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Ayyavazhi (IPA: [aia:vərɪ])(Tamil:அய்யாவழி Ayyavali -"Path of the father") is a dharmic belief system that originated in South India in the 19th century. It is conceived as a monistic religion, although in Indian censuses and in government surveys the majority of its followers declare their religion to be Hinduism, so it is also considered to be a Hindu sect. Although the religion is strongly related to Hinduism, its theologians, several newspapers, magazines, and some academics consider it a separate religion. Certain groups outside Ayyavazhi also recognize it as a separate religion, including some social, as well as religious, faculties.
Though Ayyavazhi followers are spread across India, they are primarily present in South India and highly concentrated in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The number of practitioners is estimated to be between 700,000 and 8 million, although the exact number is unknown, since Ayyavazhis are reported as Hindus during censuses.  Ayyavazhi's fast growth in its first century was noted by Christian missionaries in the mid-19th century. Vaikundar's activities, and the gathering of a large crowd of followers, created a reformation and revolution in 19th century Travancore and Tamil Society and surprised the feudal social system then in place in South India.
Ayyavazhi is centered on Ayya Vaikundar's life and teachings, and its ideas and philosophy are based on the holy texts Akilattirattu Ammanai and Arul Nool. According to these, Ayya Vaikundar was the Manu avatar of Trimurthi. Although Ayyavazhi shares many ideas with Hinduism in its mythology and practice, it also differs considerably, especially in its concepts of "Good vs Evil", Dharma etc.
Ayyavazhi first came to public attention in the 19th century as a Hindu sect. On the one hand, it shares many ideas with Hinduism, while on the other, it regenerates several concepts found in Hinduism. Those who consider Ayyavazhi a separate religion classify it as a Dharmic religion because of its centrality on Dharma, though the ultimate aim of Ayyavazhi dharma lies on an ideal Dharma Yukam which has been compared to Abrahamic ideas on heaven.
The exact origin of the name Ayyavazhi is not known, though there are many views on the subject, and many different implications in the phrase. The various theories on its derivation include:
- Ayya's path - from the direct synonymous derivation, which takes Ayya as a noun (naming word) of Ayya Vaikundar.
- Path of Father - from the local spoken-Tamil language Ayya (father) + vazhi (path). This meaning, derived from Tamil, is most commonly used as 'ayya', and means 'dear father'.
- The ultimate truth of Master - from Tamil Ayya (Master) + vazhi (the ultimate truth) is derived from the literary usage of the words.
- Religious system of Guru - from Tamil Ayya as (Guru) + vazhi (religious system - vazhibadu in Tamil).
- Way of attaining the sacred feet of God - Ayya as (God) + vazhi (way to unify)
The synonymous versions of the phrase are virtually unlimited, because the usage of the word 'Ayya' in Tamil varies widely. It is used to convey the words father, guru, the superior, a person of dignity, respectable one, master, the king, the teacher, preceptor, etc. The word 'vazhi' in Tamil can mean the way, a course of conduct, manner, method, mode, cause, antiquity, succession, religious system, reason, and so on.
Followers of Ayyavazhi believe in reincarnation and the following Dharma Yukam, which is the eighth and final yukam, in which Ayya Vaikundar will rule the world with the Santror. However, they condemn the Indian caste system. They also reject the use of standard Hindu murti in worship. However, as a point of focus, a non-anthropomorphic symbol had been introduced to be used as a point of devotional and meditational focus. This symbol, the Elunetru, which is placed in the Palliyarai, is considered a seat of God rather than God himself. The same is true of the Elunetru's alternative name, Asanam, which means "seat." Behind this asana, a mirror is installed to reflect the worshipper which implies, "God is yourself (or) God is within you" suggesting an idea about God similar to Advaita theology.
Ayyavazhi beliefs are closely related to those of Smartism and Advaita Vedanta, especially in the beliefs related to Trimurthi. Hence, Ayyavazhi's followers believe that Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva are different aspects of the same God. While some claim that the beliefs of Akilattirattu are related to Dvaita and Vishishtadvaita, Ayyavazhi endorses the concept of Ultimate Oneness.
Followers of Ayyavazhi differ from other Hindus in that they recognize a Satan-like figure, Kroni, who is the primordial manifestation of evil and who manifests in various forms, (for example, Ravana and Duryodhana) in different ages or yugas. God, as Vishnu, becomes incarnate in his avatars, including Rama, Krishna and eventually Ayya Vaikundar, to destroy the foremost evil.
