The Religion and Philosophy of Tevaram (Thevaram)

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

This page describes “the life of nampi arurar (the tradition)” 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 5 - The Life of Nampi Arurar (the tradition)


The life of Nampi Arurar assumes great significance in Shaiva Philosophy. It is said to represent by some, the sakha marga, the way of worshipping God as one’s friend.

Civanana Cittiyar—Cupakkam, describes four ways of attaining God, the path of the servant, the path of the good son, the path of the friend and the path of truth. These are equated with Carya, Kriya, Yoga and Jnana Margas.

The path of the servant consists in sweeping the temple of the Lord, painting the ground with cow dung, gathering flowers and making them into various kinds of garlands for the Lord, singing hymns in His praise, setting up and lighting the temple lamps, preparing temple gardens, falling at the feet of Shaivites and doing their biddings.

The path of the good son is explained as going with sweet smelling flowers, incense, light, bathing materials and food, performing the five purifications, conceiving and contemplating upon the seat, the image and the inner light of the image, performing worship out of pure love, praising, and conducting the ceremonies in the sacrificial fire with reverence every day.

The path of the friend is the conquest of the sense organs, the control of the inspiration and expiration of breath to such a great extent that the movement of the body ceases, the knowledge of the inner seats of yoga and their internal ways of action, the realisation of their significance, going up the passage of yoga and reaching the sphere of the moon in the body and from there allowing the nectar to flow up to the brim into one’s body, contemplating on the Absolute light and performing completely the yoga of eight parts.

The path of truth consists in the knowledge of all sastras, philosophies and religions, the rejection of varied ways other than the jnana marga, realisation of jnana of the good path, which, analysing the characteristic features of pasu (the soul), pati (God), and pasa (the fetter) shows the way to the attainment of Parasiva, the resulting absence of any quest after the knower, the known and the knowledge and the final communion with Shiva.

It is said that the life of Appar represents the path of the servant, the life of Campantar, the path of the good son, the life of Arurar, the path of the friend and the life of Manikkavacakar, the path of truth. But this cannot be accepted as the final conclusion of the Shaiva Siddhanta Philosophy. Tirukkalirruppatiyar has no doubt whatever that all these saints reached the highest stage of spiritual development, viz., oneness with God. But Civanana Cittiyar, which describes these four paths, explains them as four different stages in the development of spiritual realisation. The path of the servant takes you to the world of the Lord; the path of the good son brings you to the presence of the Lord; the path of the friend gives you His form; and the path of the truth brings you into Advaitic relation with the Lord. All the four great saints, however, attained salvation through the jnana marga, though it is possible to differentiate in that path of truth itself, these four varieties of approach, all finally blossoming into the flower of realisation. It is in this sense that we can speak of the life of Nampi Arurar as exemplifying the path of friendship. Cekkilar emphasises this by referring to the name of Nampi Arurar as Tampiran Tolar and speaking of all the activities of Nampi Arurar as yoga.


Apart from this, the poems of Arurar, being the outpourings of his heart, have to be interpreted in relation to the events of his life. His hymns are full of references to his own life. It is, therefore, necessary to have a clear picture of his life for understanding his verses aright. It is better to begin with the story of his life as given in Periyapuranam. This story may be next examined in the light of references found in Arurar’s hymns.

Cekkilar begins his Puranam with the narration of events which happened on the top of the Mountain Kailas before Arurar was born in this world. The story is that he fell in love with two ladies of Parvati’s retinue, whilst gathering flowers. Alalacuntarar, that is the name which our poet bore in his previous birth there, was, therefore, sent to this world for the fulfilment of his desires. At his request, the Lord promised to save him from the ephemeral pleasures of the world. There are people who consider this as an interpolation in Periyapuranam. It is not necessary to go into this vexed question; for, we are not very much concerned with the previous birth of the saint. Beyond stating that our poet, as a Shaivite, was a believer in the theory of Karma and transmigration of souls, we can make no scientific statements about his previous birth with the help of the hymns he had sung.


The story of Arurar is given in Tatuttatkonta Puranam, Eyarkon Kalikkama Nayanar Puranam, Kazharitrarivar Nayanar Puranam and the last Vellannic Charukkam of Periyapuranam.

Arurar belonged to Tirumunnippati Nani and was born in the city of Thirunavalur . His father was Cataiyanar and mother Icaifianiyar. He was named (Nampi) Arurar after the God of Thiruvarur. The chief of Tirumunnippati Nani, Naracinka-munniyaraiyar, was captivated by the beauty of this child and he brought him up in his own palace. When Arurar came to be of the marriageable age, his parents made arrangements for getting him married to the daughter of Sadangavi (Sadanga vit) Sivaccariyar of Puttur. Before the marriage could be performed, Shiva Himself came in the form of an old Brahmin and protested against the marriage of Arurar, whom he claimed as his slave. To prove his preposterous story of one Brahmin becoming a slave of another Brahmin, he produced before the assembly of learned Brahmins, the original deed of slavery duly signed by Arurar’s grand-father and attested by witnesses of that age. The signatures were compared and the assembly had to decide that the document was genuine and valid. It was mentioned therein that this old Brahmin who claimed Arurar as his slave belonged to Tiruvenamnallur and every one assembled there was anxious to know where he resided. The old man led them all and disappeared at the entrance to the temple of Tiruvarutturai. At the time of the enquiry, Arurar at first abused the old man and tore off the copy of the document. Therefore, Shiva now praised him as ‘Van Toptani—‘The stubborn slave’—and declared that the best form of worship He loved was the song. He bade Arurar begin singing by using his very word of abuse ‘Pitta’—‘the madman’—and Nampiyarurar sang the first hymn beginning with “Pitta piraiculi.” “Is it fair to deny after having become your slave?’—that is the strain, (chorus) of the verses. Cekkilar calls this hymn, “Peritam Thirupathigam,” ‘the great hymn,’ because of the great revolution effected in Arurar.

