|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.
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.
- Gopala Bhatta Goswami (1503–1578), born a Vadakalai Iyengar, one of the Six Goswamis of Vrindavan in Chaitanya Vaishnavism, and a highly revered Guru in ISKCON.
- Chakravarti Rajagopalachari (1878–1972), Indian politician and activist of the Indian independence movement. Premier of Madras (1937–1939), Governor of Bengal (1946–1948), Governor-General of India (1948–1950), Union Home Minister (1950–1952) and Chief Minister of Madras state (1952–1954). Founder of Swatantra party.
- C. V. Rungacharlu (1831–1883), Diwan of Mysore kingdom from 1881 to 1883.
- T. S. S. Rajan (1880–1953), Indian politician and freedom-fighter. Member of the Imperial Legislative Council (1934–1936), Minister of Public Health and Religious Endowments (Madras Presidency) (1937–1939), Minister of Food and Public Health (Madras Presidency) (1946–1951).
- Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (1888–1989), an influential Yoga teacher, healer and scholar.
- Agnihotram Ramanuja Tatachariar (1907–2008), renowned vedic scholar, and recipient of two national awards for his contribution to Vedic studies and Sanskrit literature.
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