The Religion and Philosophy of Tevaram (Thevaram)

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

This page describes “partha-anugraha-murti (depiction of the story of arjuna)” 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 2.3 - Partha-anugraha-murti (depiction of the story of Arjuna)


The Mahabharata shows that Shaivism came to be followed by great Rsis like Upamanyu, Vyasa and a host of others. Shiva preaches Ahimsa—non-eating of flesh, and even today this noneating of flesh goes by the name of Shaivism—perhaps by this time the Jainism had become developed. ‘Tirtha yatra’ cult had come to stay for removing sin and for enjoying celestial pleasure. It also reflects the conflict of Shaivites and Vaisna vites and an attempt at harmony. If Visnu as Krishna is the great master expounding Gita to Arjuna, Shiva is claimed to be the special God of Arjuna bestowing on him the special weapon, Pasupatastra, with which Arjuna won the Bharata War.

The story occurs in the Vanaparvam of the Maha Bharata. Arjuna, advised by his divine father Indra, performed tapas, for getting Pasupatastra from Shiva. Shiva came in the form of a hunter. An asura assuming the form of a boar was about to attack Arjuna, who, therefore, aimed an arrow at it. The kirata or the hunter also aimed. The animal was dead. The hunter, to pick up a quarrel, abused Arjuna for shooting at his quarry and in the fierce fight that ensued, Arjuna was worsted in both the battles, of bows and that of wrestling. Arjuna struck the hunter on the head with his bow which mysteriously disappeared. The kirata was recognized by Arjuna as Shiva, and Shiva admiring Arjuna bestowed upon him the Pasupatastra. It is said in the Purfinas that Parvati went as a huntress carrying the child Subrahmanya, followed by four dogs, the Vedas. Even the Vaisanvites like Villiputturar become eloquent and very much moved when they come to narrate this story of Kiratarjuna. The Sanskrit poet Bharavi has been inspired by this episode so much as to write a beautiful drama on it the ‘Kiratarjuniyam’.


The Kiratarjuna murti according to the texts on sculpture has four arms, carrying dhanus, bana, mrga, jatamakupa, three eyes, yajnopavita and ornaments. He stands erect with Arjuna on the right who has two eyes, jatamakuta, ornaments and anjali pose on the right and with Gauri on the left. In the Karanagama, Shiva is described as holding an arrow and a bow and an antelope; the latter two are seen in a figure in Cidambar am. Bow and arrow are found in Tiruccenkattankuti image. According to the Agamas the Pasupatastra murti has four terrific faces with three eyes, tusks, stiff hair and fierce mustache carrying sakti, mrga, sankha and khadga in the four hands. Vetkalam near Cidambaram is considered to be the place where this weapon was bestowed on Arjuna. There is an image there. Evidently the rules of the Agamas were not obligatory. Tanjore inscriptions refer to an image of this form.

There is one sculpture of the age of Tevaram in the Kailasa-natha Temple. This is how Rea reads it: “Panel 15 shows Shiva as a hunter fighting with and slaying the king who was afterwards turned into a pig. Two figures are shown with right and left legs advanced. An animal on the under right side of the panel seems to represent varaha.” It is not clear where Rea got the story he narrates; but anybody knowing the story of Arjuna and the hunter will easily recognize the hunter and Arjuna in the two human figures.


Coming to the age of Raja Raja, we find, an image of Kiratar-juna set up in the Sri Rajarajesvara temple by the magistrate, Udayadivakaran Tillaiyaji. The following is the note of the Epi-graphist:

The detailed description of the image is not furnished. But it evidently represented the scene of fight between Arjuna and the God guised as a Kirata or hunter. The fight ended in the former obtaining the blessings of the latter together with the weapon known as Pasupatastra.

