The Religion and Philosophy of Tevaram (Thevaram)

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

This page describes “tiruttontattokai (hymn 39)” from the part dealing with the Pilgrim’s progress (to Arur/Thiruvarur), which represents the development of Arurar’s Mysticism as gleaned from his hymns. 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 7 - Tiruttontattokai (Hymn 39)


The next hymn which Nampi Arurar sings whilst living with Paravaiyar at Thiruvarur is the famous Thiruthondathogai which we have discussed at length at another place.


Certain ideals portrayed in this hymn may be generalized on the basis of the descriptive terms used with reference to the saints enumerated herein. Residence in a particular place itself becomes a glorious life as is made clear by the phrase ‘Thillaival Antanar’.


Refusing to say ‘No’ when a request is made is the greatest ideal of the Tamilians since the Cankam age, and Nampi Arurar realizes that this is the message of some of the lives of the Shaiva saints, and he, therefore, glorifies this kind of munificence; “Illaiye ennata lyarpakai” (1) “Vallal Manakkancaran” (2), “Clrkonta pukalvallal Cirappuli” (6), “Karkonta Kotai Kazharitrarivar” (6).


True to the ancient Indian conception of Mahivira, Arurar speaks of the path of the Shaivite saints as the path of victory. “Velluma mika valla Meypporul” (1) and perhaps the lives of some of the heroes must have appeared glorious to his eyes from this point of view of self-sacrifice and patronage. The victory here is born of self-conquest as is made clear by the description of “Ninracir Netumaran” (8), as “Niraikkonta cintaiyal Nelveli venra Ninracir Netumaran” (8).


Sovereignty is a symbol of divinity as explained by us in another place. It is not a symbol of the power of inflicting punishment. It is that peculiar form of Grace which protects its subjects. It is this idea he emphasizes when he speaks of his contemporary ruler as ‘IJlakelam kdkkinra peruman” (9). We have already brought out the special significance of Tamil and Southern cultures which are the very forms of Shiva; and to rule as the very embodiment of this culture appears to Nampi Arurar as the greatest glory, for instance of that great saint Tennavanayulakanta Cenkanar” (11). This conception of Shaivite rulership is further elaborated in the phrase “Mummaiyal Ulakanta Murti”, the three being Vibhuti, Rudraksa and l ata, symbolizing the divine purity, love and renunciation or Tyaga. The conception of tyaga or renunciation is made clear by the very name Aiyatikal.


But it is not a negative philosophy, not a mere running away from the world that Shaivism preached to Nampi Arurar. The world is beautiful, with its rich growth of nature, which are all but the various playful forms of the Lord. As Appar sings, ‘the Lord has no form other than that of Umai, the embodiment of the Grace and the whole world is but His dress’—“Umaiyala-turuvam illai, Ulakalatu utaiyatillai” and also “Tanalatulakam illai”,

There are the ever-expanding groves—“Viripolil cul kunrai” (1); the waters with the ripples—“Alaimalinta punal” (2); ever resounding with the praise of the Lord—“Olipunal” (4); the city surrounded by the sea—“Katarkali” (6). The coral on the shore drives out the darkness in the old Mylapore of Vayilan—“Turaikkonta cempavalam irulakanrum cotit ton Mayilai Vayilan”.

This is merely the message of Nanacampantar’s poems and in describing the Lord, Nampi Arurar experiences Him as the Lord of the flower konrai full of honey and sweet fragrance where the bee hums—“Vampara varivantu mananara malarum matu malar narkonraiyan” (5). Not only is the world the incarnation of His

Grace but the enjoyment of the things of Nature is the very communion with God. That is the message of the life of Nampi Arurar. He describes the saints as being adorned with flowers, and other ornaments from this point of view: “Allimel mullai am tar Amarniti” (1); “Arkonta ver kurran” (6); “Matalculnta tar Nampi Itankali (9); Varivalaiyal Mani (11).


Truth and sincerity are the other characteristics of the saints which appeal to Nampi Arurar—“Meymmaiye tirumeni valipata nirka” (3); “Poyyafimai yillata pulavar” (7); “Meyyatiyan (7)—are some of his descriptions of the saints. This upright path is the path where stands firm the Grace of the Lord and it is this path that, according to Nampi Arurar, Appar followed: “Thirunindra cemmaiye cemmaiyak konta Tirunavukkaraiyan” (4). Scholarship and art shine only when they take the form of truth and sincerity. The glory of art and knowledge lies in divine realization. Even illiterate Kannappar could be the greatest artist because of his spiritual realization. Art thus becomes a mode of divine life; it is the art of life. Even the blind can be blessed with this ideal and divine life—“Nattamiku Tanti” (5), where one does not forget the feet of the Lord: “Maravatu kallerinta Cakkiyarkkum atiyen” (6). This life of self-surrender is important. No other protection is needed; it is the greatest armour—“Karaikkantan kalalatiye kappukkontirunta (8). But that does not prevent the knowledge of the Vedas—“Marai Navan (11). Rudra hymn of the Veda is important as is made clear by the name “Rudrapasupati”. Honour and love are equally important as is made clear by the names “Mani (11) and “Necan” (11).


The life of service is another characteristic feature of the Shaivite saints—“Meyyatiyan (7)—they are all humility. Acting according to the divine intuition or ideal is another mark of saints, viz., “Tirukkuripputtontar” (3). They may assume any form and be in any walk of life, king, minister, hunter, shepherd, Buddhist or leader like Campantar or mystic like Tirumular or wanderer about the world as no more than a ghost or pey. It is the inner vision and realization that are important. They become one with the Lord and every one of their acts is inspired like the inner reality. They have no prejudice or passion and what appears to our limited vision as acts of sin become dear to the Lord or the Universal Consciousness as acts of love and He, out of love, swallows as nectar what out of fear we look upon as poison and sin.


There is a note of intimacy in the last verse where our poet calls Hara as “My own” (11). He calls himself the loving son of Cataiyan and Icainani, the ruler of Navalur (11). This hymn represents this kind of slavery and service unto the Lord’s followers. Those will be happy, who, at listening to this description of service—our poet is sure—will become the lovers of the Lord of Arurar.

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