The Religion and Philosophy of Tevaram (Thevaram)

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

This page describes “umabhaga-murti (depiction of the mother goddess)” 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

Chapter 1.3 - Umabhaga-murti (depiction of the Mother Goddess)


The Mother Goddess is mentioned 133 times by Arurar in his hymns. The descriptions, given here and there, may be pieced together to form a beautiful conception of the divine Mother of beauty. In the traditional way, we may start from the feet, the refuge of the worshippers, and proceed to her crown. ‘Her feet are soft and tender like the tender shoots of leaves’—“Talir pot mellati” ‘They are beautiful like the soft cotton’—“Pancer mellati” ‘Her soft feet are coloured red with the dyed cotton’—“Pancerum mellati”.


The garment of cotton in which minute threads enter to form beautiful patterns flow from her waist. ‘Alkul’ is the word used. In later times, it is used in the sense of ‘bhaga’ or the pudendum muliebre; but in more ancient times, it was used in the sense of the part of the larger curve below the waist as looked at from behind—the posterior of a woman. The reference to the garments by Arurar makes it clear that he is using the word in the older sense. The cobra’s hood, the convex side of its curve with its dint in the midale, probably suggests the form of the convex curve of the flesh padded on the pelvis on the back to form the posterior. Arurar seems to have been very much impressed with this characteristic shape; for he mentions the simile at least four times. ‘She of the beautiful posterior, like the form of the serpent (its hood)—“Araver alkulal." That is, the hood that is referred to, is made clear by another statement, ‘that lady of the posterior like the young serpent with its hood’—“Pai ila aravalkul pavai”. In the other descriptions, the same simile is repeated, but out of the love of the beautiful shape of the serpent, the serpent is also described—as inseparable from its hole of a residence—“Alaippiriya aravu” and as creeping on the ground—“Parurum”

If the cobra hangs down with its hood expanded, the hood will be the posterior of the woman and the neck above, her waist. In this sense, the waist also represented as the hood of the cobra—“Pata aravu nun er itai”.

It is the usual conceit of the poets of India to speak of woman’s waist as invisible, suksma, subtle and the Cankam poets speak of the portion above the waist and the portion below the waist as being broad along with the bosom whilst the waist is small. This is very well brought out by the comparison with “Tuti”—the drum of the shape of the hour glass—“Tuti itai nan mataual”. Our poet speaks also of the subtle, but beautiful form of the waist of the Mother—“Nun itai” and “Nun er itai” and in not less than three places. It is lovely like a creeper; this simile expresses the beautiful twist of the tender waist. She is the lady of the creeper waist—“koti itaiyaval”. The poet improves the beauty by hinting at the creeper in full bloom—“Koti koi punun itai”, probably suggesting the girdles and other jewels adorning the waist. Just like the creeper, any twig may be tender; the waist, which is in Tamil called the midale of the body (itai) is compared to the twig by our poet also—“Kompana nun itaiyal”. The sudden beautiful and artistic bend of the waist reminds us of the lightning flash with its creeper or twig-like formation and our poet calls the waist of the Mother, the waist flashing like a lightning—“Min tayankiya itai” and “Min ilanku nun itai”.


The swell of the bosom—the bosom of the Mother—the Mother of the divine child, is also described. It is like a bud in shape—“Mukil” It is in shape like the conic piece with a bell-like crown used in the game of ‘cokkattan’ (dice), but soft and tender therewithal—“Cutana men mulaiyal”. But, after all, it is small; the immature cocoanut is therefore suggested by the poet as a better comparison for the true proportions—“Kurumpai mulaf’. Another ideal that the glands should be so juxtaposed in their swell that there is no intermediate space. Manikka Vaca-kar speaks of “Irkkitai poka ila mulai” and “koller pilavakala-t tatankonkai”, Our poet speaks of them as being in close touch as it were in embrace—“Punar mulai”. Why go on describing? They are unique for which there is no comparison—“Oppila mulai” A shining breast-band of ribbon (var) as seen in fig. 128 and fig. 133 of Gods and Goddesses of South India, tightens them like a bodice—“Varar konkai”; “Var konta vana mulai”; “Var arum mulai”, “Vart tayankiya mulai” and “Varitan koi vana mulai” A necklace heaves up on the bosom—“Vatam etutta konkai”

The shoulders attract our attention. They are always compared with a bamboo. The comparison is more appropriate to the Mother since her shoulders are not only well shaped and rounded like the bamboo with joints, but are also green like the bamboo. Arurar speaks, therefore, only of “Vey” or ‘bamboo’ as a comparison. The word ‘Panai’ is also used; it means the well grown and well rounded bamboo—“Panai-t tol”. This word itself suggests a contrast with the subtle waist—“Nunneritai-p panai-t tol”

Bangles are the insignia of married or marriageable beauty. On the death of the husband, the bangles are broken.

Arurar speaks of the Mother inseparable from Shiva as “Nirai valai matantai” —‘the young lady of a row of bangles’. The bangles are on the wrist of the fore-arm—“Valai-k kai mun kai”.

As part of the organ, the bangles adorning is not mentioned elsewhere; the ‘valai’ in these places may be shoulderlets, armlets and wristlets. “The lady of the bangle” is almost her name as may be seen from its repetition Here the ‘valai’ is described as “Koi valai”; it may mean ‘beautiful bangle or the rounded gold of bangle or bangle with lines of all patterns’. Her hands and the palms cannot be forgotten. Her soft fingers suggest the womanly game of ball. ‘On her fingers fall the ball she plays’—“Pantana-vum virlalal”; this describes the dynamic part of the game. The poet also refers to ‘the static part when the ball is within her fingers’—“Pantarum viralal”


The mouth lights up the whole form. Is it not literally expressive? Mother’s mouth with the lips, is soft, tender and ripe like the fruit; it is beautifully coloured like the red coral. The beauty of ripe softness and the ruddy hue are both found in one and the same place in the red fruit of the ‘Coccinia indica’ (Kovvai, Tontai). Mother’s mouth and lips are this very fruit—“Tontai vay.”3i This comparison becomes of royal and imperial importance if once we remember, that the Pallavas, the rulers of Arurar’s age, had their association with the creeper of ‘Tontai’ as this poet himself refers to ‘Tontaiman’

It is the smile that gives the beauty of the curve and the light of joy to the lip and the mouth. The smile flashes forth—the teeth are revealed as a new creation—‘the teeth of jasmine or mullai’ —“Mullai pataitta nakai Again he refers to the “Mullai muru-val” or ‘the smile of jasmine or jasmine of teeth’. There is the white radiation of the smile, ‘the radiation of the white teeth shining like the pearls—“Muttanna ven muruval”. The teeth are not only like jasmine and pearls but also like the tender white of the quill or springing point of the peacock’s feather—“Kuruntaya iwul eyiru”.

Words come forth; they are indeed very expressive and sweet, as mother’s tender and loving speeches. There is no harshness; it is all tender and soft—“Men moliyal” It is sweet like the very milk she nurses with—“Palana”. It flows like a tune or ruga or ‘pan’; it is full of music—“Pan ar molt”; its beauty or subtlety or straightforwaraness of import is one better than the ‘pan’ or music—“Pannin er moli” or “Pannin ner molt.” Therefore, her words have vanquished the sweet musical flow of the flute—“Kulalai venra” Her sweet words, therefore, put the yal to shame—“Yalai-p palitanna moli”


The look is much more expressive, The length and width of the eye are often exaggerated to suggest this expressiveness, that length of love and width of feeling. The very end of the eye—a mere glance—speaks of the Mother’s pity and grace. It may be the tail end of the eye but the red and blue lines of the eye—the veins and capillaries—by their sudden changes reveal the rushing of feelings of love towards us. The eye is said to reach the ear—a mark of beauty and of sympathy. This represents the long look or the length of the eye. The widened look with all the eyes fully open represents a complete comprehension—a widening of joy with no shrinking or distortion of anger or sorrow. There is the calm coolness of the loving eye and tender look of the Mother. Her grace comes as far as we are concerned unexpected; the loving look comes like the flash of the sword, quivering with sympathy like the quick rolling fish.

