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Yakshi, Madan and other spirits

Madan (Maadan)

Madan, or Sudalai Madan, is a regional non-Vedic Tamil male deity who is popular amongst the least Sanskritised social groups of South India, particularly Tamil Nadu. This deity is very ancient. He seems to have originated in some ancestral guardian spirit of the villages or communities in Tamil Nadu, in a similar manner as Ayyanar. Folklore of Tamilnadu has many stories of Madan, though in Kerala the stories regarding Madan are less.

Madan's main role is of a protector and a hero (Veeran). He is the divinity of the dispossessed. Madan is usually considered to be the deity of the Konar, Thevar, Paraiyar, Nadar and other castes found in the extreme south of Tamil Nadu. Each caste or families will have their own Madan temple in their village. This deity is very popular in the Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari districts. And he is said to have been born in Seevalaperi, Tirunelveli District. Sudalai Madan is very famous in southern parts of the Tirunelveli district.

Large temples for Madan are rare. Madan shrines usually consist of simple stone platforms with stone pillars. They are usually located at the outskirts of the villages. Mostly Madan is painted on pillars and occasionally he is represented in sculpture form too. Frequently these pillars are just white in colour, daubed with red marks. When Madan is represented ichnographically, it is usually in a threatening position, standing carrying weapons like club, sword, cleaver, whip etc in both hands. Owing to the non-Vedic origin of this deity, rituals in most Madan temples are officiated by non-Brahmin priests.

Esakkiyamman (Isakki) is younger sister of Madan and is worshipped as a Goddess of fertility and for good character in children, for a better society, etc. Madan is considered to be the protector of Isakki. She too is depicted through pillars representing her in Madan temples. The pillars representing Esakki are usually shorter than those of Madan.

In an effort to incorporate Madan into the wider Hindu pantheon, he is considered to be the son of Sivan and Parvati. Madan is also related with Harischandra and is thus revered by all communities for his proverbial honesty and adherence to truth. Harischandra is also worshipped as Masanamuthu in Thiruchendur and Tirunelveli districts of Southern Tamil Nadu. Mundan as Katterum Perumal, the son of Harischandra , is worshipped in Kanyakumari and Tirunelveli districts.

According to Tamil folklore - Lord Siva started his tour to Padi alakkal (giving away alms) to his followers. Parvathi, his consort, told him she will feel lonely as her two sons Ganesha and Murugan (Subramanya) are away on different errands and she has to stay alone and she wanted a son to be with her so that she will be able to spend time without feeling lonely and so forth. Shiva was not agreeable at first, but later relented to Parvathi's pleadings, cautioning her that the child will only be a cause of troubles to her. From one of the seven oil lamps that were lit nearby, Lord Shiva took out a wick and a drop of hot burning oil fell on Parvathi's lap and thus a child was born to Parvathi. To her dismay, the newborn had no head or limbs and was just a blob of live flesh. Lamenting Parvathi pleaded Shiva to provide the child with head and limbs and Shiva acceded to this.

One day, deep in the night, the child went to the burial ground and pulled out the corpses and ate the decomposed flesh, threw the rest helter-skelter and quietly went back and slept in his place. Next day morning when Parvathi went to bathe and feed the child, she felt the foul odour and  realised what had happened and the perils of keeping the child with her in Kailasa. She told him to go to earth. He was adamant and wanted appeasements like festivals where in he will be given meat, toddy and liquor, animal sacrifices etc as regular offerings. On Parvathi acceding to demands, the child Madan moved over to earth and landed in Kerala. (Some more remains)

Kariyadi Madan, popular in Courtalam and some parts of Tirunelveli, has a somewhat different story. This story is a regional variant of the well-known tale of Daksha's sacrifice and it's plunder by Veerabhathran. In the local version, Kariyadi Madan is said to be Takka Raja, and  there are some strong differences between the classical Sanskrit tale and the local folk-lore. However the events in both follow the same story line. In the local version Takka Raja is said to have pleased the gods and got the boon of having Goddess Shakthi Devi born as his daughter. When this daughter Shakthi came of age, Takka Raja wanted to marry her off to someone of his choice, but she resisted and eloped with Siva.

Furious Takka Raja decided to punish Shakthi Devi and Siva by conducting a sacrifice, raising the temperature of Mount Kailasa, where the happy couple reside to burn. The heat became so unbearable, and Devi sent her sons Vinayaka (Ganesha) and Muruga (Subramanya),  to reason out with her father. But Takka was unyielding. At this point Siva created lord Veerabathra from a drop of his sweat. In some regional variants, it was Devi who created Veerabhathra, in the same way. Veerabhathra fights Takka and beheads him and thows his head into the sacrificial fire. In some Tamil legends surrounding goddess Ankalaparameshwari, it is said that it was Shakthi in the form of Bhadrakaali who went to fight Takka Raja.

Later, out of pity, Siva decided to revive him. He replaced Takka Raja's head with that of a goat. He then instructed Takka to go to Earth and do penance to cleanse himself of the sin of having attempted to burn Kailasa. On Earth, Takkan traveled to many sacred places protecting the weak against oppression, and changed people for the better. Siva was pleased with the change in Takka's heart, and happily endowed him with many powers. Takka finally met lord Shastha who was pleased with him and decided to keep Takkan as the kaval (guard) of the Ashrama, and also arranged for his worship. Because Takka Raja took his seat near the river bank, he is called Kariyadi Madan.

Madan is also popular amongst certain segments of the Tamils in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Réunion and the French overseas territories in the Caribbean sea.

Madan is known by different names. Some of these are: