The Religion and Philosophy of Tevaram (Thevaram)

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

This page describes “jalandharasura-murti (the conquest of jalandhara asura)” 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 3.5 - Jalandharasura-murti (the conquest of Jalandhara Asura)


Another of the eight heroic feats of Shiva is the conquest of Jalandharasura. This according to the Tamilian tradition took place at Tiruvirkuli near Thiruvarur in Tanjore District. According to Shiva purana, the fire, that emanated from Shiva’s forehead at the time of the burning of the three castles, when let into the sea, where the Indus joins the sea, rose up as a child Jalandhara, to grow up and marry a chaste woman Brnda, to conquer and plunder the Devas after knowing of their riches from the deformed Pahu and finally, misled by Narada, to demand of Shiva the surrender of Parvati herself so as to become the asura’s wife. In the fight that ensued with Shiva, the demon made Shiva absorbed in the dance and music of those whom the asura created by his magic, so absorbed, that He was unconscious of His weapons dropping down. Taking this opportunity, Jalandhara went to Shiva’s abode in the form of Shiva. Parvati could not be deceived and she took her revenge by sending Visnu to ravish Brnda, who, unable to bear the indignity, committed suicide. When Jalandhara returned to the battlefield, Shiva, recovering from the spell of music, killed the asura with Sudarsana from the sea. But according to the tradition prevalent in the Tamil land, Shiva, drew up a circle with his toe on the earth and this became the discus Sudarsana for killing the demon.

This is made clear by Tirumular:

Enkum kalantumen ullattu elukinra
Anka mutalvan arumarai yotipal
Ponkum Calantaran porceyya nirmaiyin
Anku virarkurit talicey tane”,

A challenge was thrown whether the demon could lift this wheel on to his head; the demon did lift it, whereupon it cut his body through.


According to the Agamas, Shiva resting on a pair of sandals has, in this form of Jalandhara Samharamurti, three terrific eyes but only two arms holding an umbrella on the right and water-pot on the left with a dishevelled jatabhara, adorned with the crescent moon and the Ganges; Jalandhara, with a tucked up sword, is there, with two arms in anjali pose with the Sudarsana held on them. This description of Jalandhara seems to follow the version of the Tamil country.

The next episode is the grant of this Sudarsana to Visnu. The form of God is known as Cakradana murti or Visnu anugraha murti. Visnn’s original cakra broke to pieces when he hurled it against the Rsi Dadhtci. Finding no weapon against the demons he had to fight, he prayed to Shiva for the Sudarsana, which killed Jalandhara. He was every day performing puja or worship with one thousand lotus flowers. To test his devotion, Shiva secreted one flower but Visnu, finding one missing, offered his own eye of a lotus. Is he not Pundarzkaksa? At once, gratified Shiva presented the Cakra. It is further told in Tirumantiram which deals with the story in four verses in Tantiram II, that Visnu could not bear this Cakra, whereupon Shiva divided Himself into parts and conferred on Visn part Himself.


There were two great temples in the days of Appar and Campantar where this presentation of Cakra was said to have taken place. One is Cakkarappalli which Campan tar refers to in Ksettirakkovai as, “Van cakkaram mal uraippal ati porra-k kotutta Palli”, ‘the Palli where the big discus was given when Visnu worshipped His feet’. This place is near the Aiyampettai Railway station in Tanj ore. The other place is ‘Tirumal peru’ near Conjivaram. Appar refers to this story in the first and the third verses of his first Kuruntokai on this temple Tirumarperu. Campantar also mentions Vinnu’s worship. Of course, it is not ooen to us to conclude that these Saints want us to believe that these feats were performed in the particular places; for they refer to these feats in almost all their hymns. The tradition must have grown probably, because of the first or early representation of the episode being made in stucco work before the age of stone sculptures, in the particular temples. Otherwise, it is not possible to appreciate the claim of more than one place for one and the same feat as here.

Speaking of the Gajaha murti, we referred to the tradition, that Valuvur was the place of the performance of Gajaha. Valavur is not sung by the Tevaram poets except by Appar who casually mentions it when enumerating the Virattanas. In praising Kacci Anekatankapatam, Arurar, who alone had sung about it, speaks of it at one place, as the place where the elephant was flayed. Probably on account of this, a tradition has grown, that this feat was performed in this area and people show the fields round about it being known even today as “Anaiyurittan vayal”, which may simply mean, ‘fields belonging to the Gajaha murti’ by which name God of that temple must have been familiar from early ages.


The Agamas must have framed their standard descriptions on the basis of these old stucco representations which unfortunately are not now in existence and also on the basis of the poems of Tevaram, etc. The Uttarakaranagama gives a description of the gift of the wheel. Pacific looking Shiva, with three eyes. jatamakuta surrounded by a halo and sirascakra and four arms, carrying, on the right, the drum and the wheel and on the left, the deer and the varada pose, sits with the left leg bent and the right hanging down, along with Parvati on the left and Brahma on the right, whilst Visnu with hands in anjali pose worships with lotuses and his eye. According to Sritattva nidhi, Shiva holds the axe instead of the drum and Visnu. holding conch and wheel in the back arm and keeping the other two in afijali pose, stands to the left of Shiva, in readiness to receive the boons; Shiva presents him with pitambara, Kaustubha and the Cakra along with the name Kamalaksa. It is clear that the Karanagama gives the first part of the story that of worship and Sritattva nidhi the final part, that of the gift.


