The Salvation of Nammāḻvār in Śrīvaiṣṇavism

How to Cite

Patricia Y. Mumme. (2022). The Salvation of Nammāḻvār in Śrīvaiṣṇavism: Journal of Vaishnava Studies. Journal of Vaishnava Studies, 22(2), 251–265. Retrieved from


Among the Vaiṣṇava traditions of India, Śrīvaiṣṇavism is best known for two distinguishing features. One is the high esteem it holds for
the hymns of the Āḻvārs, particularly the Tiruvāymoḻi of Nammāḻvār, as the “Tamil Veda.”1 Śrīvaiṣṇavism’s reverence for the literary, liturgical and theological value of these poems, alongside the Viṣiṣṭādvaita Vedānta tradition of Rāmānuja, is responsible for its characterization of itself as the ubhaya vedānta, Double Vedānta. Śrīvaiṣṇavism’s other well-known feature is its theological dispute between the “cat” and “monkey” schools and their understanding of salvation by divine grace. The Tenkalai school affirms
that God saves the soul the way a mother cat carries her kitten—the soul is completely passive, and no effort on its part can help the process. The Vaṭakalai school, on the other hand, claims that God saves the soul the way a mother monkey carries her young. The baby monkey must make some effort to hang on, even though the mother does the work. This charming analogy, though absent in any Śrīvaiṣṇava literature before the 18th century, points accurately to the central doctrinal issue of dispute as seen in the works of the ācāryas of the 13th to 15th centuries.

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