THIRUVENKATA RAMANUJA Vs. VENKATACHARLU
HIGH COURT OF BOMBAY
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Macmillan, J. -
(1.)THEIR Lordships address themselves in this appeal to the consideration of a controversy which in one form or another has agitated the Hindu religious community in the Presidency of Madras for upwards of two centuries. The main question between the parties relates to the right to regulate the conduct of the services in an important group of temples. To the understanding of the issue a short historical survey is essential.
(2.)ACCORDING to the Hindu creed the Deity manifests Himself in three aspects as Brahma, the Creator, Vishnu, the Preserver, and Siva, the Destroyer and Renovator. Those who are devoted to the worship of the Deity in His aspect as Vishnu are known as Vaishnavas and there are many temples, especially in Southern India, dedicated to the worship of Vishnu and known as Vaishnavite temples. The earliest Scriptures, dating from 2,500 years ago, are the Sanskrit Vedas or hymns, held sacred by all Hindus A further series of sacred writings known as Prabandhams, consisting of 4,000 compositions in the Tamil language, was compiled in later times by certain Alwars who were Vaishnava devotees in Southern India. Subsequently the Acharyas or learned Brahmins acted as religious preceptors, Of these the most famous was Ramanuja who flourished between 1017 and 1137 A. D. , Vedanta Desikar who flourished between 1268 and 1369 A. D. and Manavala Mahamuni who lived between 1370 and 1443 A. D. These Acharyas composed a number of Sanskrit verses in praise of the Deity called Sthothra Patams. The Prabandhams at an early date became part of the ritual of the Vaishnavite temple services and later the Sthothra Patams were also recited on special occasions. The Alwars and Acharyas, the authors of the Prabandhams and Sthothra Patams, became themselves objects of worship in the temples.
About the fourteenth century there appears to have arisen a difference of view among the Vaishnavites. One section, the followers of Vedanta Desikar, specialised in the study and exposition of the Sanskrit Vedas and regarded the Alwars and their Prabandhams as entitled to less reverence. These became known as Vadagalais or followers of the Northern cult. The other section, the followers of Manavala Mahamuni, specialised in the study and exposition of the Tamil Prabandhams of the Alwars and became known as Tengalais or followers of the Southern cult. It is important to bear in mind that both derive from and share a common religious origin and faith and that while each adheres to its own school of thought neither of them contemns or rejects the sacred character of the other's cult.
In some of the Vaishnavite temples in the Presidency of Madras the Vadagalai cult prevails, in others the Tengalai cult. The question which shall prevail in particular temples has been the subject of frequent dispute and on several occasions of litigation. While the order of service is much the same in both classes of temples there are certain distinctive features of the Vadagalai and the Tengalai rituals respectively and it is with regard to the observance of these distinctive features that the present litigation is concerned.
(3.)THE temples to which this appeal relates are eighteen in number, one group of five in Tirumalai and another group of thirteen in Tirupathi, all in the Chitoor district of Madras. THE conduct of the services in these temples is under the charge of what is known as the Adhyapakam office. At its head as president is the plaintiff, now the appellant, known as Pedda Jiyyangar, who may be described as the high priest. He is a Tengalai. He is assisted in the performance of his duties by a Chinna or Junior Jiyyangar, four Ekangis, and certain minor assistants called Adhyapakas and Acharya-purushas. THEse with the general body of ordinary worshippers when met in assembly constitute the Adhyapaka Goshti or congregation. THEre is now no question as to the authoritative and predominant position occupied by the appellant. It is in connection with the extent and nature of his rights in the conduct of the service that controversy has arisen.
The order of worship in these, in common with other, Vaishnavite temple follows well recognised lines. First the Pedda Jiyyangar opens the service by saying "sadit Arula" (please begin ). Then follows the invocation of the patron saint consisting of five stanzas known as the manthram or pathram. The first stanza according to the Tengalai cult begins with the words "sri Sailesa Dayapathram" and invokes the Tengalai guru Manavala Mahamuni. According to the Vedagalai cult the first stanza begins with the words "ramanuja Dayapathram" and invokes the Vedagalai guru Vedanta Desikar. The remaining four stanzas are common to both. After the manthram or invocation comes the recitation of selected passages from the Prabandhams appointed for the day, each prefaced with a laudatory verse in praise of its author. The Prabandhams are common to both sects. At the conclusion of the recitation of the Prabandhams benedictory verses called Vazhi Tirunamam are recited, consisting of nine stanzas of which the first four are common to both sects, while the last five differ.
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