From there, the poet naturally went to his place of birth, Thirunavalur, and sang a hymn in praise of the Lord of the temple there. In obedience to the command of the Lord that he should go about the world singing His praises, Arurar started on a pilgrimage.

The first place visited by Arurar was Tirutturaiyur. He sang there the hymn beginning with “Malaiyar aruvi”. In every one of the verses of this hymn, the poet desired that the path of Tapas (Sacrifice) might be shown to him. Periyapuranam describes this hymn as the hymn obstructing the path of births—“Pavanerikku vilakkakum Thirupathigam”.

After visiting various temples of the Lord, he thought of Citamparam. He crossed the Penpar (Pennaiyaru), reached the outskirts of Thiruvathigai which was the place where Saint Appar worked with his hoe or ‘ulavarappaini’ and was so overcome by a feeling of reverence that he dared not even set his foot on such a sacred soil. He remained in the Cittavata mutt. Whilst he was asleep, Shiva in the form of an old Brahmin, came and laid Himself down with His feet touching the head of Arurar. Arurar woke up and protested. The old man begged him to be excused for not knowing the direction because of His old age. But this kind of kicking on the head was repeated so many times that Arurar exploded: “Who art thou?” Then the old man disappeared saying, ‘Don’t you know me?’ Only then the truth of divine presence dawned on Arurar and he sang the hymn, “Is there any one who does not know his Lord?”—“Tammapai apyata catiyar ulare” ending each verse with the interrogation, “Will I slight the Lord of Thiruvathigai even for a second?”.

After bathing in the river Kefilam, Arurar worshipped the temples at Tirumanikkuli, and Tiruttinainakar where he sang the hymn No. 64 beginning with “Nfru tankiya”, advising therein his mind to take refuge into the sprout of Shiva—‘Sivakkolimtu’.

He entered the temple Citamparam, through the northern gate. He was moved by the sight of the divine dance and sang a hymn praising his own birth as the most blissful because it gave him this great opportunity of worshipping the dance. Unfortunately this hymn is not available for our study. A voice was heard from the Heaven directing Arurar to proceed to Thiruvarur.

The poet crossed the Coleroon (Kollrtam) and approached Cikali. He could not set foot on the holy soil of that city where Campantar was born. Whilst on the outskirts of that city, the Lord appeared to him on the sacred bull along with his consort and the poet sang the hymn No. 58 beginning with “Catalum pirattalum”, describing therein the vision as the very vision of Knilas. Cekkilar describes this hymn as “Pap tarum innicai payinta Thirupathigam”—‘the hymn of the music full of ragas or melody’.

After offering his worship at Cikali, our poet passed through Thirukolakka, Thiruppungur and various other shrines. The great Kaviri river was reached and our saint worshipped Mayilatuturai, Amparmakalam and Thiruppugalur and reached near Thiruvarur. The people of Thiruvarur were informed by Shiva of the approach of the poet and they went in a body and gave him a royal welcome. At the sight of this reception, Arurar sang the hymn beginning with, “Karaiyum katalum”, ending each verse with the plea, ‘The Lord resides at Thiruvarur; ascertain from Him whether He will accept us as well’. That is the burden of every verse in this hymn. Here Cekkilar observes that our poet reached the entrance of the shrine singing, “Canta icaip patikankall’ ‘hymns of rhythm and music’.

Cekkilar describes at this stage, the episode of love, in all its poetic glory. Paravaiyar, one of the common women, and a virgin, came to worship at the temple of Thiruvarur and Arurar fell in love with her. Paravaiyar was not unwilling and she became love-sick. Arurar looked upon her as the very embodiment of Shiva’s grace. Both were married and they led a life of happiness and piety. The devotees of the Lord conferred the title of ‘Tampiran Tolar’ (the friend of the Lord) on Arurar.

On another day, Arurar came to worship at the temple. At the entrance, there was a mantapam of a grove called ‘Tevaciriyani where sat assembled all the saints of this world. Arurar mentally prayed for serving them and begged of the Lord to make him fit for such a service. The Lord revealed to him their greatness and directed him to sing their praises. He was not sure how to begin. Lord’s voice was there heard: “Start with the line ‘Tillai vaj antunartam aliyarkkum atiyen” In obedience to the divine command, our poet composed the famous ‘Thiruthondathogai’ hymn No. 39. Periyapuranam is really the story of the saints enumerated in this famous hymn. Cekkilar tries to impress the greatness of the message of this hymn by narrating the story of its birth in 15 verses. He calls this hymn as the true hymn of broad or universal outlook and love. Thus ends the Tatuttatkonta Puranam of Periyapuranam.


