Tamil vs. Sanskrit: Prayers Take a Violent Turn at Temple in India

  • 29 May 2019

Two sub-sects of the Hindu Brahmin community in Kancheepuram ended the prayers in a fight over the language that should be used to sing the Divya Prabandham hymns. This is not the first time both sects – Vadakalai and Thenkalai Iyengars – could not decide peacefully on the hymns to be sung before the deity at the Varadaraja Perumal temple in Kancheepuram.

The dispute started when a group of devotees protested to the singing of the ancient Prabandham hymns during a procession. Members of both groups were caught on camera in a brawl - pushing, shoving, and hitting each other in front of the deity.

According to The Hindu, the Lord's consort, Thirumangai Azhwar, was taken in a procession around Varadaraja Perumal, the stallion-mounted presiding deity. When the Thenkalai group began reciting hymns from the Divya Prabhandham, a collection of verses written by the 12 Alwars in Tamil, it angered the Vadakalai groups who were also present.

The main difference between Vadakalai and Thenkalai sects of the Iyengar community is the language used in the prayer books. The Vadakalai sect follows the Sanskrit-based traditions and the commandments of Vedic literature; and the Thenkalai sect focuses on Tamil-based traditions from the Alwar literature.

The two sects had previously argued over the shape of the namam (caste-mark) on the forehead of Lord Venkateshwara's idol in Tirumala – the Vadakalais wanted it to be in a U shape while the Thenkalais preferred the Y shape.

The Madras High Court ordered the Devarajaswamy Devasthanam in Kanchipuram to stop reciting the Tamil Prabandham, a collection of verses revered by the Thenkalai sect of Iyengars, written in Tamil last year. However, the court had observed, "Temple is a place of worship where anybody can pray. Unfortunately, as there is difference between Vadakalai and Thenkalai of Iyengar community, the issue is yet to attain finality. As long as this globe exists in the orbit, their differences would not be resolved. Instead terming themselves as 'human being', they should first know how to be 'being human'."

Photo Credit: Times Now & News Tamil 18

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