Friday, March 6, 2009

ACK-087: Tales of Avvaiyaar

An out of print ACK #326

Inside cover story

Avvaiyaar, the renowned Tamil poetess, came to be revered as a saint. She had no one home & travelled where her fancy took her. This brought her into contact with all shorts of people. Poor and rich, commoner and king, were alike to her.
A story is told of the origins of Avvaiyaar. It is said that she was born of a a low-caste mother and a high-caste father. The father forced the mother to abandon the child, but this story is not accepted by all.
There is also a popular belief that the cowherd boy who came to the aid of the hungry Avvaiyaar was Lord Muruga (or SUBRAHMANYA) himself come down to meet the great poetess. And, of course, it was only before this deity in disguise that Avvaiyaar acknowledged defeat.

Avvaiyaar's poems are vigorous and zestful and full of earthy common sense and wisdom. They also provide telling insights into human nature.
It's a photo by Srikanth Sankaranarayanan, a Software Professional from Bangalore, India.

According to him:
"This Tree is said to be of historic importance with stories associated to the renowned poet in Southern India - Avvaiyaar."

(Pazhamudhicholai near Madurai, Tamil Nadu, INDIA)
"Shrine for Tamil poetess"

Devotees preparing Kozhukattai at the Avvaiyaramman temple.

IN THOVALAI taluk of Kanyakumari District the worship of Avvai locally known as Avvai Nonbu or Avvai Viratham has been common. Tuesdays, especially during the Tamil month of Adi, are considered to be the most auspicious for the worship of Avvai. Kurathiyarai near Alagiapandipuram has a rock-cut shrine facing south. Although the presiding deity is Mahavishnu, the temple is locally called Avvaiyaarammankoil and the image on the left side of Lord Vishnu is believed to be that of Avvai.

During the Tamil month of Adi women come to the temple on Tuesdays and prepare Kozhukkattai (a round shaped cake of rice flour) as an offering to Avvaiyaaramman. As per palm leaf records and a stone inscription of 1077 A.D. found in Melkarai, Alagiapandipuram was once called Adiganur.

The National Highway No. 47, which connects Naanchilnaadu and Kongunaadu gives a clue that Aay Naadu was a long and narrow strip of hilly land from Idalakudy (Idar Ay Kudy) in Naanchilnaadu to Thakadur in Kongunaadu. Much folklore is woven around the name of Avvaiyaar in the area.

Presumably, the shrine of Avvaiyaar was erected by Naanchil Porunan, who ruled this land with Kurathiyarai as his capital, or Thakadur Porunan (Adigan) who had close relations with Naanchil Porunan. The word Kurathi also denotes a Jain nun. On this basis some scholars claim that Avvaiyaar was a Jain.

The image of Avvaiyar at Muppandal.

About 10 km. south of Kurathiyarai on the way from Bhuthapaandi to Aaralvaaimozhi is a hamlet called Avvaiyaarammankoil, which takes its name from the shrine dedicated to the poetess. The presiding deity Avvai is enshrined under an Amla tree and is hence known as Nelliyadi Avvai. The belief is that it was here that the great poetess left this mortal world.

There is a traditional story that Avvaiyaar had arranged for a marriage near Aaralvaaimozhi to which she invited the sovereigns of the Chera, Chola and Pandya kingdoms. The kings erected pandals in the respective places allotted to them and this event led to the place being called Muppandal. There are remnants of three separate mandapams and a shrine of Avvaiyaar in their midst.

One can see two images of Avvaiyaar in sitting posture inside the temples of Esakkiamman nearby. There is also a separate shrine of Avvaiyaar near the Esakkiamman temples where she is in standing pose, with a stick.

In some parts of Kanyakumari district women prepare saltless Kolukkattai during mid-night and observe Avvai Nonbu. They do not reveal the details of the Nonbu to the male members and don't serve the kolukkattai to them either. But they have no restriction on visiting the temples of Avvaiyaar.

Unlike in other parts of Tamil Nadu the name Avvaiyaar is very common among the members of both sexes in Thovalai Taluk (Avvaiyaar Ammal for female members and Avvaiyaar Pillai for male members).

by S. PADMANABHAN Friday, Nov 05, 2004

in India's National Newspaper The Hindu

Many many thanks to “Ajay Misra” for providing ACK scan.


  1. awesome..thank ajay and prabhat

  2. Great job once again!

    Demonoid Fan

  3. Thanks for the post and the write-up. Excellent collection of stories about Avvai.

  4. Apoorva Chandar: Welcome! There is unique post coming. :)

  5. deepak:Welcome! All thanks to ACK team, Srikanth Sankaranarayanan & S. PADMANABHAN for wtite-up.

  6. Rajeev Sharma: Welcome! Check next post.