Kaval Deivam

Ayyanar Temple

Ancient traditions are still alive until today, with traditions that may date back during Dravidian civilization. This write-up is about the study on what is “Kaval Deivams” (referred as the “Village Deities”) or in other word as guardian spirits, a tradition which still been practiced till the date of today. These are non-Agamic gods, not found in sacred Hindu texts. Worship of Village Deities are found in almost all villages across India, Malaysia, Singapore, and certain parts of Sri Lanka. It is believed that these Village Deities will protect the village people from all the evils and devils from entering the village.

Village Deities also can be associated with “Kula Deivam” or also known as family deity wherein the worship is carried away by a clan or stream of people for the purpose of well-being of their descendants and as part of paying respect to their respective ancestors.

Village Deities are represented in the form of huge fierce statue or even as a simple stone. Most of the temples to worship Village Deities are located at outskirts of the village as a representation of their village guardian position and will be small worship areas. The maintenance of the temple is taken care by the whole village people. Weapons such as trishula, chakra, sword, terracotta horses, elephants, clay dolls and bells are connected to the said temple. The worship is in the form of non-vedic i.e. through folk songs, tales and arts (villupattu, karakattam, koothhu, etc); and will be accompany with food offerings and even sacrificial of animals such as chicken, goat, pigs and etc. In return, the local priest might offer flowers or holy ash to the worshippers. The officiating priests are non-Brahmins, Pandarams, and derive from local lineages that had initiated the cultural generations ago.

The Village Deities can be catogorised into any one of the 3 main attributes i.e., personalities that resemble great force or energy; brave warriors who lived and lost their lives for their community and the village started to worship them as token of remembrance; or less spoken characters in the great epic of Ramayana and Mahabharata. Appended below list of Village Deities according to their respective attributes:

Personalities that resemble great force or energy

1. Munishswaran, wherein Muni in Sanskrit means sage, who achieve the status of Muni after his death. He is known also as the attendants of Siva and Parvati.
2. Karuppanaaswamy, wherein the word “Karuppu” refers to black in Tamil and is associated with dark or night. He is known as protective warrior, and one who can grant the request of the village people.
3. Katteri amman, the word “Katteri” describes about vampire.
4. Periyachi Amman, the fierce guardian of children and mothers.
5. Sudalai maadan swamy, the word “Sudalai maadan” refers to guardian of burial ground.
6. Kali, a deity that always been related to time, change, power, creation and destruction. She also associated with Lord Shiva in many Puranas.
7. Maariamman, also known as God of Rain. The rainfall has protected the people from summer sickness such as chicken pox and other viral infections; and help to cool down the areas. Hence, people started to worship her.
8. Ellai amman which origin from worship of milestones. In olden days, people use to pit stop near these stones which were set as boundaries in between villages. Hence, slowly people started to pray to them for safe journey and eventually these milestones attained the position of village goddess.

Brave warriors

Worship of a warrior who were killed by fighting for justice or act as guardian deity for the village. The worship would be on a planted stone, wherein the warrior or hero been erected on the said stone. The deities that resemble of warrior are such as Ayyannar, Madurai Veeran, Kaathavarayan, Annammar Swamigal etc.

Characters in the great epic of Ramayana and Mahabharata

Characters like Draupadhi, Darmaraja, Kanthari, Kunthi and Arravan has been worship as deity in certain parts of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka. For example, Draupadi Amman temple to be found near Auroville, Tamil Nadu, India.

By Yuhasheny A/P Supramaniam

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