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Siva's Demon Devotee

Karaikkal Ammaiyar

Elaine Craddock

Publication Year: 2010

An exploration and translation of the work of Hindu poet-saint, Karaikkal Ammaiyar. The Hindu poet-saint Karaikkal Ammaiyar describes herself as a demon, accompanying the god Siva as he dances in the cremation grounds. She is believed to be the first to write devotional poetry to Siva in the Tamil language and is considered the first of the 63 Tamil poet-saints. Written in the 6th or 7th century, her beautiful poetry presents the path of love and service that brings liberation. In Siva’s Demon Devotee, Elaine Craddock provides a historical, literary, and ethnographic exploration of Karaikkal Ammaiyar and her work. An annotated translation of the poet-saint’s 143 verses is included along with an introduction to the Tamil literary tradition. Craddock’s analysis of this poetry in its ancient context and of the narrative tradition that developed around the life of the Karaikkal Ammaiyar centuries later reveals cultural tensions concerning women’s roles and the devotional path. A consideration of the two temples that celebrate this poet-saint in contemporary India illuminate both ancient traditions and contemporary transformations.

Published by: State University of New York Press

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Siva’s Demon Devotee

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pp. -


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pp. ix-

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pp. xi-xii

First and foremost I want to thank Dr. R. Vijayalakshmy, Professor Emeritus at the International Institute of Tamil Studies, with whom I read Kāraikkāl Ammaiyār’s poetry. Without her generosity of spirit and willingness to share her vast knowledge of Tamil literature with me,...

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pp. 1-6

Kāraikkāl Ammaiyār, the “Mother from Kāraikkāl,” was probably the first poet to write hymns to the god Śiva in Tamil, in approximately the mid-sixth century, when the boundaries between Śva’s devotees and competing groups were just starting to be articulated in a self-conscious way. Speaking to god in one’s mother tongue, rather than ...

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1. The Place of Kāraikkāl Ammaiyār in South Indian History

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pp. 7-3

Kāraikkāl Ammaiyār’s poetry bridges the classical Tamil world and the devotional milieu in which Sanskritic myths are localized in a Tamil landscape and infused with Tamil modes of relating to the divine. Although Ammaiyār does not directly praise the Tamil land or Tamil language as the later Śaiva poets do, her poetry is animated ...

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2. Kāraikkāl Ammaiyār Through Her Poetry

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pp. 35-72

The standard stories about Kāraikkāl Ammaiyār stress that she is a beautiful and devoted wife before her husband renounces her and she is free to devote her life to Śiva. But in her poetry, Ammaiyār gives no personal history, other than to say to Śiva that she has worshiped him as soon as she could speak, in the first verse of her long poem ...

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3. Kāraikkāl Ammaiyār Through Her Stories

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pp. 73-89

The Śaiva saints or nāyaṉmārs were first listed by Cuntarar (in approximately the late eighth or early ninth century) in an eleven-stanza poem called Tiruttoṇṭattokai, “The List of the Holy Devotees,” in which he names sixty-two saints. In this hymn Kāraikkāl Ammaiyār is...

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4. The Temples and Their Festivals

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pp. 91-113

There are two towns that are closely associated with Kāraikkāl Ammaiyār and that contain temples that specifically honor her. Kāraikkāl (or Karikal) is the medium-sized coastal town south of Puducherry (Pondicherry) in which Kāraikkāl Ammaiyār was born. Tiruvālaṅkāṭu is the small village approximately 50 kilometers west of Chennai in ...

5. The Poems

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pp. 115-144


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pp. 145-174

Works Cited

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pp. 175-186


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pp. 187- 193

E-ISBN-13: 9781438430898
E-ISBN-10: 1438430892
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438430874
Print-ISBN-10: 1438430876

Page Count: 205
Illustrations: 7 b/w photographs
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: 1

OCLC Number: 794925142
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Siva's Demon Devotee

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Kāraikkālammai, 6th cent. -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Devotional poetry, Tamil -- History and criticism.
  • Śaiva Siddhānta in literature.
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