Tamil Hindu Encyclopaedia; 42, Nymphs, Ghosts, and Local Gods in Sangam Tamil Corpus (Post.11,585)


Post No. 11,585

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Ancient Tamils believed in Nymphs, Ghosts, Spirits and Local Gods like the Vedic people. We see unknown and unexplainable ghosts and spirits  in the Rigveda and Atharvana Veda. I have already given the long list in my blogs. Even today the village goddesses have only Sanskrit names. Kanchi Paramacharya Swami has explained it in his beautiful lecture.

Many half baked , so called scholars write that these are Dravidian Gods. But all of them have Sanskrit names or stories connected with Hindu gods. In the Veda also we see Raakaayi, Mookaayi, Aranyani (forest nymph), Bhumadevi, Mahaamaayi etc

Greeks and Sumers also have similar stories.

Like their north Indian counterparts , ancient Tamils saw nymphs in all the natural entities; they sing about nymphs in forests, trees, ponds, lakes, mountains, parks, meeting points of streets, city squares, crematoriums , battle fields, musical instruments, animals etc . Hundreds of references are in 2000 year old literature. We see similar things in ancient Greece.  They have special names for nymphs of different localities, unlike Tamils . Greeks called them,

Nereides – water nymphs. Neer for water is not a Tamil word. Greeks took it from Rigveda to Greece.

Naiades- Mountain nymphs

Oceanides – Ocean , sea nymphs

Dryads – trees; from Sanskrit Taru, Daru

Most of them are female spirits like Yakshis in Sanskrit. Tamils also considered them feminine spirits. Because of this belief, Hindus gave full respect to all that is Nature and saved the environment

Sangam Age Tamils used அணங்கு, பேய், கடவுள், தெய்வம், சூரரமகளிர் for the nymphs and spirits. Local people worshipped them with special rites.

The following passage lists all the places where the nymphs reside

மலையும்‌ மரமும்‌ மரம்செறி காவும்‌

காடும்‌ மேடும்‌ கள்ளியும்‌ புதரும்‌.

சுனையும்‌ துருத்தியும்‌ சுழியும்‌ கடலும்‌:

நாடும ஊரும்‌ நல்மனை இடங்களும்‌

மருவு சந்தியும மறுகுகூடு சதுக்கமும்‌:

மன்றில்‌ பொதியிலில்‌ கந்துடை நிலையிலும்

யாழிலும்‌ பிறவிலும்‌ எங்கனும்‌ மன்னி.

உவந்துறை கடவுளர்‌ காட்சியும்‌ உளவே.

This includes all the sources listed above.


Like Vedic people, they approached them with a reverential fear. We see it in Bhumi Sukta of the Atharvana Veda and Aranyani sukta of the Rig Veda, the oldest book in the world.

‘உருகெழு மரபின்‌ கடவுள்‌: (பதிற் ,21:8) is the description we find in Pathitrupathu, which means fearful and troublesome god.


Tirumurukatruppadai (Murugu) gives the list as Forest, Garden, River Islands, River, Pond, Square, Street Meeting Points, Parks,Public Meeting places, Godly places etc

காடும்‌ காவும்‌, கவின்‌ பெறு துருத்தியும்‌

யாறும்‌ குளனும்‌. வேறுபல்‌ வைப்பும்‌,

சதுக்கமும்‌ சந்தியும்‌ புதுப்பூங்‌ கடம்பும்‌.

மன்றமும்‌ பொதியிலும்‌ கந்துடை நிலையிலும்‌

(முருகு 223-225)


Paripatal adds Trees like banyan, Kadamba, River islands, Hills etc where Gods reside

ஆலமும்‌, கடம்பும்‌, நல்‌ யாற்று நடுவும்‌.

கால்‌ வழக்கு அறுநிலைக குன்றமும்‌, பிறவும்‌

அவ்வவை மேலிய வேறுவேறு பெயரோய்‌

(பரி .4:67-69)


People worship such places , report Kalittokai verse.