The next part of the story of Arurar is continued in Eyarkon Kalikkama Nayanar Puranam. There was a Vellala called Kuntaiyur Kilar who was supplying Arurar with grains and other necessaries of life. A great famine came and the Vellala was at his wit’s end. The Lord appeared in a dream and informed him of the gift of a mountain of grains. The problem was how to transport all the grains to Thiruvarur. Arurar worshipped at the temple at Thirukkolili which is near Kuntaiyur and begged of the Lord by singing a Thirupathigam beginning with “Nila ninaintu”, begging the Lord therein to help him to transport this grain to Thiruvarur, so that Paravai might no longer suffer. Periya-puranam tells us that the Putas carried overnight all this mountain of paddy to Thiruvarur, where at the request of Paravaiyar all the residents took as much as they wanted from the great store.

Whilst Arurar was thus worshipping at the temple of Thiruvarur, Kotpuli Nayanar requested him to pay a visit to his place, viz., Nattiyattankuti. After worshipping various temples on the way, Arurar reached Nattiyattankuti, which was adorned by Kotpuli in a befitting manner, for welcoming the saint. Kotpuli worshipped the saint and arranged for a great feast. He brought his two chilaren Cinkati and Vapappakai and begged the saint to accept them as his servants. Our poet accepted them as his own daughters. He went to worship the temple at Thirunattiyathankudi and in the hymn sung there beginning with ‘Pun nan’, the poet refers to Kotpuli and Cinkati.

From there he reached Valivalam, where he sang the hymn No. 67. Therein he says that he had the vision of the Lord who was fond of the hymns of Campantar and Navukkaraiyar. Cekkilar mentions here that our poet had composed this hymn by weaving into music the all-pervasive Tamil garland.

Arurar returned to Thiruvarur. The Pankuni Uttara festival was fast approaching and Paravaiyar had no money for welcoming the pilgrims. Arurar had to think of bringing gold and he went to the temple at Thiruppugalur and sang a hymn expressing his desire of getting gold from Him. But, this hymn is lost to us. Returning after worship, he felt so fatigued that he fell asleep on the cloth he spread out on the ground after arranging as his pillow the bricks lying there for the construction of the temple. When he woke up, he found to his great surprise that all the bricks had been turned into pure gold. He then sang the famous ‘Thiruppugalur’ hymn beginning with ‘Tammaiye pukalatu’ declaring unto the world that God would give here and now unequalled happiness. Cekkilar describes this hymn as a musical garland of sweet words. On his way, whilst he was approaching Tiruppapaiyur, he had the vision of the great dance of Shiva. He went into the temple there and sang the hymn beginning with ‘Mata malikai’ giving expression to the joy of his vision: “He is indeed the beautiful, He the dancer!” Cekkilar describes this hymn as the hymn which the world received for being saved. Arurar returned to Thiruvarur with the gold bricks in great joy and lived in peace with Paravaiyar at Thiruvarur.


Again, Arurar started on a pilgrimage. He visited the great temple at Nannilam, built, as stated in the last verse of the hymn which the poet sang there, by the Cola king Koccenkanan. Cekkilar describes the hymn as the garland of Tamil. From there he went to Thiruveezhimizhalai welcomed by the Brahmins of that place. The hymn No. 88 sung here begs the Lord who had given coins daily to Campantar and Appar with the desire of listening to the music of Tamili to shower His grace on Arurar as well. Periya-purinam describes it as the garland of pure Tamil words of expansion. The temple at Thiruvanjiyamwas sung in hymn No. 76, when our poet worshipped the Lord there. Cekkilar calls this the hymn of no blot. Arurar reached Aricirkaraip puttur but went to worship at Citticcaram temple at Tirunaraiyur. From there he returned to Puttur welcomed by the Shaivites. In verse 6 of the hymn No. 9 of this temple, Arurar refers to the story of Pukalitunai Nayanar. Tiruvavatutunai situated on his way received the hymn No. 66, which immortalises amongst others, the story of Koccenkunan. ‘The munificent hymn of a garland of Tamil words’—so says Cekkilar in praise of this hymn. The various temples on the southern bank of Kaviri were visited and Arurar finally came to Tiruvrtaimarutur. In the hymn No. 60, sung there, he requested the Lord to show him the way of escape. This is described in Periyapuranam as containing sweet flowers of Tamil words. Tirunakeccuram was sung on his way, in hymn No. 99. Cekkilar calls this the ever-expanding hymn. Arurar is said to have visited Sivapuram but there is no hymn for that temple available. After worshipping at various temples, he came to Tirukkalaiyanallur where he sang the famous hymn No. 16, describing the various puranic stories.

He came to Tirukkutamukku or Kumbhakfinam, Tiruvalanculi and Tirunallur and sang hymns though no hymns for these temples have reached us. Worshipping various other places, he came to Tiruccorrutturai and composed the hymn beginning with “AJal nir ojuki”. This, Cekkilar calls, the hymn of beautiful words. After worshipping at various temples including Kantiyur, Tiruvaiyaru, Tiruppunturutti, he came to Tiruvalampolili where the Lord appeared in a dream asking why our poet had forgotten Thirumazhapadi. Arurar had a vision of the youthful beauty of the Lord. Our poet reached the northern bank of Kaviri and went to worship at Tirumalapati and sang the hymn No. 24, exclaiming, “Who else except yourself shall I think of hereafter?” Cekkilar calls this the incomparable hymn of flowers. Various other temples on both the banks of the river Kaviri were visited by Arurar. The Shaivites of Thiruvanaikaval welcomed the poet and he sang the hymn No. 75, where he asserted that the worshippers of the Lord were his Lords. In this hymn the poet sang of the Cola of Urantai, offering his best necklace to the Lord which came to adorn the Linga brought in a pot through the Kaviri waters, for bathing it. This hymn is described in Periyapuranam as the hymn ®f pure or beautiful words.

