Śiva's Demon Devotee

Kāraikkāl Ammaiyār

By Elaine Craddock

Subjects: Religion, Asian Studies, Hindu Studies, India And South Asian Studies, Asian Literature
Paperback : 9781438430881, 205 pages, January 2011
Hardcover : 9781438430874, 205 pages, April 2010

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Table of contents


1. The Place of Kāraikkāl Ammaiyār in South Indian History

2. Kāraikkāl Ammaiyār Through Her Poetry

3. Kāraikkāl Ammaiyār Through Her Stories

4. The Temples and Their Festivals

5. The Poems

Works Cited

An exploration and translation of the work of Hindu poet-saint Kāraikkāl Ammaiyār.


The Hindu poet-saint Kāraikkāl Ammaiyār describes herself as a demon, accompanying the god Śiva as he dances in the cremation grounds. She is believed to be the first to write devotional poetry to Śiva in the Tamil language and is considered the first of the sixty-three Tamil poet-saints. Written in the sixth or seventh century, her beautiful poetry presents the path of love and service that brings liberation. In Śiva's Demon Devotee, Elaine Craddock provides a historical, literary, and ethnographic exploration of Kāraikkāl Ammaiyār and her work. An annotated translation of the poet-saint's 143 verses is included along with an introduction to the Tamil literary tradition. Craddock's analysis of this poetry in its ancient context and of the narrative tradition that developed around the life of Kāraikkāl Ammaiyār centuries later reveals cultural tensions concerning women's roles and the devotional path.

Elaine Craddock is Professor of Religion at Southwestern University.


"The book's greatest strength is its systematic and comprehensive approach to Ammaiyār … What Craddock has contributed to the study of South Asian religious traditions is a detailed, informative, well-written book that I anticipate will be recognized as the standard work on Kāraikkāl Ammaiyār. " — Tracy Pintchman, Religion