ethnic group

poptime=about 600,000 (0.7% of Tamil populationFact|date=October 2007
popplace=Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Delhi, USA
rels=Vishishtadvaita Hinduism
langs= Tamil, Kannada, Telugu
related=Madhva, Iyer, Vadama

Iyengar or Ayyangar (Tamil:அய்யங்கார், Kannada:ಐಯಂಗಾರ್) is the name given to Hindu Brahmins of Tamil origin who follow the Visishtadvaita philosophy propounded by Sri Ramanujacharya.An Universal History, Pg 109] They are found mostly in Tamil Nadu as they are generally native to the Tamil country. But they are also found in significant numbers in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

Iyengars are Pancha Dravida Brahmins. Their mother tongue can be either Tamil, Kannada or Telugu.

The Iyengars have been thriving as a single community since the time of Ramanuja. However, in many cases, both Iyers and Iyengars are mistakenly referred to as "Ayyar" as they are indistinguishable from Iyers in their adherence of the Brahmanaical tradition. However, devout Iyengars sport a "namam" (Sricharanam) as a caste-mark as opposed to Iyers who apply "vibhuti" [ [http://www.kamat.com/kalranga/people/iyengars/4172.htm Photos of Iyengars, From Kamat's Potpourri] ] .


The word "Iyengar" is a relatively new name and was not used in any medieval works or scriptures. The word "Sri Vaishnava" would therefore be the right word to describe them, though all of them could be called as Sri Vaishnava Brahmins.Cite web|url=http://www.geocities.com/pivasso/corehtml/kaliyur_iyengars.htm|title=Kaliyur Iyengars|accessdate=2008-09-05] The word Iyengar itself, meaning one who is characterized by five attributes (Aindu angangal), is independent of the person's Varna or caste. Rather, it indicates the philosophical affiliation of the adherent. However, in current day practice, the term is taken to indicate brahminical roots as most people who affiliated themselves with the philosophy were from the Brahmin castesCite web|url=http://www.ancestry.com/facts/Iyengar-name-meaning.ashx|title=The "Iyengar" Surname|accessdate=2008-09-04|publisher=ancestry.com] [ [http://www.answers.com/topic/iyengar-1 Meaning of "Iyengar"; from Answers.com] ] .


Though Vaishnavite deities have been worshipped in the Tamil country at least since the beginning of the Christian era, the origin of Iyengars as a separate community dates from the 10th century AD when Ramanuja lived.Castes and Tribes of Southern India, Pg 348]

The community started taking shape about 1000 years ago, and traces its philosophical origins to Nathamuni, a Sri Vaishnava Acharya, who lived around 900 CE. Nathamuni, who was exposed to the divine outpourings of Nammazhwar and other Azhwars (Sri Vaishnava Saints from Southern India) introduced the philosophy of Azhwars into temple worship [http://www.srivaishnavam.com/index.html "A brief description of Nalayira divya prabandham"] ] . Nathamuni's efforts were formalized into a religious system of lifestyle, practice and worship by Ramanuja who propounded the philosophy of Visishtadvaita [http://www.srivaishnava.org/sva/natha.htm A brief biography of Sri Nathamuni, from srivaishnava.org] ] [ [http://www.acharya.org/articles/ramanuja74.html Ramanujar and 74] ] [ [http://www.stephen-knapp.com/ramanuja.htm "Ramanuja" from stephen-knapp.com] ] . Ramanuja showed that the mystic insights of the Azhwars were the same truths enshrined in the Vedas, and created a group of people whose identity as servants of Narayana focussed on the fact that all sentient beings were 'equal' being children of the same Supreme Being, and that outward bodily differences in terms of varna and caste were unimportant in terms of one's relationship to the Supreme. Ramanuja had Srivaishnava (Iyengar) disciples spanning the social gamut, including non-brahmin saints such as Pillai Uranga Villi Dasar [ [ http://www.saranagathi.org/acharyas/ramanuja/life.htm Biography of Ramanuja] ] and Tripura-devi, a lady disciple known for her unwavering devotion to Ramanuja.Cite web|url=http://www.thondavadi.com/|title=LORD VARADARAJA SWAMY OF THONDAVADI|accessdate=2008-09-04]

Edgar Thurston, in his work "Castes and Tribes of Southern India" explains that Vaishnavite Brahmins were all converted Smarthas. To support his view, he explains how some families of Iyengars observe death pollution in some Smartha Brahmin families.