Arurar speaks of all these expressions of the eye. He speaks of the ‘long eye’—“Netun lean”, ‘the very long eye’—“Nil netunkan”, ‘the long eyes with the lines’—“Vari netunkan” He refers to ‘the cool eyes like the rains or clouds’—“Malai-k kan”; ‘the eyes which brighten up and flash forth like swords’—“Vai netunkan”; “Volar kan.” He describes ‘the eyes of the motherly anxiety, swiftly moving like the fish’—“Kentaiyan tafankan.” Arurar having in view this motherly anxiety calls Her, ‘the very fawn’—“Man.” He speaks of Her eye also as fawnlike. He speaks of the “Visalaksi”—of the wide eyes—the lady of “tatankan”

The poet speaks of “Malai on kan.” ‘Malai’ may mean ‘youthful, beautiful or innocent’. The shining eyes of the ever young mother are youthful, beautiful and innocent. The Tamil Lexicon interprets this to mean ‘a tender mango’ or ‘ma vatu’. The tender mango when cut in twain suggests the form of the eye. The fish (kentai) also suggests the stream-lined-form with its tapering ends. The youth and freshness of beauty and colour suggest the ‘kavi’ flower—the red or blue water-lily, and our poet speaks of the Mother as ‘Kaviyankanni’ —the Lady of the lily eyes. In relation to wide eyes the practice of feeding the eyes with collyrium which darken the eyelids making them of wider darkness, intensifies the effect and makes the eyes appear much wider than they are. Arurar refers to this practice—“Maiyar kanni and he speaks of the collyrium especially in connection with “Tatan kan”—“Maiyar tatankan.”

The forehead really gives shape and form to the eyes as well. People read their characters from the forehead. ‘Mother’s forehead beams up with light’—“On nutal.” ‘It is like the crescent moon’—“Pirai nutal”, ‘the eighth day crescent as others explain it’. The eyes, the mouth, the forehead form the beauty of the face. Arurar, as all other poets of India, is struck with the sweet and striking resemblance of the blooming lotus with the beaming face blossoming into a smile—“Pankaya ma mukattal.”

As a crown of it all, come the tresses of hair. According to the Tamil tradition, which Kampar has beautifully expressed in his immortal epic—the tresses of hair are a sign of chaste married life. It ought not to be touched except by the husband. Ravuna in Kamparamayunam, therefore, does not carry Sita by her tresses of hair as in Valmiki. With the death of the husband the tresses of hair go.

The special word Arurar uses for the tresses of hair is ‘Kulal’, In all cases where the poet refers to the tresses, he uses this word nearly a dozen times. It comes from a root, meaning ‘curling’. This round tube-like formation of the tresses is not clear. In the sculptures of the Pallava age—Laksmi and Durga at Mamallapuram and at Kailasanatha temple have their tresses dressed in a peculiar way. Here, there is a top hat-like arrangement; the ‘karanda makuta’ looks like a smooth wall of a hat; there is the fillet-like arrangement, in the form of a tube going round at the bottom of the ‘makuta’, all round. It reminds us of the ‘vasika bandha’. The tube-like bottom reminds the name ‘kulal’. ‘Mother’s tresses are long and dark’—“Var irunkulal” The long tress is taken out as a strand or twist (puri), curled or wound spirally (curi) and fastened (vari)—“Puri curi vari kulal”; “Puri kulal”; “Curi kulal,” ‘The tresses are well adorned with flowers’—“Punkulal”; “Malar-k kulal.” He mentions ‘Kuravam’, ‘the bottle flower’—“Kuravamarum kulal” He speaks of the honey bubbling new flowers of ‘konrai’, but in the particular context, it may be applicable to Shiva. ‘The flowers are full of honey’—“Matt ar punkulal” and therefore, ‘the bees hum there’—“Vantarum kulal”. ‘Kuravam’ is said to blossom like a doll and therefore much liked by women. But more than the form, it is the fragrance of the flowers, for which they are preferred. ‘The tresses themselves become full of the fresh fragrance’—“Vampamarum kulal”™ ‘wafted all round’—“Vampulam”

In one place, he gives the total effect of this dazzling beauty on his mental vision. The ‘tribhang a’ and the resplendent beauty come as it were in a flash of light and he calls the mother, ‘One, who is like the lightning’—“Minnanaiyal.”


The words used by the poet for denoting the Mother as a woman are equally interesting. “Pen” in contrast with “An” is often used. One who nurses and takes care of the husband and chilaren is a ‘Peri’ coming as it does from the root ‘Pen’ —‘to rear with love’. Tiruvalluvar has described the high water-mark of this conception “Tarkattu-t tarkontar peni-t takai canra corkattu-c corvilal pen”—‘Pen is one who protects herself, takes loving care of her husband, preserves the excllent reputation without any negligence or fatigue’.

Another ordinary word is ‘Makal It comes from the root ‘Maka’ signifying childhood—a tender youth—from which it has assumed the significance of a daughter though the meaning of a wife also is found in ‘Manimekalai

In this significance of a daughter, the word ‘Makal’ is often used by Arurar in combination with ‘Malai’ the mountain of Himavan or the Himalayas as “Malai makal” “Malaiydn makal”, “Imavan makal” and “Varaiyan matamakal.”

Matam’ also means the conservatism, credulity and the firm hold of the feelings of women. ‘Matavaral’ and ‘Mataval’ come from this root ‘Mat am’; they are also used by our poet. This root ‘Matam’ is often compounded with ‘Makal’ as ‘Matamakal’ and also with ‘Matu’ as ‘Mata matu’.

Matantai’ is a connected word. This forms another group with words like ‘Arivai’ and ‘Mankai’. Arurar is a contemporary of Ceraman perumal Nayanar, the author of the First Uld, which describes the members of the fair sex of various age following in love with the Lord, a beautiful expression of the truth of the souls of various stages of development thirsting for God. Members of the fair sex from age 5 to 40 are divided into seven groups according to their age. According to this convention which has taken a very deep root in later day Tamil literature, the words mentioned above have a definite meaning. ‘Mankai’ is one between twelve and thirteen years of age—the age of marriage of those times. “Matantai’ belongs to the next group between the ages of fourteen and nineteen. ‘Arivai' follows as being between twenty and twenty-five years. ‘Petai’ and ‘petumpai’ are less than 12; ‘Terivai’ and Perilampen’ are above twenty-five and these words are not mentioned by Arurar probably because of their assuming such a restricted significance in his age as to suggest the usage in ‘Uld’ of Ceraman Perumal. But, since the Mother is ever said to be eternally young—never going beyond the age of marriage, the distinction made amidst the words ‘arivai’, ‘matantai’ and ‘mankai' though growing to prominence as is evidenced by the Ati Uld, could not have become crystallized. In this nebulous state of their usage, the poet must have thought, there is nothing improper in using these words, even if there is the shadow of the new usage overhanging them, since they all refer to a young woman in the prime of her youth. This way we get an unexpected confirmation of the tradition of the contemporaneity of Ceraman and Arurar. It must also be mentioned that Arurar’s poems were composed long before the Uld.

Mankai’ has a family likeness to ‘Enka:’, ‘Tanka:’, ‘Nankai’ and ‘Nunkai’ but the original meaning cannot be definitely traced. 'Mankai’ is used with ‘nankai’ as “Mankai nankai.”

Nankai’ means ‘our sister’, but the old prefix ‘Na’ found in old terms like ‘Nakkirar’ has become ‘Nam’, signifying as of old ‘great’ as may be seen from such terms, ‘Nampi’, ‘Nammalvar’. ‘Nankai’ is then the woman, the great heroine, the princess, here the Greatest of women, the divine Mother of all. This is used not only with the 'mankai’, as already shown, but also with ‘Umai’ a usage which is very common in Arurar making it clear who the ‘Nankai’ is. The phrase "Umai nankai” is of frequent use. In the hymn of Ekamparar of Conjivaram, famous for the Mother’s charity and domestic life, the word ‘Nankai’ is significantly used, ‘Karnakkottam’ is the temple of the Mother. For the first time, a separate shrine was built in Conjivaram, so much so, though Kamakkattam is a common name of a shrine of Devi, Conjivaram alone comes to the minds of Shaivites. It is because of this importance that Devi is described as Nankai,

'Matantai’ is related to ‘Matam’.

Arivai’ connected with the root ‘Ari’ meaning soft or tender, brings out the meaning of "Melliyalal”, ‘She of the softer or tender nature’, of the weaker sex—a phrase also used by Arurar.


Elai’ is another word used by Arurar. It means ‘the poor’. There is no question of poverty as far as the Mother is concerned, either intellectual or material. Poor man is a helpless man and it is this secondary sense of innate helplessness that is suggested by women, always demanding or relying on some support. Arurar uses this term in the phrase “Elai pakan , a phrase suggesting his being her prop of her side.

Matu’ and ‘Matar’ are connected. The words ending in short ‘IT at one stage of the development, had ‘ar added; ‘Pantu becoming ‘Pantar ; ‘Curumpu becoming ‘Curumpar . ‘Matu also accordingly becomes ‘Matar . An explanation may be offered. The pronunciation of the short ‘u is difficult to be understood by foreigners and some pronouncing it more like a neutral ‘a must have been responsible for these kinds of forms. Tolkappiyar, however, speaks of ‘Matar as the basic form in his ‘Uri iyaV and gives the meaning of love or ‘Katal . To trace ‘Matar to ‘Matru or to explain the ‘ar as the epicene plural suffix used honorifically is not therefore necessary. ‘Matu means beauty and love, very well suited to describe the loving mother of all beauty. This word means also a daughter and as such it is used with ‘malai as “Malaiyin matu , ‘the daughter of the mountain’.

