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©2017 NEW YORK MARI-AMMAN KOIL. A 501 C(3) NON-PROFIT TEMPLE REGISTERED IN QUEENS COUNTY NY, SINCE 2002.

SITE ADMINISTRATOR: STEPHANIE JACKSON

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EMBRACING THE HERITAGE:

 

 

 

APPROXIMATELY 180 YEARS AGO PEOPLE FROM THE REGION OF MADHURAI, TAMIL NADU, INDIA BOARDED A SHIP TO MIGRATE TO A NEW LAND, FOR A NEW LIFE. WHEN THEY LEFT THEIR BIRTH LAND THEY TOOK WITH THEM NOTHING BUT THEIR FIRST NAMES, VALUES, CULTURE AND TRADITIONS. THE FIRST SHIP FROM TAMIL NADU, INDIA LANDED IN THE SHORES OF GUYANA ON MAY 5TH 1838. THOSE DAYS, IT WASN'T EASY TO CORRESPOND OR TRAVEL ACROSS CONTINENTS. SO THE TAMILS WHO LEFT INDIA LOST ALL THEIR TIES TO THEIR MOTHERLAND.

RECENTLY I HAD A WONDERFUL OPPORTUNITY TO ATTEND THE 15TH ANNUAL MARIAMMAN FESTIVAL CELEBRATED BY TAMILS OF GUYANA LIVING IN NEW YORK. THERE ARE ABOUT 5000 TAMILS FROM GUYANA LIVING IN THE NEW YORK REGION. THEY MIGRATED TO AMERICA DURING THE POLITICAL SITUATION IN GUYANA CHANGED TO DICTATORSHIP.

THE TAMILS OF GUYANA HAVE BUILT A MARIAMMAN KOVIL IN QUEENS, NY AND ARE CELEBRATING AMMAN FESTIVAL EVERY YEAR FOR 15 YEARS NOW IN THE MONTH OF MAY. AS I ENTERED THE SIMPLE AND ELEGANT AMMAN TEMPLE IN QUEENS, NOT KNOWING WHAT TO EXPECT, IT WAS AMAZING TO SEE HOW A HUGE AMMAN DEITY ALMOST COMING TO MY EYES. ONCE INSIDE THE TEMPLE, I FELT RIGHT AT HOME AS THOUGH BEING IN A TAMIL NADU VILLAGE. OTHER DEITIES AT THE TEMPLE WERE MADHURAI VEERAN SWAMI, KARUPPANNA SWAMI, MUNEESWARAN, GANGAI AMARAN, GANESHA AND KRISHNA. ALSO PRESENT WAS NAGUR MEERAN SHAPED ENTIRELY USING GREEN LEAVES. THESE ARE THE GODS OUR ANCESTORS WORSHIPPED 179 YEARS AGO, I WAS INFORMED, INDICATING HOW HINDUS AND MUSLIMS LIVED AND WORSHIPPED TOGETHER, IN THE OLDEN DAYS.

THE POOJA BEGAN WITH PADAYAL (PRESENTATION OF PRASDAM), LIGHTING OF OIL LAMPS AND TRADITIONAL AARATHI TO GODDESS AMMAN. POOJA ITEMS INCLUDED TENDER COCONUT, COCONUT FLOWERS, BETEL LEAVES, BETEL NUTS/ARECA, NEEM LEAVES, TURMERIC WATER, FRUITS AND PRASADAM WERE TRADITIONALLY ARRANGED IN BANANA LEAVES. THERE WAS ALCOHOL FROM GUYANA FOR MADURAI VEERAN. JUST LIKE IN INDIA THE PRIESTS WHO PERFORM THE RITUALS CAME FROM SAME FAMILIES FOR GENERATIONS.

AFTER THE INITIAL POOJA, TO INVITE AMMAN’S SPIRITUAL PRESENCE TRADITIONAL UDUKKAI, THAPPU, TAMIL DEVIOTIONAL SONGS AND DANCE WERE PERFORMED. MANY DEVOTEES DANCED IN AMMAN’S SPIRITUAL TRANCE DURING THE RITUALS. THE HEAD PRIEST HELD LIGHTED CAMPHOR IN HIS TONGUE OFTEN AND PERFORMED RITUALS CLEANSING HIMSELF WITH TURMERIC WATER FREQUENTLY AFTER EACH STEP OF THE POOJA AND USED NEEM LEAVES. OTHER DEVOTES ALSO OFTEN CLEANSED THEMSELVES WITH TURMERIC WATER AND PARTICIPATED IN THE POOJAI. WHAT I WITNESSED HERE SEEMED LIKED WHAT I HAVE READ IN BOOKS ABOUT HOW THEY PERFORMED POOJA RITUALS, BACK HOME IN TAMI NADU VILLAGES, IN ANCIENT TIMES.

IT IS TO BE NOTED THAT NONE OF THE GUYANESE TAMILS SPOKE THE LANGUAGE OF TAMIL. BUT THEY ARE STILL CARRYING TAMIL NAMES SUCH AS VEERASAMY, RAMASAMY, PERUMAL, VEERAPPAN, MADHURAI VEERAN ETC. AND ARE MAINTAINING THEIR HERITAGE PASSED ON TO THEM BY ANCESTORS, GENERATION AFTER GENERATION. IT'S IN DEED, INCREDIBLE THAT WITHOUT SPEAKING OR UNDERSTANDING TAMIL, THEY HAVE BEEN ABLE TO PRESERVE AMMAN WORSHIP AND TRADITIONAL POOJAI RITUALS.

