posts are carved 
figures of serpents. Within the shrine there is no 
image of any kind, but on the left-hand side of the door 
is a platform, covered with garlands of white flowers, 



42 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

with a small earthenware lamp upon it, which is kept 
burning day and night as a symbol of the goddess. 

To the right of this shrine stands a smaller one 
dedicated to a goddess called Dalamma. No one in the 
village could tell me who the goddess was nor what her 
name meant. There was no image nor lamp nor symbol 
of any kind in her shrine. An old picture frame, hung 
up on the wall to the left, without any picture in it, was 
the only attempt at decoration or symbolism. Just 
within the doorway was a shallow trough about one and 
a half feet long, one foot broad, and two inches deep, 
where the worshippers break their cocoanuts. 

In front of the larger shrine stood an enclosure 
about five or six yards square, enclosed by a stone wall, 
with four slabs of stone in the centre, on which a plat 
form is erected, covered by a canopy of cloth and leaves, 
during the annual festival. The lighted lamp is then 
brought out from the shrine, placed under the canopy, 
and worshipped as the symbol of the goddess. 
Apparently cattle are tethered in the enclosure at other 
times, and, when I saw it, there were no obvious marks 
of sanctity about it. About twenty yards off stands the 
Cattle Stone, a slab of rough stone about five feet high 
and three feet broad, set upon a stone platform about 
one and a half feet high. When the cattle get sore 
feet, their owners pour curds over the Cattle Stone for 
their recovery. 

Near the Cattle Stone, in a field on the outskirts 
of the houses, stands a square stone pillar, about 
five feet high and half a foot in thickness, without 
any carving or ornament on it whatever. It repre 
sents Maramma, the goddess of small-pox and other 
epidemics, a most malignant spirit. Apparently she 
had been brought to this village by some people who 
had migrated from another village called Hethana ; 
whence she is called Maramma-Hethana. Buffaloes and 
sheep are offered to her whenever epidemics break 
out. 

The grama-devata herself she has no other name 
has in this village no permanent image. The gold- 



THE CULT 43 

smith makes an image of clay in the form of a woman, 
about one or one and a half feet high, every year at the 
annual festival, which takes place after harvest, and she 
is then placed in the centre of the village under a 
canopy of green boughs. One striking feature of this 
festival is that on the first day of the festival a woman 
comes from every household to the place of worship 
with a lighted lamp made of rice flour, called arati ; and 
they all together wave their lamps in a circle from left 
to right above their heads and from right to left below. 1 
When the festival is over, the washerman of the village, 
who acts as pujari, accompanied by all the villagers, 
takes the image to the tank, walks into the water, and 
leaves it there. In some villages in the Mysore State 
the arati is presented by the men, the heads of the 
households, and not by the women. But in all the 
annual festivals in these parts the presentation of the 
arati, which seems often to be regarded as a symbol of 
the deity herself, forms an important part of the 
ceremonial. 

Ministrants. One of the most striking features of 
the worship of the village deities is the absence of any 
thing like a sacerdotal caste in connexion with it. 
Every other department of village work belongs to a 
special caste, and in the ordinary worship of Vishnu 
and Siva the priestly caste of the Brahmans is supreme. 
But in the worship of the village deities the pujaris are 
drawn from all the lower castes indiscriminately, 
though in any one village the pujaris of a particular 
goddess nearly always belong to one particular 
caste. 

I have occasionally found a Brahman in charge of a 
grama -devata shrine in the Tamil country. But then, 
as I have noted above, the Brahman pujari never takes 
any part in the animal sacrifices, and, even so, is 
degraded by his connexion with the shrine. In tne 
Telugu country the potters and the washermen, who 
are Sudras of low caste, often officiate as priests, and 

1 See p. 39, n. 4. 



44 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

an important part, especially i-n the buffalo sacrifices, 
is taken by the Malas and Madigas. 1 

A Madiga nearly always kills the buffalo and 
performs the unpleasant ceremonies connected with 
the sprinkling of the blood, and there are certain 
families among the Malas, called Asadis, who are the 
nearest approach to a priestly caste in connexion with 
the village deities. They have the hereditary right to 
assist at the sacrifices, to chant the praises of the 
goddess while the sacrifices are being offered, and 
to perform certain ceremonies. But in the more 
primitive villages, where, it may be presumed, pri 
mitive customs prevail, it is remarkable how great 
a variety of people take an official part in the worship : 
the potter, the carpenter, the toddy-drawer, the 
washerman, Malas and Madigas, and even the Brah 
man Karnam or village accountant, have all their 
parts to play. 

In the Tamil country this is not so marked, and 
the details of the worship are left far more to the 
regular pujari. It is noticeable that the office of pujari 
is by no means an honourable one, and this is especially 
the case among the Tamils, where Brahman influence is 
strong and the shedding of blood is regarded with 
aversion. And even among the Brahmans themselves, 
though they owe their influence to the fact that they are 
the priestly caste, the men who serve the temples are 
regarded as having a lower position in the caste than 
those Brahmans engaged in secular pursuits. 

Among the Canarese in the Bellary district the 
Asadis take a similar part in the worship to the Asadis 
in the Telugu country. In the whole of the Bellary 
district there are about sixty families of them living in 
three separate villages. They form practically a 
separate caste or section of the Outcastes. They eat 
food given them by the Madigas and take their girls in 
marriage. The Asadi girls, however, never marry, but 

1 The Malas and Madigas are the chief groups of Outcastes 
in the Telugu country. 



PLATE V 




PLATE VI 




KCDK SHRIN 




MINACHI AND THE SEVEN SISTERS, CT 1)1 A I ( ) K I- 

45 



THE CULT 45 

are made Basams^ i.e. are consecrated to the goddess, 
and become prostitutes. Certainly the degradation of 
religion in India is seen only too plainly in the 
degradation of the priesthood. 

Festivals. There is no act of uniformity and no 
ecclesiastical calendar regulating the festivals or forms 
of worship of village deities, and no universal custom 
as to the appointment of ministrants. In some villages, 
where there is a permanent shrine, offerings of rice, 
fruit, and flowers, with incense and camphor, are made 
every day by the villagers, who have made vows to the 
goddess, through the pujari. Often offerings are made 
once or twice a week, on fixed days, consisting chiefly 
of grain, fruit, and flowers and occasionally of goats, 
sheep, and fowls. In many places there is a fixed 
annual festival, which sometimes takes place after 
harvest, when the people are at leisure and well off 
for food ; but there is no regular rule as to the time, 
and the custom varies widely in different districts. 
In most places, however, there is no regular annual 
festival, but sacrifices are offered whenever an epide 
mic or any other calamity occurs which may make 
it expedient to propitiate the goddess. In some villages 
old men complained to me that, whereas formerly 
sacrifices were offered yearly, now, owing to the decay 
of religion, they are only offered once in four or five 
years. So, again, there is no uniformity as to the 
duration of a festival. Generally it lasts about a week, 
but in the Tamil country it is sometimes a very elabo 
rate affair, lasting for a fortnight, three weeks, or even 
a whole month ; so too in some parts of the Canarese 
country the Mari festival, which is held in February, 
lasts for about four weeks. But a long festival is an 
expensive luxury, which only a large town or a well-to- 
do village is able to afford. Speaking generally, the 
object of the festival is simply to propitiate the goddess 

1 See Dubpis, Hindu Manners and Customs, p. 133 ; Farquhar. 
Modern Religious Movements in India, p. 408. The word basavl 
is a feminine formed directly from basava, a bull. For basava, 
see below, p. 125, n. 1. 



46 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

and to avert epidemics and other calamities from the 
village, and to ward off the attacks of evil spirits. 

Every village in South India is believed by the 
people to be surrounded by evil spirits, who are always 
on the watch to inflict diseases and misfortunes of all 
kinds on the unhappy villagers. They lurk every 
where, on the tops of palmyra trees, in caves and rocks, 
in ravines and chasms. They fly about in the air, like 
birds of prey, ready to pounce down upon any unpro 
tected victim, and the Indian villagers pass through life 
in constant dread of these invisible enemies. So the 
poor people turn for protection to the guardian deities 
of their village, whose function it is to ward off these 
evil spirits and protect the village from epidemics of 
cholera, small-pox, or fever, from cattle disease, failure 
of crops, childlessness, fires, and all the manifold ills 
that flesh is heir to in an Indian village. 

The sole object, then, of the worship of these 
village deities is to propitiate them and to avert their 
wrath. There is no idea of praise and thanksgiving, 
no expression of gratitude or love, no desire for any 
spiritual or moral blessings. The one object is to get 
rid of cholera, small-pox, cattle disease, or drought, or 
to avert some of the minor evils of life. The worship, 
therefore, in most of the villages, only takes place 
occasionally. Sometimes, as I have stated above, there 
are daily offerings made to the deity ; but, as a rule, 
the worship is confined to one big sacrifice, which takes 
place once a year, or on the occasion of some special 
disaster or outbreak of disease. The general attitude of 
the villager towards his village deity is "Let sleeping 
dogs lie." So long as everything goes on well and there 
is no disease afflicting man or beast, and no drought nor 
other great calamity, it seems safest to let her alone. 
But, when misfortune comes, it is a sign that she is out 
of temper, and it is time to take steps to appease her 
wrath. 

I have dignified the periodical sacrifices to the 
village goddesses by the name of festivals. But the 
term is a misnomer. There is really nothing of a 



THE CULT 47 

festal character about them. They are only gloomy 
and weird rites for the propitiation of angry deities 
or the driving away of evil spirits, and it is very 
difficult to detect any traces of a spirit of thankfulness 
or praise. Even the term worship is hardly correct. 
The object of all the various rites and ceremonies is not 
to worship the deity in any true sense of the word, but 
simply to propitiate it and avert its wrath. A brief des 
cription of the sacrifices and offerings themselves will 
make this clear. But I must premise that, as with the 
names and images and shrines, so with the offerings 
and sacrifices, there is no law of uniformity : the 
variations of local use and custom are innumerable. 
Still, the accounts here given will give a fair idea of the 
general type of rites and ceremonies prevalent through 
out South India, in the propitation of village deities. 



CHAPTER IV 

MODES OF WORSHIP IN THE TELUGU 
COUNTRY 

LET us suppose that an attack of cholera or small 
pox has broken out in a village of South India. We 
will take a village in the Telugu country, in one of the 
more backward districts, where life is lived under more 
primitive conditions than in places where large towns 
and railways and the influence of the Brahmans have 
tended to change old-fashioned ideas and customs. 

A Telugu Village. The village deity, in this 
particular village, is called Peddamma, the great 
mother. The epidemic is a sign that she is angry and 
requires to be propitiated. So a collection is made for 
the expenses of a festival, or a rich man offers to pay 
all expenses, and a propitious day is selected, which in 
this village may be any day except Sunday or Thursday. 
Then the potter of the village is instructed to make 
a clay image of the great mother, and the carpenter to 
make a small wooden cart, and a buffalo is chosen as 
the chief victim for the sacrifice. 

When the appointed day arrives, the buffalo is 
sprinkled all over with yellow turmeric^ while 
garlands of margosa leaves are hung round its neck 
and tied to its horns. At about two p.m. it is conducted 
round the village in procession to the sound of music and 
the beating of tom-toms. The two sections of the 
Outcastes, the Malas and the Madigas, take the leading 

1 Curcuma longa is an Indian plant from the rootstock of 
which a powder called turmeric is extracted. This powder is 
used as a dye and also as one of the ingredients of curry- 
powder. 



WORSHIP IN THE TELUGU COUNTRY 49 

part in the sacrifice, and conduct the buffalo from 
house to house. One Madiga goes on ahead, with a tom 
tom, to announce that "the buffalo devoted to the 
goddess is coming." The people then come out from 
their houses, bow down to worship the buffalo, and 
pour water over his feet, and also give some food to the 
Malas and Madigas, who form the procession. By 
about eight p.m. this ceremony is finished, and the buffalo 
is brought to an open spot in the village and tied up near 
a small canopy of cloths supported on bamboo poles, 
which has been set up for the reception of the goddess. 
All the villagers then assemble at the same place, and at 
about ten p.m. they go in procession, with music and tom 
toms and torches, to the house of the potter, where the 
clay image is ready prepared. On arriving at his house, 
they pour about two and a half measures of rice on the 
ground and put the image on the top of it, adorned with 
a new cloth and jewels. All who are present then 
worship thfe image, and a ram is killed, its head being 
cut off with a large chopper, and the blood sprinkled on 
the top of the image, as a kind of consecration. The 
potter then takes up the idol and carries it out of the 
house for a little distance, and gives it to a washerman, 
who carries it to the place where the canopy has been set 
up to receive it. During the procession the people 
flourish sticks and swords and spears to keep off the evil 
spirits, and, for the same purpose, cut limes in half 
and throw them up in the air. The idea is that the 
greedy demons will clutch at the golden limes and 
carry them off, and so be diverted from any attack 
on the man who carries the image. When the idol 
has been duly deposited under the canopy, another 
procession is made to the house of the toddy-drawer. 
He is the man who climbs the palm trees and draws 
off the juice which is made into toddy. At his house 
some rice is cooked, and a pot of toddy and a bottle of 
arrack^ are produced and duly smeared with yellow 
turmeric and a red paste, constantly used in religious 

1 Arrack is a native intoxicant. 



SO THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

worship among the Hindus and called kimkuma^ The 
cooked rice is put in front of the pot of toddy and bottle 
of arrack, a ram is killed in sacrifice, and then the 
toddy-drawer worships the pot and the bottle. The 
village officials pay him his fee, three-eighths of a measure 
of rice, three-eighths of a measure of cholam 2 and four 
annas, and then he carries the pot and bottle in proces 
sion, and places them under the canopy near the image of 
Peddamma. Then comes yet another procession. The 
people go off to the house of the chief official, the 
Reddy, and bring from it some cooked rice in a large 
earthenware pot, some sweet cakes, and a lamb. A 
large quantity of margosa leaves are spread on the 
ground in front of the image, the rice from the Reddy s 
house is placed upon them in a heap, and a large heap 
of rice, from one hundred to three hundred measures, 
according to the amount of the subscriptions, is poured 
in a heap a little farther away. 

All these elaborate proceedings form only the 
preparations for the great sacrifice, which is now 
about to begin. The lamb is first worshipped and 
then sacrificed by having its throat cut and its head 
cut off. A ram is next brought and stood over the first 
large heap of rice, and is there cut in two, through the 
back, with a heavy chopper, by one of the village 
washermen. The blood pours out over the rice and 
soaks it through. One half of the ram is then taken up 
and carried to a spot a few yards off, where a body of 
Asadis are standing ready to begin their part in the 
ceremonies. The other half of the ram is left lying 
on the rice. The Asadis then begin to sing a long chant 
in honour of the deity. Meanwhile, the chief sacrifice 
is made. The buffalo is brought forward, and the 
Madigas kill it by cutting its throat (in some villages its 
head is cut off). Some water is first poured over the 
blood, and then the pool of blood and water is covered 
up carefully with earth, lest any outsider from another 

1 Made of turmeric mixed with lime. 

* A coarse grain, the staple food of the villagers. 



PLATE VII 




50 



PLATE VIII 




WORSHIP IN THE TELUGU COUNTRY 51 

village should come and steal it. The idea is that if 
any man from another village should take away and 
carry home even a small part of the blood, that village 
would get the benefit of the sacrifice. The head of the 
buffalo is then cut off and placed before the image, with 
a layer of fat from its entrails smeared over the fore 
head and face, so as to cover entirely the eyes and nose. 
The right foreleg is cut off and placed crosswise in the 
mouth, some boiled rice is placed upon the fat on the 
forehead, and on it an earthenware lamp, which is kept 
alight during the whole of the festival. Why the right 
foreleg should be cut off and placed in the mouth, and 
what the meaning of it is, I have never been able to 
discover nor can I conjecture. When I have asked the 
villagers, they only reply, "It is the custom." But I 
have fou id the custom prevailing in all parts of South 
India, among Tamils, Telugus, and Canarese alike, and I 
have been informed that exactly the same custom pre 
vails in the Southern Maratha country. It seems to be 
a very ancient part of the ritual of sacrifice prevailing 
in South India. 1 This completes the presentation of 
the sacrifice to the goddess, who is supposed to delight 
in the food offered, and especially in the blood. A great 
deal of the food offered is, as a matter of fact, taken 

1 Maharaja Sir V. S. Ranga Rao Bahadur, G.C.I.E., C.B.E., 

writes in The Asiatic Review for January, 1919 : " The Lord 
Bishop wishes to know why the leg of an animal is put crosswise 
in its mouth after it has been sacrificed before the village god 
dess. Among the menial castes of a village there is the practice 
of a guilty man putting a piece of dry grass crosswise in his 
mouth when he goes to the head of his village to ask his pardon. 
It denotes that he has committed a wrong act, as a beast. In 
places where grass is not available, the person in question puts 
the first finger of his right hand crosswise in his mouth with the 
same idea or purpose. Here the animals are sacrificed before the 
village gods and goddesses by the people in the expectation, or 
rather with the firm belief, that their sins will be forgiven by 
those deities, and that their consequences will be thus averted by 
means of those sacrifices. Instead of putting their fingers in 
their mouths, as stated before, they put the animal s leg 
(generally the right leg) crosswise in its mouth. Though I am 
not sure that this is the explanation of this practice, I presume 
that it must be along these lines, as no other ground is traceable." 



52 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

away by the people and eaten in their homes, but the 
idea is that the goddess takes the essence and leaves 
the worshippers the material substance. This takes till 
about three a.m. next morning ; and then begins another 
important part of the ceremonies. 

Some of the rice from the heap, over which the ram 
was sacrificed and its blood poured out, is taken and put 
in a flat basket, and some of the entrails of the buffalo 
are mixed with it. The intestines of the lamb, which 
was first killed, are put over the neck of a Mala, and its 
liver is placed in his mouth, 1 while another Mala takes 
the basket of rice soaked in blood and mixed with the 
entrails of the buffalo. A procession is then formed 
with these two weird figures in the middle. The man 
with the liver in his mouth is worked up into a state of 
frantic excitement and is supposed to be inspired by the 
goddess. He has to be held by men on either side of 
him, or kept fast with ropes, to prevent his rushing 
away ; and all round him are the ryots, i.e. the small 
farmers, and the Malas, flourishing clubs and swords, 
and throwing limes into the air, to drive away the evil 
spirits. As the procession moves through the village, 
the people shout out " Food ! Food ! " and the man who 
carries the basket sprinkles the rice soaked in blood over 
the houses to protect them from evil spirits. As he 
walks along, he shouts out, at intervals, that he sees the 
evil spirits, and falls down in a faint. Then lambs have 
to be sacrificed on the spot and limes thrown into the 
air and cocoanuts broken, to drive away the demons and 
bring the man to his senses. And so the procession 
moves through the village, amid frantic excitement, 
till, as the day dawns, they return to the canopy, where 
the great mother is peacefully reposing. 

At about ten a.m. a fresh round of ceremonies 
begins. Some meat is cut from the carcass of the 
buffalo and cooked with some cholam, and then given to 
five little Mala boys, siddhalu, the innocents, as they are 
called. They are all covered over with a large cloth, 

1 Cf. pp.109, 148 below 



WORSHIP IN THE TELUGU COUNTRY 53 

and eat the food entirely concealed from view, probably 
to prevent the evil spirits from seeing them, or the evil 
eye from striking them. And then some more food is 
served to the Asadis, who have been for many hours, 
during the ceremonies of the night, chanting the praises 
of the goddess. After this the villagers bring their 
offerings. The Brahmans, who may not kill animals, 
bring rice and cocoanuts, and other castes bring lambs, 
goats, sheep, fowls, and buffaloes, which are all killed 
by the washermen, by cutting their throats, except the 
buffaloes, which are always killed by the Madigas, the 
lowest class of Outcastes. The heads are all cut off and 
presented to the goddess. This lasts till about three 
p.m., when the people go off to the house of the village 
carpenter, who has got ready a small wooden cart. On 
their arrival some cooked rice is offered to the cart, and 
a lamb sacrificed before it, and a new cloth and eight 
annas are given to the carpenter as his fee. The cart 
is then dragged by the washermen, to the sound of 
horns and tom-toms, to the place of sacrifice. The heads 
and carcasses of the animals already sacrificed are first 
removed by the Malas and Madigas, except the head of 
the buffalo first offered, which remains in its place till 
all the ceremonies are finished, when the shrine is 
removed. 

At about seven p.m. another series of ceremonies 
begins. First a lamb is sacrificed before the goddess, and 
its blood mixed with some cooked rice, and at the same 
time a pig is buried up to the neck in a pit at the 
entrance of the village, with its head projecting above 
the earth. The villagers go in procession to the spot, 
while one of the Madigas carries the rice, soaked in the 
blood of the lamb, in a basket. All the cattle of the 
village are then brought to the place and driven over the 
head of the unhappy pig, 1 which is, of course, trampled 
to death ; and, as they pass over the pig, the blood 
and rice are sprinkled upon them to preserve them from 
disease. Then, after this, follows the final ceremony. 

1 Cf. p 58 below. 



54 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

The image of the goddess is taken from the canopy 
by the washerman, and a Madiga takes the head of the 
buffalo with its foreleg in the mouth, the forehead and 
nostrils all smeared over with fat, and the earthen lamp 
still lighted on the top. They then all go in procession 
to the boundary of the village, first the men carrying 
the buffalo s head, next the washerman with the image, 
and last the small wooden cart. When the procession 
arrives at the extreme limit of the village lands, they 
go on, for about a furlong, into the lands of the neigh 
bouring village. There the Asadis first chant the 
praises of the goddess, then some turmeric is distributed 
to all the people, and finally the image is divested of 
all its ornaments and solemnly placed upon the 
ground and left there. The light on the head of 
the buffalo is extinguished, and the head itself carried 
off by the Madiga, who takes it for a feast to his 
own house. The object of transporting the goddess 
to the lands of the next village is to transfer to that 
village the wrath of the deity, a precaution which does 
not show much faith in the temper of the goddess, nor 
much charity towards their neighbours ! 

Gudivada, near Masulipatam. A somewhat differ 
ent form of ceremonial prevails in some of the villages 
of the Telugu country nearer the coast. The village of 
Gudivada, about twenty miles from the important town 
of Masulipatam, may be taken as a good specimen of a 
well-to-do village in a prosperous district, and the 
ceremonies prevailing there are a fair sample of the 
cult of the village deities in these parts. 

The name of the village deity at Gudivada is 
Pallalamma. Her image is the figure of a woman 
with four arms, and a leopard s head under her right 
foot, carved in bas-relief on a flat stone about three 
feet high, standing in an open compound, surrounded 
by a low stone wall. The pujari, who is a Sudra, 
gave me a full account of the rites and ceremonies. 
Weekly offerings are made every Sunday, when the 
pujari washes the image with water and soap-nut 
seeds early in the morning, and smears it with turmeric 



WORSHIP IN THE TELUGU COUNTRY 55 

and kunkuma, offers incense, breaks a cocoanut, and 
cooks and presents to the image about a seer of rice, 
which he afterwards eats himself. The rice is provided 
daily by the villagers. Occasionally fowls and sheep 
are offered on the Sunday by villagers who have made 
vows in time of sickness or other misfortunes. When 
a sheep is sacrificed, it is first purified by washing. The 
animal is simply killed in front of the image by a Madiga, 
who cuts off its head with a large chopper. The 
blood is allowed to flow on the ground and nothing 
special is done with it. The head becomes the per 
quisite of the pujari, and the offerer takes away the 
carcass for a feast in his house. In many villages, 
both in the Telugu and Tamil districts, water is poured 
over the sheep s back to see whether it shivers. If 
it shivers, it is a sign that the goddess has accepted it. 1 
Where the people are economical, they keep on pouring 
water till it does shiver, to avoid the expense of pro 
viding a second victim, but, w r here they are more 
scrupulous, if it does not shiver, it is taken as a sign that 
the goddess will not accept it and it is taken away. 

A public festival is held whenever an epidemic 
breaks out. The headman of the village then gets a 
new earthenware pot, besmears it with turmeric and 
kunkuma and puts inside some clay bracelets, some 
necklaces, and ear-rings, three pieces of charcoal, three 
pieces of turmeric, three pieces of incense, a piece 
of dried cocoanut, a woman s cloth, and two annas 
worth of coppers a strange collection of miscellaneous 
charms and offerings. The pot is then hung up in a 
tree near the image, as a pledge that, if the epidemic 
disappears, the people will celebrate a festival. 

When it does disappear, a thatched shed of palmyra 
leaves is built near the image, and a special image of 
clay, adorned with turmeric and kunkuma, is put inside, 
and beneath it an earthen pot filled with buttermilk and 
boiled rice. This pot is also smeared with turmeric and 

1 For this widespread superstition see Sir Alfred Lyall, 
Asiatic St^^dies, i, 19. Cf. pp. 63, 68, 69, 73, 99, below. 



56 THE VILLAGE GODvS OF SOUTH INDIA 

kunkuma, adorned with margosa leaves, covered with an 
earthenware saucer, and carried in procession through 
the village during the day, to the exhilarating sound of 
pipes, horns, and tom-toms, by the village potter, who 
takes the rice and buttermilk for his perquisite and 
renews it every morning of the festival at the public 
expense. The duration of the festival depends on the 
amount of the subscriptions, but it always lasts for an 
odd number of days, excluding all numbers with a seven 
in them, e.g. 7, 17, 27, etc. During the night the barbers 
of the village chant the praises of the goddess, and the 
Madigas beat tom-toms near the image. 

On the night before the day appointed for the 
offering of animal sacrifices by the villagers, a male 
buffalo, called Devara Potu, i.e. devoted to the deity, 
is sacrificed on behalf of the whole village. First, the 
buffalo is washed with water, smeared with yellow 
turmeric and red kunkuma, and then garlanded with 
flowers and the leaves of the sacred margosa tree. It 
is brought before the image ; and a Madiga cuts off its 
head, if possible at one blow, over a heap of boiled 
rice, which becomes soaked with the blood. The right 
foreleg is then cut off and placed crosswise in its 
mouth, according to the widespread custom prevailing 
in South India, the fat of the entrails is smeared over 
the eyes and forehead, and the head is placed in front 
of the image. A lighted lamp is placed, not as in the 
other villages on the head itself, but on the heap of 
rice soaked with blood. This rice is then put into a 
basket ; and a Madiga, the village vctty or sweeper, 
carries it round the site of the village, sprinkling it on 
the ground as he goes. The whole village goes with 
him, but there is no music or tom-toms. The people 
shout out as they go "Poli! Poli! " i.e. "Food! Food!" 
and clap their hands and wave their sticks above their 
heads to keep off the evil spirits. The rice offered to 
the goddess, but not soaked with blood, is then distri 
buted to the people. What spirits the rice soaked in 
blood is supposed to feed is not clear, but the object of 
sprinkling the blood is evidently to ward off evil spirits 



WORSHIP IN THE TELUGU COUNTRY 57 

and prevent them from coming near the village, and 
apparently the present idea is that they will be satiated 
with rice and blood and not want to do any mischief. 
The original idea was possibly quite different ; but this 
seems to be the intention of the ceremony in modern 
times. 

On the next day, early in the morning, the clay 
image and the pot are washed and smeared afresh with 
turmeric and kunkuma. Incense and boiled rice are 
then offered as on other days, and the pot is taken in 
procession round the village. When this has been 
done, about midday, each householder brings his offer 
ing of boiled rice, cakes, fruits and flowers, and, in 
addition, the village as a whole contributes about two 
hundred or more seers of rice, which is boiled near the 
pandal. All these offerings are placed in a heap before 
the image. Then, first, a sheep or a buffalo is offered 
on behalf of the whole village. Having been duly 
washed, and smeared with turmeric and kunkuma, and 
decorated with margosa leaves, its head is cut off by a 
Madiga. The blood is allowed to flow on the ground, 
and some loose earth is thrown upon it to cover it up. 
The head is offered to the image by the headman of the 
village. After this various householders, even Brah- 
mans and Bunniahs, bring animals for sacrifice. All are 
killed by a Madiga, and then the heads are all presented 
and placed in a heap before the goddess. Sometimes 
an extraordinary number of animals is sacrificed on occa 
sions of this kind, as many as a thousand sheep on a 
single day. In a village like Gudivada the number of 
victims is, of course, far less. The question of prece 
dence in the offering of victims constantly gives rise to 
quarrels among the leading villagers. When I was 
once visiting Gudivada, there was a case pending be 
fore the tahsildar, i.e. the sub-divisional magistrate, 
between a zamindar, landowner, and a village munsiff, 
i.e. a village magistrate, about this knotty point. The 
heads are taken away by the pujaris, potters, washer 
men, barbers, Malas and Madigas, and others who take 
any official part in the sacrifice. The carcasses of the 



58 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

private sacrifices are taken away by the offerers, and 
that of the public victim belongs to the headman of the 
village. The rice, fruit, etc., are distributed among the 
various officials. The function lasts from about ten a.m. 
to five p.m. 

In the evening, a cart is brought to the image with 
nine pointed stakes standing upright in it, two at each 
of the four corners and one in the centre : on each stake 
a young pig, a lamb, or a fowl is impaled alive. A 
Mala, called a Pambala, i.e. hereditary priest, then sits 
in the cart dressed in female attire, holding in his hand 
the clay image of the goddess which was made for the 
festival. The cart is dragged with ropes to the extreme 
boundary of the village lands, and both cart and ropes 
are left beyond the boundary. The Pambalas take away 
the animals, which all die during the procession, as 
their share of the offerings. 

Living animals impaled in many villages. This 
cruel ceremony of impaling live animals is quite 
common in the eastern part of the Telugu country, 1 
and I have come across it in many villages that I 
have visited. The Rev. F. N. Alexander, the veteran 
C.M.S. missionary, who lived over fifty years at 
Ellore, told me that he witnessed it in the town 
of Ellore the first year that he went there, and wrote 
a letter to the Madras Mail describing it. As a result 
of his letter, the practice was forbidden by the 
Government. So now at Ellore the animals are tied on 
to the stakes without being impaled ; but in many 
villages near Ellore the custom still survives of impaling 
the unfortunate animals alive. Sometimes there are 
only four stakes on the cart, sometimes five, and some 
times more. It is not often that there are as many as 
nine. In one of the villages of the Kurnool district, I 
found that a similar barbarity was practised in connexion 
with the hook-swinging ceremony. On the fifth day of 
the festival in honour of Ahkalamma, a large car is 
constructed, with an arrangement of poles projecting 

> Cf. pp. 59, 65, 69 



WORSHIP IN THE TELUGU COUNTRY 59 

about 20 feet in the air. A sheep is then suspended 
from the pole by iron hooks fastened through the 
muscles of its back and a band round its middle, and 
swung round and round. Two or three of the older men 
in the village said that they had often seen men swing 
like this with iron hooks fastened into their backs, 1 and 
that it did not hurt. As soon as the sheep is swung 
up, buffaloes, sheep and goats are sacrificed, and the 
car is then dragged in procession through the village. 

