Structure of Ayyavazhi
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Ayyavazhi is a belief system originating from South India, which advocates that Ayya Vaikundar is an incarnation of Narayana, based on its religious scripture Akilattirattu Ammanai. Some of its core believers advocate that Ayyavazhi is a religion in itself, whereas others believe that it is a sect within Hinduism. The path of Akilam is also viewed as a renaissance of Hinduism which regenerates and organises the ideas of all Hindu scriptures. But on the other hand it acts as an agent of reformation in the nineteenth century Tamil and Malayalam Society.
As a religion
The consideration of Ayyavazhi as a separate religion by itself is made based on the ideological deviation it takes from the existing so called 'Sanathana Dharma' , that is obviously exposed by Akilam centering Vaikundar. The supremacy of Vaikundar is highly portrayed since the 'formless absolute' or the 'supreme self' Ekam is that which came in the form of him which was ever first through the ages. And so the beliefs, ideology and philosophy of Ayyavazhi are viewed with the activities of Vaikundar as the epi-center, which in turn contrasts with the inclusionistic nature of the existing Sanathana. The philosophy of Ayyavazhi starts with the monism during creation and evolved as polytheism till the end of Dvapara Yuga, further evolved to henotheism till the incarnation of Vaikundar and then onwards turns panentheistic highlighting Vaikundar as the overall supreme, making it unique.
The yuga-dharma for the Kali yuga is 'Preaching the Gospel of Vaikundar' , says Akilam - Making it to move further from the main-stream Hinduism. Apart from this the list of Primary Avatars provided by Akilam is different from that of the Hindu scriptures. Also Vaikundar is considered supreme to all others in Akilam; Socialogically, Monotheism is advocated varrying extremely from the Hindu Polytheism.
The 'Ultimate refuge to Almighty' - the worship form in Ayyavazhi which replaces the domination of ritual importance in Hindu form of worship, is advocated in Akilam as the best way to attain the personal liberation. Mass prayer is the main form of worship in Ayyavazhi unlike in Hinduism. On the other hand the rituals of Ayyavazhi is arranged in such a way that it symbolises 'worshipping or realising one-self' .
Akilam also seems to follow the Solar calendar unlike in Vedic Hinduism. The most important thing that gives Ayyavazhi a sepearte identity is, rejecting all previous scriptures including Vedas, though it shares many ideas (that of Pre-Vaikundar era) from those scriptures. Apart from this they have separate Holy places, which are all related to the activities of Vaikundar, Holy texts, rituals, theology, etc. and those other to them are rejected by Akilam and so the worshippers. Although the religion is strongly related to Hinduism, its theologians, several newspapers, magazines, and some academics consider it a separate religion. Certain groups outside Ayyavazhi also recognize it as a separate religion, including some social, as well as religious, faculties.
As a Hindu sect
Though Ayyavazhi has a separate outlook as a religion outside Hinduism the basic beliefs are based on the ultimate Dharma which is the core of the present 'Sanathana Dharma' , gives an idea that Ayyavazhi is a sect inside Hinduism. The Akilam based mythology is closely related to that of the mainstream Hindu scriptures. The basic doctrine is that 'to realise the invisible' (the ultimate monistic power) in the midst of the visibles, which is similar to that of Hinduism where the aim of atman is 'to attain Dharma (the supreme knowledge) . Many rituals such as circumambulating temples, wearing symbols in the fore-head, etc. in Ayyavazhi resembles that of Hinduism with minimal variations.
The theology, by all means make Vaikundar 'the Supreme' which makes it a unique sect than any others within Hinduism. Though Vaikundar is the incarnation of Ekam - the supreme, since Narayana plays a double role as father of Vaikundar and being within Vaikundar, the theology moves somehow in the path of Vaishnavism. Strengthening this, Akilam also says in some places, especially in the Akilam one as 'Athi Narayana' to be the supreme. But during the creation it says 'Sivam' to be the supreme and in some places (Thiruvasakam - 2) Ekam as the ulmost-power. The very same idea moves Ayyavazhi closer to several sects of Hinduism.
