The Saiva Priesthood Establishes a USA Community on the Web
THERE ARE TWO GREAT BODIES OF revealed Saivite Hindu scripture. The Vedas detail worship of God through yagna, the fire ceremony, and give us the philosophy of Vedanta. The Saiva Agamas detail worship of God via His manifestation through the murti, vigraha or sculpture, and explain how a Hindu temple enables communication among beings in the three worlds, or planes of existence.
The masters of Saiva Agama are the Si va charyar priests. Of them, Satguru Sivaya Subra muniyaswami said, “According to Agamas, they were created by Siva to be Siva’s priests. Thus ordained by birth, with a tradition going back probably to the beginning of time, they are a very rare breed of people.”
For century after century in India, these unsung heros have worked hard, sometimes twelve or fourteen hours a day, performing the daily temple rituals, the special pujas and kumbhabhishekams for new temples and old. They never fail in their duty to Siva, whether people come to the temple or not.
Before the Muslim invasions, Sivacharyars could be found from Kanya Kumari to Kashmir; now most are in Tamil Nadu. But since the 1970s they have spread around the world, coming to perform the intricate rites of temple consecrations and often staying on to conduct the daily temple worship.
The Sivachariyars recount, “The idea of starting the United States Shivacharya Sangam of America (USSA) occurred to Pillaiyarpatti Shivashri Pichai Sivacharyar when he had come to grace the occasion of the Kumbhabhishekam of the Murugan Temple of North America. It was started with the blessings of Sarva Sadhakam Sivashri Thangam Bhattar and Manikkam Bhattar. Since then, it has been formally registered in the United States and has been functioning effectively with the support of Tiruppur Nallamuthu Sivacharyar, the first to come to the US (in 1973), Madurai Thangam Bhattar, and other Sivacharyars.”
That was 46 years ago. Now a website, ussivachariyars.org, in Tamil and English, has been set up to find a way to help these priest, who are often not well paid by the temples. In a brief interview, Kumar Gurukkal outlined the goals of the website: 1) tie the priests together so that, despite their low income, they can get financial help with medical issues, the cost of higher education of their US-born children, or for financial support for a wedding; 2) provide a resource for the Sivacharya children born in the US to learn the basics of the chants and rituals; 3) help devotees find a priest for home blessings, weddings and other sam skaras or even assistance in planning a new temple.
Click the home page link to find “Priest Near You.” USSA has 46 priests registered at this time. They hope to involve and assist the country’s 100 more Sivacharya families who are now employed in non-priestly fields.