Tamarapu Sampath Kumaran

Dedicated in Memory of my elder brother

Tamarapu Srinivasan, B.A., B.L., Advocate, Tirupati

About the Author:

Mr T Sampath Kumaran is a freelance writer. He regularly contributes articles on Management, Business, Ancient Temples, and Temple Architecture to many leading Dailies and Magazines. His articles are, popular in “The Young World section” of THE HINDU His e-books and articles on Hindu deities, Festivals, Nature, Art and Travel and different cultures of people around the world are educative and of special interest to the young. He was associated in the production of two Documentary films on Nava Tirupathi Temples, and Tirukkurungudi Temple in Tamilnadu. These e-book series are being presented, since reference books seem to be losing patronage among the younger generation. The internet, which has crept into study rooms, is slowly showing the encyclopedia and reference books borrowed from libraries their way out. Students consider the internet a worthy alternative.

Vaishnavism is a tradition of Hinduism, distinguished from other schools by its worship of Vishnu or its associated avatars, principally as Rama and Krishna, as the original and supreme God. This worship in different perspectives or historical traditions addresses monotheistic God under the names of Narayana, Krishna, Vāsudeva or more often "Vishnu", and their associated avatars. It is principally monotheistic in its philosophy, but not exclusive. Its beliefs and practices, especially the concepts of Bhakti and Bhakti Yoga, are based largely on the Upanishads, and associated with the Vedas and Puranic texts such as the Bhagavad Gita, and the Padma, Vishnu and Bhagavata Puranas. The followers of Vaishnavism are referred to as Vaishnava(s) or Vaishnavites. According to recent statistics, a majority of Hindus are Vaishnavas, with the vast majority living in India. Awareness, recognition, and growth of the belief have significantly increased outside of India in recent years. The Gaudiya Vaishnava branch of the tradition has significantly increased the awareness of Vaishnavism internationally, since the mid-1900s, largely through the activities and geographical expansion of the Hare Krishna movement, primarily through ISKCON and more recently, through several other Vaishnava organizations conducting preaching activities in the West Vaishnava theology includes the central beliefs of Hinduism such as reincarnation, samsara, karma, and the various Yoga systems, but with a particular emphasis on devotion (bhakti) to Vishnu through the process of Bhakthi Yoga, often including singing Vishnu's name's (bhajan), meditating upon his form (dharana) and performing deity worship (puja). The practices of deity worship are primarily based on texts such as Pañcaratra and various Samhitas

Vaishnavas commonly follow a process of initiation (diksha), given by a guru, under whom they are trained to understand Vaishnava practices. At the time of initiation, the disciple is traditionally given a specific mantra, which the disciple will repeat, either aloud or within the mind, as an act of worship to Vishnu or one of his avatars. The practice of repetitive prayer is known as japa. The system of receiving initiation and training from a spiritual master is based on injunctions throughout the scriptures held as sacred within the Vaishnava traditions: Sri Vaishnavism is a multifaceted tradition that has both popular and philosophical aspects. To present a glimpse into a few sides of this religion - its vibrant temple culture, the philosophical love poetry of the Azhwar saints, the Vedanta discourses of the Upanishadic sages, the penetrating insight of the acharyas -- all culminating in the grand philosophy of Visishtadvaita. Visishtadvaita is the system of thought embodied by the Vedanta, the philosophical portion of the Vedas, India's ancient scriptures. The central idea of Visishtadvaita is this: there exists an Ultimate Principle, an Absolute Being that is the source and substratum of all that exists. This immanent spirit is the inner guide and controller of the whole universe with all its diverse animate and inanimate elements. Communion with this gracious, omnipotent Supreme Being constitutes the supreme end of existence. Such communion is attainable exclusively through self-surrender and undivided, loving meditation. The Hindu Brahmins of Tamil origin that follow the Visishtadvaita philosophy propounded by Sri Ramanujacharya, are called Ayyangars or Iyengars. They are generally native to the Tamil region and are found in Tamilnadu. There are also a significant numbers of them in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

The Iyengars have been thriving as a single community since the time of Ramanuja. However, in many cases, both Iyers and Iyengars are mistakenly referred to as "Ayyar" as they are indistinguishable from Iyers in their adherence of the Brahmanaical tradition. However, devout Iyengars sport a namam (Srichurnam) as a castemark. To identify their scholarly role in the community the suffix Chary (or Chari) which is highly caste based is also being used by some of them. The word "Iyengar" is a relatively new name and was not used in any medieval works or scriptures. The word "Sri Vaishnava" would therefore be the right word to describe them, though all of them could be called as Sri Vaishnava Brahmins. The word Iyengar itself, meaning one who is characterized by five attributes (Aindu angangal), is independent of the person's Varna or caste. Rather, it indicates the philosophical affiliation of the adherent. However, in current day practice, the term is taken to indicate brahminical roots as most people who affiliated themselves with the philosophy were from the Brahmin castes. The term "Iyengar" is actually based on the Sanskrit root that refers to the number five, probably a respectable title for someone who had received panchasamskram, the five sacraments of SriVaishnava faith. Over time, however, this word has become associated with specific castes of SriVaishnavas.

