Vairamuthu’s remark on Goddess Sri Andal has provoked unprecedented widespread protests from Hindus and Hindu outfits across the state.
Vairamuthu, famous Tamil film lyricist, has earned the wrath of scores of Hindus by making derogatory remarks on Goddess Sri Andal. According to Hindu Vaishanavaite sect, Sri Andal is the incarnation of Goddess Bhoomadevi, consort of Lord Vishnu and attained union with the Lord Ranganathan at Srirangam, Tamil Nadu, through her unwavering devotion to Lord Vishnu. Sri Andal is the only female Azhwar of the twelve azhwars, who are revered as noble souls deeply immersed in their devotion to Lord Vishnu and dedicated their life in singing hymns in praise of Lord Vishnu. According spiritual texts these twelve azhwars lived in different parts of South India between the fifth and ninth century. They travelled from place to place and visited many Vishnu temples and sung hymns in praise of Lord Vishnu. In essence all the twelve ahzwars exhibited their bhakthi by singing hymns on Lord Vishnu and these hymns numbering four thousand are collectively known as “Naalaira Divyaprabhandams” out of which Sri Andal is credited with the works of “ Thirupaavai” and “Naachiar Thirumozhi “. Sri is revered as the epitome of bhakthi and one of the pioneers of bhakthi poetry from the feminist perspective.
In an event titled “Thamizhai Andal” (She who ruled over Tamil) organised by “Dinamani”, one of the oldest and well established Tamil newspaper, part of the “New Indian Express” group, Vairamuthu made a derogatory remarks on Goddess Sri Andal. Vairamuthu, instead of praising Sri Andal, for her mastery over the Tamil language and her devotion to the Lord, simply went overboard. Vairamuthu in his speech said, “Andal herself is a Devadasi who lived and died in the Srirangam Temple.”
Perhaps his authority over the Tamil language, which undoubtedly he posses, clouded his arrogance or due to his unflinching atheist outlook Vairamuthu, had the audacity to call a Goddess, worshipped by millions, as”Devadasi”. Deavadasi is a custom prevailed in the older times that girls from a particular community will be dedicated to the worship of God in a very young age and will be prohibited from marrying mortal men and have to spend their life in the service of God by singing and dancing in praise of the Lord.
History shows that while the Devadasi custom was very much prevalent in the early centuries in South India. In the earlier days Devadasis were accorded high social status but subsequently powerful men in the villages started to abuse these girls and over a period of time an entire community began to thrive on such practices being sex slaves and child prostitutes.
More importantly, the event was held in the Tamil month of “Margazhi” (Dec-Jan) considered to be holy for the Hindus, especially by the Vaishanavites. During the period of 30 days the Hindu temples will be opened very early in the morning say around 4.30am and the divine verses called “Thirupavai” composed by Sri Andal, will be sung in the early morning and “Pongal” prasadm will be distributed. The greatness of “Thiruppavai” is that during those 30 days, the general Suprabhata, will be replaced by Sri Andal’s Tiruppavai in Vishnu temples.
Moreover, the organiser not only chose the topic in praise of Sri Andal, but also chose the place as “Rajapalayam”, a small city very near to “Srivilliputhur” town, the birth place of Sri Andal. It must be noted that the “Raja Gopuram” (The Temple Tower) of Sri Andal temple at Srivilliputhur has been chosen as the State emblem of Tamil Nadu.
The first question that comes to the minds of every devoted Hindu soul is why on earth the organisers have invited Vairamuthu to deliver a talk on Sri Andal. Vairamuthu, keeping aside his accolades, has never shied away from his pro-atheism stand and has been always proud to wear one on his sleeves.
It is still a mystery how the organisers zeroed in on Vairamuthu whose credentials on divinity are absolutely zero. Assuming that Vairamuthu had been invited on the basis of his knowledge on the Tamil language and as an acclaimed Tamil poet , instead of dwelling upon Sri Andal’s Tamil prowess and praising the charm and message in her poetry , he chose to criticise her growing up and her deep devotion and grit to marry the Lord himself. After all, the event is all about “Tamil” and not on spreading Hinduism. Vairamuthu could have simply talked about the merits of Andal’s verses and message the divine poet conveyed through her poetry.
