Sunday, 7 July 2013

Discovering a Deity behind the Devil

In the present context, you make a derogatory remark by calling a stout person with a large pot belly as ‘Boodham’ in Tamil, since the word connotes a demon or a malignant spirit. But believe it or not, people in the ancient Kongu region worshipped the ‘Boodham’ as their deity by constructing temples to it

Ancient literatures in Tamil have references that the Chera King Elancheral Irumporai got  shrines constructed for Boodhams at Vanji Karuvur, the capital of Kongunadu and regularly conducted festivals for the ‘deities’

The 368th song in Puranauru, sung by the poet Madurai Marudhan Elanaganar, contains a mention of a dance performed by the people of Kongunadu, wearing girdles of small bells on their waists at a festival called ‘ Ulli Vizha’ in Vanji Karuvur, the capital of ancient Kongunadu.

Though the word Boodham, later, lost its meaning to an evil angel or a minor deity, who was worshipped by the people of the lower strata, ancient literatures like Silapathikaram, records that there was a very famous temple for Boodham at a junction connecting four roads in Kaveripoompattinam. After the ‘deity’ in the shrine, the junction came to be called as ‘Boodha Sathukkam’ and the Boodham stood guard to Kaveripoompattinam as the city’s sentinel deity.

It is also interesting to note that great many Tamil poets of the Sangam era had names after the deity as Elamboodhanar, Eezhaththu Boodhan Thevanar, Karumpillai Boodhanar, Karuvur Perunchathukka Boodhanar, Kodai Paadiya Perum Boodhanar, Venboodhanar and so on. Certain Azlwars (Saints) in the Vaishnavite religion too had names like Boodhathazhwar and Peayazhwar.

The 371st song in Purananuru, composed by poet Kalladanar, says that a ‘female ghost’ by name Peymakal, wearing garlands of intestines, sang a song in praise of the king Pandiyan Thalayalanganaththu Cheruvendra Nedunchezhiyan. Interestingly, her praise was that he should provide the ghost more dead bodies of his enemies as a ‘sumptuous feast’.

Even today, certain section of the people from rural Coimbatore, believe in the existence of Kollivaai Pisasu, an evil spirit, described as  having a wide-opened mouth, inside which, burnt a ball of fire.

The portrayal of ghosts and devils as female ones is said to have originated from men’s ill treatment of women in their earthly life. The people believed that women, who experienced injustice in their lives, would appear as ghosts after their death, and avenge the men who had treated them in cruel and unfair ways.

Compiled by: B. Meenakshi Sundaram
Source: Kongunadum Thulunadum – Mayilai Seeni Venkatasamy   

Link to my article in The New Indian Express 



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