Monday, March 31, 2014

Isakki Amman

Isakki or Isakkai is a Hindu Goddess of South India. She is generically considered one of the Village Goddesses, like Māri, the goddess of epidemics. She is commonly referred as Isakki Amman (Tamil for "Mother"). She is related to goddess Nīli and to certain female deities known as Yakshi, in fact, the name Isakki apparently derives from the Sanskrit Yakshī. The worship of this Goddess is common in the Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli and Salem districts of Tamil Nadu. She corresponds to the Jain Yakshi Ambika, who is always represented with one or two children.

Isakki Amman temples are usually humble shrines. These are lined with a certain cactus-type euphorbiaceous plant known as Paalkallu in Tamil. When broken, such cactuses ooze a milk-like sap, which is considered as a sign of goddess Isakki.

Isakki temples also usually have a banyan or bo tree close to the shrine. Small wooden cribs and pieces of women's saris are tied to the branches and aerial roots of the spreading tree. These are vows made by village women who desire to have offspring.

The most acknowledged story of Isakki goes as below:

Ambika, a housewife, was leading a peaceful family life with her husband Somasharman and their two male children. One day the dutyful "dharpan" ritual had to be performed to the ancestors of their family and all the items were duly prepared. However, while Somasharman was away to take bath in the river, Ambika offered food to a starving sage who begged for it. Suddenly Somasharman became enraged since the food prepared as offerings to ancestors had been served to the sage before the necessary rites & pujas. Thus Ambika and her children were chased away from home. Ambika wandered until she found a calm place. Realising his foolishness later, Somasharman went in search of his wife and children. But fearing him, Ambika gave up her life. After her unfortunate death, it is believed that she took the form of "Yakshini" and that she still wanted to take care of her growing children. Later, with the grace of God, she was able to regain her human life for the benefit of her offspring. It is when Ambika took the Yakshini form and regained human life with the intention to serve the family that she became Iyakki or Isakki.

Isakki is portrayed according to the stories that are told about her by the priests of every shrine.This goddess is usually portrayed as a young woman wearing a red dress. She is holding a child on one hand and a trident in the other. She is sometimes represented as standing on a man that lies on the ground.

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