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Lord Ayya Vaikundar
Other namesSriman Narayana Vaikundaswamy
Sanskrit transliterationअय्या वैघुण्ढर्
Tamilஅய்யா வைகுண்டர்
AffiliationPurna Avatar of Ekam
AbodeDetchanam, South India, Vaikuntha
AdherentsDharma Seedar,Bhiman Seedar,Arjunan Seedar, Nakulan Seedar and Sakatevan Seedar
TextsAkilathirattu Ammanai, Arul Nool, Vedas
FestivalsVaikunda Jayanthi
Personal information
ParentsGoddess Lakshmi (mother)
Vishnu (father)
ConsortsSaptha Kannimar ; Lakshmi Bhagavathi, Bhoo-madanthai

Ayya Vaikundar (c.1833 –c.1851) (Tamil: அய்யா வைகுண்டர்) also known as Vaikunda Swami was the founder of Ayyavazhi sect of Hinduism. The Ayyavazhis believe him to be the foremost avatar of the god Vishnu (Narayana).[1][2][3]

Ayya Vaikundar is a central character in the narratives and teaching of the Ayyavazhi scripture Akilathirattu Ammanai.[4] The Ayyayazhi believe that he will be instrumental in the destruction of Kali and establishment of Dharma Yukam.[5][6][7]

Most of the preachings and activities found in Akilam and other texts about the life of Ayya Vaikundar was documented historically[8] and detailed in critical contemporary sources externally as well.[9] Though the prime features of Ayya Vaikundar’s mission is revealed through Akilathirattu, he also teaches orally.[10] His oral teaching are compiled in the Books of Pathiram, Sivakanta Athikara Pathiram and Thingal Patham.[11] Though Akilam is directly against creating any form of organised religion or belief,[12] the teachings of Akilam and especially few books of Arul Nool forms the basis of Ayyavazhi belief.[13] The birth anniversary of Ayya Vaikundar is celebrated as Ayya Vaikunda Avataram on the 20th of Masi[14] as per the Tamil Calender (3 or 4 March C.E).

Early avatars

Akilathirattu says, whenever the yuga ages and major injustice happens, God appears as incarnations to establish dharma by destroying adharma.

At the beginning of Universe, Once the cosmic embodied with cycles of Yugas and creatures were created, Lord Adi Brahma, named the first Yuga as ‘Neettiya Yuga’, followed by a fire ritual (Agni Kund meant for performing Yagna and Homa) performed by Lord Shiva in which, host of divine forces of several forms besides the Trinites (Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma) participated to discuss the fabric of attributes and aspects to be incorporated in the universe. As the discussion continued, an evil minded asura called ‘Kroni’, emerged out of the  Agni Kund and within days of his appearance, he began to terrorise the celestial forces and attempted to destroy the divine abodes and even mount Kailash. To save devas, Lord Narayana took a penance to get grace of Lord Shiva to destroy Kroni. Lord Shiva appeared and said to Lord Narayana, "Kroni should be cut in six pieces". In doing so, every piece of him will be born as a monster on the earth, and you will have to incarnate to destroy the other demons.

Lord Narayana consents and chops Kroni into six pieces in Neetiya yuga. Accordingly, Lord Narayana incarnated by the Yuga-Yugas in order to protect the Dharma. So, he appeared in the Chathur Yuga and the Netu Yuga by destroying the asuras such as Gundomasali, Thillai Mallalan, and Mallossy Vaughan that emerged from Kroni's chunk. Later in the Kretha Yuga, Lord incarnated as Muruga, Narasimha and Sri Rama in the Thretha Yuga to destroy the Asuras such as Singamukha Suran, Surapathman, Iranian, and Ravana. In the Dvapara Yuga Lord incarnated as Sri Krishna to destroy the Asuras such as Duryodhana, Takkan and helped the Pandavas to establish the Dharma by establishing the Pandavas Kingdom again. Kroni was refused to listen Lord Narayana’s council, whenever he was born and destroyed. Lord Narayana was angry on this and last said to kroni "You will die because of yourself". Then, at the end of Dvapara Yuga, Lord was known that Kailyan will come, that is the reason he had led the route of forest, while on the way he had taken back the powers of pandavas and left his body on top of the hill and left this world.


Main article: Vishnu

Whenever Lord Narayana incarnates, he gives the details in scriptures about his incarnation. The Akilattirattu is the divine scripture, which gives the details of tenth incarnation of Lord Narayana in form of Ayya Vaikundar.

