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I'm currently visiting India, and as I was leaving my native village of Poondi (which I discuss in my questions here and here), I passed by a temple which was built at a location visited by the goddess Mariamman. Mariamman is a goddess worshipped primarily in Tami Nadu. Her temples are kept on the outskirts of villages, and she is worshipped for rain. There are multiple folk tales people tell about Mariamman. Some people say that her name comes from the Tamil word "Marai" meaning rain. (Amman just means mother and it's a universal appellation for all forms of Parvati or Durga.) But as I was passing by the aforementioned Mariamman temple, I heard another explanation, namely that Mariamman is really Renuka.

For those who don't know, Renuka is the wife of the great sage Jamadagni and the mother of Vishnu's incarnation Parashurama. One day, Renuka saw the Gandharva king Chitraratha and felt a momentary attraction to him, despite the fact that she was married. When Jamadagni found out that his wife had felt attraction to another man, he was furious, and ordered Parashurama to kill his mother. Parashurama was duty-bound to obey his father, so complied and cut off his mother's head. Jamadagni was pleased with Parashurama and offered him a boon, whereupon Parashurama asked that his mother be brought back to life!

But the folk tale I heard (found, e.g. in this Wikipedia page) adds an extra twist to this story. In this account, the people in the village where Jamadagni lives cremate Renuka's body before Jamadagni can resurrect it. But the Renuka's head is still there, so Jamadagni attaches it to a dead body of a low-caste woman and brings it back to life. Because Renuka now has a low-caste body, she is no longer allowed in Jamadagni's ashram, so she takes up residence on the outskirts of the village. And she is subsequently worshipped as Mariamman, as "Mari" is the Tamil word for "changed". So this explains both her name and why her temples are on the outskirts of villages.

But my question is, are there any scriptures that mention Renuka's head being reattached to another woman's body? Here is all this chapter of the Srimad Bhagavatam says about Renuka's resurrection:

Jamadagni, the son of Satyavatī, was very much pleased with Paraśurāma and asked him to take any benediction he liked. Lord Paraśurāma replied, “Let my mother and brothers live again and not remember having been killed by me. This is the benediction I ask.” Thereafter, by the benediction of Jamadagni, Lord Paraśurāma’s mother and brothers immediately came alive and were very happy, as if awakened from sound sleep.

But are there other scriptures that say that Renuka's head wasn't reattached to her own body? Or is this just something added in folklore?

  • You know Dikshitar sang about her in the Kriti 'Renuka Devi Samrakshitoham'. Usually he mentions all the legends of the deity. But he has not mentioned this story at all, even though he mentions the Gandharva in the last phrase Gaandharva Bhanjani. So it is a thought to ponder. – Surya Dec 8 '15 at 5:49
  • some reference can be found on wiki under the heading 'Renuka vs. Yellamma' in following article. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renuka – gaj Dec 8 '15 at 5:57
  • @gaj Yeah, I already linked to that section in my question. – Keshav Srinivasan Dec 8 '15 at 12:40
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    Please try to post answer or comment when we have exact hindu book with correct number if chapter and correct index of verse. We discuss here about knowledge but we must not forget we are talking about Sanatan dharm which is as old as time itself. – Vipul Hadiya Dec 8 '15 at 13:18

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