The idea of beauty is suggested by the word ‘Karikai , a Sanskrit word used by Arurar, but as old as Tirukkural in Tamil. A variety of female angels are said to inflict human beings by their very beauty—‘Takkananku ; the root ‘ananku means to suffer. The bewitching beauty, with its shining effect, is expressed by this word ‘Ananku used by Arurar. In addition to this natural beauty, there is the grandeur of decoration of jewels and flowers and garments. This is referred to by the word ‘TaiyaV and the connected form ‘Taiyalal with the feminine suffix coming from the root ‘Tai ‘to make up’. Jewels are referred to in three compounds: ‘Ceyilai’, ‘Ayilai’ and ‘Entilai’, ‘Ilai’ is jewel. ‘Ceyilai’ are red jewels or jewels of excellent art. ‘Ay ilai’ are either the beautiful jewels or the chosen jewels. ‘Entilai’ are the jewels which she bears or which are prominent.

The purpose of art is to represent the ideal. To Plato, Nature is but a rough copy of the ideal; the Tamilians believed in this doctrine. ‘Pavai’ is a doll of perfect art and as such a young woman is spoken of as a doll. The Goddess of beauty, Laksmi, is ‘Pavai’, par excellence—See “Pavai atal.” Arurar also describes the Mother as ‘Pavai'. The word as having significance of a child is used with ‘Malai’ or ‘Varai’—the mountain—the father of Devi, “Malaippavai” “Varaiyin pavai.”


The two great names of the Mother as old as the Vedic literature are ‘Uma’ and ‘Haimavati. ‘Uma means according to Taranaha Vacaspatiyam, the Laksmi of Shiva. Kalidasa states that the Mother got this name when she was entreated not to perform tapas. ‘U’ ‘Ma’—‘You do not’, i.e., ‘Do not practise penance’. Arurar, true to this tradition as already mentioned, uses the term “Umai nankai” with reference to the Mother’s form in Conjivaram, where she is said to have performed tapas.

Haimavati’ means the lady of the Mountain Himalayas; the daughter of Himavan. Curiously enough, Arurar uses only these two ancient names and their synonyms along with the word Devi made sacred in the Puranas and the Agamas. It means the Divinity in the female form; the crowned queen, a respectful title applied to a lady of first rank.

The expression “Umai nankai” is also of frequent use. We have already explained the importance of the phrase “Umai nankai” Devi also implies the same idea of the greatest Goddess, the Queen of the Universe, the wife of the Lord.

Haimavati’ is “Himavan makal”, the daughter of Himavan; “Pon malai-k komantan pavai”, the daughter of the gold mountain, Himavan. The idea of the daughter of the mountain without mention of that proper name Himavan is variously expressed as “Malaimakal”, “Malaitaru malai makal”, “Malaimankai”, “Ma malai mankai”, “Malaiyan makal”, “Varaiyin mata-makal”, “Malaippavai”, “Varaiyin pavai”, “Ma malaiyal”, “Malaiyin matu” and “Malaiyutaiy al”.

Parvati as meaning the daughter of Parvata, the mountain, appears in the form of ‘Parppati’ in Arurar. The replacement of ‘v’ by a double ‘pp’ after an ‘r’ is a usage of the Pallava and the early Cola age as may be seen in the use of ‘Paruppatam’ and ‘Parppatam’ in Tevaram and of ‘Caruppatopattiram’ by Amita-cakarunar of the 10th century. Here we see a difference; the ban on the use of an ‘r’ after the short syllable vowel as ‘ar’ ‘ir’ seems to have been effective in the early Cola age, which, therefore, inserts one ‘u’ after the ‘r’ (Carva—Caruppa) but it does not seem to have been effective in the Tevaram age as is proved by the words ‘Ulitarvar’ in Appar, ‘Parppatam’ in Arurar. Therefore, the form ‘Parppati’ is helpful in describing a particular development of the Tamil language in Tevaram age.


In describing Shiva in relation to the Mother, Arurar speaks of him as the Lord—‘Talaiva’. This does not signify any lordship over her. It is a term known to Tolkappiyam and Cankam literature emphasising the fact that in the theme of love, the hero and the heroine of equal greatness are the topmost man and woman, in all respects—the chiefs. It is in this sense this term ‘Talaivan in relation to ‘Talaivi’ is used. ‘Kon’ means a king, and this term also is used by Arurar. In describing a king—here the king of all creation—the Tamil tradition from the Cankam age is to refer to him as ‘the husband of the chaste wife’. The queen thus seems to play an important role. Therefore, Arurar also speaks of Shiva as the king of ‘Uma’. ‘Perumanar’ from the root ‘Per’ or ‘Peru’ (great) means the great Lord and is used in the same significance in the term “Onnutali Perumanar.”

Kanavan’ from ‘kan’ (eye) connoting the eye of the heroine is the ordinary term for a husband. Arurar speaks of the Lord as “Malaimakal kanavan.” There is another term for the husband ‘Manalan from ‘manam’ (marriage) connoting the bridegroom. The original meaning of ‘manam’ is fragrance; and marriage seems to make the flower of the bride and bridegroom bloom into fragrance—they come from the time of their union to shed their light on the surrounding world.

Arurar’s description of the Lord as ‘the bridegroom of the doll of the mountain’,—“Varaiyin pavai manalan” —a fitting way to describe the coy bride, and as the bridegroom of the young lady of the mountain with armlets and wristlets—a suggestion of bridal decoration—reminds us of the Kalyana Sundara murti described in Vttarakamika Agama, Purva Kdrana Agama and Amsumadbheda Agama. Shiva and Parvati, the principal figures in this form face the east. Visnu performing the giving away of the bride to the bridegroom, stands between them in the background with a pot ready to pour out the water; his consorts stand behind the bride. Brahma, as the priest, is seated before the fire. In the background are assembled the pleased and happy gods. Shiva stands firm on His left or right leg whilst He rests the other on the ground slightly bent. Of the front arms, the right arm is held out to receive the bride whilst the left is held in ‘varada’ pose, the back arms holding the axe on the right and the deer on the left. He is in three bends with three eyes, Jatamakuta, crescent moon, parasu, keyura, udarabandha and girdle. He is young. To His left, or according to some to His right, stands Parvati, with her head slightly bent and shy, but fully adorned, draped in silk, holding a blue water lily or ‘nila flower’ in her left hand, and stretching out the right arm to hold Shiva’s. She is as high as Shiva’s eyes or chin, shoulder or chest. She is a well developed young maiden with two eyes and two arms. The forms and proportions of other figures in the scene are also described. Menaka and Himavan, according to some authority are substituted for Visnu, and Laksmi as the giver of the bride, though Visnu is present with the other Devas.


If there is not the background of the marriage scene, this is only Shiva and Parvati standing in the form called Umasahita Candrasekhara murti.

If Shiva is alone without Uma, we get the Samabhanga kevala Candrasekhara murti with four hands, according to Amsumadbhedagama, holding the ‘tanka’ and a deer in the back two arms and holding the front arms in ‘varada’ and ‘abhaya’ poses, with three eyes, with a ‘jafamakuta’ adorned with the crescent moon, wearing ‘pltambara’ with the ends coming down as far as the knees and bigger folds passing between the two legs. According to Uttara Kamikagama, Shiva stands adorned with all ornaments on a ‘padma pitha’ with curls of hair hanging at the back as far as the ear and the jata hanging on the right and left as far as the shoulders; on the right ear is ‘ratna kundala’, ‘sankhapatra’ or ‘padma patra’, whilst on the left ear is ‘makara kundala’, ‘simha-kundala’ or ‘patra kundala’. If this figure carries sula (trident) and rosary or kapala (skull) instead of ‘tanka and ‘mrga’, it is Pasupata murti, prescribed by the Amsumadbhedagama for nitydtsava or daily worship. Shiva in the so-called Arjuna penance sculpture comes very near this description. Devi stands in this form by Shiva’s side on the same ‘pitah’ or on a separate pedestal.

If Shiva is found, embracing Uma, that represents what the Agamas call ‘Alingana murti’. Arurar speaks of Shiva as “Puri nular, punar mulai Umaiyavaldtu maruvanar” —‘He is with the 'yajnopavita’. He is with Uma embracing her’. This suggests the Alingana murti. There is also a much more direct, reference, "Pulki itattil vaittay” ‘You have embraced her and placed her on your left’. The Agamas describe this form where Shiva’s right arm rests on the left side below Parvati’s breast and is placed upon her left arm. Uma keeps a lotus on a ‘nilotpala’ flower in her right hand, or embraces Shiva with it, when the left hand holds the flower. Or, both Shiva and Uma are in mutual embrace, one embracing the other with the left and the other embracing with the right hand. These are all standing figures.