A cruel pig sacrifice. Sometimes, when there is 
cattle disease, a pig is buried up to its neck at the 
boundary of the village, a heap of boiled rice is deposited 
near the spot, and then all the cattle of the village are 
driven over the unhappy pig. 2 It is not the custom at 
Gudivada to sprinkle anything on the cattle as they pass 
over the poor animal, as is done elsewhere. 

There is a remarkable parallel to this form of sacrifice 
in a description quoted by Mr. E. Thurston, in his 
Ethnographical Notes in Southern India, 3 of an ancient 
custom among the Lambadis, a wandering tribe of 
South India : 

" In former times, the Lambadis, before setting out on a 
journey, used to procure a little child and bury it in the ground 
up to its shoulders, and then drive their loaded bullocks over 
the unfortunate victim. In proportion to the bullocks thoroughly 
trampling the child to death, so their belief in a successful 
journey increased." 

It is possible that this custom of driving the cattle 
over the head of a buried pig may be connected with 
the worship of an agricultural goddess, since in ancient 
Greece the pig was sacred to agricultural deities, e.g. 
Aphrodite, Adonis, and Demeter ; but it may also be 
a survival of some former custom of infanticide or 
human sacrifice such as prevailed among the Lambadis. 

An old man in the Kurnool district once described 
to me the account that he had received from his fore- 

1 This is the practice in the Hindu dola-jatra, swing-festival, 
celebrated in honour of Durga, the wife of Siva. Cf. pp. 61, 76, 
82, 83. 

1 Seep. 53, 60. P. 507. 



60 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

fathers of the ceremonies observed when founding 
a new village. An auspicious site is selected and an 
auspicious day, and then in the centre of the site is dug 
a large hole, in which are placed different kinds of 
grain, small pieces of the five metals, gold, silver, 
copper, iron, and lead, and a large stone, called boddu- 
rayee, i.e. navel-stone, standing about three and a half 
feet above the ground, very like the ordinary boundary 
stones seen in the fields. And then, at the entrance 
of the village, in the centre of the main street, where 
most of the cattle pass in and out on their way to and 
from the fields, they dig another hole and bury a pig 
alive. This ceremony would be quite consistent with 
either of the explanations suggested as to the origin 
of pig-burying. The pig may be buried at the 
entrance to the village as the emblem of fertility and 
strength, to secure the prosperity of the agricultural 
community, the fertility of the fields, and the health 
and fecundity of the cattle. Or it may equally be 
a substitute for an original human sacrifice. The 
idea that a new building or institution must be inaugu 
rated by the sacrifice of a human life is very common 
all over India. To this day there is often a panic 
among the villagers who live near the banks of a 
river where a bridge is about to be built, because 
they think that one or more of their babies are sure 
to be required to bury under the foundations of the 
first pier. On one of my visits to Kalasapad, in the 
Cuddapah district, the missionary told me that, when 
a new ward was opened for their local mission dis 
pensary, no one would go into it, because the people 
imagined that the first to go in would be the needful 
sacrifice. Their fears were allayed by a religious 
service at the opening of the ward ; but had it been a 
Hindu hospital, probably a goat or a sheep would have 
been killed as a substitute for the human victim. 

The idea of substitution, too, is quite common in 
India. In the hook-swinging ceremony described above, 1 

1 P. 59. 



WORSHIP IN THE TELUGU COUNTRY 61 

it is common both in the Telugu and Tamil districts to 
substitute a sheep for a man, and to fasten the iron 
hooks in the muscles of its back. 

Alleged infanticide among Todas. I have been told 
that, among the Todas of the Nilgiri Hills, it was 
formerly the custom to place female children, whom it 
was not desired to rear, on the ground at the entrance of 
the mund, i.e. a group of huts, and drive buffaloes 
over them. If they survived this ordeal, they were 
allowed to live. 

It is only fair to add that the Todas themselves deny 
that this custom ever existed. To quote Mr. Thurston 
again :* 

" The practice of infanticide, as it prevailed among the Todas 
of the Nilgiris, is best summed up in the words of an aged Toda 
during an interview with Colonel Marshall (A Phrenologist 
amongst the Todas, 1873): I was a little boy when Mr. Sullivan 
(the first English pioneer of the Nilgiris) visited these moun 
tains. In those days it was the custom to kill children, but the 
practice has long died out, and now one never hears of it. I 
don t know whether it was wrong or not to kill them, but we 
were very poor, and could not support our children. Now every 
one has a mantle (putkfdi), but formerly there was only one for 
the whole family. We did not kill them to please any god, but 
because it was our custom. The mother never nursed the child, 
and the parents did not kill it. Do you think we could kill it 
ourselves ? Those tell lies who say we laid it before the open 
buffalo-pen so that it might be run over and killed by the animals. 
We never did such things, and it is all nonsense that we drowned 
it in buffalo s milk. Boys were never killed only girls ; not 
those who were sickly and deformed that would be a sin ; but, 
when we had one girl, or in some families two girls, those that 
followed were killed. An old woman (kelachi) used to take the 
child immediately it was born, and close its nostrils, ears and 
mouth with a cloth thus (here pantomimic action). It would 
shortly droop its head, and go to sleep. We then buried it in 
the ground. The kelachi got a present of four annas (4d.) for 
the deed. The old man s remark about the cattle-pen refers to 
the Malagasy custom of placing a new-born child at the entrance 
of a cattle-pen, and then driving the cattle over it, to see whether 
they would trample on it or not." 

Masulipatam. At Masulipatam, where ceremonies 
are performed very similar to those at Gudivada 

1 Op. cit., p. 507. 



62 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

during an epidemic, a washerman carries the earthen 
ware pot, half full of buttermilk and adorned with 
margosa leaves, round the village to the sound of tom 
toms. As it goes round, the washerman stops at each 
house and the wife comes out and pours water beside 
the pot on the ground and does reverence to the pot, 
imploring the goddess not to let any evil spirit come to 
the house ; and then she puts more rice and buttermilk 
into it. When it is full, it is taken back to the shrine 
and another brought in its place. As this procession 
continues for fifteen days, the accumulation of rice and 
buttermilk must be considerable. It is ultimately 
consumed by the washermen, potters, Malas and 
Madigas, who take part in the festival. The real 
sacrifice begins on the sixteenth day and lasts for a 
month. Cotton-thread and all the rice and buttermilk 
collected from the villagers are offered to the image. 
The images themselves are smeared with turmeric, and 
dots of kunkuma are put on them, and finally on the last 
day a male buffalo, called Devara-Potu, i.e. devoted to 
the goddess, is brought before the image and its head 
cut off by the head Madiga of the town. The blood is 
caught in a vessel and sprinkled over some boiled rice, 
and then the head, with the right foreleg in the mouth, 
is placed before the shrine on a flat wicker basket, with 
the rice and blood on another basket just below it. A 
lighted lamp is placed on the head, and then another 
Madiga carries it on his own head round the village, 
with a new cloth dipped in the blood of the victim tied 
round his neck. This is regarded here and elsewhere 
as a very inauspicious and dangerous office ; and the 
headman of the village has to offer considerable 
inducements to persuade a Madiga to undertake it. 
Ropes are tied round his body and arms and held 
fast by men walking behind him, as he goes round, 
to prevent his being carried off by evil spirits, and 
limes are cut in half and thrown into the air, so that 
the demons may catch at them instead of at the man. 
It is believed that gigantic demons sit on the tops of tall 
trees ready to swoop down and carry him away, in 



WORSHIP IN THE TELUGU COUNTRY 63 

order to get the rice and the buffalo s head. The idea 
of carrying the head and rice round a village, so the 
people said, is to draw a kind of cordon on every side 
of it and prevent the entrance of the evil spirits. 
Should any one in the town refuse to subscribe for the 
festival, his house is omitted from the procession, and 
left to the tender mercies of the devils. This proces 
sion is called bali haranam j 1 and in this district mams, 
rent-free lands, are held from Government by certain 
families of Madigas for performing it. Besides the 
buffalo, large numbers of sheep and goats and fowls are 
sacrificed, each householder giving at least one animal. 
The head Madiga who kills the animals takes the carcass 
and distributes the flesh among the members of his 
family. Often cases come into the courts to decide 
who has the right to kill them. As the sacrifice cannot 
wait for the tedious processes of the law, the elders of 
the village settle the question at once, pending an 
appeal to the courts. But in the town of Masulipatam, a 
Madiga is specially licensed by the Municipality for the 
purpose, and all disputes are avoided. 

Cocanada. At Cocanada there is only one Grama- 
Devata, Nukalamma (from Nuku, a Tamil word, mean 
ing "to beat") ; but she is very ill-tempered, they 
told me, and gives much trouble. Curiously enough, 
the present pujan is a woman of the fisherman caste. 
The office was hereditary in her family and she is 
the only surviving member of it. A male relative 
acts as deputy-pujari. Offerings are made to Nuka 
lamma every day, doubtless on account of her temper. 
One custom I found observed here, which is not un 
common in these parts. When a victim s head has 
been cut off, it is put before the shrine and water poured 
on it. The offerer then waits to see whether the 
mouth opens. If it does, it is a sign that the sacrifice 
is accepted. 2 Another ceremony observed here is 
significant and, doubtless, a relic of the primitive idea 

1 Sanksrit for " presentation of the offering." 

2 See p. 55 n. 1, above. 



64 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

of sacrifice. As soon as the victim is killed, the 
offerer dips his finger in the blood and puts it on his 
own forehead. 

The annual festival of this goddess lasts for a whole 
month, ending on the New Year s day of the Telugu 
calendar. During this festival the procession of pots 
is observed with special ceremony. Six brass pots, 
each about two feet high, with the figure of a cobra 
springing from below the neck and rising over the 
mouth of the pot, are draped with women s cloths 
and carried round the town on men s head. Nothing 
is put inside them, but, as they go round, the women 
of each house come out, pour water on the feet of the 
bearers, and make offerings of rice and fruit. These are 
solemnly presented to the pots by the bearers, and some 
powder is applied to the two small feet that project 
at the base of each pot, and form a sort of frame fitting 
on the bearer s head. The bearer then takes a little 
of the turmeric powder, that is already on the foot 
of the pot, and puts it into the dish in which the offering 
was brought, with a few margosa leaves from a bundle 
that he carries with him. The dish is returned to the 
woman who offered the gifts, which become the property 
of the pujari. The women and children of the family 
mark their foreheads with the turmeric, and put the 
margosa leaves in their hair. This is called Antma- 
vari-Prasadam* As they go round, the pujaris dance 
to the sound of tom-toms. 

On the last day of the festival, when a buffalo is 
sacrificed, a curious ceremony takes place which is 
said to be very common in the villages of this district. 
After the head is cut off by the vetty, 2 who is a 
Madiga, the blood is collected in a basin and nine 
kinds of grain and gram 3 are put into it. The basin 
is then put before the idol inside the shrine, and the 

1 The turmeric and the margosa leaves are a gift of grace 
(Sanskrit Prasada, grace) from the goddess. Food and water 
from the table of a Hindu god given to the worshippers in the 
temple are called prasada . 

2 See above p. 56. Gram is coarse lentils. 



WORSHIP IN THE TELUGU COUNTRY 65 

doors of the shrine are kept shut^for three days. On 
the fourth day the doors are opened, the coagulated 
mass of blood, grain, and gram is carefully washed, 
and the grain and gram are separated on the ground 
behind the shrine, in order to see which of the various 
kinds of grain has sprouted. All the ryots eagerly 
assemble to watch the result, and whichever is found 
to have sprouted, is regarded as marked out by the 
goddess as the right kind of grain to sow that year. 
This method of determining which crop to sow is 
common in both the Godavari and Masulipatam districts. 
In these sacrifices to Nukalamma, too, the application 
of the blood is specially noticeable. As soon as the 
victim is killed, a small quantity of the blood is smeared 
on the sides of the door-posts of the shrine ; the 
deputy-pujari dips his finger in the blood and applies it 
to his forehead ; then all the other people present 
do the same ; and afterwards some boiled rice and some 
turmeric powder are mixed with the blood, and a little 
of the mixture is sprinkled on the head of the Madiga 
who holds the basin to catch the blood. 

When an epidemic of cholera breaks out, another 
goddess, called Maridiamma, is installed in the place of 
the Nukalamma. A log of margosa wood, about three 
feet high and six inches in diameter, is cut and roughly 
carved at the top into the shape of a head, and then 
fixed in the ground with a pandal of leaves and cloths 
over it. Then the procession of the earthen pot half 
filled with buttermilk and rice is conducted, very much 
in the same way as at Masulipatam, 1 every day till the 
epidemic subsides. After that, some ten or twelve 
small carts are made, about six feet square, with three 
pointed stakes standing up on each side, on which live 
animals are impaled, as in other parts of the Telugu 
country. 2 The carts are partly filled with boiled rice 
and curry stuff prepared at the shrine, the blood of the 
victims sacrificed being poured over the rice. I was 
told that live animals were only impaled if a cart did 

1 See p. 62 above, 3 See p. 58 above. 



66 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

not move properly as it was dragged to the boundary, 
since that is regarded as a sign that the goddess is angry 
and needs to be appeased. 

Ellore, The number of victims slaughtered at some 
of these festivals is enormous. At Ellore, which is a 
town of considerable size and importance, I was told 
that at the annual festival of Mahalakshmi about a 
a thousand animals are killed in one day, rich people 
sending as many as twenty or thirty. The blood then 
flows down into the fields behind the place of sacrifice 
in a regular flood, and carts full of sand are brought to 
cover up what remains on the spot. The heads are 
piled up in a heap about fifteen feet high in front of the 
shrine, and a large earthen basin about one-and-a-half 
feet in diameter is then filled with gingelly oil and put on 
the top of the heap, a thick cotton wick being placed in 
the basin and lighted. The animals are all worshipped 
with the usual namaskaram, i.e. folded hands raised to 
the forehead, before they are killed. This slaughter of 
victims goes on all day. 

At midnight about twenty or twenty-five buffaloes 
are sacrificed. Their heads are cut off by a Madiga 
pujari and with their carcasses are thrown upon large 
heaps of rice which have been presented to the goddess, 
till the rice is soaked with blood. 

The subsequent ceremonies illustrate again the 
varieties of local custom. The rice is collected in about 
ten or fifteen large baskets, and, instead of being carried 
by a Madiga, is carried on a large cart drawn by buffaloes 
or bullocks, with the Madiga pujari seated on it. As 
the cart moves along, Madigas sprinkle the rice on the 
streets and on the walls of the houses shouting " Poli ! 
Poli ! " ("Food! Food ! "). A large body of men of 
different castes, 6udras, Kommas, andOutcastes, go with 
the procession : but only the Madigas and Malas (the two 
sections of the Outcastes) shout "Poli," the rest follow 
ing in silence. They have only two or three torches to 
show them the way, and no tom-toms nor music. 
Apparently the idea is that, if they make a noise or 
display a blaze of light, they will attract the evil spirits, 



WORSHIP IN THE TELUGU COUNTRY 67 

who will swoop down on them and do them some injury; 
though in other villages it is supposed that a great deal 
of noise and flourishing of sticks will keep the evil 
spirits at bay. Before this procession starts, the heads 
of the buffaloes are placed in front of the shrine, with 
the right foreleg in the mouth, the fat from the 
entrails smeared about half an inch thick over the 
whole face, and a large earthen lamp on the top of each 
head. The Pambalas 1 play tom-toms and chant a long 
story about Garigamma till daybreak. About eight a.m. 
they put the buffalo heads with the lighted lamps upon 
them into separate baskets ; and these are carried in 
procession through the town to the sound of tom-toms. 
All castes follow, shouting and singing. In former 
times, I was told, there was a good deal of fighting and 
disturbance during this procession, but now the police 
maintain order. When the procession arrives at the 
municipal limits, the heads are thrown over the 
boundary, and left there. The people then all bathe in 
the canal and return home. 

On the last day of the festival, which, I may remark, 
lasts for about three months, a small cart is made of 
margosa wood and a stake is fixed at each of the four 
corners. A pig and a fowl are tied to each stake, while 
a fruit, called dubakaya, is impaled on it instead of the 
animal. A yellow cloth, sprinkled with the blood of 
the buffaloes, is tied round the sides of the cart, and 
some margosa leaves are tied round the cloth. A 
Pambala sits on the cart, to which are fastened two 
large ropes, each about 200 yards long. Then men of 
all castes, without distinction, lay hold of the ropes and 
drag the cart round the town to the sound of tom-toms 
and music. Finally it is brought outside the municipal 
limits and left there, the Outcastes taking away the 
animals and fruits. 

Sometimes, I was told, animals are sacrificed to 
Gahgamma by the people in Ellore in the courtyards 
of their own houses. They then clean the wall of 

See p. 58 above. 



68 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

the house outside with cow-dung and make three 
horizontal lines with kunkuma (a red paste of turmeric 
and lime), with a dot above and below, and a semi 
circle on the right side with a dot in the middle, thus: 



The symbol on the right represents the sun and moon: 
that on the left is the Saivite sectarian mark. They 
sacrifice to these symbols sheep, goats, and fowls. It 
is curious that, in these private sacrifices at home, they 
pour water on the sheep and goats to see whether they 
shiver, as a sign of acceptance, 1 though this is not done 
in the public sacrifices at Ellore. 

Dharmaja-Gudem, near Ellore, At a village called 
Dharmaja-Gudem, about sixteen miles from Ellore, 
while the main features of the festivals are the same 
as those found elsewhere, there are two or three 
peculiarities, which deserve notice. The ordinary 
grama-devatas of the village are Ellaramma, Gangamma, 
Mutyalamma, and Ravelamma, who are represented by 
four stone pillars about six feet high, with figures of 
women carved on them, standing in an open field on the 
outskirts of the village : but when an epidemic breaks 
out, Mutyalamma, Gangamma, Ankamma and Mahalaksh- 
miamma are the deities propitiated, and special images 
are made of them. Those of the first three are made of 
clay, but that of Mahalakshmiamma is made of turmeric 
kneaded into a paste. Then, again, it is noticeable 
that a Brahman acts as pujari of Mahalakshmi, a 
washerman as pujari of Gangamma, and a potter as 
pujari of Ankamma. The Brahman pujari presides 
over the worship for the greater part of the festival, 
which lasts for about three months, and during that 
time the people come almost every day and offer 
flowers, fruits, cocoanuts, camphor and incense, but no 
animnl sacrifices. All this time, too, some nautch- 

1 See p. 55 above, 



WORSHIP IN THE TELJGU COUNTRY 69 

girls come and dance in a booth erected in front of the 
image and work themselves up into a state of frenzy, 
during which they are supposed to be inspired by the 
deities, and utter oracles to the worshippers. When 
the epidemic begins to abate, the Brahman pujari 
closes his part of the proceedings and departs. 

Then, on that afternoon and evening, animal sacri 
fices are offered under the booth. On the first animal 
killed, which is generally a goat, water is poured from 
a brass vessel, to see if it shivers. 1 If it does, it is 
taken as a good omen that the goddess is propitiated 
and the disease will disappear. Then other animals are 
brought and, in accordance with a very common division 
of functions in the Telugu country, a washerman kills 
the sheep, goats, and fowls, and a Madiga the buffaloes. 
The heads of the sheep and goats, as well as of the 
buffaloes, have the right forelegs put crosswise in the 
mouths, the faces smeared with fat from the entrails, 
and a lighted lamp placed above them. The blood is 
caught in a basket full of boiled rice, and the rice and 
blood are sprinkled round the village, while a Madiga 
carries on his own head the head of a buffalo exactly as 
is done elsewhere. Here, too, great care is taken to 
prevent any person from another village taking away 
any of the rice and blood, lest the other village should 
get all the benefit of the sacrifice, and evils of all kinds 
descend on the unhappy villagers who have offered it. 
The ceremony of impaling live animals on stakes fixed 
round a wooden car, 2 and dragging them off to the 
boundary of the village is also practised here, 

Bhimadole, near Ellore. At another village, called 
Bhimadole, about twenty miles from Ellore, I came 
across one of the few instances I have met with of any 
direct connexion between the harvest and the worship 
of a village goddess. There is an annual festival held 
there about harvest time, in November or December, 
lasting one day, which is always a Tuesday. About half 
a ton of rice is boiled in the middle of the village, taken 

1 See page 55. 2 See p. 58. 



70 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

to the shrine and presented in a heap before the image, 
with a lighted lamp on the top of it, made of rice flour 
kneaded into a paste, and holding about one pint of oil. 1 
Some toddy is poured on the ground to the east of the 
rice by the washerman ; incense and camphor are burnt ; 
while the people make namaskaram (salutation with 
folded hands raised to the forehead^ to the image. As 
many as two hundred sheep and goats are then killed, 
and fowls are brought by the poorer people. In this 
festival, the rice soaked in the blood of the victims is 
not sprinkled on the streets of the village nor over the 
houses, but each ryot gives a handful of it to one of his 
field servants (an Outcaste), who takes and sprinkles it 
over his master s fields. Three handfuls of the crop 
are cut on the same day to inaugurate the harvest. No 
buffaloes are sacrificed during this festival. 

On the other hand, when an epidemic breaks 
out, there is a special festival, in which five or six buffaloes 
are sacrificed as well as about three hundred sheep and 
goats. The buffaloes are killed last of all. One special 
buffalo, called Pcdda-Veta, great sacrifice, is reserved 
to the end, and killed at about ten p.m. Nothing special 
is done with the blood of the other buffaloes nor with that 
of the sheep and goats, but the blood of the Pedda-Veta 
is allowed to flow on to some of the rice, as soon as 
the head is severed, and both head and carcass are 
placed upon the rice heap. The head, as usual, has the 
right foreleg put in the mouth, with fat smeared over 
the face and a lighted lamp above it. 

At about eleven p.m. the head is carried by aMala, not 
by a Madiga in this village, on his own head three times 
round the boundaries of the village site, and the rice 
soaked in blood is sprinkled by the Malas on the ground, 
as they go, and on any cattle they happen to meet, 
accompanied by the same weird and excited procession 
as elsewhere. 

The illustration facing this page represents a shrine 
of Poshamma, a goddess worshipped by the Malas. On 
the top of the shrine stands an earthenware lamp. 

1 Seep. 39. 



PLATE IX 




Pi. AT it X 




KrTTANMKYAR 



CHAPTER V 

MODES OF WORSHIP IN THE CANARESE 
COUNTRY 

THE Canarese are closely allied ethnologically to the 
Telugus, and we should naturally expect, therefore, to 
find a close connexion between the ceremonies used by 
the two peoples in the worship of their village god 
desses, A brief account of the ceremonies used in 
different parts of the Canarese country will show how 
far this is actually the case. 

Bellary District. In the Bellary district Durgamma, 1 
Sunkalamma, and Uramma are very commonly wor 
shipped. Uramma means simply the village goddess, 
and is equivalent to the general term grama-devata. 
Her festival is not celebrated annually, but when there 
is a specially good crop, or when cholera or plague 
break out. The following account of it was given me 
by an Asadi of a village near Bellary, and may be taken 
as describing fairly the general type of such festivals 
and sacrifices throughout the district. 

We will suppose that cholera has broken out in the 
village. The villagers then make vows to offer the 
sacrifice if the epidemic ceases. The day appointed 
for the festival is invariably a Tuesday, and on the 
previous Tuesday a basin-shaped earthen lamp, filled 
with oil and furnished with a stout cotton wick, is 
placed in the house of the Reddy (village magistrate) 
and kept lighted till the festival and all the ceremonies 
are ended. The carpenter, also, prepares beforehand 
a wooden image of the goddess and a small cart, while 

1 Durga is one of the many names of Kali, the wife of iva. 



72 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

a pandal (booth) of leaves and cloths, with a raised 
platform inside and festoons of flowers hung in front, 
is made ready in an open space in the village. On the 
appointed Tuesday a sheep or goat is first sacrificed at 
the carpenter s house, and the carcass given to the 
tali&ris (village servants, generally Boyas by caste). 

The image is then put on the cart about sunset, and 
taken by the villagers in procession to the booth. In 
some villages the washerman lays clean cloths on the 
ground, so that the men who carry the image from the 
cart to the booth may not tread on the earth. Then the 
people proceed to the house of the flower-seller, who is 
by caste a Gira and generally a Liftg&yat 1 by religion, 
and bring thence a kind of cradle, made of pith and 
flowers, together with a pot of toddy, a looking-glass, 
some limes, and other articles used in worship. The 
cradle and looking-glass are hung up in front of the 
booth, and the other things are placed in front of the 
image. A looking-glass, I was told, is considered very 
auspicious, and is used by all castes in various religious 
ceremonies. Next, the lighted lamp is brought in 
procession from the Reddy s house and placed before 
the image by some man belonging to the Reddy s family. 
Four measures of boiled rice are then poured in a heap 
before the image, while flowers, betel leaves, nuts, 
plantains, and cocoanuts are offered, and camphor and 
incense burnt. 

When the preliminaries have been duly performed, 
the buffalo, which, from the close of the last festival, 
has been dedicated to the goddess and reserved for 
sacrifice, is brought from the Outcaste quarters to the 
pandal in solemn procession, the Asadis, some ten or 
twelve in number, dancing before it and singing songs 
in honour of the goddess. It has been kept the whole 
day without food or water and is garlanded with flowers 
and smeared with turmeric and red kunkuma. This 

1 A South Indian Sivaite sect, named Lingayats, because 
each wears a small Linga (Siva s phallic emblem) hung round 
his neck in a reliquary. 



WORSHIP IN THE CANARESE COUNTRY 73 

buffalo is called Gauda-Kona or husband-buffalo, and, 
according to the traditional story, represents the Out- 
caste husband who pretended to be a Brahman and 
married the Brahman girl, now worshipped as Uramma. 
A fresh buffalo is always dedicated immediately after 
the festival, lest the goddess should be left a widow. 
When it arrives at the pandal, it is laid on its side upon 
the ground and its head is cut off by one of the Madigas 
with the sacrificial chopper. Its neck is placed over a 
small pit, which has been dug to receive the blood, and 
the entrails are taken out and placed in the pit with the 
blood. The right leg is then cut off below the knee and 
put cross-wise in the mouth, some fat from the entrails 
is placed on the forehead and a small earthenware lamp, 
about as large as a man s two hands, with a wick as 
thick as his thumb, is placed on the fat and kept there 
lighted, till the festival is over. Some of the blood and 
entrails are then mixed with some boiled rice and placed 
in a new basket, which a Madiga, stripped naked, places 
on his head and takes round the boundary of the village 
fields, accompanied by a washerman carrying a torch, 
and followed by a few of the villagers. He sprinkles 
the rice, blood, and entrails all round the boundary. 
The greatest care is taken to see that none of the blood 
from the pit in front of the pandal, where the buffalo 
was killed, is taken away by any one from another 
village, as they believe that in that case all the benefits 
of the sacrifice would be transferred to the other village. 
In former days men who stealthily took away the blood 
were chased and murdered. As this cannot be done 
under British rule, a strict patrol is kept all round the 
place where the blood lies, and no one from any other 
village is allowed to loiter near the spot. 

Next day, Wednesday, about four p.m., villagers, who 
have made vows, bring sheep for sacrifice and offerings 
of boiled rice, fruits, cocoanuts, etc., with incense and 
camphor. I was told that fowls were not offered to 
Uramma. After the sheep has been killed, the head 
is cut off and water is poured on the nose ; if the 
mouth opens, it is regarded as a good omen. The 



74 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

carcasses are taken away by the offerers to their own 
homes as a feast for the family. The heads are all put 
together and distributed to those of the village artisans 
and officials who are meat-eaters. 

On Thursday, about four p.m., the flesh of the buffalo, 
which was sacrificed on Tuesday evening and must be 
by this time rather high, is cooked in front of the 
pandal, and part of it is first offered to the goddess, 
with some boiled rice, on five separate leaves. The 
Asadis make the offering with songs and dances, the 
breaking of coccanuts, and burning of incense and 
camphor, and prostrations on the ground, shasthan- 
gam. For this part of their service they receive 
twenty pies (about Ifcl.), four pies for each leaf, not 
an extravagant sum. Then they take the five leaves 
away and eat the flesh and rice at some distance from 
the pandal, where it was cooked. These offerings 
to the goddess must be eaten on the spot, and are not 
allowed to be taken home. The rest of the flesh is 
given to the Outcastes and taliaris, who cook and 
eat some of it on the spot and take away the remainder. 
After sunset the goddess is put on the wooden cart 
and dragged in procession to the boundary of the 
village, an Asadi walking in the front and carry 
ing on his head the head of the buffalo. When they 
come to the limit of the village lands, they leave the 
image on their own side of the boundary and there it 
stays. This ceremony ends the festival. 

Bellary Town. Somewhat similar festivals are held 
periodically to propitiate Sunkalamma, the goddess of 
small-pox and measles, and Maramma, the goddess of 
cholera. In the town of Bellary there is a shrine of 
Durgamma 1 which consists only of an ant-hill, with a 
plain stone shrine about thirty feet long, six deep and 
eight or ten high built over it. The story goes that an 
old woman many years ago was worshipping an image 
of Durgamma on this spot, when the goddess appeared 
to her and said that she was Durgamma of Bellary, that 

1 See p. 71, n. 1, above. 



WORSHIP IN THE CANARESE COUNTRY 75 

she lived in the ant-hill, and ought to be worshipped 
there. The ant-hill grew in seize in the course of years 
and a shrine was built. The present pujari, who is a 
Golla or milkman by caste, says that in the time of his 
father, about forty years ago, a large snake lived in the 
ruined wall behind the shrine, and used to come out and 
eat eggs and milk placed for it before the shrine. 
Apparently it very rarely makes its appearance now. 

There is an annual festival to this goddess in 
Bellary, when male buffaloes, sheep, goats, and fowls 
are offered in sacrifice. When a buffalo is sacrificed, 
the right leg is, as usual, cut off and placed in its 
mouth, and fat is smeared over its forehead, with a 
lighted lamp on the top. Then the offerer stands with 
folded hands in front of the goddess asking for a boon ; 
and, if at that time the month of the buffalo opens, he 
thinks that his prayer has been granted ; otherwise he 
goes away disappointed. The tahsildar of Bellary 
conjectured that the practice of putting the right foreleg 
in the mouth was originally connected with this last 
ceremony, its object being to prevent rigor mortis set 
ting in at once, and to keep the mouth open and the jaws 
twitching, so as to deceive the superstitious. But this 
does not seem to be a likely explanation of so wide 
spread a custom. The skins of the buffaloes offered in 
sacrifice are used for the drums employed in worship, 
and the carcasses are given to the Outcastes and taliaris 
in the vicinity of the shrine. People who do not 
approve of the slaughter of animals cut off the right 
ear of a goat or sheep and, after carrying it round the 
temple, offer it to the pujari. The blood of animals 
offered in sacrifice in Bellary is not sprinkled round 
either the shrine or the town. People who offer animal 
sacrifices also offer boiled rice with them. The rice is 
heaped on leaves in front of the shrine, turmeric and 
kunkuma are sprinkled over it, and then it is distributed 
to the people present. Tuesdays and Fridays are 
regarded as specially suitable days for the worship of 
this deity and are observed as days of fasting by the 
pujaris of the shrine. 



