The Religion and Philosophy of Tevaram (Thevaram)

by M. A. Dorai Rangaswamy | 1958 | 410,072 words

This page describes “the hymns, their compilation and their name” from the part dealing with the life and age of Nampi Arurar (Sundarar): one of the three Tevaram (Thevaram) Saints. The 7th-century Thevaram (or Tevaram) contains devotional poems sung in praise of Shiva. These hymns form an important part of the Tamil tradition of Shaivism

Chapter 2 - The Hymns, their Compilation and their Name


It is not easy to exaggerate the importance of the three Shaiva Saints. It is their hymns which popularised Shaivism by making the temple the centre of all social activities. Except for the few cases like those we have noticed above where the Tiruppatikams were composed by the other poets with reference to those temples where there was no hymn of these Saints available, it can be safely concluded that the Tiruppatikams were all the compositions of Campantar, Appar and Arurar. When the singing of Tiruppatikams became a necessary part of the temple worship it was felt necessary to collect these hymns.

The story of the collection may now be examined: The story as current now will make us believe that the compilations of these twelve Tirumurais took place at one and the same time and not progressively as described before. This tradition, therefore, has to be examined.


Tirumuraikanta Puranam gives the story of the recovery of the sacred hymns by a king, who, hearing stray verses of these hymns, was inspired by the desire of listening to all the hymns. This desire he realised with the divine help of Nampiyantar Nampi whose fame as a young Brahmin boy physically feeding the sacred image of Vinayaka of Naraiyur, reached his ears. The existence of the authentic manuscript copy of the hymns at Citamparam was revealed to Nampi Antar Nampi by the God Vinayaka. On enquiry, the priests of Citamparam offered to open the shelf, only on the three Saints who had left the hymns arriving together. Thereupon, Nampi suggested the celebration of a sacred procession of the images of the three Saints and thus the Saints were physically brought before the old receptacle of the hymns. The shelf was opened but, alas! the white ants had eaten away the major portion of these divine poems. A divine voice was heard to say that all that was necessary for the age had been preserved and this consoled all. Then the hymns were arranged into seven parts, the first three consisted of Campantar’s hymns, the second three those of Appar’s and the last or the seventh part consisted of Arurar’s poems.

All these are told in twenty-four verses of eight feet lines, the very same metre in which the major portion of the other Puranam by the same author—the Cekkilar Purapam said to be complementary to this Tirumuraikanta Puranam—was also composed. This particular compilation is in this part of the Puranam, attributed to the king, and the number seven (Tirumurais) was, it is said, suggested by the seven groups or crores of Mantras—for Mantras end in seven different ways. Next in this Puranam follow twenty-one verses in a different metre. The previous part gives no information about the compilation or of the Shaivite literature other than the hymns; it starts with the description of the restoration of the Sacred hymns of the three Saints but with no whisper about other Shaivite literature. Therefore, the twenty-sixth verse, at once abruptly starting to mention in the most summary way the other hymns and poems of other Shaivite Saints and poets without any explanation about them, comes as a surprise.

Whereas the compilation of the hymns had been attributed in the first part to the king, these verses of the second part speak of the compilation into ten parts not by one person but by many as suggested by the plural verb which unfortunately has no subject. The eleventh Tirumurai is said here to have been collected at the request of the king by Nampi. This part of the Puranam then refers to the hymns having been set to music by a lady descendant of (Tirunilakanta) Yalppannr, the great contemporary of Campantar who originally set the hymns of Campantar to music. From these remarks on this part of Tirumuraikanta Purapam, one may not be wrong in believing that this part was a later day addition and that the original Tirumuraikanta Purapam must have closed with the first twenty-four verses.

From Cekkilar Puranam, one may learn that the compilation of the Shaivite literature into twelve parts inclusive of Periya-puranam was completed on the day that it was first read out to the Public assembly which gathered together inside the Thousand-pillared Hall at Citamparam in the immediate presence of the Cola Emperor Kulottunka.

An examination of the tradition, thus strengthens our conclusion that these twelve Tirumurais were compiled as such in different stages and at different times. The very fact that the arrangement is not chronological reveals that they were arranged as and when a gap was felt by the Shaivite world getting to know in stages the significance of the Shaivite works not included in the earlier compilation.


