Ayya Vaikuntar strove for the upliftment of the poor downtrodden castes of South Travancore. His aim was to raise the living standards of the deprived castes to that of the privileged castes. His mission was a social, cultural and religious revolution among the people. Ayya Vaikuntar preached a unique way of worshipping God. In those days, Hindu religion was in the grip of Brahmins and the upper castes. The temples were managed by the Kings and their henchmen.
The Vedas and Upanishads were the religious books. The Upanishads contain very little history of individuals; but, nearly all other scriptures are largely personal histories. The Vedas deal entirely with philosophy. The puranas were next only to Vedas and Upanishads. These were in Sanskrit and hence could not be learned by the common man.
Simplification of Religion
Ayya wanted to simplify the religion so that it could reach the common man. In Hinduism, people worshipped several deities an d each and every deity should be worshipped in a particular way. The norms and customs were very difficult for the common man to practice. It was believed that thithi and prathosam were the best periods to worship God. The way of worship was also much complicated. It was even believed that the different kinds of oil used for lighting the lamp yielded different favours.
Ayya’s simplification started with the structure of the temple itself. The nizhal thangals were very simple buildings and the worship at these places were also very simple. Here, everybody is expected to be very clean not only mentally but also physically. One can worship Ayya according to his own will and pleasure. No poojas; no poojaries; no karpooram; no agarbathi; no hundies.
Equality is also strictly maintained here. There is no difference between the rich and the poor. When a devotee enters the temple with a turban on the head, a full length dhoti around the waist and without any dress on the upper part of his body, he can see all other devotees dressed in the same way.
The language used in the temple and the nizhal thangals is strictly Tamil. Ayya wrote his books only in Tamil. Ayya Vaikuntar used Tamil in temple worship so that even common man could understand the meaning of what they hear. It is also very easy for the non-privileged communities to practice. The marriage manthras are also in Tamil only.
Pooja, Poojaris and Idol Worship
Ayya Vaikuntar was against conducting poojas in temples. At Swamithoppu, the sanctum of the temple is decorated with flowers. This is called as panividai. Those who are performing the panividai are called as panividaikaras. Anybody can perform the panividai, irrespective of caste and creed.Ayya Vaikuntar was totally against idol worship. His ideology is to see God in oneself. He says in Akialathirattu that the power of God cannot be confined to any limits. He is present anywhere and everywhere. So there is no place for idol worship in Ayyavazhi.
Social organizations of this day are condemning the practice of animal sacrifice in temples. But Ayya Vaikuntar raised his voice against this practice 150 years ago. In those days, the people of South Travancore were very poor and uneducated. The reigning sentiment was one of fear rather than of piety towards God. People sacrificed animals. He preached against this practicein his holy books. Akilathirattu speaks clearly against this evil at follows.
“Enakakaumberyal enangezhu Mamuniyae”
“Adukidai kozhi Aruthu peli edather”
In those days, animal sacrifice was conducted even in very big temples by high caste Hindus. The palipeedam as seen in almost all the temples bear testimony to this fact. Ayya Vaikuntar never permitted His devotees even to break coconuts in temples because He thought this practice to be a difficult form of sacrifice. One can see this being strictly followed by Ayyavazhi devotees in the nizhal thangals.
Ayya said those who practiced sacrifice were not His people. His followers took His words in the right sense and there is no room for this evil practice in Ayyavazhi. His followers say that God who created all the living beings will not be happy if we snuff life out of his creatures.
Dharma and Dharmayuka
From the day of man’s creation, so many religions have come into existence. The object of every religion is to guide people in the right path. Even though there are so many religions, prophets and preachers, life is still a misery in this world. Even now, so many atrocities are being committed in the name of religion. Whenever there is an inter-religious clash, a peace committee is formed; but, permanent peace never dawn. Peace will reign in this world only when dharma rules it.
What is dharma? Dharma is righteousness that underlies the law. When this righteousness is thought of as God, temple and religion, there will not be any inter-religious rivalry, religious unrest and conversions. Ayya wanted to achieve this. Ayya said that dharmayuka will dawn in the world gradually, not all of a sudden. He says that dharma is the only way to reach God. He also says annadharmam is the most important of all the dharmas. He also says that whenever people reach a place of worship, they should worship God and go back with their stomach full. Only then people will have time to think of God and righteousness.
Ayya called this world of righteousness as dharmayuka. Ayya Vaikuntar’s mission is to destroy kali and achieve dharmayuka. In dharmayuka, ther will be no caste but a single creed and religion. There won’t be any evil in that world.
There will be only one government in dharmayuka. There won’t bbe any difference between the ruler and the ruled. There will be neither poverty nor disease. Dharma will be the God. There won’t be any temple, police station or court because there won’t be any crime. In all dharmayuka will be a world of wholesomeness.
The social and religious reforms of Ayya Vaikuntar attracted people towards Him. People affectionately called Him as Ayya to show their closeness. His miracles proved that He is the incarnation of Lord Vishnu who came as a trinity. His preachings made the uneducated people to walk in the right path. People in those days were very happy that God had come for their salvation in the form of Ayya. There were large number of devotees. This particular way of worship is unique and will spread throughout the world. Ayya Vaikuntar has stated this fact in Arulnool.