After coming under attack from BJP and AIADMK members and following widespread criticism and protest from various Hindu organisations across the state, Vairamuthu expressed his regret saying that he did not intend to hurt the sentiments of anyone. Promptly “Dinamani” carried that too and along with an apology. The newspaper also removed the article from its website.
Vairamuthu claimed that he only quoted a research done by an Indiana University researcher and it is not his view. "In my essay called ‘Tamizhai Aandal’ I had only quoted a line from a book that had come from Indiana University. It is not my opinion. It is that researcher’s personal opinion. The aim of literature is to maximise personas and not to minimise them. There is no need for literature (to minimise personas). Everybody knows that my views on Andal are only to praise her and my intention is not to hurt anyone. I regret it if anyone has been hurt," Vairamuthu said.
While BJP’s national secretary H. Raja launched a no-holds-barred attack on the poet, many Hindu organisations also demanded Vairamuthu to withdraw his comment. As various Hindu leaders and members started venting their anger against Vairamuthu, the social media was abuzz with wide criticism on Vairamuthu for his remark. Even some people from film fraternity have also expressed their opinion that Vairamuthu should have stayed away from making such comments. There were also reports from the neihbouring southern states that similar protests were carried out in Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
H Raja used the Devadasi reference in Vairamuthu’s speech to launch an attack on him and Dinamani and pointed out that all these Ahzwars and Nayanmars (Who sang in praise of Lord Shiva) and their works speaks volumes of not only their bhakthi but also their contribution to the growth of Tamil unlike poets such as Vairamuthu who have made money by describing the beauty of women. Raja said, “What Vairamuthu has said is poisonous and abused the birth of Sri Andal. It is unfortunate and condemnable that Dinamani has given a platform to a disgraceful person. The quality and respect of Dinamani daily was broke down in a moment. Dinamani should apologise to the public.”
With obvious reference to Vairamuthu being a Christian by birth, (his real name is James Victor), many Hindu outfits decry his remarks as a deliberate attempt to denounce Hinduism. Still many are of the opinion that the newspaper Diannamani is also equally at fault for having allowed their platform to spread communal hatred in public. Many just wondered while Vairamuthu has expressed wrong views on Sri Andal, whether the Christian missionaries or Islamic organisations keep quiet if Vairamuthu contest the birth of Jesus or utter a wrong word about Allah?
While BJP and other Hindu outfits across South India strongly condemn Vairamuthu’s remarks and describe the incident as Hindu-bashing which hurt the sentiments of millions of people, history shows us that it is nothing new to the people of Tamil Nadu. For decades TN has a long history of making derogatory remarks on Hinduism, Hindus and Hindu Gods. Both Dravida Muneta Kahazagam (DMK) and its parent body Dravida Kahazagam (DK) have been vociferously engaged in uttering abuses on Hinduism and Hindus
Anti- Hindu sentiment and Brahmin bashing is in the DNA of DMK. Starting from “Periyar”, the founder of DK and followed by Annadurai, the founder of DMK and dutifully continued by Karunanidhi, leaders of both parties have not only taken pride in proclaiming their Anti-God ideologies but also time and gain been highly critical of Hinduism and Hindu Gods. It is a fact that the DMK gained prominence by opposing Brahmins and Hinduism hegemony. For decades DMK has been dutifully engaged in appeasement politics by criticising Hindu sentiments to garner minority votes.
Leading the pack of tirades is none other than nonagenarian Karunanidhi, who has served five-times as the chief minister of Tamil Nadu. Here are some of the characteristics quotes of Karunanidhi that infuriates majority of Hindus:
He even criticised the celebrations of “Ram Navami” and “Jannmashtami” saying that the jayantis (birth anniversaries) of imaginary figures are never celebrated, but millions of Hindus are celebrating Ramnavami and Janmashtami for thousands of years.
For decades Hindu voices have questioned Karunanidhi that while he openly criticise Hindu Gods, will he dare to say the same about the ‘Quran’ or ‘Bible’? While questioning the birth of Lord Rama and Lord Krishna, he will not dare to question the birth of Jesus or Allah In his over six decades of public life Karunanidhi has never once even attempted to criticise anything whether fellow Christians or Islamists do. Moreover, he has religiously participated in “Iftar” parties with the skull cap on.
