Ayya Vaikundar , is a Manu (father, sovereign) avatar (the incarnation of a deity) of the Lord Narayana according to Akilattirattu Ammanai the holy script of the Ayyavazhi religion, officially a Tamil Hindu sect. (See also Ayyavazhi Mythology).
The physical human body of Ayya Vaikundar was born with the name Muthukutty. However, Muthukutty is referred to as Sampooranathevan, a deva (a deity), in the religious book Akilam. Ayya Vikundar, therefore, is a combination of the spirit of Narayana, the soul of the Supreme God, Ekam (God beyond conciouseness) and the body of an ordinary human being (Muthukutty).
Birth of body and spirit
Main article: Sampooranathevan
In 1809, Muthukutty was born in the southern most tip of south India, in a holy place named Swamithoppe (then part of a Tamaraikulam village) in the Kanyakumari District. His parents, Ponnu Nadar and Veiyelal, of the lower caste and of very poor means, initially named him Mudisoodum Perumal, meaning “Lord Vishnu with a crown”, but due to objections from those of higher caste, the family changed his name to Muthukutty.
The religious book, Akilam, states that the child was born dead, and then the soul of the deva Sampooranathevan was installed in the body. The family realized only stillness in the child, for a time immedietly after the birth, and then found the child alright. They were completely unaware of the exchange. This was in accord with the plan of Mayon to defeat the evil Kroni (analogous to Satan) during the sixth yuga (see The Incarnation of Ayya Vaikundar below and Ayyavazhi mythology). Thereafter, that boy grew up called Muthukutty in human history, and Sampooranathevan in Ayyavazhi mythology.
Muthukutty (Sampooranathevan), a religious minded boy, had special interest in choosing to worship Lord Vishnu (herein, synonymous with Narayana and Mayon). The holy book Akilam mentions that he had set a pedestal for Lord Vishnu in his house and worshipped the deity devoutly.
At the age of seventeen, Muthukutty married Thirumalammal (called Paradevathai in the holy book, Akilam) from the nearby village of Puviyur, and led a family life with her. Although Thirumalammal had been previously married, she was allowed to leave her former husband since her karma with him was fulfilled.
(Note: There are claims that they had a male child. There are also claims that the child was born to her in the relationship with her first husband, consistent with some quotes from the holy book, Akilam. But there are no direct quotes or references in Akilam about any children for them.)
According to the Akilam, Sampooranathevan’s marriage had been divinely established to the mythical figure Paradevathai in an arrangement with the Lord Mayon (again as part of the plan to defeat the evil Kroni).
Muthukutty earned his living as a Palmyra climber and as an agricultural laborer.
In his twenty-fourth year, Muthukutty (Sampooranathevan) was struck by a severe illness that inflicted acute pain and suffering for a year. Muthukutty’s mother, receiving instruction in her dreams, took her diseased son to the temple at Thiruchendur, during the Fall festival (19th day of the month of Masi, in the year 1008 of Malayalam era), 1833 AD. Muthukutty arrived in Thiruchendur in a cradle, carried by the kith and kin of the family. In Thiruchendur, Muthukutty went in to the sea and disappeared. Following a full day of waiting for him at the shore, all, but his mother, Veilal, returned to Tamaraikulam, but Veilal alone stayed weeping on the sea-shore.
On the third day, Lord Vaikundar appeared on the sea-shore. (See: post-incarnational events). On seeing him, Veiyelal mistook him to be her son and tried to embrace him. But Lord Vaikundar told her that he was no longer her son, but the son of Narayana. He also told that “Look upon the face of the waters of the sea, where I’ve born” and he told that ” Before 1008, Masi you were known as my mother, but now I was born as the son of Narayana and for the dawn of Dharma Yukam I am going to the world with the Vinchais given by Narayana.” By saying this he take some sea water (Katal Patham) in his hand, he asked her to drink. Upon her refusal, she fell down and died.
Then as per the instructions of Lord Narayana, inside the sea, he started walking towards Detchanam. The place where Ayya Vaikundar performed the Avataram (translation unsure: possibly, a ceremony of the incarnation) was a holy place for the devotees of Ayyavazhi and they erected a temple there named Avatharappathi at Thiruchendur.