According to tradition, a large number of Vadamas have adopted Vaishnavism since the origin of the community in the 11th century ADCastes and Tribes of Southern India, Pg 334]


Iyengars are native to the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Their numbers are evenly distributed all over Tamil Nadu with a majority of them, however, residing along the Cauvery Delta. G. S. Ghurye, Pg 393] cite book | title=The Imperial Gazetteer of India, Volume XVI| last=| first=| year=1908| pages=272| publisher=Clarendon Press| location=London] cite book | title=Madura District Gazetteer Vol 1| last=Francis| first=W.| date=1906| pages=84| publisher=Government of Madras| location=Madras]

Fairly significant numbers are present in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. A large number of Iyengars migrated to Karnataka in the 11th century AD. Their descendants are called Hebbar Iyengars [http://www.nilacharal.com/tamil.html Article claiming that Hebbars were migrants who moved from Tamil Nadu in the 11th century AD and that the language of Hebbars is derived from an archaic form of Tamil] ] .


The mother tongue of most Iyengars is Tamil. However, they speak a unique Iyengar dialect often called Vaishnava Paribhaashai. This dialect is almost identical with the Iyer dialect known as Brahmin Tamil, the difference only being in the level of Sanskritization. Scholars have often refused to recognize it as a separate dialect regarding it only as a sub-dialect of Brahmin Tamil. However, Iyengars in Karnataka speak a dialect that has a significant Kannada substrate, which has descended from medieval Tamil. Iyengars in southern Andhra Pradesh speak both Tamil and Telugu.


By philosophy

Iyengars are divided into different sects based on their beliefs or region. Based upon their beliefs, Iyengars are classified into Thenkalai, or "Iyengars of the Southern Descencion", and Vadakalai, or "Iyengars of the Northern Descention", with subtly different philosophical and ritual interpretations of Ubhaya Vedanta. [http://members.tripod.com/~sriramanujar/tVsv.html Similarities, Differences and Distinctions between Vadakalai and Thenkalai Iyengars] ] Scholarly opinion is mixed as to the origin of the two names. Some believe that the terms "Southern" and "Northern" refer to differing regional developments, the Southern or Thenkalai predominating in the south of the Tamil country and the Northern or Vadakalai predominating in the north. Others argue that they reflect the importance or primacy given to Tamil Scripture, Divya Prabandham, by the former and of the Sanskrit Vedanta by the latter [http://www.remalla.com/iyengars.html Article on Iyengars] ] .The Vadakalais, who trace their philosophical origins to the insightful Vedanta Desika, asseverate primacy to Sanskrit and Vedas, and believe that human effort is a contributory factor to liberation, as is Divine grace. Despite these differences, however, both traditions uniformly revere the same teachers from the Alvars down to Ramanuja and largely agree in their core philosophies. The differences seen today stem primarily from social conflicts stemming from rivalries at large temples dating from the 18th centuryFact|date=March 2008. Thengalai Iyengars follow Ramanuja and Manavala Mamuni . While Vadagalai Iyengars follow Ramanuja and Thuppul Vedanta Desika.

Edgar Thurston summarizes the points of dissention between Vadagalai and Thengalai Iyengars thus:Castes and Tribes of Southern India, Pg 350]

# Whether Lakshmi, the consort of Vishnu, is (Vibhu) co-omnipresent and co-illimitable with Vishnu ;
# Whether Lakshmi is only the mediatrix for, or the co-bestower of moksham or final beatitude ;
# Whether there is any graduated moksham attainable by the good and blessed, according to their multifarious merits ;
# Whether prapatti, or unconditional surrender of the soul to god, should be performed once for all, or after every act of spiritual rebellion ;
# Whether it (prapatti) is open to all, or is prescribed only for those specially prepared and apprenticed ;
# Whether the indivisibly atomic human soul is entered into, and permeated or not by the omnipresent creator ;
# Whether god's mercy is exerted with or without cause ;
# Whether the same (the divine mercy) means the overlooking (dhosha darsanam) or enjoyment (dhosha bogyatvam) of the soul's delinquencies ;
# Whether works (karma) and knowledge (Jnana) are in themselves salvation giving, or only lead to faith (bhakthi) by which final emancipation is attained ;
# Whether the good of other (unregenerate) castes should be tolerated according^ to their j^raduated social statuses, or should be venerated without reference to caste inequalities ;

An almanack dated 1765 divides Iyengars into Tadwadis and Ramanuja Vaishnavas. While the author mentions Kumbakonam as the headquarters of the Tadwadi sect he mentions Kanchipuram as the headqarters of the ramanuja Vaishnavas.

