I have seen the Vaishnavite marks prerscribed by verious sects across South India ,Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan Bengal as well as Gangetic Belt .. It is so diverse and the rationale so subtle,yet so fierce.In Tamil Nadu, 'Iyengars' represent the Sri Vaishnavite cult founded by saint Srimad Ramanuja of 10th Century AD.He retrieved the ancient Vishnu temples, mostly in 4 Southern states and also made a mark in temples at Puri,Badrinath, Devaprayag etc.He rallied all the Vaishnavites of South India around 108 shrines across India. Today his cult is divided into Thenkalai and Vadakali (North & South with reference to Southern States).The Tilk has 2 white clay marks in V form with a red line in between. White clay marks, represent the lotus feet of Maha Vishnu and the Red line represents Mahalakshmi. Nearly 90 out of 106 templ es follow the Thenkalai Tilak on God and the priests wear the marks on forehead.Importnat locations are Srirangam, Sri villiputhur, Alwar Thirunagari, Vanamamalai, Triplicane-Mylapore adn Melukote. The Shape is commonly referred as "Y" and the balance 15 and odd temples follow the Vadakali Tilak
which is commonly referred as U.Kanchipuram, Ahobilam, Thiru vaheendrapuram, Oppiliappan Koil follow this tradition. Vada kali ( U type Tilak) Iyengars claim allegiance to Desikan Acharya ( 15th Century)and Saint Ramanuja,while Thenkalai Iyengars ( Y type Tilak) claim original allegiance to Saint Ramanuja and Manavala Mamuni ( 16th Century) who happended to be a contemporary of Saint Desikan's son, another schola rly Ach arya of the community. The minor differences between the 2 subsects may sound complex but not worthwhile and so only a few fierce personalities fight here and there even today.Fortunately, Temples follow the tradition as practised in each temple as per historical records and influences.
I am amazed at the painstaking effort by various sects all over India to grant such fierce importance to the tilak shape and symbol ! Vadagalai and Thenkalai Iyengars went to the Privy Council before Independance fighting for their respective symbol to be marked on the Kanchipuram Temple elephant donated by one of them !
The unending debate between the 2 sects is not only on the parampara and emphasis on a few procedures but on theshape of Tilak...both claim each one is in existence for 100s of years !I often used to wonder as to how such diffrences developed and are sustained.
I have seen the Thenkalai (Y) type of Tilak being worn by s few Punjabi Vaishanvites...I had spoken to a few of them in 1997 or about and was shown several photographs of temples in NWFP and Punjab where Ram and Hanuman as well as the temple entrance show the Tilak mark with Chank and Chakra al most identical to what we see in majority of Vishnu temples in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and even AP.
My short question to non Iyengar Vaishnavites is about the Tilk marks of Punjab and NWFP similar to Thenkalai Tilak mentioned above ? Can some body throw some light on their origin and history ?
Thanks ! S Rangarajan +91 98400 15710