The incarnation of Ayya Vaikundar
Ayya Vaikundar, who arose from the sea at Thiruchendur on 20th of the Tamil Month of Masi, is considered a unique Avatar. Akilam, the holy book, speaks about it in great detail, as summarized below:
First, in each of the five yugas (see Pre-Incarnational Events) prior to the Avatar of Ayya Vaikundar, as each fragment of Kroni (evil or Devil) came into physical form, the Lord Narayana incarnated as well, destroying them. However, in this the sixth yuga, Kroni was called Kali (also Kalineesan and Kaliyan), (not the Hindu deity) and having no physical form (see Pre-Incarnational Events for this account) he occupied the mind of people of earth as the Mayai (illusion), causing them to behave discourteously. Due to the boons Kaliyan claimed, it was impossible to destroy him in this yuga as in the previous ones, as found in the Akilam, the holy book, “Munnindru kolla Moovaralume arithu” (translated: It was impossible even for Trimurthi to oppose him). Since, Kaliyan held the boon for the birth of gods, and birth of Brahmins, it was impossible for Narayan, or any others, to incarnate directly in the world to destroy him. Finally, Kaliyan promised that if he made trouble to any Pantaram on earth, (See:Promise made by Kaliyan) all his boons would be forfeited and he would die in hell. So Kaliyan would only be destroyed if he trouble any Pantarams on earth.
Since God could not incarnate directly, He incarnated as Ayya Vaikundar in three stages.
The first stage of Avatar was the born dead child (birth of the Body).
Next, immediatly the soul of Sampooranathevan was installed into the body , along with the Spirit (not Soul) of Narayana kept in Parvatha Ucchi Malai (a mythical mountain believed to be in this region) after the completion of the Krishna Avatar. This was the second stage of the Avatar.
Then in the sea (during the 24th year), the soul of Sampooranathevan was granted moksha (liberation from the cycle of death and birth, synonymous with heaven), unified to the Ultimate Soul. Now, the Spirit of Narayana along with the Ultimate Soul (Paramatma) incarnated in the body of a human being (Muthukutty). (see:The Incarnation) This is the third stage of Avatar and from here he was called Ayya Vaikundar.Then Ayya Vaikundar was given Vinchai by Narayanar.(see: Vinchai to Vaikundar).
Then after providing rules and regulations to Muruga, the Ultimate Soul (God beyond consciousness), along with the Spirit of Narayana came over the sea as Vaikundar and took the human body (of the child born to Ponnu Nadar and Veiyelal) placed earlier in Tharuvai and proceeded to Detchanam as a Pantaram.
So Ayya Vaikundar is not merely a human, not merely Narayana, and not merely the Ultimate Soul, on the other hand he is a human and he is the Ultimate Soul and he is Narayana. He is the one who had the responsibility to destroy the sixth fragment of Kroni, as told by Sivan earlier. Such a technique was practiced to overcome the boons offered to Kaliyan.
A Map of the Swamithope Region
Main article:Tavam of Vaikundar
Having reached Poovantanthoppe, (present-day Swamithope), he undertook to perform the proclaimed tavam. The tavam consisted of three stages, each spanning two years. Akilattirattu says that there were three specific intentions for the respective three stages of the Tavam. There is a tradition that describes his postures during the six-year tavam as follows: during the first two years, he stood inside a pit of six depth, during the next two years, squatted on the ground, and, during last two years, sat on a raised platform. His appearance was squalid, “long and entangled plait of hair” and frayed clothes. He seems have spoken less and subsisted on frugal meals.
Incinerating evil spirits
Akilattirattu speaks of this act of incinerating the evil spirits as an important event in the incarnation of Ayya Vaikundar. It took place when he was performing his great tavam, which had been announced by him to be the means of destroying the kalimayai – the illusory evil force. Akilattirattu says that, since he had come as ‘the invincible avatar’, his foes ”“ the devils, demons, and evil spirits were to be incinerated. He, then, gathered the people around, and caused some of them, both male and female, to get ‘possessed’ of the evil spirits (peyattam). The ‘possessed’ ones came and danced in front of the crowd as if the evil spirits had come upon them. Vaikundar, then, ordered these evil spirits to make an oath, in front of the people, to surrender their powers and get burned up in flames. When he had finished his orders, those dancing under the duress of ‘possession’ got exhausted and fell flat on the ground. Thus the evil spirits were incinerated. Akilam speaks it in a grand way.
