More women Odhuvars in T.N. temples

More women Odhuvars in T.N. temples


These women come from different origins, but they all share the same ambition: to serve the gods by singing their adoration through pathigams as Odhuvars, or devotional singers, in Saivite temples.

Who are Odhuvars?

  • Odhuvars are male singers who have traditionally performed religious hymns and songs at South Indian temples honouring deities like Shiva, Ganesha, and Muruga.
  • Their main duty is to lead the main pujas or worship services in these temples with sacred chants.
  • Etymology of “Odhuvar”:
    • The name “Odhuvar” comes from the Tamil verb “odhu” or “othu,” which denotes chanting or singing. It perfectly captures their function as chanters and singers of devotional hymns.
  • Content of Hymns: 
    • The Tirumurai, a set of twelve books containing hymns that extol the virtues of deities like Shiva, Parvati, Ganesh, and Muruga, is usually where the verses chanted by Odhuvars come from.
    • The Tirumurai has great spiritual and cultural significance and is a fundamental component of the Saivite tradition in South India.
  • Tirumurai compilation:
    •  Saint Nambiandar, who was instrumental in preserving and disseminating these religious manuscripts, compiled the Tirumurai.
    • It is made up of hymns and songs that have been created over the years by numerous saints and followers.
  • Age-old gender roles:
    • Historically, men have been the only ones to play the part of Odhuvar. The South Indian temple traditions were strongly embedded with this practice.
  •  Recent alterations:
    • This custom has seen a noticeable transformation recently, with women now playing the position of Odhuvar in temples.
    • In the context of temple ceremonies, this symbolizes a change in conventional gender norms.

What is the Tirumurai?

Tirumurai is a Tamil word meaning “Holy Order” or “Sacred Collection.”It is a compilation of devotional poetry and songs praising Lord Shiva.

  • Period and Authors:
    • The Tirumurai is a collection of twelve volumes of songs and hymns from the period and authors.
    • These works were created between the sixth and the eleventh centuries CE.
    • This collection includes poetry from numerous different Tamil Nadu poets throughout several centuries.
  • Compilations by Nambiyandar Nambi:
    • The first seven volumes, together referred to as Tevaram, were compiled by Nambiyandar Nambi in the 12th century CE.
    • Works by illustrious saints and poets like Appar, Sambandar, and Sundarar may be found in the Tevaram volumes.
  • Expansion of the Collection: 
    • As time went on, it became necessary to add more significant Shaiva literature to the collection.
    • Manickavasagar’s compositions Tiruvasakam and Tirukovayar are included in the eighth volume.
    • There are numerous lesser-known compositions included in the ninth edition.
    • The legendary Siddhar Tirumular is credited with writing the tenth volume, Tirumandiram.
  • Contributions from a Variety of Authors: 
    • The eleventh book includes writing from authors like Cheraman Perumal and Karaikal Ammaiyar.
    • Nambiyandar Nambi’s work was included in the eleventh Tirumurai because the Chola monarch of the period was moved by it.
  • Influence on the Shaiva Siddantha Philosophy:
    • The Tirumurai, along with the Vedas and Shaiva agamas, form the core of Shaiva Siddhartha philosophy’s canonical literature.
    • This way of thinking, which emphasizes devotion to Lord Shiva, is extensively practised in South India and Sri Lanka