76 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

About February every year the hook-swinging fes 
tival is celebrated in connexion with the worship of 
Durgamma. 1 Originally devotees swung from the top 
of a high pole by hooks fastened through the muscles of 
their backs ; but in these days only an effigy is swung 
from the pole. It is quite common, however, for 
devotees to come to the shrine with silver pins fastened 
through their cheeks. These pins are about six inches 
long, and rectangular in shape. They are thrust through 
both cheeks, and then fastened, just like a safety-pin. 
The devotee comes to the temple with his cheeks pierced 
in this fashion, and with a lighted lamp in a brass dish 
on his head. On his arrival before the shrine, the lamp 
is placed on the ground, and the pin removed and offered 
to the goddess. I was told that the object of this cere 
mony is to enable the devotee to come to the shrine 
with a concentrated mind ! 

It was also formerly the custom for women to come 
to the shrine clad only in twigs of the margosa tree, 
prostrate themselves before the goddess, and then 
resume their normal clothing. But this is now only 
done by children, the grown-up women putting the 
margosa branches over a cloth wrapped round their 
loins. 

The ceremonies performed in the Mysore State, 
further south, do not materially differ from those already 
described, though they seem in some places to have 
been greatly influenced by sun-worship. 

Bangalore. In Bangalore there is a shrine of 
Mahesvaramma, at a village near the Maharajah s palace. 
The popularity of the shrine seems to have declined in 
recent years, but daily offerings of fruit and flowers, 
camphor and incense are still made, and on Tuesdays 
and Fridays people sometimes bring fowls and sheep to 
offer to the goddess. When there has been illness in a 
house, or when, for some other reason, special vows 
have been made, women often come to the shrine with 
a silver safety-pin thrust through their cheeks, as is 

1 See p. 59, n. 1, above. 



PLATE XI 




PLATE XII 




INTKRIOR OF SHRINE OF I LAGI! E-AM M A . BANGALORE 

77 



WORSHIP IN THE CANARESE COUNTRY 77 

the custom for men at Bellary. They offer fruit and 
flowers, prostrate themselves on the ground before the 
image, then take out the pin and present it to the 
goddess. 

In front of the shrine, in an open space across the 
road, about fifteen yards off, stands a block of granite 
like a thick milestone rounded above, with a small 
hollow on the top, and a female figure without 
arms, representing Doddamma, the sister and com 
panion of Mahesvaramma. The pujari pours the 
curds they bring into the hollow on the top of the 
stone, and smears the image with turmeric and kun- 
kuma, puts a garland round the stone and breaks a 
cocoanut before it. Doddamma seems to be treated as 
a younger sister of the goddess, whom it is politic to 
propitiate, though with inferior honours. 

An annual festival is held in this village after 
harvest. A special clay image is made by the gold 
smith from the mud of the village tank and a canopy 
is erected in a spot where four lanes meet, and decorated 
with tinsel and flowers. The goldsmith takes the image 
from his house, and deposits it beneath the canopy. 
The festival lasts three days. On the first day the 
proceedings begin at about two p.m., the washerman 
acting as pujari. He is given about two seers of rice, 
which he boils, and at about five p.m. brings and spreads 
before the image. Then he pours curds and turmeric 
over the image, probably to avert the evil eye, and 
prostrates himself. The villagers next bring rice, 
fruits, flowers, incense and camphor, and firati, i.e, 
small lamps made of rice-flour paste, each with oil in it 
and a lighted wick. These are very commonly used in 
the Canarese country. One arati is waved by the head 
of each household before the clay image, another before 
the shrine of Mahesvaramma, another before a shrine 
of Munesvara about two furlongs off, and a fourth at 
home to his own household deity. During these 
ceremonies music is played, and tom-toms are sounded 
without ceasing. After this ceremony any Sudras, who 
have made vows, kill sheep and fowls in their own 



78 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

homes and then feast on them, while the women pierce 
their cheeks with silver pins, and go to worship at the 
shrine of Mahesvaramma. At about nine p.m. the Madi 
gas, who are esteemed the left-hand section of the Out- 
castes, come and sacrifice a male buffalo, called devara 
kona, i.e. consecrated buffalo, which has been bought by 
subscription and left to roam free about the village 
under the charge of the Toti, or village watchman. On 
the day of the sacrifice it is brought before the image, 
and the Toti cuts off its head with the sacrificial 
chopper. The right foreleg is also cut off and put 
crosswise in the mouth, and the head is then put before 
the image with an earthen lamp alight on the top of it. 
The blood is cleaned up by the sweepers at once, to 
allow the other villagers to approach the spot ; but the 
head remains there facing the image till the festival is 
over. The Madigas take away the carcass and hold a 
feast in their quarter of the village. 

On the second day there are no public offerings, but 
each household makes a feast and feeds as many people 
as it can. On the third day there is, first, a procession 
of the image of Mahesvaramma, seated on her wooden 
horse, and that of Munesvara from the neighbouring 
shrine, round the village. They stop at each house, 
and the people offer fruits and flowers but no animals. 

At about five p.m. the washerman takes up the clay 
image of the grama-devata, goes with it in procession 
to the tank, accompanied by all the people, to the 
sound of pipes and tom-toms, walks into the tank about 
knee-deep, and there deposits the image and leaves it. 

Kempapura Agrahara. This is the common type 
of festival held in honour of the grama-devata in all the 
villages round about Bangalore, whatever special deity 
may be worshipped, allowing, of course, for the varia 
tions of detail which are found everywhere. In one 
small village with a big name, viz. Kempapura 
Agrahara, where Pujamma is worshipped, the pujari of 
the shrine has nothing to do with the buffalo sacrifice 
during the annual festival. That ceremony is per 
formed by the Madigas alone. The blood of this victim 



WORSHIP IN THE CANARESE COUNTRY 79 

is mixed with some boiled rice in a large earthen pot, 
and taken at night round the village by the Toti, and 
sprinkled on the ground. The Madigas go with him 
carrying torches and beating tom-toms. The object of 
this ceremony is, as usual, to keep off evil spirits. 

Yelahanka. Pujamma is especially the goddess of 
the Madigas in these parts, and the buffalo sacrifice 
forms an important part of the annual festival whenever 
she is worshipped. At a group of villages some ten 
miles from Bangalore, near Yelahanka, I found that she 
was represented by no image, but by a small earthen 
lamp, which is always kept lighted. 

Shrine near Bangalore. At one shrine on the out 
skirts of Bangalore, where there are seven god 
desses, viz. Annamma, the presiding goddess, Chandes- 
varamma, Mayesvaramma, Maramma (the goddess 
of cholera), Udalamma (goddess of swollen necks), 
Kokkalamma (goddess of coughs), and Sukhajamma 
(goddess of small-pox and measles), the fire-walk 
ing ceremony forms an important part of the annual 
festival, which lasts for ten days. A trench is dug 
in front of the shrine about thirty feet long, five 
feet wide and one-and-a-half feet deep, and washed with 
a solution of cow-dung, to purify it. About thirty seers 
of boiled rice are then brought on the fifth day of the 
festival, and offered to the goddess before the trench. 
It is all put into the trench and some ten seers of curds 
are poured over it and then distributed to the people, 
who eat some on the spot and some at home. A cart 
load of firewood is then spread over the trench, set 
alight and left to burn for about three hours, till the 
wood becomes a mass of red-hot embers. When all is 
ready, the people assemble, and the pujari, whose turn 
it is to conduct the worship, first bathes to purify 
himself, and then, amid the deafening din of trumpets, 
tom-toms, and cymbals, and the clapping of hands, 
walks with bare feet slowly and deliberately over the 
glowing embers the whole length of the trench towards 
the shrine of the seven goddesses. After him about 
thirty or forty women walk over the red-hot embers 



80 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

with lighted aratis on their heads. Such is the power 
of the goddess, the people told me, that no one is 
injured. The pujari of the shrine declared positively 
that the people put no oil nor anything else on their 
feet when they walk over. 

Mysore City. At Mysore City, where the fire- walking 
ceremony is also performed, I asked three men who 
had walked over the trench why they were not hurt, 
and their reply was that people who were without sin 
were never hurt ! I can only say that in this case their 
faces sadly belied their characters. 

The following account of the worship of village 
deities in the City of Mysore, and the note on the 
worship of village deities in the Canarese country 
generally, was kindly given to me by the late Mr. 
Ramakrishna Rao, then palace officer at Mysore : 

The Maris of Mysore are said to be seven in 
number, and all the seven are sisters : 

(1) Bisal Mari (the sun); 

(2) Goonal Mari; 

(3) Kel Mari (the earthen pot); 

(4) Yeeranagere Mari ; 

(5) Hiridevathi (the eldest sister) ; 

(6) Chammandamma ; 

(7) Uttahnahaliamma. 

Of the seven Maris, Hiridevathi is said to be the 
eldest. Every year the Mari Jatra (i.e. festival) is 
held, generally in the month of February. It lasts for 
about four weeks, and consists of the following : 

(1) Mari Saru; 

(2) Mari Made ; 

(3) Mari Sidi ; 

(4) Kelammana Habba ; 
each taking nearly a week s time. 

(1) Mari Saru. On Sunday of the first week of 
the Mari Jatra, at about six p.m., the people and pujaris, 
called Toreyars, collect at a consecrated place in the 
fort (the place now used is a little to the east of the 
southern entrance to the palace), cook rice there, and 
colour the cooked rice red with the blood of a sheep or 



PLATE XIII 




IMAGE OF Hf LIAMMA IN VILLAGE NEAR MYSORE CITY 



PLATE XIV 




1MAGK OF GODDESS, \VO KS H I I l K I) KSI KC IALLV 
BY THK GOLDSMITHS OF MYSORE CITY 



WORSHIP IN THE CANARESE COUNTRY 81 

goat killed on the spot. After offering the rice to the 
Bisal Mari they take it, with the carcass of the goat, to 
the south fort gate and westwards, going round the fort 
in the inner circle, dragging the carcass of the goat on 
the ground, and all the way sprinkling the red rice over 
the streets (this is said to purify the place lying inside 
the circle traced in their course), till they arrive at the 
point whence they started. They then convey the 
carcass and the remaining rice to a spot near the shrine 
of Madesvara, situated in the quarters where they live. 
Then the entrails of the goat are roasted and, with the 
rice, divided into three equal parts, and made into 
three balls, which are given away to the Chakras 1 for 
their services in tom-toming during the rice-sprinkling 
ceremony. 

(2) Mart Made. On Monday of the second week 
the Toreyars throw away all their old earthen pots, 
used for cooking, and get their houses whitewashed. 
They get new pots, prepare KitcJiadi z in them, cover 
them with earthen lids and put aratis on them. At about 
six p.m. the aratis are carried by females to a consecrated 
pial (platform) known as the Gaddige, and placed in 
front of a Kunna Kannadi (a looking-glass used as a 
symbol of the goddess). Two sheep or goats are 
killed in sacrifice on the spot, and all the flesh is 
distributed amongst the families of Toreyars. This 
done, the Kitchadi pots are carried by females in 
procession to the Bisal Mari shrine, cloths about four 
feet wide being spread all along the way on which the 
procession walks, that they may not tread on the earth. 
The Kitchadi in all the pots is offered to the Bisal 
Mari, and heaped up on a cloth in front of the Bisal 
Mari image. The females return home with the empty 
pots, which will henceforth be used for cooking in their 
families. The heap of Kitchadi then becomes the 
property of the washerman Pujari, who distributes it 
amongst his friends and relatives. At the end of this 

1 A section of the Outcastes. 

2 A dish of flour aud buttermilk. 



82 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

week the Mane Manchi shrine, which remains closed all 
the year, is opened. It contains a hole resembling 
an ant-hill, which is said to be the abode of an 
unknown serpent, to which the name of Mane 
Manchamma is given. Prayers are offered here, 
chiefly by the men that are to swing on the Sidi, 
but also by the man that performs the " Human Sacrifice 
Ceremony," which is now a semblance, not a reality. 
The Toreyar caste men generally bring from their 
houses bunches of plantains and store them in this 
shrine. They are placed there to remain till the Sidi is 
over, after which they become the property of the 
families by whom they were brought to the shrine. 

(3) Mart Sidi. This occupies the third week of 
the Jatra. On the Sunday before the Monday on 
which the Sidi takes place, the Human Sacrifice 
Ceremony called Bali (Sanskrit for offering) is per 
formed. It begins at midnight, and lasts till dawn. 
The man appointed for the Bali is made to lie down, 
a piece of cloth fully covering his body. This takes 
place on the same spot where the rice for the Mari 
Saru (already explained) was prepared. A carpenter 
begins the ceremony by touching the man lying down 
with a cluster of flowers of the cocoanut tree. The 
Chakras 1 keep tom-toming, while the carpenter dances 
round the victim, singing songs. Fires are lit all 
round. The carpenter closes his dance by touching 
the victim again with his cluster of flowers about 
daybreak. The people present carry the victim (the 
Bali man) to the Mane Manchi shrine, where he takes 
rest and walks straight home. 

On Monday the carpenter who performed the Bali 
ceremony the previous day gets the Sidi Car fitted 
up. It is ready about five p.m. for the swing. The 
men to swing 2 on the Sidi are kept without food. 
They take a cold bath, dress themselves on the pial 
of Gaddige (mentioned in connexion with Made 1 ) 
and then go to the palace, where they get a pre- 

1 See p. 81, n. 1. See p. 59, n. 1. 3 See p. 81. 



PLATE XV 




SHRINE OF POI.EKAMMA 




SHRINE AND IMAGKS OF BISAI.-MARI 



PL AT i- XVI 




WORSHIP IN THE CANARESE COUNTRY 83 

sent of some betel leaves and nuts, and thence they 
proceed to the shrine of Mane Manchi, offer prayers 
there, and join the party in Bisal Mariamma-nagudi, 
i.e. the temple of Bisal Mari, where the Sidi is 
ready with the victims, viz. two buffaloes, one on behalf 
of each man that swings on the Sidi, and a sheep or a 
goat. The buffaloes are smeared with turmeric (yellow 
powder) and kunkuma (red powder), and are also 
garlanded with flowers and margosa leaves. They 
remain with the Sidi, but, before the men are allowed 
by the carpenter to swing on the Sidi, the carpenter 
tests his fittings, and offers the goat in sacrifice. Its 
blood is taken and sprinkled over all the joints of the 
car and the wheels of the Sidi. The goat sacrificed is 
given away to the coolies that work at the car. Then 
the Sidi procession begins. The two men who are to 
swing go with the buffaloes to the Hiridevathi shrine, 
where another Sidi party from Yeerangere, the northern 
part of the city, meets them with another Sidi, one 
buffalo, and one man to swing. One at a time mounts 
on each Sidi. After mounting, each lightly strikes the 
other as the Sidis cross. Then each swings suspended 
by a band round his waist on his Sidi. It is at this 
time that the buffaloes are all killed one after another. 
It is attempted to cut off the head of each victim with 
one blow, but actually more blows are used before the 
buffaloes heads are severed. When this is over, the 
men on the Sidis get down and return to the Hiridevathi 
shrine. There they offer puja, after which the parties 
return home. The party from the Bisal Mari shrine go 
to the Mane Manchi shrine, take rest, dine, and spend 
the night there, offering prayers, etc. The following 
morning they walk home. 

(4) Kelammana Habba. The same night the buffa 
loes carcasses are removed by Chakras and carried to 
the open place outside the fort, adjoining the southern 
wall, forming the Barr Parade Maidan, which place is 
presumed to be that of Kel Mari. There they put up for 
the occasion a green shed, and place the two buffaloes 
heads within it. On these heads are placed lights, and 



84 THK VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

the faces are smeared with fat turmeric, and kunkuma. 
The right foreleg of each animal is cut off, and stuck 
into the mouth. The flesh, etc., of the buffaloes is 
cooked and eaten by the Chakras as well as by their 
friends and relatives. For one week the heads are 
kept in the above sheds and worshipped every day. 
On the next Monday the Chakras and Holeyars, called 
also the Balagai caste, carry the heads of the two buffa 
loes in grand procession to their quarters and eat them 
up, if they are not very putrid. 

A legend is prevalent regarding this Kel Mari. 
Hiridevathi, the eldest of the Mari sisters, is said to 
have ordered one of her younger sisters, Kel Mari, to 
bring fire. The latter went, and in her search for fire 
she found a lot of low-caste men cooking the flesh of a 
buffalo and eating the same. It was a curious sight for 
her to see them do so. She sat there observing what 
was going on, and lost time. As she was late, the 
eldest sister was very angry and excommunicated her 
with a curse, saying that she should only be worshipped 
by the lowest class of people. Hence the heads of 
the buffaloes are worshipped in the name of Kel 
Mari. 

The following legend is believed by the common 
people. Once upon a time there lived a Rishi who had 
a fair daughter. A Chandala, i.e. an Outcaste, desired 
to marry her. He went to Kasi (Benares) in the 
disguise of a Brahman, where, under the tuition of a 
learned Brahman, he became well versed in the S&stras 
(i.e. the sacred books), and learnt the Brahman modes 
of life. On his return he passed himself off for a 
Brahman, and after some time made offers to the Rishi 
lady, and somehow succeeded in prevailing upon her to 
marry him. She did so, her father also consenting to 
the match. They lived a married life for some time, 
and had children. One day it so happened that one of 
the children noticed the father stitch an old shoe 
previous to going out for a bath. This seemed curious, 
and the child drew the mother s attention to it. Then 
the mother, by virtue of her tapas (i.e. austerities), 



WORSHIP IN THE CANARESE COUNTRY 85 

came to know the base trick that had been played upon 
her by her husband, and cursed him and herself. The 
curse on herself was that she should be born a Mari, to 
be worshipped only by low-caste men. The curse on 
him was that he should be born a buffalo, fit to be 
sacrificed to her, and that her children should be born as 
sheep and chickens. Therefore, during the periodical 
Mari festivals, buffaloes, sheep, and chickens are used 
as victims, and the right leg of the male buffalo is cut 
off and stuck in his mouth, in memory of his having 
stitched the shoes in his disguise as a Brahman. 

Animal sacrifices are generally offered by Vaisyas 
and Sudras, the victims being usually buffaloes, sheep or 
goats, and fowls. These sacrifices are usually propitia 
tory. Sometimes they are thank-offerings, but there is 
no sin-offering. When, owing to sickness, any one s 
life is despaired of, a vow to sacrifice the life of an 
animal on the recovery of the sick person is made and 
carried out by the convalescent as soon as possible after 
restoration to health. Should any misfortune happen 
to a personal enemy, an animal is at once sacrificed as a 
thank-offering ! 

In all these cases, the victim is taken before the 
altar, and there decapitated by a stroke of a sword, 
the blood being sprinkled on the object before which 
the sacrifice is offered, or on the ground in the vicinity. 
In no case is the blood ever sprinkled on the persons 
offering the sacrifice. Before a building is finished or 
occupied, the same kind of sacrifice is made, to pro 
pitiate the spirit supposed to have already entered there, 
and the blood of the victim is sprinkled over the 
materials of which the building is constructed. 

Similarly, when a well is sunk, or a tank built, or 
a new tool or agricultural implement used, all of which 
from their nature might be the means of causing death, 
a sacrifice is offered to the evil spirit to prevent acci 
dents, and, in the case of sharp-edged tools, blood is 
poured on that part which would cause the hurt. A 
partial sacrifice is made in the case of tools and imple 
ments which from their nature would not be likely to 



86 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

cause death, and in these cases only a slight cut is made, 
usually in the nose or ear of the animal, sufficient to 
draw a few drops of blood, which are smeared on the 
tool, as already mentioned. In cases of epidemics, 
blood is poured over the image of the deity supposed to 
be responsible for the disease. 

Coorg. The relic of human sacrifice described 
above, in Mr. Ramakrishna Row s memorandum, would 
serve to show that in Mysore such sacrifices, at one time, 
formed a regular part of the worship of the tillage 
deities ; and this is confirmed by the account given in 
the Mysore and Coorg Manual by Mr. Lewis Rice 1 of the 
worship of the grama-devata in Coorg, which is a hill 
country to the west of the Mysore State inhabited by a 
mixed population consisting of aboriginal tribes, a 
hundred and twenty thousand cultivators and artisans, 
who were formerly serfs but are now freemen, and a 
ruling class of Kodagas or Coorgs, who probably 
migrated into the country about the third century A.D. 
He writes: 

" The essential features of the religion of the Coorgs 
are anti-Brahmanical, and consist of ancestral and 
demon-worship. As among other Dravidian mountain 
tribes, so also in Coorg, tradition relates that human 
sacrifices were offered in former times to secure the 
favour of their grama-devatas, Mariamma, Durga, and 
Bhadra-KalT, 2 the tutelary goddesses of the Sakti 3 line, 
who are supposed to protect the villages or Nads from 
all evil influences. In Kirindadu and Koniucheri-Grama 
in Katiyet Nad, once every three years, in December 
and June, a human sacrifice used to be brought to 
Bhadra-Kali, and during the offering by the panikas 
(a class of religious mendicants), the people exclaimed 
Al Amma! A man, oh mother! but once a devotee 
shouted Al All Amma, Adu! Not a man, oh mother ! 
a goat ; and since that time a he-goat without blemish 

1 Vol. iii, pp. 264, 265. _ 

2 Durga and Bhadra-Kali are names of Kali, the wife of Siva. 

3 See above, p. 29, n. 1. 






WORSHIP IN THE CANARESE COUNTRY 87 

has been sacrificed. Similarly in Bellur in Tavaligeri- 
Murnad of Kiggatnad taluq, once a year, by turns from 
each house, a man was sacrificed by cutting off his head 
at the temple ; but when the turn came to a certain 
home, the devoted victim made his escape into the 
jungle. The villagers, after an unsuccessful search, 
returned to the temple, and said to the pujari Kalak 
Adu, which has a double meaning, viz. Kalak, next year, 
Adu, we will give, or Adu, a goat, and thenceforth only 
scapegoats were offered. The devotees fast during 
the day. The he-goat is killed in the afternoon , the 
blood is sprinkled upon a stone, and the flesh eaten. At 
night the Panikas, dressed in red and white striped 
cotton cloths, and their faces covered with metal or bark 
masks, perform their demoniacal dances. In Mercara 
taluq in Ippanivolavade, and in Kadikeri in Halerinad, 
the villagers sacrifice a Kona or male buffalo instead of 
a man. Tied to a tree in a gloomy grove near the 
temple, the beast is killed by a Meda (a wandering 
tribe, who are basket and mat makers), who cuts off 
its head with a large knife, but no Coorgs are present 
at the time. The blood is spilled on a stone under a 
tree, and the flesh eaten by the Medas. In connexion 
with this sacrifice there are peculiar dances performed 
by the Coorgs around the temple, the kombata or horn 
dance, each man wearing the horns of a spotted deer 
or stag on his head ; the pili-ata or peacock s feather 
dance, the performers being ornamented with peacock s 
feathers, and the chauri-ata or yak-tail dance, during 
which the dancers, keeping time, swing yak-tails. 
These ornaments belong to the temple, where they 
are kept. 

" In some cases where a particular curse, which can 
only be removed by an extraordinary sacrifice, is 
said by the Kaniya 1 to rest upon a house, stable, or 
field, the ceremony performed seems to be another 
relic of human sacrifices. The Kaniya sends for some 

1 The Kaniyas are religious mendicants, said to be descen 
dants of a Malayali Brahman and a low-caste woman. 



88 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

of his fraternity, the Panikas or Bannus, and they set 
to work. A pit is dug in the middle room of the house, 
or in the yard or the stable, or the field, as the occasion 
may require. Into this one of the magicians descends. 
He sits down in Hindu fashion muttering mantrams. 
Pieces of wood are laid across the pit, and covered with 
earth a foot or two deep. Upon this platform a fire of 
jack wood is kindled, into which butter, sugar, different 
kinds of grain, etc., are thrown. This sacrifice continues 
all night, the Panika sacrificer above, and his im 
mured colleague below, repeating their incantations 
all the while. In the morning the pit is opened, 
and the man returns to the light of day. These 
sacrifices are called maranada bait, or death atone 
ments. They cost from ten to fifteen rupees. Instead 
of a human being, a cock is sometimes shut up in the 
pit and killed afterwards. 

"In cases of sore affliction befalling a whole Gram?, 
or Nad (village), such as small-pox, cholera, or cattle 
disease, the ryots combine to appease the wrath of 
Mariamma by collecting contributions of pigs, fowls, 
rice, cocoanuts, bread, and plantains from the different 
houses, and depositing them at the Mandu : whence 
they are carried in procession with tom-toms. In 
one basket there is some rice, and the members of 
each house on coming out bring a little rice in the 
hand, and waving it round the head, throw it into 
the basket, with the belief that the dreaded evil 
will depart with the rice. At last the offerings are 
put down on the Nad boundary, the animals are 
killed, their blood is offered on a stone, the rice 
and basket are left, and the rest of the provisions 
are consumed by the persons composing the pro 
cession. The people of adjoining Gramas or Nads 
repeat the same ceremony, and thus the epidemic is 
supposed to be banished from the country. In still 
greater calamities, a flock of sheep is driven from 
Nad to Nad, and at last expelled from the country." 



PLATE XVII 




PLATE XVI II 





IMAGE OF GODDESS WITH NAILS DRIVKX 
INTO HER BODY 




Uri-T-AI.O SACRIFICED TO MOTOR HICYCLE 

9 



CHAPTER VI 

MODES OF WORSHIP IN THE TAMIL 
COUNTRY 

THE ceremonies observed in the worship of village 
deities in the Tamil districts of Tanjore, Trichinopoly, 
and Cuddalore closely resemble those prevailing in the 
Telugu and Canarese countries ; but there are striking 
differences, which seem largely due to the influence of 
Brahmanical ideas and forms of worship. In the first 
place the ceremonial washing of the images and the 
processions during the festivals are much more elabor 
ate in these districts than among the Telugus and 
Canarese. Then, again, the male deities connected 
with the goddesses are much more prominent, and tend 
much more to assume an independent position. lyenar is 
entirely independent and has a separate shrine and often 
a separate festival, while in many cases special sacri 
fices are made to the male attendants, Madurai-Viran 
and Munadian. And then, in the third place, there is a 
widespread idea that animal sacrifices are distasteful to 
good and respectable deities, both male and female, so 
that no animal sacrifices are ever offered to lyenar or to 
the good and kind goddesses. The ancient sacrifices 
of fowls, sheep, goats, and buffaloes are, indeed, still 
offered, but only to the male attendants, Madurai-Viran 
and Munadian, and not the goddesses themselves ; and 
while the animals are being killed a curtain is often 
drawn in front of the image of the goddess, or else the 
door of her shrine is shut, lest she should be shocked at 
the sight of the shedding of blood. 

An account of the modes of worship and festivals 
in some typical villages will clearly show both the 



90 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

resemblances to the Telugu and Canarese uses, and also 
the striking differences. 

V andipaliam , Cuddalore District. In the district of 
Cuddalore, at a village called Vandipaliam, three deities 
are worshipped, Mariamman, Draupati and lyenar, each 
of whom has a separate shrine. Mariamman s is the 
largest, about twelve feet high, twenty-five feet long, 
and twelve or fifteen feet broad. Draupati s is less 
imposing, being only about six feet high, ten feet long, 
and eight feet broad. 

lyenar stands in the open, under a tree, with clay 
images of horses, elephants, dogs, and warriors (or 
Virans) on either side. The Virans are supposed to 
keep watch over their master, while the animals serve 
as his vahanams, vehicles, on which he rides in his 
nightly chase after evil spirits. Individual villagers, 
both men and women, constantly offer private sacrifices 
consisting of boiled rice, fruit, sugar, incense, and 
camphor, or fowls and sheep to the Viran of lyenar, 
and then the victim is brought before the image of the 
Viran. Water is sprinkled over it, a wreath of flowers 
is put round its neck by the pujari, and turmeric and 
kunkuma are smeared on its forehead. Then a 
bottle of arrack, a pot of toddy, two or three cheroots, 
some ganja (Indian hemp) and opium, and dried fish are 
presented to the Viran, afterwards to be consumed by 
the pujari. Camphor is burnt between the animal and 
the Viran, and finally the head of the victim is cut off 
with a large chopper by a pujari, specially appointed 
for the purpose. Nothing special is done with the 
blood. The carcass is taken away by the offerer, and 
the head belongs to the pujari who cuts it off. 

Once a year a public sacrifice is offered to lyenar by 
the whole village, some time in April or May. On this 
occasion the image of lyenar, which is made of granite 
and stands about one-and-a-half feet high, is first washed 
with gingelly oil, 1 lime-juice, milk and curds, with 

1 Gingelly is an Indian name for Sesatnutn Indicum and 
Sesamiim Orientate. 



WORSHIP IN THE TAMIL COUNTRY 91 

cocoanut, plantains, sugar, and some aromatic spices all 
mixed together. 1 Then cocoanut milk and sandalwood 
paste are put on the forehead, and a cloth tied round its 
waist. The villagers bring boiled rice, cocoanuts, 
plantains, betel leaves and betel nut, sweet cakes of 
rice, flour, sugar and cocoanut in large quantities, and 
spread them all on leaves upon the ground before the 
image. The pujari burns incense and camphor, and 
finally the offerings are all distributed among the people 
present. After these offerings have been duly made, a 
curtain is drawn in front of the image of lyenar, and 
sheep and fowls are sacrificed to the Viran, in the same 
way as at private sacrifices. 

Mariamman and Draupati have each one annual 
festival, which lasts for ten days, but no animal sacri 
fices are ever offered on these festivals, or on any other 
occasions at the shrines of these goddesses. The 
festival begins with the hoisting of a flag, and then for 
eight days there are processions morning and evening, 
when a metal image of the goddess is carried in a 
palanquin through all the streets of the village. On 
the ninth day there is a car procession, when the image 
is put on a large car, about twenty feet high, and 
dragged round the village, while on the night of the 
tenth day the image is put on a raft and dragged round 
the tank with torches, pipes, and tom-toms. 2 Offerings 
of boiled rice, fruits and flowers, incense and camphor, 
are made every day, and especially on the ninth day, 
when a large crowd usually assembles. 

Shiyali, Tanjore District. At a large village in the 
Tanjore district, named Shiyali, where Brahmanism is 
very strong, lyenar, Pidari, Mariamman, Angalamman, 
and Kaliamman are all worshipped with typical rites ; 
but in this village, though no animal sacrifices are offered 
to Kaliamman, Mariamman, Pidari or Angalamman, 
yet they are offered to the subordinate male deities, 

1 These ablutions are copied from the great temples. 

2 The processions and the progress on the raft are copied 
from the observances of Brahmanical temples. 



92 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

Madurai-VIran and Munadian, who act as guardians of 
their shrines. Apparently, however, Pidari is regarded 
as slightly less squeamish in the matter of bloodshed 
than the others, as curtains are drawn before the other 
three when animals are sacrificed to Madurai-Viran 
and Munadian, but not before Pidari. No festival is 
held for KalTamman, who seems to be a rather inert 
deity, of no great account in practical affairs. 

