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Kanchi and Srirangam

Date: Tue Nov 05 1996 - 21:03:01 PST

Mr. Gansten writes:

I have previously encountered the terms Vadakalai and Thenkalai. Are 
synonymous with the Kanchi and Srirangam schools alluded to by Mr. 
and if so, which is which? What are the main differences between the 
schools -- or, if that is too far-reaching a question, where can I 
more about them?


Yes, the terms are synonymous.  During the formative years of the 
tradition after Sri Ramanuja, two great cities, Kanchipuram and 
Srirangam, became the main centers for SriVaishava learning.  The 
distinct cultures of these two cities became the impetus for the 
formation of the two schools of thought.

Kanchipuram was (and continues to be) a cosmopolitan center for a 
variety of Eastern philosophies.  During the twelfth and thirteenth 
centuries, Kanchi was not only the home of the various Brahminical 
schools, but also included Jains and Buddhists in its diverse 
population.  Debate and polemics were common in the town, 
consequently, the Kanchi Acharyas stressed an approach that would 
validate SriVaishnava philosophy within the context of what most 
rival schools would accept, Sastra and Vedanta.

Contrary to this, the focal point for Srirangam's society was (anc 
continues to be) the famous temple to Lord Ranganatha.  As much of 
the community of this town already aligned itself with this temple, 
the Srirangam Acharyas did not feel as strong a need to validate the 
philosophy in the eyes of rival schools of thought.  Consequently, 
they felt free to turn their congregation's attention towards 
SriVaishnavism's temple based devotional side, and primarily utilized 
the Puranas and the Azhwars' works to validate this.
At first, the two cities complimented each other.  However, over time,
 the widening discrepancy between the cultural climates, combined 
with a number of geographic factors and historical incidents, brought 
about a schism that resulted in the formation of Kanchipuram's 
Vadagalai (Northern) School, and Srirangam's Thengalai (Southern) 

There are, I believe, 18 official philosophical differences between 
the two schools of SriVaishnavism, the most dramatic of which lies in 
the interpretation of Prapatti. An excellent book that examines the 
two schools, their formation, and their views on Prapatti is Patricia 
Mumme's SriVaishnava Theological Dispute, which is published by New 
Era Books.

Daasanu Daasan,