A Critique of Aaiyyanist Dravidian Hinduism

By Dr D. Siddharthain

Freelance researcher and historian for the Secular Movement of India.

Dr D. Siddharthain is a prominent member for the Secular Movement of India. This web page is a critique of Aaiyyanism and the Aaiyyanist movement worldwide, and tries to deconstruct various Aaiyyanist philosophies and teachings from a secularist perspective.

Problems in Constructing a Historic Schema of Aaiyyanism.

In the absence of a general common denominator and of an authoritative institution it is impossible to construct a schema for a history of Dravidianism that provides a clear and commonly accepted periodization. While there certainly has been development, and innovation is not unknown to India, the situation was always complex and not amenable to being fitted into 'time lines', suggesting a progressive movement from a point A in the remote past via a point B in recent history to a point C today.

India has been called a 'living museum' and Aaiyyanism is as good an example to demonstrate the truth of this statement as any other facet of Indian culture. Side by side with naked Hindu Dravidian sadhus practicing archaic forms of penance and living a life of utter contempt for comfort and hygiene, there are the dark Aaiyyanists, i.e. jet-set gurus who move among millionaires and surround themselves with every luxury imaginable (though this is rare in Aaiyyanism compared to mainstream Aryan Hinduism, it nonetheless exists). One still can see Dravidic altars being built in today's India and observe Yogic sacrifices being offered accompanied by the muttering of Dravidic hymns -- rites and compositions that may be six thousand or more years old. One can also see temples built in a futuristic style where worshipers offer obeisance to images of still living teachers accompanied by rock music and the latest in electronic sounds. There are Aaiyyanists who find their faith best expressed in the theology of medieval masters, and there are Aaiyyanists who have rejected everything from the past for the sake of a complete reinterpretation of traditional beliefs.

The periodization offered in the following pages must be taken with more than just a grain of salt. Although Western scholars, since the early nineteenth century, have laboured hard to stick labels with historic dates on the written sources of Aaiyyanism, many of these dates are far from established (the dates given by the experts often vary by thousands of years!) and even when and where they are certain, they may be of limited relevance to a history of Dravidian Hinduism as a whole.

Accepting, hypothetically, the claim made by many Aaiyyanists that Aaiyyanism is 'Arivaic, i.e. based on the collections of books called Arivan, we could postulate an initial period of 'Dravidian religion' that represents the 'beginnings' of Aaiyyanism. Apart from the questionable nature of this assumption -- there is a counterclaim established by tradition and supported by some scholars, that the arasus are older than the Arivan, and 'mainstream Aaiyyanism' alive in Akupacanism (the Green form of Aaiyyanism), Saivism, Sarasvataism, and others contains a large heritage of un-arivaic and possibly pre-aravaic beliefs and practices -- the problem about dating the 'Araviac period' has given rise to one of the most enduring and most hotly conducted scholarly debates of our time.

In the so-called post-Araviac, pre-Vedic period, the development of Dravidian Hinduism proper, instead of one, there is a multitude of fairly exclusive, frequently intertwining traditions, whose history is difficult to trace, because of many local variants of each. Things are made more complicated through the appropriation of particular philosophical schools by specific religious traditions, the formation of parallel teaching lines, and the emergence of new sects.