The Tirumuraikant Puranam gives us the story of the collection and miraculous restoration of these hymns said to have been lost to the world before the time of Nampi Antar Nampi. But the idea of collecting and preserving these hymns and other sacred writings was inspiring the followers of Campantar even before the age of Arurar. Even during the life of Campantar, his hymns were collected and carried with him by his followers and it was from such a collection he drew out Nallaru hymn to be placed in the fire brought by the Jains with whom he had a series of debates.

Kapanata is one of the 63 saints praised by Arurar and according to Cekkilar, this saint is great because of his adoration of Tiruhanacampantar and the worship, of the Lord of Cikali, which also took the form of social service to his brethren in religious service. Cekkilar specifically mentions his help to those who were writing down and reading out the sacred hymns of Tirumurai. It is thus clear that even before the age of Arurar, religious minded persons were collecting and writing down the sacred hymns, probably of Campantar and Appar. It was probably one such collection of the hymns of the three Saints that was recovered at Citamparam by Nampiyantar Nampi. ‘

The story of Nampiyantar Nampi recovering the lost hymns reminds us of the attempt of Natamuni to recover the sacred songs of Alvars. Natamuni, the Saint, on hearing a few stray verses from Nalayira Prabandham, resolved to recover the whole collection and by meditating on Maturakavi, he got back to the world the Nalayira Prabandham without losing one single verse. But in the Nampiyantar Nampi Puranam the idea of collecting the hymns on hearing some stray hymns occurs first to the great King and not to Nampiyantar Nampi, the Saint.


The Puranam mentions Rajaraja Abhaya as the king who was inspired by the idea of winning back the lost hymns. Evidently there is a confusion of names. The name Abhaya reminds us of Kulottunka I, whilst the name Rajaraja, to the students of history, can mean only Rajaraja, the Great and no other. Perhaps this Puranam was written in a period when the importance of these names was forgotten, so much so that they were indiscriminately used as a description of one great Cola king. When, therefore, we take these names not as proper names, but as description of any great king, the question arises who the king responsible for the recovery of these hymns was.

Fortunately, Nampiyantar Nampi in his Tiruttontar Tiru Antati had occasion to speak of Saints Pukalacola and Koccenkanan Cola as the ancestors of the Cola of his own age. In verse 50 he refers to the contemporary Cola king as the victor of Ceylon and calls the king Kokannkanatan. This term means the Lord of the lotus, i.e., the sun. The proper name equivalent to this as found in the list of Cola kings is Aditya. In verse 82, Koccenkunan is described as the ancestor of that great Cola contemporary of Nampi, who adorned the smaller hall of Citamparam with gold tiles and who after his death resided under the feet of Shiva. The adorning of the smaller hall with gold which Aditya brought from the Konkumantala is known to us from other sources. This information is given in verse 65. These facts are mentioned by the Cola king Kantar Atittar in his Tiruvicaippa. We also know that this king died on the battle field fighting on an elephant and that a temple was built on the spot he died.

The name Rajaraja was suggested to the writer of the Purann because of the elaborate arrangements Rajaraja had made in the newly built Tanj ore temple for reciting these sacred hymns. It is said he had brought 48 persons for singing the Tiruppatiyam whose names convey to us the existence of Shaiva temples there such as Tiruvanciyam, Thiruvarur, Tiruvaymur, Maraikkadu, Aiyaru, Raimarutu, Anaikka, Venkadu and Tillai. He also brought 400 women dancers.

It is this tradition still green in the memory of the people of the age of Tirumuraikanta Puranam, that must have led the poet to think of Rajaraja as the real compiler of the hymns instead of looking upon him as one who further popularised the hymns on a nation-wide scale. But it is clear even from this reference that these hymns were being sung in those places from which he brought his musicians and dancers. An inscription belonging to the ninth century—in the 17th year of the reign of one Vijayanandi Vikramavarma—provides for those who recite Tiruppatiyam. In another inscription belonging to the reign of Uttama Cola, the predecessor of Rajaraja, one can decipher the word Tiruppatiyam even in its present incomplete condition. This belongs to the 14th year, i.e, 983-984 A.D. From a third inscription belonging to the 8th year of his reign, viz., 976 A.D., one learns that there had been provided six bushels of paddy per day for two persons reciting the hymns.