If Shiva is seated we have the Sukhasana murti when alone, the Umasahita murti when seated with Uma, the Umamahesvara murti when Shiva and Uma are found embracing each other, and the Somaskanda murti when Skanda is between the seated Shiva and Uma.

In the Sukhasana form, Shiva is seated on a ‘bhadra pitah’ with His left leg, according to Silaparatna, and right leg according to Purva karanagama, bent and resting upon the seat and the other leg hanging below it, and has yajnopavita, jatamakuta with ornaments, three eyes, four arms, the back arms holding the axe and the deer, the front being kept in ‘varada’ and ‘abhaya’ or ‘simhakarana’ pose. In the right ear, there is ‘makara kundala’ or ‘simha kundala’ whilst in the left ear is ‘patra kundala’ or ‘vrtta kundala’.

In the Umasahita form, Uma with two hands, the right hand holding a ‘padma’ or ‘utpala’, the left either in ‘Simhakarana' or 'varada’ pose or resting straight on the seat, is seated on the same seat and within the same ‘prabhamandala’ by Shiva’s side on His left, facing Him and with her left leg hanging down the seat and bent, whilst the right leg is resting on the seat.

In the Somaskanda murti, one faced Skanda, with no clothes but with ‘karanda makuta’, ‘nakra kundala’, ‘channa vira’, waist zone and bracelets, is in between Shiva and Uma, dancing, or standing or sitting on the seat or on the lap of his mother. When dancing, the child holds a fruit in the left hand or keeps it stretched out, whilst the right is in suci pose; when standing, it holds in its right hand a lotus with the left hanging down or both hands hold lotus flower or it holds a book in the right hand, whilst the left is kept in ‘varada’ or ‘simhakarana’ pose. According to Karanagama, Brahma and Vinnu stand on either sides with their consorts.

The embracing form is Umamahesvara. Vi?nudharmdttara and Bupamandana give a description of this form. According to Rupamandana, Shiva has four hands, holding trident, a ‘matula’ fruit on the right, whilst on the left, He holds a snake with one hand and embraces Uma with the other. There are the bull, Gunapati, Skanda and the dancing Bhrhgin, In Visnudharmottara, Shiva has two arms, the left embracing Uma’s left shoulder, the right holding a ‘mlotpala’. Uma embraces Shiva’s right shoulder and holds a mirror in her left hand.


Coming to the age of Arurar’s sculpture, we have adopted from Rea, the following description of the panels in which the Mother figures. In this the ‘Mahisasura mardani’ forms have been omitted to be mentioned.

“In the interior of the small (East) court in the North-east corner is a stone with a well carved figure of Shiva seated on a bull; He holds a trident and a naga on the right hands. On the right of the panel containing Parvati and the lion, is the small shrine with seated figures of Shiva and Parvati”.

In describing the Sculptures on the series of cells on the four sides of the large court beginning with those immediately to the South of the Mahendravarma shrine on the East side of the court and numbering in succession round the South, West, and North, and North half of the East side, Rea describes:

“No. 1 cell has panelled seated figures of Shiva, Parvati and child.

Space between Nos. 1 and 2—Shiva and Parvati.

No. 2—Same as No. 1.

Space between Nos. 2 and 3—Same as No. 1.

No. 3. Same.

Space between No. 3 and South-east corner recess, same. Space between the South-east corner recess and No. 4 cell has Parvati seated under a banyan tree; one large and two small elephants are on the left side. A yogi sits, with his knees bound, on the back of the large animal. A female attendant is on the right.

No. 4 cell has Parvati and the lion. In this panel, an additional gandharva figure stands on the left.

The space between Nos. 4 and 5 has the usual panel of Shiva and Parvati.

Between Nos. 5 and 6—Shiva and Parvati.

No. 6—Parvati under a tree with a female chaurie bearer on each upper side of the panel; two figures and a kneeling worshipper are on each lower side.

Between Nos. 6 and 7—Shiva and Parvati.

Between 7 and 8—Parvati seated under a tree; a deer is on her left, and two are underneath; a bird, probably a peacock, is on a branch of the tree; a female attendant is on her right.

Between Nos. 8 and ‘—Shiva and Parvati.

Between Nos. 9 and 10—Parvati under a tree; a female attendant is on her right and a yogi on her left; beneath the last are three bulls with long curved horns.

Between Nos. 10 and 11—Parvati under a tree, attendant, bird and two elephants.

Between 11 and 12—Shiva and Parvati.

Between 12 and 13—Parvati and attendants, birds and two elephants.

Between 13 and 14—Same as between 12 and 13.

Between 14 and 15—Shiva and Parvati.

Between 15 and 16—Parvati with an attendant on her left; two elephants and a bird on her right.

Between 16 and 17—Shiva and Parvati.

Between 17 and 18—Shiva armed with a large club—and his wife Parvati.

Between 18 and 1’—Parvati stands, with two figures on each side. On the west side of this space are two representations of Brahma—one kneeling, and the other standing; over are two gandharvas.

No. 23—Shiva—with Parvati standing by his side, supports and places in his hair Ganga.

Between No. 23 and South-west corner cell—Shiva and Parvati with five attendants.

Returning along the inner west side of the Court and continuing from the south-west corner, the first space between the corner cell and No. 24 has—on the back—Shiva and Parvati.

No. 24—Shiva, Parvati and child.

Between Nos. 24 and 25—Shiva and Parvati, with attendants.

No. 25—Shiva and Parvati, with attendants, one of whom seems to be Brahma.

Between Nos. 25 and 26—Shiva and Parvati.

No. 26—Shiva and Parvati with attendants.

Between Nos. 26 and 27—Shiva and Parvati with attendants.

Between Nos. 28 and 2’—Shiva and Parvati.

No. 29—Shiva and Parvati.

Between Nos. 29 and 30—Shiva and Parvati.

No. 30—Shiva and Parvati, with child and umbrella over.

Between Nos. 30 and 31—Shiva and Parvati, with umbrella over.

No. 31—Shiva and Parvati and child and umbrella.

Between Nos. 31 and 32—Shiva and Parvati, with umbrella.

No. 32—Shiva, Parvati, child, and umbrella.

Between No. 32 and North-west corner—Shiva, Parvati, child, and umbrella.

Returning along the North side, the space between the Northwest corner recess, and No. 33, has the usual panel of Shiva and Parvati seated.

Between Nos. 33 and 34—Parvati under a tree, with attendant and chaurie.

No. 34—Shiva and Parvati seated by the side of pillar.

Between Nos. 34 and 35—Parvati holding a parrot; an attendant is behind, and two elephants underneath.

On the right side between 35 and 36 is a panel with Parvati under a tree and chaurie bearer on each side.

Between 37 and 38—Shiva and Parvati,

No. 38—Shiva as a yogi, seated with Parvati; two gandharvas support the pedestal on which they sit. Brahma sits on the left of the panel and aids in supporting the pedestal. Another figure, over Brahma, sits with hands crossed in contemplation.

Between Nos. 38 and 3’—Parvati playing on a vina; a parrot is on the left side; attendant with chaurie on the right and two elephants underneath.

No. 3’—Shiva and Parvati attended by two servants and a gan-dharva.

Between 39 and 40—Parvati, holding in her left hand a flower, on which sits a parrot; an attendant is on her right and a figure sits cross-legged under.

No. 40—Shiva and Parvati, and three attendants, supported on a lotus by Brahma.

Between Nos. 40 and 41—Shiva and Parvati.

No. 41—Shiva, Parvati and two attendants supported on a lotus by Visnu. Shiva has Brahma’s head placed on the top of his own. An attendant of Visnu stands by holding his conch and chakra.

Between 41 and 42—Parvati, with attendant, parrot and two elephants.

No. 42—Shiva with Parvati on his right. On the right of Parvati are an attendant and gandharva. A female figure, probably Ganga, stands on Shiva’s left hand. On the same side are Surya, Brahma and a female with umbrella over.

Between 42 and 43—Parvati, attendant and two deer under p. tree.

No. 43—Shiva and Parvati with two gandharvas and two attendants.

Between Nos. 43 and 44—Shiva and Parvati, a halo—in plaster—is over Shiva’s head.

Between Nos. 44 and 45—Parvati, attendant, bird and two elephants.

No. 45—Shiva and Parvati seated; under, are two attendants—one standing and the other kneeling. A gandharva on the under side of Shiva’s right, holds a mace, which extends up, and supports a yali bearing a lotus, over which is a gandharva with a halo.

Between 45 and 46—Parvati, attendant, bird and two deer.

No. 46—Shiva stands with his left foot raised, and resting on a pedestal; He holds a musical instrument across His body. Two devotees, one with knotted hair and the other bearded—stand on his left. Two bulls are seen—on the left of Shiva—ascending the sky, with Shiva and Parvati on each.

Between Nos. 46 and 47—Shiva and Parvati.