During the festivals of Mariamman, Pidari, and 
Angalamman the ablutions are particularly elaborate. 
The image is washed twice every day, morning and 
evening, with water, oil, milk, cocoanut milk, a solution 
of turmeric, rose water, a solution of sandalwood, honey, 
sugar, limes, and a solution of the bark of certain trees, 
separately in a regular order. This ceremonial washing 
is called in the Tamil country Abishegam, 1 and certainly 
deserves an imposing name. The pujari next repeats 
certain mantrams (sacred texts) before the image, after 
the example of Brahman priests, and the offerings of the 
people, boiled rice, fruit, flowers, cakes, sugar, etc., are 
presented, incense and camphor are burnt, and prostra 
tions made to the deity. Every evening, after sunset, 
an image of the goddess, made of a metal, on a small 
wooden platform decorated with tinsel and flowers, is 
carried in procession on the shoulders of the people 
round the main streets of the village, accompanied 
with fireworks and torches, and the inspiriting sounds 
of the tom-tom. After the procession, camphor is 
burnt, a cocoanut broken, and the image replaced in the 
shrine. 

On the tenth day of the festival, in the evening, 
animal sacrifices are offered, consisting of fowls and 
sheep, to Madurai-VIran and Munadian. People who 
have made vows, in times of sickness or distress, or in 
order to secure some boon, bring their victims to the 
shrine. Water and turmeric are poured on the whole 
body of the animal, and some mantrams are recited by 

1 Abhisheka, the Sanskrit word for the ceremonial anointing 
of a king or a god. 



WORSHIP IN THE TAMIL COUNTRY 93 

the pujari. If the animal is a sheep or goat, it is then 
seized by the offerer and his friends, some of whom 
catch hold of its hind legs, while others hold fast to a 
rope fastened round its neck, and its head is cut off 
with one stroke of the chopper by one of the pujaris. 
The head is placed in front of the image of Madurai- 
Viran with its right foreleg in its mouth. During the 
killing of the victim a curtain is drawn in front of 
Mariamman and Angalamman, but not before Pidari. 

At the festival of Mariamman two special ceremonies 
are performed, which are not performed at the other 
festivals in this village, but are quite common elsewhere. 
When sheep are sacrificed, the blood is collected in 
earthen vessels, mixed with boiled rice, and then 
sprinkled in the enclosure of the shrine and in the four 
corners of the main streets, through which the pro 
cession passes. What remains over is taken and thrown 
away in some field at a little distance from the village. 

Then, after the animals have been sacrified, the 
fire-walking ceremony 1 takes place. A trench is dug 
inside the enclosure of the shrine and filled with logs of 
wood, which are set alight and reduced to glowing 
embers. In the evening the metal image 2 of Mariam 
man is brought out and held in front of the fire, while 
a short puja is performed by burning camphor. Then 
the pujari walks barefooted over the red-hot embers, 
followed by other people, who have made vows to 
perform this act of devotion. 

During the festival of Pidari, there is a car proces 
sion on the ninth day, which is always the day of the 
new moon, and in the evening one or more buffaloes 
are sacrified to Madurai-Viran or Munadian. The 
victim is always a male buffalo, and is generally 
brought by some private person. Water and turmeric 
are first poured over it, and it is garlanded with flowers, 
and then its head is cut off with a single stroke of the 
chopper by a man of the Padayachi caste, who, by the 
way, is not an Outcaste. The head is placed in front 

1 See p. 79 above. 2 See pp 36-37 above. 



94 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

of the image, but the foreleg is not cut off or put in 
the mouth, as is constantly done in the case of buffalo 
sacrifices in the Telugu country. The blood is collected 
in an earthen vessel and placed near the image of 
Pidari and left there the whole night. Next morning, 
the people assured me, only a small quantity of blood 
is found in the vessel, Pidari having the drunk the 
greater part of it. The remains are poured away 
outside the compound of the shrine. The heads and 
carcasses of the buffaloes sacrificed are all handed over 
to the Pariahs of the village, who take them away for 
a feast. 

At the festival of Angalamman pigs are sacrified to 
her male guardians as well as sheep, goats, and fowls, 
not only by the Pariahs, but also by any caste of Sudras. 
The lyenar festival takes place at the same time as the 
Pidari festival, and the same ceremonies are performed, 
except that no animals are sacrificed at his shrine. 

The idea, so naively expressed in the Pidari festival 
at Shiyali, that the goddess actually drinks the blood 
of the victims, is not uncommon. In many villages 
some of the blood is collected in an earthen vessel and 
placed inside the shrine after the sacrifice. At one 
village, where pigs are sacrificed to Madurai-Viran, 
though the blood is not collected in any vessel, but 
simply allowed to flow on the ground, the people assur 
ed me that Madurai-Viran drinks it. In the same way 
the rice and the blood sprinkled through the streets of a 
village or round the boundaries, which is called poli, or 
food, in Telugu, is regarded as food for the evil spirits. 
In many Tamil villages the rice and blood are made up 
into little balls and thrown up in the air, where, as the 
people firmly believe, they are seized by the deity 
to whom the sacrifice is offered, or by the evil spirits 
that hover round the procession. 

Vellore Taluk, North Arcot District. The following 
interesting descriptions of the invocation of Pidari and 
of the karagam procession are quoted from an article by 
F. J. Richards, Esq., I.C.S. : 

" After this part of the cermony is over, the pujari 



WORSHIP IN THE TAMIL COUNTRY 95 

invokes the deity to the accompaniment of a chorus 
of singers, who are either his relations or who share the 
income with him. The invocation takes place either 
near the temple or at some prescribed spot in the 
direction from which the deity is popularly believed to 
have arrived at the village. In the latter case, after 
the abishegam is over, the persons present move in a 
body to the prescribed spot and then commence the 
invocation. This invocation, which to the persons 
present is a period of some anxiety, lasts from ten to 
thirty minutes, when all on a sudden one of those present 
gets inspired. The meaning of the invocation is a call 
to the deity to come and help them in their celebrations. 
The inspired attentively watches the goddess during the 
early stages of the worship. Later on, with closed eyes 
he listens to the song of the pujari and his chorus. He 
goes into a counterfeit slumber, first shutting one eye, 
then the other, then nodding, then swaying so much to 
one side that the bystanders have to save him from fall 
ing. At last he collapses into the arms of one or more of 
his neighbours. He is watched very intently by all those 
present. The attention of the votaries is transferred 
from the goddess to the inspired man. All those seated 
around him move away from him, and a space is cleared 
to enable him to move freely. Camphor is then 
burnt before him, and the inspired man is moved either 
to speak or be silent or laugh or weep. The speaking 
and laughing are welcomed by the votaries with delight. 
They then ask him to grant them permission for 
celebrating the festival. Generally the permission is 
granted when he is either speaking or laughing. But 
if he should weep or be silent, that is taken as an indi 
cation of the wrath of the deity, and fresh songs are 
sung in louder tones to appease the deity. After a 
fairly long interval, when all become anxious about 
their own safety, and when the songs have been well- 
nigh exhausted, the inspired man is again approached 
with burning camphor. This time he is generally more 
sympathetic. Very often he gives his unconditional 
assent for the celebration of the festival. But occasion- 



96 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

ally, after according sanction to celebrate the festival, 
the inspired man lifts up his hand and points at some 
one whose conduct towards the community might not 
have been acceptable to them in the previous year. 
With some reluctance, the man pointed out seeks the 
forgiveness of the inspired man, and is assured of it on 
his promising to sacrifice a sheep or a fowl. After 
permission to celebrate the festival is granted, the 
people present proceed with the celebration." 1 

" Some years ago, it is said, a horse grazing close 
by the spot where the goddess had been invoked, got 
terrified by the noise of the drums, etc., and, after 
galloping round the temple thrice, stopped in front of 
the entrance. The villagers attributed the horse s 
action to the inspiration of the goddess." 2 

On the day of the car procession, which takes place on 
the second day of the festival, "a well-formed bronze 
image of the idol is placed in a car immediately after 
the usual abishegam ceremony, and the car is dragged 
through the several streets of a village by all the villagers. 
The pujari and the others who wore the kapu on 
the first day will continue to appear in yellow garments 
and take active parts in the car procession. The car will 
generally be preceded by drums and trumpets. In 
front of the car, one of the villagers v/ho has special 
pretensions to religious fervour carries the karagam on 
his head, and entertains the people by vigorous move 
ments to and fro without allowing the karagam to fall. 
His dress on such occasions consists of loose drawers, 
which are prevented from slipping by a tape passing 
round his waist. Generally nowadays a sash is used to 
keep it in position. The abdomen of this dancer is left 
open to public view. A piece of square cloth about a yard 
in diameter protects his back. The right hand holds a 
long sword and the left hand either a lime or green leaves 
in a piece of cloth. By pretending to let slip the karagam 
and by maintaining it in its original place on his head 

1 Quarterly Journal of the Mythic Society, Jan. ,1920, pp. 111-12. 
Ib., p. 119. 



WORSHIP IN THE TAMIL COUNTRY 97 

he entertains the villagers. Beyond sipping lime-juice 
he is not allowed to eat or drink anything. As the 
procession, consisting of drums, the karagam dancer and 
the goddess in the car, passes through a village, sacri 
fices are offered to the goddess at all points where two 
streets cross. The sacrifices in this taluk are fowls on 
this occasion, owing to the absence of large villages 
where the people can afford to sacrifice sheep. As the 
goddess passes through the main streets of a village, at 
all the houses cocoanuts are broken and incense is burnt. 
The pujari is also given some pecuniary remuneration, 
but he cannot be sure of it in all villages. He is, how 
ever, entitled to retain for his own use the smaller 
half of the cocoanut presented to him for being offered 
to the deity. He generally manages to shelve it into a 
big basket kept by his side for the purpose. The car 
will go only through the main streets of a village, 
and will return to its original place of starting 
without stopping anywhere. It is considered a bad omen 
amongst the Hindus if the gods and the goddesses have 
to remain in the streets even for a night in their car. 
Hence the place of starting must be reached before 
sunset under any circumstances. The ceremonies for 
the day will be over when, after reaching the place of 
starting, a fowl or sheep is sacrificed and the pujari and 
others return homeward. In villages where a so-called 
husband has been appointed, that person is bound to 
sleep in the temple, or near its precincts, for this night 
also, During the night a dramatic performance at the 
expense of the leading ryots of the village is given. 
The performance lasts generally from ten p.m. till 
dawn, and the drama enacted nowadays is a compro 
mise between the rude country dance and the present 
day dramas." 1 

Essene, Trichinopoly District. Another character 
istic festival, which is specially conducted and paid for 
by the Pariahs, is held in the Trichinopoly district, near 
the village of Essene, during the month of July or 
August. 

1 Ib.,pp. 114-15. 

7 



98 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

About a mile south of the village, on the road to 
Madras, there is a shrine, consisting of a large open 
enclosure about thirty feet square, surrounded by a low 
stone wall. On the west side of the enclosure are three 
large images of men seated on tigers, each about eight 
feet high, representing Pandur-Karuppanna (Pandur 
being the name of an ancient village), Padu-Karuppanna 
{i.e. the New Karuppanna), and Ursuthiyan (he who 
goes round the village); and in front of them a number 
of small stones, black with oil, six carved roughly into 
the figures of men and women, and about six quite plain, 
some of them only about six inches high. At right 
angles to this row of stones, on the south side, runs a 
small shrine with seven small female figures represent 
ing the kanimars, i.e. the seven virgins, while at the 
north-east corner is a small separate enclosure with the 
figure of Madurai-Viran on horseback with his two 
wives seated in front of him. The presiding deities of 
the shrine are the goddesses, represented by the small 
stones, and not the imposing but ugly male creatures 
seated on tigers. 

When the time for the festival has been fixed, each 
family of Pariahs gives about one rupee for the ex 
penses. Then, on the first day, they perform puja 
(worship) in the Pariah street of the village Melakari 
close by the shrine. Three sets of seven brass pots, 
standing one above the other, are placed in one of the 
huts, and on the top of each set a small image made of 
the five metals, one image representing Padu-Karup 
panna, another Pandur-Karuppanna, and the third a 
female deity, Malaiyayi, who is the wife of Karuppanna. 
Boiled rice is first offered, cocoanuts are broken and 
incense burnt to the pots, and then at night there is a 
sword and spear dance in the compound of the 
hut. 

On the second day the Pariahs come to the shrine, 
and wash the small black stones and images represent 
ing the goddesses, with oil, milk, cocoanut milk, lime- 
juice, and water, put on them some new pieces of cloth, 
garland them with flowers, and mark them with sandal- 



WORSHIP IN THE TAMIL COUNTRY 99 

wood paste. Then they boil rice on the spot, and offer 
it to the goddesses, and afterwards bring to the shrine 
sheep, pigs, and fowls. Water is first poured over 
each sheep, and, if it shivers, it is accepted by the god 
desses ; if not, it is rejected. 1 Then one of the Pariah 
pujaris cuts off the head of the acceptable victims with 
a sword. If the head is cut off at one blow, another 
pujari, who is supposed to be under the influence of the 
deity, sucks out the blood from the neck of the carcass. 
During the night he thus sucks the blood of about a 
hundred sheep. After the sheep have been killed, four 
or five pigs are offered by a few of the Pariahs, who have 
made vows. The head of each pig is cut off with a 
chopper, and then a small quantity of blood is collected 
in some earthen vessels, newly brought from the 
potter s house, and placed inside the shrine. When all 
the people have left the place, the pujaris mix this 
blood with some boiled rice, and throw it about a 
hundred yards outside the shrine to the north-west, 
north-east, south-east, and south-west, and that ends the 
festival. 

Trichinopoly. The sucking of the blood is a horrid 
business, but not so horrid as an annual ceremony which 
takes place every February or March at Trichinopoly, 
one of the great centres of trade and education in the 
Tamil country, during the festival of Kalumaiamman. 
She is regarded as the guardian against cholera and 
cattle plague, and epidemics generally. A very fat 
pujari of the Vellala caste, who holds this unenviable 
office by hereditary right, is lifted up above the vast 
crowd on the arms of two men ; some two thousand 
kids are then sacrificed one after the other, the blood 
of the first eight or ten is collected in a large silver 
vessel holding about a quart, and handed up to the 
pujari, who drinks it all. Then, as the throat of 
each kid is cut, the animal is handed up to him, and he 
sucks or pretends to suck the blood out of the carcass. 
The belief of the people is that the blood is consumed 

1 See above, p. 55. 



100 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

by the spirit of Kalumaiamman in the pujarl ; and her 
image stands on a platform during the ceremony about 
fifteen yards away. 

A similar idea is probably expressed by a particu 
larly revolting method of killing sheep, which is not 
uncommon in Tamil villages during these festivals. 
One of the pujaris, who is sometimes painted to repre 
sent a leopard, flies at the sheep like a wild beast, 
seizes it by the throat with his teeth, and kills it by 
biting through the jugular vein. 

Irungalur, near Trichinopoly. There is another 
strange ceremony, which is quite common in the Tamil 
country, connected with the propitiation of the boundary 
goddess, where the blood of the victim seems to be 
regarded as the food of malignant spirits. At Irunga- 
lur, a village about fourteen miles from Trichinopoly, 
it forms the conclusion of the festival of the local god 
dess Kurumbai. During the first seven days the image 
is duly washed, offerings of rice and fruit are made, and 
processions are held through the streets of the 
village. Then, on the eighth day, a small earthen 
pot, called the karagam, is prepared at the shrine 
of the goddess. The elaborate decorations of the 
karagam have been already described, 1 and I need 
not describe them again. When it is ready, some boiled 
rice, fruits, cocoanuts, and incense are first offered to 
it, and then the pujari ties on his wrist a kapu, i.e. a 
cord dyed with yellow turmeric, to protect him from 
evil spirits. A lamb is next brought and sacrificed in 
front of him, to give him supernatural power, and he 
then takes the karagam on his head, inarches with it in 
procession through the village to the sound of tom-toms 
and pipes, and finally deposits it under a booth erected 
in the middle of the village. On the eighth, ninth and 
tenth days the karagam is taken in procession morning 
and evening, and rice and fruits, camphor and incense 
are also offered to it. 

On the tenth day, at about seven a.m., before the pro- 

1 See p. 37 above. 



WORSHIP IN THE TAMIL COUNTRY 101 

cession starts, a lamb is killed in front of the karagam. 
The throat is first cut, and then the head cut off and 
the blood collected in a new earthen pot filled with 
boiled rice. The pot is put in a frame of ropes and 
taken by a pujari to a stone, about four feet high, 
called ellai-kal (i.e. boundary-stone), planted in the 
ground some three hundred yards off. A crowd of 
villagers run after him with wild yells, but no tom 
toms or pipes are played. When he comes to the 
boundary-stone, he runs round it thrice, and the third 
time throws the pot over his shoulder behind him on to 
another smaller stone, about two feet high and some 
five or six feet in circumference, which stands at the 
foot of the ellai-kal. The earthen pot is dashed to 
pieces and the rice and blood scatter over the two stones 
and all around them. The pujari then runs quickly 
back to the booth, where the karagam stands, without 
looking behind him, followed by the crowd in dead 
silence. The man who carries the pot is supposed to 
be possessed by Kurambai, and is in a frantic state as 
he runs to the boundary- stone, and has to be held up by 
some of the crowd, to prevent his falling to the ground. 
The pouring out of the rice and blood is regarded as a 
propitiation of an evil spirit residing in the boundary- 
stone, called Ellai-Karuppu, and of all the evil and 
malignant spirits of the neighbourhood, who are his 
attendants. When the pujari gets back to the booth, 
he prostrates himself before the karagam, and all the 
people do the same. Then they go to bathe in the 
neighbouring tank, and afterwards return to the booth, 
when another lamb is sacrificed, and the procession 
starts off through the village. 

In the evening of the same day a pig, a sheep, and 
a cock are bought from the funds of the shrine, and 
taken to the shrine itself, which stands outside the 
village. There they are killed in front of a stone image 
of Madurai-Viran, which stands in a separate little 
shrine in front of th^.t of Kurumbai. A large quantity 
of rice is boiled inside the walls of the compound, and 
then the flesh of the three animals is cooked and made 



102 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

into curry. The rice and curry are put on a cloth, 
spread over straw, in front of the image, while the 
pujan does puja to Madurai-Viran inside his shrine, 
offering arrack, fruit, flowers, incense, and camphor, 
and saying mantrams ; afterwards, he sprinkles some 
water on the curry and rice, which are then distributed 
to the people present. During this sacrifice to Madurai- 
Viran Kurumbai s shrine is closed. 

Pullambadi, Trichinopoly District. The ceremony 
of propitiating the spirit of the boundary-stone is very 
common in the Trichinopoly district, though there are 
the usual variations of local custom in performing it. 
At a village called Pullambadi it takes place in connex 
ion with the festival of Kulanthalamman, which lasts 
for fifteen days. On the first day the image is washed, 
and a sheep is killed outside the enclosure as a sacrifice 
to Karuppu (a subordinate male deity), the door of the 
shrine of the goddess being closed. Rice, fruit, flowers, 
etc., are also offered to the goddess. On the next six 
days only rice, fruits, etc., are offered ; but on the 
eighth day two more sheep are sacrificed to Karuppu. 
From the ninth to the fifteenth day the metal image of 
the goddess 1 is taken in procession round the village, 
each day on a different vahanam : 2 on the fifteenth day 
it is carried on a car, and on this day three sheep are 
killed in front of the shrine, before the procession 
starts, the blood being collected in an earthen pot and 
mixed with boiled rice. Then a sheep is sacrificed at 
each of the nine corners of the streets that surround the 
temple, and the blood of all the sheep is put into earthen 
vessels by a pujari of the Shervagaru caste, called 
the Kappukaran, the animals being all killed by one of 
the Pariahs. The Kappukaran then mixes all the blood 
and rice together in one large earthen pot and carries 
it to the village, which is about half a mile away. Nine 
more sheep are sacrificed at nine other corners of the 
village itself, and their blood is again collected and 
mixed with the rest. When the car has come back to 

1 See pp. 36-37 above. * See p 90 above. 



WORSHIP IN THE TAMIL COUNTRY 103 

its resting-place and the procession is finished, the 
Kappukaran takes the large vessel full of blood and rice, 
and, followed by all the men of the village, some hold 
ing him by the arms, goes to the western boundary of 
the village lands, where is the boundary-stone, ellai- 
kal, about two feet square and one-and-a-half feet high. 
A lamb is then killed over the stone, so that its blood 
flows over it ; and the head, which has been cut off, is 
then placed on the top of the stone. The Kappukaran 
runs thrice round the stone, carrying the pot full of rice 
and blood in a framework of ropes, and, facing the 
stone, dashes the pot against it. This done, he at once 
runs away, without stopping to look back. The other 
villagers go away before the pot is broken. This con 
cludes the ceremonies of the festival. 

Semdza, near Pudukkottai. At another village, 
Sembia, in the Pudukkottai taluq, 1 the ceremonies 
connected with the propitiation of boundary spirits are 
rather more elaborate. There is a boundary-stone at 
each of the four corners of the village site, five more 
stones inside the village, and another stone on the 
boundary of the village land. 

During the Pidari festival boiled rice, fruits, etc., 
are offered at all the nine boundary stones in the village. 
On the sixteenth day the image of Pidari is taken to the 
house of the pujari, who is to perform the dread ceremony 
of propitiating the spirits that inhabit the boundary- 
stone of the village lands. The pujari puts the kapu 2 
on his wrist, and a goat, entirely black, is sacrificed 
before the image, and its blood collected in an earthen 
pot, but not mixed with rice. The metal image of 
Pidari is then carried in procession round the village on 
a wooden horse ; and at each of the nine stones in the 
village itself a lamb is sacrificed. When this proces 
sion is ended, the pujari with the kapu on his wrist takes 
the earthen pot, with the blood of the black goat inside 
it, fastens it inside a frame of ropes, and runs to the 

1 A taluq is a division of a civil district. 
* See p. 100, 



104 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

boundary-stone on the extreme limit of the village land. 
About twenty or thirty villagers run with him, holding him 
by the arms, as he is out of his senses, being possessed 
with Pidari. When he arrives at the stone, he runs 
once round, and then stands facing it, and dashes the 
pot against it. Without a moment s delay and without 
looking behind him, he runs back to the place where 
Pidari is seated on the wooden horse, on which she 
was carried round the village. The image is taken 
back to the shrine ; and the ceremony is at an end. 

An untoward event happened a few years ago in 
connexion with one of these Pidari festivals, at a 
village in the Trichinopoly district. The festival had 
commenced and the pujari had tied the kapu on his 
wrist, when a dispute arose between the trustees of the 
shrine, which caused the festival to be stopped. The 
dispute could not be settled, and the festival was suspend 
ed for three years, and during all that time there could be 
no marriages among the Udaya caste, while the poor 
pujari, with the kapu on his wrist, had to remain the 
whole of the three years in the temple, not daring to 
go out, lest Pidari in her wrath should slay him. 

Tukanapaliam, Ta?ijore District. At a village in 
the Tanjore district, called Tukanapaliam, the boun 
dary spirits are propitiated during the Kaliamman fes 
tival by the sacrifice of a buffalo. On the last day of the 
festival the image of Kaliamman, who in many parts of 
the Tanjore district is specially the goddess of the 
boundary, is taken to the boundary-stone, and then one 
male buffalo is killed beside the stone and buried in a 
pit close by ; but nothing is done either with the head 
or the blood. 

Matuikalikudi, near Trichinopoly. The worship of 
the village deity at a village called Mahakalikudi, 
about eight miles from Trichinopoly, presents several 
rather curious features. The chief deity is a goddess 
called Ujinihonkali or Mahakali. 1 In her shrine are 
four subordinate female deities, Elliamman, Pullathal- 

1 Great Kali. 



WORSHIP IN THE TAMIL COUNTRY 105 

amman, Vishalakshmiamman, and Arigalamman, and 
three subordinate male deities, Madurai-VIran, Batha- 
lama, and lyenar. (This is the only place where I have 
come across lyenar as a subordinate deity.) In this 
temple Ujinihonkali is worshipped by all classes, in 
cluding the Brahmans, and while some of the pujaris 
are Sudras, the others are Brahmans. An old Munsiff 
of the district told me that he could remember the time 
when all the pujaris were Sudras. The Brahmans 
appear to have secured a footing in the shrine about 
fifty years ago. The yearly festival is held in Feb 
ruary or March, and lasts sixteen days. 

On the first day, called Kankanadharanam (i.e. the 
wearing of the bracelet), kankanam, i.e. a gold bangle 
or bracelet, is prepared for the occasion by the temple 
authorities and put on the wrist of the image, which is 
made of the five metals in the form of a woman, and 
stands about three feet high. This must be done at an 
auspicious hour either of the day or night. One of the 
6udra pujaris at the same time puts a kapu on his own 
right wrist. Boiled rice, cocoanuts, plantains, and 
limes are afterwards offered to the goddess, lights are 
placed all over the shrine, and incense and camphor are 
burnt. For eight days the same ceremonies are repeat 
ed, the same bangle put on the wrist of the image and 
the same kapu on the wrist of the piijari. 

On the ninth day this bangle is removed and put in 
the treasury of the shrine, and a new one put on. The 
same offerings are made as on the other days, but on 
this day, for the first time, the image is taken out and 
carried in procession on a small wooden platform, 
adorned with tinsel, through the village with music 
and tom-toms, torches and fireworks. 

These ceremonies are then repeated till the end of 
the festival, but each day, till the fourteenth, the image 
is carried on a different vehicle or vahanam ; .on the 
tenth day on a wooden horse, on the eleventh on a car, 
on the twelfth on a wooden lion, on the thirteenth in 
a palanquin, on the fourteenth on a swan or bull. No 
animal sacrifices are performed during the festival at 



106 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

the shrine itself : but on the eleventh day many sheep 
and goats are sacrificed in connexion with the car 
procession. Just after the image is put on the car, 
a kid is brought in front of it and decapitated by 
a village watchman, or kavalgar, of the Umbellayar 
caste. The kavalgar takes up the head and carcass 
and carries them round the car, letting the blood 
drip upon the ground, and then gives both to a 
Pariah servant of the shrine. When the car returns, 
a sheep is sacrificed in front of it. Its head is cut off 
by the kavalgar, and its head and body are allowed to 
lie upon the ground, while fruits, cocoanuts, and cam 
phor are offered. The man who provides the sheep 
ultimately takes the body and the pujari the head. 
While the car is being dragged through the streets, 
people who have made vows bring sheep to the doors 
of their houses, and the kavalgar comes with his heavy 
chopper and cuts off their heads. 

Kannanur, near Trichinopoly. At the neighbouring 
village of Kannanur there is a curious local variation in 
the ordinary rite of sacrifice. During the festival of 
Mariamman many people who have made vows bring 
sheep, goats, fowls, pigeons, parrots, cows, and calves 
to the temple, and leave them in the compound alive. 
At the end of the festival these animals are all sold to a 
contractor. Two years ago they fetched Rs. 400, a 
good haul for the temple, which is particularly a large 
one, covering two acres of ground enclosed by a high 
wall. 

Buffalo sacrifices are not as common in the Tamil as 
in the Telugu country, but they are offered in many 
villages, especially in connexion with the worship of 
Madura-Kallamman. 

Turayur, near Trichinopoly. At a village called 
Turayur, near Trichinopoly, a buffalo sacrifice is offered 
once in five or six years. Before the day of the festival 
is fixed, the chief men of the village go to the shrine, 
offer rice and fruits, etc., and ask the goddess whether 
they may perform the festival. If a lizard utters a 
chirp in a part of the temple fixed on beforehand, it is 



WORSHIP IN THE TAMIL COUNTRY 107 

taken as a sign that permission is given, and the fes 
tival is arranged. The buffaloes devoted for sacrifice are 
generally chosen some time beforehand by people who 
make vows in sickness or trouble, and then allowed to 
roam about the village at will. When they become 
troublesome, the people go and ask permission of the 
deity to hold a sacrifice. The buffaloes are brought to 
the shrine on the appointed day and killed by a man 
of the Kallar caste, who cuts off the heads with a 
chopper. Nothing is done with the blood, but both 
head and carcass are thrown into a pit close by the 
shrine as soon as the animal is dead. The same pit is 
used at each festival, but it is cleared out for each 
occasion. When all the carcasses have been put in, 
incense and camphor are burnt, cocoanuts and fruits are 
offered on the edge of the pit, and then earth is thrown 
in, and the carcasses are covered up. This takes place 
outside the temple walls, and during the sacrifice 
a curtain is drawn before the shrine, where the 
immovable stone image of the goddess is located ; 
but, on the other hand, the metal image, used in 
processions, is taken out before the sacrifice begins, 
carried on a wooden lion, and placed on four stone 
pillars specially erected for the purpose outside the 
temple, about four or five yards from the place where 
the buffaloes are killed. No curtain is drawn before 
this image : the sacrifice is performed in full view 
of the goddess. It is a curious little compromise 
between ancient custom and Brahman prejudice. 

Another village. At another village I found that 
Brahman ideas had taken one step further in the worship 
of Madura-Kallamman, as no animal sacrifices of any 
kind are offered there to the goddess herself, but only 
to Periyanna-svami, a male deity residing on the top 
of a hill some three miles away from her shrine ; and 
even there the pujaris lamented that, owing to the 
degeneracy of the age, offerers now take away both 
head and carcass for their own use, instead of leaving 
the head, as was done in better days, to be the 
perquisite of the pujaris. At one village I was told 



108 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

that there used to be buffalo sacrifices some twenty 
years ago ; but the people did not know to what deity 
they were offered, and none are ever offered now. 

Pullambadi) Trichina poly District. At Pullambadi, 
a village of some size in the Trichinopoly district, 
I was told that Madura-Kali only accepts Vedic? i.e. 
orthodox, sacrifices. All animal sacrifices, therefore, 
are made to Madurai-Viran or Karuppu, her male 
guardians, and a curtain is drawn before Madura-Kali 
while they are being offered. The pujari in this village 
collects the blood of the animals in an earthen pot, 
mixes it with rice and makes it up into little balls. 
Then, possessed by Karuppu or Madurai-Viran, he 
takes the pot and runs round the temple enclosure, and 
at each corner throws up a ball of rice and blood, which 
is carried off by Karuppu or Madurai-Viran (so the 
people firmly believe) and never falls down. The 
Munsiff, who was quite a well-educated man, assured me 
that this was a fact, and that he had seen it with his 
own eyes only, as he admitted, the ceremony takes 
place in the dark ! 

