Mari, Mariyamma and Marikamba, all denote a (grama devata) village goddess who is very popular in most villages of South India.
While most of the people believe that she is the goddess Kali (created by goddess Parvathy to kill Raktha Bheeja) or the form of Renuka Devi who was the mother of Parasurama, some people believe that she is Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas and yet others believe that she is Vasugi, the wife of Thiruvalluvar.
Mostly her form in the temple is ferocious. She is considered as a goddess who would punish, if not propitiated properly.
Why the Mariamman Thalattu?
One such form of devotion to the goddess is the singing of “Mariamman Thalattu” (Lullaby to mariamman) accompanied by fast playing of a small drum. The song written in a folk music style does not obey any rules of lullabies except that it is aimed at soothing the Mariamman rather than the baby,
The language used is not literal Tamil but spoken Tamil. It is believed to be ancient but references to instruments like Clarinet (a western musical instrument), reference to the invasion of Marathas etc indicate that additions to the lullaby took place as per the local times and the imaginative approach of the singer.
The Lullaby starts with a prayer to Ganesha and then prayer to Goddess Saraswathi. A request is made to her for help in singing the story of Mari.
This is followed by the Lullaby. Though not written in the Stotra style, the lullaby sings praise of Goddess Mari, mentions her various forms, mentions her companions, mentions the acts of devotees for getting her favour, contains in various places of her worship, prayer to her to remove the small pox eruptions from the body etc. More than being poetic , it clearly brings out the utter devotion and the colossal fear in the mind of her devotees.