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Re: Doubt on Thridandi Sanyasi

From: Mani Varadarajan (mani_at_alum.calberkeley.org)
Date: Tue Jul 25 2000 - 20:42:22 PDT

> ..The religion of the Tamils  was SriVaishnavism and Tholkappiyar(of
> Tholkappiyam - the earliest book known in Tamil today ) has described in a
> Sutra "Noole Karagam Mukkol mannaye ayun kalai anthaNarkuriya and there is a
> thurai in Grammatical parlance called " Mukkol pagavarai Vinavum thurai" in
> this section the eloped lovers will be blessed by the Thridandi Sanyasi 

Thank you, "Sri Vaishnava Sri" Sri A. Krishnamachari, for all your
kainkaryams and contributions, and for your recent articles to our
bhakti-list. 

I take a little issue with the conclusiveness with which the above
statements have been made.  Yes, the sangak kAla Tamil poems do
not mention 'ekadaNDa' sannyAsins and only refer to 'mukkOl
pakavar', i.e., 'tridaNDa' sannyAsins.  However, there is no
conclusive evidence that these 'tridaNDins' were Vaishnavas or
even Vaidikas. For all we know, they may have been 'AjIvikas',
a now defunct sect that once did exist in the Tamil country.
In the sangam poems, no association is made between these
'tridaNDi' saints and any religion.

Furthermore, it is a stretch to say that the ancient Tamils
were "Sri Vaishnavas" as we understand the term today.  The
ancient Tamils refer often to Murukan and the Mother Goddess, 
in addition to frequent references to Tirumaal.  We can 
understand from this that there were Vaishnavas in the Tamil
country, but we have no knowledge as to how exclusive they
were, or whether they followed a religion similar to the
Alvars.

Mere existence of poetry does not conclusively indicate much
about their religious beliefs. As we are well aware, the author
of the silappadikAram which glorifies Tirumaal as well as
other gods was a Jain.

I realize that Sri Puttur Krishnaswamy Iyengar and others
are vociferous in their statements about ancient Tamil society,
but such assertions need to be backed up by evidence, properly 
understood in context. (Believe me, I would like what you
write to be true myself -- but it is just not convincing).

aDiyEn rAmAnuja dAsan,
Mani

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