Vallum, Tanjore District. Buffaloes are offered in 
some villages of the Tanjore district both to Kaliamman 
and Pidari. Where the sacrifice is strictly performed, 
as at Vallum, the pujari, who is a Siidra, lives only on 
milk and fruit, and eats only once a day for a whole 
month beforehand, and on the day of the sacrifice puts 
the kapu 2 on his right wrist before he takes hold of the 
sacrificial sword. It is supposed that he is first inspired 
by the deity before he can kill the victim. He cuts off 
the head sometimes in one blow, and sometimes in two 
or three. Nothing is done with the blood, and both 
head and carcass are buried in a pit near the shrine. 
The dung of the victim is mixed with water, and poured 
over the image of the deity. In some villages in the 
Tamil country it is customary to take the entrails of the 
victim and hang them round the pujari s neck and put 

1 This word literally means consistent with the Vedas. 
1 See p. 100. 



WORSHIP IN THE TAMIL COUNTRY 109 

the liver in his mouth during the procession, 1 when the 
rice and blood is sprinkled through the village, and 
sometimes part of the entrails is cooked with rice and 
presented before the image. At one village I found 
that, after this procession has gone round the houses, 
it passes on to the burning ghat, 2 where the entrails 
are taken from the pujan s neck and the liver from his 
mouth ; and both are laid down with some curry and 
rice, which is afterwards eaten by a few of the low- 
caste people. These extremely repulsive processions, 
however, are not, as in the Telugu country, especially 
connected with buffalo sacrifices. 

Another village. An unfeeling custom prevails in 
one village that I came across, which is considerably 
worse than seething a kid in its mother s milk. When 
a pig is sacrificed to Angalamman, its neck is first cut 
slightly at the top and the blood allowed to flow on to 
some boiled rice placed on a plantain leaf, and then the 
rice soaked in its own blood is given to the pig to eat. 
If the pig eats it, the omen is good. If not, the omen 
is bad. But in any case the pig has its head cut off by 
a Sudra pujari. In some villages the blood of the pig, 
offered to Angalamman, is mixed with boiled rice, 
taken to the burning ghat, where the dead bodies are 
burned, and thrown into the air at night as an offering 
to the spirits that hover round the place. 

Pudukkottai sub-division, Trichinopoly District. 
Among other curkms applications of the blood of 
animals, not the least interesting and significant is the 
one that prevails in nearly all the villages of the 
Pudukkottai taluq of the Trichinopoly district, where 
it is the custom for all the villagers to dip cloths in the 
blood of animals slain simply for food, and hang them 
up on the eaves of their houses to protect the cattle 
against disease. This is probably a relic of an age 
when the eating of animal food under any circumstances 
had a religious significance. 

1 See above, p. 52, and below, p. 148. 

2 The place where the dead are burned. 



110 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

Pullambadi, Trichinopoly District. It is refreshing 
to turn to a custom connected with the worship of 
village deities which can make some pretence to 
practical utility. In the village of Pullambadi, at the 
shrine of Kulanthalamman, whose festival has already 
been described, 1 an interesting custom prevails, which 
seems to be not uncommon in those parts. When 
a creditor cannot recover a debt, he writes out a state 
ment of his claim against his debtor on dried palmyra 
leaves, presents it to the goddess, and hangs it up on 
a spear before her image. If the claim is just and the 
debtor does not pay, it is believed that he will be 
afflicted with sickness and terrifying dreams, and that 
in his dreams the goddess will warn him to pay the debt 
at once. If, however, he disputes the claim, then he 
in turn writes out his statement of the case and hangs 
it up on the same spear. The deity then decides which 
statement is true and afflicts the perjurer with dreams 
and misfortunes till the false statement is withdrawn. 
When the claim is acknowledged, the debtor brings the 
money to the pujari, who places it before the goddess, 
and then sends for the creditor and informs him that 
the debt is paid. All the money thus paid into the 
temple coffers is handed over to the various creditors 
daring the festival in April or May, after deducting the 
amount due to the temple treasury. This is certainly 
a simple method of doing justice in the matter of 
debts, and probably just as effective as the more 
elaborate and more expensive processes of our courts 
of Jaw. I was told that about ten creditors come to 
the temple every year, and that the temple had made 
about Rs. 3,000 as its commission on the debts collected 
during the last thirty years. Before that time the 
people came and stated their claims to the goddess 
orally, promising to give her a share if the debts were 
recovered ; but some thirty years ago the system of 
written statements was introduced, which, evidently, 
has proved far more effectual in the settlement of just 

1 See above, p. 102. 



WORSHIP IN THE TAMIL COUNTRY 111 

claims and much more profitable to the temple. To 
the practical British mind this seems the one really 
sensible ceremony connected with the worship of the 
village deities in South India. 



CHAPTER VII 

FOLKLORE OF THE VILLAGE GODS 
OF SOUTH INDIA 1 

A FEW specimens of the folklore connected with 
the village deities will serve to throw some light on the 
religious ideas of the people, the antiquity of the village 
deities themselves, the struggles that have taken place 
in former years between the worship of these primitive 
goddesses and the more modern cults of Siva and 
Vishnu, and the efforts made in the later times to 
connect the ruder village deities with the more 
dignified gods and goddesses worshipped by the 
Brahmans. 

Many of the stories are wild and fantastic, marked 
by a thoroughly Indian extravagance and exaggeration; 
some seem to be faint echoes of actual events in the 
past ; and many of the details were evidently invented 
to account for pieces of ritual, the meaning of which 
had been forgotten. Here is one which probably pre 
serves the traditional story of some palace tragedy and 
the conversion of the victim into a local deity and also 
the memory of some attempt made to put down a 
primitive form of worship. 

Mlnac hiamman of Madura. In Madura during 
the time of the Pandya dynasty, there was a wicked 
irreligious king called Pandian. In his pride and 
presumption he closed the temple of Mmachiamman," 
the renowned local goddess. She was enraged at this, 

1 The story of Amraavaru in this chapter is reprinted from an 
article in the Nineteenth Century, by kind permission of the Editor. 

2 Sanskrit, MmakshI, fish-eyed, an epithet of the wife of 
Siva, probably meaning with love-filled eyes. 



FOLKLORE 113 

and, in order to take vengeance, became incarnate as a 
new-born infant. King Pandian, who greatly desired to 
have a child, one day found the deity incarnate as a 
little girl, lying in the palace, with a very curious brace 
let on her arm, which was the exact copy of one 
belonging to his wife. He wished to adopt the child, 
but the astrologers warned him that she would bring 
evil upon his house, so he had her put in a basket and 
cast into the river. A merchant picked the basket out, 
brought her up as his own daughter, and called her 
Kannahai. Shortly before this, it happened that the 
god Siva also became incarnate, as another merchant 
living at Kaveripampatinam, a village at the mouth of 
the river Kaveri. Hearing of the girl s mysterious 
origin, he went and married her. After some years he 
became very poor, and, in spite of his wife s remon 
strances, took her strange bracelet to Madura to sell it. 
It happened that King Pandian s wife had lost her 
bracelet, which exactly resembled this one, a few days 
before this. So the merchant was arrested on the 
charge of stealing it, brought before the king and put to 
death. In a few days, his wife, Kannahai, went to 
Madura, heard what had happened, took the form of 
Thurgai, 1 the demon-killing goddess, and slew Pandian. 
Since then she has been worshipped by the people. 
The slaughter of Pandian created in her a desire for 
bloodshed, and she is now a deity whom it is thought 
prudent to propitiate. 

Madurai-Viran. The following story is current 
about Madurai-Viran in the folklore of South India. 
He was a soldier in the service of the Naick King of 
Madura, some centuries ago. The daughter of the king 
fell in love with him. So Madurai-Viran gave up his 
position and all his prospects of promotion and went off 
with the king s daughter. After their death both 
Madurai-Viran and the king s daughter were deified and 
worshipped. Madurai-Viran is also known as Patinet- 

1 Durga, one of the names of Kali, the wife of !iva, who got 
this name because she killed a violent demon named Durga. 

8 



114 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

tampadi Karuppan, or the guard of the eighteen steps, 
because, in the courtyard of the Azhagirisami temple, 
which is one of the richest shrines in all India, there 
is a flight of eighteen steps, nine of which lead up 
to a platform on one side while nine lead down from 
it on the other. On the platform is a huge image 
of Karuppan, twenty feet high, with enormous eyes as 
big as umbrellas. The image is covered with spears, 
guns and arms, which people who have made vows 
come and offer to Karuppan. The room where the 
treasures of the temple are kept is locked up every 
night, and the key, instead of being taken away, is 
placed on the platform in front of the image. It 
seems an invitation to burglars ; but nobody would 
ever dare to take the treasure which is guarded by 
Karuppan. It is said, in the folklore of the country, 
that some centuries ago eighteen Mayavis, or magi 
cians, so called from the illusion, maya, which they 
produce in the minds of people, came to the shrine of 
Azhagiri with the intention of carrying away the 
essence of the sanctity of the shrine and transporting it 
elsewhere. Their idea was to carry away the spiritual 
essence of the god in a wooden cylinder. The god 
Azhagar, the beautiful one, became aware of the plot 
to carry away his essence, and so he entered into the 
body of a small boy, and by his mouth informed the king 
of the intended outrage and asked him to prevent it. 
He also told the king that the Mayavis would render 
themselves invisible by a black paste which they put 
on their foreheads. (This paste is generally made by 
a distillation of the head of a first-born child that has 
died, with some other ingredients. If, therefore, a 
first-born child dies, people generally bury it carefully, 
in the backyard of their houses, to prevent the head 
being taken away by magicians for this purpose.) The 
king consulted Ramanuja, who was his family priest, 
and Ramanuja advised him to shut the doors of the 
temple and then pour boiling rice-water into the courtyard 
so that the steam arising from it might melt the paste. 
This was done, and the Mayavls, becoming visible, were 



FOLKLORE 115 

arrested by the king s soldiers and put to death, and 
each one was buried under one of the eighteen steps 
leading up to the platform on which the image of 
Karuppan stands, as a solemn warning to all liars and 
thieves. Civil suits in the Madura district are con 
stantly brought to the temple to be settled by refer 
ence to Karuppan. If a man will swear in the 
presence of the image that his claim is a just one, the 
claim is admitted to be true, as it is supposed that no one 
would dare to swear falsely before Karuppan. 

One of the many stories current about Mariamma, 
the goddess of small-pox, is as follows : One of the 
nine great Rishis in the olden days, named Piruhu, had 
a wife named Nagavali, equally famed for her beauty 
and her virtue. One day, when the Rishi was away 
from home, the Trimurti 1 came to visit her, to see 
whether she was as beautiful and virtuous as reported. 
Not knowing who they were, and resenting their 
intrusion, she had them changed into little children. 
They naturally took offence, and cursed her, so that her 
beauty faded away, and her face became dotted with 
marks like those of the small-pox. When Piruhu 
returned, and found her thus disfigured, he drove her 
away, and declared that she should be born a demon in 
the next world, and cause the spread of a disease, which 
would make people like herself. In memory of the 
change which Piruhu found in her, she was called 
Mari, i.e. changed, in the next birth. When she was 
put away, it is said that a washerwoman took care of 
her, and that in consequence she was also called Uppai 
(a washerman s oven). I may remark that a totally 
different derivation of the word Mari was given me in 
Mysore. 2 

Another story about the origin of Mariamma is that 
she was the wife of the Tamil poet Tiruvalluvar, who 
was a Pariah, that she got small-pox and went from 
house to house begging for food and fanning herself 
with margosa leaves to keep off the flies from her sores. 

1 See p. 24, note. See above, p. 29. 



116 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

When she recovered, the people worshipped her as the 
goddess of small-pox, and hung up margosa leaves over 
their doors to keep the small-pox away. 

Quite a different story about Mariamma was given 
me by an Indian Christian, who was told it by his Hindu 
father. According to this legend, Mariamma was the 
mother of Parasurama, one of the incarnations of Vishnu, 
and wife of Jamadagni, a famous Rishi (Vedic seer). 
She was so chaste in mind that she could carry water in 
a mass without any vessel, and her wet cloth would fly 
up into the air and remain there till it was dry. One 
day, as she was coming home from bathing, some 
of the Gandharvas, or heavenly singers, flew over 
her, and she saw their reflection in the ball of water 
in her hand. She could not help admiring their 
beauty ; and, through this slight lapse from the perfect 
ideal of chastity, she lost her power, the water flowed 
down to the ground, and her cloth fell from the sky. 
So she arrived home with no water and with a wet 
cloth. The Rishi questioned her as to the meaning 
of this and she confessed her fault. Her stern 
husband ordered her son Parasurama to take her into 
the wilderness and cut off her head. So the son 
took his mother away, but when they came to the 
appointed place Mariamma met a Pariah women, and in 
her longing for sympathy embraced her in her arms. 
So Parasurama cut off both their heads together and 
went back in great sorrow. His father promised him 
any reward he chose to ask in return for his obedience : 
so Parasurama asked that his mother might be restor 
ed to life. The father granted his request and gave 
him some water in a vessel and a cane, telling him to 
put his mother s head on her body, sprinkle the water 
on her, and tap her with the cane. In his eager haste 
he put his mother s head on the body of the Pariah 
woman and vice versa, and restored them both to life. 
The woman with the Brahman head and Pariah body 
was afterwards worshipped as Mariamma ; while the 
woman with the Pariah head and Brahman body was 
worshipped as the goddess Yellamma. To Yellamma 



FOLKLORE 117 

buffaloes are sacrificed ; but to Mariamma goats and 
cocks, but not buffaloes. 

The story is an interesting one, because it probably 
describes the fusion of the Aryan and Dravidian cults in 
the days when the Aryans first found their way into 
South India. A Pariah body with a Brahman head is an 
apt description of the cult of Siva, while a Pariah head 
with a Brahman body might well describe some of the 
cults of the ancient Dravidian deities, modified by 
Brahman ideas and influences. The fact that the deity 
to whom the buffalo is offered was the one with the 
Pariah head shows that the buffalo sacrifice was 
specially characteristic of the old Dravidian religion, 
and suggests that the buffalo was the totem of the 
Pariahs. 

The Buffalo-Sacrifice. Another quaint story, that 
is found all over the Telugu country in various forms, 
attempts to account for the prominent part taken by 
the Pariahs in the worship offered to the village deities, 
aud also to explain some strange features in the ritual. 
In ancient days, the story runs, there lived a karnam, 
i.e. a village accountant, in a village to the east. He 
was blind, and had only one daughter. A Pariah, well 
versed in the Vedas, came to the village in the disguise 
of a Brahman. The elders of the village were deceived 
and induced the blind karnam to give his daughter to 
him in marriage, that he might succeed to the office of 
karnam in due time. The marriage was celebrated by 
Brahman rites, and the karnam s daughter bore sons 
and daughters to her Pariah husband, without any 
suspicion arising in her mind as to his origin. After a 
time a native of the Pariah s own village came to the 
place where they were living, and recognized the Pariah 
disguised as a Brahman. Seeing, however, that he was 
a man of influence, he said nothing to the villagers, but 
went and told the Pariah s old mother. As he was her 
only son, the old woman set out in search of him, and 
came to the village where he lived, and sat down by the 
well used by caste people. The Pariah happened to go 
there, and recognized his mother ; so he took her to a 



118 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

barber, had her head shaved, passed her off as a Brahman 
widow, and brought her to his house, telling his wife 
that she was his mother and was dumb. He took the 
precaution strictly to enjoin her not to speak, lest her 
speech should betray them. One day the wife ordered 
a meal with a dish called Savighai (wheat flour baked 
with sugar and made into long strings) as a mark of 
respect to her mother-in-law. During the meal, the 
mother, forgetting the injunction of silence, asked her 
son what the Savighai was, saying it looked like the 
entrails of an anima!. The wife overheard the remark, 
and her suspicions were aroused by the fact that her 
mother-in-law could speak, when her husband had said 
that she was dumb, and did not know a common Brahman 
dish like Savighai ; so she watched their conduct, and 
felt convinced that they belonged to a low caste, and 
were not Brahmans at all. Accordingly, she sent their 
children to school one day, when her husband was away 
from home, managed to get rid of the mother-in-law 
for a few hours, and then set fire to the house and 
burnt herself alive. By virtue of her great merit in 
thus expiating the sin she had involuntarily committed, 
she reappeared in the middle of the village in a divine 
form, declared that the villagers had done her great 
wrong by marrying her to a Pariah, and that she would 
ruin them all. The villagers implored mercy in abject 
terror. She was appeased by their entreaties, con 
sented to remain in the village as their village goddess, 
and commanded the villagers to worship her. When 
she was about to be burnt in the fire, she vowed that 
her husband should be brought before her and beheaded, 
that one of his legs should be cut off and put in his 
mouth, the fat of his stomach put on his head, and a 
lighted lamp placed on the top of it. (These are details 
of the buffalo sacrifice, which has been already 
described, and this part of the story was evidently 
composed to explain the ritual, of which the true 
meaning had long been forgotten.) The villagers 
therefore seized the husband, stripped him naked, took 
him in procession round the village, beheaded him in 



FOLKLORE 119 

her presence, and treated his leg and the fat of his 
stomach as directed. Then her children came on the 
scene, violently abused the villagers and village officers, 
and told them that they were the cause of their mother s 
death. The deity looked at her children with favour, 
and declared that they should always be her children, 
and that without them no worship should be offered to 
her. The Asadis 1 claim to be descendants of these 
children, and during the festivals exercise the hereditary 
privilege of abusing the villagers and village officers in 
their songs. After being beheaded, the husband was 
born again as a buffalo, and for this reason a buffalo is 
offered in sacrifice to Uramma, the village goddess. 

A Tragic Tale." Such ceremonies as the buffalo- 
sacrifice, gruesome as they seem, when witnessed in 
broad daylight, with the accompaniments of devil- 
music, bell-ringing and shouting, or rather shrieking, 
are much more awe-inspiring when seen at night, and 
are likely to impress a stranger in an unpleasant manner, 

as the following will show. A was a stranger to 

the country and its ways. He was returning home late 
one night, guided along his path by the uncertain rays 
of a young moon. Missing his way, he strayed towards 
the shrine of the village goddess ; and when passing 
the low walls of the temple his attention was suddenly 
arrested by a heart-rending moan, seemingly uttered by 
some one in great distress, inside the walled enclosure. 
Impelled by thoughts of rendering help to a fellow 

creature in distress, A approached the temple wall, 

and looking over it, saw the prostrate form of a young 
and handsome female, of the better class of Hindus, 
lying motionless as death on the stone pavement. 
Thoughts of dark intrigues and mysterious murders of 
a decidedly Eastern type impelled him to climb over 
the wall ; and he was bending over the woman, his hand 
stretched out in the act of raising up what he believed 
was the lifeless remains of the victim of some ghastly 

1 See above, p. 44. 

1 This story appeared in the Madras Mail. 



120 THE VILLAGE GODS OP SOUTH INDIA 

tragedy, when, quick asligh tning, a gaunt and spectral 
object, almost nude, bearded to the knee, with head 
covered by matted tufts of hair and presenting a hideous 
appearance, emerged from the deep shadows around. 
The figure held a naked sword in one hand and a bunch 
of margosa leaves in the other, and bounding up to 

A , peremptorily, and with a glance whose meaning 

could not be mistaken, motioned him away. 

A - was only too glad to retreat as fast as he had 
come, his enthusiasm not a little chilled ; and he leapt 
over the wall into the pathway, where he met a police 
man going his rounds. A detained the policeman in 
order to see the end of the mysterious pantomime that 
was enacting before the idol, and enquired of him the 
meaning of the presence there of the woman alone and at 
that time of night, and of all the rest he saw. He was 
told that the woman was a matron of a respectable 
Hindu family, who, having had no children since her 
marriage, had come, by the advice of her elders, to 
invoke the assistance of the goddess, as she was 
credited with the power of making women fertile, and 
by prayers and offerings prevail on her to make her 
the mother of a son, and thus save her from the 
displeasure of her husband, \vho frequently rated her on 
her barrenness. The grotesque figure which had so 
terrified A - was the village pujari, and a noted exor- 
ciser of evil spirits ; and he was then exercising his art 
over the terrified woman in attempting to drive away 
the malignant spirit that possessed her, and had 
thereby rendered her childless. It is said to be a 
common belief among many Hindus that barrenness 
in females is sometimes the result of possession by 
evil spirits, some of whom have to be propitiated, while 
others are terrified into leaving their victims. In this 
case it was a demon of the latter kind, and that accounted 
for the pujari s appearance, in all the majesty and terror 
of his office as exorcist, sword in hand, to coerce the 
unwilling one to take his flight. 

Just then the woman emitted another blood-curdl 
ing shriek, and the pujari, coming forward, demanded, 



FOLKLORE 121 

in a loud and threatening voice, if the payee (devil) had 
left her. Receiving no reply, he flourished his sword 
over the prostrate form, muttered some incantations, 
and struck the woman with the margosa leaves in his 
hand. He then bade her rise and stand before the idol, 
which she did in a supplicatory attitude, with head bent 
and hands crossed, while he proceeded to offer up 
prayers to the goddess to aid him in driving away the 
stubborn intruder, after which he bade the woman make 
her offerings and depart in peace. The woman left the 
temple staggering, so exhausted had she become under 
the mental strain to which she had been subjected in 

the course of the exorcism. A had seen Hindu 

superstition in all its nakedness, and the effect of it had 
been heightened by every circumstance that could made 
it awe-inspiring the sombre shadows of night, the dim 
flickering of the temple light that threw a ray like a 
sanctuary lamp, the silence, except when broken by the 
woman s moans; all helped to impress him deeply. 

Frequently, while worshipping at the shrine, it 
happens that one of the more spiritual of the worship 
pers becomes possessed of the goddess, and commences 
to execute the usual devil dance, with dilated eyes, 
distended nostrils, and a frame suddenly endued with 
extraordinary activity and strength, proud to act as the 
mouthpiece of the goddess and to give out her oracles. 
It not seldom happens also that unscrupulous characters 
take advantage of this favouring by the deity, to impose 
on the ignorant masses by practising on their credulity. 
An example of the way in which the deity of an aboriginal 
family might become a deity of a conquering race and 
acquire a widespread popularity, is seen in the history 
of Koniamma in the Coimbatore district. The story 
goes that at a very remote date, when the tract now 
occupied by the town of Coimbatore was forest land, 
inhabited by aboriginal hill-tribes known as Malaisar, 
i.e. dwellers in the mountain, a certain man, named 
Koyan, who was of some repute among the aborigines, 
dwelt there and worshipped a goddess who was called 
after his name, Koyanamma. The name was gradually 



122 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

changed, first into Kovaiamma, and then into Koniamma. 
After some years she became the village deity of the 
Malaisar, and a temple was built in her honour, with a 
stone image of the goddess in front of it. In the course 
of time, a Hindu king, named Mathe Raja, happened to 
go there on a hunting expedition, and, finding the spot 
very fertile, colonized the country with his own 
subjects. Gradually a flourishing town grew up, and 
Koniamma was adopted as one of the deities of the new 
colony. Centuries afterwards, Tippu Sultan, the Tiger 
of Mysore, when he passed by the town during one of 
his marches, broke down the image and demolished the 
temple. The glory of persecution greatly increased the 
fame of the goddess. The head, which had been broken 
off the image, was brought back to the town, a new 
temple built, and in a few years the goddess became 
very popular over the whole district. Her title to 
divine honour rests upon the legend that she killed a 
certain demon, who was devastating the land and took 
the form of a buffalo when he attacked her. She is 
regarded as a benevolent being, who does not inflict 
diseases, but is capable of doing much good to the 
people when duly honoured. She is worshipped only 
at Coimbatore. This word is the English form of the 
Tamil Koyamputhur. 

Some of the legends bear witness to the bitter 
conflict between the aboriginal inhabitants of the land, 
generally described as demons or Rakshathas (Sanskrit 
Rakshases) and the superior races which conquered 
them, whether Turanian or Aryan. 

The legend of Savadamma, the goddess of the 
weaver caste in the Coimbatore district, is a case in 
point. It runs as follows : Once upon a time, when 
there was fierce conflict between "the men" and the 
Rakshathas, "the men," who were getting defeated, 
applied for help to the god Siva, who sent his wife, 
Parvati, 1 as an avatara or incarnation, into the world to 

1 Kali has many names, among which Parvati, i.e. the 
mountain goddess, is one of the commonest. 



FOLKLORE 123 

help them. The avatara enabled them to defeat the 
Rakshathas ; and, as the weaver caste were in the 
forefront of the battle, she became the goddess of the 
weavers, and was known in consequence as Savadamma, 
a corruption of Sedar Amma, Sedar or Chedar being 
another title for the weavers. It is said that her 
original home was in the north of India near the 
Himalayas. 

Another deity, whose worship is confined to a 
particular caste in South India, and about whom a 
similar legend is told, is Kanniha Paramesvari (i.e. 
supreme goddess), the goddess of the Komatis, or 
traders. The story goes that in ancient days there was 
bitter hatred between the Komatis, who claim to belong 
to the Vaisya 1 caste, and the Mlecchas, 1 or barbarians. 
When the Komatis were getting worsted in the struggle 
for supremacy, they requested Parvati, the wife of 
Siva, to come and deliver them. It so happened that 
about that time Parvati was incarnate as a girl of the 
Komati caste, who was exceedingly beautiful. The 
Mlecchas demanded that she should be given in mar 
riage to one of their own people, and the refusal of the 
Komatis led to severe fighting, in which the Komatis, 
owing to the presence of the avatara of Siva among 
them, were completely victorious, and almost exter 
minated their enemies. After their victory, the Komatis 
entertained doubts as to the chastity of the girl, and 
compelled her to purify herself by passing through fire. 
This she did, and disappeared in the fire, resuming her 
real shape as Parvati, and taking her place beside Siva 
in heaven. Her last words were a command to the 
Komatis to worship her, if they wished their caste to 
prosper. 

It will be noticed from these stories that there has 
been a strong tendency in the Tamil country, where 
Brahman influence is strong, to connect the old village 
deities with the Hindu pantheon, and especially with the 
god Siva, the most popular deity in South India. So, 

1 Seep. 19 n. 



124 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

in the Tanjore district, the chief goddesses of the large 
tribe of village deities are seven sisters, who are 
regarded as emanating from Parvati, 1 the wife of Siva. 

Revenge by Suicide. In the Warangal taluq of the 
Hyderabad State there are numerous slabs of stone 
with figures of a man in the act of catting his throat 
carved on them in bas-relief. The story goes that in 
ancient days a king of Warangal promised some Wudders 
(navvies) a sum of gold for digging a large tank. 
When they appeared before him for payment, he offered 
them silver instead ; and they went away very sad and 
angry, and came back again a few days afterwards and 
all cut their throats in the presence of the king, so that 
their spirits might haunt and torment him for the rest 
of his life. They have been worshipped from that day 
to this, and are among the most popular gods of the 
district. It was a truly Indian method of taking revenge, 
and I have often heard of similar acts of retaliation even 
in modern times. 

Basavanna of the Badagas. The following stories, 
current among the Badagas on the Nilgiri Hills, in 
South India, may possibly preserve, in a perverted 
form, the memory of some trivial incidents, which the 
superstitious fancy of the villagers turned into signs 
and wonders. The village of Kateri is about ten miles 
from Ootacamund, and the Kateri falls have been 
utilized to generate the electric power that now works 
the Government cordite factory in the broad valley on 
the other side of the hills. But long before cordite or 
electric po\ver were thought of, when the Muham- 
madans ruled in Mysore, one of the villagers of Kateri 
went down to the plains to pay tribute. When he went 
to a river to perform puja (worship) to a lingam, the 
emblem of the god Siva, he found on the river bank a 
stone in the form of an ox. He put it in his pocket, 
intending to give it to his children as a toy. But when he 
got home, he forgot all about the stone ; and it remained 
in his pocket till he went down to another river near 

1 Seep. 122 n. 



FOLKLORE 125 

Kateri to perform puja again. As he came to the bank, 
he touched his pocket and there found the stone. He 
took it out, put it down on the bank, and went to do his 
puja. When he came back, it was gone ! This greatly 
astonished him. But when he returned to the river 
next morning, lo and behold ! he saw on the bank the 
stone turned into a real live ox! Then the ox went off 
to a neighbouring village, Naduhatty, and there fought 
with another ox. The owner of this other ox killed the 
aggressor ; but no sooner had he done so, than he turned 
upside down, and stood on his head with his heels in 
the air, unable to move. The villagers were filled with 
astonishment, as well they might be, at this extraordi 
nary conduct ; but the man who had found the stone told 
them that the slaughtered ox was really a god, which 
he had brought up from the plains, without knowing 
what it was, to give to his children. The villagers 
were in great alarm at this ; but, when the man returned 
to his hut, there was the stone figure of the ox, with 
one of its horns broken and a spear-wound on its left 
side. The village pujari was hastily sent for, and he 
declared that a daily offering of milk must be made to 
the stone figure. For some time this was done ; then 
the owner neglected the puja, and the stone promptly 
turned back into a live ox, which attacked the villagers, 
and would not let any one enter the shed where it stood. 
The villagers, however, made a hole in the roof, and 
poured milk upon it from above, and once more it 
turned into stone, and stands there in the same shed to 
this day. Warned by the experience of the past, the 
villagers were careful to make the daily offering of milk, 
lest it should once more turn into a troublesome ox. 
The name of the god is Basavanna. 1 

The story reads like a description of a scene from a 
pantomime, when the harlequin appears on the stage. 
But it is sober truth to the Badagas of Kateri and the 
neighbouring villages. It was told to me by the only 

1 Basava (Sanskrit vfishabha} stands for bull or ox in the 
South Indian languages, 



126 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

Badaga who at that time had matriculated at the Madras 
University. 

Mahaliiiga of t/ie Badagas. Another story current 
among the Badagas is equally trivial, and is a sample of 
many local traditions that are current among them. A 
cow, the story runs, had a calf. She would give no 
milk, however, for her master, but ran off to a shola 
(forest) close by his house. He followed her one day, 
and watched to see why she went there, and saw her go 
to a stone image and pour over it the milk from her 
udders. He then went and fetched a spade, and tried 
to dig the image up, but could not reach the bottom of 
it ; and whenever the spade touched the stone, it drew 
blood. He went and told the story in the village, so 
the villagers built a shrine over the image, and 
worshipped it as the god Mahalinga. 1 

Hathay of Paranganad. The tradition of the 
goddess Hathay, i.e. grandmother, probably preserves 
the memory of a real event, as the worship of men or 
women who have died violent deaths or in a tragic way 
is common all over South India. About a hundred 
years ago, a man had a daughter whom he wished to 
marry to a man in the Paranganad division of the 
Nilgiris. The girl refused, and the father insisted. So 
at last she went to the village tank (a large pond), sat 
under a tree, first bathed and then threw herself into 
the water and was drowned. One of the men in the 
Paranganad division afterwards saw the woman in a 
dream, and she told him that she was not a huinan 
being but a goddess, an incarnation of Parvati, the wife 
of Siva. 

