History of Ayyavazhi

The History of Ayyavazhi traces the religious history of Ayyavazhi, a belief-system originated in the mid-19th century in Southern India. Ayyavazhi came to be noticed by the large number of people gathering to worship Ayya Vaikundar in the middle of the 19th century. The majority of the followers of Ayyavazhi were from marginalised and poor sections of society.[1]

Right from the beginning of its development Ayyavazhi was seen in competition by the Christian missionaries on their mission. This is evident by the reports on Ayyavazhi presented by the Christian missionaries.[2] Although the majority of the followers of Ayyavazhi were from the Chanar caste (a social group), people of other castes also crowded around Vaikundar.[3] It was not usual at the time for people of different castes to intermingle.[4]

Early years

By the middle of the 19th century, Ayyavazhi had come to be a recognisable religion, in South Travancore and South Tirunelveli.[5] The growth of the religion increased significantly from the 1940s through the decades.[6] Almost a century after Akilam was written down, it was released in printed form for the first time in 1933. The first printed form of Arul Nool came in 1927. While some others view that it released first in 1918. And then onwards Ayyavazhi is spread on the base of the teachings of Akilam rather than by oral tradition, which was active until then. Ayyavazhi's fast growth in its first century of existence was noted by Christian missionary reports of the mid-19th century.[7] As per the reports from the headquarters, from the period of Indian Independence Ayyavazhi spreads quickly and furthermore from the 1990s.

Seedars and Thuvayal Pandarams

When Ayya was alive he instructed the five Seedars with the rules and regulations.[8] They were asked to preach them to the people. After he attained vaikundam, the disciples went to different parts of the country, preaching them to the people.[9]

The participants of Thuvayal Thavasu who were called Thuvayal Pandarams were the primary missionaries of Ayyavazhi who went to different parts of the country carrying the Gospels of Vaikundar. Also their descendents too do so.


According to some oral traditions Vaikundar called the son of Thirumalammal affectionately as Payyan (little boy). No one but Payyan was allowed to perform the panivedai to Ayya whenever the Citar were away. He was allowed to offer the Nithiya Pal to Ayya during the Tavam. And after the period of Ayya, Payyan started administrating the Swamithoppe Pathi, in spite of the disputes with Vellaicchamiyar who claimed for the administration in the court, but the judgement was in favour of Payyan. Other Pathis came under the administration of the native followers of Ayya of that places.[10] After the time of Payyan the descendants of him started the administration. The eldest of them was called Pattathu Ayya.

Pattathu Ayyas so far were,[11]

  1. Pattathu Ayya. Podukkutty
  2. Pattathu Ayya. Krishna Narayana Vadivu
  3. Pattathu Ayya. Chella vadivu
  4. Pattathu Ayya. Bala Krishnan
  5. Pattathu Ayya. Chella Raj
  6. Pattathu Ayya. Bala Prajapathi Adikalar

Though the eldest of the Payyans now is Anantha kutty Nadar, due to unknown reasons he refused to accept the rank.[12] So the next elder most, Bala Prajapathi Adikalar is considered as the present Pattathu Ayya.[13]

Nizhal Thangals

The Nizhal Thangals are the worship centers of Ayyavazhi built by devout followers of Ayya. Some of them are believed to be built when Ayya was alive. Eachenvilai Nizhal Thangals is Thalamai Nizhal Thangals (Like Thalamai Pathi Swamithoppe). Eachenvilai Thalamai Nizhal Thangals was the first one established and there is a Kai Vizhaku (lamp) lighted by Ayya himself in this temple. Many of the Nizhal Thangals were not under the rules of Ayyavazhi scriptures. Hundreds of Thangals arose in different parts of the country. Some were run by single individuals and some other by Ayyavazhi organisations and independent trusts.[14] But all were bonded under Swamithoppe only religiously by not officially. This rate of rise of Thangals even increased after the 1970s.

After Indian Independence

Ayyavazhi lotus
Symbol of Ayyavazhi, Lotus with Namam

The growth of Ayyavazhi after the independence of India is significant especially in the northern districts of Tamil Nadu.[15] Nizhal Thangals rose in hundreds throughout the state.[16] Around the 1940s, the Lotus with Namam was announced as the Symbol of Ayyavazhi. Many Ayyavazhi based social welfare movements raised in the late 20th century. Alternative to the commonly accepted Palaramachandran version, many other versions of Akilam were released during the late 20th century including some controversial versions. 27 years after the release of Palaramachandran Version, the most controversial Sentratisai Ventraperumal version of Akilam was released in 1966, while Vaikundar Thirukkudumbam Version was released in 1989.

Fast Spread

Bala Prajapathi Adikalar, the present Pattathu Ayya of Swamithoppe Pathi had a significant role in the later day developments of Ayyavazhi. He has been awarded communal harmony award in the year 2003.[17] From 1975 the Masi Procession (The Vaikunda Avatara Orvalam) was held and today it was one among the largest religious processions in Tamil Nadu. People from almost all the districts of Tamil Nadu and from some parts of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra participate in this procession. A few years later the Thiruvananthapuram procession and the Thiruchendur Procession were also held. From 1994 onwards The Vaikunda Avataram was declared as a holiday for the district of Kanyakumari. From the year 2006 Ayya Vaikunda Avataram was declared as a Holiday for the districts of Tirunelveli and Tuticorin.[18]

Also Ayyavazhi and its leaders played an important role in resolving the religious tensions during the Mondaicaud dispute. In 1993 a democratic body, Anbukkodimakkal Thirucchabai was formed by the headquarters to organise Ayyavazhi and its followers. Currently, Bala Prajapathi Adikalar, one of descendant of Payyan dynasty is considered as the leader of Ayyavazhi,[19] though some organisations oppose his lead. He has laid foundations for a large number of Nizhal Thangals throughout South India.[20]

Ayyavazhi conferences

Many conferences have been organized across the country. The first conference was held at Marthandam for three days on a date that is unknown.[21] Later, conducted at Valliyoor, Chennai, Arumuganeri, Nagercoil, Thiruvananthapuram and almost at all the taluk headquarters of Kanyakumari District. The Payyans as well as experts deliver lectures on the tenets of Ayyavazhi at the conferences. Thiru Edu-Vasippu is also conducted.[22]

See also


  1. ^ G.Patrick's, Religion and Subaltern Agency, Chapter 5, page 90
  2. ^ The LMS Reports itself were gathered in the article headed Ayyavazhi in reports by Christian missionaries
  3. ^ Ailattirattu Ammanai, published by T.Palaramachandran Nadar, 9th impression, 1989, Page 251:Akilam speaks of 18 castes's gathering around Vaikundar.
  4. ^ G.Patrick's, Religion and Subaltern Agency, Chapter 2, South Tiruvitankur
  5. ^ G.Patrick's, Religion and Subaltern Agency, Chapter 5, The Religious Phenomenon of Ayyavazhi, page 91 Sub-heading:Spread of the Phenomenon, line 1
  6. ^ G.Patrick's, Religion and Subaltern Agency, Chapter 5,page 92
  7. ^ See the LMS Reports gathered in the article Ayyavazhi in reports by Christian missionaries from the book Religion and Subaltern Agency.
  8. ^ G.Patrick's, Religion and Subaltern Agency, Chapter 5,
  9. ^ G.Patrick's, Religion and Subaltern Agency, Chapter 5, page 120
  10. ^ N.Elango and Vijaya Shanthi Elango Ayya Vaikuntar - The Light of the World, 1997, Chapter 8, Pancha Pathis, pages 41-43
  11. ^ N.Elango and Vijaya Shanthi Elango, Ayya Vaikuntar - The Light of the World, Chapter 4, The Gurukulam, (The Payyan dynasty is mentioned here as Gurukulam) pages 21
  12. ^ N.Elango and Vijaya Shanthi Elango, Ayya Vaikuntar - The Light of the World, Chapter 4, The Gurukulam, (The Payyan dynasty is mentioned here as Gurukulam) pages 21
  13. ^ In Swamithoppe Pathi, usually the Pattathu Ayyas use to lead other Panividaiyalars and use to carry the holy Pirambu and other things believed to be used by Ayya during the holy procession etc. Presently the "Pattathu Ayya" Anathakutty Nadar does not, and this was practiced by Bala Prajapathi Adikalar.
  14. ^ P.Sarvesvaran, Sri Vaikunda Swamikal - A Forgotten Social Reformer, page2-3
  15. ^ P.Sarvesvaran, Sri Vaikunda Swamikal - A Forgotten Social Reformer, page 2-3 : Here the author told about the spread of Ayyavazhi to other parts of Tamil Nadu, which means north to Kanyakumari.
  16. ^ C. Poulose, Advaita Philosophy of Brahmasri Chattamoi Swamikal, Chapter 2, page 24
  17. ^ The Hindu Report - The communal harmony award of the Tamil Nadu Government for the year 2003 was presented to Bala Prajapathi Adigalar of Kanyakumari district.
  18. ^ See the report on the news paper The Hindu- The report on declaration
  19. ^ N. Elango & Vijaya Shanthi Elango 1997 Ayya Vaikuntar - The Light of the World Chapter 4, Page 21-22 "The Gurus are Payyan Chella Raj, Bala Prajapathi, Bala Janathipathi, Balalokathipathi, Payyan Sami, Thangapandian and Sekar to name a few. Bala Prajapathi is the most popular personality of all of them."
  20. ^ N. Elango & Vijaya Shanathi Elango 1997, Ayya Vaikuntar - The Light of The World Chapter 4, Page - 22, "He has laid foundation stones for more than one thousand nizhal thangals."
  21. ^ N.Elango & Vijaya Shanthi Elango, Ayya Vaikundar - The Light of the World, Chapter 9, Page-53 :The date was not mentioned in the source
  22. ^ N.Elango & Vijaya Shanthi Elango, Ayya Vaikundar - The Light of the World, Chapter 9, page 53
Anbukkodimakkal Thirucchabai

Anbukkodimakkal Thirucchabai is a democratic bureau established by the religious headquarters of Ayyavazhi in the late 20th century. It was one among the latest developments in the religious history of Ayyavazhi.

In every village there will be formed a bench which was democratically elected. These village committees forms a block committee. Separate rules will be provided for them from the headquarters. And Bala Prajapathi Adikalar was the convenor of this bureau. This was formed mainly to organise the religion. Many conference are held in various cities in South India including Chennai, Marthandam, Vallioor, Nagercoil and Thiruvananthapuram. But some denominations of Ayyavazhi won't accept this Thirucchabai though most of them accepts Swamithope as the headquarters.

Anna Dharmam

Anna Dharmam is a term used for an Ayyavazhi ritual that involves sharing food without inter-dining. Inter-dining refers to the act of dining within one's own caste, and excluding others. The practice of Anna Dharmam may have emerged in association with inter-dining.

Ayya Vaikunda Avataram

The Ayya Vaikunda Avataram (Tamil: அய்யா வைகுண்ட அவதாரம் - Incarnation of Lord Ayya Vaikundar) is a festival celebrated by the followers of Ayyavazhi on the 20th day of the Tamil month of Masi, the date on which the Ayyavazhi followers believe that Lord Ayya Vaikundar arose from the sea at Thiruchendur as the son of Mummorthies as Narayana Pantaram to destroy the evil spirit of Kali and transform the Kaliyukam into Dharma Yukam. The 2018 date is March 4.This is the only Ayyavazhi festival which is celebrated simultaneously in all worship centres of Ayyavazhi on 19th Masi, the day before the date of incarnation of Vaikundar. The Ayya Vaikunda Avataram is a restricted holiday for the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. It is also a local holiday for the districts of Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli and Tuticorin districts. The Great Masi Procession from Nagercoil to Swamithope on the Avathar day is one among the largest religious processions in Tamil Nadu.

Ayyavazhi holy sites

The holy places of Ayyavazhi includes the following

Primary Pathis

Swamithope pathi

Ambala Pathi

Mutta Pathi

Thamaraikulam Pathi

Poo PathiOther Pathis

Vaikunda pathi

Vakai Pathi

Avathara PathiPrimary Thangals







PambankulamOther Important Thangals

Vellai Chuvamiyar Pathi

Veppankattu Pathi


Sidambara puram


Thysaiyan VilaiOther holy sites

Vaikunda Malai

Marunthuvazh Malai

Bala Prajapathi Adikalar

Bala Prajapathi Adikalar (also spelt Adigalar or Adigal) is considered as the present religious leader of Ayyavazhi. Ayyavazhi is not an organised religious system and so it does not fall directly under his control officially. But still religiously he was considered so. He has a considerable role in the History of Ayyavazhi, especially during the 1970s and 1980s. He was also awarded the Kottai Ameer award for communal harmony by the government of Tamil Nadu in 2003. Swamiji is born in Prajapati/Kumhar family.

Etymology of Ayyavazhi

This etymological topic deals with the origin, regeneration and evolution of various names by which Ayyavazhi is referred or identified throughout the period of Ayyavazhi history. Though the name 'Ayyavazhi' is commonly used and the most accepted term to represent Ayyavazhi there are other terms too which are used to refer it.

