An extinct rianth clade which emerged and dwindled away during the Interstellar Era, based around a particular trend of Hindu devotionalism or bhakti.
Background Within the Old Earth metatradition of Hinduism and its successors, there has long been a tradition among certain groups to give up the individual by coming to resemble the personal deity which they revered as the Supreme. More commonly this was practiced among Shaiva sects, particularly those derived from sadhu traditions, but also among devotees of other deities at some times.
Within Hinduism, worship of Lord Ganesha had long been very prominent, but the worship of this deity as the Supreme, as the central form of God, was rare as a standalone tradition. The followers of this faith were known as Ganapatyas.
During the Interplanetary Age, many Hindus moved out into the solar system and beyond, including large numbers settling in the Saturnian system. Within a cluster of habs in the outermost rings of Saturn, a cultural founder effect occurred - immediately prior to the Technocalypse, a large number of Ganapatyas were involved in the settlement of a new cluster of rotating habitats, a mixture of English-, Tamil- and Hindustani-speaking groups. With the onset of the Sundering, these habs were isolated, and soon came to be essentially entirely Ganapatya. These habs were known as the Kollam habs.
Origins In 1143 AT, a Kollamian sannyasin (renunciate) took it upon himself to undergo modification to resemble Lord Ganesha. He became an Asian elephant rianth, mildly larger than a typical nearbaseline, with an elephantine head and four arms. This was done as an act of devotion to Lord Ganesha.
Becoming a very prominent figure within the local society, this individual (known only as Sri Ganapatyaswami) attained enlightenment, known in the tradition as moksha (liberation), as a result of his many years of dedicated devotion and meditation. In 1150 AT he began teaching on spiritual matters to devotees, and over the course of the 1150s many of them imitated him by becoming four-armed elephantine rianths, birthing the Kollam Rianths as a clade.
Culture The Kollam Rianths quickly became a majority within the Kollam habs, numbering a few thousand. It is here their distinctive culture emerged.
In their home habs, where they came to number several thousand, they had a culture very much centred around religious devotion. At the heart of their communities were the sannyasins, many of them in the lineage of Ganapatyaswami (who passed away in 1218 AT), who were the spiritual and social guides. They had separate councils for administration of local affairs.
Their diet was based upon the sattvic ideals of the ancient yogic traditions of South Asia, which divided foodstuffs into three categories, with sattvic being that which encouraged calm, joy and focus. Food outside this category (classified as rajasic or tamasic) was very rarely eaten in the culture of Kollam. This diet was common among many traditions tracing their heritage to yogic or Vaishnava preceptors. Rice and mung beans formed the core. Intoxicating substances were eschewed.
While small shrines to Lord Ganesha were very common, in homes and in public, sometimes also featuring other deities such as Shiva, Murugan or Jesus, large temples were generally not found within the Kollam culture. Gatherings of people took place at small shrines, in homes or outdoors, where the Kollamians would sing devotional music together. This lack of large temples was out of a concern that it might give spiritual aspirants the idea that worship of Lord Ganesha was specific to some particular place.
Within the religious practices of this group, devotion and meditation were both very prominent. Meditative practices which were common included japa (mantra repetition) and varieties of kundalini meditation. Self-enquiry was also found, having been taught in particular by one of Ganapatyaswami's most prominent successors, Swamini Dhyanananda.
The language spoken in the Kollam habs was initially called Kollam Tamil, but eventually referred to simply as Kollamian. While based on Tamil, it was heavily influenced by Hindustani, English and Malayalam.
One detail of the religious structure of the society of the Kollam Rianths was that those who took initiation into a sannyasin or householder Ganapatya lineage had half of one of their tusks removed, to better resemble Lord Ganesha.
Relations with Other Clades While originally in the majority in the Kollam habs, many Kollam Rianths emigrated from the 1200s onwards following the establishment of the group as a hereditary clade, to become minorities in many societies. Jivanmuktas (enlightened individuals) from the Kollam habs moved to other communities as teachers, while many others of the clade moved for economic opportunities, for a change of scenery or to engage with other cultures and ideas. With the expansion of the outer Solsys shipyards, many young Ganapatyas who had trained in engineering in the Titanian orbital institutes moved out there, establishing themselves as a subculture. Their cuisine became very widely-renowned in many societies, and contributed strongly to that of the Makemakeans in particular.