‘துறையும்‌ ஆலமும்‌ தொல்வலி மராஅமும்‌

முறையுளி பராஅய்‌, பசய்ந்தனர்‌, தொழூ௨

(கலி.101 13-14)


Mountain Spirits

The Greeks called them “The Oreads”

The Oreads (oros, “mountain”) were nymphs of mountains and grottoes; the Napaeae (nape, “dell”) and the Alseids (alsos, “grove”) were nymphs of glens and groves; the Dryads or Hamadryads presided over forests and trees.

In Sanskrit we have Goddesses in each Mountain such as Vindhyavasini in Vindhya mountains, Mookambhika in the Western Ghats, Santoshi  Mata and Parvati in the Himalayas, Kanaka Durga in Indrakeeladri Hills in Andhra Pradesh etc.

Tamils also worshipped the hills as Gods

Sangam Tamils sang about the Devas residing in Meru (Sirupan.Lines 205/6 and Perumpan. Lines 429/30.)

Meru is the centre and highest point in Sri Chakra Yantra. We have Meru in all parts of the world such as Pameer (Paa Meru), Khmer and Kumari (Khu Meru), Sumerians (Su Meru; they claimed they came from a far off mountain area/India; Meru in Kenya in Africa etc.


Sangam Age Tamils believed that all hills are places where Gods reside

(Anangu- Nymph- அணங்கு)

அணங்குடை நெடுவரை: (௮௧.23:1); ‘Akam 23-1

அணங்குடைக்‌. கவாஅன்‌! (௮௧.79:11); Akam

‘வான்  கோட்டுக்‌ க டவுள்‌, ஓங்குவனர* – அகம் 348 -6

அணங்குடை வரைப்பு’ (௮௧,372:1); ‘கடுந்திறல்‌. Akam

அணங்கின்‌ நெடும்‌ பெருங்‌ குன்றத்து’ (௮௧.378:34); Akam 

‘மலை உறை கடவுள்‌: (நற்‌.359:3); Natr.

அணங்கொடு நின்றது மலை நற்‌.165:8) Natr.


They guard the people

“அருந்தெறல்‌ மரபின்‌ கடவுள்/God‌ காப்ப,

பெருந்தேன்‌ தூங்கும்‌ தாடுகாண்‌ நனந்தலை,

அணங்கு/Nymphடை வரைப்பின்‌, பாழி ஆங்கண்‌”

(௮௧.372:1-3)  Akam

“ஈர்ந்தண்‌ சிலம்பின்‌ இருள்‌ தூங்கு நளி முழை

அருத்திறல்‌ கடவுள்/God‌ காக்கும்‌ உயர்சிமை:

பெருங்கல்‌ நாடன்‌ பேகனும்‌’ (புற.158:10-12), Puram

The Gods in the mountain protect the people, they sang.

It makes sense because the hills only prevented invasions of enemies from the other side of the mountain.


Beautiful Apsaras from Deva Loka/Divine World/Heaven

Tamils called them Mountain Women ‘வரையர மகளிர்‌’ . They said that the bards and dancers crossing the Mountains should not stay in such places for long because they will give you sickness.

Throughout the Atharva Veda, we see all bacteria and Viruses are described as evil spirits. That is the layman’s language. Tamils also said don’t stay in cold places for long otherwise you would get troubles (Influenza fever or Pneumonia or even Malaria)

“அனையது அன்று அவன்‌ மலைமிசை நாடே –

நிரை இதழ்க்‌ குவளைக்‌ கடிவீ தொடினும்‌,

‘வரைஅர மகளிர்‌ இருக்கை காணினும்‌,

உயிர்செல வெம்பிப்‌ பனித்தலும்‌ உரியிர்‌;

பலநாள்‌ நில்லாது நிலநாடு படர்மின்‌

(மலைபடு.188-192) Malaipadukadaam

This passage warns the bards and their wives not to stay for long in mountainous areas because you will be made to shiver (with fever)


Tamils believed those Apsaras or Angels live in caves and they are invisible to human beings. (Akam Verse௮௧.343:11-18).

Tamil poets used this Apsaras as similes to describe the rare sight of a girl (lady love) of the beauty of a ladylove.

‘வரையர மகனிரின்‌ அரியள்‌: (Ainkurஐங்‌.191:4, Akam௮௧.352:11)

To be continued………………………………………

Tags- Tamil , Anangu, Nymphs, Pey, Surara Makalir, Tamil Spirits, Ghosts

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