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Date: Mon Aug 07 1995 - 13:10:10 PDT
Subj: Re- Wondering Dear Manjula, Thanks for raising some very basic questions which has stimulated a noteworthy discussion . I have some loose change to contribute to the treasure of info posted by others . Manjula, you asked : >>Well What is the difference between Brahmins/SriVaishnavas? >>Other than the known one that is brahmins follow shiva and >> sri-vaishnavas follow vishnu. Even I can give that reason. >> I guess I am looking a for a more detailed reason. Most Sri-Vaishnavas are Brahmins (not a requirement though). However all Iyengars are Brahmins. Likewise all Iyers are also Brahmins. These are Teluge (Iyya or Aiyya ) and Tamil (Iyer) words for the elderly or the revered ones. Because Brahmins were traditionally revered by the other castes, the Telugus used to address them as Aiyya oy Iyya (Father) and Tamils used to address them as Iyer. Even to day some Tamil workers address their boss or other people of upper strata as Iyere vandar and Telugu workers use the phrase Ayyagaru wochindaru. In most other South Asian languages including Kannada the word used is Yajaman (performer of the Yagnas, directly from the Vedas). Some people are of the view that Iyengar is the literal translation of the term Tatachar (because Tata means father in Sanskrit). The origin of the word Tatachar is Tirumalai (Andhra Pradesh). One of the Patriarchs of the Sri Vaishnava Guru parampara (a descendant of Shatamarshana and to his lineage belong the Natha Muki and Yamuna Muni) was addressed as Tata(father) by the God Sriman Narayana Himself appearing as a hunter and drank water from his hands. His descendants got the name Tatachar and the Telugu translation of this is Iyengar . So Manjula, looks like you are closer to the origin of Iyengars than are theTamils!!! Sri-Vaishnavas(followers of Ramanujacharya) are worshippers of Vishnu(Sriman Narayana) and Lakshmi. That is why we have the word Sri which refers to Godess Lakshmi (Tayar). Other Vaishnavites are strictly followers of Krishna or other incarnates of Vishnu such as Srinathji, Swaminarayan etc. That is they do not place the same importance for VishnuUs consort Lakshmi. Some examples of other Vaishnavas are: Gaudia Vaishnavas(followers of Gauranga=Chaitanya) Hare Krishnas (followers of Srila Prabhupada Bhaktivedanta), Pushti Margis(followers of Vallabhacharya), Swaminarayans (followers of Swaminarayan), Madhvas (followers of Madhwacharya) Interstingly, the Swaminarayans worship Swaminarayan as the Vishnu incarnate and his first shishya as His consort. Together they form the Akshar-Purushottam duo. I guess, they have elevated the first disciple of Swaminarayan to his consort status. Hindus (irrespective of the caste ) can be broadly classified into many groups: These groups are not water tight compartments. Almost all are leaky, some more leaky than the others. Saivites: Worshippers of Shiva (includes Subramanya) Shaktas: Worshippers of the female power Shakti (Devi, Kali, Durga, Chamundi etc.) Vaishnavites: Worshippers of Vishnu Others (eg., Arya Samajis): Worship only Nirguna Brahma (God with no form) and Others (followers of Hari and Hara, eg., Ayyappa devotees) In other words, the God worshipped is nothing to do with caste, creed, color or nationality. For example, Vaishnavite (worshipper of Vishnu) can be of any caste, color, language or nationality. Many Hare Krishnas are Whites from Europe and the Americas. My daughter and son are born here, so they are citizens of USA and are Sri-Vaishanavas( or Iyengars uptill now at least!). The same can be said of the followers of Shiva Siddhanta Church of Hawai. The founder is a White and many of its followers are Whites. But they follow Shiva(Subramanya) Generally, Shaivites (especially the Smarta Brahmins) are more liberal. They worship Shiva, Vishnu and Devi. As Mr. Srinivasan has pointed out, Adi Sankara wrote several stotrams dedicated to Vishnu. Not only that he prescribed Vishnu Sahasranamam and Bhagavadgita as the two texts one should reminisce (Gayum Gita Namasahasram c.f. Bhaja Govindam). Stories of Vishnu glorifying Shiva and vice versa abound in our Scriptures. Just few examples : Rama worshipped Shiva Lingam at Rameshwar after and or before the battle with Ravana. Shiva is believed to have appeared as Hanuman to assist Rama. Shiva says that taking just the name of Rama alone has the benefit of reciting the entire Vishnu Sahasranama stotram. Govinda (who later got the Embar name from ramanuja), the cousin of Ramanuja had settled down in Kalahasti(?) worshipping the Shiva Lingam which he found in the North India and his Guru Yadava Prakasha (at that point) blessed hin to do so. It seems like even to today, only the Shaivaites have maintained this catholicity that abound in our scriptures (not that we Sri-Vaishnavites hate Siva, it is just that his worship does not come to us as spontaneously as the worship of Rama or Krishna comes to a Shaivaite). BRAHMINS AND OTHER CASTES: Reference to caste system appears in the Vedic Purusha Suktam Hymn, which is perhaps the most magnificient of the Vedic creation Hymns. No Hindu ritual is complete without chanting at least a part of this Hymn. May be we can take up discussion of this Hymn at some other point. This Hymn forms the basis of the Hindu thought and most other scriptures including the Upanishada and the Gita are only an elaboration of this Hymn. Thus, the caste(Varna) system is elaborated in the Bhagavadgita. In chapter 18 Krishna describes the characteristic features of the four castes. Caste is a different issue from whether one is a Shakta, Shaiva or Vaishnava. Manjula, you also asked: >>Another thing I have always wondered is.. well what is the >>difference between Iyengars and Sri-Vaishnava's why is it >>that where ever I go I here tamilians say that Iyengars are >>better and telugus say Sri-vaishnavas are better .. what happens >>to people like us who are originally tamil iyengars but settled >>in Andhra. Just taking your statement for the face value (because, I have generally used Iyengars and SriVaishnavas as synnonims), the preference for Iyengars would perhaps reflect Brahmin superiority, because all Iyengars are Brahmins, but not all Sri Vaishnavas are Brahmins. If you recall Mr. Sadagopan's posting about the Shatamarshana lineage, it is clear that the Patriarchs of Nathamuni and Alavandar originated from the Himalayas (Angirasar) and migrated South through banks of Ganga in Haridwar(Shatamarshanar), Saraswathi , Godavari, Krishna, Cauvery (Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka) (back and forth). I will post the detailed names and places for the various descendants in my translation of the book Shatamarshanara Ajana Siddha Mahime sometime when I get around other bread winning chores! Also you may find the information about the origin of the word Iyengars as stated above interesting. Sincerely, K. Sreekrishna. PS: I would like our children (Naethra, 9 yr and Nishant 2 yr) to be as interested as you are about our roots as they grow up. I hope you will be an inspiration to the new generation of the Sri-Vaishnava (oops, Iyengar) children growing up here and everywhere. Vardhataam abhi vardhataam!