The singing of hymns had become thus an important item of temple worship, and provisions came to be made for their recitation. By the time of Kulottunka Cola I, because of the emoluments connected therewith, this act of reciting the hymns came to be looked upon as a privilege and Kulottunka conferred this privilege on an individual. Special halls called Tirukkaik kotti, because of keeping time with hands, were built for the recitation of these hymns and provisions were made for feeding the people who recited the hymns at Tirukkarayil and other places.

From Periyapuranam, it is learnt that Campantar’s contemporary Tirunilakanta Yalppanar set this Saint’s hymns to music and sang them to the accompaniment of his yali It was because of this, this Panar is included among the 63 Shaivite Saints by Arurar. Having realised the importance of this great Panar, festivals were being celebrated in his honour in the temples like Kollamputur. When the hymns of the Saints were collected at a later period, the difficulty of re-establishing the uniformity of their musical recitation according to the original method must have been felt, as mentioned in Tirumuraikant Puranam under discussion. That Puranam describes efforts made by the king in searching for the descendants of Tirunilakanta Yalppanar and, in finally finding one lady of that ancient family who helped the king and Nampi to restore the old music of these hymns. These facts will make the information from inscriptions significant that to temples were attached Papas (musicians) and that land grants called Papa-p-peru were made to them. The Tiruppatiyams were sung by Brahmins, by Pilarar and there were Tevaraliyars. The dancers must have tried to express the ideas of hymns when they were sung to music, by their dancing gestures. In Srirangam, even today, the Araiyars express the ideas of Nalayira Prabandham through their abhinayas. With this fact in mind, the importance of the provisions of Kuttaracan or Niruttapperaraiyan or Nattuva Acap or Nattuvanilai or the dance-master for the Tevar afiyars who could sing Tiruppatiyams and who could dance, can be easily understood.


The Cult of Saints and the name Tevaram: The three Saints who sang the sacred hymns, as already explained, occupied a pre-eminent position in the temples. Even during their life-time the temples gave them gold, from temple treasury. Perhaps, from the times of these Saints began the practice of using temple funds for relieving famine and other disasters. In view of their importance to the temple cult, their images and even separate shrines dedicated to them were installed in the temples and worships and festivals were conducted in their honour sometimes on a large scale. Campantar was worshipped in his own shrine at least in one place, Accapuram, along with Cokkiyar, his wife. He was worshipped at Pahur and at Thirumazhapadi. Campantar’s shrine was found in Kalumalam, in Ucattanam, in Kntantaik kil kottam and in Tiruppalatturai. The worship of Appar is referred to as taking place in Rajarajesvaram in Tanjore, at Thirumazhapadi, at Vaymur and at Tirttanagiri. His shrines were found at Ucattapam at Kaccur, at Akattiyamalai, at Tevarayanpettai and at Thiruvathigai where the shrine was called Tiruvakisvaram. Saint Arurar was worshipped sometimes along with his consort Paravai at Kuhur at Tanjore, at Thirumazhapadi and at Thiruvarur

It ought not to be concluded that these Saints were worshipped only in these temples. Their images are found today in every Shiva temple and festivals are being celebrated on their Tirunaksatras, i.e., on the day they attained salvation. The temples referred to are those where there are evidences of inscriptions for the existence of this kind of worship of these Saints from very early times.

Mutts came to be called after these Saints. Tirunanacampantar Kukai Malam at Muniyur is mentioned in an inscription of Rajarajadeva and provision for another mutt named after the same Saint at Thiruveezhimizhalai was made in an inscription of Rajendra. There were Tirunanacampantar mutts at Palaiyarai, at Tirupputtur, at Arayanallur, and at Notiyur. At Apaikka another mutt of this Saint was given lands. A mutt was named after Tirunavukkaracu Tevar where Shaiva devotees were fed during the reign of Rajaraja himself There were other mutts named after this Saint—Vagisa mafam, Navukkaracu Tevar malam at Thiruvathigai and at Tirubuvanam and Tirunavukkaracar mutt at Palaitturai. There were mutts named after Arurar (Cuntarar), Cuntarapperuman matam at Conjivaram, and Tiruttontattokaiyan tirumatam.

