The Religion and Philosophy of Tevaram (Thevaram)

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

This page describes “(e) symbology of malu (the axe)” 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 4.6 - (e) Symbology of Malu (the axe)

There are 30 references to ‘Malu’ or the axe in Arurar. The Rsis sent also the battle-axe born of the Sacrifice, against Shiva which he caught and held for ever in His right hand. Arurar refers to this as well. He sings, “Maluval valan enti” —‘Thou art the bearer of the axe in your right hand’. This ‘Entl’ or holder of axe or holding the axe is used often. The poet speaks of the Lord as the ‘Man of the battle axe’—‘Maluvan’; “Maluvalar”; “Maluvalinan”; “Maluppataiyan” y “Maluvatpatai mali kaiyan” and addresses Him, ‘Thou of the axe’, or ‘He is possessed of it’.

The description of the Main is important. In later days in the fire ordeal, the sharp battle axe was put in the fire and taken out red hot to be caught with its sharp edge inside the palm of the persons undergoing the ordeal when, if he is not guilty it will neither cut nor burn the palm. On account of this ordeal “Mala ental” or “Mala etuttal” has come to signify the red hot-fire. But as is revealed by the sculptures of Arurar’s age the ‘Mala’ is an axe different from the fire shown in the form of a flame or a torch. Arurar also differentiates the fire from the axe or ‘Mala’ for he speaks of God thus: ‘He holds the mala and has the fire in one hand’—“Ma maluventi dr kaiyil anal utaiyar” ™ Perhaps the ordeal by fire is also hinted here—“Nilamutai man mari kaiyatu teyvak kanal utai mamalu” —‘the great battle axe possessed of divine fire contrasted with the deer belonging to this earth whereon it has the frisk’; “Kanal mala”; “Maluvinotu ankait tl ukappar”—‘The Lord is fond of the fire on his palm along with the battle axe’—“Mariyum eriyum maluvum utaiyan”—‘He is the Lord of the deer, the fire and the axe’—these are some other references. In another verse where the poet enumerates Shiva’s characteristics he speaks of the ‘mala’ and the fire. The mala is sharpened and polished; therefore, it is white: “Ven mala”. The cruel sharp glistening edge may be said to vomit fire as a poetic conceit. Hence the battle-axe may be spoken of as fiery—“Kanalutai ma malu\ “Kanal malu”.

There is a cryptic description in hymn 10, verse 4. One thing is clear that the ‘mala’ in the palm is like the fire: “Canku kulaic cevi kontu aruvit tiral pay aviyat talal polutait tam ankai malu”—‘There is the ear-ring of conch near the hand. It sheds white flood of its lustre which looks like a cataract or waterfall’. Then the reading is not clear: “Pay aviyat talal polutai....mala”—‘The cataract flows; this flow does not put out the fire; like such a fire is the axe’. There is another reading: “Paya viyarttu dial polutai.... mala”—‘When the cataract rushed down, the malu perspired in rage at this and blazed up like a fire’. It may suggest any of these meanings.

It shines and glistens—“Cutar ven malu”. It is a cruel mala —“Kotu malu”. ‘Kotu’ may refer to the curved form of its sharp edge as may be seen from the sculptures of the Kailasanatha Temple. The poet speaks of the Lord as “Kotu malu virakinan” — ‘the Lord who is enthusiastic over His curved or cruel axe or the Lord who is an adept in the tactful use of the axe’. The curved form is its standard form; therefore, it adds to its shape and beauty —“Vativutai malu”. Its edge is very sharp—“Kur nunai malu”. In “Muliru ilanku malu”, ‘muliru’ means being sharp like a thorn, from ‘muli and ‘muli’ with the suffix ‘ru’ as in ‘akinru’. This is the peculiarity of the age of Arurar. Leaving off this digression we find that the poet states that the edge of the mala is then like a leaf—“Ilai malinta malu”. It may be like the leaf but it is firm and adament—“Tin malu”. Apart from the beauty of the shape, there is the beauty of its function. It cuts in twain in the twinkling of an eye. The division is the beauty of this curved axe—“Kurani kotu malu” This axe is not the axe of the wood-cutter—an instrument of livelihood; it is a weapon of war—“Patai”. Among the weapons of war it belongs to the cutting weapons of the sword variety and hence it is called “Malu val” and “Malu vatapatai” ‘It is the conquering axe’—“Vellum ven malu”. To the iron part of the axe is attached a handle of a stick and the poet refers to this: “Tanter malup pataiyan —‘The Lord of the weapon of a battle axe beautified by its handle of a stick’.

With the same warning that we gave with reference to the study of the deer, we shall try to find out in combination with what all forms of the Lord, the ‘malu’ is mentioned. It is found mentioned in juxtaposition to what may be taken to be a reference to the forms of “Umasahita” “Candra sekhara”, “Visapaharana”, “Kapali”, “Ardhanari” “Daksari’ “Gajari”, “Ekamranatha”, “Tripurantaka”, “Vrsabharuda”, “Gangadhara”, “Pasupatavrata” “Nrtta murti”, “Kalari” “Sankara narayana” “Bhikshatana or inner vision of the poet.

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