Yes, to understand Rama Avatara, Ramayana was provided to the world. For Krishna Avatara, Mahabharatha was written. To know about Vaikunta Avatara, Akilathirattu was provided to mankind. Vedas, puranas, Itihasas, and also according to the predictions in other religions, to end the cruelties of Kali Yuga and to protect the world, Lord Narayana appeared as Vaikuntar.

Ayyavazhi scripture Akilattirattu gives the world's historical and mythological events. It also gives prophecy of the avatars of Lord Narayana and his coming along with extensive quantity of historical facts. This holy book focus on the “supreme oneness” and narrates the events starting from the creation of the Universe. It also explains us what has happened so far and what is going to happen next. This holy book was compiled by his fifth citar - Hari Gopalan on Kollam Year 1016 at 27th day of Tamil Month Karthikai (10 December 1841 CE, Friday). Hari Goplan received holy Apostle from Lord in his dream, which commissioned him to write the Akilattirattu by giving him the first syllable - “The Kappu”.


As prophesied by Maharishi Veda Vyasa whenever the human or other atrocities reached the peak in the universe due to the influence and boons of Kali, then Mahavishnu would manifest to destroy the evils. In fulfillment of that assurance he descended and entered into the sea of Tiruchendur in the form of a flame. His consort Goddess Lakshmi was awaiting for the arrival of Lord Narayana as Makara. The flame of fire, pushed the mind of Goddess Lakshmi into state of perturbation and confusion; While she was able to assume that it was Lord Narayana who had come in the form of fire, her consciousness is almost lost. She felt aroused and the burning fire entered into her. The Eka-paran started taking birth in stages as Ayya Vaikundar in her womb. He later took birth on the 20th day of Tamil Month Masi in the year of Kollam, 1008 (1 March 1833 CE). Immediately after the birth of Ayya Vaikundar he was offered Vinchai, which includes the instructions and the road-map for the destruction of Kali. The elated celestials who were watching Ayya Vaikundar emerging from Goddess Lakshmi carried the infant in a cradle with lullabies and dancing all the way till they reached the sea shore.

The joyous Rishis and saints were manifested as prophesied in the Adi Agamas and offered their obedience to Ayya Vaikundar.

After providing doctrines to Trimurthi, Devas, Rishis as he walked towards Deekshanam from Tiruchendur, the celestial and Devangana followed Ayya Vaikundar through the heavenly spaces, praising him and playing instruments. On reaching Tharuvai, Ayya Vaikundar took the form of a Pandara with prominent sacred white mark smeared on forehead, braided hair, garland of rudraksha mala around the neck, rishi’s wand and a Kamandal (a water-vessel of a religious mendicant) in each hand besides dressed up in ochre. Those of the sea creatures which were hiding deep inside the waters in fear of Kalineesan too came out of the sea and proclaimed ‘may the manifestation of the redeemer redress the grievances of the land’ Ayya Vaikundar continued his journey towards Dekshanam followed by Sandrors.

He proclaimed that he had incarnated to re-establish rule of dharma. With the power he derived from Shiva, exercising patience and acts of Dharma with caution, he slowly and steadily began his initial deeds towards the destruction of the forces under the influence of Kali, as per the acts ordained by Lord Narayana in the Vinchai. Ayya Vaikundar reached Ambalapathi, installed a Shiva linga and from there he proclaimed that he would go back there again and would marry the seven deities and rule them from the throne there.

In the name of Ayya Vaikundar, Lord came towards Swamithopu as Pantaram. Ayya Vaikundar as a Pantaram, had donned himself in squalid rags, smeared the white mark on forehead, tied a turban on his head and carried a cane. Upon reaching Swamithopu, he undertook a penance for 6 years to get grace and power of Lord Shiva. He got the power to abolish the rule of the evil force Kali from the world and for the subsequent end of Kali yuga. Lord did many mighty miracles. These include, curing all the diseases for those people who came to get blessing from him. He baught eighteen-caste people together for peace and equality. Ayya Vaikundar had five disciples (Citars). According to Akilathirattu, the Pandavas of previous Dvapara Yuga were made to take birth in this Kali yuga as Citars of Ayya Vaikundar. The holy book Akilathirattu was compiled by his fifth citar - Hari Gopalan alias Sahadeva of Dvapara Yuga.