Between 47 and 48—Parvati with an attendant; a yogi is underneath.

No. 48—Shiva, with Parvati placing Ganga on his head. A kneeling devotee supports another, who with unlifted hands is adoring Shiva.

Between Nos. 48 and 4’—Shiva and Parvati.

No. 4’—Shiva, Parvati and child; Brahma and Vinnu, with gandharvas under worshipping the triad.

Between Nos. 49 and 50—Parvati, attendant, bird and bull.

Between Nos. 50 and 51—Shiva and Parvati.

Between Nos. 51 and 52—Parvati, attendant, elephant and bird.

Returning along the east side, from the north-east corner, the first space between that corner and No. 53 has a back panel with Shiva and Parvati; also another with Shiva on left side.

No. 53—Shiva and Parvati.

Space between Nos. 53 and 54—Shiva and Parvati.

No. 54—Shiva and Parvati.

Between 54 and 55—Shiva and Parvati.

No. 55—Shiva and Parvati.

In the Mahamandapam, the large left panel on the South elevation has Parvati seated with a noose in her right hand and a lotus bud in her left.

The north side of the same mandapam has—in the large right panel—Parvati seated with two attendants on her right; and on her left are a bird, and lamp bearers.


On the back interior wall of the shrine, is a panel with seated figures of Shiva, Parvati and child.

On the south exterior side of this shrine is four armed Shiva with Parvati.

On the south exterior wall of the central shrine, and in the space between the south-east corner shrine and that on the midale of the south side, are a six armed Shiva and Parvati, seated with their feet on Vyadhi, the god of sickness.

On the left side of the same recess is the entrance to the shrine on the centre of the south facade of the ‘inmana. In the shrine—on the back—is Shiva seated with his left foot on a gandharva; the platform on which he sits is supported by two yali pillars. Brahma and Visnu are in attendance, worshipping.

On the left interior side is Shiva, in bridegroom’s dress—seated on a bull, with attendants; a gandharva leads the animal.

On the right side of the shrine is Parvati seated on a pedestal supported by a yali on the left, and two gandharvas. She is shown dressed as a bride. The two panels seemingly represent the marriage of Shiva and Parvati.

On the north wall of the ‘Vimana’, in the recess between the north-west corner shrine and on the centre of the north face are Shiva and Parvati. Shiva has eight arms, and various symbols, including noose, bow and umbrella.

In the panel on the back interior is Shiva supported by gan-dharvas and ydlis.

On the north exterior side of the shrine at the north-east corner of the ‘vimana’, are Shiva and Parvati. Shiva has four arms and rests one foot on a lotus. Two of his hands hold the elephant’s skin over his crown.

In this wherever Shiva and Parvati and the child are mentioned, it is the Somaskanda murta. If Shiva and Parvati alone are found, it is the Umasahita murta. In some, Parvati is not found in the company of Shiva; in many cases the descriptions suggest that these forms are referring to Parvati, performing tapas or penance. The repetitions of these forms are very significant.


In Conjivaram, according to Tantras, Kamaksi is the supreme principle of the Universe. Arurar in one place, refers to the Mother, all the characteristics of Shiva, even as we find in Cilappatikaram: "Cdntamaka venniru puci venparralai kaland veynta ven piraik kannitannaiyor pakam vaittukantir. ’ ‘You are great in placing on one side, her, who is adorned with the laurel of a crescent and with the jewels of the white toothed skulls, besmearing her body with white ashes as a fragrant paste.’ This reference to white ash will explain another description of Shiva, as besmearing along with her, the ashes on the chest— Tuti itai nan matavalotu marpil poti anivar.” This may be better understood in the light of another description where the poet speaks of the Mother as inseparable from his broad chest adorned with the garlands—“Konrait tariruntata marpu ninkat taiyalal.” ™

Conjivaram is considered to be the seat of the Mother-‘Kamak-kottam—that which was established by her for saving the world in the ancient city of Conjivaram of the cloud covered big groves—the Mother who is inseparable from your wide chest of honey bubbling garlands’—“Tarlrun tata marpu rimkat taiyalal ulakuyya vaitta karirum polir kacci mutur Kamakkottam”. ‘The Mother is said to cook for doing all kinds of charity in every city’. The story of the tapas and worship of the Mother at Conjivaram is mentioned in every verse of the Ekampam hymn. This story of the tapas and worship of the Mother is given in some detail in verse No. 10 of this hymn. Elkalinri imaiyavar konai icanai valipatu ceyvalpol ullattulki ukantumai nankai valipatac cenru ninrava kantu vellan katti v eruttit a. and vericvi yotit taluva velippatta kallak kampanai enkal piranaik kanak kan atiyen perravare” ‘She did not slight Him—no negligence was shown to the Lord of the gods, Isa, the God. As though she was worshipping Him (outwardly) she concentrated on Him mentally with great joy. The Lord went and stood and saw it all. (To test her), He (remaining invisible) made the flood appear (as though rushing on her) and frightened her. In fear and fright, she ran and embraced (the linga). The thief of a Kampan manifested Himself there. Ah! what a grace I am blessed with an eye to see Him?’—This is ‘Taluvakkulainta vativain—the form of embrace.

The poet further says: ‘The Lord saw the penance of her; He understood through and through her characteristic features. He conferred on her all that she aspired for; He married her.’

Appar has referred to the Mother worshipping there at Conjivaram. Campantar refers to the river there. But the phrase Kamakkottam is not used in literature earlier than Arurar’s. Slowly the importance of Uma at Conjivaram had been growing probably due to the Tantric influence both Hindu and Buddhist. How this name Kamakkattam came into use is not clear. One of the mutts of Sankaracarya goes by the name of Kamakoti Pitha Mutt; if Arurar’s reference is earlier, Kamakati must be another form of Kamakkottam. Kottam is a temple as is explained by Atiyarkkunallar, the commentator on Cilappatikaram.

Kama, which is the name of Cupid, does not refer to him in this phrase Kamakkattam. Temples were in existence, where Kama was worshipped in Cankam age. “Kamavel kottani’ is spoken of in Cilappatikaram; the two tanks attached to this temple are spoken of as “Iru Kamattinai eri” in Pattinappalai. There is no reference whatever to Cupid in relation to Conjivaram, to lead us to conclude that what was originally a Cupid’s temple, later on came to be converted into a temple of the Mother, though it must be noted that the form of the Mother now found holds the sugar-cane bow and the flower arrows in its hands even as Cupid holds them. Therefore, the word ‘Kama’ continues a puzzle. But, we are aware of temples being known after the patron and builders, as Mayentirappalli named after Mahendra. This sends us on an enquiry to find any king of the name Kama and we know that one of the titles of Rajasimha was Atyantakamah found inscribed on some of the rathas of Mamallapuram. Can it be that Kamakkottam came to be named after this renovator of the temple? In the absence of a more definite evidence, such as an inscription in the temple, this can remain only a suggestion.

But the fact that almost all the panels in the Kailasanatha Temple bring out the influence or importance of the Mother except a few striking exceptions shows Rajasimha’s devotion to the Mother. From the numbers omitted on the above extract from Rea, one can form a view of the proportion between the panels in which the Mother figures and those on which she does not.


The Somaskanda murta may be taken up for consideration. It is one of the clues conclusively proving that any one temple where this figure occupies the panel behind the Linga belongs to Rajasimha’s age. In the Ekampam temple the linga is not fluted like those of Rajasimha’s age; it is said to be very ancient having been sung by Appar and Campantar belonging to an earlier period. But there is a panel behind the linga in the Garbagrha containing the sculpture of this Somaskanda murta, revealing the hand of Rajasimha as a renovator of the temple.

The Somaskanda murta is found in Mamallapuram as well. Longhurst gives a representation in Plate XVI, C. Rea in addition to the descriptions already extracted, gives a few plates in which this form is found. Shiva has four hands with His right leg bent and resting on the pedestal whilst the left leg hangs down. The child is there perhaps sitting on the lap of the mother. The mother has only two hands; the left hand is resting straight on the pedestal and the left leg is hanging. Visnu is on the left of Shiva whilst Brahma is on the right. With reference to the presence of Visnu and Brahma in the Umasahita Sukhasana form and in Somaskanda form, it may be stated that the original Trimurti shrines when Shiva’s worship assumes importance are thus reduced to these forms with the old Brahma and Visnu continuing to be present on both the sides. We see this change gradually taking place at Mamallapuram. Arurar, when he speaks of the Lord coming to Koodalaiyathoor, speaks of Visnu and Brahma being there with Him along with the inseparable Parvati—“Vaiyakam mulu-tunta Malotu nanmnkanum.... Pdvaiyotum utane.... ponta atica-yam ariyene”.