After worshipping at other temples, Arurar reached Thirupachilachiramam. Arurar prayed for money and Cekkilar reminds of Arurar’s path of friendship. When no money was forthcoming from the Lord, he sang the hymn No. 14, wherein with disappointed heart, he cried, “If He is not going to shower His grace on His servants, if He is not going to give anything, is there no other Lord for us?” Periyapuranam tells us that a heap of money was given by the Lord at this place. From there, Arurar went to Thiruppainjeeli. He sang the hymn No. 36. It represents the speeches of the woman who fell in love with Bhikshatana, the beautiful person of the forest. This hymn is called by Cekkilar, “the hymn of rare Tamil”. Inkoymalai and other temples were next visited though no hymns are available for us. Following the Kaviri, our poet reached Konkunatu.

At Pandikodumudi, on the south bank of Kaviri, he sang the famous hymn No. 48, that his tongue would continue to utter the Pancaksara even if he were unconscious. This hymn is celebrated by Periyapuranam as the saviour hymn of Purusartha on the way. Passing through various temples, he reached Perur on the banks of the Kanci river. There he saw the vision of the Tillai dance. He exclaimed, “What else is there for attaining, after one has worshipped this dance of Shiva?” Unfortunately there is no hymn of this kind available for our study.

Arurar went to Venjamakoodal, singing there the hymn No. 42, describing the Cirraru, the temple and the city on its bank. In this hymn, he asked the Lord whether he would accept him as well.

The Karknti mountain was visited next and Arurar in the hymn No. 27 sung there begged of the Lord to encourage him by saying, ‘Fear not’. Periyapuranam speaks of our poet worshipping Tiruvaraimerrali and Tiru Innampar. This is on the basis of the first verse of Thirupurampayam hymn No. 35, where the poet states, “We had gone to Ayaimerrali and had come to stay at Innampar and our Lord had not stated anything. Therefore, Oh, my heart! let us start for worshipping at Purampayam”. This hymn is, according to Periyapuranam, the hymn of sweet music established firmly everywhere. At Thirupurampayam, he was welcomed by the Shaiva worshippers. Whilst worshipping at many temples on the way after leaving Thirupurampayam, the Lord appeared to him in the form of an old Brahmin at Thirukoodalaiyathoor. Arurar enquired of the old Brahmin the way to Mudhukundram and the old Brahmin disappeared saying, “This is the way which leads to Koodalaiyathoor”. All were surprised and our poet gave expression to his sense of divine wonder in his hymn No. 85, where he exclaimed, “I do not understand this wonder of the Lord coming this way”.

After worshipping at the temple at Tirukkulalaiyarrur, Arurar went to Thirumudhukundram and sang the hymn 43, the hymn of a garland of beautiful words according to Periyapuranam Arurar, according to Periyapuranam, had the intention of getting gold from the Lord. The next hymn No. 63 repeatedly praising the Lord as Nampi was sung and Periyapuranam tells us that the Lord gave 12,000 gold. Arurar requested the Lord for the safe transport of this gold, whereupon, the Lord ordered him to throw the gold into the Manimuttaru, for being delivered at the temple tank at Thiruvarur, when he would reach that city. After thus assured of the livelihood for his body, Arurar thought of the livelihood for his soul and went on his way to Citamparam. On his way, he worshipped various temples including Katampur. At Citamparam, he sang the hymn No. 90 praising the vision he had of the Tillai dance at Perur. He gave expression to his bliss at the sight of this dance in every one of the verses in this hymn.

From there he went to the Kokntikkoyil at Thirukarupariyalur, wherein he exclaimed, “How sweet is He unto us when we think of Him?” This hymn is described in Periyapuranam as the hymn of Truth and the garland of Tamil.

He sang a hymn at Thirupazhamannipadikkarai Cekkilar describes this as the hymn of praise beyond thought. At Thiruvazhkoliputhur, he sang the hymn No. 57. “What shall I think of, forgetting this precious gem of Vazhkoliputhur?”—this is the burden of the hymn. When Arurar reached Kanatumullur, he saw a vision of the Lord and the poet sang in hymn No. 40, that he had seen and worshipped Him there. Cekkilar describes this as the hymn ruling the Heavens and the garland woven of munificent Tamil

At Tiruvetirkolpati, he sang what Periyapuranam calls ‘Cittanilait Thirupathigam’. The hymn No. 7 is, true to its name, addressed to the mind, advising it to reach Edirkolpadi.

At Velvikknti, he sang’hymn No. 18, coupling that place with Tirutturutti. Periyapuranam states that Arurar worshipped Shiva as the Lord of the sacrifice. In every verse of this hymn, the poet exclaims, “Will we not serve Him, if we had known Him?”

Arurar returned to Thiruvarur, worshipping on the way various temples. The gold has to be taken delivery at the temple tank and according to Periyapuranam, Arurar sang hymn No. 25, which is addressed to the Lord of Mudhukundram. It begs of the Lord to remove the suffering and shower His blessings, in the very presence of Paravai. In the 9th verse when the poet sang, “Kutta tantarulay”—‘Oh, Dancer, please do give!” It is said that gold appeared and was taken to the house of Paravaiyar.

One day at Thiruvarur, he sang explaining the characteristic features of the Lord in the form of rhetorical interrogations.


Arurar started on another pilgrimage to the various temples with his followers. After worshipping temples surrounding Thiruvarur, he reached Thirunallar. He sang H. 68, which is very much on the pattern of H. 57; but there he addressed the Lord as the precious gem, whereas here, he addressed the Lord as the nectar. Cekkilar does not mention specifically this hymn.

At Thirukadaiyur Mayanam, Arurar sang the famous hymn beginning with “Maruvar konrai” and addressing the Lord ‘Periya Peruman Anka}’, the Great King. Cekkilar calls this hymn as the hymn of overflowing music. At Thirukadaiyur nearby, H. 28 was sung wherein the poet exclaims, “Where is any help for me except yourself?” This pathetic cry makes Cekkilar label this hymn, “Maru irat tamil malai”—‘the loving (wet) garland of sweet fragrance’.

At Valampuram, Arurar sang H. 72, which Cekkilar thinks is full of rhythmic words: “Uraiyocaippatikam”. Tiruccaykkatu received a hymn from Arurar, according to Cekkilar, which however has not reached us.

Tiruvepkatu received H. 6, wherein the poet as explained in the last verse of the hymn asks a number of questions of the Lord’s activities.

Hymn 97 was sung at Nanipalli and Cekkilar calls this hymn “Narramilin punita naruntotai”—‘the fragrant pure garland of good Tamil’. In this hymn, the poet referred to Campantar being blessed with jnanam. The poem made no request herein except stating that the Lord’s city is Nanipalli—perhaps this is the purity or ‘punitam’ because Tiruvalluvar states, “Tuymai enpatu ava ipmai” ‘purity is the absence of desires’. In verse No. 3, the poet described the transcendental and immanent aspect of God.

Arurar reached Thirunindravur and sang hymn No. 65. Cekkilar calls this the hymn of beautiful words. Arurar described therein, certain stories of God, showering His blessings on His followers and stated that these stories had inspired him to take refuge in the Lord. It is this bubbling up of love that Cekkilar refers to as, “Onriya anpu ullurukap Paduvar” —‘he sang whilst his concentrated love melted inwards.’ It is in this hymn that Arurar gave us the number of songs Appar had sung. Cekkilar as a great research scholar mentions specifically this reference in his description of this hymn. There is another hymn for this self same temple though it is not mentioned as such by Cekkilar. We had already referred to this as belonging to Thirunindra ur of Pucalar.

Tiru Ninir was on the way, but somehow or other our poet failed to go there, but something unique in him reminded him of the temple and he returned back to worship at that temple. He sang the hymn No. 56, where the poet exclaims, “Can we leave off worshipping our Lord?”. Cekkilar calls this, “Meypporul van tamil malai” —‘the garland of munificent Tamil of truth’ probably because of various inspiring descriptions of the Lord in various verses of this hymn especially in verses 5 and 8.

Arurar passed through Thiruppungur and reached Thirukolakka where he had a vision of the Lord, and in the hymn No. 62 sung there, he spoke of his having the vision ‘Kanni kontene’. In the 8th verse, reference is made to Campantar receiving the ‘talam’ (cymbal). Cekkilar calls this hymn ‘Porulmalait Thirupathigam’—‘the divine hymn of a garland of significance’. Our poet himself describes this hymn as “Nani irankimun anyum anneriyal navinra pattu” —‘these ten expressed in the way what the world out of love knows always’.

As usual, our poet did not set his foot on the sacred precincts of Cikali. He went round the outskirts of the city and was about to reach Thirukurukavur. He was overcome by hunger and thirst. As though expecting him, the Lord came there in the form of a Brahmin and set up a shed, ‘pantal’, for distributing water and food. Our poet could not refuse this kind offer. His retinue and himself were completely refreshed. Whilst they were asleep, the Brahmin disappeared. Realising the divine help offered, he sang hymn No. 29, which states, “Are you not the Lord of Thirukurukavur? I have not realised this. You relieve hunger of those who praise you. You have saved my life.” Cekkilar calls this, “Meyttakaiya Thirupathigam” —‘the hymn of truth.’ Arurar thereafter went to worship at the temple and sang a hymn which however has not reached us. After worshipping at the temples nearby, he reached Thirukkazhippalai, where he sang the hymn No. 23. Arurar, after worshipping at Citamparam and Tiruttinainakar, reached his native place Tifunavatar, where the Shaivites and the residents welcomed him with all their hearts. He sang the hymn No. 17, which describes the Lord saving him at Thiruvennainallur.

From there, he entered Tontai Nani and passed through its various temples and cities to reach Tirukkalukkundram. He sang there hymn No. 81. Cekkilar calls this, “Pa nanim innicaiyin Thirupathigam” —‘the hymn of sweet music sought after by the rhythm of the verse.’ It is not possible for us to explain the beauty of the musical compositions which Cekkilar enjoyed so much.

From there Arurar reached Thirukkachur. His followers and himself almost dropped down because of starvation. The Lord, it is said, came in the form of a Brahmin, went about begging for alms in that city, offered the food to our poet and his followers and disappeared. Arurar sang here hymn No. 41, wherein he cried out, “Will not your followers feel miserable at your begging? Is this that great Grace of yours?”

Welcomed by the Shaivites of Conjivaram, Arurar entered that great city of the Pallavas. Whilst worshipping Tirumerruli, he sang the hymn No. 21, where with all his confidence, he exclaimed that he would worship nobody else but the Lord and that he would not have further births or misery. Cekkilar calls this “Parar perumait Thirupathigam”—‘the hymn of the greatness of the world.’

