Ayyavazhi and Hinduism
This is an article comparing the
beliefs, mythology, theology, ritualsetc of Ayyavazhiand Hinduism. Though Ayyavazhi exists within Hinduism officially it functions autonomously.
A general view of
Ayyavazhimay seem make it similar to, or serves as an offshoot of, Hinduism. But in regards to religious practices, belief, and sociology, Ayyavazhi differs from traditional Hinduism. Though Ayyavazhi followers don't call them as Hindus, as per official accounts Ayyavazhi was still considered within Hinduism.
Vedas, Gita, other texts from the Shastracanon, rather than the Akilam. But Ayyavazhi believe they (Hindu scriptures) once exist, but now lost their substances because of the advent of Akilam. Akilamat one point, but feel they were merged by later, and that Kaliyanbought the Vedas as a Boon and so all the Previous religious books including Agamas and Puranaslost their Substances, and so Akilattirattu Ammanai was the only book of perfection. Also there are several dubious claims that the present day Vedas are not accepted by Ayyavazhi as books of Perfection because there is a quote in Akilam about Venneesan"“Avan pilathaal vedamondruntakki”" (He created a Veda of his own intention). In sum, all previous religious texts were lost their Substance in the vision of Ayyavazhi at the very moment Kaliyan came to the world.
Though Ayyavazhi has many differences from popular Hinduism, it has many beliefs and practices in common. As Hinduism is really a group of numerous branches, Ayya Vazhi is closest to
Smartismand its Advaitabeliefs in thought.
Differences between Ayyavazhi and mainstream Hinduism
The religious practises of Ayyavazhi largely differ from traditional Hinduism. Akilam says that previous practices were not wrong, but that they were changed because of the abnormal, cruel nature of
Kaliyanand his boons, which the Universe had experienced before. Akilattirattu Ammanaisays that the whole acts and rules of the Universe had changed by the advent of Kaliyan. Thiru Nadana Ula, a part of Akilam eightdiscusses this change in detail.
Wearing of Thirunamam
The religious mark used by the people of Ayyavazhi is a unique one. The people of Ayyavazhi wear a vertical white mark on the forehead in the shape of a flame, starting from the central point between the eyebrows, and going straight up near the top edge of the forehead. The flame shape represents
Aanma Jyothior Atman. "(See: Symbol of Ayyavazhi)" Zealous devotees smear it on the exterior of the upper arms and over the chest. This white mark is unlike the one worn by a Hinduof Vaishnavisttradition who wear it on the forehead in the shape of 'U', or of Saivisttradition who wear it horizontally as three parallel lines. The white powder used for this mark was made from coarse white soil, found at lower layer of the earth, while ash is used in Hinduism.
At present, those who 'serve' in
Pathis or Nizhal Thangalswear this white mark for the people and give a portion of it to their hands. People carry it home as holy object, and some of them even swallow a little of it believing it to be medicinal.
Wearing of Head Gear
One of the significant ritual actions that distinguishes the
Ayyavazhimale worshipper from others is 'wearing a headgear' during worship. Ayya Vaikundarseems to have enjoined upon his male followers to tie on a headgear when they came to worship God, considering it as a crown. Accordingly, the male followers seem to have tied on a headgear during worship. This is to reveal that every people are kings and every one is to rule the Earth. This philosophy is told symbolically by the practice of wearing the headgear since the wearing of headgear is considered a matter of Pride. It was as a counteraction to the practice of tying a cloth around the waist, which symbolizes one’s bondage.
It became a ritual action to be performed before the people entered the
Pathito worship. The male devotees usually removed their upper garment and tied the headgear and entered the Pathi for worship. To this day this practice is followed.
Worship in Front of Mirror
This is yet another unique practice that distinguishes Ayyavazhi from other Hindu religious traditions. The
Nizhal Thangalsand Pathishave, in their sanctuary, a mirrorto reflect the images of those who come to worship. People pay obeisance to their God standing in front of this mirror, facing the Elunetruamidst two oil lamps. Even in the houses of the people of Ayyavazhi, the place earmarked for their daily worship has at least a mirror and a lamp. This placement of mirror symbolize that God is inside oneself and it is of no use to seek God elsewhere. This practice is different from the placement of murti, or icon in Hindu Temples, in that this is a non- anthropomorphicform of worship. In different denominations of Hinduism, Saivitesvenerate the lingaand Vaishnavitesvenerate the saligramain a non-anthropomorphic method of worship.
