A mother goddess. The Tamil word mari means death but when the letter a in it is accented, the word changes to mean rain. She is the most ancient and popular deity among the village deities of Salem and is worshipped under several other names such as Amman, Atthu, Ayam Ayee (Mother) Dharmapuri (Mari with army) Magamayee ( Great Mother) and Vadivattha ( Beautiful Mother) all indicating an ancient form of ancestral mother worship Iconographically, Mari represented in a sitting posture with four bands. They hold a drum, a trident a bundle if ropes and a skull.
Mari Amman rules over discuses that bring death, especially small pox. At times of small-pox incidence, the leaves of the neem tree (netta azadirachia) sacred to the goddess, are spread on the bed of the afflicted person and a bunch of them tied in the entrance of the patients house indicating the presence of the goddess. In the benevolent aspect, the goddess brings rainy to put an end to the diseases which result from the heat.
She is believed to cure a variety of illness of those who offer silver sheet metal models of their affected organs. This type of prayer is commonly found in almost all Mari Amman temples in Salem.
Almost every village has a temple or shrine dedicated to her which is the focus of village festivals. Major temples are relatively large and may or may not be surrounded by compound walls. Annual festivals in early or late summer usually last for several days. The festival begins with the planting of a stump of a neem tree, 6 tall and with three prongs at the top; A new mud pot containing sanctified water is placed among the prongs, Devotees offer her pongal ( ritual cooking) sacrificed goats and roosters in the temple yard.
Some devotees walk bare feet on burning coals and pierce their bodies with pins and knives. Walking on burning coals is an ancient custom practiced in honour of mother goddess. These self-inflicted in honor of mother goddess. These self-inflicted painful fistulas were prohibited during the British rule as they were thought to be injurious to health of the devotees. On the last day of the festival, a procession of floats is held, each float depicting a legendary scene. Fireworks conclude the festivities.
This Dravidian goddess is one of the widely revered goddess of the ancient world. Under many variants of her name, She was Marrattu ( Mari Attha) to the Chaldeans, March to the Jews, Mary to the Christians. She was also the goddess of the eye of truth and judgment. Compare "ayin" which was the "eye" in the Hebrew sacred alphabet. Possibly derived from aya. The babylonian creatress. Aya in tamil means mother and Mari Amman is popularly known as Mari Aya. In Syria she was known as the goddess Mari whose huge eyes searched men"s souls. As death giver she was Mariamman, Miriam, and Mara an exceedingly ancient name of the goddess as death-bringer. The name and its variants are found from India to Northern Europe.
A Dravidian god of youth and beauty. The Dravidian cult of the young is as old as the cult of mother and ancestors. It was absorbed into the brahminical Hinduism and Murugan was sanckritized as Skandha, which name was again Tamilized into Kandha. These names are alternatives for the brachminical Karthikeya the Hindu god of war. In the Tamil tradition, Murugan is adored as a Tamil and Vedhic scholar. The name Skandha may preserve the memory of Alexander the Great, the Macedonian youth and world conqueror, who blazed like a flash of lightning on the Indian horizon and left lasting impression on the Indian mind.
Murugan is known by several descriptive names: Balamurugan, Kumaran, Mayil veganan, Subramanian, Velan, and Velumurgan Iconographically, he holds a lance or spear (vel) and rides a peacock; his flag, a living malai, Thiruchengode and Vaiyappa Malai, are Murugan's favourite aunts. The most famous Murugan temple of Tmil Nadu is in Pazhani. Dinduval District. According to the Salem legends, a new image of Murugan in Pazhani was installed by a siddhar when Murugan came to and remained in Vaiyappa Malai accepting the gift of gold created by the Alavoy malai siddhars. The notable Murugan temples in Salem are at Ammapettai, Belukurichi, Kanakagiri, Kapilamalai, Thiruchengodu, Kandhasramam, Kanjamalai, Kalipatti and Vaiyappa Malai. Most of the Siva temples contain Murugan shrines.
Muniappan ( Forefather) . It is an ancient and very popular village deity of Salem. He is also known as "Aiyanar" ( Revered Father). The word Muni is generally taken to mean an anchorite, or one who has taken a vow of mauna. (silence) It is frequently used for a sage who has supernatural powers which he displays in his blessings and curses. This interpretation is inappropriate when the phrase is seen in the combination of muniappan. The word muni stands for munnai ( fore ) and appan ( father ) Therefore it is believed the words muniappan and aiyanar refer to an ancient dravidian cult of ancestor worship.
Blood sacrifices at these shrines are very common. The huge and terrifying images are accompanied by larger than life figures of attendants and animals. Smaller terra cotta horses and iron spears, offered by devotees in fulfillment of their vows, usually crowd the front yard of these shrines. In the centre of the shrine, there is usually a grouping of triangular shaped an iconic stones or Neolithic stone implements, or some other form of a pandukal monument such as a dolmen. The new cult of Aiyappan is the Sanskritized braminical Hindu version of the Aiyanar cult. Because of the dominant presence of Muniappan shrines everywhere, the Salem district is known as the Land of Muniappan.
Though Salem is the origin for worshiping various gods and godess, a great movement which disapprove gods was started by E.V.R.Ramaswamy Nayakar who belongs to Salem Region. This movement was made great changes in the minds of the people who believed superstition since ancient times.
The oldest mosque in Salem, situated on the southern bank of the Thirumanimuthu Aru in the heart of the city. It was reportedly built by the Mysore ruler, Thippu Sulthan, who is said to have offered prayers here. The Masjid Inam granted to this mosque was confirmed by the British in 1862. By a special resolution in 1880.