Amma n movies–an introduction

by Maria-Preska Ondrich


1. Concerning village women and what role these movies play for them I presented a paper at a National Seminar at Madurai Kamaraj University, January 2005 entitled "Amman movies- empowering women or serving the male gaze?" I discuss if these movies can be a tool for women’s spiritual empowerment. The publishing of the papers by the University is in progress.

2. Always clockwise, three and nine are holy numbers of the Goddess. The number three stands for the three forms of the Goddess, creation, life, death and resurrection.

3. Tamil veepumaram. This tree is a holy tree of the Goddess, especially connected with Mariyamma n, but it can be also found in other Goddess temples. During this ritual, many women wear saris in yellow or red ( colour of the Goddess) with neem leaves printed on it.

4. Amma n arul is mostly described as possession by the Goddess. It is a complex phenomena and takes different forms. I could observe it in many village Goddess temples. At present, I am preparing an article concerning Amman arul.

5. A brass pot is filled with turmeric water, afterwards a coconut is placed inside the pot and smeared with vermilion and turmeric. It is a symbol of the Goddess.

6. During the Goddess festivals, some of these songs resound from the loudspeakers placed near the temple or shrine.

7. The most famous myth of the Goddess´ fight against demons is written down in the Devi- Mahatmya. The Devi-Mahatmya is a Shakta -scripture, written about 600. It is part of the Markandeya Purana and describes the fight of the Goddess against the demon. The most famous myth is the fight of Mahisasuramardini against the buffalo demon. For details on this scripture, read Thomas B. Coburn, Devi-Mahatmya: the Crystallization of the Goddess Tradition, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1984.

8. I have also mentioned in my seminar paper that the movie fails to realise that all women are incarnations of the Goddess as it is written down in Shakta Tantric scriptures, see also DasGupta Sherma,R., Sa Ham-I Am She: Woman as Goddess, in: Is the Goddess a Feminist? The Politics of South Asian Goddesses, ed. by Hiltebeitel, A. & Erndl, K.M. Sheffield Academic Press, 2000, p. 24-51. But it is acceptable for the film directors to portray small girls as incarnations of the Goddess because it is socially accepted. Worship of small girls before menstruation takes place, e.g. during the Durga Puja in West Bengal ( Kumari Puja )

9. A round dot worn on the forehead, red in colour, symbol of Shakti, of the circle of life

10. Trident, a common symbol of the Goddess in Tamil Nadu. In some small village shrines, the Goddess is represented by a triculam.

11. Shakti, for details on the Concept of Shakti read Mariska Ondrich, Concept of Shakti, in : Manushi, issue 146, p. 43-44….

12. In Tamil Nadu, rain is often accompanied by lightning and thunder. In this way, the power of Mariyamman(Mari means rain) to send rain to the village, is symbolised.


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