Perhaps Vairamuthu has taken leaf out of his political mentor Karunanidhi. In principle DMK is against ‘Aryan’ values (read Brahminism) and for decades simply thrived on opposing Hindus and Hinduism while supporting the minorities for their own cheap political gain. Like Congress at the national level, DMK at the regional level is considered by the majority of people as “Anti Hindu”.
While Vairamuthu’s remark on Goddess Sri Andal, has evoked protests from the political parties such as BJP and AIADMK along with many Hindu outfits and several religious heads, DK is attempting to throw its weight around the poet. DK accused BJP of trying to make inroads in to the Dravidian land which has deep roots of rationalism and anti-god sentiments.
But the fact remains that the so called rational movement started by “periyar”, has dwindled over the years and number of believers has increased steadily over the decades. Moreover, perhaps for the first time in Tamil Nadu’s history something like when millions of young people joined in their protest against the banning of Jallikattu, Hindus across the state have joined their hands in the protest against Vairamuthu. Now, every Hindu and religious outfit comprising of people from all walks of life that include Brahmins, temple priests, heads of religious mutts and representatives of welfare societies, have come out openly condemning Vairamuthu for his ostentatious remark on Hindu Goddess Sri Andal.
Unable to bear the heat generated over the issue, finally Vairamuthu made an appeal through a video stating that he has always held the goddess in high esteem and it was through her that he learnt Tamil, He added that he held both his "own mother and mother Andal" on the same high-footing.
Without naming anyone, Variamuthu said his words were wantonly misinterpreted by some for "politics mixed up with religion or religion mixed up politics." He recalled that he and the Tamil daily which published his address have both expressed regret if they had hurt anybody. He reiterated that Andal was referred in high esteem in his address and the article.
Several Hindu leaders have expressed their anguish over the issue and stated that just because Hinduism teaches tolerance, Hindus need not accept someone to degrade their Gods. At last, Hindus are getting united in Tamil Nadu which has remained as a bastion for the so called “rational thinking”. So far in the last fortnight, more than a dozen cases have been filed against Vairamuthu in various parts of Tamil Nadu.
However, not satisfied with a mere regret note, many Hindu faithful that include scholars, teachers, students, women and even seers continued the demonstrations against Vairamuthu in various places across the state. Some even burned the photographs of Vairamuthu. Sadagopa Ramanuja Jeeyar, the head of the Manavala Mamunigal Mutt in Srivilliputhur, went on a hunger strike. The protestors demand that Vairamuthu not only take back his words but also must pay a visit to Srivilliputhur and seek pardon by prostrating before Sri Andal.
After all faith is an absolutely individual trait. If a believer has the right to believe in God and his power to alleviate their problems, so does an atheist to debunk those beliefs and remain as a rationalist. At the same time there are strong evidences against those “qualified”: rationalists who have time and again sought the divine intervention whenever they are mired neck-deep in problems. Social media is abuzz with many such videos, sparking the debate over these pseudo rationalists’ double standards.
At the outcome, Tamil Nadu has witnessed an increased sense of urge to consolidate the Hindu resolve to fight against these constant attacks on Hindus and HIndu Gods by these so-called rationalists. Unlike in the past where Hindus, even ordinary people who used to share their grief within the confinement of four walls, are now prepared to hit the streets. At last, the Hindus in Tamil Nadu have united to fight against such injustice and ill treatment meted out to their religion and the practices. By registering their protests across the state, the Hindus have demonstrated that they no more tolerate people who abuse Hinduism and Hindu Gods.
As the protest is gained momentum, finally a fortnight after the Variramuthu’s article was published in Dinamani, K Vaidyanathan, the editor of the Tamil daily , visited the Srivilliputhur Andal temple and prostrated before the Sri Andal deity. He also met Sadagopa Ramanuja Jeeyar and apologised for all that happened.
However, the protestors are determined to continue their protests until Vairamuthu too visits Srivilliputhur and apologises at the temple. As a fall out of the protests, several Hindu organisations have issued an ultimatum to Vairamuthu. In case the poet laureate has not acceded to their demands by February 3rd, 2017, they have planned to launch a massive protest at Chennai’s iconic Marina beach.