Hymn No. 5 was sung at Tiruvonnkantan Tali, Kanci; this hymn according to Cekkilar was sung for getting gold coins from the Lord. Periyapuranam tells us God gave Arurar the required money. Cekkilar justifies this kind of procedure as one born of true friendship to the Lord. He calls this hymn as “Kalai vilankum yannrp Pathigam” —‘the hymn of beautiful yield, wherein shines art.’ In this hymn No. 5, we see the poet playing with the Lord in a humorous way. Hymn No. 10 was at Aneka-tankavatam which describes the temple as the place where resides the Lord of varied activities.

After worship at all the temples at Cofijivaram, Arurar reached Thiru Vanparthan Panangattur, where the poet contemptuously rejected the knowledge, the speech and the habit and the support of those who did not think or speak or depend on the Lord. This richness of divine love makes Cekkilar call this hymn ‘Vuntamilppatikam’ —‘the hymn of munificent Tamil’, and Periyapuranam further states that our poet sang this hymn as a good musical composition.

Arurar passed through Tirumarperu, Tiruvallam and other temples on his way to Thirukalathi. Another hymn of sweet music was sung by our poet at Thirukalathi, which exclaims, “I cannot praise any one but yourself, my Lord”. This is on the pattern of hymn No. 21. Cekkilar describes this as “Matura icaip Pathigam” —‘the hymn of sweet music’.

There is a hymn for Sri Parvatam and another for Thiruketharam, but according to Cekkilar these were sung whilst our poet was at Thirukalathi, mentally contemplating on these two great temples of the north.


Our poet passed through very many temples nearby worshipping at every one of these places and he reached Thiruvottiyur welcomed by the Shaivites of the place. He sang there, the hymn No. 91, full of love and nectar-like music, as Cekkilar describes it to have sung as ‘Kotil amuta icai kula.’

Here is described the episode of Arurar’s marriage with Cankiliyar. According to Periyapuranam, Cankiliyar was the daughter of a Vellala chief Tirunayiru Kilar. She felt that she was ordained for a Shaiva Saint and therefore swooned whenever there was a talk of a marriage for her. Once it happened that the man, who sent his men for arranging the marriage with her, died along with the messenger. This alarmed the parents. She was taken to Thiruvottiyur and was allowed to live in a building, built specially for the virgin. She performed her tapas there, weaving garlands of flowers to the Lord of Thiruvottiyur. Arurar, whilst he was returning from the temple of Thiruvottiyur saw Cankiliyar as a flash of lightning, coming from behind a screen for handing over the garland and disappearing once again inside the screen. He fell in love with her and resolved to win her with the help of Shiva. The Lord appeared and assured Arurar of His help. Shiva appeared in the dream of Cankiliyar and pleaded with her on behalf of Arurar. The Lord again appeared before Arurar and advised him to promise Cankiliyar that he would never leave her. As such a kind of promise would prevent Arurar from visiting the various temples, he requested the Lord to disappear from the lihga, whilst he was to make such a promise and to stay under the niakilam tree’. The Lord agreed but inspired Cankiliyar to insist on the promise being made under the self same tree. When the day dawned, Cankiliyar explained the dream to her companions and they all went to the temple and Arurar had to make the promise under the ‘rnakilam’ tree. That night the Shaivite worshippers were directed by the Lord to arrange for the marriage of this couple. The marriage was duly performed and Cankiliyar and Arurar were leading a life of happiness.

But the zephyr came with the ‘Vasanta’ (Spring) season, the season of the festival of Thiruvarur, when Paravaiyar used to dance before the Lord. Arurar sang according to Periyapuranam the hymn No. 51, “How long can I remain separated from my Lord of Thiruvarur?” which is the burden of the song. He, therefore, left Thiruvottiyur for Thiruvarur, thus breaking the promise he had solemnly made not to leave Cankiliyar. He lost, therefore, his eyesight. The poet felt very miserable and the pathetic cry was given expression to in the 54th hymn. As Cekkilar points out, this hymn expresses the horrible experience of blinaness, his feeling of despair and his sense of shame. Hymns Nos. 51 and 54 are praised by Cekkilar for their music—‘Icait Thirupathigam’ and ‘Nallicaikotu paravi.’ The intense love for the Lord of Thiruvarur dragged him on and at ‘Vain Thirumullaivoyal’, Arurar sang hymn No. 69. There he requested the Lord to remove all his intense sufferings. He specifically stated there that the Lord had removed his eyesight because of Cankiliyar. Cekkilar calls this ‘Nrtiya Pathigam’—‘the immortal or long hymn.’ In this hymn, the poet refers to Tontaiman in one of the verses.

At Thiruvenpakkam, the 89th hymn was sung. The poet described his sufferings and begged of the Lord to pardon him. Every one of the verses states that the poet asked the Lord whether He was in the temple and the Lord replied, “We are here, you may go.” The penultimate verse informs us that he was given a walking stick. This is also praised by Cekkilar as ‘Icait Thirupathigam’ ‘the hymn of music.’