Plate LII, fig. 1 is from the Tripurantakesvara Temple. The Abhaya pose of the right front arm is clear. The child is on the mother’s lap and the mother is embracing it with the right arm. Otherwise, this is like the Plate XLV. Plate LU, fig. 3 gives a pancaloha image of Somaskanda, perhaps of a later age. The axe, the deer, abhaya and varada are there in the hands. The right leg is hanging down. The child is separately shown between Shiva and Parvati in a dancing posture.

Plate XCVI is from the Matangesvara Temple. Shiva is resting his hanging left leg on a stout figure. Parvati is resting her left hanging leg on a head. The makuta is there for Skanda. He is holding something in both the hands. The crown of the Mother is different from what it is in Plate XLV. Visnu and Brahma are also there. Shiva seems to be holding a snake in his upper right hand, which is curling up its head near His thigh.

Plate CIV, fig. 1, is from the Muktesvara temple. The hanging legs of Shiva and Parvati are on a pedestal. Parvati is seated slightly lower down. Yalis axe below the pedestal, suggesting the idea of Simhasana. There are umbrellas both above Shiva and Parvati. Brahma and Visnu are there. Plate CXVH, of Somaskanda murti, is from the Airavatesvara temple.

Arurar speaks always of Parvati and Shiva being together. In ten places he refers to Shiva as the father of Muruka and at least two places he speaks of Parvati as his mother. These references taken together describe the Somaskanda murti. Uma sahita murti without Skanda is like the Somaskanda murti above described. It is found in Plate XXXIX, fig. 3. The back right arm of Shiva probably holds a rosary. Ibid., fig. 4 also is an Umasahita murti (probably Caudesa anugraha murti). Shiva is resting his right front hand straight on the pedestal. The left leg is kept downwards and lifted up vertically to rest on the pedestal. The right leg is hanging down. The left front arm is resting on the raised up leg. Both the legs of Parvati are hanging down. Her right arm is resting on the pedestal straight. Plate XLI, fig. 2 gives another Umasahita murti. Shiva sits cross legged with the left leg hanging and the right leg going over it. There is a rosary in the right back arm. The left leg of Parvati is hanging down. Brahma is perhaps performing puja. In Plate XLH, Rea gives another Umasahita murti. The right leg of Shiva hangs down and the foot rests on a pedestal and the left is crossed over it. The right leg of Parvati hangs with its foot resting on a pedestal, whilst the left leg is bent downwards and kept vertically on the pedestal. Shiva has four hands and Parvati two. Visnu is worshipping with lotus. Plate XLIH, fig. 1 gives another Umasahita murti. The front right arm of Shiva rests on his thigh. Parvati is not resting her hand straight on the pedestal.

Plate LV, fig. 1 gives Parvati and Shiva standing as in Umasahita Candrasekhara form. We suggested this may be Tripurantaka.

Plate LVII is also an Umasahita murti but this is Gajaha murti. Plate LIX is also an Umasahita murti but this is Gangadhara. Plate XCVH, fig. 1 (to our right side) is another Umasahita murti. It is unique inasmuch as Parvati is on the right side of Shiva, as mentioned in some Agamas. This sculpture is from the Muktesvara temple.

Coming to the Age of Raja Raja, we find the Umasahita murti about which the epigraphist writes as follows: “In the group Umasahitar described in No. 32, the God and Goddess are separate images seated together and accompanied by a standing image of Subrahmanya and one of Ganapati. The donor was a certain Velan Adittan alias Parantaka Pallavaraiyan. This group is probably the same as that now known under the name Uma Mahesvara, though in the latter Subrahmanya and Gunapati do not generally figure:

Hemadri’s description of Uma Mahesvara murti is as follows:

Yugmam stri purusam karyam wmesau divyarupinau Astavaktram tu devesam jatacanarardhabhusitam; Dvipanim Dvibhujam devvm sumadhyam supayodharam Vamapanimtu devasya devyah skandhe niyojayet: Daksinamtu karam sambhorutpalena vibhusitam Devyastu daksinam panim skandhe devasya kalpayet Vamapanau tatha devya darpanam dapayendubham.”

In the Karanagama, under Saparivar-Omamahesvara-dhyana occurs the following:

Vame sailasuta purastu vrsabhah pascatsurendradayd Daityarisca vidhisca parsvadalayorvayvadikonesu ca Bhrnginaradabanabhairavagajasyaskandaviresvara Madhye subrahsarojakomalaruca sambhum bhaje panduram.";

In his Brhatsamhita, Varahamihira describes Shiva as follows:

Sambhoh sirasindukala vrsadhvajdaksi ca trtiyamapi cardhvam
Sul am dhanuh pinaka vamardhe va girisutardham

This was perhaps the commencement of the worship of the deity in its feminine aspect.’

There is also the Kalyanasundara murti in Plate XLH, fig. 2, though Rea does not describe it as such. Only two hands of Shiva are seen. Parvati has only two hands. There is an umbrella over the crown of Parvati and a bigger one over Shiva. Brahma is standing on Shiva’s left. He is said to be the officiating priest.

Parvati is to the right of Shiva; she is in the act of placing the right foot forward to the left. Shiva is taking or holding her right hand into, and with, His right hand. His feet are oriented to-wards the left. Probably it represents “Saptapadi” part of the ceremony of marriage after panigrahana, the walking seven steps together. In between Shiva and Brahma is seen a head with a halo; Rea identifies it as the Sun. It may be Visnu, the halo being there to show his importance. On the right of Parvati is a woman standing with the right hand on the hip and left raised up to the crown. On the left of Brahama is a man with a crown, necklace, armlets and ear-rings. These last two are probably Mena and Himavan. There is a Gana at the left hand corner coming up to the knee of Parvati. The marriage represented in two opposite panels found in the Ardha mandapa has already been mentioned.

Coming to the later ages, we find the inscription, recording that before the 29th year of the reign of Rajarajadeva, his queen Trailokyamahadevi set up copper images of Shiva called Kalyanasundara, of his wife Umaparamesvari, and of the two gods Visnu and Brahman, who were represented as worshipping the first image and that she presented a number of ornaments to the first two images. An inscription of the 10th year of the reign of Rajendra Coladeva, refers to these two images of Kalyanasundara and his wife as having been set up by Trailokyamahadevi, the consort of Rajarajadeva.

The name Kalyanasundara means, ‘Sundara’ preparing himself for the marriage. The group consisted of the god Shiva with four arms. Close to Him was His consort Umaparamesvari. An image of God Visnu with four arms was pouring water into the hands of the God Shiva, and Brahma was confortably seated offering oblation. This is the usual representation of the marriage of the God Sundaresvara of Madura with the goddess Minaksi.

Of Kalyanasundara also called Vaivahikamurti the following description is given in the Karanagama:—

Sindurabham trinetram yugabhujasahitam harakeyura-bhusam
Divyair vastrairvrtahgam varakatakalasaddhemakalhara-bhusam
Sambhum daksinaparvatikaratalam savyena sangrhvatam
Tankam krsnamrgam dharam varakaram cudhendu-baddhadaram
Jatamakutasamyuktam canarardhakrtabhusanam
Tryaksam caturbhujam namasye navayauvanagarvitam
Samabhangayutam devasthanakam samprakzrtitam
Kuncitam savyapadena sthitasavyetaranghrikam


To continue Arurar’s reference to Shiva in relation to Parvati, our poet describes Shiva being supremely happy with Parvati. ‘Makilnan’ is a term for lover, coming from the root ‘MakiV to be happy, like an intoxicated man. Arurar uses verbal forms ‘makilvan’, and ‘makilnta’. Srngara rasa is made to correspond in Tamil to ‘Uvakai’ or happiness and Arurar uses the verbal form ‘Uvantir’. There is a connected word ‘Ukantir’™ which also has a suggestion of happiness but the basic meaning according to Tolkappiyam is, ‘You become great with her’. Shiva is also said to be seated at rest with Parvati, suggesting liking or propriety in the combination—‘Amarntavan’. This suggests the Sukhasana idea. ‘Menum lean’ is another term. It may mean ‘Isa who likes’ or ‘Isa who reaches or attains her or who is by her side’. He also speaks of “Utan.... meyavan”.™ The Lord is all love for her—“Parivutaiyar”. ‘Parivu’ is pity also; it may be referring to His becoming manifest when she became frightened. He loved her so much that when she was the daughter of a mountain, He became the man of the mountain country, that in His culture—“Virumpiya mayamil mamalai natanakiya manpan.”™ He is equally possessed of her love all to Himself along with her form.

“Utan urai valkkai” is a favourite phrase with the ancient poets. It is domestic life of not only co-operative partnership of man and woman but also of actual physical inseparability. This has been the dream of women in this Tamil land; they want to realize their dream at least in their next birth. In the ideal representation of Shiva and Parvati, the dream is found realized and Arurar speaks of ‘Malai makal utanurai valkkai’ as an important sign of Shiva’s divinity, thus hinting at the indispensable Umasahayatva aspect of Godhead spoken of in the Upanisads.


