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Re: Origin of Iyengar

From: lsrinivas (
Date: Sun Feb 17 2002 - 12:05:08 PST

--- In bhakti-list@y..., "nnarsi" <nnaray2@u...> wrote:
> I remember to have read a scholarly article by Late Sri Navalpakkam 
> Ammini Devanatha Tatacharya, a philologist and a recipient of 
> President of India's award for Sanskrit, about the origin 
> of "Iyengar". This word as well as "Iyer" has same origin in the 
> Tamil word "Aiyan" meaning a respectable one. Iyengar is a Telugu 
> variant of Aiyan (Aiyan + Garu). 

In some contexts, "ai" seems to be a Tamil root for "elders" as 
in "en aimAr tAm vantiTTu" in Nacciyar tirumozi 6.9 where  according 
to the commentary aimAr stands for aNNanmAr. 

In addition,over different time periods "ai" seems to stand for other 
meanings too e.g., husband, father. 

> It is also said that originally Tatacharyas (who were gurus to 
> Vijayanagar Kings) were respectfully referred to as "Iyengars", the 
> term which later on came to be broadly applied to all Srivaishnavas 
> (Like trademark Xerox popularly extended to all copiers). Even now, 
> those who are familiar to Kanchipuram traditions, use "Iyyengar" to 
> specifically mean Kanchipuram Tatacharyas. 

In defense of the Telugu "garu" reading of the second part of the 
word "ayyangar", one may point to epigraphic evidence for names 
like "ammangar", "annangar", "appangar", "jiyyangar". In fact some 
consider the title Tatacharya to be a popular translation 
of "ayyangar". Refer in this connection, N Jagadeesan's Collected 
Papers on Srivaishnavism. 

Hope this helps,

Lakshmi Srinivas

           - SrImate rAmAnujAya namaH -
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