The Religion and Philosophy of Tevaram (Thevaram)

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

This page describes “thirukkolili or tirukkolili (hymn 20)” from the part dealing with the Pilgrim’s progress (to Chola/Cola), 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 8 - Thirukkolili or Tirukkolili (Hymn 20)


After Arurar had sung the Thiruthondathogai hymn where he fell at the feet of the servants of the servants of the Lord, according to Cekkilar, Nampi Arurar sings the Thirukkolili hymn, where he begs the Lord to give him some labourers for transporting the paddy he received at Thirukkolili to the house of Paravai at Thiruvarur. This juxtaposition brings out clearly Arurar’s realization of divinity of labour.

The story speaks of a mountain of paddy. Nampi Arurar himself speaks of only ‘cila nel” (1, 3, 4, 6, 8)—a small quantity of paddy. But this is only a modest way of referring to the gift. If it was a very small quantity there was no necessity for any labourer at all.

Arurar’s complete self-surrender to the Lord is seen in this hymn. Except unto the Lord, he does not turn to any one else for anything which he wants. He makes this appeal from a universal point of view; for he addresses the Lord as one who has become the whole universe as beyond the reach of even the Devas (9). If the Lord has become the universe the suffering of every individual including that of Arurar and Paravai is the suffering of the Lord. But it is curious that the poet does not whisper a word of his own suffering or his want.


He refers to Paravai, the damsel of the sword-like eye and to her fatigued, famished and starving condition: “Vati varuntame”—(1); “Paci varuttam”—(6); “Vatukinral”—(8); “Varuttam”—(3). It is not clear whether the sorrowful feelings of Paravai are purely one of her own hunger; for though in one place he refers to hunger, this reference, in other places, to her plight, must be something more than her individual need. It must be the wants of her household consisting a number of Nampi Arurar’s followers or of those whom she as a housewife has to feed when approached. It is because of this that Arurar has to transport an appreciable quantity of paddy with the help of labourers. This explains the great Tamilian conception that the duty of running the household is that of the lady of the house, ‘illal’, a word for which there is no corresponding word in the masculine gender. If it is the feeding of his own retinue of followers or those who resort to his house, one can understand Arurar making this universal appeal to the Lord.

Reference to Paravai brings to Arurar s mind the mythological description of the Lord.' If Arurar is wedded to Paravai, the Lord is wedded to Umai and therefore ought to know the sufferings of women (6). (According to one reading it is Watar Nallar’ whilst according to another reading it is ‘Malar Nallal’ (3). According to the latter reading Paravai alone is referred to. Apparently the former reading is merely a general statement about the sufferings of women. Because in other verses he refers only to Paravai, it is better to take it in the latter sense). What more, one wife occupies a part of His body, while the other He places inside His matted hair (3). Not only that. The Lord goes a-begging (5) and, therefore, must know the pangs of hunger. Subconsciously, the thought, that he was after all making a request on behalf of his own wife whilst renunciation is praised as a higher ideal, must have been working in his mind and inspiring another thought that the wedded life was equally divine. This makes him explain: “What have I to say about you? Has anyone raised any commotion about you when you embraced Uma and placed her on your left?” (4). Therefore, he feels that married life is, according to divine dispensation, a faithful reflection of divinity representing the combination of knowledge and love, law and Grace.


He refers to two other mythological stories, the story of Tripuradahana (2) and the crushing of Ravana (8), stories which not only point out that the Lord removes obstructions but takes pity on these very obstructionists themselves, converting them at the end to become recipients of divine blessing. Perhaps these suggest his request to God to remove the obstructions to a smooth sailing domestic life. In addition to his belief, that these obstructions are failures, he takes them as many stepping stones to divine blessing.


His mind is captivated by the natural beauty of Thirukkolili in the midst of rich pastural tracts (4), (5), (10), surrounded by paddy fields, full of crystal clear water (2, 9) wafted into ripples. He is equally impressed with the art of man who has built palatial buildings looking as though made of pure gold (7). This is the place of the temple where he begs the Lord to take pity (8) on him and to show his love (7). He is also impressed with the beauty of the place Kuntaiyur where he has received the paddy, a place surrounded by gardens of spotless beauty (3) full of doll-like kurava flowers (6), where the monkeys jump and play (8) in the midst of a beautiful pastoral tract (4).


He assures the Lord that he worships and praises Him every day contemplating on Him for a long time and that he always thinks of Him and none else (1). Therefore, this hymn ought not to be looked upon as a private and selfish request for paddy, but as a hymn of self-surrender to the Lord who is the beginning of everything—‘Atil/e’ (3) and the most wonderful principle—‘Arputan’ (3) which has become this universe Antamat ay avane’ (2) the innermost principle which sustains the universe, relying on which principle, our poet prays for every one of our needs, even as the Christians pray, “Give us our daily bread”, a prayer offered not only by the beggar but also by the Emperor. It is because this hymn is made from this universal point of view, realizing the truth and the power of the inner principle, that Nampi Arurar concludes his last verse that those who master this hymn will remove the miseries of the world and rule the world (10)—“Allal kalaintula-kin Antar Vanulakalpavare’ (10). (There are two readings—Antarvan and Antavan.).

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