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Appointment of Odhuvars in Chennai Region’s Shaivite Temples


The Tamil Nadu Government appointed 15 Odhuvars, including five women, to serve the deities by singing hymns and praises in Shaivite temples across the Chennai region.


GS I: Ancient Indian History

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Who are Odhuvars?
  2. Significance in the Present
  3. Challenges and Issues Faced by Odhuvars in Tamil Nadu

Who are Odhuvars?

  • Odhuvars are individuals who sing devotional hymns in Tamil Nadu’s Hindu temples.
  • They serve the deity Lord Shiva by singing praises from Thirumurai in Saivite temples.
  • Odhuvars sing devotional hymns but do not enter the sanctum sanctorum.
Historical Origin:
  • The tradition of Odhuvars dates back to ancient times and has deep roots in the Bhakti movement, flourishing between the 6th and 9th centuries in Tamil Nadu.
  • During this period, saint-poets, known as Alwars and Nayanars, composed devotional hymns in praise of Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva, respectively.
  • Odhuvars emerged as the custodians of this rich musical and devotional heritage.

Significance in the Present:

  • Odhuvars continue to play a pivotal role in the daily and festive rituals of Tamil Nadu temples.
  • They are responsible for reciting Thevaram and Thiruvasagam, ancient Tamil texts containing hymns and praises for Lord Shiva.
  • Many Odhuvars come from marginalized communities, and their temple roles provide economic opportunities while fostering community unity.
  • Odhuvars contribute to the preservation of the Tamil language, ensuring that ancient texts are understood by future generations.
  • Their performances create a devotional atmosphere in temples, inspiring a sense of piety and spiritual connection among worshippers.

Challenges and Issues Faced by Odhuvars in Tamil Nadu

Economic Vulnerability:

  • Many Odhuvar families struggle financially because their income is heavily dependent on temple donations and offerings.
  • This economic instability poses a significant threat to the sustainability of the Odhuvar tradition.

Lack of Recognition:

  • The contributions of Odhuvars to temple rituals and the preservation of Tamil culture often go unnoticed.
  • Limited recognition and acknowledgment can be demotivating for Odhuvars.

Generational Interest:

  • Younger generations may not be inclined to continue the tradition due to financial instability and limited social prestige.
  • This raises concerns about the continuity of the Odhuvar tradition.

Competition with Modern Media:

  • The rise of recorded music and modernization has changed the way people engage with religious and devotional content.
  • Odhuvars may struggle to compete with digital media and contemporary musical forms.

Government Support:

  • Recognized government institutions, such as the Sangeet Natak Academy, have not been actively addressing the concerns of Odhuvars.
  • The expertise and competence of Odhuvars in their field can help alleviate the challenges faced by the community.

-Source: The Hindu

December 2023