The Ayyavazhi is a popular religion in Indian subcontinent, dominating the region of South Travancore and also the southern part of Tirunelveli. The followers of the religion believe in one god who is worshiped in Swamithoppe. In the 1940s the religion marked tremendous expansion especially after the first written rules and regulations commonly known as Akilam was published. They gathered to worship Ayya Vaikundar and had two religious books called the "Akilattirattu Ammanai" and the "Arul Nool" which have prayer chants, songs prophesies, and a guide to all their practices.
The Final Victory
After Ayya Vaikundar, the founder of Ayyavazhi, had completed his mission on earth and uniting the Santror he was now to attain the Vaikundam. He chanted asking to Thirumal to come for him which was done. He was given a crown and other paraphernalia and placed him on the throne and was from then onwards to be worshiped by all people on earth.
Foundation and Initial Expansion
Ayya was the father of Ayyavazhi and came up with its code of ethics. He gave the rules to the first followers known as the Five Cities and instructed them to conduct the initial. Notable was the fact that the converts were from the marginalized and low caste in the community particularly the Nadar caste. They gathered in places of worship called Nizhal Thangals. The congregation of Thuvayal Thavasu, commonly referred to as Thuvayal Pandarams, were the first converts and they evangelized the gospel of Vaikundar across the country. Payyan, the little boy of Thirumalammal, was the only one permitted to do panivedei to Ayya. He started offering swamithoppe pathi, a ritual that was taken over by his descendants.
Growth After Indian Independence
The Ayyavazhi religion marked great expansion after India attained self-rule, especially in the Northern regions of Tamil Nadu. Many places of worship were built and today it boasts of in excess of 8,000 Nizhal Thangals. During this period, the Ayyavazhi faithfuls came up with an identification sign of a Lotus and a Namam. In 1975, the Masi procession was commenced and has been mentioned as the largest procession in the region of Tamil Nadu.
Religious Marks and Symbols
Followers of the Ayyavazhi religion have several marks and symbols that are used in worship including a mark that moves from top to bottom on the front of the head generated using powdered white soil, the Hindu have a “U” shaped symbol made with powdered ash.
As they perform their religious activities, the Ayyavazhi men put on a headgear to symbolize kingship and crown that each king wears as they rule the world.
Worship Using Mirror Reflection
The Ayyavazhi pray in front of a mirror and shows respect to their god by doing so. Two lamps with oil are also placed in the room. This can also be found in their homes near their consecrated places of worship. The interpretation of this is that God is found inside us and we should not look for him anywhere else.
The Ayyavazhi considers Tamil words as holy while the Hindu refers to Sanskrit as the holy language.
Various Beliefs, Customs, and Practices
The Ayyavazhi to date believes that Vaikundar came from Narayana in Kali Yukam unlike the Hindus who believe that Kali is the reincarnation of Narayana and he will come to do away with the bad
The Ayyavazhi also believe that the spirit of kali Yuga became redundant soon after the Avatar of Vaikundar came into being but the Hindus say that the Spirit of Kali Yuga is still there.
On the issue of Yukams, the Ayyavazhi trusts in a setting of eight Yukams while the Hindus follow a system of four Yukams. The Ayyavazhi personifies evil of Kroni and views him as a devil. This is in contrast with the Hindus who do not personify the devil.
Trimurthi refers to the triple Brahmas views. The Ayya Vazhi acknowledges that Vishnu, Siva, and Brahma refers to the same supernatural being and have equal mandates. However, the Hindus grade the three aspects of God in order of seniority.
On matters to do with who is in charge of the world, the Ayyavazhi accords such respect to Vaikundar whereas the Hinduism does not acknowledge Vaikundar but confesses of Sati Yuga.
The Ayyavazhi have minimal rituals but the newlywed faces south towards Thuvaraiyam Pathi and all present are led by the clergy in singing the mantras and advising the couple. In Hinduism, It is only the priest who individually chants the mantras and praises the newly wedded.
Funeral Sendoff Rituals
The Ayyavazhi buries the dead facing the geographic north with no coffin, while the Hindus burn the dead except for little children or a religious leader.