According to Akilathirattu, Ayya Vaikundar is the 10th avatar of Lord Narayana, also popularly called as ‘Ayya’, ‘Lord Vaikunda Swami’ and ‘Lord Narayana Swami’. While Akilathirattu, reverently mention him as Shri Pandara, Aandavar, Shri Mayon, Shri Lord Narayana, Lord Vishnu, Lord Thirumal, Shri Perumal, Ayya Lord Narayana, Shri SivaLord Narayana, Shri SuryaLord Narayana and ,"Kalki”. Lord's avatar happens to be next to his Krishna avatar. In this avatar, Lord Narayana incarnated as “Trimurti” alias “Siva Lord Narayana”. He had supreme power for the responsibility to destroy the evil of Kali (कलि).

“Lord Narayana himself incarnated as Ayya Vaikundar” - Akilathirattu

Another view is that Lord Vishnu did not take a human body and showed only a bodily appearance.


Main article: Tavam of Vaikundar

Upon reaching Poovantanthoppu, (present-day Swamithopu), he undertook a penance. The penance consisted of three stages, each spanning two years. A tradition describes his postures during the six-year tavam as follows: during the first two years, he stood inside a six feet deep pit; during the next two years, he squatted on the ground; and during the last two years, he sat on a raised platform. His appearance was squalid, "long and entangled plait of hair" and frayed clothes. He spoke less and subsisted on frugal meals.[15]

Akilathirattu speaks of his incineration of evil spirits as an important event in Lord Ayya Vaikundar's incarnation. It took place when he was performing his penance, which he had announced to be the means of destroying the kalimayai - the illusory evil force. He gathered the people and caused some of them, both male and female, to be possessed of the evil spirits (peyattam).[16] The possessed ones danced in front of the crowd as if the evil spirits had come upon them. Ayya Vaikundar, then, ordered these evil spirits to make an oath, in front of the people, to surrender their powers and incinerate themselves. When he had finished his orders, the dancers fell flat on the ground and burned.[17] Similarly, Ayya Vaikundar performed another action to 'seize the esoteric evil powers'. Akilathirattu says that he took 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, having powers to contain or to provoke the demons. Ayya Vaikundar, in a trance, made some of them testify that they had surrendered their powers. People grew appreciative of Ayya's actions. They began addressing him as Vaikuntasami. This implied an attribution of divinity to Ayya Vaikundar.[16] Ayya Vaikundar exhorted the people as follows:

Ayya Vaikundar has five disciples (citars). According to holy scripture Akilathirattu Ammanai the Pandavas of previous Dwapara Yukam was made to take birth in this Kali Yukam as Citars of Ayya Vaikundar. They are Dharma Citar, Bhima Citar, Arjunan Citar, Nakulan Citar and Sakatevan Citar.


The fame of Ayya Vaikundar began to spread in the countries of South Tamilnadu and southern part of Kerala and he was gradually recognised as a religious person with extraordinary powers and super-natural abilities.[18] He was addressed as a Pantaram, a religious person hailing from and serving the ordinary folk. Akilathirattu addresses him as Shree Pantaram.[19]

Ayya Vaikundar as "Shree Pantaram"
Ayya Vaikundar as "Shree Pantaram"

Ayya Vaikundar ordered the people to surrender firmly to him alone who was the creator, annihilator and protector of the universe. They should live in harmony, firm mind, adhere to the norms of rituals and be true and honest to the Lord. His teachings were directed not only to the devas and humans, but also been meant to the birds, animals and all other living beings and interestingly even to non-living things in the world including plants, trees, reptiles, rocks and stones which were nonliving. On the contrary to the caste-based discriminatory dress codes, Ayya Vaikundar advised that those norms defied and males should come to him wearing turban or a head gear and similarly the females, covering their upper body with cloth (Sari). He also insisted inter-mingling of all 18 castes and also proclaimed that he will be ruling the land under one umbrella. People came to listen to his teachings and instructions, to be cured by him of different diseases, to witness, worship and serve a religious person. Ayya Vaikundar encouraged the people to come together around a well to take a ritual bath, irrespective of caste. He encouraged them to dine together in his presence.[20]

The things used by Ayya Vaikundar; 'Surai Koodu', 'Pirambu' and 'Thandayam'.
The things used by Ayya Vaikundar; 'Surai Koodu', 'Pirambu' and 'Thandayam'.