(See elobrately in:Ayyavazhi mythology)
Seizing the powers of witchcraft, sorcery, and other esoteric magical practices
Similarly, Vaikundar performed another action to ‘seize the esoteric evil powers’. Akilam says that, he had taken away the powers of those who knew to perform witchcraft, sorcery, and other magical rituals. People living in the hills, called as Kanikkarar, were believed to be powerful shamans or witchdoctors, having powers to contain or to provoke the demons. Vaikundar, in yet another occasion of trance, made some of these Kanikkarar to testify in front of the people that they had surrendered their powers. People grew appreciative of Ayya’s actions. They began addressing him as Vaikuntacami. This implied an attribution of divinity to Vaikundar. Having incinerated the demons, and seized the powers of esoteric evil practices, Vaikundar exhorted the people as follows:
“There are no demons, no devils, No ill effects of magical practices, No disease, no pain, and no extortion of taxes, And, therefore, live courageously.”
(See elobrately in:Seizing the Powers)
Vaikundar as Pantaram
The fame of Vaikundar had begun to spread in the countries of Tiruvitankur and Tirunelveli, and he had been gradually recognised socially as a religious person with extraordinary powers. In the religious parlance of the time, he was addressed as a Pantaram, a religious person hailing from, and serving the ordinary folk. Akilattirattu addresses him as NarayanaPantaram.
People came to him to listen to his teachings and instructions, “to be cured by him of different diseases”, to witness, worship and serve a religious person undertaking tavam. Vaikundar encouraged the people to come together around a well to take a ritual bath, irrespective of caste differences. He encouraged them to dine together in his presence.
He gave out a number of teachings and instructions, the central point of which was that he had come to abolish Kali Yukam, and to usher in an age of Dharma Yukam, during the time of which the now-oppressed and suffering people would be liberated and rule the land under his leadership. ‘Uplift of the lowly is dharmam’ was a constant refrain in his teachings.
People were enjoined to serve as catalysts for the destruction of Kali by transforming themselves to be ‘people of Dharma Yukam’ and to acquire a new character. The new character would come upon them, he said, if they-learned to live with self-respect, social dignity and fearlessness. Underscoring the importance of self-respect and social dignity, he said, ”˜if one lives with dignity and self-respect, the kali would destroy itself’ . He said when people grew out of kalimayai, Dharma Yukam would unfold itself and in that age, he would rule over the people as Dharma Raja, the king of Dharma Yukam.
Against the background of the growing popularity of Vaikundar, and the convergence of people around him in multitudes, a complaint seems to have been preferred against him to the king of Travancore (Kalineesan). He arrests Vaikundar and jailed and tortured exceedingly.
(See elobrately in:Vaikundar’s Trial)
After he returned from imprisonment, Vaikundar inspired a group of his devotees to undertake a religious exercise called Thuvayal Thavasu. He also practiced several activities of divinity. He married the Saptha Kanniyar as Narayanar (see:Marriage with the Seven Virgins), the Seven deities in the form of Ekam (see:Marriage with the Deities), He initiated a lot of festivities around him (see:Festivals and Celebrations).” There were ceremonial processions held amidst singing, incantations and shouts of joy by the followers. Several rites and rituals were instituted during these occasions.
Later Vaikundar was invited by his ‘devotees’ to their homes and treated in a grand manner. By way of soliciting his blessings, his ‘devotees’ carried him to different places. During these occasions, he laid foundations in various places for small shrine-like centres, called as Nizhal Thangals.Vaikundar came to recognize five individuals as his closest disciples. Through one of his disciples, Hari Gopalan Citar, he wrote the holy book, called Akilam.
On June 2, 1851, Vaikundar attained Vaikundam (see also:Attaining Vaikundam). As he attained Vaikundam his body was interned in a tomb and, around that, a pati (temple) was raised later on. His devotees continued to visit this site, and performed the rituals as the used to do when Vaikundar was bodily present. His life and works remain the foundation of the religion Ayyavazhi. The head temple of the Ayyavazhi religion is called the Swamithoppepathi and is located in the Village of Swamithope.
Ayya Vaikundar has five disciples (citars). According to Akilattirattu Ammanai the Pandavas of previous Dwapara Yukam was made to take birth in this Kali Yukam as Citars of Vaikundar. They are: