The coming of the goddess
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The coming of the goddess book
Every year, during February and March, almost every tea estate in the up-country holds a festival for Mariyamman, the Tamil Hindu goddess of smallpox and other infectious diseases. By building Hindu temples, enacting rituals, embodying the goddess and leading festival processions, Up-country Tamils claim spaces in the diaspora as places that belong to them and to their divine protector, Mariyamman. Most of the upper caste urban Up-country Tamil Hindus in Sri Lanka whom the author interviewed, like many middle-class Tamil Hindus in Britain, looked down on Mariyamman as a low-caste, low-status, village goddess. As the civil war worsened on the East coast of Sri Lanka in the 1980s and 1990s, worship of this goddess surged because she could speak to Tamil Hindus in such “problem times”. In Tamil villages in India and on estates in the diaspora, worship of Mariyamman “forms the articulating node of public ritual activity” and “engenders feelings of unity and identity, and making manifest inter-group relations”.