Elangakodi Ayyanar  Shrine Tamil Nadu


Photo and Text courtesy of


David Van der Elst









Whitehead, Henry


Calcutta :


Association Press ; London ; Toronto : H. Milford







Massive terracotta horses have been built by Tamil villagers in south India for thousands of years. 

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Pen-and-ink and wash drawing by Philip Meadows Taylor of terracotta horses at a temple in Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, dated 1834. The image is inscribed on the front in ink: ‘Clay Horses at a Hindoo Temple. No. 52.’


Stephen Inglis states that “technically they are the most ambitious achivements in clay  found in India and by any survey probably the largest hollow clay images to be created anywhere”





Elangakodi Ayyanar open Shrine

Elangakodi Ayyanar Open Air Shrine

Photo and Text courtesy of

David Van der Elst







The shrine is situated 9 Km south from


28 Km north from Karaikudi,

Tamil Nadu.

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The priests of the shrine are not Brahmin, noteworthy is the local
15 days Vaigashi festival (May/June) in which are sacrificed goats.



Rows of old Terracotta zoomorphic offering






Elephant sculpture



Horse with guardian sculpture




Elephant sculpture


Sacred tree with votive terracotta figures

frontal view


Sacred tree side view, Perikarapar sculpture on the left, Aiyanar legs on the right


Under the Sacred tree


is worshiped with others local gods and hindu classic deities :

Perikarapar sculpture (A)
4 Ganesh (Ganapati) sculptures (B,F,G,H)
Pachaiamman (Parvati local form) sculpture (C)
Kamalai sculpture (E)
Areklamtar sculpture (I)
2 Nagas sculptures (J)

behind them a mess of terracotta anthropomorphic offering



Sacred tree, votive zoomorphic sculptures,

behind the Bell is located the place for Puja


In a little circle  near the entry of the principal shrine is located the place in which  sacrifices are done during the Vaigashi Festival festival


Another view of the shrine with a larger than life horse with guardian sculpture, one huge  elephant sculpture and a row of old terracotta horses and cows.

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Shrine’s details










Whitehead, Henry

Calcutta :

Association Press ; London ; Toronto : H. Milford





Typaical Shrine of Grama Devata

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Interior of Shrine with Stones as Symbols, probably symbols of the seven sisters



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Pujari with Arati


Stone symbol of Potu-Razu with stake for impaling animals


Rude Shrine at Root of tree with bare stone as symbol.

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Rude Shrine


Minachi and the Seven Sister, Cuddalore


Buffalo sacrifice

Antedating the Aryan invasion, and predating their introduction of Hinduism with its complex pantheon of deities in the second millemium B.C.,  the typical and unique workship of the VILLAGE GODS is probably the most ancient
form of Indian indigenous religious beliefs and costume system, praticated by the old and originary inhabitants of the place, the Dravidians.

These sistem of beliefs is based on a conception in which the world is peopled by a great moltitude of good and bad spirits that are the cause of all the diseases and disasters.

In this kind of ancient and primitive religion the object of the people was to propitiate these innumerable legions of spirits, each village was under the protection of one guardian deity, at once hero,protector, councilor.

The village deities were ALMOST UNIVERSALLY WORSHIPPED WITH ANIMAL SACRIFICIES, Buffaloes, sheep, goats, pigs, and fowls are freely offered to them, sometimes in thousands.

The buffalo-sacrifice has special features of its own, and seems to retain TRACES OF A PRIMITIVE FORM OF WORSHIP , which may
possibly have originated in TOTEMISM.

EVERY VILLAGE  in South India is believed by the people TO BE SURROUNDED BY EVIL SPIRITS, who are always on the watch to
inflict diseases and misfortunes of all kinds on the unhappy villagers.

So the poor people turn for PROTECTION TO THE GUARDIAN DEITIES OF THEIR VILLAGE, whose function it is TO WARD OFF THESE EVIL SPIRITS AND PROTECT THE VILLAGE FROM EPIDEMICS OF CHOLERA, SMALL POX, OR FEVER , from cattle disease, failure of crops, childlessness, fires, and all the manifold ills that flesh is heir to in an Indian village.


In the Telugu country the potters and the washermen, who are Sudras of low caste, often officiate as priests, and have an important part, especially in the buffalo sacrifices, that is taken by the Malas and Madigas.

A Madiga nearly always kills the buffalo and performs the unpleasant ceremonies connected with the sprinkling of the blood, and there are certain families among the Malas, called Asadis, who are the nearest approach to a priestly caste in connexion with the village deities.

They have the hereditary right to assist at the sacrifices, to chant the praises of the goddess while the sacrifices are being offered, and to perform certain ceremonies.

