Puranic encyclopaedia

by Vettam Mani | 1975 | 609,556 words | ISBN-10: 0842608222

This page describes the Story of Gramadevata included the Puranic encyclopaedia by Vettam Mani that was translated into English in 1975. The Puranas have for centuries profoundly influenced Indian life and Culture and are defined by their characteristic features (panca-lakshana, literally, ‘the five characteristics of a Purana’).

Story of Grāmadevatā

India is predominantly a rural country with a number of villages, and the rural folk depend mainly upon agriculture for living. Agricultural land, rain and epidemics which affect them as well as their cattle—these are the main concern of the villagers. Indians, from very ancient days, used to believe that each of the above has its own presiding devatās. Such devatās are the grāmadevatās.

Devī is the chief grāmadevatā of South India. Devī is called Durgā and Kālī also. But, Devī is worshipped in sixtyfour different forms or aspects. The gentle Devī, viz. in her gentle aspect or attitude has three forms, Kanyā, Kāmākṣī, and Mūkāmbikā. In Kerala Devī is called Bhagavatī also. Valiyaṅgāḍi Bhagavatī of Calicut is Lakṣmīdevī. Kālī temples in Karṇāṭaka are called 'Koṭṭāpuraṃ Lakṣmī Kṣetras'. There are such temples in Andhra also. Most of them are Jokulāmbikā temples. In Tamil Nadu there are grāmadevatās called Mariyamma, Kālīyamma, and Draupadīyamma. Not the Draupadī mentioned in the Mahābhārata; but the Kaṇṇakī of Cilappadikāra is the Devī worshipped in Tamil Nadu.

There are two kinds of Devīs called Saptamātṛs and Saptakanyās. Saptamātṛs have puruṣas (husbands) and saptakanyās have seven brothers for help and support. Devī pūjā is very much prevalent in South India. The custom is supposed to be as old as 5000 B.C. Idols of Devī have been unearthed from Mohanjo-daro and Harappa. Even the Buddhists worship the Devīs called Yakṣī and Hārītī. When in after years Hinduism was revitalised these grāmadevatās got promoted as the great Devatās of the epics and the Purāṇas. The Rāmāyaṇa mentions the incident of the Devī called Laṅkālakṣmī driving away Hanūmān. There are famous Kālī temples in Ujjayinī and Calcutta. It is believed that in the temple at Cidambaram also Kālī occupied a prominent place. But, according to legends, Śiva defeated Kālī in a dance competition and ousted her to her present temple at the outskirts of the city. Cāmuṇḍī is worshipped as the ancestral guardian deity in Mysore. The Kāmākṣī temple of Kāñcī, Mīnākṣī temple of Madura and Mūkāmbikā temple of North Karṇāṭaka may be cited as examples for the worship of the gentle form of Devī. Alarmel Maṅkattāyār temple at Tiruccānūr is a very important Devī temple. The 'Aditi' in the Vedas and Koṭṭravai of Tamil Saṅgha texts point to the very long past of the Devī in India. Kālidāsa and Kālamegha (a Tamil poet of the fifteenth century have worshipped Kālī. Śrī Rāmakṛṣṇa Paramahaṃsa and the great modern Tamil poet Bhāratī were devotees of Kālī.

There are also grāmadevas worshipped like the grāmadevatās. Munīśvara and Karuppan are two prominent grāmadevas. In certain villages Bhairava, Vīra Irula, Kāṭṭeri and Noṅgi are worshipped as grāmadevas. In South Karṇāṭaka a set of Devas called Bhūtas are worshipped, Pañcuruli being one of them. Śāstā or Ayyappa is another grāmadeva. Śāstā is most popular in Kerala and in Tamil Nāḍu. Buddha also is called Śāstā. In certain places idols of Śāstā with two wives, called Pūrṇā and Puṣkalā are also found. Śabarimala Śāstā is yogamūrti (in yogic pose).

In most of the grāmadeva temples idols of the Devas are not found. A pīṭha (stool-like seat) is supoosed as the seat of the Deva and it represents the Deva also. But, in some temples weapons like the sword, the club etc. are found. Offerings to the deity in grāmakṣetras and annual festivals are common in such temples. (Nām vaṇamguṃ daivaṃgal-Tamil).

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