About The Hebbar Sreevaishnava Sabha
Iyengar or Ayyangar is a caste given to Hindu Iyengar Brahmins of Tamil origin, who follow the Visishtadvaita philosophy propounded by Ramanuja. They are found mostly in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu but some live in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
Iyengar are divided into two different sub-sects and, as with other Hindu communities, they are also classified based on their gotra, or patrilineal descent. The original language of the Iyengar Brahmins is Tamil, but they also speak other languages, notably Telugu and Kannada. The Iyengar community traces their origin in Tamil Nadu from the period of Ramanuja.
Iyengars sport a namam (Thiruman+Srichurnam) as a caste-mark.
There are various opinions regarding the etymology of Iyengar.
- It is derived from Ayya, a Prakrit version of the Sanskrit word Arya, along with the Telugu honorific plural suffix garu
- It means one who is characterised by five attributes (Ainduangangal)
Robert Lester says that the word “Ayyangaar”, an alternate transliteration, was first used by KandhaadaiRamanujaAyyangaar of Tirupathi around 1450 AD.
The Hebbars speak a Tamil dialect known as Hebbar Tamil. Once found only in the Karnataka towns of Belur, Shanti Grama, Nuggehalli, Nonavinakere, Bindiganavile and Hiremagalur, Hebbar Iyengars are now found in many parts of India, across Europe, and North America.
Hebbar Iyengars were not originally Srivaishnavas and even Sri Ramanujacharya was not a Srivaishnava when he wasborn. He was born to an advaitin! So when Ramanuja preachedVishistadvaita,Srivaishnavism became popular in Tamilnadu and whenSriRamanjua fled from TN and settled in Karnataka for 12 long years itspread to Southern Parts of Karnataka.
The details of Hebbar Srivaishnava origin was published long back in the Hebbar Srivaishnava magazine called "Hebbar Kshema". Also a historical novel written by Smt. Neeladevi about the life ofRamanuja in Karnataka named "Dhanya" gives similar answers to the origin ofHebbar Srivaishnavas.
During the time when Ramanuja was in Tondanur(Tonnur)near Melukote, agroup of elderly Kannada Brahmins came to Ramanuja and offered to convert toSrivaishnava Religion impressed by Ramanujas philosophy of Vishistadvaita.Ramanuja affectionately called the group of HiriyaHaruva(Elderly BrahminKannadigas) as Hebbar and thus originated the sect called HebbarSivaishnava(Iyengars). So Hebbar Srivaishnavas are originally KannadaBrahmins (Advaitins) who got converted to Srivaishnavas impressed by theteachings of Sri Ramanuja, and not of backward Caste.
Ramanuja asked them to settle in different places of the HoysalaKingdom(Current South Karnataka) and thus one can find many HebbarSrivaishnavas mainly in the southern districts of Karnataka especially,Bangalore, Mysore, Mandya, Tumkur, Hassan, Kolar and Chamarajanagardistricts.
They have their kuladaivams or Haathperumal in different places of thesedistricts. Formore info please visit Karnatka Vaishanava Temples
Since their mother tongue was Kannada they still have the affliction towards Kannada. Gradually they learnt to speak Tamil mainly to learn the DivyaPrabhandams.
But still many Hebbar Srivaishnavas cannot read and write in Tamil. They read theRamanuja’s philosophical works and AlwarsDivyaPrabhandams translated toKannada or English. However, they recite NalayiraDivyaPrabhandams in Temples inKarnataka forming Goshtis. They are called Melnatu Iyengars as they areresiding in the High plateau of Karnataka. Another sect called KeelnatuIyengars are those who migrated to Karnataka from Tamil Nadu, which is lowerthan the Plateau of Karnataka.