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Encyclopedia > Isakki

Isakki or Isakkai is a non-Vedic goddess of South India. She is generically considered one of the Village Goddesses, like Māri, the goddess of epidemics. She is commonly referred as Isakki Amman (Tamil for "Mother"). She is related to goddess Nīli and to certain bloodthirsty female tree spirits known as Yakshi, in fact, the name Isakki apparently derives from the Sanskrit Yakshī. The worship of this goddess is common in the Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli and Salem districts of Tamil Nadu. South India is a linguistic-cultural region of India that comprises the four states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu and the two Union Territories of Lakshadweep and Puducherry, whose inhabitants are collectively referred to as South Indians. ... Sitala, SÄ«tala Devi or Māri is the Goddess of Smallpox or the Goddess of Disease in popular or non-Vedic Hinduism. ... This sculpture of a yakshini comes from a pillar of the railings of a stupa in Mathura. ... , Kanyakumari   (Tamil: கன்னியாகுமரி) is a town in Kanyakumari district in Tamil Nadu state, India. ... , Tirunelveli district [8] is the penultimate southern most district of Tamilnadu in India. ... , Salem   (Tamil: சேலம்) is a city and a municipal corporation in Salem district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. ... Tamil Nadu (தமிழ் நாடு, Land of the Tamils) is a state at the southern tip of India. ...

Goddess Isakki as portrayed on the gate of a small shrine near Shenkottai, Tamil Nadu


Image File history File links Size of this preview: 659 × 599 pixelsFull resolution (730 × 664 pixel, file size: 392 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) own work Mohonu 06:52, 2 August 2007 (UTC) I, the copyright holder of this work, hereby release it into the public domain. ... Image File history File links Size of this preview: 659 × 599 pixelsFull resolution (730 × 664 pixel, file size: 392 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) own work Mohonu 06:52, 2 August 2007 (UTC) I, the copyright holder of this work, hereby release it into the public domain. ...


Unlike the temples of the Vedic deities, Isakki Amman temples are usually humble shrines. These are lined with a certain cactus-type euphorbiaceous plant known as Paalkallu in Tamil. When broken, such cactuses ooze a milk-like sap, which is considered as a sign of goddess Isakki.

Isakki temples also usually have a banyan or bo tree close to the shrine. Small wooden cribs and pieces of women's saris are tied to the branches and aerial roots of the spreading tree. These are vows made by village women who desire to have offspring. Species Many; see text for examples Banyan (genus Ficus, subgenus Urostigma) is a subgenus of many species of tropical figs with an unusual growth habit. ... Binomial name Ficus religiosa Linnaeus The Bodhi or Bo or Peepul tree (Ficus religiosa), is a species of fig (Family Moraceae) and a sacred tree for Buddhists. ... A sari / saree is the traditional female garment in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Maldives. ...


The worship of Isakki Amman includes popular festivals with cooking by the shrine and the dedication of large terracotta figures of the goddess (3 to 4 ft in height) painted in garish colors. Isakki shrines have many of these broken large figures of the goddess strewn close to them in different states of ruin. These figures are sometimes smeared with a liquid made from mixing lime (calcium hydroxide), water and turmeric and which ritually represents blood. Apparently this liquid is a substitute for certain blood sacrifices that took place in the past. Binomial name Linnaeus Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae which is native to tropical South Asia. ...


Isakki is portrayed according to the stories that are told about her by the priests of every shrine. These priests are usually lower-caste pople, like the Nadar and the Pallan. This goddess is usually portrayed as a young woman wearing a red dress. She is holding a child on one hand and a trident in the other. She is sometimes represented as standing on a man that lies on the ground. In the Indian caste system, a Dalit, often called an untouchable,or an outcaste, is a person who according to traditional Hindu belief does not have any varnas. Varna refers to the Hindu belief that most humans were supposedly created from different parts of the body of the divinity Purusha. ... Nadar could mean: Nadar, the pseudonym of Gaspard-Félix Tournachon Nadar, a prominent Tamil caste of India and in the Tamil diaspora The Prix Nadar is awarded annually for a book of photographs edited in France. ... Pallar are a caste of upwardly mobile agriculturalists and agricultural workers of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka. ...

The most acknowledged story of Isakki goes as below:

Ambica, a house wife with her husband Somasharman and two male children was leading a peaceful family life. On one the dutyful "dharpan" to be performed to the ancestors of their family, while Somasharman was away to take bath in the river,Ambica offered food to the starving sage who begged for food. Somasharman got wild since the food prepared as offerings to ancestors was served to the sage before necessary rites & pujas. Ambica & children were chased away from home. Ambica went to a calm place. Realising the foolishness later, Somasharman went in search of his wife & children. However, fearing of him, Ambica gave up her life. After the unfortunate death, it is believed that she was in the form of "Yashini" and still wanted to take care of her growing children. Later with the grace of God, she could regain her human life for the benefit of her children. As she took the Yakshini form and regained human life with the intention to serve the family she become Iyakki or Isakki.


  • Kalpana Ram; Mukkuvar Women.
  • Xavier Romero-Frias, The Maldive Islanders, A Study of the Popular Culture of an Ancient Ocean Kingdom. Barcelona 1999.

See also



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