He stressed that he had come to abolish Kali Yugam and to usher in an age of Dharma Yukam, when the now-oppressed and suffering people would be liberated and rule the land under his leadership. 'Uplift of the lowly is dharmam’[21] was a constant refrain in his teachings.[18] People were encouraged 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 and in that age, he would rule over the people as Dharma Raja, the king of Dharma Yukam. He advocated that the real meaning of Dharma would be to shower love on those oppressed and suppressed and lending moral support to them. He picked up sacred clay from the ground and applied it personally on the forehead of everyone like a mark. He enforced the masses well irrespective of their caste and creed use of water from a common.

Gradually, people belonging to different classes, attracted by the teachings of Ayya Vaikundar continued to flock to him. Thus when the suppressed and oppressed folks felt enlightened; emboldened by the preachings of Ayya Vaikundar began to walk with dignity and honor. It became an eye sore to the higher classes. The king was informed about the impact and influence of the preachings of Ayya Vaikundar. Though the principal activities of Ayya Vaikundar were totally in different plane and well beyond the human realm to prepare for the world for Dharma Yuga, the implications and the impact of the preachings and declarations of Ayya Vaikundar is viewed by the king as an attempt to promote qualities of equality, social justice, self-respect, fearlessness in the psyche of the public. The King appear to assume that Ayya Vaikundar is trying a revolt against the kingdom by creating an uprising among the masses. He was also concerned that a distinct social culture was slowly but firmly getting established in Swamithoppu. This clearly irked the King. The King who was the kalineesan (the one who was in captive of Kali) went with his force to get Ayya Vaikundar arrested. He told his minister ‘listen Minister, this land was earlier ruled by our ancestors and even though presently the land is under the command of the Britishers, still folks would only listen to me. Therefore, go and find out whether someone is up against me and get me the true picture of the land’ .

According to the legend as per holy akilam, when Kali was born, he got the boon from Lord Shiva, which has more powers than compare to which he got on previous yuga's. When he was on the way to earth, Lord Narayana was in the form of Pantaram stopped him and asked him to fight with. When Kali was ignored, Lord Narayana asked him to promise, "going forward i won't fight or distrupt any Pantaram. If i will do so, will lose everything and will go to hell".

That is the reason Lord Narayana has taken his tenth avatar on this Kali Yugam as Lord Narayana Pantaram. [18]

Arrest and imprisonment

See also: Vaikundar's Trial

He made some controversial statements like mentioning the Travancore king as ‘Devil in Ananthapuri’ and the British rule as ‘Rule of White Devils’. Against the background of the growing popularity of Ayya Vaikundar and the convergence of people around him in multitudes, a complaint was lodged against him with the King of Travancore Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma . The King arrested Ayya Vaikundar in 1838 and imprisoned him at Singarathoppe jail. After 110 days of imprisonment, on 26 March 1839 he was released by Swathithirunal on the advise of Thycaud Ayya who was the Guru of Swathi thirunal Maharaj and a disciple of Ayya Vaikundar as well.


After returning from the prison, Ayya Vaikundar inspired a group of his devotees to undertake a religious exercise called Thuvayal Thavasu.[22][23] He also performed miracles. He married Saptha Kanniyar as Lord Narayana (see: Marriage with the Seven Virgins), the Seven deities in the form of Ekam (see:Marriage with the Deities). He initiated festivities (see: Festivals and Celebrations). The deities were made to 'come upon' some of the female devotees who became their human media and a marriage ceremony was performed.[24] Ceremonial processions were held amidst singing, incantations and shouts of joy by the followers. Several rites and rituals were instituted during these occasions.[25]

Ascending to Vaikundam

Further information: Ayyavazhi mythology § Ascending to Vaikundam.

Later Ayya 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 Nizhal Thangals. Ayya 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.[26]

Ayya Vaikundar returned to Vaikundam on 3 June 1851. According to Ayyavazhi followers, he has returned to Vaikundam.[27] However, this date is disputed, as Samuel Mateer mentions the year as 1848.[28] As he returned to Vaikundam, with his body he went to vaikundam and he does thavam in the rathina throne which made of 32 (அறம்) law , so in that holy land made a pati (temple) was later built. His devotees continued to visit this site and performed the rituals as they used to do when Ayya Vaikundar was bodily present. His life and works remain the foundation of the Ayyavazhi. The head temple of the Ayyavazhi religion is the Swamithoppepathi and is located in the Village of Swamithope.

