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Re: [Re: Doubt on Thridandi Sanyasi]

From: Mani Varadarajan (mani_at_alum.calberkeley.org)
Date: Wed Jul 26 2000 - 12:06:35 PDT

> 1. The ancient tamil society was having only Parama Vaidika Matham
> which is Visishtadvaita Shree Vaishnavam only. 

There is simply no conclusive evidence to back up this assertion.
We know that the sangam and early post-sangam literature contain 
references to five divinities:
 
  (a) mAyOn, or the Dark One. This god is also known as mAl
      and can be identified with Krishna / Vishnu
  (b) ceyyOn, or the Red One. This god is also known as murukan
      and was later identified with the Sanskritic god
      subrahmaNya/skandha
  (c) kaTalOn, or the god of the sea.  This god was later
      identified with the Sanskritic god varuNa
  (d) vEntan, or "the king". This idea merges with the Sanskritic
      idea of Indra
  (e) Ur-amma, or the mother goddess. This idea evolved into
      the modern worship of mInAkshi, kAmAkshi, etc., at the
      urban level. We can still see evidence of the the Ur-amma
      idea in the grAma-dEvata-s or village deities, who
      tend to be female
  
There is evidence for all of these deities in early literature
such as the tOlkAppiyam, the classical text on Tamil poetics and 
grammar, as well as the paripATal.  By far, the most popular deities 
are mAl and murukan. (Note: Even Sivan is secondary compared to murukan. 
In fact, the idea of Siva is totally absent in the ancient Tamil poems.
But this is a topic for another day.)

We can also see in modern Tamil worship the evolution of these 
ideas.  Taking Tamil society as a whole (not just brahmins, who are 
a very small minority), the Tamil people generally worship murukan, mAl, 
and the mother goddesses, as well as their local village deities. 

Now, what characterizes Sri Vaishnava worship as we know it today?
Exclusive worship of Vishnu, without paying much attention to
other deities, and certainly not exalting them in poetry.

Compare this to the texts of the ancient Tamils. Yes, there are
numerous poems in praise of mAl.  But there are also numerous 
poems of praise to murukan as well. In fact, an entire text,
the tiru-murukARRupaTai is dedicated to the praise of murukan.
There are also murukan poems in the paripATal. We see a marked 
absence of the *exclusivity* (aikAntikatva) that so distinctively 
marks Sri Vaishnava worship.  Any praise of any other deity would be 
totally anathema to a Sri Vaishnava.

So, how can you sustain the argument that "ancient tamil society
only followed Shree Vaishnavam"? You have three alternatives:
  (1) The ancient Tamils were Sri Vaishnavas, but they didn't
      mind often exalting and praising other gods such as Murukan
  (2) The ancient Tamils were Sri Vaishnavas who often fell under the
      sway of tamo-guNa and therefore praised Murukan and other
      gods
  (3) The ancient Tamils were not strictly Sri Vaishnavas
      but were of diverse religious beliefs, some worshipping Vishnu, 
      others Murukan, others both or all the deities

I prefer option (3).

Barring any conclusive evidence about the 'tridaNDi' sannyAsis,
we also cannot conclude that they were Vaishnavas, and certainly
there is no evidence to indicate that they were Sri Vaishnavas
as we know them today.

> 3. The "Tirukural" has clearly talked about "Visistadvaita Shree
> Vaishnavam" explicitly. This point is just to substantiate the
> above argument and also please note that it is called "Tamil Podu Marai".

It is a tribute to tiruvaLLuvar that every religion claims the 
tirukkuraL as its own.  But honestly, we really do not know to what 
religion vaLLuvar belonged.  I have read very convincing arguments 
that he was a Jain, and that he used characteristic Jaina images,
terminology, and ideas in his work.  I have also read very
convincing arguments that he was a Vaishnava; parimEl-azhagar,
one of the classical kuraL commentators, assumes he is a Vaishnava.
But, in the end, we must call it a tossup; vaLLuvar's primary
purpose was not religious so there is simply not enough
evidence to come to a firm conclusion. 


In any case, none of this really matters in the long run. These are
historical issues, not Vedantic. Our 'AdhAram' are the Alvars'
pAsurams, not what Tamils believed in sangam times or what Tamils
believe now.

aDiyEn rAmAnuja dAsan,
Mani

P.S. Anyone who doesn't think Sri Puttur Swami is strident (i.e.,
forceful) in his beliefs probably hasn't met him or read his
more argumentative works.  I respect him very much (in fact
I have donated quite a bit of money to help him in his publishing
efforts), and spent quite a bit of time talking to him during my 
last visit. I used the term "vociferious" as a description of the 
conviction with which he writes, not a criticism of him as a person.


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