While the other Hindu sects advocates the mythical manifestations as gods, Akilam refers Vaikundar, a mytho-historical figure as 'Ayya' (Father) of Mankind. All the prayer forms in Ayyavazhi scriptures are viewed referring this term as 'phrase of praise'. Apart from following the Solar calendar, Akilam also gives equal but not more importance to the Lunar, which is highly respected in Hindu scriptures. All festivals of Ayyavazhi other than Ayya Vaikunda Avataram is celebrated following the Hindu calendar.
As a Hindu renaissance
Based on the utmost philosophy of Akilam, Ayyavazhi is viewed also as a Hindu Renaissance. It constructs a typical and unique mythical-story line which includes enormous quantity of events from the Hindu mythology including Ramayana and Mahabharata which are independent to one another. Philosophically Akilam gives space for all - from the deep-rooted polytheism (in the Hindu society) to the supreme monism of an intellectual Hindu. It also deals with the Siva-dominant Saivite ideology, Vishnu-dominant Vaishnava, Sakthi dominant Saktism, and Smartism where all the Siva, Brahma and Vishnu gains equal status, though with limited time spans.
All scriptures of Hinduism including Vedas, Agamas, Upanishads, Purana, Shastras are referred to in Akilam, their core concepts are churned out on one hand and on the other all those above mentioned scriptures are rejected and the uniqueness of Akilam os portrayed. Almost all god-heads of Hinduism including the higher-forms such as Siva, Brahma, Ganesh, Muruga etc. and the lower folk deities such as Kali, Madan (Ayyanar) etc. are included with appropriate mythical power-relations.
In Akilam all those high-sensible knowledge in the Hindu scriptures is made understandable for the common mass in the ordinary language (colloquial Tamil) being mixed up with an interlinked story line. It also says about the travel of Atman through yugas and its final stage in which it loses its individuality and become the supreme. It also says the evil and its further classifications which acts against the evolution of Atman and also the evolutions of living beings from one form to another again with the same storyline, which is not found n Hinduism. As a whole, Akilam gives the overall ideology, Philosophy, mythology, theology, etc. of the Hindu scriptures collectively in brief, maintaining their own basic patterns.
As a reform movement
Apart from all these Ayyavazhi also acts as an agent of reformation on the social and religious ground of the 19th century Tamil and Malayalam society, against the then feudal Travancore government. The activities of Vaikundar and its impact over the society is the first and the greatest among the other reformers and movements. It has heavy influence over the impact and success of the Upper cloth Agitation and the Temple entry Agitation which took place later in the Tamil society. Also Ayyavazhi forms the route cause for the origin of other reform movements such as Narayana Guru Movement and that of Ayyankali.
- G.Patrick's Religion and Subaltern Agency, Chapter 5, Page 120,121. "This fact had been recognised by the followers of AV. They addressed their religion with a new nomenclature as "Ayya Vali" (The path or way of Ayya) and thereby confirmed its new identity."
- Malai Malar (leading evening Tamil daily), Nagercoil Edition, 4-3-2007, Page 5, "சுவாமி ஊர்வலத்தை அய்யாவழி பக்தர்கள் சமய தலைவர் பால பிரஜாபதி அடிகளார்..." (this report too calls Ayyavazhi as ('அய்யாவழி சமயம்') a separate religion"
- Dinakaran(Tamil Daily), Nagercoil Edition, 1-3-2007, Page 3: "அய்யாவழி சமய தலைவர் பால பிரஜாபதி அடிகளார் அடிக்கல் நாட்டினார்"("Bala Prajapathi Adikalar the head of Ayyavazhi religion laid foundation stone for the....")
- Daily Thanthi,(4/3/2006) Nagercoil Edition, Page 17:"இது குறித்து 'அய்யாவழி சமயத்' தலைவர் பால.பிரஜாபதி அடிகளார் (suggesting Bala Prajapathi Adikalar as the head of 'Ayyavazhi religion') வெளியிட்டுள்ள அறிக்கையில் கூறியிருப்பதாவது..."
