The Religion and Philosophy of Tevaram (Thevaram)

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

This page describes “candra-anugraha-murti (depiction of the moon’s redemption)” 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 2.4 - Candra-anugraha-murti (depiction of the moon’s redemption)


Daksa had the 27 stars as his daughters and gave them in marriage to the Moon, with a strict warning that he should not show any favouritism to any one of them. But the Moon became so much attached to Rohinl that he neglected others. The slighted and neglected wives complained to their mighty father. Enraged Daksa, cursed the Moon to waste away and lose all his sixteen ‘Wais’ or phases of brilliance. Day after day the Moon began to lose one sixteenth of his total brilliance like our waning moon. There was no Power on earth who could help him out of this effacement, except the omnipotent Shiva. The Moon prayed, worshipped and took refuge in the feet of the Lord. Shiva, taking pity on him and his foolish wives who were following a suicidal policy, wanted to save the Moon from dying out and at the same time to save Daksa’s curse from becoming nugatory. The crescent Moon had but one sixteenth of his brilliance. The Lord took him up and adorned his crown with the laurel of this crescent Moon. By this contact with divinity or divine Grace, the Moon stopped decaying any further and began growing day after day till he attained his original fullness of brilliance. But Daksa s curse was also to be fulfilled and he began deteriorating from his fullness. Thus began in the World the waxing and the waning moon. The crescent is the shining example of the cursed being saved by Lord’s Grace.

The merciful Lord came to be known, therefore, as Candrasekhara—one who has the Moon on His crown.


Karanagama speaks thus of Candrasekhara murti:

Abhayavaradahastam saumyasrngarabhavam
Vipulavaradanetram candrabimbamsamaulim
Rjutanusamapadasthanakam vidrumabham
Harinaparasupanim padmapnthoparistham

Though Arurar does not use the phrase Candrasekhara, be uses a corresponding name, “Indu sekhara—one who has the moon in his crown. The Tamil forms “Mati cuti” “Piral cuti” and ‘Piraiyan, are also found. The words used by him to denote the moon are (1) the Sanskrit word ‘Indu’, in its Tamil form ‘Intu’ meaning that which cools the world with its light, which word occurs only once, and the Tamil words arranged in the order of their frequency of usage, (2) ‘Mati’ is used nearly thirty times, and its variant forms with the suffix ‘am’, (3) ‘Matiyam’ used ten times, the word "Matz coming from the verbal root ‘mati’ to value, to count, and, therefore, meaning the moon that measures the time into months, (4) ‘Pirai’ used about 28 times, this word coming from the root ‘pira’ to be born and meaning, therefore, the ‘new born crescent moon’, later on coming to denote the crescent, whether waxing or waning, (5) ‘TinkaV used about 13 times, perhaps a variant of ‘tikal’ undergoing nunnation and coming from ‘tiku’ to dazzle, though some explain it as the sweet nectar, (6) ‘Nila’, with its variant forms, (7) ‘Nila’ and (8) ‘Nilavu’, corresponding to the word ‘Nilavu’—‘to shine’, and denoting originally the suffused and steady light of the moon-shine as against the dazzling and glistening hot glare of the sun and later on coming to mean in the age of Arurar and Manikka vacakar, the moon itself.


The verbal roots he uses in relation to the Moon are here given in the order of frequency: (1) ‘Cutu’—‘to crown’—Shiva crowns Himself with the moon and this root is used about 32 times; (2) ‘Vai’—‘to place’ used about 6 times —‘Shiva has placed it on His crown;’ (3) ‘Cer’—‘to reach’—‘The moon reaches Shiva’s crown’ used about 3 times; (4) ‘Tanku’—‘to rest’: ‘The moon rests on His head’, used about 2 times; (5) ‘Ar—‘to rest or to be full’ (because of its light) used two times or so; (6) ‘Tanku’—‘to bear’—‘Shiva’s head bears it’, used thrice; (7) ‘Muti’—‘to crown’ or ‘adorn the head’ used about twice; ‘God has adorned the moon as a laurel or a crown’; (8) ‘Punai’—‘to adorn’ used once and—‘to adorn’ used once, ‘Shiva adorns Himself with the moon;’ (9) ‘Utai’—‘to be possessed’ used about twice, ‘Shiva is moon’s Lord’; (10) ‘Pulku’—‘to embrace’ or ‘cleave to’ used once, ‘Shiva’s head, the moon cleaves to’; and (11) ‘Mevu’—‘to rest’ or ‘to desire’ used once. ‘The moon with all his heart reaches and rests on Shiva’s head’.


It is the crescent that Shiva saved, by adorning Himself with it. The word ‘Pirai’ means the crescent. Since it has come to mean the waning moon as well, the poet is anxious to emphasize the fact of the waxing crescent—the crescent born after the new moon by referring to its youth and its being an extreme fraction of the young moon—“Ilampirai”, the young crescent—“Malku van ilampirai” ‘the increasing or growing young crescent’, “Pilai venpirai”—‘the innocent intant of a crescent’ (there is here a pun on the word ‘ven’ which means innocent or simple and white), “Valarata pirai”—‘the crescent which has not developed or grown’, “Pirai-t tuntam”—‘the bit of a crescent’; “Nalla tuntappirai”—‘the good bit of a crescent’; and ‘the fractioned bit of a crescent’—“Pankam ceyta pirai” (there is here a pun on ‘pankam’ which not only means division but also disgrace and, therefore, it suggests the cursed crescent).