This story illustrates the origin of many deities in 
India, and also the way in which these local goddesses 
are tacked on to the religion of the Brahmans by being 
made wives, or incarnations of the wife, of Siva.j 

Ammavaru, or Ankamma. During one of my tours 
on the East Coast, north of Madras, I got a copy of a 
manuscript on palm leaves belonging to a village pujart 

1 I.e. Great Linga, the lingo, being Siva s phallic emblem. 



FOLKLORE 127 

which contains the story of the village goddess Amma- 
varu, now worshipped as Arikamma. The story is 
recited by the Asadis during the annual festivals. It is 
a strange, rambling tale, full of weird details, describing 
the birth of the newer deities, Brahma, Siva, and Vishnu, 
and the struggle that ensued between the rival religions. 
It is not improbable that it describes an attempt on the 
part of the Brahmans to supplant the worship of the 
village deity by the new cults and the revival of the 
primitive religion through some epidemics or other 
disasters. A bad epidemic of small-pox or cholera, just 
at the time when the newer forms of worship had caused 
the old deities to be neglected, would be quite sufficient 
to revive their popularity and give rise to a fantastic 
myth describing the event. The myth begins by des 
cribing the extreme antiquity of Ammavaru. "Even 
before the existence of the four Yugas, i.e. ages, before 
the birth of the nine Brahmans, when sleep did not exist 
in towns and villages, when the Yugas had no time, 
before the birth of Mahesvara (i.e. great God, a title of 
Siva), before the appearance of sky and lightning, 
before the birth of Gautama Buddha and the sages, 
before the appearance of Satyasagara, 1 before the 
appearance of water reservoirs, such as tanks and 
lakes, when there were no roads, streets or lanes to 
towns and villages, before the creation of the world, 
even before the coming into existence of wells to be 
defiled by the spittle of fishes, and before the Narayaga 2 
Ammavaru came into existence, three eggs were laid 
by Ammavaru in the sea of milk, one by one in three 
successive ages. The egg laid first got spoilt, the next 
filled with air, and only the third was hatched. This 
egg had three compartments, from which came the 
Trimurti, 3 Brahma, Vishnu and Siva. The lower half 
of the egg was transformed into the earth and the upper 
half became the sky. The king, who was the avatara, 

1 Satyasagara = Ocean of truth. 

a Narayaga is the term used for human sacrifice; Narayaga 
Ammavaru is the goddess worshipped by human sacrifice. 
8 See above, p. 24 n. 



128 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

i.e. incarnation, of Vishnu, was fed on butter ; Brahma 
was made to live on turmeric ; and Siva was fed with 
the milk of Ammavaru. Then, as they grew up, she 
made each of the gods put on his forehead characteristic 
religious marks, and finally built three towns, one for 
each to live in, and a fourth for herself." 

This probably preserves a tradition of the relation 
of the popular Hindu religion of modern days to the 
older worship of the village deities. It is doubtless 
true that the Brahmans gained the victory over their 
enemies the Buddhists by borrowing largely from the 
pre-Aryan religions, which had a great hold over 
the masses of the people. This may be practically 
expressed by saying that Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva 
sprang from an egg laid by a village deity, and that 
she built for them the sacred cities which were the 
centres of their worship. 

The goddess took special pains to protect her own 
city. She enclosed it with walls of bronze, brass, 
and gold ; posted at the gates several thousand spirits 
of various sorts, and among them, a barber, a washer 
man, and a potter. It seems odd to find these humble 
members of village society in such exalted company ; 
but it is explained by the fact that they are the people 
who in many parts of South India take a prominent part 
in the sacrifices offered to the village deities at the 
annual festivals. 

After a time, Ammavaru heard that the three 
kings, Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, were neglecting 
her worship ; so she determined to exhibit her power 
by destroying their towns. Her resolve was strength 
ened by an insult offered her by Siva. The god one 
day called his servant and asked him why the people 
were neglecting the worship of Ammavaru, and was 
told in reply that they were calling on his name instead. 
He then bade his servant go to Ammavaru s town and 
abuse her, which he did with a will. When she heard 
of it she smiled grimly, " trimmed her moustaches," 
and waxed very wroth. She then dressed herself up in a 
yellow cloth and yellow bodice, put on copper jewels, a 



FOLKLORE 129 

silver waistband, and tied a golden ornament on her 
forehead, took a deer in one hand, a conch in the other, 
a small drum in a third, and put a snake round her body 
as a sacred thread. 1 Thus attired, she called a durbar, 
sat down on the dais, and declared that her puja 
was neglected and she herself abused. After this 
little speech she started off to Devagiri, the town of 
Isvara or Siva, mounted on a jackal, and accompanied 
with all kinds of weapons and palanquins. Drums 
were sounded during the march. The investment of 
of the town was a quaint proceeding. Besides several 
kinds of animals, Ammavaru created GangH-bhavanl 
(a fortified place with a ditch round it) and a sage 
to conduct the siege. The military operations of the 
sage were truly original. Seven rudrakshc? berries 
were placed on the ground, and on these seven 
bhadrakshls, i.e. a kind of bead in which are marks said 
to resemble eyes, and on these needles were stuck to 
support balls of sacred ashes. 3 Through these balls 
were driven steel spikes which supported a single- 
headed rudraksha berry, with seeds of a sacred plant 
on the top. The sage then put his head on the seeds and 
raised his legs high up in the air. Birds built their 
nests on his neck, beetles and bees made their homes 
in his nose, plants of all kinds grew round him, and 
cobras made their abode in his arm-pits. He remained 
silent and spoke to no one. 4 What exactly the purpose 
or effect of these proceedings was does not appear ; 

1 S*iva is often represented holding a deer by the hind legs in 
one hand and a drum, called damaru, in the other ; and he 
frequently has snakes about his neck and waist and in his hair. 
The conch is one of Vishnu s symbols. 

3 The berry of the Elaeocarpus Ganitrus is called rudraksha 
and is used for making rosaries for the devotees of Siva. 

S*iva is usually represented as covered with sacred ashes, 
and S*ivaite ascetics usually smear their bodies in the same way. 

4 Hindu ascetics practise many austerities, tapas. Among 
the more common forms are long-continued silence and the 
remaining motionless in one posture until, we are told, beasts, 
birds, and insects make their resting-place in the man s body. 
The purpose of these practices is the gaining of boundless 
miraculous power. 

9 



130 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

but apparently they were successful, as Ammavaru 
moved steadily on, and appointed her sister to keep 
people off the road, and then placed her sisters, the 
hundred saktis, 1 to keep watch, and also a twelve- 
headed snake which coiled its body all round the town, 
keeping its hooded heads just opposite the gate and 
emitting poisonous fumes from its mouths. Then, as 
she went on in her triumphant march, a mountain was 
put on guard, forts were created, and Ammavaru 
descended from her jackal and sat on a throne. A 
horse was then brought her, drums were beaten, what 
Shakespeare would call alarums and excursions took 
place, and the sky was turned into a pestle and the earth 
into a mortar. After this general upset of the universe, 
Ammavuru made the dumb to sing her praises, created 
some tents with little demons inside who did puja to 
her, and so finally arrived at Devagiri. Apparently 
this overwhelming display of military power and science 
at first crushed all resistance. The heads of the kings 
(Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva) who refused to worship 
Ammavaru were cut off, also the heads of seven other 
kings, and then all put on again ! One king s throne 
was made red-hot like the fire in a potter s kiln, and his 
hair made all bloody, while demons were set to watch 
the corpses of the slain. Then Ammavaru afflicted 
the unhappy citizens with many disasters and started off 
to attack four other kings. Drums were sounded as 
before and then a bloody battle ensued outside the 
walls of Devagiri. Horses and elephants were slain by 
Ammavaru, one king " felt a bad pain in his chest, as 
if pierced with arrows, and pains in various parts of his 
body," and died. Another king took a sword and 
plunged it into the body of a third king, and both died. 
Then all the horses and elephants and kings died, and 
finally Ammavaru brought them all to life again, 
and they all began to worship her. A year after, 
drums were sounded again, and she marched with 
her army to a tamarind tree, where she slept for 

1 See p. 29 n. 1. 



FOLKLORE 131 

seven gadiyas (a gadi =r 24 minutes) on a cotton 
mattress. Then nine kings, who had formerly wor 
shipped Ammavaru, gave up doing so, and changed 
the Vishnu marks on their foreheads for those of Siva. 
This vexed Ammavaru, so she threatened to annihilate 
the town of Devagiri and then swooned. When she 
came to, she took a basket without a rim and some 
herbs and fruits, transformed herself into an old woman 
and walked to Devagiri. The watchman of the town 
refused to help her, put her baskets on her head, threat 
ened to have her beaten, and abused her soundly. She 
caused a deep sleep to overpower him, tossed her 
baskets into the air, caught them on her head, and 
made her way to the gates of the town, which were 
guarded north, south, east, and west by four huge 
demons, with ten thousand crores 1 of men holding 
canes coloured green, and seven hundred crores 
holding canes coloured red. A number of them 
were fast asleep; but she roused them up and bade 
them open the gates, as she wanted to sell her 
tamarind and jack fruit in the town. One of them 
got up and told her that baskets with fruits and 
curds, beggars and mendicants, were not allowed in 
the town, and added that the people of the town 
were Lingayats, 2 people of true faith and good 
character. The goddess shouted, "O Sudra sisters, 
living in the east street, O Brahman sisters of the 
western street, O Kamma sisters of the southern 
street, buy fruits from me. Old men eating my 
fruit will become young and young ones very hand 
some." The watchman was very angry at this, and 
beat her with a green cane. The goddess threw down 
her basket, which caused a great earthquake. Then 
she first turned into a huge giantess and afterwards into 
a parrot, and said to the watchman, "You did not 
recognize me. You have forgotten my might ; I will 
show my power." Ammavaru then disguised herself 
as a Lingayat dressed in a reddish-brown cloth, took a 

1 A crore is ten millions. 2 See p. 72 n. 



132 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

wooden pot in her hand, put sacred ashes on her fore 
head, 1 tied the symbol of Siva 2 on every part of her 
body, sounded bells and conchs, and, saying aloud, 
" Linga-nama-Sivaya," 3 approached the gates of Deva- 
giri once more. All the people were amazed at her 
devotion, prostrated themselves before her and offered 
a seat, saying," O worthy woman, where do you come 
from ? " Ammavaru replied," I am coming from Yata- 
paliam. My name is Yati-dari-paduchu, and I am 
coming from Chittangi land. I am alone without rela 
tions in the world. I am a happy woman without a 
husband." "Why do you come to Devagiri ? " they 
asked. Ammavaru replied that during the krita yuga* 
i.e. the golden age, Paramesvara (i.e. the Supreme, 
here Siva) became a slave to Parvati (wife of Siva), 
that he was living in Devagiri, and she had come to 
pay her respects to him. The gate-keepers refused to 
admit her till she had told the story of Siva and 
Parvati. The goddess then told the story as follows : 
On the wedding-day of Siva and Parvati the gold and 
silver bracelets were tied to their wrists, pearls were 
brought from the western ocean, festoons of fig leaves 
were hung up, and a cloth was stretched as a screen 
between Siva and his bride ; the faces 5 of Brahma 
were covered with sackcloth and twelve Vedas were 
read : but an inauspicious muhurtam, i.e. moment, was 
fixed and an inauspicious hour chosen for the ceremony. 
After tying the tali (a small metal disk or ornament 
suspended by a thread, the mark of a married woman) 
round Parvati s neck, Siva put his foot on her foot, and 
she put her foot on his. Brahma saw the shadow of 
Parvati s foot, was filled with unholy desires, and 
disturbed the ceremony by unseemly conduct. Siva 

1 !ivaites wear sacred ashes smeared on the forehead in three 
lines. See p. 137. 

2 The phallic symbol, the linga whence Lingayat. 

* " Reverence to S"iva," the sectarian mantra, or watchword. 
4 The Hindus recognize a cycle of four ages, like the Greeks 
and Romans. 

* Brahma i usually represented with four faces 



FOLKLORE 133 

grew very angry, abused Brahma, and bit off one of his 
heads. The head fastened on Siva s hand and remained 
immovable. So he sent at once for a number of 
Brahmans, and asked why he could not get it off. 
They told him that it was because he had committed 
murder, which is a most heinous crime, and suggested 
that he should wander about as a beggar, and make 
pilgrimage to Benares, Ramesvaram, and other sacred 
places, and then receive alms directly from the hands 
of Lakshmi (the wife of Vishnu). Siva then disguised 
himself as a beggar, and wandered far and wide, and at 
last came to Lakshmi, and cried out," O Adi Lakshmi I 1 
Alms ! Alms ! " She ordered her servants to take him 
alms, but he refused to receive it except at her hands, 
and said that Lakshmi was his sister. Then Lakshmi 
bathed, ordered food to be prepared, and served him 
herself, and at once the skull fell from Siva s hand to the 
ground. Siva began to run away, but the skull begged 
that some provision might be made for its future exis 
tence, as it had lived on his hand for so many years. 
Lakshmi then waved arati 2 lights before Siva, and gave 
curry and rice to the skull, which promptly fell towards 
the north and broke in five pieces, murmuring, as it 
broke that something must be done for it. Siva replied 
that it might take hold of pregnant women, women 
during confinement, and babies, and that this would 
enable it to obtain worship and offerings. 

Ammavaru then related how she herself had desired 
marriage and gone to Vishnu, who sent her to Brahma, 
who passed her on to Siva. She danced before Siva, 
who promised to grant her wish, if she would give him 
the three valuable things she possessed a rug, some 
betel leaves and a third eye. She gave them all to 
Siva, who at once opened the third eye and reduced her 
to ashes. 3 Then, filled with regret at the rash act, 

1 Adi means original, existing from the beginning. 

J See above, p. 39. 

!iva is always represented with a third eye set vertically in 
his forehead. A Hindu myth tells how he reduced Kama, the 
Hindu Cupid, to ashes with one glance of his third eye. 



134 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

which involved the destruction of all womankind, he 
collected the ashes and made them into the form of 
three women, who became the wives of Siva, Vishnu, 
and Brahma. 

After telling this moving story, Ammavaru demand 
ed entrance into the town, when she transformed her 
self into a parrot and sat on a stone pillar. Many of 
the inhabitants she caused to faint ; on many others 
she sent fevers and other diseases. Then she flew to 
the gopuram, i.e. the towered gateway of the temple, 
where nine men were worshipping Siva with his 
emblem in their hands. Suddenly the emblems became 
red-hot in their hands, and, dropping them, the nine 
men cried out," O Siva, you are powerless to-day ; now 
we have lost faith in you. Before the moon rises, may 
your temple be burnt to ashes." Siva, hearing their 
cries, came up and threw some sacred ashes over them 
and touched them with his cane. Then they all got up 
and said to him, " O Isvara (i.e. Lord), listen to our 
complaints. We have had enough of your puja. Some 
calamity has befallen us. Give us leave and we will go 
to our homes." Siva went off in anger to the gate 
keepers and demanded why they had admitted strangers. 
They replied that they had turned back an old woman 
selling fruit, and only admitted a Lingayat woman, 
because she was a devotee. Siva ordered one of the 
demons to find her ; but Ammavaru transformed her 
self into a girl of the Velama caste, and mixed with 
the Velama women in the Brahman street, and the man 
looked for her in vain. Then another was ordered to find 
her ; but this time Ammavaru turned herself into a 
parrot. When the man could not find her, he cried out, 
"O goddess! Please come! You are the deity of my 
ancestors. We hear that you have entered our town 
in the form of a Lingayat." Then Ammavaru asked him 
what kind of form he meant, saying, "I am your em 
blem of life." Then the demon felt bad pains all over 
his body, as though his chest and ribs were broken, 
rose up high into the air, flapping his hands like wings, 
caught hold of the parrot and brought her to Siva. 



FOLKLORE 135 

Siva complimented the demon on his success, but said 
that a female deity should not be brought into his 
presence. He commanded her to be tied to a red- 
hot pillar of glass and crows with iron beaks to 
peck at her. But no sooner was Ammavaru tied to 
the pillar than it became quite cool and the beaks of 
the crows dropped off. Seeing this, the nine worship 
pers of Siva declared that the goddess was a powerful 
deity, and determined to strike her all together on one 
side. But their uplifted arms remained fixed in the air 
and they could not move them. Siva then ordered 
Ammavaru to be tied to the feet of an elephant and 
dragged through the streets of the town ; but as soon 
as she was tied to his feet, the elephant became stiff 
and stood motionless as a pillar. Then Siva said that 
she must be thrown on to a frying-pan and fried like 
grain ; so they took her up and threw her on to red-hot 
plates of glass, which at once became cool as water. 
Ammavaru grew wild with anger at this treatment, and, 
whirling round and round, became huge as a mountain, 
and then once more turned into a parrot, and addressed 
Siva thus : " O Siva ! You failed to recognize me, but 
you will soon see my power. O rajas and princes ! 
Now at last will you worship me?" The rajas and 
princes all cried out, "O Ammavaru! We will not 
worship a female deity ; we will not lift our hands and 
salute a goddess ; we will not chant any other name 
except Linga-nama-Sivaya. 1 We will not think of 
you as a goddess." Ammavaru replied, "Never mind 
my worship. I am a daughter of Kasi-gotna. I 
was born in Valampuri. I was bred at South Vira- 
kambhodi. I am living at Ujjanimankalipatnam. I 
was worshipped at Devagiri. I left Valampuri, and 
came to rule at Ujjanimankali for a time. There are 
nine Siva Nambis who used to worship me. They gave 
up wearing tirumani marks (the religious mark of the 
Vaishnavites on their foreheads) and took to sacred 
ashes (one of the Sivaite marks). They are now 

1 See p. 132 n. 3 ; 



136 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

worshipping Siva in Panchalingala. Bring them to me, 
and I will leave your town." The nine rajas replied 
that they would do nothing of the kind. Then Amma- 
varu in her wrath threatened to destroy the town. 
Siva declared that under no circumstances should she 
be worshipped as a goddess, and that she might do her 
worst. Then Ammavaru did her worst and greatly 
troubled the people. From east to west crows flew 
over the town, in vast flocks. A strong wind arose, and 
there was a storm of rain that lasted seven gadiyas 
(a gadi = 24 minutes). The people caught colds, coughs, 
and fevers, small-pox, and other epidemics spread 
rapidly ; horses, elephants, and camels were afflicted 
with disease ; pregnant women suffered severe pains ; 
babies could not take their mothers milk. For these 
seven gadiyas the town suffered terribly. All the 
gardens were destroyed, all flowers and plants were 
destroyed by white ants, all leaves by insects and bugs; 
all the wells and tanks were dried up. The dead bodies, 
heaped upon carts, were carried out by the northern 
gate to the burning ghat, five princesses swooned, and 
at last the nine rajas repented and began to abuse Siva : 
" Before the moon shines, may j T our throne become 
red-hot ! May your matted hair, wet with Ganges 
water, 1 become red with blood! May your fortress 
of Panchalinga take fire and burn ! May your pot 
break into pieces ! May your necklace snap asunder ! 
May your cane, held by your son, split in the middle ! 
May you lose the Gariga on your head ! May your 
gold and silver emblems be bathed in blood!" Siva 
does not seem to have been a bit dismayed at this 
dreadful curse. He went to the gates of Devagiri, sat 
upon a golden chair and brought back to life all the 
corpses, marked with the sacred ashes that were being 
taken out through the northern gate. The other 
corpses he left to their fate. Ammavaru then began to 
think that Siva must indeed be great, but determined to 

1 S"iva, as the great ascetic, wears his hair matted, and the 
river Ganges falls down upon his head from heaven. 



FOLKLORE 137 

put him to another test. She created a field of sacred 
plants, and made the plants assume the form of human 
beings. Plucking some of these, she tied them together, 
put them on a car and sent them to Siva. The god 
threw some sacred ashes on the car, touched it with 
his cane, and all the stalks became living men, chanting 
"Kara, Kara," 1 i.e. Destroyer. When they asked for 
food, they were told that they might wander over the 
country, and would then get food in the shape of 
offerings and sacrifices. Ammavaru then went off with 
all her drums and instruments to Kunthalasaman, the 
town of Brahma, where she hoped to find three kings 
worshipping her. They all received her kindly, treated 
her with great respect and worshipped her. Satisfied 
and consoled with this, she returned to her own town 
of Ujjanimankali. From there she once more went up 
to Devagiri as an old woman, about a hundred years of 
age, with fruit for sale, and, entering the town without 
hindrance, began to sell fruits and flowers. The rajas 
asked their price, and she said she would sell the 
flowers for their weight in gold, and by this means took 
away all the wealth of the town, while the nine kings 
were doing puja to Siva. Then the nine kings came to 
the town of Ankalathavatha (another name for Amma 
varu) riding on clouds, to steal flowers from her garden. 
As they were plucking the flowers, Ammavaru seized 
them, took them off to an open space, where she had 
erected stables of gold, silver and diamonds, and impaled 
them in such a way that their blood could not curdle and 
no flies could touch them. She then placed her steed, 
the jackal, to guard the corpses, and then vanquished 
her enemies. 

I have given the story almost exactly as it is told in 
the palm-leaf manuscript that was lent me to have 
copied. It is a weird rambling piece of mythology; 
but its interest lies in the light that it throws upon an 
obscure page in the history of religious life in India. 
We can see, beneath all its absurdity and extravagance, 

1 An epithet of iva. 



138 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

the rise of a new form of religion side by side with the 
older cults of the village deities, the dislike that was 
felt by the upper classes for the worship of female 
deities, the struggle that took place between the old 
religion and the new, the varying phases of the conflict, 
the way in which disease and famine drove the masses 
back to the worship of their older deities, and then the 
drawn battle, as Siva asserted his power and Ammavaru 
vanquished her enemies, and both continued to receive 
the worship of the people. 



CHAPTER VIII 

PROBABLE ORIGIN OF THE WORSHIP OF 
VILLAGE GODS 

THE account given above of the rites and ceremonies 
connected with the worship of the village deities in 
South India does not pretend to be an exhaustive one. 
It would require many bulky volumes to enumerate the 
countless varieties of local use and custom prevailing in 
the different villages, and the result would be wearisome 
in the extreme ; but enough has been said, I think, to 
give a fair idea of the general nature and character of 
this phase of Hinduism, and to form a basis of com 
parison, on the one hand, between the cult of the 
village deities and the Brahmanical cults of Vishnu and 
Siva, and, on the other hand, between the cults of village 
deities existing among the Telugus, Canarese, and 
Tamils ; and, at any rate, this brief sketch of the 
religion of about 80 per cent, of the Hindu population 
of South India may serve to dispel the idea that the 
people of India are, as a body, a race of philosophers, or 
that what is vaguely termed Hinduism is a system of 
refined philosophy in the purity of its morality and 
subtlety of its doctrines. Religious philosophy, un 
doubtedly, has played a great part in the development 
of the higher thought of the Indian people ; but in South 
India, at any rate, the outlook of about 80 per cent, of the 
population on the visible world in which they live, and 
the invisible world which borders closely upon it, and 
their ideas about God and religion are represented, 
not by Hindu philosophy, but by the worship of their 
grama-devatas. 

Considerable caution must be used in drawing con- 



140 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

elusions from the striking resemblances between the 
ceremonies observed in the worship of village deities 
among the Telugus, Canarese, and Tamils, as the value 
of all evidence of this kind is largely discounted by the 
unifying influence of the great Vijayanagar empire. 
For about 250 years, from A.D. 1326 to A.D. 1565, the 
whole of South India was united under this great 
empire, which had its capital on the Tungabhadra River, 
and formed the main bulwark of Hinduism against the 
advance of the Muhammadans. The capital itself was 
of vast extent, and gathered together men and women 
of all races from every part of South India. It must 
have formed, therefore, a great centre for the fusion of 
different ideas and customs ; and, when the City of 
Vijayanagar was captured and rased to the ground by 
the Muhammadans in A.D. 1565, Tamils, Telugus, and 
Canarese may well have carried home with them many 
new ideas and customs borrowed from one another. 
We cannot assume, therefore, that, because a custom is 
widespread in the Tamil, Telugu, or Canarese country 
now, it was necessarily widespread before the founda 
tion of the Vijayanagar empire. Allowing, however, 
for this possible borrowing of religious rites and 
ceremonies, the resemblances between the rites in all 
three countries are very striking. Such a curious cere 
mony as that of cutting off the right fore-leg and put 
ting it into the mouth of the victim, which is found to 
exist all over the three countries in various villages 
and towns, might possibly have been borrowed; but the 
general resemblance in type, which underlies all local 
differences of custom, can hardly have been due to this 
cause, and the general impression left by a study of the 
various festivals and sacrifices in the three countries 
would be, I think, that they all belong to a common 
system and had a common origin. 

In the same way caution is needed in drawing con 
clusions from the resemblances between the worship of 
the village deities and the Brahmanical cults of Vishnu 
and Siva. The two systems of religion have existed 
side by side in the towns and villages for many centuries, 



141 

and the same people have largely taken part in both. 
Naturally, therefore, they have borrowed freely from 
one another. In the Tamil country the influence of 
Brahmanism on the cult of the village deities is very 
noticeable, and it is more than probable that many 
ceremonies, which originally belonged to the village 
deities, have been adopted by the Brahman priests. 
No conclusions, therefore, can safely be drawn from the 
folklore, which represents various village goddesses 
as, in some way, connected with Siva. It is quite 
possible that stories of this kind are simply due to a 
desire to connect the less dignified village deities with 
what was regarded as the higher form of worship con 
trolled by the Brahmans. On the other hand, the 
points of difference between the worship of the village 
deities and that of Siva and Vishnu, which have been 
noted in the introduction, are very strongly marked, 
and clearly indicate that the two systems of religion 
are quite distinct. The village goddesses are purely 
local deities, inflicting or warding off diseases and 
other calamities. They seem never to be regarded as 
having any relation to the world as a whole, and their 
worship is the religion of ignorant and uncivilized 
people, whose thoughts do not travel beyond their 
own surroundings and personal needs ; while Siva 
and Vishnu represent a philosophic conception of 
great forces at work in the universe, forces of 
destruction and preservation, and their worship is a 
religion that could only have originated among men 
accustomed to philosophic speculation. They may have 
borrowed many ideas, customs, and ceremonies from 
the more primitive religion of the villages ; but the 
foundation and motive of the whole system are to be 
sought in the brain of the philosopher rather than in 
the fears and superstitions of uneducated villagers. At 
the same time, it is also true that morally the Brahmani- 
cal system has sunk to lower depths than have been 
reached by the cruder religion of the village people. 
The worship of the village deities contains much that is 
physically repulsive. The details of a buffalo sacrifice 



142 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

are horrid to read about, and still worse to witness, and 
the sight of a pujari parading the streets with the 
entrails of a lamb round his neck and its liver in his 
mouth would be to us disgusting ; and, doubtless, there 
are much drunkenness and immorality connected with 
the village festivals ; while the whole system of religion 
is prompted by fear and superstition, and seems almost 
entirely lacking in anything like a sense of sin or 
feelings of gratitude towards a higher spiritual Power. 
But still, it is also true that, setting aside a few local 
customs in the worship of the village deities, there is 
nothing in the system itself which is quite so morally 
degrading and repulsive as the Lihgam worship of the 
Sivaites, or the marriage of girls to the god and their 
consequent dedication to a life of prostitution among 
the Vaishnavites. If the worship of Siva and Vishnu 
has risen to greater heights, it has also sunk to lower 
moral depths than the less intellectual and less aesthetic 
worship of the grama-devatas. 

What the origin of the village deities and their 
worship may have been, it is difficult to say. The 
system, as it now exists, combines many different ideas 
and customs, and has probably resulted from the fusion 
of various forms of religion. In the Tamil country 
there are many features in the worship of the village 
deities, which, obviously, have been adopted from 
Brahmanism, e.g. the elaborate washing of the images, 
and the growing aversion to animal sacrifices. So in 
Mysore, there are traces of sun-worship in the cult of 
Bisal-Mari ; and there are many features in the system 
everywhere, which seem to be borrowed from the 
worship, or rather propitiation, of the spirits of the 
departed. But the system as a whole is redolent of the 
soil, and evidently belongs to a pastoral and agricultural 
community. The village is the centre round which the 
system revolves, and the protection of the villagers the 
object for which it exists. At the same time, it is quite 
possible that the ultimate origin of many of the rites 
and ceremonies may be traced further back to a nomadic 
stage of society. Most of them have now entirely lost 



PROBABLE ORIGIN OF THE WORSHIP 143 

their meaning, and, when the people are asked what a 
particular ceremony means or what its object is, their 
usual reply is simply " It is mamul," i.e. custom; and 
there are many details of the sacrifices, which seem 
strangely inconsistent with the general idea and theory 
of the worship which now prevails. The one object of 
all the worship and sacrifices now is to propitiate various 
spirits, good and evil. And this is done by means 
of gifts, which, it is supposed, the spirits like, or by 
ceremonies, which will please them. Some of the 
spirits are supposed to delight in bloodshed, so animals 
are killed in their presence, and sometimes even the 
blood is given them to drink ; or blood and rice are 
sprinkled over the fields and streets, or thrown up in 
the air for them to eat. To the less refined goddesses 
or to the coarser male attendants, like Madurai-Viran, 
arrack, toddy, and cheroots are freely offered, because 
it is assumed that these gifts will rejoice their hearts 
and propitiate them. But a great deal of the ritual and 
many of the most striking ceremonies are quite incon 
sistent with this gift-theory of sacrifice and the idea of 
propitiation, which is now assumed to be the one motive 
and purpose of the festivals. For instance, one of the 
main features of the animal sacrifices is the varied 
applications of the blood of the victims. Sometimes 
the blood is applied to the bodies of the worshippers 
themselves, to their foreheads and breasts ; sometimes 
it is sprinkled on the lintel and door-posts of the shrine, 
sometimes on the houses or cattle, sometimes on the 
boundary-stones, sometimes it is mixed with rice and 
scattered over the streets, or sprinkled all round the 
boundaries of the village lands. But what possible 
meaning could these various uses of the- blood have 
according to the gift-theory of sacrifice ? On this theory 
it would be intelligible why it should be presented, as is 
sometimes done, at the shrine of the deity, or even 
drunk, as at Trichinopoly, by the pujari, who repre 
sents the goddess ; but of these other uses of the blood 
the gift-theory seems to furnish no adequate explana 
tion. Or again, what possible meaning could the gift- 



144 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

theory suggest for the widespread custom of putting the 
entrails round the neck of the pujan and the liver in his 
mouth ? It is not probable that such a custom as this 
originated without some reason or idea at the back of 
it ; but on the gift-theory it seems absolutely meaning 
less. 