People came to be named after the names of these Saints even as they were named after the names of God. In an inscription of Rajaraja the name of Aruran occurs. Other names of his occur as names of persons in the inscriptions—Ceraman Tolan, Tampirap Tolan, Nampi Aruran and Ariukka Vanrontam The wife of Uttama Cola was known as Aruran Ponnampalattankali

Campantar’s name was held by many: Pukali Ventan, Paracamay akolari mamuni and Alakan Nanacampantan. People bearing the names of Tirunavukkaracar are found mentioned in the inscriptions—Vakicar. Another Vakicar is the reputed author of the famous Jhanamirtam.

Even the words used by these Saints have become proper names of the devotees of the age of the greater Colas: Vayirattun. Naccinarkkiniyar after Appar’s phrase ‘Naccuvarkkiniyar’ is not only found in the inscription, but is the name of the great Tamil commentator. ‘Anni namatenra Perumal’ after the last phrase of a hymn of Campantar is the name of a person. ‘Maraiyani navinani is a term used by Appar and it has become a proper name of a learned Brahmin Men and places came to be called after the never to be forgotten phrases of Arurar or his life: ‘Ponnar meni vilakam’ is the name of a place and ‘Piccan entu panic connan’ is the name of a person.

There can be therefore no room for any doubt about the greatness of these Saints and the sacred nature of their hymns in the minds of the people of the Tamil land of the period of the later Pallavas and the greater Colas. The story of Nampiyannir Nampi and his king trying to collect the scattered hymns and to restore their old music can be relied upon for proving this sacred nature of the hymns, looked upon as good as Mantras to be recited in the sacred presence of God.


Tevaram: These hymns are today collectively known as Tevaram. But this term is not used by Cekkilar who only speaks of Thirupathigam and Tirumurai. Murai is a book and hence the collection was known as Tiruppatika nanmurai.

The name Tirumurai is not found in earlier inscriptions. The inscriptions, as already noted, use only the first of the terms, viz., Tiruppatiyam which is only Thirupathigam used by Cekkilar. In view of the importance attached to these hymns by the temples during the Cola age, the term ‘Tevara Nayakam’ found in an inscription of Rajendra’s reign had led even great scholars like Prof. Nilakanta Sastry to assume that this was an officer supervising the singing of the ‘Tevaram’ hymns in the various temples, even as there was a state official called Sri Karyak kankani Nayakam for supervising the daily worship of the temples. If there was a Sri Karyak kankani Nayakam, there was no necessity for a separate Tevara Nayakam. If there was a Tevara Nayakam in the sense in which the learned Professor has taken it, there should also have been a Tiruvaymoll Nayakam of which unfortunately there is no mention whatsoever. The term Tevaram occurs in other inscriptions as well. An inscription of the year 1015 A.D., refers to the installation of an idol which is referred to as ‘Periya Perumajukku-t Tevara Tevar’. Periya Perumali of course, is Rajaraja, whose image was also installed therein; in addition, was installed this king’s or Periya Perumalis Tevara Tevar, which term can mean only the image or idol worshipped in private as an ‘Ista Devata’. Whenever an idol of a saint or a worshipper was installed, the particular form of God which appealed to the mind of that worshipped was used to be installed in front of his statue. In keeping with this practice, the idol of Candrasekhara as an ‘Ista Devata’ worshipped by Rajaraja in his ‘anniartta puja’ was installed in front of Rajaraja’s statue as his ‘Tevara Tevar’. Another inscription found in the same Volume belonging to the period of the same king mentions this word Tevaram in the phrase ‘Tevarattuc curruk kalluri’ inside Mutikonta Colan’s Tirumalikai within the Kankaikonta Cola purattukkoyil. Here we have to visualise a koyil with a big building or Tirumalikai on whose northern portion is a pillared corridor or ‘Curruk kalluri’. Under these circumstances, the koyil can mean only the palace and the ‘Tevarattuc curruk kalluri’ has to be interpreted in the light of the inscription studied earlier as the place of king’s private worship, where Tevaram meant only private individual worship or ‘anniartta puja’. Therefore, the officer ‘Tevara-nayakam' should be taken as one in charge of making necessary arrangements for the private worship by the king.


