|Regions with significant populations|
Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh
|Brahmin Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, Sanskrit(Ritualistic language)|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Vadama, Madhwas, Thenkalai|
Vadakalai, meaning Northern school or Northern culture, are a subsect of the Vaishnavite Iyengar community of Hindu Brahmins. In Sanskrit the Vadakalai are referred to as Uttara Kalārya. Vadakalais are followers of Ramanuja and Vedanta Desika.
Ethnicity and origin
The Vadakalai community consists of the following groups, based on the sampradaya followed:
- Pancharatra – Followers of Ahobila Mutt. Majority of Vadakalais belong to this group.
- Parakala – They are mostly followers of Parakala Mutt, Mysore. This was set in 1399 by the royal family of Mysore Kingdom, Wadiyars. This has stayed as a royal mutt of the kings since then, and is a mutt for all Iyengars under this category.
The Tilak (Urdhva Pundra) mark of the Vadakalai men is a symbolic representation of Vishnu's right foot. Since Vishnu's right foot is believed to be the origin of the river Ganges, the Vadakalais contend that his right foot should be held in special veneration, and its sign impressed on the forehead. They also apply a central mark (Srichurnam) to symbolize the goddess Lakshmi (Vishnu's wife), along with the thiruman (urdhva pundra). The Urdhva Pundra which is vertical and faces upwards denotes that it helps one in reaching Vaikunta (the spiritual abode of Lord Vishnu), and is also considered to be a protection from evil. Vadakalai women apply a red central mark only, symbolizing Lakshmi, on their foreheads.
Religious practices and tradition
The Vadakalai Iyengars believe in practising Karma yoga, Jnana yoga and Bhakti yoga along with Prapatti, as means to attain salvation. Vedanta Desika emphasizes the practise of the three yogas in his work Rahasya Trayasarah, where he describes Karma and Jnana yogas to be prerequisites of Bhakti yoga.
Mutts (monasteries), and places of significance
The Vadakalais are generally followers of the Ahobila Mutt, Parakala Mutt, Srirangam Srimad Andavan Ashramam and Poundarikapuram Andavan Ashramam. Among these, Parakala Mutt is more than 700 years old, and the oldest. The Ahobila Mutt is a 600+ year old monastic order, and the second oldest. Srirangam Srimad Andavan Ashramam is a 300+ year old organisation, which came into existence by the 18th century, while Poundarikapuram Andavan Ashramam is 100+ years old.
Traditionally, places of high importance with significant Vadakalai populations included Kanchipuram, Kumbakonam, Tiruvallur, Mysore and Kurnool district. However, today much of the people have moved to the big cities.
Absolutely no need to worry about the differences. Though Vadakalai and Thenkalai were non existent during Raamaanuja period, the opinions were formed later.These opinions merely opined to Strengthen the Sri Vaishnava sampradaya but not to inequate either Thenkalai or Vadakalai(neither vedanta desika nor pillai lokacharya have an intention to lessen each other).Though existing with two opinions the mutual respect and recognition for both existed till a certain point of time until the British Rules/ Court System came to existence. This led to the formation of Fanatics in both the sects as Power and control were distributed among them. Both the Tenkalai sampradaya and Vadakalai sampradaya are the strong pillars of the Sri Raamaanuja Sampradaya.None of the 18 differences with formed the two sects can actually be proved or disproved by either of the sects.
The Vadakalai follow the doctrines of Vedanta Desika and Ramanuja, while the Thenkalai follow the doctrines of Manavalamamunigal and Ramanuja. Vadakalai Iyengars sport the U naama, rather than the Thenkalai Y naamam. Compared to the Thenkalai Iyengars who thrived in Srirangam, their tradition developed around Kanchi. The Vadakalai group follow the Sanskrit Vedas, unlike the Thenkalai who follow the Tamil prabhandams.
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