Tucked away in an obscure corner of Pudukottai district in Tamil Nadu is a settlement called ‘Meivazhi Salai’, the home of ‘Meivazhi’ or The True Path, a sect whose adherents belong to all castes, religions and classes of society. Kayleigh Robinson meets one of the ‘Anandars’ to find out more about the village and the tenets followed by its inhabitants
Three bus rides and approximately three hours away from Madurai is a small, unique community called Meivazhi Salai. The village is small but it’s large enough to have its own Wikipedia page. It is truly one of a kind because it is where the Meivazhi, meaning The True Path religion was cultivated
However, inhabitants will tell you that Meivazhi is not so much a religion as it is spirituality and the village is more of a sanctuary. It combines the principles and ethics of many
“Even though different people have different words for water, it is the same and everyone knows what it is. God is the same,” said Meivazhi Gopala Krishna Anandar, secretary of Erasing differences all the houses in Meivazhi Salai are similar with thatched roofs and are painted a robin egg blue color
religions including Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity and Buddhism. It is monotheistic and its practitioners believe that although each religion has unique gods or goddesses, they all represent the same omniscient power. One of the major truths of Meivazhi is that there is a universal brotherhood of religion.
the village, explaining the rationale behind this concept Perhaps the most unique facet of the village is that it is the only religion in India that rejects the caste system. Anyone can practice Meivazhi regardless of sex, religion or creed. According to Krishna, “If you are pure and imbibe yourself with the god entity, you can become a practicing member Meivazhi Salai and its Rules
Brammodhaya Salai Andavargal,
The founder and leader of the religion, started the first ashram in Madurai between 1933 and 1939. That place of worship was seized during the Second World War by the British government.
Andavargal purchased the land which would go on to become Meivazhi Salai in 1942 for approximately Rs. 6,000. He cleared the area which was previously jungle and thereafter, thousands of his disciples from sixty-nine castes and various religions migrated to the area. In 1944, the community was registered as a sabha which means a government-recognized society or institution.
If you want to live in this sabha, it is imperative that you follow the dress code for entering the temple. Like most religions in India, worshippers must remove their footwear.
A man who has received the highest level of spiritual teaching known as the upadhesam, is christened ‘anandar’ and wears traditional panchakacham trousers and a turban adorned with the silver crescent symbol or Kilnamam, which is only revealed to the spiritually uplifted.
All of these garments must be the colour saffron to be distinct. Women who have received the same level of enlightenment wear saffron saris and cover their heads with a scarf of the same colour. Men
It combines the principles and ethics of many religions including Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity and Buddhism. It is monotheistic and its practitioners believe that although each religion has unique gods or goddesses, they all represent the same omniscient power
and women who have not yet received the upadhesam, do not wear saffron but still cover their heads with the end of their saris or turbans. Besides the dress code, there are strict rules prohibiting drinking, smoking and gambling.
There are strict rules against eating mutton and watching movies also. Surprisingly, there are no rules regarding ‘brahmacharya’ (celibacy) and married couples are given more preference. Very little or no electricity use is permitted. Additionally, sloth is frowned upon, so it is important to maintain an active lifestyle in this village.
Tapas, not to be confused for the Spanish word meaning various appetizers and snacks, is the Sanskrit word for deep meditation. “It is necessary for followers to attain the status of the saint who has organized this religion,” says Gopala Krishna Anandar, explaining that the founder of Meivazhi religion
Brammodhaya Salai Andavargal had not only imbibed the powers of the tapas of various saints but also is able to transmit the power of this tapas to his followers.
Meivazhi Gopala Krishna Anandar, one those who has reached the highest level of spiritual teaching, stands before the temple in the centre of the village
An indication that someone is performing tapas properly is that they are breathing only through the mouth and not the nose. Although this may seem simple, if you actually try it, you’ll understand the difficulty involved.
Inhabitants of Meivazhi Salai believe that this type of meditation (tapas) leads to “oneness of mind with the divine” and is thus “necessary in order to find the entity of god in themselves”.
Most importantly, the attainment of tapas is manifested by purity or lack of physical decomposition of the body in death due to the ‘journey of the soul’ or jeevaprayanam
A primary belief of the Meivazhi practitioners. This is very similar to the Catholic Church’s belief about incorruptibility, that Godly intervention allows some human bodies (specifically those of saints and those beatified) to avoid the normal process of decomposition after death as a sign of their holiness.
According to “The Eye Opener: Meivazhi – The True Path,” an English language pamphlet about the spiritual beliefs of the village, people who have not attained this jeevaprayanam will exhibit the following signs in death:
- Pollution- the discharge of bitter and nasty fluid – emitting a stench
- The severe and violent throws of the shoulder blades
- The phlegm accumulating in the chest and causing dragging and jarring sounds as that of sand with a sharp-toothed sickle
- The twisted and fiery breath that chokes and suffocates the throat causing keen and poignant agonies that shoot through every nerve like streams of pulsating fire
- The closure of the gullet not allowing even a drop of water to get in
- The blurring of the eye
- The changes in the natural conditions of the lobe and the ala
- The setting in of rigor mortis and a gloomy and horrified appearance on the face
- The increase of sinful weight (dead weight) and
- The decay of the body
Thus those whose bodies show none of the above indications are believed to attain salvation, which is the true purpose and the goal of life. Accordingly, Meivazhi practitioners only follow
Inhabitants of Meivazhi Salai believe that this type of meditation (tapas) leads to “oneness of mind with the divine” and is thus “necessary in order to find the entity of god in themselves”
burials of their dead, never cremation
This was one of the beliefs that attracted Gopala Krishna Anandar, a former government servant, who retired as a District Revenue Officer (DRO), to the spirituality’s philosophy about God and who felt compelled to move to this village after he had personally witnessed the Meivazhi practitioners’ purity in death.
He is 77-years-old and worked at a stressful administrative job for the government for most of his life. He has degrees in both political science and mathematics but told us his college education wasn’t sufficient.
As soon as he heard about Meivazhi, he felt he would be more fulfilled if he gained knowledge by “attaining saint status”. He knew he couldn’t possibly devote enough time to meditation while still working, so as soon as he retired, he moved out of the city of Erode to this sanctuary.
\He recognizes that the attainment of the powers of tapas “in this machine life” takes a lot of time and dedication, which is why you’ll primarily see elderly people donning the saffron robes.
Another facet of Meivazhi that makes it difficult for the average person to practice is the round-the-clock worship.
Inhabitants of the village do tapas at 4 a.m., 5.30 a.m., 7 a.m., 11.45 a.m., 6 p.m., 9 p.m., 10 p.m., 12 a.m., 1.30 a.m. and finally at 3 a.m. Tapas can be performed in the home but it is better to meditate at the spot where where Andavargal did, which has been converted into a temple. As previously mentioned, maintaining an active lifestyle is extremely important in
Meivazhi Salai. They truly believe that sleep is the cousin of death because in order to attain saint status one must “conquer sleep and slumber.”
If you feel up to the challenge of moving to Meivazhi Salai, Pudukkottai is the closest municipality in Tamil Nadu. Just look out for a village down a dirt road littered with pot holes that mirrors western suburbia. All the houses are similar in size and a lovely shade of robin egg blue with
The attainment of tapas is manifested by purity or lack of physical decomposition of the body in death due to the ‘journey of the soul’orjeevaprayanam, a primary belief of the Meivazhi practitioners thatched roofs.
One of the few things that differentiate the homes from one another are the beautiful chalk drawings called ‘kolams’ in front of the thresholds. Just be careful about falling asleep or breathing through your nose if you want to be accepted