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Māyōṉ. S. Indian name of the Hindu god Kṛṣṇa/Viṣṇu. The name derives from a Tamil adjective meaning ‘a person of black complexion’; synonyms are: Māyaṉ, Māyavaṉ, Māl, Mālavaṉ, and Tirumāl. Some sporadic references in the Tamil caṅkam literature (1st cent. BCE to 3rd cent. CE?) indicate a knowledge and veneration of the N. Indian god Kṛṣṇa also in the extreme South. During the next centuries, more extensive sources allow us to catch glimpses of a developed temple culture which envisages Māyōṉ predominantly as Nārāyaṇa/Viṣṇu. Thus (in contrast to the Bhagavad-gītā) Māyōṉ = Kṛṣṇa is not envisaged as an avatāra of Viṣṇu. Only with the Śrīvaiṣṇavism institutionalized by Rāmānuja in the 12th cent. does Viṣṇu emerge as the central god-figure.

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