On Mayana Kollai | Times of India

March 17th, 20165:36 pm Published by

Mayana Kollai


After Shivaratri, Folk Festival Celebrates Shiva’s Consort
After the pujas and fasts for Mahashivaratri, Tamil Nadu sees a cel ebration of Shiva’s consort in the graveyards. The Mayana Kollai (looting of the graveyard) festival is celebrated amidst the dead. Observed in the Angalamman temples in the villages of northern districts of Tamil Nadu, this folk festival symbolises one of the main cultural scripts of Tamil life that the feminine energy is capable of rejuvenating, recovering, and revitalising human life beyond death and destruction.The revelry involves processions to the crematorium with deities on palanquins, devotees dancing with painted faces and narrating the lives of gods through songs. The songs narrate the mythology of Angalamman in which Shiva severed one of the heads of Brahma and brought an end to creation. Angalamman, the consort of Shiva, then walks along with him to the cremation ground that the world has become and dances with him to bring back life.

In a classic 1986 study on the myths and cult of Angalaparameswari, Evelyn Meyer records not just one myth but a cluster of mythologies that surround the Mayana Kollai festival. She notes with perplexity that not all the episodes in the myths are enacted in the ritual procession to the graveyard and the return. In some places, the myth of Shiva and Dhakshayani is enacted, in others, Parasuram and Renuka Devi.Mayana Kollai also borrows features from neighbouring traditions such as Mahabharata koothu performances, which are common in north TN.

If among the Chennai temples, Krishanampet, Saidapet, and Velachery are known to celebrate the festival in a big way because of their vicinity to the graveyards, the Melmalayanoor temple in Tiruvannamalai has emerged as the hub of the festivities across the state.

Being a folk carnival, the celebrations vary across the region.In the Velachery Angalamman Mayana Kollai the deity visits the cremation ground on her ceremo nial float, while the Saidapet temple celebrations are marked by sacrifices. A woman dressed as Kali or Angalamman skins a fowl, drinks its blood, hangs it by the mouth and gets into a trance while drummers play . The mood of revelry is amped up by transgenders and women dancing around her.

At other places animal and bird sacrifices are absent. In the Melmalayanoor temple celebrations, the presence of the transgenders has increased over the past decades to such an extent that the temple is fast gaining popularity as the rallying point for the community . This lends credence to the belief that the festival is also a fertility ritual since the transgender people’s the transgender people’s liminal bodies are believed to bless longevity of human lives and procreational prowess.

Devotees of Angalamman temples in the districts of south Arcot, Salem and the Union territory of Puducherry erect mud or terracotta statues of Angalamman in the vicinity of graveyards or inside them. Many scholars point out that these statues are similar to that of Duryodhana statues constructed during the Mahabharata Koothu performances.Draupadi amman, on whose behest the Mahabharata festival is performed, is also like Angalamman, a manifestation of Kali, a destroyer and a regenerator of life. In variation of the theme, there are also villages where Shiva’s statue is erected instead of Angalamman.

The evolving nature of Mayana Kollai makes the festival complex and interesting.Through its complexities, Mayana Kollai makes one experience the paradoxical nature of human existence, its impermanence, and its darker relation to death. In a way, human life is a loot gained out of graveyard but blessed by the will and pleasure of feminine energies.