By origin

Iyengars, both Vadakalai and Thenkalai, are sub-divided into Hebbar, Mandyam and Sholiyar.


The Hebbars speak an unique dialect of Tamil called Hebbar Tamil. In the earlier years,confined to the towns of Belur, Shanti Grama, Nuggehalli, Nonavinakere and Bindiganavile in the Tumkur district of Karnataka are now found in many parts of the country and in USA. Hebbars are the descendants of Sri Vaishnavas who migrated to Karnataka from Tamil Nadu, in the train of the Vaishnavite acharya Ramanuja.


Mandyam Iyengars are those who migrated to Mandya district in Karnataka from Tirupathi in Andhra Pradesh. They are fewer in number than Hebbars and speak an unique dialect of Tamil known as Mandyam Tamil. Mandyam Iyengars, without exception,belong to the Thenkalai subsect

Sholiyar or Chozhiar

The word Chozhiar means “of the Chola country”. Chozhiar is the name given to a sect of Brahmins native to the Chola country. While most Chozhiars profess Saivism,some profess Vaishnavism and are known as Chozhiar Iyengars. Chozhiyar Iyengars are considered inferior to other sects of Iyengars.Castes and Tribes of Southern India, Pg 352] Vaishnavite Chozhiyars often intermarry with their Smartha counterparts. They usually bear titles as ‘"Dikshitar’’’ or ‘"Nambi’’’.


"See Also:Vishishtadvaita and Sri Vaishnavism"

Many Iyengars accept Narayana / Vishnu as the Supreme Being (Paramatma), and subscribe to a monotheistic philosophy of a Supreme Being who is the primal, substantive and supportive cause of the manifest and unmanifest universe. But it will appear strange for a Southerner to know that Vishishtadvaitam as practised in South India is an unheard term among the Vaishnav Sects in the North India.

They also recognize all other gods such as Brahma, Indra, Shiva, Agni in the Hindu pantheon as "subservient" to Narayana and amongst the jeevatmas (sentient souls, chit) whose existence is dependent upon the will of the Supreme Being.

The Lord of Kanchi is believed to have manifested Himself to Saint Tirukachi Nambi and have revealed the following six principles which form the six precepts of Visishtadvaita [ [http://www.saranagathi.org/ The Six Principles of Visishtadvaita] ] [ [http://www.trsiyengar.com/id54.shtml"Committing offences to the Sri Vaishnavas" By Sri Sri Nitai Das Prabhu] ] :
# Sriman Narayana is the supreme self; unparalleled and unsurpassed - Ahameva Param Tatvam.
# The lord has all the insentient and sentient as his body, and He is the soul of everything - Darsanam Bhedam Eve Cha.
# The way to get salvation is surrendering to the feet of the Lord - Upayeshu Prapatisyaat.
# There is no need to adopt contemplation on the Lord during our final breath - Anthima Smruthi Varjanam.
# After the soul departs from the material body, it gets salvation if he/she adopted the means of surrender (saranagathi) -Dehaavasaane Mukthisyaat.
# One should approach a fully qualified Vaishnava acharya and get enlightened - (Poorna)achaaryam Samaasraya.

Sri Vaishnavam draws authority from the "Prasthana Thraiyam", namely, Upanishads, Brahma Sutra, and Bhagavad Gita [http://www.ahobilamutt.org/intro.html "Ahobila Mutt" Home Page] ] .

In addition to the "Prastana Thraiyam", Sri Vaishnavas consider the Tamil hymns of twelve saints called Alvars [http://www.indiantemples.com/Tamilnadu/vishnu.htm A brief history of Alwars and the 108 Divya Desams or Abodes of Vishnu] ] as equal in authority to that of the Vedas. These hymns are called the Divya Prabandha [http://www.acharya.org/divyapr/index.html "Nalayira Divya Prabandham" free download] ] . The teachings found in "Divya Prabhandham" are completely consistent with the teachings of the "Prasthana Thraiyam". Therefore, Sri Vaishnavas consider the Dhivya Prabhandhams to be equal in status to the Vedas. For this reason, Sri Vaishnavas are called Ubhaya Vedantis.

