Cult chief says they have nothing in common with Hinduism
Encouraged by the recent success of the Lingayats in obtaining the Karnataka Cabinet’s nod for being recognised as a religion, followers of social reformer Ayya Vaikundar in Kanniyakumari district in Tamil Nadu are demanding that their sect be declared a separate religion.
“We have nothing in common with the Hindu religion. We follow none of the rituals and worship methods of the Hindus. All we have in the sanctum sanctorum is a mirror. We do not even break coconuts in the temple. We follow separate marriage and death rituals,” Balaprajapathi Adikal, the chief of the cult and its temples told The Media.
Born Muthukutty around 210 years ago, Ayya Vaikundar rebelled against the rulers of Travancore, who imposed stringent rules on the Nadar community.
After attaining ‘enlightenment’, he was considered an incarnation of Lord Narayana, and his followers began to sport holy ash on their foreheads, similar to the Vaishnavite naamam. His preachings have been compiled by his disciple Harigopalan in Akitha Thiruattu and his followers believe he had predicted a lot of events. The temple in Swamithoppu in Kanniyakumari draws thousands of devotees throughout the year.
He advised his devotees to become vegetarians as he was against animal sacrifice.
“All the contributions to the temple come from seeking alms. The devotees seek alms for seven days and submit [them] to the temple. Even the rich are not exempted from seeking alms,” Balaprajapathi Adigal said.
Prajapathi Adikal, a descendant of Ayya, said he and others had made a representation to late Chief Minister Jayalalithaa to declare their cult a separate religion, during her visit to Swamithoppu.
“She promised to consider our request, but her death has delayed the process,” he claimed, pointing out that any attempt by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department to take over their temples and their administration would destroy the identity of the temples, known as pathis.