Poetically the same suggestions gleam through his description of the moon as ‘matf. It is “Matippitir”—‘a particle of the moon’, “Paka ma mati”—‘a fraction of the big moon’. It is the glorious intant of a moon—“Pillai ma mati”; ‘the growing or waxing moon’—“Uyarum mati”. ‘It is the young and growing sprout of a moon’—“Mulai valar ila mati” ‘It is an undeveloped moon’—“Murra mati” This suggestion has to be made even when the word ‘Tinkal’ is used. It is “Ilantinkal”—‘the young moon’. ‘Nila’ as is seen from its usage in nursery is the crescent moon.

There are other ways in which the poet suggests this intancy of the crescent moon. It is the crescent appearing on the west at dusk that is the starting point of the waxing moon. The poet refers to it as the white crescent of the dusk—“Anti venpirai” as the moon of the beautiful or ‘cirrus clad evening’—“Mancunta malai mati”, and “Malai mati”—‘the crescent moon of the evening’. ‘It is the crawling moon’—“Tavalumati” —the word crawling suggesting the idea of a baby moon.


The first shoot of the crescent is a deeper curve suggesting the sharp sickle. To the poet, it is the crescent moon of the sharp edge—“Vai vaya mati” It is too much bent—“Kvnal ma mati” and therefore it is “Koniya pirai”; the crooked crescent moon. There is another beautiful conceit—“Kuniviniya kafir matiyam” ‘the shining moon with the sweet bend of a dance’. The other description of the form of a crescent suggests the “palmyra olai” or rather the blade of the flower ‘ttilaf—“Etu van ilantinkal”—‘the leaf of a tender crescent moon of the heaven’; P6lu matiyam” —‘the leaf of a moon’. (Pol with the enunciative vowel ‘u’ becomes ‘Polu’ and has been interpreted on the analogy of the above, though it can be interpreted in a different way as will be presently seen). This idea of a flower of a moon explains the poet’s enumeration of this along with other flowers, like vanni, kuravu, konrai, mattam etc., especially with konrai,


This idea or suggestion of a “Talai flower”, leads on to the favourite description of the crescent as the crowning laurel wreath of God, so often alluded to by Tirunavukkaracar in the hymn beginning with “Matar-p piraik kanniyanai” This description also appeals to our poet, Appar’s devoted follower and admirer. ‘The Lord is spoken of as wearing the laurel wreath of a moon’: “Tinkat kurun teriyal tikal kanni” —‘the shining crest wreath of a dwarfish garland of a moon; “Venmatiyak kanni” —‘the wreath of a white moon’; “Mati-p pitir-k kanni" —‘the wreath of a spark of a moon’; “Veynta ven pirai-k kanni" —‘the wreath wrought of the white crescent’.


The conception of a crown or a diadem is also there: “Pirait tuntamuti" —‘crown or diadem of a crescent’. “Cikarattitai ila venpirai”™ is the young white crescent of the moon on the crown. The verb ‘cutu’ suggests this idea of a crown or “culamani” or the crest jewel. Hence its brilliance and lustre are alluded to, apart from the usual description of its whiteness: “Kurumappirai” — ‘the glorious crescent of the brilliant lustre’; “Nila ven mati” —‘the shining white moon’; “Tikal matiyam” —‘the resplendent moon.’ Here the poet speaks suggestively of “Tumati”, “Tu matiyam” —‘the pure white crescent moon with no blot’, even as we speak of the pure white blotless pearl. ‘It is a crystal clear crescent’, “Tennila” This certainty suggests the purity, which the cursed moon achieved, thanks to the Grace of the Lord. “Katir matiyam” refers to its effntgent radiance. “Polum mati”, is the moon driving out darkness by its radiance; it reminds us of the phrase, “Vai pal” of Nakkirar, in Tirumurukarrup-patai It is this light of a beautiful gem of the crown that the description of the moon as “Vanni mati”™ and “Total mati” — the fire-like moon can be understood. Otherwise, ‘Vanni’ in “Vannimati” has to be taken as ‘Vanni flower’ and ‘Talal’ in “Talat mati” as the burning of the wasting disease brought on moon’s head by the curse of Daksa. Or, it should be referring to the conceit of the Indian poets who make the desolate lovers cry against the heat of the moon. For, otherwise the description, “Total mati” falsifies the other descriptions, “Tannar mati”, “Tannar mamati” or “Tan mati” ‘the cool moon or the moon full of coolness’, and “Kulirtaru tinkal” —‘the moon that gives out coolness’.