Kali, the evil spirit of Kali Yuga, is said to be omnipresent in this age and this is one of the reasons why the followers of Ayyavazhi, like other Hindus, believe that the current yuga, Kali Yuga, is decadent. This evil spirit is been destroyed by Vaikundar and transform the world to Dharma Yukam the 'world of rightiousness'
 Teachings and Impact
While the majority of Ayyavazhi's key teachings can be found in the book Akilattirattu Ammanai, other teachings are collated from various books believed to be written by the disciples whose works feature in the Arul Nool. Like Dharma, the other teachings of Ayyavazhi are twofold, sociological and mystical. Social teachings are primarily concerned with eliminating inequality and discrimination in society, while the mystical teachings are devoted to revealing divine knowledge. The teachings encourage a close relationship with God, rather than one of fear. Followers are encouraged to refer God as Ayya, "dear father", and thus to strengthen their intimacy and affection towards God.
Ayyavazhi on its social teachings clearly and explicitly condemns the caste system. It also served from its beginning as an institution for social reform, particularly in the area of Travancore. Travancore was noted for its unusually strong caste system culture.There, in addition to the untouchables which is to be found throughout India, they also had groups of people who were regarded as the "unapproachable" and "unseeable". In this social contest, the intermingling of the castes brought about in Ayyavazhi centres was one of the vital elements in the transformation of that society.
From the beginning, Ayyavazhi has also taken strong stands against political oppression. This is perhaps most clearly indicated in the characterizations of the Thiruvithkanur king as Kalineesan, (one who is caught hold by Kali) and of the British as Venneesan (the white neesan) sociologically.Sociologically speaking, Ayya Vaikundar was the first to succeed as a social reformer in launching political struggle and social renaissance combainingly in the country. Also, Ayyavazhi has from the beginning displayed sympathy for the laboring classes, and opposition to the often excessive taxes they were forced to pay. In fact, three full pages of the Akilattirattu Ammanai are devoted to the issue. This includes a verse saying "Whoever makes an earning, let him rule over it and no one need be lightened of another. In addition it also created many social changes in then southern India impinging the society highly so that several social and Self-respect movements broke out such as Upper cloth agitation, Temple entry agitation and movements of Narayana Guru and that of Ayyankali etc.
Ayyavazhi mystics highly focus on supreme oneness. In the midst of all variations the theology always maintains this oneness sharply. And the teachings goes that, the evil of Kali is the one which blocks that ultimate or supreme oneness prevailing between individual souls and the universe, and gives an individuality and extreme pride to each souls and make them departing from the quality of the supreme oneness and motivating against it. The 'over-soul' or the supreme soul, Ekam is termed as the whole existence with change less nature, which is viewed by individual souls as, 'one which undergoes different changes with respect to 'space and time' because of the evil force, maya influencing them.
All creations are evolved from this Ekam, the supreme consciousness. So all the qualities of Ekam are within each souls, which evolved from it. So individual souls are related to Ekam, the universal consciousness. It also says that every souls as reflections or mirrors of this supreme and absolute, Ekam. This is the spiritual meaning of the mirror worship in Ayyavazhi. So far human and all other souls are restricted to the limits of the evil Kali, individual souls are not eligible to attain the supreme bliss and so this souls are considered secondary to Ekam the supreme soul. Once a soul overcome the influence of maya it gets unified with Ekam. Its individuality is no more and thereby it's Ekam. On the other hand this supreme consciousness is termed as Paramatma (over-soul). By this personification, God is the taught to be the 'Husband' while all other souls are his consorts. The Thirukkalyana Ekanai in Akilam fifteen symbolises this clearly as if God (Ekam) is marrying or unifying into himself the individual souls.
Ayyavazhi began to be noticed initially by the large number of people gathering to worship Ayya Vaikundar at Swamithoppe, the then poovandanthoppe. The Thuvayal thavasu which was conducted in 1840 is considered as the period of origin of Ayyavazhi as an alternative religio-cultural phenomena. The majority of the followers of Ayyavazhi were from the marginalised and poor sections of the society. They began to function as a distinct and autonomous society and gradually, they identifyied their path with the phrase 'Ayya vazhi'.For the Christian missionaries it posed a great challenge in their proselytising mission from its inception. Although the majority of these followers were from the Chanar cast, some external sources too states that a large number of people from other castes also followed it.
By the middle of nineteenth century, Ayyavazhi had come to be recognised as a separate religion, deep rooted in the region of South Travancore and South Tirunelveli. The growth in its number of followers had increased significantly from 1840s. Around the closure of the third quarter of the 19th century Swamithope began to be considered as the headquarters of Ayyavazhi. After the death of Vaikundar, Ayyavazhi was spread on the basis of his teachings and the religious books Akilattirattu Ammanai and Arul Nool. The five Citars, who were the disciples of Ayya Vaikundar, and their descendants travelled to several parts of the country and carried the mission of Ayyavazhi. Meanwhile the Payyan dynasty started administration of Swamithoppe pathi, while other Pathis came under the administration of the followers of Ayya. Hundreds of Nizhal Thangals (places of worship) were built across the country.