From there Arurar went to Thiruvalangadu. Without entering into the city of the great lady saint Karaikkal Ammaiyar, he sang the hymn No. 52’. He regretted having fallen a prey to women and expressed his resolve that he would become the slave of the servants of the Lord. Cekkilar calls this hymn also ‘Icait Thirupathigam.’ After worshipping at Tiruvurali he reached Kanci (Tiruvekampam). There, he got back his left eye. “What a great blessing to have this eyesight, to have a vision of the Lord of Ekampam embraced by the Mother”—thus he gave expression to his feelings of joy in his hymn No. 61. The hymn begins with the description of the Lord as one who has enjoyed the poison given by the Devas. Probably because of this Cekkilar feels that Arurar must have prayed to the Lord to accept and forgive his sins even as he had accepted the poison. This eyesight made him think of his Thiruvarur and he sang the hymn No. 83, where he exclaimed, “When am I to reach my Lord at Thiruvarur and see Him with my own eyes?” Cekkilar calls this “Canta icai” ‘the rhythmic music’.

On his way to Thiruvarur, he worshipped and sang at Tiru Amathur. The hymn begins with the exclamation, “I have seen Him! I have seen Him!” In the last verse the poet emphasises the truth aspect of God. Cekkilar describes this also as “Icaittiruppatikam.”

Arurar crossed Tontainatu and entered the Cola territory. He offered the Lord his garland of words of flowers at Thirunelvayil Tiruaratturai. Our poet himself called this as “Narramilin mikumalai” —‘the garland full of good Tamil.’ He described the ephemeral nature of the world and this hymn is full of echoes from Tirukkural and Nalaliyar. He also referred to his falling a prey to women.

Arurar reached the Kaviri in which he bathed and reached Thiruvaduthurai. He cried he had no eye and expressed his physical suffering. He exclaimed, “Oh Lord of Devas! There is no one but yourself for me. Show pity on me and encourage me by saying, ‘Do not fear.’ ” This is called, “Inkenakkar uravennum Thirupathigam” —‘the hymn stating that he had no relation—a hymn of helplessness.’

The poet went to Tirutturutti and prayed for the removal of the disease. He was ordered to bathe in the temple tank of Tirutturutti and he became whole. He sang there the hymn No. 74, where he described the Lord as one who knew the desire of his worshippers and one who had removed the disease and sins of those who bathed in the Kaviri. This hymn, Cekkilar calls “Corpatikam, sung with seven tunes.”

Thiruvarur became visible from a distance but he was feeling miserable that he had not secured the sight of the other eye. He prostrated himself before the Lord of Thiruvarurp paravai un manuli. He begged of the Lord to save him from miseries and to show him the world with his own eyes. Cekkilar calls this hymn “Aruntamil” and “Tunka icait Thirupathigam” —‘the hymn of sublime music of rare Tamil’. From there, our saint went to worship at Mulattanam, the central shrine of Thiruvarur. On his way he met the Shaivite worshippers and sang the ‘Kaikkilai’ hymn beginning with ‘Kurukupaya’ thinking of them all as birds to go and report his words of love to the Lord feeling himself as the love-sick maiden pining for the embrace of the Lord (Kaikkijai-ecaravu). He entered the temple. He begged of the Lord to bless him with the other eye. Arurar became desperate because of his rights as a friend. He exclaimed, “Your servants suffer. You do not listen to them. You do not restore them their eyes. Will you go on living happily?” This is described in Periyapuranam as the hymn of beautiful words—“Ancor Pathigam.” He got back the sight of the other eye and enjoyed the sight of the Lord with both the eyes.


But Paravaiyar could not allow Arurar to come near her. The Lord Himself had to intervene to pacify Paravaiyar.

Kalikkama Nayapar was red with rage against Arurar that the latter should have sent the Lord as a messenger to a woman. Arurar’s heart, unable to bear this suffering of a Shaivite saint pleaded with the Lord to pacify Kalikkamar. Kalikkamar was inflicted with chronic dyspepsia (culai) and the Lord appeared before him to advise that the disease was incurable except at the hands of Arurar. The Lord also appeared before Arurar and directed him to go to Kalikkamar to cure the latter of the disease. Kalikkamar thought that this was adding insult to injury and committed suicide rather than bear the intamy of being cured by Arurar who had ill-treated his Lord. Arurar came to the house of Kalikkamar. Seeing him dead, he drew his sword for putting an end to his life when by the Grace of God, Kalikkamar regained his life—thus were the two saints brought together and reconciled. Both of them then went to Thiruppungur.

Overcome by this feeling of God’s Grace, Arurar sang the famous hymn No. 55 at Thiruppungur where he recited a number of Puranic stories which inspired him to take refuge in the Lord. This hymn is based on the pattern of hymn No. 65. In this hymn, he refers to Kalikkamar as Eyarkon. Both of them went to Thiruvarur to worship at the temple and after sometime Kalikkamar returned home.


At about this time Ceramanperumal was chosen the king of the Ceras after Cenkorporaiyanis death. At the close of his daily worship, it is said, he used to hear the jingling of the anklet of the Lord of Dance. One day, he failed to hear this sound and he was very much upset. He was about to cut off his own head when the usual sound came to be heard with the explanation of the Lord that the delay was due to the Lord listening to the hymns sung by Arurar at Citamparam. The Cera king at once resolved to go on a pilgrimage to Citamparam and to pay his respects to Arurar. He composed his ‘Ponvannattantati’ after having a vision of the dance at Citamparam and from there lie went to Thiruvarur. It was at this time that Arurar had gone to Nakai to sing the hymn No. 46, wherein he begged of the Lord to give him ornaments, unguents, varieties of dress, gold, horse, dirk (curika) and silk. He had his desires fulfilled and returned to Thiruvarur just in time to welcome the Cera king. Arurar came to be known as the friend of Ceraman. Both these saints spent a few days at Thiruvarur, Ceraman being the honoured guest of Arurar in Paravaiyar’s house.

