Porridge prayers coincide with Good Friday every year, this year being 2 April. Unfortunately, religious gatherings are still limited due to lockdown conditions. Please check with your nearest temples and priests and celebrate carefully. The history of porridge prayers is key to understanding how SA Indians adapted to the new land and the eternal link with Mariamman. Director at Natya Ananda Fine Arts Academy – Verushka Pather, explains how the 1860 indentured labourers traditions are continued by South African Hindus, giving thanks by performing this traditional prayer even under the toughest of situations.
Shakthi, as Divine Mother, is portrayed as cosmic energy in its dynamic form. Being the mother of the universe. She is ever ready to heed the call of Her devotees. As such an instance did this force manifest as Muthu Mari Ammen, Muthu (pearl); Mari (rain); Ammen (Mother), thus being titled as the Mother of Rain, that which is more precious than pearls. In time of great drought, a time when people were plagued with measles, mumps, etc. did these people seek the help of the Divine Mother. This Mother, ever willing to help Her children manifested in the form of a woman garbed in yellow and carrying a pot of fermented meal and some syringa leaves, descended on the state of Samayapuram.
Here she fed the ill with the porridge and nursed them with a mixture syringa leaves and tumeric paste. She continued healing the sick and when her work was done She retired to the forest. The people whom She had cured sought Her and wanted to know the identity of this mysterious Atah (aunt). They found Her seated under a syringa tree. They asked Her to reveal Her identity and wanted to know how She could be thanked for saving the lives of so many.
She disclosed Herself as the Mother of the universe and asked only that every year in the time that she appeared, her devotees gather in great numbers, worship Her and distribute holy porridge etc. to everybody, and promised to be their guiding and protecting force.
She then disappeared leaving torrents of rain to bathe the earth and aid growth of flora. She then became known as Samayapuram Mariatha and Her scripture being the Mariammen Thalatu. It is, therefore, in this great month of Aadi (July – August) that the Mother Mariammen is venerated as the protector and curer of all miseries. The Gargum symbolising her crown is carried honouring Her as the Queen of the Universe.
Try out this sour porridge recipe here
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Read more: Indian Sour Porridge Recipe With Aunty Neela
Watch footage via 1860 heritage centre: