(Last Updated on : 28/01/2009)
Iyengar is a Tamil Brahmin community whose members adhere to the Visishtadvaita philosophy. Ramanuja codified the Visishtadvaita philosophy. The word Iyengar means 'people characterized by five components'. The Iyengar community started shaping one thousand years ago. Its philosophical origins can be traced back to Nathamuni, a Sri Vaishnava Acharya who lived around 900 CE.
Iyengars are mostly found in the states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. However a fairly large section of Iyengars reside in the Purulia district of West Bengal. The Iyengars speak Tamil. The Iyengars residing in Karnataka speak a dialect, which came down from medieval Tamil, which has a significant Kannada style. Iyengars in Andhra Pradesh speak both Tamil and Telugu.
Iyengar community has their distinct dressing and food habits. The traditional dress of male Iyengars are 'panche' (dhoti) and chadar while the women wear traditional sarees called madishar. The sarees are normally nine yards in length. Iyengars are strictly vegetarian. Like most south Indians, rice is their staple food. They prepare a variety of rice like tamarind rice, lemon rice and brinjal rice. Curd rice forms an indispensable part of their diet. Vegetarian side dishes like sambhar, rasam are also prepared and in all the dishes there is a generous use of coconut.
Iyengars are known for their knowledge of Vedas. Today, they are scattered throughout the world and have excelled in the field of science, technology, law, bureaucracy and other spheres. Iyengars in general have a profound interest in music. The community has been associated with Carnatic music since a long time. Bharatnatyam is a classical dance form patronized by the Iyengars. Some of the famous Iyengars are K.S. Krishnan, Dr. Rangaswamy Srinivasan, Prof, Asuri Sridharan and many more in the field of science and technology. Vasundara Das, Sudha Raghunathan, Harini, Veena Chokkama are Iyengars who have contributed in the field of music.