But in the more primitive villages, where, it may be presumed, primitive customs prevail, it is remarkable how great a variety of people take an official part in the worship : the potter, the carpenter, the toddy-drawer, the washerman, Malas and Madigas, and even the Brahman Karnam or village accountant, have all their parts to play.

We  will take a village in the Telugu country, the village deity, in this particular village, is called Peddamma,




MOTHER, and the carpenter to make a small wooden CART, and a BUFFALO is chosen as the chief victim for the SACRIFICE.

When the appointed day arrives, the buffalo is sprinkled all over with yellow turmeric while garlands of margosa leaves are hung round its neck and tied to its horns.

At about two p.m. it is conducted round the village in procession to the sound of music and the beating of tom-toms.

The two sections of the Outcastes, the Malas and the Madigas, take the leading Part in the sacrifice, and conduct the buffalo from house to house.

One Madiga goes on ahead, with a tom tom, to announce that “the buffalo devoted to the goddess is coming.”So a collection is made for the expenses of a festival, or a rich man offers to pay all expenses, and a propitious day is selected, which in this village may be any day except Sunday or Thursday.

Then the potter of the village is instructed to make a CLAY IMAGE OF THE GREAT

The people then come out from their houses, bow down to worship the buffalo, and pour water over his feet, and also give some food to the Malas and Madigas, who form the procession.

By about eight p.m. this ceremony is finished, and the buffalo is brought to an open spot in the village and tied up near a small canopy of cloths supported on bamboo poles,which has been set up for the reception of the goddess.

All the villagers then assemble at the same place, and at about ten p.m. they go in procession, with music and tom toms and torches, to the house of the potter, where the clay image is ready prepared.

On arriving at his house, they pour about two and a half measures of rice on the ground and put the image on the top of it, adorned with a new cloth and jewels.

All who are present then worship the image, and a ram is killed, its head being cut off with a large chopper, and the blood sprinkled on the top of the image, as a kind of consecration.

The potter then takes up the idol and carries it out of the house for a little distance, and gives it to a washerman, who carries it to the place where the canopy has been set up to receive it.

During the procession the people flourish sticks and swords and spears to keep off the evil spirits, and, for the same purpose, cut limes in half and throw them up in the air.

The idea is that the greedy demons will clutch at the golden limes and carry them off, and so be diverted from any attack on the man who carries the image.

When the idol has been duly deposited under the canopy, another procession is made to the house of the toddy-drawer.

He is the man who climbs the palm trees and draws off the juice which is made into toddy.

At his house some rice is cooked, and a pot of toddy and a bottle of arrack are produced and duly smeared with yellow turmeric and a red paste, constantly used in religious worship among the Hindus and called kimkuma^

The cooked rice is put in front of the pot of toddy and bottle of arrack, a ram is killed in sacrifice, and then the toddy-drawer worships the pot and the bottle.

The village officials pay him his fee, three-eighths of a measure of rice, three-eighths of a measure of cholam 2 and four annas, and then he carries the pot and bottle in proces sion, and places them under the canopy near the image of

Then comes yet another procession.

The people go off to the house of the chief official, the Reddy, and bring from it some cooked rice in a large earthenware pot, some sweet cakes, and a lamb.

A large quantity of margosa leaves are spread on the ground in front of the image, the rice from the Reddy s house is placed upon them in a heap, and a large heap of rice, from one hundred to three hundred measures, according to the amount of the subscriptions, is poured in a heap a little farther away.

All these elaborate proceedings form only the preparations for the great sacrifice, which is now about to begin.

The lamb is first worshipped and then sacrificed by having its throat cut and its head cut off.

A ram is next brought and stood over the first large heap of rice, and is there cut in two, through the back, with a heavy chopper, by one of the village washermen.

The blood pours out over the rice and soaks it through.

One half of the ram is then taken up and carried to a spot a few yards off, where a body of Asadis are standing ready to begin their part in the ceremonies.

The other half of the ram is left lying on the rice. The Asadis then begin to sing a long chant in honour of the deity.

Meanwhile, the chief sacrifice is made.

The buffalo is brought forward, and the Madigas kill it by cutting its throat (in some villages its head is cut off).

Some water is first poured over the blood, and then the pool of blood and water is covered up carefully with earth, lest any outsider from another village should come and steal it.

The idea is that if any man from another village should take away and carry home even a small part of the blood, that village would get the benefit of the sacrifice.

The head of the buffalo is then cut off and placed before the image, with a layer of fat from its entrails smeared over the fore head and face, so as to cover entirely the eyes and nose.

The right foreleg is cut off and placed crosswise in the mouth, some boiled rice is placed upon the fat on the forehead, and on it an earthenware lamp, which is kept alight during the whole of the festival.

