Kidambi

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Kidambi (Tamil: கிடாம்பி)(Telugu: కిళాంబి) is one of the Indian surnames. The other variants are Cadambi or Kadambi. The most common of the variants is Kidambi – this is the closest Tamil word.[1] All of them are Brahmins belonging to ‘Atreya Gotra’ and the Apastamba sutra, Taittiriya Shakha of the Krishna Yajurveda.

Etymology[edit]

The modern common variant ‘Kidambi’ should have come from Keezh-Ambi (or Kilambi), a village that exists to this day between Kooram and Thiruputkuzhi in present day Kanchipuram district. This village, adjacent to the Musaravakkam village,[2] is dominated by Brahmins belonging to the Atreya Gotra and Apastamba Sutra. This village is proximate to the dhivya desam of Thiruputkuzhi. Considering the Kidambis were a migrant group among Srivaishnavites, the name 'Kilambi' could have morphed itself into its modern variant ‘Kidambi’ with the passage of time.

Another version of history attributes Kidambis to a group of Brahmins who performed services of carrying water from the Vegavathi River to the Tiruvekkaa temple regularly. This group earned the titled Ghatambi (Ghatam + Ambi), i.e. water suppliers. Ghatambi, eventually, due to linguistic evolution morphed into Kidambi, and when descendants of this family started migrating, Kidambi, became Kadambi/Cadambi in Karnataka due to influence of Kannada, which refers to the pitcher as ‘koda’ or ‘cada’, and hence the ‘Ghatambis’ came to be called the Kadambis/Cadambis. In the Andhra Region, they could have come to be called as Kilambis. However, considering that 'Kadambi' is a derived name and not the original, this version does not appear all that plausible.

Kidambis in Srivaishnavism[edit]

While the Srivaishnava traditional history and commentaries reveal several preceptors with the surname ‘Kidambi’, and the earliest among them being Kidambi Aacchan,[3] very little is known about the background and history of this lineage of Brahmins. Of the little we know about them, it appears that the Kidambis hailed from a place near Kanchipuram, are closely associated with the people of Kooram,[4] and have been, at some point of time, associated with the divya desam of Thirupputkuzhi.[5] This group of people, to this day, continue to be predominantly associated with the Thenkalai sect of Srivaishnavism and are svayamacharya purushas. However, a section of the Kidambis today also represent the Vadakalai sect, owing affiliation to Ahobila Mutt[6] among other institutions.

Kidambi Aachaan, one of the eminent descendants of the Kidambi lineage, lived between 1057 and 1157 A.D. and is said to have hailed from this place. He was an ardent disciple of Ramanuja and a great scholar in Vishishtadvaita Vedanta. Ramanuja honoured his scholarship by conferring on him the title of Vedantodayana. He is believed to have lived 20 more years after the ascent of Ramanuja to the divine abode Vaikuntha.

Vedanta Desika, a follower of Ramanuja's tradition, refers to Kidambi Aachaan in Chapter 32 of his work 'Srimad Rahasya Traya Saram'. His son, Kumara Varadachar refers to him in his Adhikarana Chinthamani, a commentary on his father’s Adhikarana Saravali (verse 24). Kidambi Aacchan is the nephew of the wife of Thirumalai Nambi. He was at Thirumalai at his brother-in-law's house, when Pillan was born to the Tirumalai Nambi couple. After Pillan’s Upanayana, Thirumalai Nambi entrusted his son to Kidambi Aacchan and asked him to become a disciple of Ramanuja. Ramanuja took Kidambi Aacchan as his disciple and instructed him on the scriptures. Kidambi Aachaan took great interest in serving the feet of his preceptor.

There was a time when jealous temple workers at Srirangam tried to poison Ramanuja. The attempt failed due to the divine intervention of Lord Ranganatha. Periya Nambi and Tirukkottiyur Nambi were alarmed when they heard about this incident and rushed to Srirangam. On hearing that his preceptors were on their way to meet him, Ramanuja rushed to meet His Gurus and as they crossed the sands of Cauvery river, Ramanuja fell at their feet in the mid-day heat and continued offering his prostrations.[7] Kidambi Aacchan was standing next to the prostrating Ramanuja and could not stand the suffering undergone by his preceptor. He criticized Periya Nambi and Tirukkoshtiyur Nambi for allowing Ramanuja to offer repeated prostrations in the scalding heat and embraced Ramanuja in a bid to protect him.[8] Noticing this behaviour of Aacchan, Tirukkoshtiyur Nambi said then to Aacchan: "My dear Kidambi Aacchan! we waited on Ramanuja a little longer to find out if there is anyone, who is dear to him. Now we have found out that you are the one. We entrust you with the responsibility to protect Ramanuja from any further danger.” Kidambi Aacchan accepted the command of his pracharyas and continued to perform cooking service (Madappalli Kaimkaryam) to Ramanuja since then. The followers in the lineage of Kidambi Aacchan are thus known to belong to the "Madapalli Vazhi Vantha Sampradhayam."

Migration of Kidambis[edit]

Around the 13th-14th century, a group of Srivaishnavas, hailing from the villages of Kooram and Kidambi, embarked on a trip to Thiruppullani to worship Jagannatha Perumal and have a holy dip in the Setu. On their return journey, they were asked to settle down in a village called Karappankadu by Divine Command. These settlers duly consecrated a temple for Lord Varadaraja with His idol recovered from a termite mound near Vaduvur.[9] With the passage of time, some of these people appear to have migrated to nearby villages, forming the ‘Pancha Gramams’ around Mannargudi that we see today – Karappankadu, Serankulam, Nammankurichi, Peravurani and Puliyakkudi/Selperi.[10] Some of these Srivaishnavas also appear to have settled down in Srirangam and in the temple towns around Trichy. Incidentally, all these Srivaishnavas entirely belong to the Thenkalai sect today.

Notable people[edit]

References[edit]