Kāraikkāl Ammai(yār)

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c.6th century ce?)

One of the 63 Nāyaṉmār bhakta saints. According to the hagiographies, she was born into a vaiśya family in the South Indian town of Kāraikkāl (south of Pondicherry). Her Tamil poems in praise of Śiva (the Aṟputat tiruvantāti, the Tiruviraṭṭai maṇimālai, and the Tiruvālaṅkāṭṭu mūtta tiruppatikaṅkaḷ), which are regarded as the oldest in the Tirumuṟai collection, are signed ‘the demoness (pēy) of Kāraikkāl’. This epithet seems to have inspired the story that she asked Śiva to change her from a beautiful woman into a frightening and skeletal figure, like the demons in his retinue (and/or to terrify her husband), which is how she is portrayed in the iconography. In her bhakti poems she positions herself as Śiva's slave or servant. Some commentators see this stance as being more intellectual and restrained than the full-blown emotionalism of some later bhaktas.

Kāraikkāl Ammai(yār)

Subjects: Hinduism.

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