It is to this conceit of the love sickness we must again go for explaining the “Nituraiyum nila ven mati” —‘the white moon of the radiance abiding for a very long time’. But, here also there may be a reference to the never fading brilliance of the gem of a moon. More than anything else this suggestion of a long life here brings out clearly the eternal blessing the moon received—the new life in the company of the Lord, the never to end long life. This description thus sings the poet’s song of Grace and redemption of the Saviour, even as the description “Turnati’'™ does. Has not the poet pointed out the very place, where this crown of His, the moon was relieved of and saved from the cruel enemy of his karma?—“Pirai-t tuntamuti-c ceti koi vinai-p pakai firum itam......Kacci Anekatankavatame”


The braids of cirrus of the heavens and the crescent therein have been suggested as the very reflection of the Lord. The poet is captivated by this beauty of the moon within the braid setting it ablaze with light or of the moon on the braid: “Pirankum catai mel. pirai” —‘the crescent on the braid thrown into bold relief’. He is enamoured of the beauty of the colour contrast—“Pnn catai met ventinkal” ‘the white resplendent moon on the lustreless braids’. “Mane er ven mati cencatai vaitta mani—‘the great ruby of the ruddy braids adorned with the white moon of the cirrus’, if we may add, turned ruddy at dusk—a reflection of the braids as it were. The colour contrast of the red braids and white moon is repeated often and often—“Cencatai mel ven mati”. The idea of bringing together the braids and the moon is thus clear.


The colour scheme brings in the ‘konrai therein. The cool Ganges glistens and throws a reflection of all the flowers and serpents and the juxtaposition of the moon and the Ganges explains this peculiar beauty. The Ganges is a crown or a laurel wreath and so is the moon—“Mutippatu kankaiyum tinkalum.” The combination of the Ganges and the moon on the crown of the Lord has already been explained, when commenting the Gangadhara form of Shiva.


The harmony of the Lord has already been explained in that connection The'divine harmony of love is still further emphasized by the surprising attachment of the moon to the serpent on the crown of the Lord. This is an idea which occurs very often in Appar and in our poet. He is possessed, all to Himself, of that one form of the great moon and the serpent sleeping together on His crown—“Mutimel mamatiyum aravum utan tuyilum native tarn utaiyar” , “Valarata piraiyum variyaravum utan tuyila vait-tarulum entail The moon does not grow, usually afraid of the serpent, but here our Lord makes them, out of His grace, sleep in peace together. The Lord of the glorious crescent moon embraces the serpent—“Kuru mappirai pampai-t tintu NampiThis is something unusual—a sign of divine presence and love; for, in the ordinary world it is the serpent of a Rahu who rushes at the Moon to swallow whereas here on the crown of the Lord the erstwhile frightened moon it is that goes to approach, touch and fondle the serpent. Both are found in mutual embrace of love—“Malkiya cencataimel matiyum aravum utane pulkiya Aranan”. They play and interchange their places—“Tanmatiyum pampum tatumaru catai.” It is this the kingdom of God come; the New Order—the unique culture of the Lord—“Pampinotu papar catai mel mati vaitta panpir”.

In keeping with the tradition of the Homeric simile where the poets digress and indulge in descriptions, captivated by his own imagination and vision of the thing Arurar describes the moon at length. The beautiful white moon appears in the midst of the cirrus clouds—“Mancer venmati”? “Malai nulai matiyam” — ‘It is the moon entering the rain-bearing clouds’—a sight which has pleased every child imagining that the moon is playing a game of hide and seek with it.


The moon has reached the topmost place. It is the great moon of the high skies—“Vinnil ma mati” It approaches the topmost heights of human arts of architecture and of the nature’s grandeur of a garden. There is the rampart of a wall made cool by the overhanging bunches of flowers of the surrounding garden of nature, the palaces, the rise within the city wall (unimaginable heights according to the conceit of Man); the moon comes on the top—“Kontanavum polil cul kulir ma matil malikai mel vantanavum mati cer catai ma mutu kunrufaiyay” Here is the over reaching and soaring imagination of Man crowned by the moon. This imaginative art appears but a reflection of Divinity with the moon on its spreading braids of Heaven. The poet does not say so; his words suggest this idea. This is not of the weaving of our own imagination. In another place the poet makes the phenomenon of the universe standing with the moon on the crown of the Heavens, a symbol and a reflection—nay an incarnation of the inner vision of the seers and the reality of the Lord—a symbol and an incarnation on this world required for giving a firm grasp to the poorer pilgrims to the promised land. ‘You are in their eyes; there are those who think of you in their inner thought—in their heart of hearts; you enable them to see you to become an existence of this earth; so you have placed the moon (on the crown) ‘—“Kannuliray-k karuttil ummai-k karutuvarkal kanum vannam mannullray matiyam vaitfir”? Here is explained the philosophy of beauty and the theory of art representing divinity as incarnating in the images and other works of art.


As in other cases of Shiva’s feats, here also the final consummation is the dance of Grace and joy. The Lord moves or changes the modes and dances wearing Ganga and the crescent—“Piraiyum Kankaiyum cuti-p peyarntatum perumanar”.


The poetic epic of the story of moon’s redemption, the artistic representation of this form as a dance and an image—all these thus have an esoteric meaning—a revelation of Lord’s Grace, and therefore Arurar asks, ‘What is the significance of your wearing the crescent and why have you done so?’—“Pirankum cataimel pirai cutirru enne?”


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