Currently Bala Prajapathi Adikalar, one of descendant of Payyan dynasty is considered as the leader of Ayyavazhi. He has laid foundations for a large number of Nizhal Thangals through out South India. And now considering the growth of the religion the day of incarnation of Vaikundar, Ayya Vaikunda Avataram was declared as a holiday by the government for the districts of Tirunelveli and Tuticorin from the year 2006, while the district of Kanyakumari was announced as a holiday from 1994.
- See also: Timeline of Ayyavazhi history
 Scriptures and holy places
The holy books of Ayyavazhi are the Akilattirattu Ammanai (often called as Akilam) and the Arul Nool, and they are the source of the religion's mythology. The internal evidence states that the Akilattirattu Ammanai was written down by Hari Gopalan Citar by hearing the contents of Akilam told by Narayana to his consort Lakshmi. The secondary scripture Arul Nool was a composed one which includes various books which are believed to be written by Citars and Arulalarkal (one who get possessed by divine power). It contains the prayers, hymns and instructions for the way of worship in Ayyavazhi, rituals, prophesies and also many acts. But there is no definite history for it. All these texts are compiled in Tamil language.
To the Ayyavazhi devotees, there are five holy places, called Pathis, with "Panchappathis" being the most important. The temple of Swamithoppepathi is the headquarters of the Ayyavazhi religion. The Vakaippathi, where 700 families were sent to Thuvayal Thavasu by Vaikundar was accredited as a Pathi in Akilam although this site has no direct association with the activities of Vaikundar.
There is a serious disagreement within the followers of Ayyavazhi as to the holiness of some of the places of worship. The Avatharappathi in Thiruchendur was accepted by the book Akilam as a Pathi. Akilam refers to it as 'Chenthur Pathi' . But as some of the followers believe that the place at which the present temple is located is not the exact place where Ayya Vaikundar incarnated from the sea, they disagree with the rest of the devotees. There are also some followers which strongly object Thiruchendur as a Pathi though they accept it as a secondary holy site. The list of Pathis announced by the headquarters of Ayyavazhi does not include Avatharappathi. Also, an attempt is made to kill Vaikundar at Marunthuvazh Malai by adding poison to milk. More over, Ayya Vaikundar is said to be penanced here. So the Marunthuvazh Malai (Vaikunda Pathi) is also considered as a Pathi.
The symbol of the Ayyavazhi religion is a lotus carrying a flame-shaped white 'Namam'. The lotus represents the 1,008-petalled Sahasrara (in Tamil, Ladam) and the Namam represents the Aanma Jyothi or atman, sometimes translated as "soul" or "self". There are reference for Thirunamam in both primary and secondary scriptures, Akilattirattu Ammanai and Arul Nool. Though the overall consideration of the whole contents of Akilam focus the concept derived from the symbol, 'Lotus carrying Namam' it seems that there is no direct reference for it, there in the scriptures. But according to some legends this symbol was in use in Ayyavazhi from the early forties of the twentieth century.
Since the Sahasrara is symbolised as Lotus, no stem is drawn while designing art of the symbol. Seven(up) + seven(down) petals are used commonly. Also a new way of architecture is been developed in constructing Nizhal Thangals in which the inverted Lotus petals (as in sahasrara) is used as a design over the roof.
The mythical narration of akilam about the eight yugas is often viewed philosophically as eight chakras. The first Neetiya Yukam as Bindu and the final state of absolute bliss, Sahasrara is said to be the Dharma Yukam. In this series the, energy of consciousness of oneself is to raised from Bindu (Neetiya Yukam) to the final Sahasrara (Dharma Yukam) to experience the absolute 'bliss'. The reigning power in the final Dharma Yukam(Sahasrara) is Ekam or the supreme absolute. and so, the Ayyavazhi's symbol seems to be derived from Akilam. And the symbol of Ayyavazhi, 'Lotus with Namam' shows it; Vaikundar is been experienced in Sahasrara.
As per Hindu legends this Sahasrara chakra has '1000 petals' . But in Ayyavazhi symbolism it was considered as 1008. In Akilam or Arul Nool there are no verse to treat this term '1000' but quiet commonly the number '1008' is mentioned. Also the year of incarnation of Vaikundar is 1008 M.E. On backing these scriptural backgrounds, 1008 petal arrangement is followed in Ayyavazhi symbolism.
- See also: Thirunamam
 Worship centres
The followers of Ayyavazhi established Pathis and Nizhal Thangals, which are centres of worship and religious learning in different parts of the country. They served as centres for propagation of the beliefs and practices of Ayyavazhi. There are thousands of Nizhal Thangals throughout India mostly in South India. As per another statistics there are more than 8000 worship centres in Tamil Nadu and Kerala alone. Since Ayyavazhi is not an organised religion, Swamithoppepathi serves, religiously as the headquarters of all. Generally speaking, the Pathis earns more importance among the worship centres.
