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Vanamamalai Math's history

CHENNAI NOV. 30 . Temples, spread all over India, not only serve as centres to inculcate the spirit of devotion among people, but also as reservoirs of culture. These Houses of God are also works of art and several inscriptions found therein provide information as to who built them, how many had helped in expanding or renovating them now and then and made gifts to them. To some of these temples were linked religious institutions, which had taken the task of spreading the message of God by their leaders touring extensively and establishing branch Maths. Among the Vaishnavite temples all over India, the one at Vanamamalai (Nanguneri) in the South and the Vanamamalai Math stand as symbols of Srivaishnavism.

The temple there, dedicated to Lord Deivanayaka, had originated when a sage was granted the vision of the Lord. A reference to its existence and that of the famed "well containing oil" is found in a work by Sage Agastya. From the representatives of the Vijayanagar rulers, this region came under Travancore kings. One of them used to visit Nanguneri frequently and donated several gifts and entrusted it to a Sanyasi named "Pushpanjali" (a Namboodiri). In 1447 A.D., the temple administration came under the first Jeeyar Swami, who remained in that august post for 36 years. It was he who brought the idol of the Divine Mother from Thirumalai and got it installed here. He also arranged for four priests from Thirumalai to come here and conduct the daily rituals in place of the two Namboodiris who had been rendering this service earlier.

In a lecture explaining the close inter-relation between the Vanamamalai Math and the temple, Sri D. Thothadri Iyengar said several additions, construction of shrines, improvements, mounts (Vahanams), jewels and properties were made by various Jeeyars. In the 17th century one of these pontiffs sought the help of the Naik ruler to control the evil forces that were disturbing peace and got eight of them punished. In 1794, Carnatic Nawab Abdul Umra had endowed extensive areas of land to the then Jeeyar Swami. The 25th head of the Math, a linguist, once conversed in Urdu with the then Muslim Dewan of Mysore. The present Jeeyar Swami (30th in succession) has been touring widely, visiting the branch Maths and continuing the traditions established by Sri Manavala Mamunigal and propagating his mission.

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