Though Vaishnavite deities have been worshipped in the Tamil country at least since the beginning of the Christian era, the origin of Iyengars as a separate community dates from the 10th century AD when Ramanuja lived. The community started taking shape about 1000 years ago, and traces its philosophical origins to Nathamuni, a Sri Vaishnava Acharya, who lived around 900 CE. Nathamuni, who was exposed to the divine outpourings of Nammazhwar and other Azhwars (Sri Vaishnava Saints from Southern India), introduced the philosophy of Azhwars into temple worship . Nathamuni's efforts were formalized into a religious system of lifestyle, practice and worship by Ramanuja who propounded the philosophy of Visishtadvaita. Ramanuja showed that the mystic insights of the Azhwars were the same truths enshrined in the Vedas, and created a group of people whose identity as servants of Narayana, focussed on the fact that all sentient beings were 'equal' being children of the same Supreme Being, and that outward bodily differences in terms of varna and caste were unimportant in terms of one's relationship to the Supreme. Ramanuja had Srivaishnava (Iyengar) disciples spanning the social gamut, including non-brahmin saints such as Pillai Uranga Villi Dasar and Tripura-devi, a lady disciple known for her unwavering devotion to Ramanuja. According to tradition, a large number of Vadamas have adopted Vaishnavism since the origin of the community in the 11th century AD. Iyengars, along with Iyers, are present in large numbers in the Chola Nadu region of Tamil Nadu, regarded as the traditional home of Tamil Brahmins. Besides Chola nadu, Iyengars are also present in large numbers in Chennai, Srirangam and Kanchipuram Iyengars are native to the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Their numbers are evenly distributed all over Tamil Nadu with a majority of them, however, residing along the Cauvery Delta.

Fairly significant numbers are present in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Hebbar Iyengars, constitute a part of the Iyengar sub-caste of Tamil Brahmins residing in Karnataka. Nearly all Hebbar Iyengars belong to the Vadagalai subsect. They are traditionally followers of Ramanuja's philosophy Visistadwaita. They are mainly from Hasan, Mandya, Mysore, Tumkur, Bangalore, and the surrounding places in southern Karnataka. The etymology of Hebbar, in Kannada, resolves to "hebbu/hiridhu" (meaning big) + "haaruva" (meaning Brahmin). Sri Ramanuja's time, when such notable Acharya Purusha paramaparai families as those of Sri Periya Thirumalai Nambi, Sri Thirumalai Anandanpillai, Sri Parasara Bhattar, Sri Koyil Kandadai Annan, and many others settled in and around the Divya desham of Thirumalai, and several of the Abhimana sthalams, such as the temples at Sri Kurmam and Simhachalam, for the purposes of serving the Lord and propagating SriVaishnavism among the local populations. To make the name more in line with the proper grammar of the Telugu speaking region, these Srivaishnavites are called Acharyulu The mother tongue of most Iyengars is Tamil. However, they speak a unique Iyengar dialect often called Vaishnava Paribhaashai. This dialect is almost identical with the Iyer dialect known as Brahmin Tamil, the difference only being in the level of Sanskritization. Scholars have often refused to recognize it as a separate dialect regarding it only as a sub-dialect of Brahmin Tamil. However, Iyengars in Karnataka speak a dialect that has a significant Kannada substrate, which has descended from medieval Tamil. Iyengars in southern Andhra Pradesh speak both Tamil and Telugu.

Vadakalai and Thenkalai

Tengalais and Vadagalais are two subsects of Srivaishnavas, the dominant Vaishnavite sect in the Tamil country and parts of Andhra and Karnataka. Iyengars are Pancha Dravida Brahmins. Their mother tongue can be Tamil, Kannada or Telugu. Iyengars are divided into different sects based on their beliefs or region. Based upon their beliefs, Iyengars are classified into Thenkalai, or "Iyengars of the Southern Descencion", and Vadakalai, or "Iyengars of the Northern Descention", with subtly different philosophical and ritual interpretations of Ubhaya Vedanta. Scholarly opinion is mixed as to the origin of the two names. Some believe that the terms Southern and Northern refer to differing regional developments, the Southern or Thenkalai predominating in the south of the Tamil country and the Northern or Vadakalai predominating in the north. Others argue that they reflect the importance or primacy given to Tamil Scripture, Divya Prabandham, by the former and of the Sanskrit Vedanta by the latter.

