A question about the term "Iyer"
barathi at PC.JARING.MY
Sat May 16 00:06:22 UTC 1998
At 02:33 PM 5/15/98 PDT, you wrote:
>I would like to know as to what is the approx time period since which
>the word "aiyar" has been used to refer to a Tamil speaking Smartha
> Earlier discussions by S.Palaniappan have been helpful in giving us
>the etymology of "ai" related words and have proved that the word does
>go back to classical Tamil..but since when has the word been
>specifically used to denote a Smartha Brahmin? Likewise, does Tamil
>literature ever use terms like "aiyAL" to refer to a smArta woman?
The earliest reference to this word, that one
can think of occurs in the "TholkAppiyam".
In the "KaRpu iyal", verse #4 mentions it.
"Poyyum valzuvum thOnRiya pinnar,
Aiyar yAththanar karaNam enba"
This with reference to mariage regulations.
At one time the "KaLaviyal" form of love,
living together as husband and wife was in vogue.
Boy meets girl and they decide to become husband and
In this custom, a lot of deceit, and wrongs
crept in. So, after that the "aiyar" compiled the
set-rules. So say the ancient ones.
When TholkAppiyar says that someone else has
already said so, it would naturally mean that it was
said before his time. And the institution of the
karaNam's by the aiyar's was even earlier than the
saying was done. It could mean Brahmins in general.
But whether they are Smarthas are nor not, or perhaps
the Siva Brahmins or SivAchAryas and DhIkshithars,
I would'nt venture to pin-point. This calls in
a lot of other variables, like the date of TholkAppiyam,
the date of Adhi Sankara, etc.
In the epigrapical records , don't remember
any Brahmin being addressed as "aiyar" On the other
hand, they are known by epithets like "BrammAdhi rAjan"
"BrammarAyan", "Kiramaviththan". Kiramaviththan would
be the indicating a Brahmin well-versed with Krama-pAta
of VEdhic recital. These could mean Smarthas, especially
since these names are generally found after AdhiSankara's
But I have seen later palmyra records
where Smarthas are addressed as aiyar, ganapaadi,
sAstri, and as Sarma.
There is a curious useage for this word "aiyar"
in the Periya PuraNam.
NandhanAr is one of the 63 nAyanmAr devotees
and he happened to be a Dalit.
In the Periya PuraNam, he is addressed as "aiyar".
Never heard of feminine gender of aiyar being
addressed as aiyaL. [Pssst..normally we call them
as "aiyarAththu mAmi" or simply "ammAmi":-)]
> All replies will be appreciated.
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