There are three terms used which seem to be all connected at first sight: ‘Pakan’.‘Pankan and ‘Kuran. ‘Kuru is a division, or a share. ‘Panku' is ‘paku with nunnation and means a share. ‘Paka’, if derived from Bhaya, means also a share or a moiety. It may also be taken as a form of ‘Pankani—a partner, a friend. Pakan means one who drives the elephant and therefore one who drives any animal; Arurar has used the term ‘Vitaiyin pakan; in punning on this word he makes the Lord ‘Paka of the bull’ and Parvati and Visnu, as their leader or as being by their side: 'Patamatwm pampanaiyanukkum pavai nallal tanakkum vatamatum mal vitai errukkum pakan. But the term ‘Pankan’ and ‘Pakan are explained sometimes, as is shown in the Tamil Lexicon, as, ‘One who is by the side of’. They become merely the name of the part of any place like “Orupar”: See “Kanni panka”, “Umai panka”, “Mankai panka”. “Mankai pankinan”, “Nankai panka”, “Matantai panka”. “Ayilai pankinar”, “Pavai pankan”, “Or pankutaiyir”

Kanni panka”; “Pavai pankan”, “Umai panka”; “Mankai panka”; “Matantai panka”; “Umai nankai Panka”; “Or Pankutaiyay” —all these use the word ‘Panku’ in various forms and combinations. It is the idea of “Utanurai valkkai” that is conveyed by these terms. This meaning of being by his side is strengthened by such usage as “Pankinil tanka”, ‘whilst she rests in one part’ necessarily meaning ‘one side’ because of the force of the word ‘rests’. In view of the idea of Ardhanarisvara form the meaning of sharing the body, in other places, may not be absurd and at least in one place there can be no other meaning—“Pankam ceyta Mataval”. The verb ‘ceyta’, ‘who did or effected’ rejects any other meaning. ‘The youthful damsel who has effected a partition (of your body)’—this is the meaning of the phrase.

Pakan’ is the next word. Arurar speaks of ‘Or pakam’, “Oru pakam” “Oru paka”, or “Pakam vaittukantan”, “Pakam amarntavan” or ‘amarntu’, “Oru pakam vaittar or vaittu”, “Anankoru pakam vaittu” “Elai pakan” “Umai pakan”, “Kal valaiyalai dr pnkamay” “Pakam'”, and “Pakan” Even here the suggestion of Ardhauarisvara is not inappropriate.

That form alone should have been intended in a few places: “Tirumeni vilanka dr tannamar pnkamatakiya” — ‘The one part (of his body) which He likes, He has made it shine with the divine form of the lightning-like Lady’; “Pen pakam orupal Gaytan” — ‘He made one part of the body the share of the woman’; “Tevi.... pavaiyakat tanaturuvam orupakam certtuvitta Peruman” ‘The doll of the mountain is His consort; in His form in one part the Lord has made her in Him combine’; “Iraivar Umai droru pakam pern an dvar—‘He becomes along with Uma one part woman, one part man’. “Umaiyalai oru pakattatakkinan” ‘One who made Uma to fit into one part (of His body)’. In all these cases there can be no doubt that it is the Ardhanarisvara form that is described.

Even as Arurar speaks of “Pakam konta”, and “Panku konta” he speaks of “Or pal konta”, “Or pal konta mani and “Or pal makilntu”f suggesting that the Mother is on one side. But in “Orupal mokam mikuttu ilakum kuru cey apparicu” — ‘That characteristic feature of the Lord according to which the Mother partitions and takes away the shining part as hers’—the reference can only be the Ardhanarisvara form.

This is because of the force of the word ‘Kuru’ or share used therein. In all places where this word is used there can be no doubt about the poet describing the Ardhanarisvara form. In “Or kuranam” “Or kuran” “Or kurutaiyan or Kurutaiyay” “Kuranri-k kuruvatillaiyo” ‘Kuran’ ‘Kurukantu’ and ‘Kuramamtu’, it is clear the reference is to Shiva partitioning the body between Himself and Parvati, with all His heart and as an important act. This is made clear by another reference that the moiety of the bodv is the partitioned share of the lady—“Pati matu oru kurutaiyan” Our poet is looking upon this as a great ideal—Fatherhood and Motherhood of God as embodied in one form—and he speaks of Shiva as holding to this as His divine principle of one bearing up with this partition—the divine ideal or observance or a characteristic feature of this divinity or pride—“Kuru tankiya kolkaiyinan”.


There are other descriptions which clearly bring out the conception of the unity of Fatherhood and Motherhood of God: ‘You have placed the woman in one half of your body’—“Pdti or pennai vaittay” In what part of the body she was placed is stated in other verses: “Itattil vaittay” — ‘You have placed her on the left side’; “Matinukku utampu itam kotuttan” — ‘He gave a place on the left portion for the woman in His body’; “Matamatu itam akattaval” —‘The young damsel is on the left in His body’; '"Akam kontar” —‘He took her within His body’; “Akattamarntaruli”, ‘He was pleased with her being in His body’;—thus He showered His grace. The poet speaks of the Lord of the man and woman form: “Pen an aya piran”; “Pen an auar”. The Lord dances in this form with the ‘tdtu’ or ‘patra’ or woman’s ear-ring inserted in one ear and ‘kulai’ or ‘kundala or man’s earring swinging on the other: “Totu peytu oru katinil kulai tanka......atumaru vallar” There is another form of God, ‘the Bhikshatana murti’ which symbolizing God’s wandering in love for the souls is of special significance to the Shaivites. Arurar imagines that God goes wandering in this ‘Man-woman form’—“Nil netun kanninalotum kurar”, ‘with the anklet of heroism jingling on one leg and the anklet of woman-hood on the other’—“Kaccer aravonru araiyil acaittuk kalalum cilampum kalikkap palikkenru uccam potd urur tiriya”. Here on one side is the gold and silk garment of the Mother; on the other side is the skin garment of the Father.

Thus He roams about: “Tukillfyu pon tolututtu ul al vane”.

There is another description:

Kurramil tan atiyar kurum icaip paricum
kocikamum araiyil kovanamum atalum
mal tikal tin puyamum marpitai niru tutai
mamalai mankai Umai cer cuvatum pukalak
karranavum paravik kaitolal enru kolo

‘The music or the fame sung by His faultless devotees—the silk (of the Mother), the loin cloth and the skin at the waist (of the Father), the strong wrestling like strong and good looking shoulder, the mark of the Lady Uma’s embrace or part in the chest, full of the sacred ash—these when shall I praise repeating what all I have learnt for praising and when shall I worship them?’

There are 131 references to Lord Shiva being one with Uma, the Mother Goddess. Shiva is always found inseparable in the representations with the Mother Goddess. The Purvakaranagama, however, states in the representation of Bhikshatana, Kankala, Harihara, Ardhanarisvara, Kamantaka, Daksinamurti and Sukhtisana forms, the Mother Goddess should not be represented, whereas, in all other aspects, she should be found near Shiva. But Nanacampantar makes the Mother inseparable in almost all the representations as may be seen from his famous ‘Kolaru Thirupathigam’. Probably he is following the tradition of the Tamil land that beautifully expressed in the invocatory verse to Kalit-tokai, where the activities of God are shown to be inspired by His Sakti or the Mother Goddess keeping the time for His various dances of activity—Kotukotti, Pantarankam and Kapalam. The sculptures of the Kailasanatha Temple seem to agree with this.

Arurar is not so very clear about this question but perhaps the juxtaposition of the terms, “Malai mankai manalan maranar utal nirelac cerrut tulaitta ankattotu tumalarkonrai tolum nulum tutainta varai marpan” may be interpreted as referring this inseparable aspect mentioned in the verse of ‘Kolaru Thirupathigam’ in this very representation.

What is therefore more important is the Ardhanarisvara form which Manickavacakar calls the most ancient form: ‘Tonmaik-kolam’. The invocatory verse to Ainkurunuru refers to this form: “Nila meni valilai pakattu orwvan irutal nilar kil muvakai ulakum mukilttana muraiye”.

It is the firm conviction of these poets as is stated in this very verse that the creation and the multiplication of the species is due to this form. The Vedas refer to the one principle desirous of becoming many for starting the creation. In many places we find the usual description of Shiva being made the description of Sakti as well. Even this Ardhanarisvara form is found thus transferred.

The Goddess of Madura is identified with the Mother Goddess by the closing venpa of Alarpatu katai of Cilappatikaram and she is described in the opening lines of the next katai; as an Ardhanari:

Itamarunku irunta nilam ayinura
Valamarunku ponniram puraiyum meniyal
Itakkai polampun tamarai entinum
Valakkai ancutark kotuval pitittol
Valakkal punaikalal kattinum itakkai
Taniccilampu ararrum takaimaiyal”.