There are two interesting inscriptions of the next Century, i.e., the 11th Century. The first has come from ‘Tirukkalar’ and the other from ‘Allur’. These speak of ‘Nam Tevarattukku-t tiruppatiyam panim periyani and ‘Malam Tevarattukku-t tiruppatiyam vinnappam ceyum Ampalattali’ etc. Tiruppatiyam in these two inscriptions must refer to the hymns of the Saints and if Tevaram also is taken as referring to these hymns, the sentences become meaningless. If the explanation offered to the inscriptions studied above is correct, the phrases under reference must mean the singing of the hymns at the time of the private worship in the palace or at the mutt.

Coming to the twelfth Century there is an inscription of Kulottunka of the year 1110 A.D. wherein the king resided one day in a mnnt P m Takkolam village after worshipping his God. This inscription refers to his worship in the following terms: ‘Tiruvural perumanni-t tevaram ceytu’, where Tevaram because of the verb ‘ceytu’ following it, can refer only to the individual worship of the God by the king as opposed to the public worship in the temple. Tevaram thus means private worship in the temple and the place of private worship outside the temple and also the ‘Istadevata’ or the deity worshipped privately in a house or mutt.

In the following Century, viz., the 13th Century, Kopperuncinkan is praised in a verse found in an inscription of his. He is said to have converted the great rivers into his private tanks and to have made universal dance of Shiva at Citamparam his private deity: ‘Vilanku cemponin Ampalakkuttu ni virumpiya Tevaram’.

Before passing on to the literary evidence, a reference has to be made to an inscription of Rajarajadeva. This records a gift of land to the ‘Tirumutait tevarac celvan matam’ on the northern side of Tiruttontisvara mutaiya Nayanar temple at Tirukkajumalam by the residents of Muniyur. The term ‘Tevaraccelvan’ either refers to the image for private worship by pilgrims who came and stayed in this mutt, or to the person in charge of the mutt who looked upon the private worship as his real wealth. In the latter alternative, it may be his proper name as well, in which case, private worship must have taken deep root in the minds of people. Tirumurai added to this name may refer to the way in which the private worship was conducted by reciting the hymns probably either because people were not permitted to use the Vedic mantras or because they were not familiar with Sanskrit. If Tevarac celvan is a proper name, the term ‘Tirumurai’ may be his title, showing that he was an expert in Tirumurai or that his office was to recite them.

But it is clear from this name that the term ‘Tirumurai’ has gamed currency by the time of this inscription. Sundara Panilya, who reigned from 1216 to 1235 uses this term in his inscriptions.

There is another name occurring in the inscriptions: viz., “Tevaram AJakiyan”. Whereas the name Tevaraccelvan looks upon the private worship or Tevaram as wealth, this name looks upon it as beauty.

Passing on to the 14th Century we find a reference in Koil Puranam by Umapati Sivam of the early part of this Century using this word Tevaram in the same sense of worship: ‘Muvayiravarkal tava maraiyotu Tevaram-kal-p-pari’iya pani’. The phrase “Tevaram ceytal’ which occurred in an inscription of Kulottunka li is found in one of the literary works of the poets Iraftaiyar. In Ekamparanatar Ula, they sing in praise of these hymns in the following terms: “Muvata peranpin muvar mutalikalum Tevaram ceyta tiruppattum”. This reference makes it very clear that the hymns at the first instance were sung, according to the tradition alive, during the life time of these poets, in their private worship by these Saints. This Ula which praises Mallinata Sambavaraya who can be no other than Rajanarayana Mallinata Sambuvarayan, a contemporary of Atkontan and Konkarman praised by these Iinttaiyars, and Varantaruvar, the son of Villiputturar.

Tevaram is nothing peculiar to Shaivites in this sense of worship. The famous commentary on Tiruvaymoli, the Itu by Nampillai,—a disciple of Nanciyar, who was himself a disciple of Pattar, the son of Kurattalvar, who in turn was the disciple of Ramanuja, thus belonging to the end of the 12th Century and the beginning of the 13th Century,—uses this very word Tevaram in a sentence, ‘Ummutaiya Tevaramo' in the sense of ‘Istadevata’ in private worship. Even today in those parts of Malayalam, where Tamil is spoken and in modern Malayalam, the phrase ‘Tevaram kalihnni or ‘Tevaram kalittu’ as meaning ‘after finishing the private worship’ is heard almost every day. The Tamil Lexicon refers to the local usage of Nancil Natu where Tevarappetti means a box containing idols and other objects of worship carried in front of a Royal procession.