Pathis were the important centres of congregational worship, being relatively bigger structures. They obtain their significance from the fact that Ayya Vaikundar and his activities were historically associated with these centres of worship. They are seven in number. Since Ayyavazhi is not an organised religion the Swamithope pathi though considered as religious head-quarters, it officially does not control the rest of the religious centres. All Pathis, except Swamithope pathi are managed by independently formed village or other committees.
Nizhal Thangals, compared to Pathis generally were simple small structures built for the purpose of worship and for learning the teachings of Ayya Vaikundar. They served also as centres of education during the early days. Food and shelter were offered to the needy in these centres. Some of them were established when Vaikundar was alive. Even now charity is one of the main activities conducted in these centres. The LMS Reports of the mid-nineteenth century too speaks in abundance about Nizhal Thangals.
 Religiosity — Study circle
It is difficult to give a clear-cut listing to Ayyavazhi concepts because of the relation the Ayyavazhi scriptures maintains with the Hindu scriptures. On one hand Akilam outputs a view that the central themes of the previous scriptures are churned-out and are assembled in it and on the other hand is says that Kaliyan destroy the vedas and Shastras and also performed several additions to the previous scriptures at the beginning of Kali Yuga and hence the Akilam is given to mankind. These both view points give the view of Akilam on Hindu Scriptures, and place them as reasons for rejecting them.
Many of the deep-thinkable philosophical concepts are merely mentioned with their names in Akilam and the describtion is left to be found from somewhere so, it is unavoidable to refer Hindu scriptures for undergoing a religious study on Ayyavazhi theology.
The 96 properties of Human body, Tatvas is just mentioned in Akilam while saying about the qualities and features of Kaliyan. It is essential to understand each and every one of the 96 tatvas to understand about Kaliyan. But since Akilam have no different view in this matter from Hindu scriptures, it was left to be gathered from there.
Generally it was considered that, once a particular concept is not found well-described in Ayyavazhi scriptures such as Akilattirattu Ammanai or Arul Nool, (as detail as in Hindu scriptures) and instead simply have quoted and the rest is left to be found from there, then that particular conception is accepted as in Hindu scriptures for religious studies. But when the idea of a particular notion of Akilam differs very much from Hindu scriptures, that particular thing is deeply described.
The 'ethics of Ayyavazhi' are found throughout the primary scripture, Akilattirattu Ammanai. They are also integrated with the meta-narrative mythography. However, regarding ethics, some parts in Arul Nool is considered as an accumulation and prophecy of the core concepts found in Akilam. In Akilam, the ethical abstracts are pointed out as "told by God" at several places at different situations to lesser god-heads, devas, saints etc. when asked by them.
Neetham is the primary virtues of Ayyavazhi religion. This shows separately that how the society, its people, the ruling king, etc., lived in absolute harmony with nature, placing the power of almighty in all their works deeds and activities, during early ages. And in turn how the nature and the divine beings protects the society which follows the Neetham. This Neetham is found in Akilam as saying how the people of early age lived in detail. Chastity and 'life in ultimate union with nature' form the central theme in Neetham. It was derived from there as an ethical form that is to be followed. As in Akilam, Vinchai is the rules and regulations provided by God (Narayana) to Vaikundar. Three such Vinchais are there. Though this was found as regulations provided by the Father, Narayana to the Son Vaikundar, it was considered that many of the acts found there fits also to humans and to be followed by human to improve their moral code. The first Vinchai of Tiruchendur forms the largest ethical accumulation found in Akilam. To an extend, the Dharmic teachings in Ayyavazhi are also considered as ethics. Charity in sociology and 'attempting to realizing the ultimate truth of oneness' in spiritual are the ethical codes under Dharmic teachings. Akilam also gives separate ethics for Devas also. Also it is notable that the Ayyavazhi ethics undergo a vast deviation from the incarnation of Vaikundar since an universal change took place then. Over all, as the foremost ethical code, people are advocated to overcome the evil force kalimayai, with the weapon of love, forbearance and peace since kali as maya, is ruling the minds of people.
Arul Nool constitutes the major role in forming the rules and regulations of Ayyavazhi including ethics. It gives separately the social as well as divine ethics. It was believed that many portions of Arul Nool are lost. The Sivakanda Athikara Pathiram here is the section specially dedicated to teach the ethics. The rituals, especially circumambulations are told to be followed to wash-out the sin committed related to immoral thinkings.
 Santror - The Subjects
The Santror are the seven boys who were made to born by using the seven seeds from seven upper worlds, by Thirumal, to the Seven virgins through their instrumentality, according to Ayyavazhi mythology. They were born in the Ayodha Amirtha Vanam. Their lineage to be started at the end phase of Dharma Yukam and continued through the Kali Yukam. In ideological sense it additionally represents one who lives with dignity. But in turn, the Santror are the subject of the religious vision of Ayyavazhi.
There is both a religious and a social category in its connotation. Today most of the followers emphasise more on the religious dimension of this category than the social. They give it an inclusive character and universal reach to mean anyone who is noble, as the literal meaning of the Tamil word would have it, and anyone who believes in the vision of Ayyavazhi. However, the concept, as it occurs in Akilattirattu Ammanai is more specific, with a considerable importance attached to the social dimension of it, without, however, ruling out a space for universal connotation. In its specific and social reference, it refers Chanar (those who have the ability to see 'the invisible' constantly).
Since The Santror was mentioned as the first inhabitants of the Kali Yukam in Akilam, this view rightly fit to the early 'Chanars' who were called by the Arabs as "Al Hind", and known in Biblical times as the "People of Five Rivers", and now scattered with more than 250 branches through-out the world.
The roll of Santror in Kali Yukam is to assist and to follow Vaikundar on destroying the evil force of Kali. It is believed that Kali is being destroyed continuously by the activities of the Santror in the Path of Vaikundar, and so the Dharma Yukam unfolds eventually.
The theology of Ayyavazhi differs from other monistic religions. It speaks of Ekam, the ultimate Oneness from which all that which exists formed. It also speaks of an oneness that exists behind all differences. The Ekam itself is remaining unaffected by maya deep inside every changeable matters as an absolute constant. So as per the theology, God is, in the highest sense, one, formless, infinite, genderless, beyond Time and space etc. Also, it's notable that the term Ekam in Tamil gives simply the meaning, "one and the incomparable supreme". This is some sort of monistic definition about god from Ayyavazhi theology.
Narrating through mythology, Sivam and Sakthi evolved from Ekam. The Natham(voice), Trimurthi, other lesser gods and all the universe further evolved. Siva is considered to be the supreme power till Kali Yuga. For a series of reasons, Vishnu is considered to be the supreme from the advent of Kali Yuga. Then from the incarnation of Vaikundar, again the powers of all god-heads, including Vishnu is transformed to Vaikundar. Also Ekam, the supreme power take a place within Vaikundar and hence for the present age, Vaikundar is said to be the only worshippable and supreme power. But on the other hand this supreme oneness (Ekam) itself is said to be created by Vaikundar, who is a personified universal power. Regarding this, Ayyavazhi is more monotheistic than a monistic. But no other god-heads, even the Father of Vaikundar, Narayana hasn't gained an equal or greater status than Ekam.
In Ayyavazhi mythology, Kroni was personified as a devil, and was fragmented into six and was finally destroyed by a final judgement which is followed by the god-ruled Dharma Yukam. This narration gives some dualistic dimension to Ayyavazhi theology. But since the teachings of Arul Nool and since the final fragament of Kroni is said as 'Kalimayai' (the evil spirit) it was commonly accepted that the destruction of Maya is symbolised in such a way, which contrast the dualistic view on Ayyavazhi. Apart from all these, there are also separate quotes in Ayyavazhi scriptures which give pantheistic and panentheistic definition to Ayyavazhi theology.
In addition to the philosophical concepts and mythology, the rituals of Ayyavazhi evolved in their own way. Most of the rituals have both different operational and historical meanings. Historically, the rituals were used or viewed as an attempt break the case based inequalities previled in the then society and to strengthen and uplift the sociologically downtrodden and ill-treated. Examples of this include the physical as well as spiritual cleanliness through Thuvayal Thavasu, eliminating untouchability through Thottunamam, self-respect and courage through headgear, and unifying various castes through Muthirikkinaru. But they reveal on the other hand, high philosophical ideas preached in a ritual language.
The Muthirikkinaru and Thirunamam is treated religiously as if the 'Patham and Namam' of it has the power to heal all sorts of mental as well as physical illness. Thuvayal thavasu is suggested to be followed as a training to reach the ultimate aim of Dharma Yukam. The usage of head-gear as the crown to reveal that 'all are kings', visualising some sort of ideology similar to advaita. Also Ayyavazhi scriptures succeeded very much in making understand this commonly unsensible things (Philosophical ideas) to the common mass. The individual rituals and symbols, the unique features of worship, the ecstatic mode of religiosity, and the ritual healing - all these elements of the ritual corpus of Ayyavazhi contributed to the formation of an emancipatory ideation and a social discourse. It attempts to uplift and treat the disenfranchised.
 Inclusiveness and exclusivity
This formula of inclusiveness and exclusivity as applied in the religio-cultural universe of Ayyavazhi is unique, since both the theories and mixed-up in Ayyavazhi. The inclusive theory accepts the views of different religions for a certain period of time, and from then onwards exlusively rejects all of them in its narrative.