The Sivapurana gives its own version of this form. Brahma begot the Prajapatis but they were not able to create the world and its beings. Thereupon, the creator meditated on Mahesvara, the Great Lord, who appeared to him in the Ardhanarisvara form, reminding the creator thereby the necessity for the female principle in creation.

There is another story, where, when the Rsi Bhrngin went round Shiva alone in his worship, whereupon, the Mother Goddess prayed to God for being united with His own body, so as to prevent any worshipper neglecting her. Almost all the Agamas and other works on sculpture give a detailed description of this image. The right half is male and the left half is female and therefore the right half has a jatamakuta with the crescent moon; the right ear has a kundala; the right half of the forehead has one half of an eye; the whole of the right side is adorned with ornaments peculiar to Shiva and the garment should cover the body below the loins only up to the knee, the garment being the tiger’s skin or silk. On the right part of the chest there is the ‘naka yajnopavita’. There is the serpent as yajnopavita and a girdle of snake on the right side of the loins. The right half is besmeared with ashes.

Coming to the left side, there is the ‘Karandamakuta’ (Kontai) and a half ‘lilaka’. The left eye is painted with collyrium and the left ear wears a ‘valika'. The parrot perches upon the wrist. There is one bosom on the left and there are ornaments fit for women. This half is smeared with saffron and draped in coloured silk saree up to the ankles. The garment may be of white silk also and is held tight by three girdles. There is the left anklet and the left foot is tinged red with henna (marutonri). If there are four hands, the two on the right keep the abhaya pose and the ‘parasu’, or the varada pose and the trident, or the abhaya pose and tanka (tuti) or the trident and the aksamala. In some cases, one arm is bent resting on the bull, while the other keeps the abhaya pose. Of the left two arms, one is bent and resting on the bull, whilst the other, is let down hanging, or, hold the blue lily or the blue lotus.

If there are only two arms, the right, is the varada pose, or, holds a skull, whilst the left either is let down hanging, or, keeps a mirror or a parrot or a flower, or, rests on the head of the bull. The Agamas also contemplate three arms, when there is only one on the left side, holding a flower or a mirror or a parrot, adorned with armlets, wristlets, bangles and other ornaments. This reference to the three arms is important because of the Ardhanarisvara sculpture found in the Kailasanatha Temple at Kancipuram. It has three arms; the front right hand is holding a trident by its lower end while the back fore-arm on the right is raised up to the jatamakuta and is holding a cobra by its tail whilst the cobra hangs down lifting up its hood near the hand holding the trident. The left hand on the Mother’s side holds a ‘vina’ and its elbow rests upon the sitting bull. Whereas the Amsumadbhedagama, the Kamikdgama, the Suprabhedagama, the Silparatna and the Karanagama insist upon this image being in a standing posture, this sculpture represents as a seated form. In this sculpture, the ‘vina’ takes the place of the usual parrot. Arurar as already stated refers to this form as “Pen an ay a piran”?

Ardhanarisvara form is represented in Dharmaraja ratha of Mamallapuram. This form is found even in Java and the Eastern Archipelago, where the inscriptions explain that in this form Sakti and Shiva are conceived as essentially one and the same.


An image of Ardhanarisvara was set up by Krsnan Raman. The note of the Epigraphists is as follows: The image is often met with, among the sculptures of Shiva temples in Southern India, and is partly male and partly female. In one of the niches of the north wall of the central shrine of the Tanjore temple, there is a figure of Ardhanarisvara. This differs from the group described in No. 39, there being a bull in the former close to which the figure is standing. A later representation of Ardhanarisvara in the Madura temple has no bull. In the group set up by Krsnan Raman and the sculpture on the north wall of the central shrine the Isvara half has two arms and the Uma half only a single arm. In the Madura sculpture each of them has two arms.

Hemadri in the Vratakhanda of his Cha-turvargacintamani describes the figure of Ardhanarisvara as having four arms:

Ardham devasya nari tn kartavya subhalaksana
Ardhamtu purusah karyah sarvalaksanabhusitah;
Isvararddhe jatajutam karttavyam canarabhusitam
Umarddhe tilakam k dry yam slmantamalakam tatha;
Bhasmoddhulitamarddham tu arddham kunkumabhusitam
Nagopavitinam carddhamarddham haravibhusitam
Vamarddhe tu stanam kuryyat ghanam plnam suvarttulam
Umarddhe tu prakarttavyam suvasttrena ca vestitam;
Mekhalam dapayettatra vajravaiduryyabhusitam
Urddhvalingam mahesarddham sarpamekhalamanditam;
Padanca devadevasya samapadmoparisthitam
Salakttakam smrtam vamamanjanena vibhusitam;
Trisulamaksasutramca bhujayoh savyayoh smrtam
Darpanamcotpalam karyyam bhujayorapasavyayoh

The group set up by Rajaraja’s general was made of copper but the Umu-half was coated with brass. Closely connected with this group is No. 47 which records the setting up of an image of Bhringisa with 3 arms and 3 legs by Kavan Annamalai alias Keralantaka Virupparaiyan. It was the exclusive devotion of Bhringisa to the god Shiva that led Parvati to seek union with her consort in the form Ardhanarisvara,



The Harihara form may be taken as a variant of this form. The Mother Goddess represents the Prakrti whilst Shiva represents the Purusa, The Linga and Avutaiyal represent the same principle. Vinnu is the Lord of the Prakrti according to the Shaiva Siddhanta. The Mother Goddess is addressed as the sister of Visnu—“Malavarkilankilai”and she holds the conch and wheel like Visnu. That is why Visnu is substituted in the place of Mother Goddess.

Vamanapurana narrates a story where Vismi preaching to a Rsi as identified with Shiva manifested Himself to the sage in the dual aspect of Harihara. The structure representing this form is the Shiva half as in the Ardhanarisvara form. The Vaishnava half has two arms carrying the cakra or sankha or the gada in one hand, the other holding the kataka pose near the thigh. There is a kirita (crown) set with precious stones and ear ornament shaped like a raakara. Wristlets and armlets adorn the arms. There is an anklet, shaped like a snake, which is probably ‘kalal’ worn as a sign of victory by warriors of Tamil land. Yellow silk garment held in position by girdles flows from the waist up to the ankles.

During the period of the first Alvars there has been an attempt at harmonising Shaivism and Vaishnavism. Peyalvar in describing the figure of the Lord on the Tiruppati hills sings of this Harihara form: “The descending jata, the tall crown, the shining axe and the discus, the encircling serpent and the gold waist-band are seen. So my Lord of the sacred mountain surrounded by over-flowing streamlets himself appears thus uniting in himself both the forms”. Poykaiyalvar describes this form in his Antati (First 5): “His name is Hara and Narayana (Naranarayana). His conveyance, the bull and the bird. His words, the book (Agamas) and the Vedas. His residence, the Mountain and the Waters (Sea). His activity, destruction and protection. He holds the spear and the discus. His colour is of the fire and the cloud. His form is one”.

The last statement leaves no doubt that the Alaar is describing the Sankaranarayana form for which there must have been many temples all through the country like the one which exists even today in Sankaranarayanar koil in the South.

The Eastern Islands to which the Tamilians carried their own culture and civilization developed in those foreign lands at Cambodia and elsewhere the peculiar Harihara cult; this is an echo of the songs of the First Alvars.

Harihara image in the form of the Javanese king Kritaraja is found in East Java. An inscription of the Saka year 561, throws a flood of light on this new development or harmony about which we do not have much of evidence left in the Tamil Country except the few verses quoted above. As the period corresponds. to the age of Arurar, this information is important for understanding our Tevaram poets. “Victorious are Hara and Acyuta who have become one for the good of the world though as the spouses of Parvati and Sri, they are two distinct powers. Victorious also is Isanavarman found especially for his heroism who supports the earth like Sesanaga”. The Muni Isanadatta celebrated for his austerities, his life devoted to poverty and study, of the offspring of an illustrious family has consecrated this image in which the bodies of Shiva and Acyuta are joined half and half for the welfare of his parents. He has also consecrated a Linga of Visnu and of Isana Candesvara, his decis.on being that their worship should be combined by participation in the same offering”. The jiame Isana is peculiar to the Shaiva sects. In this inscription we see the king and his priest taking interest in the cult of Harihara. This harmonized form of the God-head is called fiva-Visnu, Sankaranarayana, Sambhuvisnu, Harisankara, Har-Acyuta. This inscription is important because it attempts at making the Lingam itself as a representation of Shiva and Visnu. We do not have this development preserved in South India, but since the Avutaiyal in the Shiva Imga form is said to represent the Sakti or Prakrti, it may be said to represent Visnu as well.

Arurar refers to this Harihara form in two places. In both the places he jointly refers to the Ardhanarisvara and Harihara form, thereby suggesting that both are one and the same. Referring to the sculptures of the Pallava age, we find in the Dharmaraj a Ratha not only the Ardhanarisvara form already noted but also the Harihara form.

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