The Vadakalais, who trace their philosophical origins to the insightful Vedanta Desika, asseverate primacy to Sanskrit and Vedas, and believe that human effort is a contributory factor to liberation, as is Divine grace. Despite these differences, however, both traditions uniformly

revere the same teachers from the Azhwars down to Ramanuja and largely agree in their core philosophies. The differences seen today stem primarily from social conflicts stemming from rivalries at large temples dating from the 18th century.

Thengalai Iyengars follow Ramanuja and Manavala Mamuni. While Vadagalai Iyengars follow Ramanuja and Thuppul Vedanta Desikar. A large number of Iyengars migrated to Karnataka in the 11th century AD. Their descendants are called Hebbar Iyengars. Iyengars, both Vadakalai and Thenkalai, are sub-divided into Hebbar, Mandayam and Chozhiar The Hebbars speak an unique dialect of Tamil called Hebbar Tamil. In the earlier years, confined to the towns of Belur, Shanti Grama, Nuggehalli, Nuggehalli, Nonavinakere and Bindiganavile in theTumkur district of Karnataka are now found in many parts of the country and in USA. Hebbars are the descendants of Sri Vaishnavas who migrated to Karnataka from Tamil Nadu. Mandyam Iyengars are those who migrated to Mandya district in Karnataka from Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh. They are fewer in number than Hebbars and speak a unique dialect of Tamil known as Mandyam Tamil. Mandyam Iyengars, without exception, belong to the Thenkalai subsect

The word Chozhiar means “of the Chola country”. Chozhiar is the name given to a sect of Brahmins native to the Chola country. While most Chozhiars profess Saivism, some profess Vaishnavism and are known as Chozhiar Iyengars. Chozhiyar Iyengars were considered inferior to other sects of Iyengars. Vaishnavite Chozhiyars often intermarry with their Smartha counterparts. They usually bear titles as „Dikshitar’’’ or ‘Nambi‟‟. Vishistadvaita and Vaishnavism. Many Iyengars accept Narayana / Vishnu as the Supreme Being (Paramatma), and subscribe to a monotheistic philosophy of a Supreme Being who is the primal, substantive and supportive cause of the manifest and unmanifest universe. But it will appear strange for a Southerner to know that Vishishtadvaitam as practiced in South India is an unheard term among the Vaishnav Sects in the North India. They also recognize all other gods such as Brahma, Indra, Shiva, and Agni in the Hindu pantheon as subservient to Narayana and amongst the jeevatmas (sentient souls, chit) whose existence is dependent upon the will of the Supreme Being. The Lord of Kanchi is believed to have manifested Himself to Saint Tirukachi Nambi and have revealed the following six principles which form the six precepts of Visishtadvaita: 1. Sriman Narayana is the supreme self; unparalleled and unsurpassed Ahameva Param Tatvam. 2. The lord has all the insentient and sentient as his body, and He is the soul of everything - Darsanam Bhedam Eve Cha. 3. The way to get salvation is surrendering to the feet of the Lord Upayeshu Prapatisyaat. 4. There is no need to adopt contemplation on the Lord during our final breath - Anthima Smruthi Varjanam.

5. After the soul departs from the material body, it gets salvation if he/she adopted the means of surrender (saranagathi) -Dehaavasaane Mukthisyaat. 6. One should approach a fully qualified Vaishnava acharya and get enlightened - (Poorna) achaaryam Samaasraya. Sri Vaishnavam draws authority from the Prasthana Thraiyam, namely, Upanishads, Brahma Sutra, and Bhagavad Gita. In addition to the Prastana Thraiyam, Sri Vaishnavas consider the Tamil hymns of twelve saints called Azhwars as equal in authority to that of the Vedas. These hymns are called the Divya Prabhandam. The teachings found in Divya Prabhandham are completely consistent with the teachings of the Prasthana Thraiyam. Therefore, Sri Vaishnavas consider the Divya Prabhandhams to be equal in status to the Vedas. For this reason, Sri Vaishnavas are called Ubhaya Vedantis The Vaishnavite tradition began in the Puranic period. Most Iyengars follow an unbroken lineage of Acharyas. After the period of the Tamil Saints called Azhwars, the Divya Prabandha was lost. During the 9th century C.E., Sri Nathamuni retrieved them by the grace of Nammazhwar and reestablished Srivaishnavism. For this reason Sriman Nathamuni is considered the first Acharya of the modern era. In the line of Acharyas that followed, Ramanuja is considered the greatest. Among his many achievements the commentary he wrote for Brahma Sutra, called Sri Bhashyam is considered by many to be the best. Among the Acharyas after Sri Ramanuja, Sri Vedantha Desikar and Sri Manavalamamuni are considered pre-eminent. After the time of these two great saints several Sri Vaishnava religious orders disciples of Swami Sri Desikan Sri Ahobila Matam is the second oldest in this line.

