The Religion and Philosophy of Tevaram (Thevaram)

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

This page describes “introduction to second volume” from the part dealing with Nampi Arurar (Sundarar) and Mythology, viz. Puranic stories and philosophy. 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

Introduction to second volume


The important part which Tevaram plays in Temple worship has been sufficiently explained in our Introduction to Vol. I. The Temples are the holy places where God is worshipped in His images. Arurar’s poems deal to a large extent with the description and significance of the image forms of the Lord. The various Puranas are even now green in the minds of the Hindus, and the image forms are in a sense representations of these popular puranic stories. Arurar’s age is, in more sense than one, the age of the Puranas and that explains why he is speaking, in the language of the Puranas, in most of the verses. Therefore, it is necessary for us to turn our attention first to Arurar’s language of Mythology, which is also his language of mysticism and religion.

The Puranic stories are many and varied and an attempt has to be made to group them under some system of classification. There are stories which may be taken as interpreting the philosophy of Shiva’s essence. They are the stories which assert His superiority over all others in this Universe. The Linga is Shiva’s pre-eminent form. God is significant to us only when He is all love and this truth is brought out by the form of Shiva in the company of the Mother Goddess who is no other than His love or Grace. The representation of the Lord as riding on the bull, brings out the truth that He is the Lord of all, the Lord of Dharma. These stories will, therefore, form the First Part of pur inquiry into Arurar’s language of Mythology. But, before plunging into the subject, it is necessary to explain this language of Mythology in general terms by way of introduction and that is done at the very beginning of this Volume, as Chapter I.


The great message of Arurar is Lord’s Grace. This takes us on to the stories which are acts of pure Grace and Love which are called the Anugraha Murtis, which according to Silpasastra assume sattvic forms. Visapaharana murti, Gangadhara murti or Bhagiratha anugraha murti, Parthanugraha murti, Candranugraha murti and Ravananugraha murti are all Anugraha murtis discussed under this head of Anugraha in Part II of our study.


The phrase ¡Attavirattanam” occurs in Appar’s poems and this conception, therefore, must have been popular in the age of Tevaram. The phrase ‘Virattam' occurs in the verse of Arurar also. Shiva is said to have performed eight great heroic feats in eight different places within the Tamil country, which suggests an attempt at looking upon the feats as the feats of Tamil Land. We have thus eight different forms of Shiva: Tripur antaka, Daksari, Kamantaka, Gajaha, Jalandharari, Kalasamhara, Andhakari and Brahma siraschedana. In one sense, all the Puranic stories relating to Shiva can be brought under these eight heads. The story of the company of the Mother Goddess, discussed in our first part is a sequence to the stories of Daksari and Kamari forms. The wearing of the crescent moon on the crown is related to the story of Daksa. Shiva’s unique ornaments, weapons and clothes are related to the events connected with the Kapali form of Brahmasiraschedana murti. The forms we are going to discuss in the subsequent part, viz., the story of Bhikshatana and Nataraja are also connected with this story of the Kapali form and the rsis of Ddrukavana. Daksinamurti form is what precedes the Kamari form. Looked at from this point of view, the Astavirattana conception explains all the mythological stories relating to Shiva. These stories explain the Absolute as the greatest power. But by the time of Arurar, these heroic feats have come to be looked upon as the acts of God’s Grace and therefore Arurar equates power with Grace of Love.

So, in the next part, we discuss certain forms which have become very popular in South India almost becoming Tamilian forms, thanks to Tevaram writers who have made the forms of Bhikshatana, Daksinamurti and Nataraja, the very forms of Love.


In the concluding part which is more or less the miscellaneous part, the weapons, ornaments and clothes of Shiva, other puranic personalities and the cosmogony are all discussed as described by Arurar.


In all these parts, the Puranic stories and descriptions are first summarised. The Agamic references to these descriptions in relation to their worship in the temple are also noted. For a better understanding of these descriptions and for arriving at a judgment about the popularity of these forms in the age of Arurar, the sculptures of the Kailasanatha temple are next studied. In the view of the present writer, the Kailasanatha temple belongs to the age of Arurar. Even if Arurar is assumed to have come later, we do not have a temple of that eminence for studying the idea of the age as that of Kailasanatha temple. In the light of the sculptures there, the references in Arurar to the various forms, assume a great significance and, therefore, these references are studied last. As already stated, the poet is speaking the language of mythology for expressing his own message of Lord’s Grace in a popular form. The mystic significance of these forms are also emphasised with the help of Tirumular and others whose poems help us to better understand the verses of Arurar.

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