I photographed this gorgeous idol of the folk goddess Nachiamman or Nachiyar Amman on Badrian Street in Chennai. The idol was housed in a little shrine and the flower seller women were offering their prayers to her.
Nachiamma is one of the benevolent forms of the goddess, said to bestow good health and prosperity on her worshippers.
I was struck by the alangaaram of the idol (decoration). She is depicted with beautiful dark eyes, with a smiling countenance. Her forehead is smeared with three lines of ash, and the auspicious red kungumam is prominently placed in the middle. Her nose-rings and round heavy olai (ear-rings) speak clearly of her folk origins.
Even though she is benevolent, her power is clearly visible in the sword, axe and trident which she holds. A halo of flames is around her head. She is dressed in a golden silk saree, with a green border. The flower-sellers in the market have adorned her with fresh garlands.
Below this relatively new idol, there is an old black granite idol - possibly the original one that was established in this shrine. Offerings of flowers, coconuts, neem leaves and lemons have been made as per the usual practice in such goddess temples. In front of the idol is an image of the lion / tiger, which is the mount of the goddess.
I photographed this elderly flower seller as she came out of the temple after offering prayers. To me, she looked like the goddess herself, come to life.
- Photos and text by Deepa Krishnan