The rituals practised by Iyengars are very much the same as that of Iyers. This similarity is mainly due to the common origin of Iyengars and Iyers. The rituals which form a part of the person's life are Jatakarma, Upanayanam and Tarpanam Amongst all Srivaishnavas, there is a unique initiation ceremony into the Vaishnavite Brahmin brotherhood along with the Upanayanam. The Vasihnavite youngster is initiated into Iyengar fraternity by branding him with the Chakram (wheel) and the sanghu (conch), which are holy symbols associated with Lord Vishnu. The ceremony of initiation called samasrayanam is usually carried out by the head of a Vaishnavite mutt. The knot in the sacred thread worn by Vaishnavites is known as Vishnu Grandhi as opposed to those worn by Smarthas which is known as Rudra Grandhi. A typical Iyengar wedding is made up of the following vents: Vethalaipakku, Pandalkal, Janwaasam, Nischayathartham, Nandi or Vratham, Kashiyathrai, Oonjal, Piddishuttal, Kanyadaanam, Mangalaya Dharanam, Akshathai, Homam, Saptapadi, Nagoli, Vasthra, Gruhapravesham, Sambandhi Virandhu and Reception The first and foremost point of references for Iyengars with regard to their legal system is the Manusmriti. The Manusmriti prescribes a set of ethical values to be practiced. Iyengars of certain subsects of the Vadagalai sect, in particular, rigorously follow the set of values prescribed by the Manusmriti. However, of late, most of these injunctions have been discarded.

The traditional dress of Iyengars is the same as that of other South Indian Brahmins. During religious ceremonies, Iyengar men clothe

themselves in a panchagacham and an angavastram. Iyengar women wear a nine-yard long saree known as the madisar.

Iyengars sport the Namam and Srichurnam as a caste-mark Iyengars have much in common with Iyers with respect to their observance of Vedic rituals, lifestyle, traditions, heritage, history and culture. They descend from the same set of Gotras. However significant differences arise mainly with respect to their adherence to the Vishishtadvaita philosophy, monastic affiliation, and marriage traditions and to a small extent vocabulary. Another notable difference is the way the traditional nine yards saree (madisaar) is draped by the Iyengar women. Iyengars today have diversified into a variety of fields—their strengths particularly evident in the fields of law, mass media, science, engineering, mathematics and computer science. However even today, a few Iyengars choose to pursue the vocation of priesthood. Iyengars have been active in the cultural field too. Music has always been integral to the Iyengar community; Carnatic music has a great tradition within the community. Apart from vocal music, instruments such as mridangam, naadaswaram, veena, ghatam, violin, and more recently, the mandolin etc., Bharatanatyam were also patronized. Carnatic music and Bharatanatyam together enjoy a rich patronage in the cultural festivities

Since a comprehensive list of Iyengars in different fields will run into several pages, a few important personalities are given hereunder: Spiritual leaders
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Sri Ramanujacharya Sri Vedantha Desikar Sri Manavala Mahamuni Sri Nathamuni Sri Yamunacharya Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya Sri Anandabharati Aiyangar

Diplomacy, bureaucracy, and politics

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Bharat Ratna, C Rajagopalachari, Freedom fighter, national leader, the first Indian Governor General of Independent India and also the Chief Minister of State of Madras. T T Krishnama chari, Industrialist, Minister of Finance, under Jawaharlal Nehru. Sir V Bhasyam Iyengar, Lawyer and jurist. First Indian AdvocateGeneral of Madras. M Ananthasayanam Iyengar, Speaker, Lok Sabha, and Governor.