The Vaishnavite tradition began in the Puranic period.Fact|date=April 2008 Most Iyengars follow an unbroken lineage of Acharyas. After the period of the Tamil Saints called "Azhvars", the Divya Prabandha was lost.Fact|date=April 2008 During the 9th century C.E., "Sri Nathamuni" retrieved them by the grace of Nammalvar and re-established Sri Vaishnavism. For this reason "Sriman Nathamuni" is considered the first Acharya of the modern era. In the line of Acharyas that followed, Ramanuja is considered the greatest. Among his many achievements the commentary he wrote for Brahma Sutra, called Sri Bhashyam is considered by many to be the best.Fact|date=April 2008

Among the Acharyas after Sri Ramanuja, Sri Vedantha Desika and Sri Manavalamamuni are considered preeminent [ [http://www.srivaishnavam.com/desikan.html Biography of "Vedanta Desikan"] ] [ [http://www.ramanuja.org/sv/acharyas/desika/stotras/gopalavimsati.html "Gopala Vimsati" stothra of Vedanta Desikan] ] [ [http://www.ibiblio.org/sripedia/ramanuja/archives/apr06/pdf2g7sFucxgB.pdf "Sri Manavalamamnighal Thiruvarasu Project"] ] . After the time of these two great saints several Sri Vaishnava religious orders disciples of Swami Sri Desikan. Sri Ahobila Matam is the second oldest in this line [ [http://www.ahobilamutt.org/Acharyas/AcharyasMenu.html List of Acharyas from "Ahobila Matam" mwebsite] ] [http://www.radioramanuja.com/acharyas/OranVazhiAcharyas.pdf List of Oran-Vazhi Lineage of Vaishnavite Teachers] ] .

Religious observances


The rituals practised by Iyengars are very much the same as that of Iyers. This similarity, is mainly due to the common origin of Iyengars and Iyers. The rituals which form a part of the person's life are "Jatakarma", "Upanayanam" [ [http://www.trsiyengar.com/id14.shtml "Holy thread, why should I wear it? What benefit do I get out of it?" by T.R.S.Iyengar] ] [ [http://www.trsiyengar.com/id85.shtml Requirements for an Iyengar "Upanayanam" by T.R.S.Iyengar (in Tamil)] ] and "Tarpanam" [ [http://www.trsiyengar.com/id149.shtml Tarpana Manthram (in English)] ] .


Amongst all Srivaishnavas, there is an unique intiation ceremony into the Vaishnavite Brahmin brotherhood along with the "Upanayanam".Castes and Tribes of Southern India, Pg 349] The Vasihnavite youngster is intiated into Iyengar fraternity by branding him with the "Chakram"(wheel) and the "sanghu"(conch), which are holy symbols associated with Lord Vishnu. The ceremony of initiation called "samasrayanam" is usually carried out by the head of a Vaishnavite mutt. The knot in the sacred thread worn by Vaishnavites is known as "Vishnu Grandhi" as opposed to those worn by Smarthas which is known as "Rudra Grandhi". Castes and Tribes of Southern India, Pg 277]


"See Also: Iyer Weddings"

A typical Iyengar wedding are made up of the following events [ [http://www.shaadionline.com/sol/asp/rnc/rituals-customs.asp?ComID=57 Ritual ceremonies and customs, Tamil Iyengar wedding] ] :Vethalaipakku, Pandalkal, Janwaasam, Nischayathartham, Nandi or Vratham, Kashiyathrai, Oonjal, Piddishuttal, Kanyadaanam, Mangalaya Dharanam, Akshathai, Homam, Saptapadi, Nagoli, Vasthra, Gruhapravesham, Sambandhi Virandhu and Reception cite news | last= Gariyali| first= C. K. | title= Iyengar Marriage - Part 1 | date=March 11, 2002 | url =http://chennaionline.com/columns/DownMemoryLane/diary156.asp | work =Chennai Online | accessdate = 2008-09-04] cite news | last= Gariyali| first= C. K. | title= Iyengar Marriage Rituals - Part Four | date=April 16, 2002 | url =http://chennaionline.com/columns/DownMemoryLane/diary159.asp | work =Chennai Online | accessdate = 2008-09-04]

Lifestyle and culture

"See Also: Traditional Iyer Ethics,Traditional Attire"

The first and foremost point of references for Iyengars with regard to their legal system is the Manusmriti. The Manusmriti prescribes a set of ethical vales to be pratcised. Iyengars of certain subsects of the Vadagalai sect, in particular, rigorously follow the set of values prescribed by the Manusmriti. However, of late, most of these injunctions have been discarded.