- Daily Thanthi, Nagercoil Edition, 2/3/2007, Page 5. "மாநாட்டுக்கு அய்யாவழி சமய தலைவர் பால பிரஜாபதி அடிகளார் தலைமை தாங்குகிறார்." Translation - ("The religious conference is led by Bala Prajapathi Adikalar, the head of Ayyavazhi religion.") (This news from a leading news paper in India, on reporting the 175-th Ayya Vaikunda Avataram, calls Ayyavazhi as a religion and Bala Prajapathi Adikalar as the head of Ayyavazhi religion.
- www.tamilstar.com, Sujibala without a blouse in Ayyavazhi (Preview about the Film 'Ayyavazhi'), 5-17-2007, "They follow a religion based on his principles, which is called Ayyavazhi."
- G.Patrick's Religion and Subaltern Agency, Chapter 5, Page 120,121. "it may be concluded that, it may be concluded that AV emerged as a 'new and singular' religious phenomenon in that context"
- Tha. Krishna Nathan's, Ayyaa vaikuNdarin vaazvum sinthanaiyum,(Tamil), Chapter - 4, page 62: "அவர் (வைகுண்டர்) மாற்றுப் பிறப்பு பெற்ற நாளே அய்யாவழி சமய மரபு தோற்றம் பெற்ற நாள்(கி.பி.1833) எனக் கூறலாம்." (The day at which Vaikundar is given rebirth could be considered as the date of origin of 'Ayyavazhi religion'.)
- V.T. Chellam's Thamizhaka Varalarum Panpadum Chapter 12, Page 493 Heading "Vaikunda Samikal (1810 - 1851) " Line 11: "அய்யா வழி சமயம் உதயமாகியது", (Ayyavazhi religion gets originated).
- Samuel Mateer, The Land of Charity,  page 222 - 223, "this singular people display considerable zeal in the defence and propagation"
- "www.christian-bible.com" (Notes). Note number 43: "In 1986 Hindu, Muslim, Christian, and Ayya Vazhi leaders joined in a common statement of belief. See "Kanyakumari Declaration: On Inter-Religious Social Action towards Justice and Peace" stating Ayyavazhi as separate religion outside Hinduism. Retrieved 2007-02-05.
- "Cinesouth" (Daily News). Bhagyaraj acts as Viakuntaswamy in 'Ayya Vazhi' : "He spoke of non-discrimination way before Ambedkar and Periyar.". Retrieved 2007-02-16.[dead link]
- "The Hindu" (The Sree Narayana effect). Credit to reformers: "The first of the social revolutionaries was Vaikunta Swami (1809-1851)." (Chennai, India). 2004-08-29. Retrieved 2007-02-07.
- "www.bdu.ac.in" (SOCIAL REFORMERS OF MODERN INDIA). Unit IV. Retrieved 2007-02-07.
- www.youthcurry.blogspot.com "Caste vs Class" (POSITIVE DISCRIMINATION AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF CASTE IN INDIA). "Ayya’s Movement was responsible for a few important movements in subsequent years. They were the thol seelai agitation, the temple entry agitation and the movements started by Narayana Guru as well as Ayyankazhi, to name a few.". Retrieved 2007-02-03.
- R. Ponnu (2000), Ayya Vaikundar Ore Avataram, Ram Publications.
- T. Krishna Nathan (2000), Ayya Vaikundar Vazhvum Sinthanaiyum, Thinai Publications.
- R. Ponnu (2000), Sri Vaikunda Swamigal and Struggle for Social Equality in South India, University of Kerala.
- A. Ari Sundara Mani (2002), Akilathirattu Ammanai Parayana Urai, Ayya Vaikundar Thirukkudumbam Publications.
- N. Vivekanandan (2003), Akilathirattu Ammanai Moolamum Uraiyum, Vivekananda Pathippakam.
- G.Patrick (2003), Religion and Subaltern Agency, University of Madras.
- C. Paulose (2002), Advaita Philosophy of Brahmasri Chattampi Swamikal, Ayya Vaikunta Nathar Publications.