While Kollam itself remained majority-Rianth until the early 1400s, even there the group eventually became a minority due to the continued immigration of other Hindu groups.
Among the Hindu societies where most Kollam Rianths lived, they were at first generally very highly revered, thought of by almost all as being highly devout, and by some even as being closer to Lord Ganesha, nearly avataras. This latter idea tended to decline over time, as the locals became accustomed to them. However, they were often at the core of religious communities, and remained a prominent part of many Hindu communities. They integrated very quickly into Hindu communities they became a part of, sharing a faith as they did, and usually dropped the Kollamian language very soon in favour of the local one. The divergent appearance of the Kollam Rianths meant intermarriage between them and other clades was rare, but it did occur occasionally with nearbaselines.
They tended to remain more distinct culturally in non-Hindu societies.
Despite their becoming a minority in the Kollam habs, they remained a majority for much longer in new habitats founded in the Oort Cloud or in the asteroid belts of Proxima Centauri, and even went on to become the main settlers of Arunachala, a small moon of the star's fourth planet Hati.
Demise The assimilation of the Kollam Rianths into other Hindu societies meant that eventually many modified themselves back to a nearbaseline norm so as to be better absorbed into mainstream society. While this was frowned upon at first, this changed following the 'nearbaselineisation' of Vinayakswamini of Enceladus, a jivanmukta in the lineage of Ganapatyaswami, who said that the elephantine form was not necessary for surrender and devotion to Ganesha and that clinging to it within societies where it wasn't the norm could cause attachment. This lead to the acceptance of this trend by many Kollam Rianths, and a massive decline in their numbers as they merged into local societies, usually becoming nearbaselines, but sometimes merging into Genen clans, tweak clades or even becoming vecs.
Similar processes occurred in Kollam Rianth communities living as minorities within non-Hindu societies, although here there was a stronger stigma against changing form, as most of those who did so had left Ganapatism and moved to the locally-dominant ideologies, such as materialism/naturalism or one of the corporate religions. This led to a steady attrition of Kollam Rianth communities, with many of the more devout moving to more Hindu societies, while others remained where they were but nevertheless followed Vinayakswamini of Enceladus' advice. Sometimes, secularised Kollam Rianths would retain their form, but leave aside their religious heritage by integrating into other groups of elephantine rianths, a few of which were emerging at the time, some of them becoming definable clades, races or Houses. This meant that Kollam Rianth phenotypes and genotypes became a strand mixing into the general elephantine rianth population of the First Federation and beyond, sometimes even including their four arms. In the many millennia since, their descendants from these admixtures have changed hugely, and heritage is hard to trace.
Religiously, many prominent Kollam Rianth gurus were involved in the propagation and consolidation of Hindu and post-Hindu worldviews, and so have been influential even on Sophism's eventual emergence.
The culture of the Kollam Rianths was influential in some Hindu groups, particularly those based in Proxima Centauri (and through them on the more devotional forms of Centauri Vehicle Buddhism). Also, among those Kollam Rianths who integrated into the tweak communities of Mars and the Kuiper free-fall habs, there remained strong phenotypic traces, such as an extra pair of arms or thick grey skin, which can sometimes still be seen in derived clades today. The MoPro clade of freefall-adapted four-armed elephantine rianths, descendant forms of which can still be found in the Utopia Sphere, the Orion Federation and scattered around the Periphery and Outer Volumes, was developed as a modification of secularised Kollam Rianths. This modification was carried out by Kollam Rianths living in the cometary bodies and outer asteroid belts of Solsys, Proxima Centauri and Barnard's Star among other freefall-adapted clades. However, while its legacy is certain, culturally, genetically and phenotypically, the clade became functionally extinct by the 1700s AT.