The traditional dress of Iyengars is the same as that of other South Indian Brahmins. During religious ceremonies, Iyengar men clothe themselves in a "panchagacham" and an "angavastram". Just like Iyers, Iyengar women wear a nine-yard long saree known as the "madisar".

Iyengars sport the Sricharanam as a caste-mark as opposed to Iyers who apply vibhuti.


Post-independence, Iyengars, along with Iyers, have been marginalized by the anti-Brahmin Movement in Tamil Nadu [ [Are Brahmins the Dalits of Today http://in.rediff.com/news/2006/may/23franc.htm] ] [ [Dalits in Reverse, an article from Indian magazine The Outlook http://www.outlookindia.com/full.asp?fodname=20050411&fname=Brahmins+(F)&sid=1] ] . Prior to independence, Iyengars along with Iyers, held a monopoly over education and had a firm control over the administrative machinery in Madras province [ [http://www.tehelka.com/story_main17.asp?filename=Ne042206superiority.asp "Superiority in Numbers" from "Tehelka.com", April 22,2006] ] [ [http://www.tamilnation.org/caste/nambi.htm "Caste and the Tamil Nation" by Nambi Arroran, from "tamilnation.org"] ] . The Iyengar community can take just pride in having produced the first Congress Chief Minister of Madras province, the first Indian Governor-General of India and a leading luminary of the freedom movement, Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari [ [http://www.ceeby.com/people/Rajaji.cfm A brief biography of Rajaji] ] . However, ironically, it was partially to Rajaji's policies, that Tamil Brahmins, owe their downfall. A couple of legislations brought into effect by the Rajaji Government that ruled from 1937 to 1940 and 1950 to 1952 decreed that the children in a family should learn and master the trade of their parents and that Hindi should be made compulsory for government jobs [ [http://www.geocities.com/tamiltribune/03/0101.html A brief timeline of Anti-Hindi agitations in Madras province (later Tamil Nadu)] ] [ [http%3a//www.geocities.com/tamiltribune/99/1202.html Anti-Hindi agitations in Tamil Nad, "Tamil Tribune"] ] . These legislations, more than anything else, were responsible for vitiating the communal atmosphere in the province resulting in the rapid growth of the Dravidian Movement. These were fueled by the jealousy of non-Brahmin upper castes and fears of Brahmin domination amongst the lower castes and Dalits.Fact|date=April 2008 Rajaji was elected for a second term in 1952 but with Rajaji's resignation as Chief Minister two years later and his replacement by Kamaraj, the downfall began. Iyers and Iyengars were gradually effaced out of the political scene by the rise of Dravidianism and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam which captured power in 1967. Today, Iyengars, along with Iyers, have almost disappeared from the political arena with the exception of a few individuals. However, despite the elimination of the "Brahmin factor" from Tamil Nadu politics, Brahmin individuals still continue to wield considerable authority as the example of Jayalalithaa Jayaram, AIADMK supremo, two-time Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and the current Leader of Opposition in the Tamil Nadu Assembly would indicate.cite news | last= Ramachandran| first= Rajesh | title= Take 2 for Tambrams | date=April 2, 2004 | url =http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/595669.cms | work =The Times of India| accessdate = 2008-09-04]

Iyengars and Iyers

The Iyengar community has evolved mostly through the conversion of Smartha Brahmins and, to a lesser extent, non-Brahmins. Edgar Thurston says that a large number of Thummagunta Dravida Brahmins belonging to the Iyer subsect have been converting to Srivaishnavism even during his lifetime.He also states that the Vaishnavite Thummagunta Dravida marry only Thummagunta Dravida women and hence the numbers of Vaishnavite converts had been swelled through marriage alliances with the Thummagunta Smarthas. Iyengars have much in common with Iyers with respect to their observance of Vedic rituals, lifestyle, traditions, heritage, history and culture. They descend from the same set of Gotras. However significant differences arise mainly with respect to their adherence to the Vishishtadvaita philosophy, monastic affiliation, marriage traditions and to a small extent vocabulary. Another notable difference is the way the traditional nine yards saree(madisaar) is draped by the Iyengar women.

Iyengars today

Iyengars today have diversified into a variety of fields—their strengths particularly evident in the fields of law, mass media, science, engineering, mathematics and computer science.Fact|date=April 2008 However even today, a few Iyengars choose to pursue the vocation of priesthood. Iyengars have been active in the cultural field too. Music has always been integral to the Iyengar community; Carnatic music has a great tradition within the community. Apart from vocal music, instruments such as mridangam, naadaswaram, veena, ghatam, violin, and more recently, the mandolin etc., Bharatanatyam were also patronized. Carnatic music and Bharatanatyam together enjoy a rich patronage in the cultural festivities in and around Chennai during the months of December and January.