Or again, another leading feature of the worship is 
the sacrificial feast in various forms. Sometimes the 
feast takes place on the spot, in the compound of the 
shrine ; more often the carcass is taken home by the 
offerer for a feast in his own house. Sometimes it is a 
formal and ceremonious act, as in certain villages of the 
Telugu country, where five little Mala boys, called 
Siddhalu, or innocents, are fed with the flesh of the 
victim under cover of a large cloth, to keep off evil 
spirits or the evil eye. Here, again, the gift-theory 
seems quite inconsistent with the whole idea of the 
sacrificial feast. The explanation often given, that the 
goddess consumes the essence or spirit (Saram or Avi) 
of the gifts, while the worshippers take the material 
substance, is perhaps in accordance with the animistic 
idea found in other countries that, even for men, the 
important thing in their food is the soul-stuff it contains 
rather than the outward, material part of it. But in 
any case this would still leave unexplained the fact that 
the eating of the flesh by the worshippers is in many 
cases regarded as a religious act and as an important 
part of the sacrifice, like the feast on the victims offered 
in the peace offerings under the Jewish law. On the 
other hand, the sacrificial feast finds a natural and ready 
explanation, if we assume that the system originated in 
the desire for communion with the spirit world and not 
in the idea of propitiation. 

Herr Warneck when describing the Animism of the 
Battaks of Sumatra in his book, The Living Forces of the 
Gospel, points out that most of the ceremonies connected 
with heathen sacrifices and a large number of heathen 
superstitions generally have their origin in the funda 
mental idea underlying all animistic religions, that 
not only living creatures and organisms but even 



PROBABLE ORIGIN OF THE WORSHIP 145 

lifeless things share in a universal soul or a soul-stuff 
that pervades everything in the world. " The vital 
question for the Animist, " he says, "is how to place 
his own soul in relation to the souls surrounding him, 
and to their powers, which are partly injurious and 
and partly useful, with as little danger and as much 
advantage to himself as possible. What must I do to 
protect and enrich my soul? That is the cardinal 
question of the animistic catechism." The main object 
of eating the flesh of an animal, therefore, is to absorb 
this soul-stuff and appropriate the special virtue which 
belongs to the animal. " The flesh of an animal that is 
eaten produces an effect on man corresponding to the 
animal in question. The flesh of the stag gives nimble- 
ness. Gamecocks are made to devour centipedes 
in order to assimilate their fierceness. Javanese 
thieves carry with them crow-bones to be as clever at 
stealing as crows." And Herr Warneck is probably 
right in thinking that this is the explanation of Can 
nibalism. It is not an act of ferocity or revenge, still 
less of epicureanism, since the Battaks dislike human 
flesh so much that it nearly makes them sick ; but "it is 
supposed that in eating a man s flesh the eater appro 
priates the other s soul." And in accordance with this 
idea those parts of the body in which the soul-power is 
supposed to be concentrated, the liver, the palms of the 
hands, the sinews and the flesh of the head are specially 
prized. To the same idea we may trace the horrid 
custom of drinking the blood of victims offered in sacri 
fice, which is so common in South India, and the various 
uses of the blood described in Chapter III. "The soul- 
stuff," says Herr Warneck, " has special vigour in the 
blood," and it is repeatedly stated in the Jewish law 
with reference to the sacrificial victims that " the blood 
is the life." 

It can readily be seen how easily in primitive times 
these animistic ideas gave rise to that particular form 
of Animism, which is generally known as Totemism. 
In the nomadic stage society consists of tribes or clans, 
the members of which are akin to one another, or, at 

10 



146 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

any rate, are assumed to be united by ties of blood rela 
tionship. All the members of the clan, then, are blood 
relations, and are bound together, as members of one 
family, for mutual help and protection. The normal 
attitude of every clan towards other clans is one of 
suspicion, hostility and war, and this constant pressure 
of hostile clans compels each individual clan, not only 
to maintain its unity and brotherhood, but, if possible, to 
enlarge its limits and add to its numbers. It becomes 
possible to do this by a convenient extension of the 
idea of blood relationship. If a man is not one of the 
clan by birth, he can be made one by, in some way, 
being made a partaker of its blood. In his Introduction 
to Ui History of Religion, Mr. Jevons quotes several 
instances of this from different parts of the world, in 
both ancient and modern times. The following 
examples from Africa will suffice to illustrate the 
custom : 

" The exchange of blood is of ten practised amongst the blacks 
of Africa, as a token of alliance and friendship. The Mambettu 
people, after having inflicted small wounds upon each others 
arms, reciprocally suck the blood, which flows from the incision. 
In the Unyora country the parties dip two coffee berries into the 
blood, and eat them. Amongst the Sandeh the proceedings are 
not so repulsive ; the operator, armed with two short knives, inocu 
lates the blood of one person into the wound of another. The 
exact manner in which this last operation is performed is des 
cribed by Mr. Ward, who himself submitted to it." After not 
ing that blood brotherhood is a form of cementing friendship and 
a guarantee of good faith, popular with all the Upper Congo 
tribes, he proceeds : "An incision was made in both our right 
arms, in the outer muscular swelling just below the elbow, and 
as the blood flowed in a tiny stream, the charm-doctor sprinkled 
powdered chalk and potash on the wounds, delivering the while, 
in rapid tones, an appeal to us to maintain unbroken the sanctity 
of the contract, and then our arms being rubbed together, so that 
the flowing blood intermingled, we were declared to be brothers 
of one blood, whose interest henceforth should be united as our 
blood now was." 

These examples will suffice to illustrate the wide 
spread idea that the actual drinking or application of 
the blood of a clan will create a blood-relationship and 
alliance among men, who are not actually members of 



PROBABLE ORIGIN OP THE WORSHIP 147 

the same family. But the human clan in its struggle 
for existence found itself surrounded, not only by other 
human clans, but also by various tribes of animals, 
which it looked upon as analogous to the clans of men ; 
and it desired to strengthen its position by an alliance 
with one or another of these animal clans, which, for 
some reason, impressed itself upon its imagination as 
animated by some supernatural power. The animal 
clan then became what is now called the totem of the 
human clan ; and the spirit that was supposed to 
animate the totem clan became, in a certain sense, an 
object of worship. One great purpose of the sacrifice, 
then, was to cement and strengthen the alliance 
between the human clan and the animal clan ; and 
the way in which this was done was through some 
application of the blood of the totem, or by, in some 
way, coming into contact with that which was specially 
connected with its life, or by partaking of its flesh. The 
object, then, of killing a member of the totem tribe 
becomes clear. Under ordinary circumstances it would 
be absolutely forbidden, and regarded as the murder of 
a kinsman ; but on special occasions it was solemnly 
done in order to shed the blood and partake of the flesh, 
and so strengthen the alliance. The blood is regarded 
as the life, and when the blood of a member of the 
totem tribe of animals was shed, the life of the totem 
was brought to the spot where it was needed, and the 
blood could be applied to the worshippers as a bond of 
union, and then the union could be still further cemented 
by the feast upon the flesh, by which the spirit of the 
totem was absorbed and assimilated by its human 
kinsmen. The object of the animal sacrifice, therefore, 
was not in any sense to offer a gift, but to obtain com 
munion with the totem-spirit. 

Now, if we apply this theory of sacrifice to the 
sacrifices offered to the village deities in South India, 
we see that the main ceremonies connected with them 
at once become intelligible ; the various modes of 
sprinkling and applying the blood, and the different 
forms of the sacrificial feast were all originally intended 



148 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

to promote communion with the spirit that was wor 
shipped. In the same way, even such a ceremony as 
the wearing of the entrails round the neck, and putting 
the liver in the mouth, acquires an intelligible meaning 
and purpose. The liver and entrails are naturally 
connected with the life of the animal, and the motive of 
this repulsive ceremony would seem to be an intense 
desire to obtain as close communion as possible with 
the object of worship by wearing those parts of its 
body that are specially connected with its life. So, 
too, this theory explains why the animal sacrificed is 
so often treated as an object of worship. In the case 
of the buffalo sacrifices in the Telugu country, as we 
have seen, the buffalo is paraded through the village, 
decked with garlands and smeared with turmeric and 
kunkuma, and then, as it passes by the houses, people 
come out and pour water on its feet, and worship it. 
But why should this be done if the animal sacrificed is 
regarded as only a gift to the goddess ? When, however, 
we realize that the animal sacrificed was not originally 
regarded as a gift, but as a member of the totem tribe 
and the representative of the spirit to be worshipped, 
the whole ceremony becomes full of meaning. 

Then, again, this theory of the origin of sacrifice 
supplies a very plausible and intelligible explanation 
of the origin of the use of stones and images to 
represent the village deities in India. At first sight it 
seems a complete mystery why a common ordinary 
stone should be regarded as representing a god or 
goddess. Most of the stones used for this purpose in 
South Indian villages have absolutely nothing that is 
peculiar or distinctive about them. Often they are 
simply stone pillars of varying heights, and a large 
number are only small, conical stones, not more than 
six or seven inches high. Some, again, are flat slabs 
with figures carved on them in bas-relief and others are 
regular images. The images and carved bas-reliefs we 
can understand ; but how could these ordinary stones 
and stone-pillars have ever come to be regarded as the 
representatives of spiritual beings ? The theory of 



PROBABLE ORIGIN OF THE WORSHIP 149 

sacrifice connected with totemism supplies, at any rate, a 
possible and intelligible explanation. The totem 
animal was killed in order to shed the blood, and so 
secure the presence of the totem deity at a particular 
spot, which then became sacred or Taboo. To violate 
it would be a grievous offence. Accordingly the spot 
was marked by a simple heap of stones, or by an 
upright stone pillar, which would perhaps be sprinkled 
with the blood. Then, as totemism gradually died out 
and gave place to higher religious ideas and anthropo 
morphic conceptions of deity, the old totemistic concep 
tion of sacrifice became obscured, and the animal that 
was killed was regarded no longer as the representa 
tive of the object of worship, but as a gift to the deity. 
At the same time the sanctity of the spot became asso 
ciated with the stones, originally set up to mark the 
place of sacrifice, and so in time the stone pillar itself 
became sacred, and came to be treated as the symbol of 
the deity to whom the sacrifice was offered, while the 
heap of stones developed into the sacred altar. We can 
probably trace one stage of this process of evolution in 
the ideas now connected with the boundary-stone, ellai- 
kal. No doubt it was once simply a stone placed to mark 
the spot, on the boundary of the village lands, where the 
sacrifice was offered. Then the stone became sacred, 
and the idea grew up that it was inhabited by the spirit 
who was worshipped. There, however, the process of 
evolution stopped, and the stone is not now regarded, 
like the other stones, as representing the deity, but 
simply as her abode. 

Probably the other stones were once regarded in 
exactly the same light, and then advanced a step further 
and became representatives of the deities worshipped. 
The next step, to the carved human figures, whether 
bas-reliefs or complete images, would be easy and 
natural, when once the deity had been conceived no 
longer as the spirit of a whole species of animals, but 
as akin to human beings. 

When this change in religious ideas took place must, 
of course, be a matter of conjecture, but it probably 



150 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

coincided with the change from the nomadic to the 
settled pastoral and agricultural life, when the wander 
ing clan developed into the village community, and 
the superiority of man to the lower animals had been 
definitely established. 

Similarly, it is possible that the connexion between 
the growth of agriculture and the origin of village 
communities and so also of village deities, may account 
for the fact that the village deities of South India are 
almost always females. 

All over the world the earth spirit is regarded as 
female and the presiding deities of agriculture are 
mainly goddesses, because the idea of fertility and 
reproduction is connected with women. When, there 
fore, a nomadic pastoral clan settled down to an 
agricultural life in villages, they would naturally wor 
ship the earth-spirits of the village lands as goddesses 
rather than as gods. 

The fact, too, that agriculture among primitive races 
was the business of women rather than of men, as it is 
among savage races at the present day, probably led to 
the village goddesses being at first worshipped by the 
women rather than by the men. One trace of this is 
still found in the custom of the Mala pujari, who is a 
man, dressing up as a woman when he sits in the cart 
with the animals impaled alive all around him, and is 
dragged in procession through the village, 1 as well as 
in the prominent part taken by women in some places 
in the waving of the arati. 2 

These theories as to the origin of the village 
deities, of idolatry and of animal sacrifice in South 
India, can, of course, be regarded only as hypotheses. 
But, when we consider that the totemistic theory is 
able to furnish a plausible explanation of the crude 
form of idolatry which exists in many villages, and of 
many features in the sacrificial rites, which seem quite 
inconsistent with the existing ideas of sacrifice, we see 
that there is sufficient evidence to justify its adoption 

1 See above, p. 58. * See above, p. 39. 



PROBABLE ORIGIN OF THE WORSHIP 151 

as a working hypothesis. And there can be no doubt 
that the ceremonial observed in these sacrifices gives 
very substantial support to the theory, that the 
original idea of sacrifice was not that of a gift to the deity 
but communion with a supernatural power. And, if 
that is true, then we may see, even in these primitive 
rites, a foreshadowing of far higher forms of religions 
belief and practice. The mysterious efficacy attributed 
to the sprinking of the blood might almost be regarded 
as an unconscious prophecy of the Christian doctrine of 
the Atonement, while the whole ritual of the sacrifices, 
even in its crudest and most revolting forms, bears 
witness to that instinctive craving after communion 
with God, which finds its highest expression and satis 
faction in the sacramental system of the Christian 
Church. 



CHAPTER IX 

SOCIAL, MORAL, AND RELIGIOUS 
INFLUENCE OF THE SYSTEM 

THE results of this system of religion might at first 
seem to be wholly degrading intellectually, morally, 
and spiritually. It appears on the surface to be a religion 
of fear and superstition, finding its outward expression 
in mean, ugly symbols, and in forms of worship that 
are to a very large extent disgusting and even immoral. 
The account of a village festival in the Telugu country 
reads like mere midsummer madness ; many of the rites 
in which animals are impaled or buried alive are revolt 
ing in their cruelty ; and the animal sacrifices with their 
crude butchery and coarse bloodshed bear witness to a 
low and unworthy conception of deity. Whatever may 
have been the origin of these animal sacrifices in 
prehistoric times, they are now regarded by the 
worshippers simply as a means of appeasing the deity s 
wrath by satisfying her lust for blood. In the ancient 
Jewish sacrifices there may have been the same amount 
of bloodshed and butchery, when on such an occasion as 
the dedication of the Temple at Jerusalem "King 
Solomon offered a sacrifice of twenty and two thousand 
oxen and a hundred and twenty thousand sheep," but the 
Jewish sacrifices symbolized great moral and spiritual 
truths ; the victim represented the worshipper, the 
killing of the animal and the offering of the blood 
expressed the consecration of the worshipper s own life 
to God ; in the sin offering and the peace offering the 
presentation of the blood and the feast on the flesh 
were symbolical of penitence for sin and communion 
with God. But in the sacrifices to the village deities 



INFLUENCE OF THE SYSTEM 153 

in India at the present day there are no traces of 
those higher ideas in the minds of the worshippers. 
There is no penitence for sin, no thought of the 
consecration of human life to a just and holy God, 
but simply the desire to appease the ill-temper of 
a vengeful spirit by an offering of blood. And even 
in unbloody offerings of fruit, camphor, and incense 
to the more refined and respectable of the goddesses, 
who are supposed to be shocked by the sight of blood, 
the idea of sacrifice does not rise above the conception 
of a propitiatory gift. It is the kind of offering 
that is made to the local policeman or a tyrannical 
government official to secure his favour. And 
in almost all the festivals held in honour of the 
village deities there is a wild orgiastic excitement, 
and often a sad amount of drunkenness and immorality 
that is most degrading. So, too, there is nothing 
morally elevating in the conception formed of the 
characters of the deities themselves. They have not 
even the grandeur of such a deity as Siva. Siva may be 
terrible and cruel, but at any rate there is something 
grand and majestic about him : he represents a world- 
force ; he is an interpretation of the universe and the 
embodiment of a philosophy. But the village deity is 
nothing more than a petty local spirit, tyrannizing over 
or protecting a small hamlet, occasionally venting her 
spite or her ill-temper on a handful of poor villagers. 
She inspires fear because of her power to do grievous 
harm by inflicting diseases and injuries on man and 
beast when she is offended, but she has no relation to 
the universe or even to the world : she is the product of 
fear untouched by philosophic reflection ; so she does 
not draw out any feelings of wonder and admiration, 
still less of love and gratitude, nor does she lead her 
worshippers on to any higher ideals of morality. 

Taking the system, therefore, as a whole, as it exists 
at the present day, we can only condemn it from a 
moral and religious point of view 7 as a debasing super 
stition, and the only attitude which the Christian Church 
can possibly take towards it as a working system is one 



154 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

of uncompromising hostility, the same attitude that the 
Jewish prophets of old took to the local Semitic cults 
in Palestine with all their idolatrous and immoral 
associations. In the writings of Hindu philosophers 
and poets there are many noble and inspiring thoughts, 
but there is nothing in the vast jungle of beliefs and 
practices that have grown up during the course of ages 
around the worship of the village deities that the Chris 
tian Church could wish to preserve. The first step to 
wards any religious progress in the villages of South 
India is to cut down this jungle of beliefs and practices, 
rites and ceremonies, and clear the ground for the 
teaching and worship of the Christian Church. When 
the Outcastes of a village in the Telugu country become 
Christians, they very often level the shrine of their local 
deity to the ground and build a Christian prayer-house 
on the site. That expresses the general attitude of 
Christianity to the whole system. 

At the same time we must not allow the corrup 
tions of the system at the present day, with all its 
debasing rites and its low and petty views of the 
deity, to blind us to its social and religious value in 
past ages, or to the deeper spiritual feelings and 
instincts which it has feebly striven to express. 
In the first place, the worship of the village deities 
has maintained a silent protest on behalf of religious 
and social equality. Feeble and ineffective as the 
protest may be, still it is a protest that is not without 
its value. In the worship of the village deities there 
is no priestly caste. The Brahman is nowhere ; the 
pujaris may belong to any caste ; the leading part in 
the buffalo sacrifices is nearly always taken by the 
Outcastes ; the folklore of the village deities and the 
songs chanted at the sacrifices give hints of a time 
when the Outcastes aspired to equality with the Brah- 
mans ; and the large number of people from the 
different Sudra castes who take part in the sacrifices 
form a striking witness to what we should call in the 
Christian Church the priesthood of the laity. It is a 
feeble flickering light shining in a dark place, like the 



INFLUENCE OF THE SYSTEM 155 

witness borne to the equality and brotherhood of man 
at the temple of Jagannath in Orissa, where all castes, 
including the Brahmans, eat together. Still the wit 
ness has been maintained through the long centuries of 
caste tyranny, and perhaps it has had more influence 
than we imagine in keeping alive in the hearts of the 
depressed classes some slight feeling of self-respect 
and a sense of their own worth in the community. It 
is something to be proud of that when the terrible cala 
mity of cholera or small- pox threatens the life of the 
village, the calamity cannot be averted without their 
help. If they cannot feel that they are respected, the 
next best thing is to feel that in times of trouble they 
are needed. 

Then, in the second place, deep down in the system, 
buried beneath a mass of traditional rites that have lost 
their meaning, there is still the instinctive craving 
of the human heart for communion with God. This 
instinctive feeling after God has indeed been degraded 
by unworthy and petty ideas of the spiritual world ; 
it has been distorted by fear and superstition ; it has 
found expression in weird and horrid forms ; but 
still, in spite of all corruptions and distortions, we 
can discern in it, not merely a belief in a spirit 
world, but a desire to come into personal communion 
with spiritual beings. In the previous chapter it has 
been shown that - the original idea underlying the 
system of animal sacrifice was that of communion 
rather than that of propitiation ; and, though at the 
present day propitiation by acceptable gifts is undoubt 
edly the dominant idea in these sacrifices and offerings, 
still the idea of communion is not wholly lost. The 
pujari is often regarded as possessed and inspired by 
the deity, and the sprinkling of the blood of the victim 
on the houses, the fields and the persons of the wor 
shippers is regarded as a means of securing the presence 
and protection of the deity. While, therefore, the 
methods of communion are all wrong, and the concep 
tion of the deity with whom communion is sought is 
hopelessly inadequate and perverted, still, in the 



156 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

simple desire for communion with a deity of some sort, 
there is a germ and root of true religious feeling 
which craves for expression. It is pathetic to notice 
how real is the desire among many of the more religious 
men and women in the villages, even among the de 
pressed classes, to see God. I have often met with and 
heard of men who have spent what are for them large 
sums of money, and undergone much hardship, to satisfy 
this desire. We must not undervalue this rudimentary 
religious feeling ; and if, in the worship of the village 
deities, it has for many centuries been feeding on 
carrion, perhaps it is better for it to feed on carrion 
than to die of starvation. 

Then, again, the belief in the village deities has 
undoubtedly fostered an attitude of mind towards the 
spiritual world which is to a certain degree a preparation 
for the Gospel. It has made men feel a sense of 
dependence on spiritual beings. The mental attitude of 
the ordinary villager is the very antithesis of materialism 
or agnoticism. He has a very vivid belief that the world 
in which he lives is surrounded by unseen spiritual beings, 
and in all times of trouble he feels intensely his depen 
dence on his village deity for help and protection. And 
even where the village deity is conceived of as an ill- 
tempered, revengeful being, the fear which she inspires 
is not a bad preparation for a belief in a God of love. 
The experience of most evangelists among the Out- 
castes of South India would be, I think, that their fear 
of evil spirits is one reason why the doctrine of an 
omnipotent God of infinite love appeals to them with 
so much force It makes them realize their need of 
help. It does for them what the fear of powerful and 
malicious enemies did for the Jewish people of old. 
The Jewish Psalms show how closely the need of 
protection from powerful enemies was bound up with 
the deepest religious feelings of the chosen people. 
The need of protection against evil spirits is playing a 
similar part in the religious development of the 
villagers of South India. 

The Christian Church thus brings to the villagers, 



INFLUENCE OF THE SYSTEM 157 

and especially to the Outcastes, three great truths which 
their belief in the village deities specially prepares them 
to accept : 

(a) First, the truth of the existence of an omnipo 
tent God of infinite love, the creator and the ruler 
of the universe, and the Father of all mankind, a truth 
which stands out in vivid and startling contrast to their 
belief in a multitude of evil or ill-tempered spirits 
always ready to do them grievous harm, with no 
superior power to control them. 

(b) Second, the truth of the universal redemption 
from sin and the great gift of direct, personal access to 
an almighty, all-loving God through Jesus Christ. 
This truth stands in equally striking contrast to the 
poor and miserable communion with a petty local deity 
offered through the blood of their animal sacrifices. 
To compare great things with small, it is as though a 
poor villager suffering from the persecution of a petty 
local official were suddenly told that he had free right 
of access to the kind and powerful collector of the 
district. The good news of free access to God is a 
real Gospel of freedom. 

(c) And thirdly, there is the great truth of the 
equality of all men in God s sight and the universal 
brotherhood of man. It is a truth very dimly fore 
shadowed in the rites of their primitive cult ; but in the 
Christian Church it stands out as the very essence of 
the Gospel message. And it is a truth that makes a 
powerful appeal to the hearts of the downtrodden and 
depressed. 

Thus, while the cult of the village deities provides 
little foundation of belief or practice on which the 
Christian Church can build ; on the other hand it has 
kept alive a sense of deep spiritual needs, which 
Christianity alone can satisfy. It certainly brings 
religion down into the every-day life of the people. 
The ordinary villager of South India does nothing 
without offering prayer to the village deity, while the 
shrines and symbols that are scattered all over the 
countryside keep constantly before his mind the 



158 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

existence of a spiritual world. However poor and 
degraded his ideas of deity may be, at any rate they are 
to him a profound reality, and this sense of the reality 
and importance of the spiritual world is not a bad 
foundation for the Christian Church to build upon. 



APPENDIX I 

ON THF CEREMONY OF THE OPENING OF THE MOUTH 
IN THE FUNERAL RITES OF ANCIENT EGYPT 

There is an interesting parallel to the practice of 
cutting off the right foreleg and putting it in the mouth 
of the buffalo (described on page 51) in the ancient 
funeral ceremonies connected with the cult of Osiris in 
Egypt. The legend ran that, after Osiris had been 
murdered by his brother Set, his son Horus sought out 
his body, in order to raise it to life ; and, when he found 
it, he untied the bandages so that Osiris might move his 
limbs and rise up. Under the direction of Thoth, 
Horus recited a series of formulas, as he presented 
offerings to Osiris ; and he and his sons and Anubis 
performed the ceremonies which opened the mouth and 
nostrils, and the eyes and ears of Osiris. This opening 
of the mouth was one of the regular funeral rites in 
ancient Egypt. 

There is a book found in tombs called the Book of 
the Opening of the Mouth ; and in a British Museum 
bulletin, entitled The Book of the Dead, written by 
Mr. E. A. Wallis Budge, it is said that, on the upper 
margins of the insides of coffins, there are frequently 
given two or more rows of coloured drawings of the 
offerings which under the fifth dynasty were presented 
to the deceased or his statue during the celebration of 
the service of "Opening the Mouth." In one of the 
illustrations the ceremony of Opening the Mouth is 
shown as being performed on the mummy of a royal 
scribe. In the picture there is a calf walking in front 
of its mother with its left foreleg cut off, and in front 
of the calf are two slaves, one with the heart of the 



160 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

deceased in his hand, and the other holding the left 
foreleg of the calf, which is apparently being placed 
upon a table. It is not clear what part the foreleg 
plays in the ceremony of the "Opening of the Mouth," 
but there is an obvious resemblance between this 
ancient ceremony in Egypt and the widespread custom 
in South India mentioned above. The Egyptian cere 
mony suggests that one object of putting the foreleg in 
the mouth in the case of sacrifices in India is to keep it 
open and enable the spirit of the animal to go in and 
out. 

We give in Plate XVIII a photograph of a buffalo 
sacrifice carried out by the servants of Dr. Hunt of 
Secunderabad. The scene is the garage in which his 
motor bicycle stands. Round it the servants have 
grouped his sword, the gardener s shears, a baby s 
chair, a tea-kettle, etc., and to these the sacrifice was 
made. In the right foreground lies the body of the 
buffalo, to the left its head with the right foreleg in 
its mouth, while between the head and the bicycle may 
be seen a bottle of liquor and various other offerings. 



APPENDIX II 
ON THE USE OF IRON TO DRIVE AWAY EVIL SPIRITS 

A curious custom connected with the worship of 
Mariamma was brought to my notice by Dr. Hunt of 
Secunderabad. An Indian friend of his came across it 
in a village of the Bellary district in the Telugu country. 
The villagers hold a festival in honour of the goddess 
Mariamma every year and offer the usual sacrifices. 
In 1917 there was a very severe epidemic of influenza 
in the district ; so a special festival was held to appease 
the wrath of the goddess. A wooden bust of her was 
made with arms akimbo and sacrifices were duly offered 
to it. Thousands of people came from neighbouring 
villages for the occasion, to do puja and make their 
offerings. On the following night the image was placed 
on a small wooden cart about three feet high, and taken 
in procession to a place outside the village. The head 
of each family then came and drove an iron nail into 
the image, till it was dotted all over with nails. A goat 
was then sacrificed, and the blood sprinkled over the 
goddess ; after which the image and the cart were 
covered over with a red cloth and left in the field. A 
rough drawing of the nail-filled image is reproduced in 
Plate XVIII. The explanation of this ceremony given 
by the villagers themselves was that the nails were 
driven in to the goddess to attract her attention and 
induce her to be kind to each family and protect them 
against the disease. It seems an odd way of doing it ; 
and probably the real meaning of the ceremony in 
prehistoric times was somewhat different. It is a 
very old and wide-spread idea that malignant spirits 
are afraid of iron ; and it is possible that the hammering 

11 



162 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

of the nails into the goddess was originally intended to 
put the fear of iron into her and drive out of her the 
evil temper. The villagers do not now connect the 
practice with black magic (bhanamati); but the original 
idea may have been in some way connected with it. 
But whatever the origin, it throws an interesting 
light on the driving of nails into the famous Hindenburg 
statue in Berlin during the war. Evidently this is a 
survival of an old pagan custom dating back to a remote 
antiquity. 

It is a common belief among all castes in Malabar 1 
that lonely places, such as cremation grounds, the sides 
of tanks or groves of tamarind trees, are haunted by 
" pisachas " or evil spirits. At about the middle of the 
night these evil spirits are supposed to roam about 
their haunts with the intention of possessing those who 
chance to pass their way. People who say that they 
have seen the demon give us to understand that it has 
the form of a woman, and less often of a man, while 
others say that its form is too fearful to describe, 
attesting that, if they could believe their eyes, they saw a 
hideous and most appalling figure towering right up to 
the skies. Men are much afraid to pass through such 
places between nine p.m. and three a.m., but feel 
themselves safe when they have sharp iron weapons 
with them. It is supposed that the devil is afraid of 
iron and goes away in a fright. A man versed in 
magic, when he has to walk through such places, draws 
a cabalistic figure on the earth, and inscribes on it 
some mystical letters. At the centre of the figure he 
plunges the pointed end of an iron knife or peg. 
Having done this, he feels quite secure from the baneful 
influence of evil spirits. 

Sometimes a house is believed to be haunted by 
some of these aerial beings. When calamities come 
thick upon the inmates of a house, it is a certain sign 
that it is possessed by evil spirits. In such a case the 

1 These notes about Malabar were kindly given me by one 
of the assistants of the Government Museum, Madras. 



APPENDIX II 163 

exerciser is sent for. He comes and studies the situa 
tion of the house and the position of the doors and 
windows and so on. Having got a thorough knowledge 
of it, he is able to say which way the devil comes and 
goes. A suitable corner is selected, according to the 
rules of sorcery, and an iron nail is driven into the 
earth at that corner. The devil is bound down by such 
an act, and the householder feels that he has nothing 
more to fear from demoniacal influences. 

To cast out the devil that has possessed a man or a 
woman, the following method is very commonly resort 
ed to. A wooden image of the person under the power 
of the evil spirit is made, and a square hole made in it 
just above the navel. The wood selected for this 
purpose is, as a rule, that of the palamaram, i.e. alstozia 
scholaris. This is done according to the rules of magic. 
Then, by the recitation of certain mysterious spells, the 
essence of the person afflicted with the malady is trans 
ferred to the wooden image. The idea of incising a 
hole in the image seems to me to be to create an opening 
or entrance in the image through,which the essence of 
the person can be transferred to it. There might also be 
another idea, that such an image should not be perfect 
in every part. The image is then taken to a tree that 
has plenty of milky juice in it and nailed on to it. The 
tree selected for such purposes is palamaram, i.e. 
alstozia sc/wlaris, arayalmaram, i.e. iicus religiosa, or 
Pezhumaram, i.e. careya arborea. The spirit no longer 
possesses the person but possesses the tree. 

In the Madras Museum there are two large wooden 
images, over five feet high, studded all over with 
wooden nails. The first, a life-size rude female 
human figure, with feet turned backwards, carved out 
of the wood of alstoria sc/wlaris, was washed ashore at 
Calicut in 1903. It probably came from the Laccadive 
islands, some of whose residents are famous necro 
mancers. The figure probably represented a woman 
possessed by an evil spirit. By means of magic rites 
and the driving in of the nails, the people believed they 
had nailed up the spirit in the image, and then threw it 



164 THE VILLAGE GODS OF SOUTH INDIA 

into the sea. The other figure was found at Tellicherry. 
Arabic characters, doubtless regarded as of great magic 
potency, are carved all over the figures. 