THE HEAD PRIEST SPOKE TAMIL ONLY WHEN HE WAS UNDER AMMAN’S SPIRITUAL TRANCE. MANY STOOD IN LINE TO TALK TO THE PRIEST WHEN HE WAS IN THE SPIRITUAL TRANCE TO FIND REMEDIES FOR THEIR HARDSHIPS AND HE SPOKE AND BLESSED THEM IN TAMIL. AN ENGLISH TRANSLATOR STANDING BY INFORMED THE DEVOTEES WHAT THE PRIEST SAID TO EACH OF THEM. I WAS IN COMPLETE AWE TO NOTE HOW METICULOUSLY THEY MAINTAINED THE RITUALS TAUGHT TO THEM BY THEIR ANCESTORS ALMOST TWO CENTURIES AGO.

AT THE END OF THE CELEBRATION THEY SERVED MALT (KOOZH), SWEET PRASADHAM THAT WAS PRESENTED TO THE GODDESS AND FRUITS JUST LIKE IN TAMIL NADU VILLAGES. THEY ALSO PERFORMED IMMOLATION OF COCK, AS SACRIFICE. IN GUYANA I WAS TOLD THAT THEY THEY CELEBRATED AMMAN FESTIVAL TRADITIONALLY FOR THREE DAYS AND SACRIFICED GOATS IN THEIR CEREMONY. IF THIS ONE DAY CELEBRATION IN NEW YORK LEFT ME SPELLBOUND, I CAN IMAGINE ONLY HOW THE THREE DAYS FESTIVITIES IN GUYANA WOULD BE LIKE.

LATER IN THE EVENING, THERE WAS A HUGE FEAST SERVED TO ALL DEVOTEES. HOSPITALITY IS ONE OF TAMIL VIRTUE AND AFTER ALL THESE YEARS OUR GUYANESE TAMILS HAVEN’T LOST THIS TREASURED QUALITY. THEY INVITED ME IN, JUST LIKE A LONG LAST FAMILY AND SHOWERED ME WITH SO MUCH ATTENTION. I WASN'T SURE IF I WAS IN THE MIDST OF NEW YORK OR IN A REMOTE VILLAGE IN TAMIL NADU. WE SPOKE ABOUT THE DISCONNECT THAT EXISTS BETWEEN THE TAMILS OF TAMIL NADU AND THE TAMILS OF GUYANA THAT HAS GONE ON FOR CENTURIES AND HOW TO REMEDY IT.

THEY READILY SHARED THEIR FOOD AND THEIR WAY OF LIVING WITH ABSOLUTELY NO HESITATION. THERE WAS SINGING OF A FEW TAMIL SONGS THEY KNEW AND DANCING. BEST PART WAS MEETING THE HOST'S APPA AND LISTENING TO PERUMAL ANNA SING "AMMA ENNA PETHAVALE". IT WAS UNBELIEVABLE TO FEEL THIS INSTANT CONNECTION WITH PEOPLE YOU HAVE NEVER MET AND LEAVING THERE WITH FOOD PACKED FOR MY CHILDREN.

I 'D HAVE TO SAY, IF ANYONE WANTS TO LEARN ABOUT HOW AMMAN FESTIVAL WAS CELEBRATED IN TAMIL NADU IN THE OLDEN DAYS, VISIT THIS AMMAN FESTIVAL HELD BY THE GUYANESE TAMILS IN NEW YORK IN THE MONTH OF MAY. FOR MORE INFORMATION ON NEW YORK MARIAMMAN TEMPLE PLEASE VISIT THE WEBSITE, HTTP://MADRASI.ORG

MY HEARTFELT GRATITUDE AND KUDOS TO THE TEMPLE COMMITTEE AND DEVOTEES FOR EMBRACING AND PRESERVING OUR ANCIENT TRADITIONS AND PRACTICING THEM IN ITS ORIGINAL FORM, ESPECIALLY IN THIS BUSY MODERN SOCIETY, UNDER THE WESTERN SKIES. EVEN IN TAMIL NADU SOME OF THESE TRADITIONS HAVE BEEN LOST OR MODERNIZED.

HOPE THIS COMING TOGETHER AT THE AMMAN TEMPLE IS THE LAYING OF A FOUNDATION STONE FOR A BRIDGE TO BE BUILT BETWEEN THE TAMILS OF TAMIL NADU AND TAMILS OF GUYANA IN AMERICA TO EMBRACE OUR RICH HERITAGE.

- BHUVANA KARUNAKARAN

THE NEW YORK MARI-AMMAN KOIL FEATURED ON ONEINDIA.COM

நியூயார்க்கில் மாரியம்மன் திருவிழா….15வது ஆண்டாக கொண்டாடும் கயானா தமிழர்கள்!

READ MORE AT: HTTPS://TAMIL.ONEINDIA.COM/NEWS/INTERNATIONAL/MAIAMMAN-FESTIVAL-NEW-YORK-285158.HTML

For an English version of the article referenced above please read the translation below.