"See Also: Criticism of Iyers,Brahminism,Anti-Brahminism,Caste-Based Reservations in Tamil Nadu

The Manusmriti forbids Brahmins from eating with individuals of particular castes (particularly the Scheduled Castes) and prescribed a strict code of laws with regard to their day-to-day behavior and dealings with other castes. Iyengars of orthodox families along with Iyers generally obeyed these laws strictly.

cquote|It was found that prior to Independence, the Pallars were never allowed to enter the residential areas of the caste Hindus particularly of the Brahmins. Whenever a Brahmin came out of his house, no Scheduled Caste person was expected to come in his vicinity as it would pollute his sanctity and if it happened by mistake, he would go back home cursing the latter. He would come out once again only after taking a bath and making sure that no such thing would be repeated.

However, as a mark of protest a few Pallars of this village deliberately used to appear before the Brahmin again and again. By doing so the Pallars forced the Brahmin to get back home once again to take a bath drawing water from deep well.Cite web|url=http://www.tamilnation.org/caste/ramaiah.htm#Untouchability_in_villages|title=Untouchability in villages|accessdate=2008-08-19|publisher=tamilnation.org|author=A. Ramiah|work=Untouchability and Inter Caste Relations in Rural India: The Case of Southern Tamil villages]

Grievances and alleged instances of discrimination by Brahmins are believed to be the main factors which fuelled the Dravidian Movement."Caste in Indian Politics" by Rajni Kothari,Pg 254] This, in combination with the depressed economic and social conditions of non-Brahmins, led the non-Brahmins to agitate and form the Justice Party in 1916, which later became the Dravidar Kazhagam. The Justice Party banked on vehement anti-Hindu and anti-Brahmin propaganda to ease Brahmins out of their privileged positions. Gradually, the non-Brahmin replaced the Brahmin in every sphere and destroyed the monopoly over education and the administrative services which the Brahmin had previously held.cite news | last= Warrier | first= Shobha | title= 'Education is the means of social mobility' | date=May 30, 2006 | url =http://in.rediff.com/news/2006/may/30spec.htm | work =Rediff News | accessdate = 2008-08-19]

However, with the destruction of Brahmin monopoly over the services and introduction of adequate representation for other communities, anti-Brahmin feelings did not subside. On the contrary, they were fully exploited by politicians, who often indulged in anti-Brahmin rhetoric primarily in order to get non-Brahmin votescite news | last= | first= | title= Drive out anti-Tamil evil forces: DMK | date=February 16, 2008 | url =http://chennaionline.com/colnewsnew/newsitem.asp?NEWSID=%7B78F9F6AF-607D-44B3-8E54-C7D3152CA09F%7D&CATEGORYNAME=Chennai | work =Chennai Online News | accessdate = 2008-08-19] Cite web|url=http://www.blogs.ivarta.com/india-usa-blog-column42.htm|title= Aryan vs Dravidian — Lord Rama vs E V Ramaswamy ??? |accessdate=2008-08-19|publisher=India Varta|year=2007|author=V. Sundaram, I. A. S., Retd.] . Deprived of opportunities, Tamil Brahmins began to migrate en masse to other states in India and foreign countries in search of livelihood. cite news | last=Vishwanath | first=Rohit | title= BRIEF CASE: Tambram's Grouse | date=June 23, 2007 | url =http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Tambrams_Grouse/articleshow/2142389.cms | work =The Times of India | accessdate = 2008-08-19] There were frequent allegations of casteism and racism against Brahmins very similar to the ones made by the lower castes against them in the decades before independence.

However, despite accusations of casteism against Iyengars abd Iyers, there have been a number of instances wherein Iyengars have toiled to remove caste-barriers. Sir P. Rajagopalachari, during his tenure as the Dewan of Travancore brought forth legislations to permit Dalit and Izhava children in schools notwithstanding the vehement protests of the Malayali upper-castes.Ayyankali, Chapter 4:Kerala's First Workers Strike] It was also due to his efforts that restrictions towards nomination of low-castes and untouchables to the Travancore State Assmebly were removed.Ayyankali, Chapter 8:Praja Sabha Member-2e] Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, during his tenure as the Chief Minister of Madras Presidency enacted an act similar to the "Temple Entry Proclamation" issued in Travancore that permitted the entry of Dalits into Hindu temples.

