Categories: Hindu God and Goddess

Periyachi: A Fearsome Aspect of Goddess Parvati

Periyachi is a powerful aspect of Parvati, a goddess in Hinduism. People also call her Periyachi Amman, with “Amman” meaning “mother,” and sometimes refer to her as Periyachi Kali Amman because of her connection to the goddess Kali. She’s often seen as a protective figure, especially during childbirth, believed to prevent misfortune. Periyachi is closely associated with pregnancy, childbirth, and safeguarding children. Communities in Singapore, the Caribbean, Malaysia, and Reunion Island hold her in high regard.

Story of Periyachi

Once upon a time, there was a king named Vallalarajan Raja who ruled the Pandya kingdom. He was known for his cruel ways, making life miserable for his subjects. Legend had it that his downfall would come if his child ever touched the ground.

When the queen went into labor, the king couldn’t find a midwife except for a woman named Periyachi. Despite her stern demeanor, she bravely delivered the baby and kept it from touching the earth. Little did the king know, Periyachi was actually the goddess Adi Parashakti in disguise.

When the king realized the child could be his undoing, he tried to kill it. But Periyachi revealed her true form, with multiple arms and divine weapons. She crushed the king beneath her feet and ended his tyranny.

Even the queen, consumed by grief and fear, wanted to eliminate the baby. However, Periyachi intervened, slaying the queen and saving the child. In a shocking twist, she even consumed the queen’s intestines to protect the newborn.

From then on, Periyachi was hailed as the guardian of infants and expectant mothers. The baby, raised under her loving care, grew up to become a righteous king. In gratitude, he erected numerous temples and shrines in honor of Periyachi Amman, the protector of the innocent.

Iconography of Periyachi

Goddess Periyachi

Periyachi is known for her frightening look with eight arms. She’s often portrayed holding various weapons and a child. Among her possessions are a trident, a noose, a damaru drum with a snake, a sword, and a vessel filled with blood. Usually depicted standing or sitting on a disemboweled king, she’s seen with her two front hands tearing open the abdomen and womb of a queen who lies on her lap. Periyachi is depicted as chewing the queen’s intestines with blood dripping from her mouth, while two of her hands hold the intestines and another holds the king’s child. Her fierce appearance is believed to scare away evil spirits.

Roles of Periyachi

Periyachi is known as a guardian spirit, specifically a “kaval deviam” in Tamil culture. She’s believed to be accompanied by male guardian spirits like Muneeswaran and Madhurai Veeran. Together, Periyachi and Jada-Muneeswaran, an aspect of Muneeswaran, are thought to come to earth as a pair to fend off evil spirits and safeguard the land. Periyachi’s role involves punishing women who cause harm through their actions or words, as well as men who exploit women, often depicted by being trampled under her feet. Additionally, she’s revered as a protector of children.

Worship of Goddess Periyachi

During pregnancy in Tamil rural Hindu communities, special ceremonies are held to protect the unborn child and ensure a safe delivery. In the third month, there’s Punsavana, where prayers are offered to Periyachi, the goddess believed to safeguard the mother and child from the evil eye. Then, in the seventh month, Simantonnyana, or the bangle ceremony, takes place. Here, prayers are directed to the goddess to ease labor pains and protect both mother and child during childbirth.

After the baby is born, on the 30th day, a ceremony is held at home. Offerings including a black sari, non-vegetarian food, and auspicious items are made to Periyachi. Mothers pray to her to ward off misfortune from the newborn, and it’s customary for mothers to continue praying to her for the baby’s safety after a safe delivery.

On the first temple visit after childbirth, usually when the baby is about one month old, parents dedicate their baby to the goddess. The baby’s head is shaved and covered with a yellow cloth, symbolizing purity. Everyone except the baby’s siblings backs away, acknowledging the goddess’s protection during pregnancy and infancy. The priest then performs rituals to worship Periyachi. Worshipping her for 12 consecutive Sundays is believed to grant progeny to couples.

Tuesdays and Fridays are considered auspicious for worshipping Periyachi and Muneeswaran. A festival called Periyachi Puja is celebrated in the Tamil month of Aadi (Aati) to honor the goddess. During this festival, an offering known as padaiyal, consisting of meat and vegetarian dishes, is presented to the goddess and then distributed as prasadam to devotees. Consuming this prasadam is believed to bring good luck and health.

During the Thimithi festival, devotees enact scenes from the epic Mahabharata. A week before the fire-walking ceremony, prayers are offered to Periyachi, seeking her blessings and protection from any unpleasant incidents during the festival.

Periyachi is worshipped as a household deity by many devotees and is believed to possess some of her followers. Shrines dedicated to her can be found in temples like the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple and Sri Maha Mariamman Temple. Additionally, individual temples like the Devi Sri Periyachi Amman Temple exist to honor her.

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Krishna Das is an experienced article writer. He writes about Hinduism in his spare time.

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