There is an old anthology known as Sivaprakacap peruntirattu. In a mamuscript copy of this anthology copied according to it in 1679 A.D., the anthology itself is mentioned to have been in existence in Saka year 597. As this year may be impossible in view of the poems of a later period included in this anthology, it has been suggested that this 597 may be a reference to the Kollam Era, which is also referred to in other places in the same manuscript; and taken in this sense, the year of the anthology will be 1422 A.D. (i.e, 597 plus 825). In this Anthology, the hymns of Campantar are referred to as Tirukkataikkappu. The hymns of Appar are uniformly referred to as Tevaram and the hymns of Arurar as Tiruppattu.

Campantar’s hymns are referred to as Tirukkataikkappu in the late Mahavidwan K. Vadivelu Chettiyar’s edition of Civappirakacap peruntirattu.

Appar’s hymns are referred to as Tevaram.

Arurar’s hymns are referred to as Tiruppattu and as Cuntara-murtti Tiruppattu.

But Appar’s verses beginning with ‘Kotitirttam’, ‘Manitarkal’ and ‘Urai talarnta’ are wrongly noted as Tiruppattu instead of their being referred to as Tevaram. His ‘Natuvilakkalani is referred to as ‘Vakicar tirunericai’. So also the verses of Campantar, ‘Irunilam’ and ‘Uraicerum’ are also referred to as ‘Tiruppattu’ instead of their being referred to as ‘Tirukkalaikkappu’; His ‘Tantaiyar poyinar......' and ‘Cetikol noy......’ are referred to as Tirunanacampantar Tiruppattu.

The present edition, at the top of these verses in question has printed within brackets. Tirananacampanta cuvamikal Tevaram and Appar Cuvamikal Tevaram on pp. 81, 83 and 28. Evidently these notes on the top are by a copyist of a later date.

As these discrepancies have crept in only in six places as against 44 places where the correct references are given they must be taken as mistakes committed by copyists or entries made by them wherever the heading containing the name of the work was eaten away by the white ants. On the basis of a more reliable manuscript obtained after printing the book, the editor Mahavidwan K. Vadivelu chettiar corrects the reading ‘Tiruppattu’ on p. 81, v. 6 into ‘Tirukkataikkappu’. Such corrections ought to have been made with reference to the other mistakes as well as printed above.

We may therefore conclude that the practice in vogue during the time of Svarupanandar, the author of this Anthology, was, to speak of Campantar’s hymns as Tirukkataikkappu, Appar’s, as Tevaram and Arurar’s. as Tiruppattu.

The same distinction is, fortunately and curiously enough, made by Citampara cuvamikal of the 18th Century in his commentary on ‘Avirota Untiyar’, though in his commentary on Kolaimaruttal, he speaks of Tirunanacampantamurtti Tevaram. Tirunavukkaracar Tevaram and Cuntaramurtti Nayanar Tevaram? It is not clear why this commentator makes these two different kinds of references to these hymns of these Saints. Perhaps in the commentary on Kolaimaruttal, which is intended for the common man, he thought it best to speak in terms of the usage prevalent in his days, whereas in his commentaries on the philosophical works intended for the chosen few he thought it best to persist in using the ancient tradition in vogue at least from the times of Sivaprakasar and Svarupanandar and Tattuvarayar (Tattuvadesikar). In the age of these spiritual leaders, Tevaram meant individual worship or place of worship as is made clear by the following line: “Tetiya porul kontu Tevaram pala ceytu’, and ‘Tevaram ceykinta tintattamellam nam tirave tirntomenritu kunalai’. Even in the Siddha poems of later times, this meaning is retained: ‘Tavaram illai, tannkkoru vitillai, Tevaram etukkati’.


