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Sri Vaishnava is a universal term among Hindus for worshippers of Vishnu. They are not limited to any part of India. Over its long history, Sri Vaishnavism has influenced nearly every aspect of Indian religious life.
Sri Vaishnava culture dates back to the 10th century when this system was pioneered by the first Sri Vaishnava Acharya in the lineage, Sri Nathamuni. Further this system was expounded by the lineage of acharyas in the expounding of SriVaishnavism and got popularity in a community of the followers of the system, the present day Iyengars. To this day, they mainly hold the system of Srivaishnavism. Sri Vaishnavism was mainly expounded by the great philosopher, Sri Ramanuja. To this day, it is called SriSampradaya and Iyengars mainly follow it. Sri Sampradaya or Sri Vaishnavism is a Vaishnava sect within Hinduism. While its origin is lost in antiquity, its codification is generally traced back to around the 10th century when a collection of the devotional hymns and songs by Alvars was organised by Sri Nathamuni, who is considered to be one of the pioneers of the sect.
The philosophy of Sri Vaishnavism is known in Sanskrit as Visistadvaita. The term literally means ``non-duality of Reality as characterised by attributes. As a classical expression of Vedanta (the philosophical basis for much of Hinduism), the goal of Visistadvaita philosophy is to understand and experience Brahman, the One Blissful Reality who is the all-pervasive ground and sustenance of the universe – the string upon whom all pearls are threaded. The ``pearls, individual beings and matter, are inseparable attributes of the Supreme Person, modes of Its existence.
To the devout Sri Vaishnava, the religious concept of Brahman is best expressed by the term ``God. Brahman is Infinite, not just in physical terms, but in metaphysical and qualitative terms. Brahman is the absolutely real abode of all consciousness. He is infinitely auspicious, infinitely blissful, supremely gracious, infinitely merciful, infinitely beautiful – in fact, infinitely infinite. The relationship between God and the universe is one of love, as all this is but a conscious emanation from Him. We are to Him as a child is to a parent, as a friend is to a friend, and as a beloved is to a lover.
Brahman also stands in relation to the universe and the individual souls as the Self of each, providing the basis for their reality. As such, Brahman has matter and individual souls as His body, and is therefore the Supreme Being in whom all reality is comprehended. All that we see is but a spilling from the plenitude of His glorious, all-pervasive essence. This is why the favourite devotional name for God among Sri Vaishnavas is Narayana – He in whom all beings rest.
Sri Vaishnavism was expounded in the later Bhakti period.Before that,the twelve Alvars were mainly the pioneers of this system.
Among the Iyengar Brahmins following Sri Vaishnavism, there are two sects, namely Vadakalai and Tenkalai. It is widely believed that the two sects are distinctly different in origin. But some believe the two subsects to have originated in the 14th century AD following a split in the Iyengar community.
- The Vadakalai Iyengar community (Uttara Kalārya, Sanskrit: उत्तर कलार्य) ardently follows the Sanskrit Vedas, and the set of rules prescribed by the Manusmriti and Dharma Shastras. The sect is based on the Sankritic tradition, and follows – Ramanuja and Vedanta Desika. The Vadakalai Iyengars are believed to be an Indo-Aryan people who once migrated from North India. In a genetic study, all individuals examined among Vadakalai Iyengars showed a high similarity of gene frequency with the people of Faislabad in the Punjab province. The Vadakalai community believes in the caste system, and championed the cause of purity of the vedic tenets. Traditionally, the Vadakalais believe in practising Karma yoga, Jnana yoga and Bhakti yoga, along with Prapatti, as means to attain salvation. Also, they consider Prapatti as an act of winning grace. The various Vadaklai monasteries are – Ahobila Mutt, Parakala Mutt, Srirangam Srimad Andavan Ashramam and Poundarikapuram Andavan Ashramam.
- The Thenkalai Iyengar community (Tamil: தென்னாசாரிய சம்பிரதாயம்) follows the Tamil Prabandhams, and asserts primacy to rituals in Tamil language. They are followers of Ramanuja, Pillailokacharya and Manavala Mamuni. According to genetic studies, the Thenkalai gene frequencies are distinctly different from that of the Vadakalais. The Thenkalais reject the caste system. The Thenkalai society has also accepted a significant proportion of the non-Brahmin population into its fold. But inter-marriages between the Brahmin and the non-Brahmin population is seldom seen. The sect seems to be liberal in its outlook, and so shapes the doctrine of the system as to make them applicable to non-Brahmin castes. Traditionally, Thenkalai accept Prapatti as the only means to attain salvation. They consider Prapatti as an unconditional surrender. The various Thenkalai monasteries are – Vanamamalai mutt and Sriperumdur mutt in Kanchipuram district and Tirukkoilur mutt in Viluppuram district.
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- Introduction to Sri Vaishnava Theology
- Introduction to Sri Vaishnava Philosophy
- SriVaishnavism: A Concise study
- www.anudinam.org Sri Vaishnava News and learning portal
- www.antaryami.net Sri Vaishnava News Network
- http://guruparamparai.wordpress.com - Exhaustive/complete details srIvaishNava guru paramparai
- http://ponnadi.blogspot.com - Exhaustive articles/archives for the esoteric principles of srIvaishNavam
- Nathamuni-Alavandar.org Dedicated to Shriman Nathamungal and Shri Alavandar
- General information
- Site for Sri Vaishnava Prayers