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:
- Who are Odhuvars?
- Significance in the Present
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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