A New mode of Worship
The mode of worship of Ayyavazhi presented itself to be something new in that milieu. It distinguished itself from features of worship of the
Sanskritreligion and folk religions. Instructions for abandoning temple worship, temple offerings, priestly functions, blood sacrifices, and image worship abound in Akilam. Unlike some practices in Hinduism, it says, "Do not institute Temples, Do not offer puja, blood sacrifices, do not kill animals, do not worship images made of Clay" etc. It was a 'new mode of worship' and differentiated itself from the existing traditions of the time.
A Distinct Language
Tamil languageis considered sacred, rather than Sanskrit, as is holy within mainstream Hinduism. In Akilam there is a quote that Tamil will be the language in Dharma Yukam. Also unlike other Hindu scriptures in Tamil, Akilattirattu and Arul Noolwere written using a simple form of language, even extracts from ancient Hindu scriptures are found in it, translated simply, so that common people can understood.
Apart from religious practices, a few beliefs of Ayyavazhi are different from Hinduism.
Ayyavazhi believes Vaikundar is the incarnation of
Narayanain this Kali Yukam, sent to destroy the evils of Kali yuga. Hindus accept Kalkirather than Vaikundar as the Incarnation who will be sent to destroy such evil. Also, Hindus believe that the spirit of kali yuga has yet to be destroyed, but Ayyavazhi says that the spirit of Kali Yuga started its decline immediately after the Avatar of Vaikundar arrived. This was due to the torture of a Pantaram(Vaikundar), tortured because he had promised to Thirumalthat he did not harm any Pantaram.
Regarding Yukams, Ayyavazhi believes in a system of
Eight Yukamswhile Hinduism suggests a system of four Yukams.
Ayyavazhi believes in a primordial manifestation of evil
Kronisimilar to Satanin Abrahamic Religions, while Hinduism doesn't have any similar personification of Evil.
The view on Trimurti (three aspects of Brahman) is similar to
Smartism, which like Ayya Vazhi, recognizes that Brahma, Vishnuand Sivaare different aspects of the same God. By contrast, for example, in Saivism, Sivan(the Tamil name for Siva) is considered superior while in Vaishnavism Vishnuis considered superior. In Ayyavazhi all the three were considered equal in all the previous six Yukams. But only in Kali Yukamare all the powers surrendered to Narayanaby Sivanand Nathan because Kaliyan was created by them without discussion with Narayana. Regarding Vaikunda Avatharam, Ayya Vaikundaris superior to the three because the Moolamoorthyor Paramathma, superior to Trimuthi is that who incarnates as Vaikundar, but in Hinduism it was Vishnu who incarnates. However Vishnu was the first to form in this Universe within the three according to Akilam.
Ayyavazhi believes in a
Dharma Yukamwhere Vaikundar rules the world with the Santror Makkal. In Hinduism they believe in Satya Yugawhich does not mention Vaikundar.
Unifying the Deities
In Ayyavazhi, Vaikundar performed symbolic marriages by which he unified all the powers of the universe into himself and so all were seen as one, which is similar to the beliefs of
Smartism. But in other branches of Hinduism, they acknowledge different powers as superior and may worship different powers in different forms.
Amongst the Ayyavazhi, congregational worship is practiced, while in Hinduism the Priest chants the
mantras and performs rituals, and the others watch all these things. But in Ayyavazhi the Panivediyalarchants the mantras and the others repeat it.
Thottu Namammeans 'wearing Thirunamamwith a personal touch', which means the Panivedaiyalar will bestow the Thirunamam by touching the forehead of the devotees. But in Hinduism the Priests gives the Prachathamby throwing, in the belief that if he happened to touch the worshipers body it would make him ritually unclean. In olden days this was practiced because the Brahminskept a distance from the other castes. This 'Thottu Namam' was an intentional counteraction of this ancient Hindu tradition, put forward by Ayyavazhi.
Unlike the traditional Hindu way of marriage, Ayyavazhi does not have many ritual practices. But it also differs from traditional Hinduism in marriage as a whole. In Ayyavazhi the couple was seated facing the geographic
southwitnessing the Thuvaraiyam Pathiin the Indian Ocean. In addition to the priest, all the people who witness the marriage will chant the mantras, and praise the couple following the priest, while in Hinduism this was done only by the Priest.