There are two pictures of this worship of Visnu now available. They belong to the Rajasimha period. One is from the Kailasanatha temple at Conjivaram. It is in the 12th panel from the East end of the North side of the court of that temple. It is represented in plate XLIli fig. I. Rea describes it as follows: “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 cakra”. The head in the jatamakuta is not Brahma’s head but Ganga s. Shiva is not supported by a lotus of Visnu who is kneeling; the lotuses in his two hands are those which are offered by him in puja. With the left front arm—its fore-finger, Visnu is in the act of removing the eye-ball from its socket, for offering it as flower. Shiva’s right front arm is resting on the seat. The right back arm is raised up as though holding something probably the cakra to be presented. The left back arm is held up in vismaya pose. The right leg is hanging down and resting on a step. The left leg is crossed on the right. Parvati is on his side. There is a halo also visible. There is a photo of this, in Hindu Iconography with a slightly different description.

The other comes from the Airavatesvara Temple of Conjivaram. It apears on one of the panels on the sides of Antarala mantapam. It has to be interpreted as two panels. The lower panel represents Visnu worshiping a linga. He is in a submissive, almost in a kneeling mood. He has eight hands. The front two are in the anjali pose. One left hand is coming into contact with the linga in the course of this worship. Three on the right and one on the left are holding the lotus flowers to be offered. The other left hand is holding the plucked out eye, which looks like a lotus bud. The upper panel represents Shiva appearing before Visnu. Shiva and Parvati are seated as in the Kailasanatha temple except for the back arms which seem to have been interposed here.


Arurar does not refer to Jalandhara separately. It is in connection with the gift of the cakra that the Jalandhara story is also casually stated. There are nearly nine references to this story of the gift in his hymns. The poet mentions the Tamil word ‘Ali’ six times, and the Sanskrit word ‘Cakra” two times. It is a weapon—‘Patai’. It is a wheel beaming up with a flame—‘Cutar ali\ One may note in passing that Dubreuil has, on an examination of the sculptures of the Pallava age, shown one clue to their age, which Longhurst explains thus: “Sacred symbols such as ‘Sankha’ (conch) and ‘Cakra’ (discus) are represented in early Indian art without flames of fire issuing from their sides. In later art, these symbols are decorated with flames of fire”. In the figure of Vinnu’s worship we find in the Kailasanatha temple, the cakra is represented with flames on four sides. Perhaps the description of poets like Arurar has inspired the sculptors to translate their poetry into stone.

Coming back to the description of the discus, it is “Atal ali”— ‘murderous or victorious cakra’, full of fighting excellence—“Poru viral”.

It is in connection with the description of this discus the story of Jalandhara samhara is given, by referring to the discus as the one which killed the asura. The name Jalandhara is mentioned twice. Jalandhara was on the battle-field and the cakra hacked him into two—“Ceru mew, Calantaranai-p pilanta cutar ali”. Jalandhara was possessed of immense strength; his mouth was deep like a cavern (ready to swallow everything); this discus split his body into two parts. “Pilantaru vayinotu periturn vali mik-kutaiya Calantaran akamiru pilavakkiya cakkaram” Another event of this war is described without the name of Jalandhara being mentioned. This is a discus which is not the result of action—thus sings the poet referring to the creation by Shiva’s sankalpa. Shiva created this weapon of a discus—Pannar kariya-toru patai ati tanai-p pataittu’. How it was created is not given here but from the reference from Tirumular cited above we know Shiva created it by simply tracing a circle on the ground with his toe, which on being carried by Jalandhara, cut him in twain. There is a head with the discus on it, in one of the panels of Vaikunta Perumal temple. It is not clear whether Visnu was also considered to have fought with Jalandhara and killed him with the discus.


Arurar’s description of Visnn in this connection may be noticed. He is ‘Mal’, a word which suggests his immensity and omnipresence as Visnu, his dark colour and also his divine magic deluding all. He is ‘Net umai’, the towering tall one, suggesting the ‘Trivikrama’ form measuring the world, often represented in the sculptures of this age. He is the resplendent “Mal”—beautiful and grand—“Tikalurru malavan”. He is Hari. He is Kannan, a word said to be a corruption of the Sanskrit word Krsnn, with an underlying suggestion because of its association with the Tamil root ‘kan’, that he is the very eye and the dear one. He is the Lord of the great Lady of the Earth—Bhudevinayaka—“Nilantaru mamakal kon. He is the Lord of the Lady of wealth Sri—“Tirumakal kon” “Tiruvin Nayakan” He is the Lord of the Cakra—“Aliyan”. This shows that he had a discus already; if he wanted another the old one must have been destroyed when he fought with Dadhtci. That was why Hari wanted a new discus. Vinnu is spoken of as one great with his eyes as lotus.

Visnu’s worship is also described. The story must have developed when the Sahasranama came into vogue. God has therefore come to be called the Lord of Thousand names. The worship is described in some detail in two verses. Visnu worshipped with 1000 flowers. This was going on for many days—“Paia nal”. It was an excellent puja—“Cirappakiya pucanai.” He was offering the flowers and praising God with mantras. During one such worship he found, out of thousand flowers, one was missing. For making up the deficiency—“Kuraivan niraivaka”, he scooped out his eye “Kannitantu” and offered adorning the Lord with it. This is indeed a famous act. God was moved and pleased—“Purintu”he offered the discus he prayed for. The puranas narrate that the Lord gave the title “Kamataksa”. Arurar states that Visnu has become great with the flower of ruddy eye becoming the lotus—“Cenkan malar pankayama-c cirantan”,


This is an act of God’s Grace, a message of hope to all. Arurar says that he himself was moved and inspired by the story so much that he immediately took refuge in Shiva. It is because this story has some such mystic significance that Tirumular deals with it specifically at some length as already noted.

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: