The Religion and Philosophy of Tevaram (Thevaram)

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

This page describes “thirumudhukundram or tirumutukunram (hymn 43)” from the part dealing with the Pilgrim’s progress (to Chola/Cola, later?), 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 32 - Thirumudhukundram or Tirumutukunram (Hymn 43)


The poet’s heart sent the cry for God’s help in the Karkudi hymn and the hymns that followed. His confidence that God will save us all, had been well expressed. But how long are we to wait for His Grace though it is sure to come one day or other? “What, if some of the followers die here with their hearts melting in love for you?—they who lie in suspense hoping for your loving response and saving blessings, confidently asserting, “Your blessings will come to day; they will come tomorrow”. “My Lord, if they die, pray, tell me what is to be done thereafter? For, at the time of their death, they will feel keenly their disappointment, though your blessings may come in their future birth” (1). “You are the Lord going about begging for the souls for blessing them all, going a-begging to their very doors” (3, 7, 8, 9). This idea seems to be behind the back of the poet’s mind and he exclaims, “If you are going about showering your blessings on all, will an iota of it showered on these followers living in the hope of receiving your blessings, upset any scheme of yours? Is the quiver going to tear, if cotton is put in (as the proverb goes)? (1). Therefore, order your blessings”. The idea seems to be that God is going about, begging for the souls, of all and sunary, whilst those who offer Him their all, are about to die in disappointment (1). In that way the whole hymn becomes a Bhikshatana hymn. The reference to this Bhikshatana form is clear in all the verses except 1 and 4, where the idea of the Bhikshatana continues to be in the background as explained above. In the 4th verse, the poet sings, “You know no fatigue. (You wander at the doors of all without caring for those who are almost dying for you). What is there to be done in the future birth for those who praise you herein, in this birth? You must know this, you who had destroyed the life of the cruel Lord of Death, the Lord who had not known the consequences following from his act. (You had not tarried a minute longer than what was necessary in saving Markandeya. Why then procrastinate in helping these followers?)” (4).

In all the other verses, the references to Bhikshatana form are direct. They look like the speeches of the beloved, feeling for the Lord going a-begging. “If you go wandering in all these villages will not they suffer—these rosy feet of yours like the golden lotus blossoming in the tank (2). (Eri is the tank or reservoir which feeds the fields. Therefore, the tank full of water inspires the people lying north of the Cola territory with hope and happiness, which is almost divine and, therefore, Appar describes Shiva as Eri niraintanaiya celvan” All these suggestions are implied in the descriptions of our poet also. “But You go about wandering, whilst your tontars or servants stand singing and the denizens of heaven remain praising you. Is it fit and proper for you that you should go about thus begging from olden times?” (3).

“(Why do you beg? Your followers are almost dying and get nothing of it). Are all these things, which you had amassed, by singing, moving and dancing, along with your atiyars at every door, for your consort L7mh?” (5). “Is it fair that you should dance in the graveyard with your ears of ear-rings dashing against each other, in the company of the Damsel of subtle waist?” (6). “Is this a life worth living, life of going about begging for alms in the common yard of these women, whilst the cruel dogs bark when you go to their houses?” (7). “Is it fair that you and your atiyars roaming about in the dusk at the cross-ways, should go for alms to every door?” (8). “Your Beloved, cooks for distributing in every village and is it fair that you should stand at every door for the paltry alms?” (9). “What will others say, if you wander about on all sides and receive the alms, pray, accept alms only from those who offer it in love” (10). Probably the poet is referring to the followers living in the hope of getting blessings from the Lord.


The poet here does not tell us that he is singing the dramatic speech of the damsels in love of the Lord as he had done in Thiruppainjeeli hymn. He calls this hymn the babblings of the mad slave of the Lord, referring to himself (11). Therefore, he is not conscious in singing this hymn of the distinction between himself and the damsels. He becomes so identified with the beloved and speaks as the beloved. Are not the words of lovers sometimes called babblings? “The great philosophers and mystics who know no confusion and those of whatever kind of tapas they may be performing, if they praise the Lord of Mutukunru with this hymn they will experience the feeling of love of the beloved and they will become devoid of all their miseries and obstructions” (11). This is the assurance which the poet gives us who read this hymn,


The holy place inspires us with the memory of the story of Bhikshatana. The wild elephant there gets into the kheda, set up for catching it. It is surrounded on all sides by the hunters. Starved, it cries in physical agony. The strong elephant, as a last effort, shakes off its laziness and roars, a roar which always resounds all through Mutukunru (2). The place is surrounded by the cruel people, the swordsmen and the bowmen keeping watch whilst the commotion of the sacrifice performed with the hands of munificence resound without ceasing all through Mutukunru (3). The palaces surrounded by fortress walls, the towers, the beautiful mantapas and the groves, over which creep the clouds which completely cover it up, surround this holy place of Mutukunru (5). In the high peaks where grow the clouds, the must elephants roar, the yali or lion residing in the caves also roars (as if in return). This sound of roars never ceases in Mutukunru (6). In the mountains, the lion kills and carries away the male elephant, whilst the female elephant pines in grief in the front yard of the houses of the mountain women (7). The she-monkey goes in search of fruits fit for eating for its he-monkey, worshipping first in that quest on the mountain slope, the feet of the Lord; and the mountain stands up, in all its glory before this loving monkey (8), even as the mountain does before the crowded followers falling at His feet. On all sides, its waves heave up and overflow—dashing against the banks, thus, the river Muttaru (river of pearls) kisses circumambulating the mountain (10).

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