abroad In Malaysia, the Chitty Malaccans worship Mariamman during Aadi because their ancestors were Tamils. RUPA GOPAL

Amman worship during Aadi (July 15 to Aug 15) gains momentum in Tamil Nadu. In distant Malacca, Malaysia, the Muthu Mariamman temple tiruvizha is a grand annual event in April, drawing Chitty Malaccans from all over the world to this small settlement.

Tamil traders went to Malacca in the 1400s and married local women of Chinese, Malay and Peranakan origin, thus creating a new community called Chitty Malacca - Chetty Tamils became Chitty .The next generation learnt the mother’s language, but kept the father’s religion alive. Many of the Hindu Chitty Malaccans could not speak much Tamil, but are today learning to read and write it. The food also became an amalgam of local cuisine and Tamil dishes. Festivals see traditional dishes prepared by all and sold in stalls outside the temple.

The Gaja Berang Amman temple is located inside the Chitty Malacca Kampung, or compound, where old style wooden homes line the narrow lanes. The people dress like South Indians in saris and half saris, dhotis and jibbas, for all occasions. They grow herbal plants, which are used for simple remedies — formulae that are handed down from their Tamil ancestors. In appearance, they are different with distinct Chinese or Malay features.

They have implicit faith in Mariamman, by whose blessings, they feel, they are leading comfortable and happy lives. They show their gratitude to this deity by congregating here to participate in the rituals of kavadi, milk kodam and by following the bovine-drawn chariot carrying the resplendent deity. Food is served to all, and the live nadaswaram music is played on all three days by local artists as well as those brought in from Jaffna.

The Mariamman temple, which was established in 1822, and the Nagarathar Chettiar-managed Poyatha Vinayagar temple (1781), the oldest Hindu temple in Malaysia, are outstanding examples of the spread of Hinduism and the cult of Devi worship.

Mariamman temples exist and flourish in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Johore, Ho Chi Minh City, and Yangon, in South East Asia, making Aadi a month of devotion.