The Religion and Philosophy of Tevaram (Thevaram)

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

This page describes “andhakasura-murti (conquest of andhaka 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 3.7 - Andhakasura-murti (conquest of Andhaka Asura)


Yama is called Antaka, one who brings about the end but there is an Asura Andhaka conquered by Shiva, according to Tamil tradition at Tirukkovalur, in the South Arcot District, once the capital of the Malay anum kings and of Ceti Nani of Meypporul Nayanar, which is referred to as a Virattana or a place of heroic feat by both Appar and Campantar. But the word Andhaka is written in Tamil as Antakan. Therefore, as to the two references where Arurar speaks of “Cerutfir alar culattil Antakanai” and “Irul mevum Antakanmel tiriculam paycci”, one cannot easily decide whether the poet is referring to Yama or Andhakasura.


Andh’ plus ‘ka’ makes Andhaka; it means one who is blind. It is the name of an asura, son of Kasyapa and Diti. He is represented as a demon with 1000 arms and heads, 2000 eyes and feet. He was called Andhaka, because, he walked like a blind man though he could see very well. He was slain by Shiva when he attempted to carry off the ‘Parijata’ tree from heaven. According to Matsya Purana, he was about to be killed bv Shiva for having attempted to carry off Parvati. The Uvadesa Kandam in Tamil—a part of the Maha Skanda Purana—makes him win blessings from Shiva after severe austerities. He went about harassing the Devas and when they fell at his feet he ordered them to assume female forms, wear ladies’ garments and to depart in safety. This reminds us of the tradition in Tamil land where the heroes, to insult their enemies, made figures of them in womanly form, carrying ball and other womanly toys, and raised them up along with the flag of their kings.

The Devas departed to Mount Kailas, but in spite of his promise Andhaka pursued them there. Shiva sent Bhairava. The trident ran through his body and he was held up whilst the blood dripped into the cup of skull held by Bhairava. After thousands of years, at his importunity and humble supplication, his body was lowered; he was made a gana.

Andhakasura samhara form, never became popular in Tamil Land, though the first act of Shiva’s heroism mentioned by Tirumular is this Andhaka Samhara. The UpadesaKandam confuses Andhakari Murti with Bhairava Murti. According to the conception of ‘Asta Virattanavnk the heroic acts are those of Shiva and not of Bhairava or Virabhadra. No sculpture of Andhakasura Samhara comes from the Tamil Country. Nor, is there any description of it in the Agamas. But sculptures from the cave temples of Bombay explain the form. Hindu Iconography illustrates this and explains: “Shiva has eight arms in two of which he carries a trisula at the end of which is pinned the body of Andhakasura and from it blood drips down. Shiva himself bears the Kapala to collect the blood. On the left, squats on the ground, Kali, carrying a dagger and skull-cup to collect the blood with a dakini, half human, half bird, sitting on her head. Devi is seated on Padmasana on the left of Kali”?

The portion underlined may explain the references in Arurar. Though the trisula is found in the hands of Kalari Murti, his heroic act is that of his leg whereas in the references under discussion, the heroic act is spoken of as the trident’s. ‘Paycci’ brings out the conception of pinning. The trisula is fiery. Andhaka is dark. Therefore, one is correct in interpreting these references as speaking of Andhakasura.


As already stated, Tirumular mentions this Andhaka Samhara first in his enumeration of the heroic deeds of Shiva:

Karutturari antakan tanpol acuran
Varattin ulakat tuyirkalai ellam
Varuttancey tan enru vanavar ventak
Kuruttuyar culankaik kontukon rane!

“The Asura, who moved like a blind man full of the pride of his imagination in which he dwelt, teased and harassed the living beings of the world, thanks to the power conferred by divine blessings; Devas complained to Shiva and prayed for his removal. The Lord took up the trident, going up like a tender shoot and killed him”

—a generalized story of the suicidal policy of all who became blind with pride and power.

Shiva’s destruction always ends in abounding Grace. In this story also Andhaka is said to have become a gana. What is more important is the story given in the Vamana Purana, where Bhrngin was the name conferred by Shiva on Andhaka after this demon had proved himself to be a staunch devotee of Shiva. Bhrngin represented with an emaciated body holding a staff and a rosary, with a third leg, to support the body and with eyes always directed towards Shiva. An image of this Bhrngin with three arms and legs was set up in the Tanjore temple by a subordinate of Raja Raja I.

There is a terrific form with 12 hands on the 18th panel on the south side of the court in the Kailasanatha temple. The person sitting with anjali may be Andhaka after he was accepted by Shiva.

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