Kiratarjuna-murti is one of the 25 sportive incarnations (lila-murtis) of Shiva mentioned in the Kdranagama. It described him as follows:

Caturbhujam trinetram ca jatamakutasamyutam
Sarvabharanasamyuktam divydmbarasamavrtam
Dhanurbanayutam raktam krsnaparasusamyutam
Upavitasamayuktam samabhangatanum kuru
Vame gourisamayuktam daksinetvarjunam sthitham


Ekavaktram dvinayanam jatamakutasamyutam
Sarvakharanasamyuktam krtanjaliputamsthitam

An image of Pasupata murti was set up by queen Iladamaha-devi. The details are however not given. In fact, her setting up the image is only incidentally referred to in S.I.L, Vol. II, No. 95. The scene relates to the gift of the Pasupata-weapon to the Panilava Prince Arjuna for use in battle against Jayadratha.


Arjuna has been popular in the Tamil land. His name has got mixed with all kinds of folk tales of Pavalakkoti malai, Alliyaracani malai, etc. Places in the Tamil land were called after the Pantlavas. In the age of Arurar himself Panangattur was known as “Van Parttan Panangattur”, though a different kind of interpretation is given to this expression, one may notice that this expression has got some connection with Parthan (Arjnua). The temple in this place must have come into existence during the time of Arurar since there is no hymn from Campantar or Appar on this place.

Arurar has referred to the story of Arjuna in thirteen places in his hymns. Arurar has used the mythological terms: ‘Parthan’ ‘Vijaya and ‘Arjuna’. He calls him ‘Parthan, the great’ “Perumparttan”, Arjuna was performing an austerity. The Lord went in the foot-steps of a boar. It was an angry boar—‘Cinakkelal’; ‘Kel’ usually refers to the colour, perhaps the poet wants to emphasize its appearance: ‘unique boar’. It was a terrific boar, ‘Katunkelal’. The other name of the boar is ‘panri’, because of the tusks or teeth. This word is also used by Arurar, and pointed attention is drawn to the tusk of the boar, ‘Kotar ketal’.

The Lord went merrily along with his young wife, in his assumed form of a hunter to play the spy, ‘Veyatiyar’ for knowing the real strength of Arjuna, ‘Vetuvan’ ‘Vetan’ He was a unique hunter. His courage took the form of a hunter, “Virattal oru vetanaki” The hunter was a warrior and a hero, ‘Maravan’ a great magician, ‘Mayan as the subsequent events proved.

He was a denizen of the forest or desert, ‘Kanavan’ and he went there appropriately as such in the desert to avoid all doubts. He wore the feather of the crane. It was a burning desert, so hot that the land was full of cracks, “Kamar payil vencuram” He carried a bow of war, “Ceru vil enti” and following the boar he came near Arjuna. He came driving it fast and approached Arjuna. Arjuna was performing austerities. He started the fighting operation. He fought with Arjuna leaving no room for the latter to suspect who the hunter was. He came down to his boar playing the part of a hunter he had assumed beautifully well, “Natavannam ceru-c ceytu”. This quarrel over the boar upset

Arjuna’s equanimity of austerity. The austerities were thus destroyed, ‘Tavamalittu’. The hunter fought with seemingly righteous indignation and his eyes became red with this anger, “Cenkan vet away” He was indulging in war, “Amar payilvu eiti”. On the round and well shaped shoulders of Arjuna, the Lord sent many a sharp arrow to pierce through. Arjuna was a lover of bows. But now his skill as an archer faded away, “Melkiya virrolilan.” He became thoroughly exhausted. But the Lord fought with love and kinaness enjoying probably every minute the valour and skill of Arjuna. Finally, pleased with him, the Lord gave the strongest weapon, ‘Vanpatai’ the ‘Pasupata’ well placed in its receptacle, “Ava noli nilai”;


This episode is one of the stories which appealed to the poet inspiring him to take refuge in God. This is a story of Grace (Anugraha) of God, the story of the battle of love where the Lord comes to judge and present the fitting weapon. The whole story is repeated there in another hymn.

Vata mulaiydl tannatum makilntu kdnil vetuvanay-k
Kotar kelal pincenru kuruki vicayan tavamalittu
Nata vannam ceru-c ceytu dva nail nilaiyarulcey
Pitar cataiyar mayanattu-p Periya peruman atikale

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