Ayyavazhi accepts different God-heads of several religions such as the concept of 'Allah' and almost all God-heads in Hinduism. It also says that the one and the same God incarnates in different parts of the world at different time for rescuing the people from sufferings. But due to the advent of Kaliyan and because of the cruel nature of his boons, for the first time the supreme divine power, Ekam incarnates in the world as Vaikundar and so all the God-heads and previous scriptures had lost their substances. So after the time of Vaikunda avatar, Vaikundar was said to be the only worshippable God and hence, the theology of Ayyavazhi was channeled towards exclusivism. Also the manner in which Akilattirattu Ammanai treats the scriptures of different religions is complicated. Akilam says that Vaikundar was the one who incarnates as Jesus and so it accepts Christ, but it did not recognise The Bible. It says that the Bible was created with the intention of man. Likewise, Akilam accepts that the term 'Allah', but it rejects the religion of Islam and its ideas. As a whole it rejects 'creation of religions' mainly for their inequalities and tentions between them. Ayyavazhi accepts various incarnations in Hinduism but rejets the Hindu scriptures. Though it accepts Vedas, later since Kaliyan had bought the Vedas as boon it lost its substance by the advent of Kaliyan.
It also says that he (Kaliyan) had performed several additions and had hidden several contents of them. And hence God incarnated as Vaikundar. So for the present age, Akilattirattu Ammanai is the only 'Book of Perfection'. By this Ayyavazhi rejects all other scriptures and follows only Akilattirattu Ammanai.
Shamanism is still in practise in some worship centers. Some believe that through the words of these possessed persons one could be able to know what God tells about him or herself or their activities. As part of shamanic practice, they exhort the people on various matters, practiced divination (Kanakku) to discern the causes of sickness and misfortunes, and 'foretold future happenings'. The Akilattirattu Ammanai seems to have recognizes shamanic acts of worship. A quote in Arul Nool reads, "For imparting knowledge and making things clear, I kept those who practice divination in the temples."
Though shamanism was practised in Ayyavazhi, it was accepted by the scriptures only as an ignorant way of worship (beginning stage in worship) or the initial way to teach a beginner the metaphysics. But on the other hand, this shamanic actions in the worship centers of Ayyavazhi is quite often criticised by a large number of followers. Commonly it was believed that in 'Ayyavazhi possessions', the possessed person use to sit in the Padmasana posture and simply utter or speak to the audience instead the 'posed' person use to stand and dance, as now in practise. This act of 'standing and dancing' is mainly criticised seriously almost universally by Ayyavazhi followers.
Also, Akilam says about a false deity which was sent to the world by Narayana after Vaikundar attained Vaikundam. It also states that this False deity use to say, "I am Vaikundar, I was the one who married the deities and unified into myself." Also this false deity show many magic practices and also many miracles. Some people use to compare the shamanic actions to that of False deity. They cite several quotes from Ayyavazhi scriptures for their criticism. But with a different point of view the supporters of shamanism give different synonymous outputs for the quotes and strengthen their stands.
There is also a belief that Mudisoodum Perumal is a shaman, within whom Vaikundar was a divine power. Though this even was commonly not accepted, some theologians refers to some quotes in Akilam and Arul Nool to support their claim.
The mythology of Ayyavazhi narrates that the essence of this vision is an account of a history - a past, a present and a future - meant by weaving together of empirical facts, historical events as well as mythical accounts. It moves around three axiomatic typologies, namely Santror, Kali Yukam and Dharma Yukam, placing their base on the concepts and events of previous yugas which are associated also with Hindu mythology. The basic concepts give a symbolic vision which is at once religious and social.
It is closely linked to that of Hinduism. Akilam talks about the previous yugas and the advent of Kali, shares some events, mythical characters, and concepts with Hinduism, many of whom were engendered in different form. The number of Yugas and Avatars differs in Ayyavazhi from Hinduism. The personification of the entity of Evil, Kali is unique to Ayyavazhi, and not found in Hinduism. Akilam says that the true concepts were destroyed, so that all previous scriptures had lost their substances due to the advent of Kali.
The book also speaks of God incarnating in the world in the Kali Yukam (the present age) in order to destroy the evil spirit, the final and the most serious manifestation of Kroni. God incarnates as Vaikundar, and since Vaikundar lived recently, he was well known in history. So in the second part of the mythology many mythical as well as historical facts were woven together. Most of the events such as Muthirikkinaru, Wearing of Headgear during worship, Thuvayal Thavasu all were noted in history.
|3||Netu Yukam||Swadhisthana||Thillai mallalan and Mallosivahanan||Thirumal|
|4||Kretha Yuga||Manipura||Surapadman and Iraniyan||Muruga and Narasimha|
|8||Dharma Yuga||Sahasrara||none||Ayya Vaikundar|
- * Chakras:- The yugas assumed as chakras above, is one of the philosophical views and is not mentioned directly so in Akilam.
Though there are quotes in Arul Nool to accredit the ten Avatars of Vishnu, it seems that they are not seen in equal status with these incarnations (as in the table). It was considered secondary to the primary avatars which are associated with the destructions of the fragments of Kroni. This view, is not inconsistent with Hinduism as only Narasimha, Rama and Krishna are considered the primary avatars who are still worshipped. The other avatars are considered secondary avatars who are not worshipped.
