What Jeers stand for
Jeers still enjoy the traditional temple honours ...
IN KEEPING with the tradition of ascetics, Jeers observe Chaturmasya sankalpam. They take the sankalpam or vow in the presence of the Lord of Tirumalai. Both Jeers enter the sanctum crossing the `Kulasekaran Padi' and are honoured by the Lord with the silks he wears Melsathu and Ulsathu. These prasadams are given to each other by the Jeers themselves Chinna Jeer presents them to the Peria Jeer and vice versa. Then they are escorted to the Mutt with temple honours umbrellas and samaram to the playing of the nadaswaram. The temple staff escorts them to the Mutt where the Jeers hold court, and honour them suitably.
The term Jeer means a respectable, successful (vijaya) leader. The Jeers of Tirumala are designated as Periakelvi Appan and Siriyakelvi Appan. These designations indicate their authority over the temples. Both are ascetics sanyasis welting ochre robes and carrying the triple staff. The entire administrative control of TTD was once with the Jeers. Things have changed in the course of time. Even now the keys of the temple, after it is locked for the night, are deposited in the Peria Jeer Mutt.
Sri Ramanuja visited Tirumala on several occasions. His uncle and preceptor Peria Tirumalai Nambi and his disciple Anantalwan served the Lord there bringing flowers for the Lord, water for his worship, deepa and so on (sumandhu mamalar neer sudar deepam kondu). Nambi used to bring a pot of water from far away Akasha Ganga everyday, for the Lord, while Ananthalwan created a flower garden complete with a tank and provided beautiful, fragrant garlands, which he carried to the Lord on his head (hence the term sumandhu has been used).
Apart from the administrative work, the Jeers were engaged in the personal service of the Lord as paricharakas attendants. This continues even today. For instance, one can see the Jeer or his authorised representative handing over tulasi and flowers to be offered to the Lord at His holy feet, during the daily sathumurai in the sanctum.
Ramanuja introduced several reforms in the temple in keeping with the agamas and tradition and appointed an ekangi with the consent of Thirumalai Nambi and Ananthalwan, to oversee that the services were properly rendered and strict discipline was enforced. The person had to be a bachelor without worldly attachment and should be well qualified. He should wear cloth in the colour of ochre (kashayam). The title Seenapati Jeer Vishwaksena Jeer was conferred on him and he had control over the temple staff and the responsibility for strict observance of tradition was his. During a later visit Ramanuja gave him the sanyasa asrama and appointed four ekangis to assist him. He came to be called Appan Satakopa Jeer. Later a Junior Jeer was also appointed. The Junior (Chinna) Jeer automatically becomes the Peria Jeer on the latter's demise and appoints a junior Jeer.
During the course of time many changes have taken place and the authority of the Jeers are now very much reduced. Fortunately they still enjoy the traditional honours attached to their office.
V. V. RAMANUJAM
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