 Sir V T Krishnamachari, Dewan of Baroda.  H V R Iyengar, ICS, Home Secretary, RBI Governor, Secretary to the Constituent Assembly  K Santhanam, An attorney, Gandhian, First t Railway Minister in Free India, Governor of Vindhya Pradesh, Chairman of Santhanam Committee on Corruption  G Parthasarathy, Former Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan, Cyprus and Australia.  J Jayalalithaa, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.  E S L Narasimhan, Governor of Andhra Pradesh and former director of the Intelligence Bureau  Jairam Ramesh, Union Minister, Member of Parliament  C Rangaraajan, Former Governor of Reserve Bank of India and Adviser to Prime Minister.  N Gopalaswamy, Former Election Commissioner Academicians
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Sri P T Srinivasa Iyengar: Eminent Dravidologist. Dr M O P Iyengar- Known as the Father of Algology in India did pioneering research in fresh water, estuarine and marine algae, their systematics, life-histories, morphology and cytology. Dr P S Krishnana - Physicist, Fellow of the Royal Society, Director of National Physical Laboratory. He along with Sir C.V.Raman discovered the Raman Effect. Dr Raja Ramanna - Nuclear Scientist. Dr Rangaswamy Srinivasan - Former Scientist, IBM Research Labs, NY and inventor of LASIK laser surgery. Ramanuja Vijayaraghavan Indian physicist specializing in condensed matter physics Dr V K Aatre, Former Scientific Advisor to Defence Minister of India (replaced Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam), Oceanographic scientist, Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister of India and. Head of the DRDO.

Dr P K Iyengar, who played a pioneering role in the creation of the Indian atomic bomb

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Srinivasa Ramanujam - Mathematician. S R Srinivasa Varadhan, Noble Prize awardee 2007. Prof. Mudumbai Narasimhan, Mathematician & Fellow of the Royal Society (1996). Prof. Conjeevaram Seshadri, Mathematician & Fellow of the Royal Society (1988). A A Krishnaswami Ayyangar, Exponent of Vedic Mathematics. Dr K R Parthasarathy, Professor Emeritus at the Indian Statistical Institute of New Delhi Prof Chidambaram Padmanabha Ramanujam, Mathematician, TIFR. Madabhushi Raghunathan, Mathematician & Fellow of the Royal Society (2000).


Sri Annamacharya, Classical composer of the 14th century CE. Born a Telugu Vaidiki Smartha Brahmin but converted to Sri Vaishnavism under the guidance of Shri Adivan Satakopar - the first Jeeyar of Ahobila Matham

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Poochi Srinivasacharya, Vocalist and composer of carnatic music. Ariyakudi T Ramanuja Ayyangar , Carnatic music vocalist. Disciple of Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar Mysore Doraiswamy Iyengar, famous Carnatic musician and veena exponent. Gottuvadya Maestro Narayana Iyengar Tiger Varadachariar, Carnatic Music Exponent. Violin S Krishnaswamy, Musicologist and exponent on Musical Instruments.

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Kasturi Srinivasan, Founder “The Hindu”. Madhan, Cartoonist. Sandilyan, Tamil Novelist Sujatha, journalist, engineer, writer. Randor Guy, journalist, script-writer and film historian. Real name Madabhushi Rangadorai Lyricist Vaali

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Trichur Vengaram Sundaram Iyengar, Founder of T.V.S. group G R Gopinath, CEO and Co-Founder of Air Deccan Arvind Raghunathan, Managing Director and Head of Global Arbitrage, Deutsche Bank M R Srinivasa Prasad, Vice President - IT, Fidelity Investments Ltd

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M J Gopalan, Cricket & Hockey Player. Sriraman, Former Secretary, TNCC. C R Rangachari, Test cricketer M Chinnaswamy, Cricket administrator

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S Venkataraghavan, Cricketer. Krishnamachari Srikkanth,Cricketer M R Srinivasa Prasad, Former Cricket player, Karnataka. Krishnan Sasikiran, Chess Grandmaster. T E Srinivasan, Former Test Cricketer

Films and entertainment
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Narayana Iyengar, Pakshiraja Studio, Film Producer. B S Ranga, Veteran producer and director of Kannada, Telugu and Tamil films P B Srinivas, Playback singer. Vyjayanthi Mala, Tamil/Hindi Actress. Hema Malini, Hindi Actress. Kamala Hasan, actor, Producer Y G Mahendra, Dramatist, film actor Major Sundararajan, Yesteryears Film Personality Kavingnar Vali, Tamil Lyricist.

Army and police
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Gen. K Sundarji, Former Chief of the Indian Army. S Parthasarathy Ayyangar, Former Commissioner of Police in Madras Presidency. Air Vice Marshal Rama Iyengar Krishnan, (Retired) IAF, DRDO

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Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, Father of modern Yoga, B K S Iyengar, Yogi and founder of Iyengar Yoga. T K V Desikachari, son of Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, and Yogi

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Masti Venkatesa Iyengar, Eminent Kannada poet. Gorur Ramaswamy Iyengar, Kannada novelist.

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