Paadaikatiya Amman temple - strange ritual of feining dead, Tamil Nadu

Valangaiman Paadakatti Mariammam Devi
 The temple in India is a unique place of veneration where people converge and share their untold problems with the presiding almighty. They come to the temple with the positive belief that their grievances, irrespective of  their nature will be resolved for good. There is one such a famous Templ e at valangaiman, near Kumbakonam city in Thiruvarur district. This temple is called Paadikattiya Amman temple dedicated to Mariamman. It is also known as Sri Valangaiman Maha Kali Temple and is very old - 1000 to 2000 years old.

 Unlike many Hindu temples of Tamil Nadu, where the temple festivals and rituals are more or less similar, here  the temple ritual is not only fascinating, but also strange. I do not hear or run into any other temples in Tamil  Nadu, following this peculiar custom that makes this temple stand apart. ''Paadai kavadi'' or simply ''paadaikattuthal'' is an unusual ritual here. Paadai (It is made of two horizontal pole with cross poles (6 1/2 feet X 2 feet) with a bed made of flowers and coconut leaves) is generally used by the Hindus for carrying a dead body to the cremation ground.
Valangaiman Paadakatti Mariammam Devi Temple.mock funeral.
Here, It means the devotee, for example father, who is committed to do this ritual, will be asked to lie on the paadi like a corpse (he has to play possum)  and will be taken around the temple - a sort of mock funeral with mourners, his  son or some body carrying fire in a pot -  supposedly to light the pyre in the cremations ground. Once the funeral procession is over, the paadi will be kept before the the temple entrance. The priest, after doing pooja before the deity, will sprinkle the holy water on the devotee. He will get up from the paadi alive as if from death by the grace of Goddess Sakthi. The Paadai festival is celebrated in the month of Panguni (March-April) every year.

People with serious illness pray to Amman that they would offer the Padai Kavadi to her after complete recovery from illness.  To fulfill the vow, the patient after recovery shall lie on this Paadai as a dead person accompanied by son and wife. People who escaped from the jaws of death due to disease or accident will  normally request the temple management for 'paadaikattuthal'  ritual to convey their gratefulness to the deity for  having saved his or her life. A person  can pray to the deity here for his friend's sake if he is fighting for his life on account of serious accident or life-threatening disease. I visited this temple several months ago and I personally heard people telling me that a sincere prayer at this temple will have positive results and most of the people who participated in the 'paadikattuthal' ritual had gone home with mental tranquility and satisfaction.

There is a legend associated with this temple. centuries ago a Brahmin couple, for unknown reason, had to move over to some place, leaving behind their young baby girl near Ayyanar temple there. A local couple  accidentally saw  the young baby and began to bring it up. Unfortunately, as fate had it, the young girl a few years  later died of small pox. The parents buried the girl in the back yard  and built a tomb with  thatched roof over it. Daily  the parents lit the oil lamp and the villagers also lit the lamp and prayed at the make shift temple and got positive results.The villagers called her Seethala Devi (seethala means cooling). Over period of time, the small temple became well known and devotees came here  from far and wide.