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