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Iyer Caste

iyer Wedding

Other Spellings : Aiyer

Religion : Hindu (Advaita Hinduism)

Varna : Brahmins

Chief Deity : Iyers worship Lord Muruga as a married man

Language : Tamil, also knowledgeable in Sanskrit for religious reasons

Regional Spread : Iyers have significant presence in Chennai (capital of Tamil Nadu), Mayavaram, Tirunelveli district, Thiruvananthapuram (capital of Kerala), Palghat, London (Also known as 'Thames Iyers')

Traditional Occupation : Priesthood, many have been active in cultural field

Popular Mutts : Two popular mutts followed by Iyers are:

  • - Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham located in the holy city of Kanchipuram.
  • - Sringeri Sharada Peetham located in Sringeri, Karnataka.

Population : 2,000,000 (approx.), roughly 3% of Tamils

Food Habits : Eat strict vegetarian food, some even refrain from using onion and garlic

Marriage Preference : Prefer marriage within their caste but not in the same gotra. Iyers sometimes marry cross cousins, and uncles sometimes marry nieces.

Famous Personalities

  • - Sri Sri Ravi Shankar - founder of the Art of Living
  • - Sir CV Raman - Nobel laureate and physicist
  • - Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar - Nobel laureate and physicist
  • - Subramanya Bharati - Tamil poet and freedom fighter
  • - Prof KV Krishna Iyer - Professor and author of books onKerala History
  • - R. K. Narayan - Author
  • - R. K. Laxman - Cartoonist and humorist
  • - Cho Ramaswamy - Political analyst, editor of Tughlaq
  • - K. Subrahmanyam - Journalist and strategic analyst
  • - Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan - Former President of India
  • - Vishwanathan Anand - Chess grandmaster
  • - Hariharan Singer (Colonial Cousins)
  • - Mani Rathnam (G. Subramanirathnam Iyer)- Movie Director
  • - Gemini Ganesan - Tamil Star
  • - Shankar Mahadevan - Singer and Music Director
  • - Rukmini Devi Arundale - Popularized Bharathanatyam
  • - Dr.L.Subramaniam - Violinist
  • - Mani Shankar Aiyar - Politican and Central Minister
  • - Vidya Balan - Actress

History and Origin :

Iyer is the name given to a community of Brahmins whose members profess the Advaita philosophy propounded by Shri Shankaracharya and whose ancestors have had strong ties with the Tamil region for several centuries. Iyers, are therefore, those whose ancestors came from Tamil-speaking areas. They are a subgroup of Smartha Brahmins. Though Iyer is used as a suffix to names, it does not strictly constitute a caste or family name, rather it denotes a Brahmin sub-caste whose mother tongue is Tamil.

The term 'Iyer' derives from the term 'Ayya', an honorific in the Dravidian languages. Ayya in turn is possibly derived from the word 'Arya' as in Aryans. But it is equally possible that Ayya is pure Dravidian term since it is used by many non-Brahmin castes to address their father or grandfather.

Iyers Today :

In present times Iyers have diversified into a variety of fields. Their strengths are particularly evident in the fields of mass media, science, mathematics and computer science. Iyers have been active in the cultural field also. Music has always been a vital part of the Iyer community. Carnatic music forms an ancient classical tradition, and includes, apart from vocal music, instruments such as mridangam, naadaswaram, veena, ghatam, etc. Besides, Bharatanatyam dance is ardently pursued by female members of the Iyer community.