9. ‘Jagajjanani’ – ‘Mother of the Universe’

Song in the construction of tamil South Indian history and identity

9. ‘Jagajjanani’ - ‘Mother of the Universe’


The Goddess Minakshi, Primary Deity at Madurai

Hindu temples of moderate size or larger have many shrines which are visited by devotees as they circumnavigate the corridors surrounding the central temple building. The god considered the main deity of a temple is usually installed in the center of the temple precincts, while smaller shrines for other deities or for saints (such as the Tamil bhakti poet Sundarar, discussed above) are distributed along the covered mandapams and corridors surrounding the central area. The main temple deity is almost always the male god of the temple, while his consort the goddess has a smaller subsidiary shrine. At Madurai the situation is rather unique because, while the shrine of Siva as lord Sundaresar does occupy a central position spatially, it is clearly not the main focus of worshippers’ attention and temple ritual. That honor belongs to Minakshi Amman, literally, the goddess with ‘fish shaped eyes’ and a green parrot perched on her shoulder, who is the focus of ritual activity and devotion at as the Minakshi Amman (‘Mother Minakshi’) Temple. As one powerful example of her pre-eminence, in a nightly ritual priests of the temple bring the statue of Siva Sundaresvarar in procession, led by a periya melam group of nagaswaram performers and tavil drums, taking him from his quarters to Minakshi’s bedroom where they consummate their union – in her sacred space.

The goddess Minakshi.

The song Jagajjanani is a stotram, hymn of praise, to Minakshi. It is sung by M.M. Dandapani Desikar, one of the most popular South Indian singers of the early-mid 20th century. Desikar, like K.B. Sundarambal, considered earlier, was a strong supporter of the 1940s Tamil Isai movement in South India. Desikar’s roots in Tamil music were deep; his father was an oduvar, a singer of Tamil bhakti hymns in Siva temples. This was a community in which, as with periya melam musicians and devadasi dancers, many oduvars were hereditary temple servants. Desikar had a successful career in films (see discussion of the song ‘Vazhi Maraittu’ from the film ‘Nandanar,’ below) and mid-career turned to academia, becoming Professor of Music and Head of Department at the Annamalai University for fifteen years, during which time he took on the publication of many previously unpublished Tamil song manuscripts.


Song 9. ‘Jagajjanani’ - ‘Mother of the Universe’
Composer: Ghanam Krishna Ayyar (ca. 1790-1854)
Raga: Ratipatipriya
Tala: Adi
Sung by M.M. Dandapani Desikar, 1940s


Mother of the universe

Sukhapani kalyani
holding a green parrot in your hand, bestower of auspiciousness

Sukha svarupini madhura vani
Of beautiful pleasing form, of sweet speech

Sokkanathar manam magizhum minakshi
Minakshi, who pleases the heart of Sokkanathar (Siva Sundaresvarar)

Pandya kumari bhavani amba
Maiden of the Pandya dynasty, tutelary deity of the Marathas,

Siva pancami parameshvari
Siva’s supreme goddess

Ventum varam tara innum manam illaiyo
Don’t you have the heart to bestow the boons I ask for?

Veda Vedanta nada svarupini
You are the embodiment of the Vedas, Vedanta, and the form of sound.



1. Maraintu Iruntu - What is the Secret?
2. Inimel Avarkkum - From Now On
3. Kaiyil Panam Illamal - Without Money in Hand
4. Ella Arumaigalum - My all-knowing all-seeing Lord
5. Pazham Ni Appa - You are the Fruit
6. Nadamadi Tirinda - You Used to Get About Quite Well
7. Ethukkittanai Modi Tan - Why This Love Quarrel?

8. En Palli Kondir - Why are You Stretched Out on the Ground?
9. Jagajjanani - Mother of the Universe

10. Taye Yasoda - Oh Mother Yasoda
11. Vazhi Maraittu - My View is Obstructed
Musical examples


By Matthew Allen

© Médiathèque Caraïbe / Conseil Départemental de la Guadeloupe,  2016-2020