The Religion and Philosophy of Tevaram (Thevaram)

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

This page describes “the various sects of shaivism” 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

The various sects of Shaivism

[Note: for the context of this text, see chapter 3.8 section V]

The terms Pasupatas, Kapalikas, Kalamukhas and Mahavratas occur as names of various sects.


It is only from the old commentaries we learn anything about these sects. Saivas, Pasupatas, Karunika siddhantins and Kapalikas are mentioned by the commentaries of Sankara. Vacaspati mentions the Karunika siddhantins; Ramanuja mentions the Kalamukhas in the place of Karunika siddhantins; Vayavya samhita mentions Siddhanta margins in the place of Shaivites and Mahavratas in the place of Kalamukhas.


The Pasupata cult is adumbrated in the Mahabharata epic itself. Patanjali mentions the Sivabhagavatas. Wild aspects of God were sometimes prominently emphasized. Their seclusion in the burning ghat and their pretension to be mad, wearing skull etc., must have further emphasized these aspects by some of the followers. They were probably opposed to animal sacrifice and believed in bodily mortification as leading to spiritual development. Tantric aberrations must have clouded their principles, when all castes were admitted into their fold. They had their converts and these are in existence in Nepal.

Lakulisa, before the second century, must have referred and reorganized this sect giving it a philosophical basis of the five topics:

  1. The Effect in the peculiar sense of the Dependent,
  2. The Cause (God and Pradhana or sources of the Universe),
  3. Yoga,
  4. Vidhi (Primary vidhis or vows like besmearing with the ashes, producing the sound hum, laughing, singing, dancing, producing the sound hudu like a bull, falling down and inaudible muttering of mantras), and
  5. Duhkhanta or total destruction of misery.

The important characteristic here is the vidhi. The means of attaining the Duhkhanta are appearing to be sleeping when awake; shaking of the limbs as if paralyzed; walking on legs as though disabled, amorous gestures, doing things condemned by all as though devoid of discrimination and nonsensical talk—all intended to show that one is mad thus to scare away the crowd. Karaikkal Ammaiyar and Pey Alvar called themselves ‘Pey’. Kulasekhara sings: “I am a ‘pey’ to all and all are ‘peys’ unto me”. It is this which gives the significance of jnani to the words ‘pittani and ‘peyan’. The degenerations start when without the internal enlightenment, followers emphasize the outward show alone. Buna describes the Pasupatas as wearing the red clothes. Hieun Tsang mentions Pasupatas at least 12 times. Nagavardhan, the nephew of Puli-kesin, made provision for Kapalesvaras and the Mahavratas living in the temple. According to Ramanuja, Kapalikas believe that one attains the highest bliss on knowing, by concentrating on the soul seated in the female organ, the essence of six mudras (necklace ornament, ear ornament, crest jewel, ashes and yajnopavita through eating food in a skull, besmearing the body with the ashes of the dead body, eating the ashes, holding a club, keeping a pot of wine and worshipping God as seated therein). They wore bracelets of Rudraksa, matted hair, skull and besmeared the body with ashes. In the Sankara digvijaya, the Kapalika carries an iron trident. Srisaila is mentioned by Bhavabhuti as a rendezvous of the IcapdH-kas, where a woman wearing a garland of human skulls carries away males for being sacrificed. It has not been very popular in the Tamil Country. But the Tamil Country knew human sacrifices as early as Cilappatikaram. Mahendravarman refers to kapalikas. kalamukhas and pasupatas.

Lakulisa calls all dependent things karyas. Divine dispensation—free to act irrespective of Karma Yoga or union of soul with God is achieved by japa and dhyana and other such satkarmas and strict control of senses. Prabodha canarodaya gives a ghastly description of their rites in the mouth of a kapalika.


Mahendravarman differentiates between the Pasupatas and Kapalikas. Appar speaks of Shaivites, Pasupatas, Kapalikas, as “Vittaka ventalaimalai viratikal’. Shaivites and Shaiva siddhantins are those who did not indulge in these out of the way practices but believed like Appar, Campantar and Arurar in Cary a, Kriya, Yoga, and Jnana paths of Agamas and Tirumantiram. The kapalikas lived inside the temple of Ekamranathar in Conjivaram as mentioned by Mahendravarman. The Mylapore temple was known after the kapalikas as Kapallccuram. Somasiddhanta is their philosophy. Thiruvottiyur inscription speaks of this. Mr. K. A. Nilakanta Sastri thinks that Sornasiddhanta, bridges the gulf between the Pasupatas and the Kapalikas. The Kalamukhas, a subsect of Pasupatas, are Lakulisapasupatins. Lakulisa is said to have been born at Kayarohana and their temples, therefore, were called Kayarohanas or Karohanas, as sacred as the birth place of Lakulisa, an avatar of Shiva. This word Kayarohanam becomes Karonam in Tamil. Temples known as Karonam—Nakaikkaro-nam, Kutantaikkaronam and Kaccikkaranam—must have been the temples of the Kalamukhas. More of their mutts grew up at Kotumpalur, Alakkdyil, Valamculi, Pantanainallur and Tiruvomyur.


When Shiva is said to have followed the Kapala vrata, Pasupata vrata or Maha vrata. some sects must have thought that they must follow the same ritual. The besmearing of the ashes is called Pasupata vrata in the Atharva Sira Upanisad. But Arurar speaks of God only as “Ma viratatta kankalan”, for the poet’s way of worship is different from those followed by these terrific sects of the North. The Tevaram considers Shaivism as a federation of sects.

Mr. Gopinatha Rao says, “The Sivagamas inform us that the Shaivites worship Shiva in the aspect of Tandavabhusana, the Pasupatas Shiva smeared with ashes and wearing jatamakuta, the Mahavratis Shiva wearing a garland of bones, the Kalamukhas Shiva wearing sphatika and putradipa beads, the Vamacarins Shiva wearing the sacred thread and carrying fire, and the Bhairavas Shiva carrying damaru and wearing anklets”. According to this statement, the Tamil Country looks upon these episodes of Shiva’s heroic acts as so many mystic dances of Shiva. References had been made to the Kapala dance of Shiva with Kapala in His hand whilst Parvati kept time.

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