vaTakalai and ten2kalai (3)

Mani Varadarajan mani at SHASTA.STANFORD.EDU
Fri Jun 18 19:04:50 UTC 1999

I think Patricia Mumme has researched this
issue best. Here's what she writes:

  Scholars of Srivaisnavism have generally traced
  the origin of the Tenkalai/Vatakalai schism to a
  breakup of the Ubhaya Vedanta synthesis when the
  northern school began giving relatively more
  importance to Sanskrit sources -- the Sribhashya
  and/or dharma-sastra -- while the southern school
  stressed the Tamil scriptures -- the Nalayira Divya
  Prabandham.  However, certain anomalies suggest
  that the doctrinal differences between the two
  schools cannot be satisfactorily explained by
  their differing emphases on Sanskrit vs. Tamil,
  Sribhashya vs. Nalayira Divya Prabandham, or
  dharma-sastra vs. Nalayira Divya Prabandham. The
  Nalayira Divya Prabandham does not obviously
  support the Tenkalai position against that of the
  Vatakalai on most issues -- at least not without
  a great deal of selective interpretation.  The
  Srirangam acaryas themselves admit that there are
  many passages in the Alvars' hymns which seem at
  variance with their views.  The Srirangam acaryas
  seem to make more use of the Sanskrit epics and
  puranas than do the Kanci acaryas.  Pancaratra
  scriptures are quoted frequently by both schools;
  they figure more prominently in the disputed
  issues than dharma-sastra per se and at least
  as prominently as the Sribhashya.

        [p. 7, The Srivaisnava Theological Dispute]

She goes on to show how a simplistic language-based
division cannot explain the origin of the sects, and
that the differing cultural milieus of Kanchi and
Srirangam provide a better background for understanding
the divide.

Recall that in the period just preceding the formal
split (i.e., when it became mutually recognized
in the 16th and 17th centuries), the main "Vadagalai"
centers were the Parakala Matha in Tirupati/Melkote,
and the Tatacharyas who live mostly around Kancipuram
and Tirupati.  As you are well aware, this region
is the northern edge of the Tamil country (the Alvars
repeatedly call Tirupati as "vata venkatam").  The
main Tengalai centers were Srirangam and Alvar Tirunagari.

Regarding your comment about the Prabandham cantors
being Tengalai and the Veda cantors being Vadagalai:
this is mostly the result of recent court judgments.
In many places, all the cantors will be exclusively one
or the other sect, once again, as a result of court
judgments.  In Tiruvahindrapuram, both Prabandham
and Veda cantors are Vadagalai. In Tiruvallikkeni, both
are Tengalai. In Tirupati and Melkote, both are mixed.
In Kanchipuram, there is a split similar to Srirangam.
In other words, the example cited does not tell the
whole story, as there are many examples to the contrary.


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