It is not clear when the term Tevaram came to be used as a common name for all the hymns of these three Saints. The Irattaiyar Ula connecting the Muvar Mutalikal with the word Tevaram, though used in a different sense, might have been responsible for this usage gaining currency. Nanacampantar speaks of ‘Palal n?ri’, i.e., a way of attaining salvation by singing hymns. Cekkilar makes Shiva to deliver this great truth to Arurar in, ‘Namakkum anpir perukkiya cirappin mikka arccanai patni akum’. Even according to the Pasupata system, amongst its five topics of which the fourth is ‘Vidhi’ or an operation effecting righteousness, this kind of singing is a vidhi. When singing hymns is looked upon as a worship, it becomes Tevaram or private worship or individual worship. We know from history and literature, these hymns were looked upon by Tamil Shaivites as their Vedas and recited reverentially at their private worship every day. As contrasted with its importance in the Temple cult, its importance in individual worship leading to personal salvation is thus emphasised by this term Tevaram. The fact that Appar’s hymns were first known under that term Tevaram, leads us to conclude that it is his hymns which are more patently mystic and more clearly referring to individual worship, that they were first, for a long time, sung as prayers by individuals in mutts and places of private worship including houses. The spiritual and‘mystical importance is made clear by the fact that SvarupTnandar in quoting 44 times from the hymns of the three Saints, quotes from Appar alone 29 times. On the basis of this usage, one may suggest that ‘Tevaraccelvani may refer to Appar—but it is better to wait for further confirmations.

Tirukkataikkappu, according to Cekkilar, is the last verse in the hymn giving the name of the poet in glorious terms by the poet himself. This term ‘Tirukkataikkappu’ is popularly used only with reference to Campantar and not at all with reference to Arurar’s hymns, where also in every Pathigam occurs at its end the benedictory stanza giving the name of the poet, though Cekkilar calls this also Tirukkataikkappu. This is probably because the benedictory stanzas of Campantar are sung in a more authoritative manner and stand as unique verses apart from the other ten verses going before them. In later times Campantar’s hymns, especially the hymns beginning with ‘Veyuru’, came to be looked upon as ‘Kappu’ or ‘Raksa’ or protection against evil influences. The closing of a door is known as Kataikkappu and can it be that perhaps people had in mind the miraculous power of his poems in closing the doors of the temple of Thirumaraikkadu?

Arurar’s poems were called ‘Tiruppattu’ or the sacred poems because Arurar was known as the learned Tamil poet, chosen as such by God Himself. But that term ‘Tiruppattu’ is used by Cekkilar to refer to the individual verses in the hymns of all the three Saints.

The word Tevaram is not used by the three Saints or Nampiyantar Nampi or Cekkilar or the Santana Acaryas or the other poets before the 15th Century. Even the Avvai of the later day ethical works like Nalvali, speaks of the hymns as ‘Muvar Tamil’ and not as ‘Tevaram’. As far as the present writer is aware, Tevaram is used in the sense of hymns of these three Saints in a verse of Tattuvaprakacar as collected in the Tamil Navalar Caritai. In the verse beginning with ‘Ninaivu kavi’, this poet sings thus: “Pecuvatu Tevarameyalal vaykkeliya peyk kirantankal pecom”, ‘We speak or recite Tevaram alone and not the cheap diabolical verses’, where Tevaram must necessarily refer to the divine poems, i.e., the hymns of the three Shaiva Saints. This Tattuvaprakacar has sung verses addressed to his contemporary king Krishna Maharaya, evidently Krlanadeva Maharaja, the Great, of Vijayanagar, who ruled between the years 1509 and 1530.

An inscription belonging to the 10th year of Ativira Rama Pantiya Tevar appoints one Tiruvannamalaip palavan Citampara Natan, alias, Tirumula Nata Mutali, for singing Tevaram at Campur Vatakarai in Travancore state. This is dated Saka 1494, i.e., 1572 A.D. Therefore, by the 16th Century, this special usage of Tevaram in the sense of the hymns must have started. A commentary on Sivaprakasam called ‘Cintanai urai’ ‘Meditation or thought on Sivaprakasam’ in the form of a commentary by Maturai Sivaprakacar said to be of the 18th Century refers to the hymns of all the three Saints as Tevaram. Citampara Cuvamikal also refers, as already stated, to the hymns as Tevaram in his commentary on ‘Kolai maruttal’. Therefore, by the 18th, and possibly by the 17th Century the usage must have become universal.

Help me keep this site Ad-Free

For over a decade, this site has never bothered you with ads. I want to keep it that way. But I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased truth, wisdom and knowledge.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: