Ayyavazhi is a popular religion in the Indian subcontinent, which dominates the South Travancore region and also the southern part of Tirunelveli. Followers of religion believe in a god who is worshiped in Swamithoppe. In the 1940s religion marked an extraordinary expansion, especially after the publication of the first written rules and regulations commonly known as Akilam. They came together to worship Ayya Vaikundar and had two religious books called “Akilattirattu Ammanai” and “Arul Nool” which have prayer songs, prophetic songs and a guide to all their practices.
The final victory
After Ayya Vaikundar, the founder of Ayyavazhi, had completed his mission on earth and joining the Santror, he now had to reach Vaikundam. He sang asking Thirumal to come for him that had been done. He was given a crown and another paraphernalia and placed him on the throne and was thereafter to be worshiped by all the people on earth.
Foundation and initial expansion
Ayya was Ayyavazhi’s father and came up with his code of ethics. He gave the rules to the first followers known as the Five Cities and ordered them to conduct the initial. Remarkable is the fact that the converts came from the marginalized and low caste of the community, in particular from the Nadar caste. They gathered in places of worship called Nizhal Thangals. The congregation of Thuvayal Thavasu, commonly known as Thuvayal Pandaram, was the first to be converted and evangelized the gospel of Vaikundar across the country. Payyan, the boy from Thirumalammal, was the only one authorized to do panivedei in Ayya. He started offering swamithoppe pathi, a ritual that was taken by his descendants.
Growth after Indian independence
The Ayyavazhi religion marked a great expansion after India reached self-government, especially in the northern regions of Tamil Nadu. Many places of worship have been built and today it boasts of over 8,000 Nizhal Thangals. During this time, the faithful of Ayyavazhi emerged as a sign of identification of a Lotus and a Namam. In 1975, the Masi procession began and was mentioned as the largest procession in the Tamil Nadu region.
Religious signs and symbols
Followers of the Ayyavazhi religion have different signs and symbols used in worship, including a sign that moves from top to bottom on the front of the head generated using white powdered earth, Hindus have a “U” shaped symbol “made with ash dust.
While performing their religious activities, the men of Ayyavazhi wear a headdress to symbolize the royalty and crown that every king wears as they rule the world.
Worship using Mirror Reflection
The Ayyavazhi pray in front of a mirror and show respect for their god by doing so. Two lamps with oil are also placed in the room. This can also be found in their homes near their consecrated places of worship. The interpretation of this is that God is within us and we should not look for it anywhere else.
The Ayyavazhi consider the Tamil words as saints while the Hindus refer to Sanskrit as a sacred language.
Various beliefs, habits and practices
The Ayyavazhi up to now believe that Vaikundar came from Narayana in Kali Yukam unlike the Hindus who believe that Kali is the reincarnation of Narayana and will come to do away with the evil
The Ayyavazhi also believe that the spirit of kali Yuga has become redundant immediately after the Vaikundar Avatar was born, but the Hindus say that the Spirit of Kali Yuga is still there.
On the question of Yukam, the Ayyavazhi trusts eight Yukams while the Hindus follow a system of four Yukams. The Ayyavazhi personifies Kroni’s evil and sees it as a devil. This is in contrast to Hindus who do not personify the devil.
Trimurthi refers to the triple Brahmas views. The Ayya Vazhi recognizes that Visnu, Siva and Brahma refer to the same supernatural being and have the same mandates. However, Hindus consider the three aspects of God in order of seniority.
Concerning the issues concerning those responsible for the world, Ayyavazhi accords such respect to Vaikundar while Hinduism does not recognize Vaikundar but confesses to Sati Yuga.
The Ayyavazhi have minimal rituals but the spouses head south to Thuvaraiyam Pathi and all those present are led by the clergy to sing mantras and advise the couple. In Hinduism, it is only the priest who sing the mantras individually and praises the newly married.
Funeral Sendoff Rituals
The Ayyavazhi bury the dead in front of the geographic north without a coffin, while the Hindus burn the dead except for small children or a religious leader.