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Re: Iyer/Iyengar

From: Mani Varadarajan (mani_at_best.com)
Date: Wed May 05 1999 - 14:02:26 PDT

> The question then is: How old is this tradition of Samashrayanam,?

There are references in the Alvar paasurams to wearing the marks
of Vishnu on one's body. The most obvious is from Periyalvar's
Tiruppallaandu:

	tIyil poliginRa cen cuDarAzhi, tigazh tiruccakkarattin
	kOyil poRiyAlE oRRuNDu ninRu ...

This verse refers to wearing the heated mark of the Sudarsana
Cakra on one's body.

Similarly, in the last decad of Periyalvar's Tirumozhi, he says:

	ennaiyum en udaimaiyaiyum un cakkarap poRi oRRikkoNDu

which refers to himself as well as all his belongings as being
marked with the holy Sudarsana. 

The practice of samASrayaNam can thus at least be dated to
before the Alvars. Since Periyalvar speaks of this rite with
so much confidence, it must have been well-established within
the Vaidika Bhagavata community of his time (second half of
first millenium).  The Pancaratra tradition is much older
than this; references to it are found in the Mahabharata.
So we can conclude that samASrayaNam in some form or another
is an ancient rite.

The Madhva tradition also has a ritual of wearing heated
marks of Vishnu on one's body. However, they wear more than
just the sankha and cakra and periodically renew these marks,
adding more as time goes on.

[ I have also heard that some sections of the smArta community
used to have a similar ritual in the past but that today this
ritual has fallen into disuse. This needs to be verified. ]

Mani