Why the right foreleg should be cut off and placed in the mouth, and what the meaning of it is, the author never been able to discover nor can to conjecture.

When he asked the villagers, they only reply,

“It is the custom.”

But the author  found the custom prevailing in all parts of South India, among Tamils, Telugus, and Canarese alike, and he has been informed that exactly the same custom prevails in the Southern Maratha country.

It seems to be a very ancient part of the ritual of sacrifice prevailing in South India.

Some of the rice from the heap, over which the ram was sacrificed and its blood poured out, is taken and put in a flat basket, and some of the entrails of the buffalo are mixed with it.

The intestines of the lamb, which was first killed, are put over the neck of a Mala, and its liver is placed in his mouth,  while another Mala takes the basket of rice soaked in blood and mixed with the entrails of the buffalo.

A procession is then formed with these two weird figures in the middle.

The man with the liver in his mouth is worked up into a state of frantic excitement and is supposed to be inspired by
the goddess.

He has to be held by men on either side of him, or kept fast with ropes, to prevent his rushing away ; and all round him are the ryots, the small farmers, and the Malas, flourishing clubs and swords,and throwing limes into the air, to drive
away the evil spirits.

As the procession moves through the village, the people shout out ” Food ! Food ! ” and the man who carries the basket sprinkles the rice soaked in blood over the houses to protect them from evil spirits.

As he walks along, he shouts out, at intervals, that he sees the evil spirits, and falls down in a faint.

Then lambs have to be sacrificed on the spot and limes thrown into the air and cocoanuts broken, to drive away the demons and bring the man to his senses.

And so the procession moves through the village, amid frantic excitement, till, as the day dawns, they return to the canopy, where the great mother is peacefully reposing.

At about ten a.m. a fresh round of ceremonies begins.

Some meat is cut from the carcass of the buffalo and cooked with some cholam, and then given to five little Mala boys, siddhalu, the innocents, as they are called.

They are all covered over with a large cloth, and eat the food entirely concealed from view, probably to prevent the evil spirits from seeing them, or the evil eye from striking them.

And then some more food is served to the Asadis, who have been for many hours, during the ceremonies of the night, chanting the praises of the goddess.

After this the villagers bring their offerings.

The Brahmans, who may not kill animals, bring rice and cocoanuts, and other castes bring lambs, goats, sheep, fowls, and buffaloes, which are all killed by the washermen, by cutting their throats, except the buffaloes, which are always killed by the Madigas, the lowest class of Outcastes.

The heads are all cut off and presented to the goddess.

This lasts till about three p.m., when the people go off to the house of the village carpenter, who has got ready a small
wooden cart.

On their arrival some cooked rice is offered to the cart, and a lamb sacrificed before it, and a new cloth and eight annas are given to the carpenter as his fee.

The cart is then dragged by the washermen, to the sound of horns and tom-toms, to the place of sacrifice.

The heads and carcasses of the animals already sacrificed are first removed by the Malas and Madigas, except the head of the buffalo first offered, which remains in its place till all the ceremonies are finished, when the shrine is

At about seven p.m. another series of ceremonies begins.

First a lamb is sacrificed before the goddess, and its blood mixed with some cooked rice, and at the same time a pig is buried up to the neck in a pit at the entrance of the village, with its head projecting above the earth.

The villagers go in procession to the spot, while one of the Madigas carries the rice, soaked in the blood of the lamb, in a basket.

All the cattle of the village are then brought to the place and driven over the head of the unhappy pig, 1 which is, of course, trampled to death ; and, as they pass over the pig, the blood and rice are sprinkled upon them to preserve them
from disease.

Then, after this, follows the final ceremony.

The image of the goddess is taken from the canopy by the washerman, and a Madiga takes the head of the buffalo with its foreleg in the mouth, the forehead and nostrils all smeared over with fat, and the earthen lamp still lighted on the top.

They then all go in procession to the boundary of the village, first the men carrying the buffalo s head, next the washerman  with the image, and last the small wooden cart.

When the procession arrives at the extreme limit of the village lands, they go on, for about a furlong, into the lands of the neigh bouring village.

There the Asadis first chant the praises of the goddess, then some turmeric is distributed to all the people, and finally the image is divested of all its ornaments and solemnly placed upon the ground and left there.

The light on the head of the buffalo is extinguished, and the head itself carried off by the Madiga, who takes it for a feast to his own house.

The object of transporting the goddess to the lands of the next village is to transfer to that village the wrath of the deity, a precaution which does not show much faith in the temper of the goddess, nor much charity towards their neighbours !

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Image of Goddess with nails driven into her body.



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