Another important accusation hurled upon was that they were Sanskritists who entertained a distorted and contemptuous atitude towards Tamil language, culture and civilizationP.V.Manickam Naicker, writes in 'The Tamil Alphabet and its Mystic Aspect', 1917,Pg 74-75: "Even should Dutt's description of the aryanisation be true, the real Aryan "corpus" in South-India came to nothing. A "cranial study" of the various classes will also confirm the same. The lecturer, being a non-Brahmin, wishes to leave nothing to be misunderstood. His best and tried friends are mostly Brahmins and he is a sincere admirer of them. There is no denying the fact that the ancestors of the present Brahmins were the most cultured among the South-Indians at the time the said Aryanisation took place and got crystallized into a class revered by the people. As the cultured sons of the common mother Tamil, is it not their legitimate duty to own their kinsmen and to cooperate and uplift their less lucky brethern, if they have real patriotism for the welfare of the country? On the contrary, the general disposition of many a Brahmin is to disown his kinship with the rest of the Tamil brethern, to disown his very mother Tamil and to comstruct an imaginary untainted Aryan pedigree as if the Aryan alone is heaven-born] Zvelebil, Pg 197] [P.V.Manickam Naicker, in his "The Tamil Alphabet and its Mystic Aspect" writes: "At least one of them is explicit in his endeavour to establish page after page and chapter after chapter, untainted Aryan pedigree for the Brahmins and Brahmins alone among the South-Indians. As such, he has naturally no scruples to say that the Tamils have nothing excellent or high which can be claimed as their own. Whatever is bad in them is their heritage and whatever good in them they owe to Sanskrit.]

However, a detailed study of the history of Tamil literature proves this accusation wrong.Companion Studies to the History of Tamil Literature,Pg 216] The renowned Dravidologist Kamil Zvelebil, in his book "Companion Studies to the History of Tamil Literature", even goes to the extent of saying that the Brahmin was chosen as a scapegoat to answer for the decline of Tamil civilization and culture in the medieval and post-medieval periods. Companion Studies to the History of Tamil Literature,Pg 212] Companion Studies to the History of Tamil Literature,Pg 213] Professor George L. Hart in a speech in 1997 on Tamil, Brahmins, & Sanskrit rubbishes the claims of anti Brahmins that Brahmins favored Sanskrit to Tamil. [http://www.tamilnation.org/forum/aryan/index.htm Forum on Caste and the Tamil Nation] ]

cquote|Here are some facts:

1. Brahmins are only 2% of the population, yet they have contributed much more to Tamil literature than their number would indicate.

2. The purest (i.e. least Sanskritized) Tamil was written by the medieval Saiva Brahmin commentators on Tamil. For example, Parimelazakar translates the yoga asanas into Tamil, and the only way anyone can figure out what he is saying is to read the sub commentary (by Gopalakrishnamachari), who gives the original Sanskrit terms. You will find no Tamil any purer than that of Naccinarkkiniyar et al.

3. Brahmins have contributed to Tamil from Sangam times. Kapilar is one of the greatest Tamil poets.

4. Yes, of course Brahmins have had their own political agenda to push. They have been responsible for many things that I feel are entirely unconscionable. But is this any different from the other high castes? I have heard many many stories of high non-Brahmin castes killing and abusing Dalits. You can't blame the Brahmins for this.

5. You cannot blame the Brahmins for Sanskritizing Tamil. Tenkalai Aiyengars often use Tamil words where most non-Brahmins use Sanskrit ones. The Sanskrtization of Tamil is a very old process and cannot be understood except in an all-South-Asian context. The Bengali used in Bangladesh is highly Sanskritized, and the Muslims are quite proud of their language. The fact is, Sanskrit was the lingua franca of South Asia for intellectual purposes, much as Latin was in Europe. Buddhists used it, Jains used it, much as Spinoza, a Jew, wrote his philosophical treatises in Latin. The Tamil of Ramalinga Swamigal, a non-Brahmin, is highly Sanskritized.