 The utopian formula
The Ayyavazhi proposes an emancipatory utopia under the banner of Dharma Yukam. The basis of the belief is that Ayya Vaikundar had come to establish and rule over the Dharma Yukam in the place of Kali Yukam by sentencing Kroni to hell by the final judgement to him. The Dharma was taught 'to uplift the poor' and the result of that will be the Dharma Yukam.
Unlike in Hinduism, Ayyavazhi scriptures says about eight Yugas, and the final Dharma Yukam is said to be ruled over by Vaikundar as the everlasting king. There were no signs of circular conception with this eight yugas as in Hinduism. It presents a linear conception of time in Ayyavazhi by narrating Dharma Yukam beyond time and space.The circular conception of time was an essential ingredient of the theories of karma and rebirth. But Ayyavazhi seems to approve this karma and rebirth but place Dharma Yukam after completing or beyond all these. About Dharma Yukam, it was said that, "a reign ruled without the discriminations of caste creed and race". Ayya Vaikundar was said to rule along with the Santror and Seven Virgins as one.
Akilam points out its basis as an ideological regeneration of Hinduism in the form of an entirely new religious ideology. But today most of the followers of Ayyavazhi address Vaikundar merely as the incarnation of Vishnu. Likewise most of the Nizhal Thangals were called as Narayana Swami Pathi similar to Hindu, Vaishnavism. Most of the followers also worship Kali and folk deities not included the ideas based in Ayyavazhi scripture.
Some followers of Ayyavazhi include Ayya Vaikundar as part of the ten avatars of Vishnu as Kalki, and some denominations strongly advocate moksha, the personal liberation though it is not stated in Akilam. Some even reject the Ayyavazhi Trinity conception in Ayyavazhi and believe Narayana to be the supreme Universal power. The unique monotheistic belief which is the central theme of Ayyavazhi is completely unknown among most of the followers today. Deviating far away from the strict monotheistic teachings of Akilam, some thangals provides panividais for other lesser gods too.
The Ayyavazhi's spread among the common people was mainly due to the practice of Shamanism. The only sign to distinguish the practitioners of Ayyavazhi is they wore Thirunamam (the sign on their forehead).The Nizhal Thangals is identified by the presence of Mirror in the Palliyarai. All the rest are the same as Hinduism, deviating from the original theme of Ayyavazhi. Only the recitations of a handful of scholars educated in the Ayyavazhi scriptures point out the real facts and concepts of Akilam and the philosophical and ideological deviation of Ayyavazhi from Hinduism.All these philosophical, ideological and religious variations in the society of Ayyavazhi makes them hard to be identified as a religion and instead mistook them as an offshoot of Hindu tradition.
 Hinduism and Ayyavazhi — Relation
The Hindu and Ayyavazhi ideology is closed tied to each other. The place where Ayyavazhi and Hinduism differs was, from the advent of Kali yuga. Akilam says that till Kali Yuga the Vedas and all other Hindu scriptures remain with divinity. Each of the gods in Hinduism also remain with all their powers. But from the beginning of Kali Yuga they and all their virtues collapsed. One because of the fact that Kaliyan bought all the Vedas and the powers of all God-heads as boons from Siva, the then supreme of all Devas. So all Gods and the scriptures have to obey him. Secondly, Kaliyan performed several additions to the true scriptures for his comforts and so it couldn't be identified that, which parts of them are genuine.
So for this time, all true scriptures had gone awry and the god-heads get bounded to Kaliyan and remain unhelpful to the people and save from them from the sufferings. On the other hand, there in Kailash, Siva believing the words of devas, created Kaliyan without discussing to Vishnu, who was one among the Trimurthi and he who had the responsibility to destroy the Kaliyan as per the previous deeds. So Vishnu refuse to took birth in the world to destroy Kaliyan. So Siva and Brahma surrendered all their powers to Vishnu. Till this event, Siva is the supreme power as per Akilam. This is a theological idea similar to Saivism, where Siva is supreme to all. But from now onwards Vishnu was the supreme power. Here the ideology changes similar to that of Vaishnavism. This supremacy of Vishnu remains like this from the beginning of Kali Yuga till the incarnation of Vaikundar. From there it changes further.
During the incarnation, Vishnu himself can't incarnate directly in the world to destroy Kaliyan, since he had bought as boon, the power of Devas including Vishnu's. So Lekhsmi and Vishnu united inside the sea and take the Power of Ekam, the supreme oneness and give birth to a child, Vaikundar.
And from now onwards all the powers was again handled over from Vishnu to Vaikundar inside the sea. And also Siva and Brahma forms a part within Vaikundar along with Vishnu. This ideology about Trimurthi (three are equal in power) is similar to that of Smartism. Vishnu alone forms a double role; One, within Vaikundar and other as the father of Vaikundar, remain inside the sea and regulating Vaikundar. Since Vaikundar is given birth, by assuming the Power of Ekam, Vaikundar is supreme to Vishnu and all other God-heads, though Narayana pays the role of Father to Vaikundar. But on the other hand Vaikundar had to obey the order of Vishnu, since Vaikundar was given birth to do the work of Vishnu, which he coudn't do.
