AYYANAR AND MARIAMMAN, FOLK DEITIES IN SOUTH INDIA
120 pages and 160 photos
by Christa Neuenhofer
The book “AYYANAR AND MARIAMMAN, FOLK DEITIES IN SOUTH INDIA” that is divided into two parts is about tutelary folk deities, gods that have their origin in Dravidian religion and who are believed to protect villages and their inhabitants in India’s southernmost state Tamil Nadu.
The first part of the book is about Ayyanar and his companion gods. Huge statues of these gods have been erected on the outskirts of many villages, where they are venerated in open-air shrines. They are supposed to protect the residents against demons and ghosts at night. To facilitate this task, Ayyanar statues are provided with huge clay horses on which he is believed to ride around the villages at night.
The second part of the book is about Mariamman, goddess of diseases and fertility, who shall protect villagers against illnesses and bless the people and their fields with fertility. The goddess is venerated in different manifestations, e.g. she can be a beautiful full-bodied goddess or just a stone head sheltered by a hood of cobras. In her incarnation as snake goddess even anthills are worshipped as her abode.
Christa Neuenhofer was born in 1949 in Germany. For many years she has travelled to countries in Asia, Africa and Central America. As she has a particular anthropological interest in tribal communities, she has visited quite a number of remote places, mainly in Asia. Especially in India she went to rural areas and took photos of tribal people and their traditional life - images of a cultural heritage which in only a few years will have been swept away by globalization. She has published many of these photos on the Internet ( http://www.pbase.com/neuenhofer ) When visiting indigenous people she and her husband have always shown a special interest in what people believe. They had to notice that many religions vanish more and more due to still very active missionaries. This curiosity in traditional faiths has now brought her to Togo and Benin to learn more about voodoo, a religion that has an increasing number of believers worldwide.
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