The Religion and Philosophy of Tevaram (Thevaram)

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

This page describes “(k) symbology of kovanam” 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 - (k) Symbology of Kovanam

Kovanam” is traced to the Sanskrit word ‘Kaupinam’ by the Tamil Lexicon. Our poet uses the word very often. The word “kovanam” is interpreted as to mean ‘Vasista’ as one who is very near the ‘Go’ or ‘Kamadenu’. This form “Kovanam” is found in all the Dravidian languages and some are tempted to treat it as purely a Dravidian word. This ‘Kovanam’ is pure jnanam aspect of God, wherein the serpent of the Universe lies at rest or involuted. Therefore, this kovanam is spoken of as being pure white—“Venkovanam”. While the serpent lies at rest completely tied down, the purity of God spreads out as is implied by the poet’s reference—“Araiviri kovanattotu aravarttu”. This ‘kovanam’ or loin cloth as described as “Tunippatum utai” because it is a torn piece of cloth. He calls it in another place as stitched up cloth—“Tunna atai

In some places, in addition to the skins and the loin cloth, the Lord is said to wear silk—‘Pattu’, ‘Kocikam’ and fine cotton cloth— Tukil’. This is contrasted with ‘Patou’ here as in Nalati-yar In all these places, the poet is probably referring to the “Ardhanansvara” from where the Kovanam refers to the Shiva’s masculine half, whilst the cotton and silk refer to the Parvati’s feminine form. But it must be mentioned in passing that the Agamas in various places speak of the image of Shiva dressed in silk, skin and cotton, and the sculptures of Kailasanatha Temple seem to justify this Agamic reference. But the difficulty is about the reference, to this kovanam which cannot be visible if other clothes are used and it is this which make us suggest that the references to kovanam in Arurar’s form wherever there are descriptions of the cotton or silk cloth, one to the Ardhanarisvara form.

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