Also as told earlier, since Kaliyan bought all vedas, power of God -heads, etc as boons God cannot incarnate in the world so as the privious times and as per the existing rules and regulations. So a total universal transformation on — the power relation of god-heads, the rules of scriptures, the dharmas etc took place. Meanwhile all old-scriptures, gone awry. So, God incarnated as Vaikundar with a new set of rules and with unique importance. Since the Kaliyan spread in the world as maya, and is most serious to be destroyed, for first time the most supreme, Ekam (similar to Nirguna Brahman) incarnated in the world as Vaikundar. And so, Vaikundar is the only worshippable universal Power and so the scriptures given by him.
Regarding scriptures, the first part of Akilam is summed-up events of the previous yugas which are present in Hindu scriptures. The second part says about the universal transformation and the uniquness of Vaikundar and his incarnational activities.
So as a summary, till the beginning of Kali yuga, what is Hinduism, that is Ayyavazhi. From then onwards for a series of reasons, Akilam says that Hindu scriptures and it's ideology had lost its purity and was destroyed, and so the Dharma was re-configured in the name of Akilam and Vaikundar and so the Hindu ideas was re-formed.
 Ayyavazhi as a religion
Ayyavazhi worship was marked by its simplicity. The prayers, conducted in Tamil, brought home the religious sentiment in a direct and simple manner. The community aspect was another feature that distinguishes Ayyavazhi worship. The absence of idol worship and priestly mediation, and inclusion of alternate type of centres of worship, the Pathis and Nizhal Thangals, were other characterised Ayyavazhi worship. The concepts of Panividai (ritual service) and Panividaiyalar (one who performs Panividai) as alternate forms of ritual service and ritual servant respectively added to the uniqueness of Ayyavazhi worship.
 Autonomous structure
The religious structure evolved in the path of Ayyavazhi scriptures and as a result it transfigured itself as an alternative religio-cultural system in the social category. The Ayyavazhi's addressed their religion as "Path of God" with the phrase "Ayya Vazhi". On one hand they believe that their tradition had come to replace all old traditions (religions), but on the other hand as the synopsis of the whole of world's religious knowledges. On one hand they believe, that Ayya had unified all deities of the world and so all the so called deities within him. But on the other hand as, all previous had gone awry by the advent of Vaikundar.
Though the ritual practices of Ayyavazhi seems as a reform or revolutionary activity highly focusing social-equality deviating from Hinduism, it was also characterised and bound by religious beliefs which give it an alternative spiritual meaning. Both synonyms for the rituals highlights the singularity of Ayyavazhi on social and religious grounds respectively. The Ayyavazhi scriptures covers almost all basic elements and ideas through-out Hinduism. It refers to Shastras, Agamas, Vedas and Puranas. It too refers to Jesus and the Islamic concept of 'Allah'. But address them all to be gone awry by the Advent of Vaikundar, from where Ayyavazhi scriptures forms negative ideas over all other traditions. Though Ayyavazhi shares many god-heads with Hinduism, it weaves unique ideology and power assumption for them. Apart from this, Ayyavazhi have separate theology, mythology, holy places, worship centres, and ethics of its own.
Akilam also pour hatred on religion based variations and points it as the foremost Kali mayai (evil of Kali), mainly for the partition of mankind which leads to social enmity. So on this degree it highly condemns exclusivistic religious and theological ideas. The scriptures also teaches that God and his activities are beyond the reach of religions. It also preaches about universal oneness.
Though many of its followers consider it as a separate religion, there is evidence that some of the followers are even of the opinion that this is but a Hindu sect rather than an autonomous religion. They indulge in the mystic practices of possessions and divinations similar to the tribal religions of Tamil Nadu. Apart from the listings from the religious head quarters, though it is evident that Ayyavazhi followers are spread across the South India(from University papers) there are no official figures for the number of followers of Ayyavazhi and the followers are considered Hindus in the census. Ayyavazhis assert that many core beliefs are similar to some Hindu sects such as Advaita and Smartism.
 See also
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- A Story of Revolutionist - MSN (Tamil)
- Ayyavazhi - Yahoo (Tamil)
- The Film 'Ayyavazhi' - Contradiction:Yahoo News (Tamil)
 External links
- www.vaikunt.org - Ayyavazhi
- www.ayyavaigundar.org - Avatar
- www.nairs.org - Views on Vaikundar as a saint
- www.nandhi.com - Ayya Narayana
- www.ayyavazhi.org - Ayya Vaikundar The Spiritual light
- www.ayyavazhi.com - The Home page of Ayyavazhi film
- www.ayyaundu.org - Siddantha of Ayyavazhi