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Why most villages in South India have a Mariamman Temple?

Mariamman is an incarnation of Mother Goddess and is worshipped in majority of villages in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and other neighboring regions. She is known by numerous names including Goddess Mari, Maramma, Masanamma, Yellamma, Chaudi, Kali, Karali etc. But what is the reason that each village has a Mariamman Temple?

There are numerous legends associated with Goddess Mariamman. But one of the most popular legends is that of Renuka Devi, Mother of Parashurama – sixth avatar of Vishnu.

Legend has it that Renuka Devi, the wife of Sage Jamadagni, was famous for her devotion and chastity. It is said that her chastity was so powerful that she had the divine power to collect water even in unbaked pots.

But once she happened to see a king making love to his wife on the riverbank and she had adulterous thoughts. She lost her divine powers and her husband Sage Jamadagni came to know about this.

The sage had five sons and in anger he ordered them to cut the head of Renuka. Four of them refused but Parashuram, the fifth son readily agreed to cut the head of his mother.

Pleased with his son’s devotion, Sage Jamadagni asked Parashuram to accept a boon. He immediately said that he wanted his mother alive. Sage Jamadagni immediately restored Renuka to her previous form.

Now there is a popular belief that when Parashurama severed Renuka Devi’s head it multiplied in hundreds. Parashuram who was happy to see this form of Mother Goddess requested her to be born in every village. That is why every village has a Mariamman Temple.