Ayyavazhithe body of the dead is buried, unlike in Hinduism. Generally, Hinduism mandates cremationand limits burial to monks, and children under five.
The body is buried in a position that faces to the geographic
northin a Padmasanaposition. No boxes such as coffins are used. The body is just placed inside and covered by sandor Namam(sacred soil). This practice is done in belief that the deceased is performing austerityfor the unfolding of Dharma Yukam. There was also a belief that the body of a person who was free from birth will not decay, and will be preserved as it is. Then as the Dharma Yukam unfolds, Vaikundar will blow a Conchshell and these people will rise from the grave. This scenario resembles the Last Judgmentin the Abrahamic religions.
The practice of burial is strikingly similar to funeral practices, in
Lingayatism, a reform movement in Karnataka, like Ayyavazhi, which was critical of the caste system. Unlike Ayyavazhi, Lingyatism focuses on Shiva as the supreme God.
Similarities between Ayyavazhi and Hinduism
Dress during worship
Like Hinduism the male worshippers of Ayyavazhi do not wear any upper garments during worship. Footwear is prohibited in worship centers. Also in Ayyavazhi, the female worshippers do not go the worship centers during the period of
Menses, like other Hindus.
The practice of circumambulation is quite commonly seen in Ayyavazhi like in Hinduism. In Ayyavazhi the devotees use to take a bath and circumambulate the outer Pathi and then the inner Pathi and then the
Saffronis considered as sacred in Ayyavazhi as well its father religion, Hinduism. All the Panividaiyalars (those who perform Panividai) in Pathis and Nizhal Thangalswill be dressed in a saffron dothiand saffron headgear which are collectively known as Kavi Vasthiram. This is also the colour of the flag that is to be hoisted in Pathis, as told as Chandiravarnam, and is the colour of the Ayyavazhi flags hoisted over their temples.
Like Hinduism, and particularly
SaivismAyyavazhi consider Rudrakshaas sacred.
Like Hinduism, Ayyavazhi stress
Theertham. But according to Ayyavazhi, Muttirikkinaruand Muttappathiwere considered most sacred.
Ayyavazhi like the
Advaitatradition within Hinduism accepts the Ultimate Oneness, which is akin to the concept of Brahman. It says that it was from the Ekamthe whole universe formed. Thiruvasakam - 2describes the formation of this present Universe. Like Advaita, it believes that Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva are different aspects of the same God.
Just as Mahaprabhu
Caitanyawas thought of as an incarnation of Vishnu (and more specifically of Krishna) in Gaudiya Vaishnavismso too is Ayya Vaikundarthought to be an incarnation of Vishnu. It is believed that God incarnates Himself to educate his children on obtaining a union with Him.
Ayyavazhi like Hinduism believes in
reincarnation. It states that all lives are continually reborn until they reach Dharma Yukam, the state of Moksha.
Ayyavazhi disciples too believe in the law of karma and that practing good karma will grant them Moksha. The practice of good karma is what leads one to God.
Moksha is the goal of the Ayyavazhi. The Ayyavazhi disciple believes like other Hindus that this too is a union with God in which the soul achieves perfect
Shanti("peace") and Swarga("heaven.")
Ahimsais Sanskritfor "non-violence" and the Ayyavazhi too believe in this principle.
The Ayyavazhi too like many Hindus believe in the vegetarian principle, which is an important aspect of Ahimsa. Ayya Vaikundar is considered an incarnation of Vishnu and in
Vaishnavism, meat-eating is forbidden.
Chanting of the Lord's name
This principle is known in Sanskrit as Sankirtana Yajna, it is an essential sacrifice especially for this age. It is believed that chanting the name of the Lord is an auspicious way to worship the Lord.
God is inside everybody
In Hinduism it is believed that within the body, there exists the soul but that the spirit of God is also present within the heart of every human being. The Ayyavazhi too believe that God is present within humans.
In the Ayyavazhi tradition, it is believed that in the final judgement, the demon will be sentenced to hell while Vaikundar and Santror will rule the world. In Hinduism also it is believed that God Vishnu will incarnate Himself to destroy this age of hypocrisy.
Although the Ayyvazhi prefer using a local language rather than Sanskrit, devotees name their children in Sanskrit (e.g. Vaikunar, Krishna, Narayan.)
List of Ayyavazhi-related articles
Hindu reform movements
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