History of religion

The history of religion refers to the written record of human religious experiences and ideas. This period of religious history begins with the invention of writing about 5,200 years ago (3200 BCE). The prehistory of religion involves the study of religious beliefs that existed prior to the advent of written records. One can also study comparative religious chronology through a timeline of religion. Writing played a major role in standardizing religious texts regardless of time or location, and making easier the memorization of prayers and divine rules. The case of the Bible involves the collation of multiple oral texts handed down over the centuries.The concept of "religion" was formed in the 16th and 17th centuries, despite the fact that ancient sacred texts like the Bible, the Quran, and others did not have a word or even a concept of religion in the original languages and neither did the people or the cultures in which these sacred texts were written.The word "religion" as used in the 21st century does not have an obvious pre-colonial translation into non-European languages. The anthropologist Daniel Dubuisson writes that "what the West and the history of religions in its wake have objectified under the name 'religion' is ... something quite unique, which could be appropriate only to itself and its own history". The history of other cultures' interaction with the "religious" category is therefore their interaction with an idea that first developed in Europe under the influence of Christianity.

Index of Andhra Pradesh-related articles

This is glossary index of articles and categories about Andhra Pradesh state in India. This index is as on 20 September 2013.

Index of Telangana-related articles

This is an index of all articles related to Telangana.

Muthiri kinaru

Muthiri Kinaru (Tamil: முத்திரி கிணறு) is the sacred well located in the north-western corner of Swamithoppe village. This is the famous theertha of the temple. It is located half a kilometre west from the main Pathi.

Historically, this well plays a major role in joining the people in this part of the country, breaking the caste-based discrimination that once prevailed among them. Before and during the period of Lord Vaikundar, this part of the subcontinent was under the grip of feudalism, casteism, and untouchability. There were separate wells and tanks for each caste, and people from the other caste were not allowed to draw out water from those wells. As in the Vinchai, since the social aim of 'uplifting the lowely treated people in the society' occupies a major part in the spiritual mission of Vaikundar, which is projected towards the ideal Dharma Yukam, he wanted to stop this evil practice. So as the first step to reach this aim, this well was established at Swamithoppe. Apart from religious sacredness, this well was also a historical icon since it was the first well in this part of the country where people could use water freely, irrespective of their caste.

Outline of Ayyavazhi

The following outline is provided as an overview and topic guide to Ayyavazhi:

Ayyavazhi – Indian belief system that originated in South India. It is cited as an independent monistic religion by several newspapers, government reports and academic researchers. In Indian censuses, however, the majority of its followers declare themselves as Hindus. Therefore, Ayyavazhi is also considered a Hindu denomination.

Ayyavazhi is centered on the life and preachings of Ayya Vaikundar; its ideas and philosophy are based on the holy texts Akilattirattu Ammanai and Arul Nool. Accordingly, Vaikundar was the Purna avatar of Narayana. Ayyavazhi shares many ideas with Hinduism in its mythology and practice, but differs considerably in its concepts of good and evil and dharma. Ayyavazhi is closely related to other Indian religions because of its central focus on dharma.

Outline of history

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to history:

History – discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented (the beginning of recorded history).

Outline of religion

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to religion:

Religion – organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence. Many religions have narratives, symbols, and sacred histories that are intended to explain the meaning of life and/or to explain the origin of life or the Universe. From their beliefs about the cosmos and human nature, people derive morality, ethics, religious laws or a preferred lifestyle. According to some estimates, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world.

Payyan dynasty

Payyan dynasty is the family which manage and administer Swamithope pathi, the temple of Ayyavazhi.


According to Akilattirattu Ammanai, the scripture of the Ayyavazhi religion, Ayya Vaikundar, the Incarnation of God in Kali Yukam, has five Seedar (disciples). They were in the previous Dwapara Yukam as Pandavas who were transmigrated as disciples of Vaikundar in this Yuga.

Timeline of Ayyavazhi history

The purpose of this chronology is to give a detailed account of Ayyavazhi from the beginning of the incarnational events of Vaikundar to the present time. Question marks on dates indicate approximate dates. A star (*) indicates the mentioning of that particular date in Akilam or Arul Nool. All dates but a few are found in the Tamil calendar and so doesn't coincide exactly with the months of the Gregorian calendar. The dates may span over any halves of the two consecutive months (Gregorian).

Ayyavazhi topics
Ayyavazhi rituals
Main teachings
Mythical events
Mythical figures
Festivals and celebrations
Major groups
Related topics

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