Popular culture

The film Ayyavazhi released in 2008 was based on the life of Ayya Vaikundar. The film Oru Kudaikul (2021) also featured the tale of Ayya Vaikundar.

See also


  1. ^ Mani, Ari Sundara (22 March 2002). Akilathirattu Ammanai Parayana Urai (Third ed.). Ambala Pathi: Ayya Vaikundar Narppani Manram. p. 310.
  2. ^ Krishna Nathan, T (December 2000). Ayya Vaikundarin Vazhvum Sinthanaiyum (First ed.). Nagercoil: Thinai Veliyeettagam. p. 44.
  3. ^ Patrick 2003, p. 210.
  4. ^ Chryssides, George D. (2012). Historical Dictionary of New Religious Movements. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 48–9. ISBN 978-0-8108-6194-7.
  5. ^ Puthirar, Poojya (4 March 1999). "Vaiyameerezhukkum Makizhvu tharum Vaikunda Jayanthi". Vaikunda Vijayam. 1 (8): 34–36.
  6. ^ Bala Sundaram, T (2010). Akilathirattu Urainadai (First ed.). Swamithope: Ayya Vaikundar Veeman Sidar Arakkattalai. p. 125.
  7. ^ Anna Selvam, S (June 2015). Akilathirattu Ammanai Mulamum Porulum (First ed.). Madhaganeri: Selva Ganeshan. pp. 1613–1615.
  8. ^ Arunan, Thiru (1999). Two Hundred Years' History of Social Reform in Tamil Land. Madurai: Vahai Publication. p. 28.
  9. ^ The London Missionary Society Reports for the Years 1838, 1843 and 1847; Though it is evident that the missionaries in their reports were of negative view on Vaikundar, their attestation regaring the historicity of Vaikundar shall be acknowledged by the reports.
  10. ^ Ponnu, R (2000). Sri Vaikunda Swamigal and the Struggle for Social Equality in South India. Madurai: Ram Publishers. p. 47.
  11. ^ Mani Bharathi, A (January 1995). "Samithoppu Ayya Narayana Swami - 2". The Dina Thanthi, Kudumba Malar: 5.
  12. ^ Vivekanandan, N (2003). Akilathirattu Ammanai Mulamum Uraiyum - Irandam Pakam (First - Revised ed.). Nagercoil: Vivekananda Pathippakam. p. 68.
  13. ^ Vivekanandan, N (2017). Arul Nool Mulamum Uraiyum (Second - Revised ed.). Nagercoil: Vivekananda Pathippakam. p. 23.
  14. ^ Ponnu, R (2002). Vaikunda Swamigal Ore Avataram (2002 ed.). Madurai: Ram Pathipakam. p. 59.
  15. ^ Patrick 2003, p. 79 He seems to have spoken less and subsisted on frugal meals.
  16. ^ a b Patrick 2003, p. 80.
  17. ^ Nadar 1989, p. 254-260.
  18. ^ a b c Patrick 2003, p. 81.
  19. ^ Nadar 1989, p. 253.
  20. ^ Nadar 1989, p. 251.
  21. ^ Nadar 1989, p. 212.
  22. ^ Nadar 1989, pp. 290–298.
  23. ^ LMS Report 1838, p. 71.
  24. ^ Nadar 1989, p. 336-338.
  25. ^ Patrick 2003, p. 83.
  26. ^ Pathippakam 2004, p. 4.
  27. ^ Nadar 1989.
  28. ^ Mateer 1871, p. 222.

2. Benjamín Preciado-Solís (1984). The Kṛṣṇa Cycle in the Purāṇas: Themes and Motifs in a Heroic Saga. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 40. ISBN 978-0-89581-226-1., Quote: "Within a period of four or five centuries [around the start of the common era], we encounter our major sources of information, all in different versions. The Mahabharata, the Harivamsa, the Visnu Purana, the Ghata Jataka, and the Bala Carita all appear between the first and the fifth century AD, and each of them represents a tradition of a Krsna cycle different from the others".

3. Edward Geoffrey Parrinder (1997). Avatar and Incarnation: The Divine in Human Form in the World's Religions. Oxford: Oneworld. pp. 19–24, 35–38, 75–78, 130–133. ISBN 978-1-85168-130-3.