Our poet started on a pilgrimage to the Pandya country along with Ceraman. After worshipping at Kilvelur, Nakai and other places, they reached Thirumaraikkadu or Vedaranyam. Hymn No. 71 was sung by Arurar at that place and Ceraman recited the verses in his Antati relating to the temple. They worshipped at Akattiyanpalli, and at the temple of Tirukkonkkulakar, Arurar sang hymn No. 32, wherein he referred to the Lord residing there with Kali or Katukilali After worshipping at many temples in the Cola territory, they entered the Pandya country. They reached Maturai after worshipping at Tirupputtur. The Cola king was then the guest of the Pandya, the former being the son-in-law of the latter. The three ancient kings of Tamil land, the Pandya, the Cera and the Cola met at Maturai to worship the Lord Shiva there. Nampi Arurar had a royal reception at Maturai. The three kings and himself went to Thirupuvanam and on sighting the temple Arurar sang the hymn No. II. They returned back to Maturai to go once again on a pilgrimage to Tiru Appanur and Tiru Etakam. On their return they went to Tirupparankuntam where Arurar sang, as he himself mentions in the last verse of the hymn, in the presence of the three ancient kings of the Tamil land. This hymn is described in Periyapuranam as the ‘garland of munificent Tamil of sweet music’. In that hymn, the poet exclaimed that he was afraid of serving the Lord aright and Periyapuranam states that after hearing this hymn, the three kings were so overpowered by their sense of reverence that they fell at the feet of our saint.

From there, Arurar, along with the Cera king left Maturai. They went and worshipped at Kurralam where our poet is said to have sung a hymn which unfortunately is not now in existence. Tirunelveli and Ramesvafhm were by their visit. Periyapuranam states that from there Arurar sang the hymn No. 80 in honour of Tirukketiccuram in Ceylon. This hymn is described in Periyapuranam as ‘the hymn of a word-garland’. They turned back and visited Thiruchuzhial where Arurar sang hymn No. 82. This hymn according to Periyapuranam is a flower of poetry. Whilst our poet was asleep in that place, the Lord appeared in his dream in the form of a youth and stated that His place was Kanaper. Next day, Ceraman and Arurar started for that place and on their way our poet sang the hymn No. 84, the hymn of words, wherein he pined for the sight of the Lord of Kanaper. Tiruppupavayil was next visited and hymn No. 50 was sung. Tiruppataliccuram at Pampanimanakar in the Cola Country was next worshipped on their way to Thiruvarur. Hymn No. 8 was now sung at Thiruvarur. Cekkilar calls this “the hymn of regret’, where the poet in a penitent mood gave utterance to his feeling of disgust of life and exclaimed that he no longer wanted this birth.

The Cera king invited Nampi Arurar to his capital city and from there both of them started on a pilgrimage to the temples in the Cera country. They worshipped at the various temples on the southern bank of Kaviri. When they came out of the temple at Tirukkantiyur, Tiruvaiyaru was seen on the other side. When they started to cross the river the Kaviri was in high floods. Nampi Arurar sang hymn No. 77 addressing the Lord of Tiruvaiyaru, and the Kaviri stopped flowing for some time allowing them to cross the river on its bed of sand. This is alluded in Periyapuranam as ‘the hymn of known greatness’. They reached finally Thiruvanchikulam, the Cera capital, where Arurar sang the hymn No. 44. Our poet stayed there as the honoured guest of the Cera king for some time but he was soon reminded of Thiruvarur and he sang hymn No. 59, exclaiming, “Is it possible to forget the Lord of Arur?” With an unwilling heart, the Cera king had to bid good-bye and he sent Arurar along with his Royal gifts. According to Periyapuranam, the Bhutas of Shiva robbed Arurar of all those gifts waylaying him in the form of highway robbers, to remind him that he should not receive any gifts except from Him. The poet went to Thirumuruganpoondi and sang the hymn No. 49 wherein he asked the Lord why he was in that place pested by highway robbers. Periyapuranam calls the hymn as ‘the hymn of beautiful words’. Cekkilar informs us that all the gifts were restored in front of the temple and Arurar reached Thiruvarur.

After a few days our poet was reminded of his good friend, the Cera king, and he started on his journey to the Cera capital. Whilst going through the Konku country according to Periyapuranam, he heard at Tiruppukkoliyur, the mournings of a Brahmin family reminded of the loss of their child which was drowned 16 years back, a child which had played with another child which was being initiated into his religion (upandyanam) on the day of the visit of Arurar. Arurar sang hymn No. 92 and made the crocodile, which had swallowed the child, bring the child back. The child was restored to the parents. This news reached the ears of the Cera king and the king gave a fitting reception to this great Saint of miracles. On this occasion, one day he sang hymn No. 4 addressed to the Father of Thiruvanchikulam. This hymn is described in Periyapuranam as ‘the garland of Tamil’. According to Periyapuranam, the idea behind this hymn is that the fetters of his body should be removed. The Lord sent the white elephant to bring Arurar to Kailas. The Cera king followed him on a horse. On his way to Kailas, according to Periyapuranam, Nampi Arurar sang hymn No. 100, ‘the garland of Tamil’ and reached Kailas to remain there and serve the Lord as of old.

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