The Nalayira Divya Prabandham is regarded as the Tamil Veda and is recited along with the Vedas during festival processions. cite book | title=Majesty and Meekness: : A Comparative Study of Contrast and Harmony in the Concept of God| last=Carman| first=John Braisted| date=1994| pages=101| publisher=Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing| id=ISBN 0802806937, ISBN 9780802806932]

Famous Iyengars

See List of Iyengars


See also

* Iyer
* Tamil people
* Vishishtadvaita
* Madhva Brahmins


* cite book | title=Caste and Race in India| last= Ghurye| first= G. S. | authorlink= |coauthors=| year=1991| publisher= Popular Prakashan| location=Bombay
* cite book | title=The Moden part of an universal history from the Earliest Account of Time, Vol XLIII| last=| first=| authorlink= |coauthors=T. Osborne, C. Hitch, A. Millar, John Rivington, S. Crowder, B. Law & Co, T. Longman, C. Ware| year=1765| publisher= Oxford University| location=London
* cite book | title=The Folk songs of Southern India| last= E. Gover| first= Charles| authorlink= |coauthors=| year=1871| publisher= Higginbotham & Co.| location=Madras
* cite book | title=Castes and Tribes of Southern India Volume I - A and B| last=Thurston| first=Edgar| authorlink= Edgar Thurston|coauthors=K. Rangachari| year=1909| publisher=Government Press| location=Madras
* cite book | title=Ritualizing on the Boundaries: Continuity and Innovation in the Tamil Diaspora| last=W. Clothey| first=Fred| authorlink=|coauthors=| year=2006| publisher=University of South Carolina| location=|id=ISBN 1570036470, ISBN 9781570036477
* cite book | title=The Smile of Murugan on Tamil Literature of South India| url=http://books.google.co.in/books?id=VF2VMUoY_okC&printsec=frontcover| last=Zvelebil | first=Kamil| authorlink=Kamil Zvelebil| year=1973| publisher=BRILL| id=ISBN 9004035915
* cite book | title=Companion Studies to the History of Tamil Literature | url=http://books.google.co.in/books?id=qAPtq49DZfoC&printsec=frontcover| last=V. Zvelebil| first=Kamil| author link=Kamil Zvelebil|year=1992| publisher=BRILL| id=ISBN 9004093656
* cite book | title=Some Contributions of South India to Indian Culture| last=Aiyangar| first=S. Krishnaswami| year=1919| publisher=University of Calcutta
* cite journal | author=E. V. Ramasami| title=Is this Nationalism?| journal=The Revolt| date=March 27, 1929| page=| url=http://www.evrperiyar-bdu.org/downloads/evrspeach.pdf
* Cite web|url=http://books.google.co.in/books?id=hgb-MKcsSR0C|title=E. V. Ramasami's Writings and Speeches|accessdate=2008-08-13|publisher=American Research Press|author=W. B. Vasantha Kandasamy, F. Smarandache, K. Kandasamy, Florentin Smarandache|work=Fuzzy and Neutrosophic Analysis of Periyar's Views on Untouchability
* cite book | title=Brahmin Women| last=Ghosh| first=G. K.| coauthors=Shukla Ghosh| year=2003| publisher=Firma KLM| id=ISBN 8171021077

External links

* [http://www.srivaishnava.info Sri Vaishnavam Today]
* [http://www.iyengaronline.com/ Website of the Iyengar Community]
* Mandayam (a.k.a. Mandyam) Iyengar Community: [http://www.mandyam.com/ Mandayams in India] , [http://na-mandayams.org/ Mandayams in the U.S. & other countries]
* [http://www.vadagalai.com Website of Vadagalai Iyengars]
* [http://www.hebbariyengar.org/?Home Website of Hebbar Iyengars]
* [http://www.vedics.net/ Vedics Foundation - Organization devoted to the philosophy of Ramanuja]
* [http://www.acharya.org/ Sri Vaishnava Sampradayam - Information about Sri Vaishnava Acharyas]
* [http://nathamuni-alavandar.org/ Nathamuni-Alavandar.org - Dedicated to Shriman Nathamungal and Shri Alavandar]
* [http://www.nama.info/ NAMA Inc.- An Association of SriVaishnavas]
* [http://www.parakalamatham.org/ Sri Parakalamath, Mysore]
* [http://www.ramanuja.org Sri Vaishnava Home Page]
* [http://www.ramanujamission.org/ Srirangam Srimad Andavan Periyaashramam]
* [http://www.ahobilamutt.org Ahobila Matam Home Page]
* [http://chinnajeeyar.org Sri Sri Sri Tridandi Srimannarayana Ramanuja Chinna Jeeyar Swamiji's Home page]
* [http://www.divyadesamonline.com/ Sri Vishnu Temples - 108 Divya desams]

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