Deekshitars of Chidambaram

Deekshitars (or Thillai Vaazh Andhanar, which translates to Brahmins living in Thillai / Chidambaram) are a class of Vaideeka Brahmins who are mainly based in Chidambaram. They administer, manage and run temples, particularly the Thillai Natarajar Temple in Chidambaram, and are the hereditary trustees of the temple.

It is said that the Deekshitars, numbering 3000, were brought from Kailasam / Kailash to earth by Sage Patanjali, specifically to perform the daily puja (rituals) at the Chidambaram temple. [Patanjali is said to be an incarnation of Adisesha, who came down to earth to specifically witness Lord Siva’s cosmic dance at Thillai (Chidambaram).] During the Chola period, Deekshitars were ritual arbiters of imperial legitimacy.

Sundarar’s Thiru Thonda Thogai begins with தில்லைவாழ் அந்தணர்தம் அடியார்க்கும் அடியேன் (I am the I am a servitor of the servitors of the Brahmins who dwell at Thillai).

Unlike Sivacharyars, who perform temple rituals as per Agama Sastra, Deekshitars follow Vedic rituals. These rituals were themselves said to be compiled from the Vedas and set by Patanjali, who inducted the Deekshitars into the worship of Lord Siva.

In general, every married male member of a Deekshitar family gets a turn to perform the rituals at the temple and can serve as the chief priest for the day. Married Deekshithars are also entitled a share of the temple’s revenue.

A practice unique to the community is that the priests wear the tuft of hair in front of the head, known as munkudumi (in Tamil), poorvashikha (Sanskrit) or forelock in English. The tuft is usually to the left, as it is considered the feminine side, thereby acknowledging the innate feminine side of every individual (and/or possibly a reference to Siva’s form as Ardhanareeswarar).

Interestingly, the iconography of Murugan at Vaitheeswaran Koil depicts him with a tuft of hair to the left, identical to the way it is worn by the Deekshitars of Chidambaram.

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