The use of iron to scare away evil spirits is very 
common among the Chamars in North India. 1 



Briggs, The Chamars, 142. 



GLOSSARY OF INDIAN TERMS 



As only brief definitions are possible here, a reference is given 
in each case to the page on which the term is explained. Names 
of deities. are not included. They may be found in the indices. 



abishegam anointing, wash 
ing, 92. 

adi original, 133. 

amma or amman a feminine 
termination, 23. 

draft a lamp of rice flour, 39. 

arrack a native intoxicant, 49. 

Asadis priests of the Malas, 
44. 

ashta sakti the eight powers 
of the universe, 30. 

a vatara incarnation, 24. 

bali offering, 82. 

bali-harana presentation of 
the offering, 63. 

basava bull or ox, 125. 

basavl a fallen woman conse 
crated to a deity, 45. 

betel a pepper plant, 39. 

bhadrakshi a kind of bead, 129. 

boddu-rayee navel-stone. 60. 

Brahman the highest Hindu 
caste, 19. 

Chakras a section of the Out- 
castes, 81. 

Chandala - an Outcaste, 84. 

cholama. coarse grain, 50. 

damaru a. Sivaite drum, 129 
n. I. 

devara kona consecrated buf 
falo, 78. 

devara-potu consecrated to 
the goddess, 62. 

dola-fatra swing-festival, 59 
n. 1. 

dubakaya a fruit, 67. 

ellai-kal boundary-stone, 33. 



Ganga-bhavanl a f o r t i fi e d 

place, 129. 
ganja Indian hemp used as an 

intoxicant, 90. 
gauda-kona husband -buffalo, 

73. 

gingelly a plant, 90. 
golla milkman, 75. 
gopuram the towered gateway 

of a South Indian temple, 134. 
gram lentils, 64. 
grama-devata village-god, 16. 
Hara destroyer, 137. 
inam rent-free land, 63. 
Kaniyas religious mendicants 

found in Coorg, 87. 
kankanam a bracelet, 105. 
kapu a yellow wristlet, 100. 
karagam pot, 37. 
karnam a village accountant, 

44. 
kavalgar village watchman, 

106. 
kitchadi a dish of flour and 

buttermilk, 81. 

krita yuga the golden age, 132. 
krittam a conical head-dress, 

26. 
Kshatriya the second Hindu 

caste, 19. 

ktinkuma a red paste, 50. 
kunna-kannadi eye-mirror, 29. 
Kuttadis dancers, 27. 
linga S*iva s phallic symbol, 

72 n. 1. 
Lingayats a sect who wear the 

linga, 72. 



166 



GLOSSARY OF INDIAN TERMS 



Madigas the lowest section of 
the Outcastes in the Telugu 
country, 28. 

Maids a large group of Out- 
castes in the Telugu country, 
44. 

mantram a sacred text, 92. 

maranada bali death-atone 
ment, 88. 

margosa the neem tree, 37. 

mleccha a foreigner, 19. 

muhurtam moment, 132. 

mund a group of huts, 61. 

munsiff a village magistrate, 
57. 

namaskaram obeisance, 66. 

nautch-girls dancing girls at 
tached to temples, 21. 

Pambala a hereditary Mala 
priest, 58. 

Panchama - an Outcaste, 19. 

pandal booth, 37. 

Panikas religious mendicants, 
86,87. 

Pariahs the chief group of 
Outcastes in the Tamil coun 
try, 14. 

pedda great, 70. 

pial platform, 81. 

prasadam a grace-gift, 64. 

puja worship, 18. 

pujarl one who conducts wor 
ship, a ministrant, 18. 



puthraydgam a sacrifice to 

obtain a child, 31. 
rakshatha demon, 122. 
j reddy a village magistrate, 71. 
| rudrdksha a kind of berry, 

129. 

| ryot a small farmer, 52. 
! sakti power, 29. 
j sdstras the Hindu sacred 

books, 84. 

shashthahgam prostration, 74. 
i siddhalu innocents, 52. 
i Sudra the fourth Hindu caste, 

19. 

sulam spear, 40. 
tahsildar the magistrate of a 

sub-division of a district, 57. 
j tali a. marriage disk, 27, 132. 
! talidri a village servant, 72. 
| tapas austerities, 84. 
i tom-tom a native drum, 38. 
I toti watchman, 78. 
! Trimurti the Hindu triad, 24. 
J Mf/7/a trident, 40 n. 2. 
| turmeric a dye, 48. 
j vdhana vehicle, 90. 
i Vaisya the third Hindu caste, 

19. 

i veta sacrifice, 70. 
j vetty scavenger, 56. 
j vlran hero, 33. 
yuga an age, 132. 
i zamindar land-owner, 57. 



INDEX OF THE GODS 



A. Female 



Addankamma, 23. 
Akasakannigais, 26. 
Ammavari, 64. 
Ammavaru, 112. 
Angalamma, 30, 31, 32, 91, 92, 

93, 94, 105, 109. 
Ankalamma, 24, 58. 
Ankamrna or Ankalathavatha, 

24, 31, 68, 127. 
Annamma, 29, 79. 
Arikamma, 24. 
Ashta Sakti, 25, 26. 
Balamma, 23. 
Bhadra-Kall, 86. 
Bisal-Mari, or Bisal-Mari- 

amma, 29, 80, 81, 83. 
Challalamma, 23. 
Chamalamma, 24. 
Chammandamma, 80. 
ChandeSvaramma, 29, 79. 
Chinnamma, 24. 
Chinnintamma, 23. 
Dalamma, 42. 
Doddamma, 28, 77. 
Draupati, 32, 90, 91. 
Durga or Durgamma, 71, 74, 

76, 86, 113 n. 
Ellai-Pidari, 33. 
Ellamma, 24, 40. 
Ellaramma, 68. 
Elliamman, 104. 
Gangamma, 23, 24, 31, 67, 68. 
Ghantalamma, 23. 
Goonal Mari, 80. 
Hathay, 123. 
Hiridevathi, 80, 83, 84. 
Huliamma. 29. 
Isondamma, 24. 
Kali or Kallamma, 17, 24, 32, 

37, 39, 91, 92, 104, 108. 



Kalumaiamman, 99, 100. 
Kamachlamma, 31. 
Kanniamma, 28, 32. 
Kannigais, 26. 
Kanniha Paramevarl, 123. 
Kel Mari, 80, 83, 84. 
Kokkalamma, 29, 79. 
Koniatnma, 121. 
Kulanthalamman, 102, 110. 
Kurumbai or Kurumbaiamma, 

37, 100, 101, 102. 
Maddha Ramamma, 16. 
Madura-Kali, or Madura-Kall- 

amman, 106, 107, 108. 
Mahadeva-Amma, 29. 
Mahakall, 30, 104. 
Mahalakshmi or Mahalakshml- 

amma, 24, 66, 68. 
MaheSvaramma, 28, 77, 78. 
Malaiyayi, 98. 
Mamillamma, 23. 
Mane Manchi or Mane Man- 

chamma, 82, 83. 
Maramma, 24, 29, 42, 74, 79. 
Maramma-Hethana, 42. 
Mari or Mariamma, 19, 29, 30, 

32,45, 80, 86, 88, 90, 91, 92, 

93, 94, 106, 115, 116, 117. 
Maridiamma, 30, 65. 
Mayegvaramma, 29, 79. 
Minachlamman, 112 ff. 
Muni, 32. 

Mutyalamma, 23, 24, 25, 68. 
Nukalamma, 24, 30, 63, 65. 
Paduvattamma, Plate XVI. 
Pallalamma, 54. 
Pandilamma, 23. 
Peddamma, 24, 29, 48, 50. 
Pidari, 32, 91, 92, 93, 94, 103, 

104, 108. 



168 



INDEX OF THE GODS 



Plague-Amma, 21. 
Polamma, 24. 
Poleramma, 24. 
Poshamma, 70. 
Pujamma, 28, 41, 78. 
Pullathalamman, 104. 
Ramamma, 21. 
Ravelamma, 68. 
Saptakannigais, 25, 26. 
Savadamma, 123. 
Savaramma, 28. 
Seliamma, 32. 
S*!talamma, 23. 
Sukhajamma, 29, 79. 
Sunkalamma, 24, 71, 74. 



Thurgai, 118. 
Thuropathlamraa, 31. 
Udalamma, 29, 79. 
Ugra-Mahakali 25. 
Ujinihonkali, 104, 105. 
Uramma, 29, 71, 73, 119. 
Uttahnahaliamma, 80. 
Vasukota, 24. 
Vlra-Mahakall, 30. 
Vishalakshmlamman, 105. 
Wanamalamma, 22. 
Yaparamma, 23. 
Yeeranagere Mari, 80. 
Yellamma, 116. 



B. Male 



Basavanna, 124. 
Bathalama, 105. 
Buddha Sahib, 16. 
Ellai-Karuppn, 33, 101. 
lyenar, 18, 30, 33, 35, 90, 91, 

94, 105. 

Karuppanna, 33, 114. 
Karuppu, 102, 108. 
Kuttandavar, 26, 27. 
MadeSvara, 81. 
Madurai-Vlran, 25, 33, 89, 92, 



93, 94, 98, 101, 102, 105, 108, 

113. 

Mahalinga, 126. 
Munadian, 33, 89, 92, 93. 
MuneSvara, 28, 77, 78. 
Padu-Karuppanna, 98. 
Pandur-Karuppana, 98. 
Periyanna-Svaml, 107. 
Potu-Razu, 18, 24, 40. 
Raja Vayan, 34. 
Ursuthiyan, 98. 



Boddu-rayee, 41. 
Ellai-kal, 28 ; 101. 



C. Stone* 



Nattan-kal, 40. 

The Cattle Stone, 39. 



GEOGRAPHICAL INDEX 



A. The Telugu Country: 18, 23-24, 36, 40, 43, Chap. IV. 



Bezwada, IS, 16. 
Bhimadole, 69. 
Cocanada, 30, 63. 
Cuddapah, 24, 60. 
Dharmaja-Gudem, 68. 
Ellore, 23, 58, 66. 



Godavari, 65. 
Gudivada,54, 59. 
Kalasapad, 60. 
Kurnool, 24, 58, 59. 
Masulipatam, 23, 61, 63, 65. 
Vijayanagar, 139. 



B. The Tamil Country: 18, 19, 33, 35, 37, 38, 43, 45, 51, 61, 
Chap. VI. 



Coimbatore, 30, 31, 121, 122. 
Cuddalore, 24, 89, 90. 
Essene, 97. 
Irungalur, 35, 100. 
Kannanur, 106. 
Kaveripampatinam, 113. 
Madura, 112. 
Mahakallkudi, 104. 
Melakari, 98. 
Negapatam, 19. 
Pudukkottai, 103, 109. 



Pullambadi, 102, 108, 110. 

Sembia, 103. 

Shiyali, 35, 91, 94. 

Tanjore, 31, 32, 89, 91, 104, 108. 

Trichinopoly, 31, 32, 33, 36, 89, 

97, 99, 100, 102, 104, 108. 
Tukanapaliam, 104. 
Turayur, 106. 
Vallum, 108. 
Vandipaliam, 90. 
Vellore, 94. 



C. The Canarese Country: 23-24, 37, 40, 43, 49, Chap. V. 



Bangalore, 20, 29, 76, 79. 
Bellary, 44, 71, 74. 
Kempapura Agrahara, 78. 



Kogillu, 41. 

Mysore City, 29, 39, 80. 

Yelahanka, 79. 



Coorg, 86. 
Kateri, near 
124. 



D. The Nilgiris and Coorg: 61. 

Ootacamund, 



Naduhatty, near Ootacamund, 

125. 
Paranganad, 126. 



GENERAL INDEX 



A BISHEGAM, 92. 

^ Abhisheka, 92. 

Amma or Amman, 23. 

Ammavari-Prasadarn, 64. 

Ancestor-worship, 86. 

Animal-sacrifice, repugnant to 
Brahmanism, 19, 44, 53 ; 
common among lower classes, 
18, 43, 45, 48 ff., 67, 69, 89, 

91, 92 ff.; offered by Brah- 
mans, 57; buffaloes, see 
Buffalo ; cows and calves, 
106 ; fowls, 18, 45, 53, 55, 58 
67, 69, 70, 75, 76, 77, 92, 94, 
99, 101, 106 ; goats and kids, 
18, 45, 53, 69, 70, 72, 75, 

92, 94, 99, 103, 106; par 
rots, 106 ; pigeons, 106 ; pigs, 
18, 58, 67, 94, 99, 101, 102; 
sheep and lambs, 18, 45, 50, 
53, 55, 58, 70, 73, 75, 76, 77, 
92, 94, 99, 101, 106; sheep 
bitten to death in sacrifice by 
a priest, 100 ; bodies buried, 
104, 107, 108 ; victims killed 
before the image, 49, 50, 53, 
55, 56, 57, 69, 73, 78 ; heads 
placed before image, 53, 57, 
66, 93; heads and bodies eaten 
by priests, 55, 58, 106, 107; by 
people, 58, 74, 94. 106, 107 ; 
flesh cooked, made into curry 
and offered, 101-2 ; the shiver 
ing test, 55, 63, 68, 69, 73, 
99. 

Animals impaled, 58, 59, 65, 69. 
Animism, 12. 
Aratl, 39,43, 77, 133, 150. 
Areca-palm, 34, 39 n. 3. 
Arrack, 49, 90, 102. 
Aryans, 11, 16. 



Asadis, 44, 50, 53, 54, 71, 72, 74. 

119, 127. 

Ashes, ^sacred, 132, 135. 
Ashta akti, 30. 
Atonement, 88. 
Avatara, 21, 30. 

DADAGAS, 124, 125. 

u Bali, 82. 

Bali-haranam, 63. 

Barbers as sacred musicians, 

56. 

Basava, 125 n. 1. 
Basavis, 45, 142. 
Bathing, ceremonial, 101 ; of 

images, 54, 57, 77, 89, 90, 92, 

98, 100, 102, 108. 
Battaks of Sumatra, 144 f. 
Betel, 39, 72, 83, 91, 133. 
Blood of sacrifice, 18, 50, 51, 

52, 55, 56, 62, 64, 65, 66, 67, 

69, 70,73,75,78,80,89, 92,93, 
94, 99, 102, 103 ; placed in 
earthen vessel near the image 
in the shrine, 62, 93, 94 ; cov 
ered up with soil, 50, 56, 66 ; 
shed on grain, 65 ; shed on 
rice, 50, 52, 53, 56, 62, 65, 69, 

70, 73, 79, 80, 93, 101, 108, 
109; dashed on boundary 
stones, 103, 104 ; sprinkled on 
the image, 49, 85 ; on a stone, 
87, 88; in the enclosure of the 
shrine, 99; round boundaries 
of village, 69, 73, 79, 97 ; in 
the streets, 66, 93, 97,108; on 
the ground, 70, 79, 106; over 
the fields, 70; on cattle, 53, 
70 ; on a swing-car, 83 ; on a 
new building, 85 ; on the 
head, 65; poured on tools, 86; 



GENERAL INDEX 



171 



smeared on door-posts, 65 ; 
applied to the forehead, 64, 
65 ; drunk by gods, 94, 103 ; 
by evil spirits, 103; by 
priests, 99; sucked by priests, 
99; cloths dipped in the blood 
hung up as charm against 
cattle disease, 109. 

Blood-relationship, 146. 

Boddu-rayee, 60. 

Booth erected for worship, 36, 
37, 49, 55, 72, 100. 

Boundary-god, 36. 

Boundary-goddess, 32. 

Boundary -spirits, 103, 104. 

Boundary-stone, 33, 35, 101, 
102, 103. 

Boyas, 72. 

Brahma, 132, 133. 

Brahmanical influence in village 
worship, 12, 16, 30, 31, 37, 
3_9 n. 3, 44. 

Brahmanical temples, 16. 

Brahmans, 12, 13, 19, 20, 43, 53, 
68 ; officiating in village 
shrine, 19, 106. 

Brass pots as divfne symbols, 
98. 

Buddhism, 12. 

Buffalo,, husband of the village 
goddess, 73 ; dedicated buffa 
loes allowed to roam free, 
107. 

Buffalo-sacrifice, 18, 44, 
48, 52, 56, 57, 62, 64, 66, 69, 
70, 72, 73, 74, 75, 78, 83, 85, 
89, 93, 104, 106, 108, 117; 
Outcastes take important 
part in, 20, 48, 49, 50, 53, 54, 
55, 56, 57, 58, 62, 63, 64, 66, 
67, 69, 70, 72, 73, 74, 78, 94 ; 
ritual of the head and foreleg, 
51, 54, 56, 62, 67, 69, 70, 73, 
78, 85, 118 ; head offered to 
the image, 57; head, or body, 
or both eaten by Outcastes, 
53, 75, 78 ; head carried in 
procession, 69, 70, 74; entrails 
carried in procession, 52, 73, 
108 ; cooked with rice and 



offered to the image, 109 ; 
put in pit with blood, 73 ; 
liver carried by priest in his 
mouth in procession, 52, 109. 
Buttermilk, 55, 62, 65. 

pAKES in worship, 57, 92. 

^ Camphor burnt in sacri 
fice, 45, 68, 70, 72, 74, 76, 77, 
92, 93, 99, 100, 105, 106, 107. 

Car used for images in proces 
sions, 93, 102, 105. 

Cart in worship, 53, 58, 65, 71, 

Caste, 12, 18. 

Cattle stone, 42. 

Chakras, 81, 82,83. 

Chandala, 84. 

Cheroots, 18. 

Children buried up to the neck 
and trampled to death, 59, 
60 f. 

Cholam, 50, 52. 

Cholera, 22, 23, 25, 28, 44, 46, 
66, 73. 

Cobra, worshipped, 22. 

Cocoanuts in worship, 52, 53, 
68,73, 74,77,88, 92, 98, 100, 
106, 107. 

Cradle in worship, 72. 

Curds as offering, 77. 

Curry in sacrifice, 65, 101 ; 
given to the people, 101. 

Curses, 85, 87. 

P)ANCING, 40, 64, 72, 74, 87, 
*-^ 98 ; sword and spear 

dance, 98. 
Debts, method of recovery, 

110. 
Deification from sudden or 

violent death, 112 ff. 
Demons, see Evil spirits. 
Devara kona, 78. 
Devara Potu, 56, 62. 
Dola-jatra, 59 n. 1. 
Dravidians, 11, 12, 14. 
Dreams sent as punishment, 

110. 
Dubakaya, 67. 



172 



GENERAL INDEX 



CLLAI-KAL, 28, 101, 103, 149. 
*- Ellai-karuppa, 33, 101. 
Evil eye, the, 53. 
Evil spirits, 33, 42, 46, 47, 53, i 

56, 62, 63, 66, 67, 85, 94, 100, I 

101, 103. 

CAT of sacrificed buffalo 
spread over its eyes and 
nose, 51, 54, 56, 62, 67, 69, 
70, 73, 78, 85, 118. 

Festivals, 45. 

Fever, 46. 

Fire-walking, 79, 93. 

Fireworks in procession 92, 
105. 

Flowers in offerings, 37, 40, 45, 
68, 72, 76, 77, 92, 93, 99, 100, 
105 ; used to garland victims, 
56, 92, 98 ; to garland im 
ages, 98. 

Foundation-sacrifice, 54, 60, 85. 

Founding of a village, 60. 

Fruit in worship, 42, 57, 64, 68, 
72, 73, 76, 77, 78,92, 100, 102, 
106, 107. 

pADDIGE, 81,82. 

^ Ganja, 90. 

Gauda-kona, 73. 

Gingelly oil in sacrifice, 66, 90. 

Gira, 72. 

Goddesses, 17. 

Gods, male, 17. 

Grain in sacrifices, 64, 65. 

Gram in sacrifice, 65. 

Grama-devata, 16 ff. 

LJEADS of sacrificial victims, 
placed on boundary-stone, 
103 ; placed before image, 
51, 57, 62, 63, 67, 81 ; 
piled in a high heap, 66 ; of 
buffalo elaborately treated, 
51,54, 56, 62, 67, 69, 70, 73, 
78, 85, 118 ; eaten, 54, 55,74, 
84, 91 ; thrown in the land of 
the next village, 67 ; carried 
round the village as a 
protective, 62, 63, 67, 69. 



Hinduism, 12. 
Hindu sects, 12. 
Hook-swinging, 59, 82, 83. 
Human sacrifice, 82, 86, 88. 

IMAGE, 21, 35 ff., 48, 54, 

1 56, 65, 68 ; garlanded, 99 ; 
clothed, 99 ; marked with 
sandal-wood paste, 99 ; bath 
ing of, 54, 57, 71, 77, 89, 90, 92, 
98, 100, 102, 108; sailing on 
a raft, 91 ; transferred to 
alien land, 54 ; special image 
made for festival, 48, 55, 68, 
72, 77. 

Impalement of animals, 58, 65, 
69 ; forbidden, 58. 

Inams, 63. 

Incense, 45, 54, 57, 68, 70, 74, 
76, 77, 91, 92, 98, 100, 105. 

Infanticide, 59. 

Inspiration, 52, 95. 

Intestines of victim hung round 
the neck, 52, 137, 148. 

TAINISM, 12. 
J Jevons, 146. 



, 17. 

w Kallar caste, 107. 
Kama, 133 n. 3. 
Kamakshi, 31 n. 
Kamma, 131. 
Kanimars, 98. 
Kaniyas, 87. 
Kappukaran, 102, 103. 
Kapu, 100, 103, 104, 106, 108. 
Karagam, 37, 38, 55, 100, 101, 

102. 

Kelammana Habba, 80, 83. 
Kitchadi, 81. 
Krita yuga, 132. 
Kshatriya, 19. 
Kunkuma, 37, 50, 55, 56, 57, 62, 

72, 83, 90. 

Kunna-kannadi, 29, 81. 
Karnam, 44. 



I AKSHMI, 133 

J A T o mV\o rli c 



Larabadis, 59. 



GENERAL INDEX 



173 



Lamp in sacrifice, 37, 39, 49, 
52, 55, 62, 68, 70, 71, 72, 73, 
74, 75, 79, 81. 82, 88. 

Leg of sacrificed buffalo put in 
the mouth, 39, 51, 54, 56, 62, 
67, 69, 70, 73, 78, 85, 118 ; so 
with sheep or goats, 98. 

Lights in worship, 105. 

Limes used in worship, 49, 92, 
98, 106. 

Linga, 72 n. 1, 132 n. 2, 142. 

Linga-nama-Sivaya, 132, 135. 

Lingayat, 72, 131, 132 n. 2, 
134. 

Liver of sacrificial victim taken 
in the mouth, 52, 109, 148. 

Looking-glass, 29, 81. 

JV/IADIGAS, 28, 44, 49, 53, 54, 

m 56, 57, 62, 63, 64, 66, 69, 
70, 73; Madigapujari stripped 
naked, 73. 

Malas, 44, 49, 52, 53, 57, 62, 
150. 

Mamul, 39. 

Mandn, 88. 

Mango leaves in worship, 37. 

Mantram, 92, 102. 

Maranadi bali, 88. 

Margosa, 37, 48, 56, 57, 64, 65, 
67,76,83. 

Mari Made, 80, 81. 

Mari Saru, 80. 

Mari Sidi, 80, 82. 

Measles, 23, 74. 

Metal images for use in pro 
cessions, 37, 91, 92, 93, 98, 
102, 103, 105, 107. 

Milk in worship, 92, 98. 

Mmakshi, 112 n. 

Mlecchas, 19. 

Munsiff, 57. 

Mythology, 112 ff. 

MAKEDNESS, 75. 

x> Namaskaram, 66, 70. 

Nautch-girls, 21, 39 n. 4, 68. 

Navel-stone, 41. 

Nuts, 72. 



QFFERINGS, see Animal- 

^ sacrifice, Arrack, Blood, 
Buttermilk, Cakes, Camphor, 
Cheroots, Cocoanuts, Curry, 
Fat, Flowers, Fruit, Gingelly 
oil, Grain, Gram, Head, 
Human sacrifice, Incense, 
Kitchadi, Kunkuma, Lamp, 
Leg, Limes, Liver, Margosa, 
Milk, Oil, Plantains, Rice, 
Sandal-wood, Sugar, Toddy, 
Turmeric, Water. 

Oil in worship, 36, 92 ; used to 
anoint divine stones, 98. 

Omens, 55, 63, 68, 69, 73, 75 
106, 109. See Shivering test. 

Opium, 90. 

Outcastes, 19, 75 ; officiate as 
ministrants in village wor 
ship, 20, 28, 44, 49, 52, 53, 54, 
56, 57, 62, 63, 64, 66, 69, 70 
73, 78, 150. 

PADAYACHI Caste, 27, 28, 
93. 

Pambalas, 58, 67. 
Panchamas, 19. 
Pandavas, 31. 
Panikas,86. 
ParameSvara, 132. 
ParvatI, 122, 123, 132. 
Pariahs, 33, 97, 98, 99, 117. 
Pedda-veta, 70. 
Philosophies of India, 12. 
Pial, 81. 
Pigs buried alive, 60; buried 

up to the neck and trampled 

to death, 53, 59. 
Pins fastened through the 

cheeks, 29, 76, 78. 
Plantains as an offering, 72, 

106. 

Possession, 100, 101, 104, 108. 
Plague, 71. 
Pots as divine symbols, 37, 38, 

55,64,98,100, 101,102. 
Praise, 53,54, 56,67. 
Prasada, 64 n. 1. 
Processional images, 37, 91, 92, 

93, 98, 102, 103 , 105, 107. 



174 



GENERAL INDEX 



Processions, 21, 38, 49, 50, 52, 
53, 54, 56, 58, 62, 65, 66, 67, 
70, 72, 74. 81, 83, 91, 92, 96, 
100, 101, 102, 103, 106. 

Progress of image on a raft, 91. 

Propitiation, 46, 47, 48, 66, 68, 
85, 87, 88, 99, 100, 101, 103. 

Pujarls, i.e. ministrants, o f 

Brahmanical temples, 18, 19, 

,43 ; of village temples, 43 ff.; 

of all castes except Brahmans, 

18 f., 43. 

Puthrayagam, 31. 

DAKSHATHAS, 122. 
^ Reddy, 50, 71, 72. 

Rice in sacrifice, 49, 50, 51, 52, 
53,55,56,57,58,59,62, 64,65, 
66, 69, 70, 73, 74, 77, 79, 80, 
81, 88, 90, 92, 93, 100, 101, 102, 
103, 106, 108, 109; mixed with 
buttermilk, 62, 65 ; soaked 
with blood, 50, 52, 53, 56, 62, 
65, 69, 70, 73, 79, 80, 93, 101, 
108, 109 ; blood-soaked rice 
sprinkled as a protective, 53, 
56, 66, 69, 70, 73, 79, 81, 93, 
94, 99, 109 ; eaten by evil 
spirits, 94 ; eaten by gods, 
94, 108 ; by pujari, 55 ; by 
people, 109 ; dashed against 
stones as a propitiation, 101, 
103. 

Rigveda, 12. 

Rosewater in worship, 92. 

Ryots, 52. 

CACRED ashes, 132. 

S*akta, 29 n. 2. 

Sakti, 29, 30, 86, 130. 

Sandal- wood paste, 91, 92, 98. 

Sastras, 84. 

Savighai, 118. 

Seven sisters in Mysore, 29, 32 ; 
seven virgins of Tamil coun 
try, 32, 39. 

Shashthangam, 74. 

Shivering test, 55, 63, 68, 69, 
73,99. 



Shrines, 16, 35 ff., 74, 98,99. 
Sickness sent as punishment, 

102. 

Siddhalu,52. 
Sin-offering, 85. 
S"iva, 16, 17, 132, 133, 134, 135, 

136, 137 ; his third eye, 133 

n. 3. 
Small-pox, 17, 29, 31, 32, 42, 46, 

74. 

Snake-worship, 75, 82. 
Substitution, 60, 67, 76, 86, 87. 
vSudras, 19, 28, 43, 131 ; as 

pujans, 54, 105, 108. 
Sugar in worship, 92. 
S"ularn, 40. 

Sun-worship, 29, 39, 76. 
Swing-festival , 59, 61 , 76, 82, 83. 
Symbols, 16, 34, 36 ff., 54, 64, 

68, 79, 98, 100. 

""TABU, on marriage through 
an unfinished sacrifice, 

104 ; preventing a priest from 

leaving a temple, 104. 
Tahsildar, 57. 
Tali, 27, 132. 
Taliaris, 72. 
Tamarind, 34. 
Tapas, 84. 
Thank-offering, 85. 
Todas, 61. 
Toddy, 18, 143. 
Tom-toms, 37, 48, 64, 67, 78, 79, 

88, 92, 105. 

Torches in processions, 92, 105. 
Totemism, 145 ff. 
Toti, 78. 
Transference of divine wrath to 

next village, 24, 54, 58, 67, 88. 
Transmigration, 12. 
Trimurti, 24. 
Turmeric, 48, 54, 56, 57, 62, 64, 

68, 72, 77, 83, 90, 92, 93, 101 ; 

used to mark the forehead, 

64. 



T TDAYA caste, 104. 

w Umbellayar caste, 106. 



GENERAL INDEX 



\/AHANAM (an animal on 
v which a god rides), 90, 102, 
103, 105, 107. 

VaiSya, 19. 

Velama. 134. 

Vellala,99. 

Vetty, 56, 64. 

Village gods, 11, 16 ; festivals, 
45 ff. ; take the substance of j 
food offered them, 52; delight 
in blood, 51 ; in animal-sacri 
fice, Chaps. III-VI ; names, 
23 ff . ; character, 30 f . ; func 
tions, 31 ff. ; relation to 
disease and calamity, 16, 17, 
23 ff., 31 ff., 42, 45 ff., 65, 71, 
85, 88; mostly female, 17, 32 ; 
male attendants, 18, 33; males 
independent, 18, 33, 34, 89; 
shrines, 35 f. ; symbols, 36 ff., 
48, 54 ; growth of cult, 20 ff.; 



ministrants, 18, 43 ff. ; sym 
bolize village life, 17 ; wor 
shipped by 80 per cent, of the 
people of the South, 139 ; 
origin of the system, 16 ff. ; 
Chap. VIII ; value of the 
system, Chap. IX. 

Virans, 33. 

Vishnu, 13, 16, 17. 

Vows, 55, 92, 93, 107. 

VY/ARNECK, 145. 
** Water, poured over vie 
tim, 92, 93 ; used to cause 
victims to shiver, 55, 63, 68, 
69, 73, 99 ; used in bathing 
images, 99 ; sprinkled on 
offerings, 102 



, 57. 



PRINTED AT THE WESLEYAN MISSION PRESS, 
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BL 
1216 



1921 



WHITEHEAD 

THE VILLAGE GODS 
OF SOUTH INDIA 

121725