The Religion and Philosophy of Tevaram (Thevaram)

by M. A. Dorai Rangaswamy | 1958 | 181,393 words

This page describes “thirumudhukundram or tirumutukunram (hymn 25)” from the part dealing with the Pilgrim’s progress (with Paravai), which represents the development of Arurar’s Mysticism as gleaned from his hymns. The Thevaram (or Tevaram) contains devotional poems from the 7th century sung in praise of Shiva. These hymns form an important part of the Tamil tradition of Shaivism

Chapter 41 - Thirumudhukundram or Tirumutukunram (Hymn 25)

I

This hymn takes us back into the inner circle of our poet’s domestic life—a life which we have often compared with that of Janaka. According to the tradition, our poet was given gold, when he prayed to the Lord of Mudhukundram, which he was ordered to throw into the river there to be gathered from the Temple-tank at Thiruvarur after his return to Thiruvarur. It was this hymn which our poet is said to have sung for gathering the gold at Thiruvarur. As already pointed out there is nothing in this hymn itself giving any details of this miracle. This is one of the hymns in which reference is made to his wife Paravai. This is very much like the Kolili hymn (H. 20). “Arulay or Arullr atiyen ittalan-ketave” is the refrain. The pattern of the sentence in every verse is the same: the first and the second lines address the Lord, the second lines ending with the words “Mutukunru Amarntir” (1, 2, 4) or “Mutukkunram Amarntavane (3, 6, 8, 9) or “Mutukunru Amarntay” (5), “Mutukunru Utaiyay ’ (7); the third lines describe the beauty and the anxiety of Paravai; the 4th lines beg of the Lord to bless him by destroying the miseries.

(Ittalam is a Dravidian word found also in Kannada; one wonders whether it had come into Tamil due to the Kannada influence of the Hoysalas of Mysore with whom came into contact the Gan-gas and others, in the age of Arurar. ‘Itu as in ‘itukku, ‘itukkan means a narrow path—a straitened circumstance. ‘Alam means crowding or pressure. Here the poet begs of the Lord to remove his difficulties by pointing out to the distress of Paravai.

II

Paravai’s beauty is described in terms of lightning flash of her subtle waist (1), of her tresses of hair of fresh fragrance (2, 8) and full of flowers (9), of her broad eyes full of collyrium (3), of the beauty of her bosom (4), of her well shaped posterior (some will interpret it as pudendum), beautiful like the hooded serpent (5), of her fingers playing the ball (7) and of her beauty and nature befitting this world (or full of forbearance like the mother earth) (6).

His sufferings are next described. “Ah! What have you done, my Master, in the presence of this Paravai?’' pointing to her nearby (1). “She is depressed and distressed and is fading away” (2). “Let her not pine away” (3). This withering away—Vattam— is referred to in three places (2, 3, 5). In another place the phrase used is ‘Kunam kontiruntal’ (4) which must be taken to mean the same thing. (‘Kuna’ as a Tamil root in such words as ‘Kunakku’, ‘Kunalai’ and its related form ‘Kuta’, means something bent. ‘Kunam’ will then mean drooping and bending low, out of dejection of the heart or the exhaustion of the body). The poet begs of the Lord in six verses to bless and help him in her very presence (1, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9). This ‘Vattam’ must be physical and, therefore, the misery or ‘ittalam’ has to be cured by material help. Our poet speaks of the Lord giving him gold even whilst Umpar and Vanavar were standing together in front (2). (This distinction of Vanavar and Umpar is one like Devar and Amarar already noted by us. Can this be a reference to the help received by him on previous occasions?

III

This is not hankering after worldly things but relying upon the Lord for everything, after our poet’s absolute self surrender to the Lord as already referred to in our discussion of the Kolili hymn (H. 20). The Lord is to our poet every kind of relationship and, therefore, he appeals to Him for saving his wife from the straitened circumstance she was in—which he claims as his own suffering as well. The poet looks upon Paravai as the gift of God and, therefore, loves her whole heartedly, pleased with her beauty and moral grandeur. It is this that distinguishes the life of this couple of divine love from the lives of ordinary married people. Our poet addresses the Lord as the real truth of all relationship—the Master (1, 6), the Lord (2), the Father (3), the Merciful (of the eyes of beauty) (4), the Chief or Elder Brother (5), the Antanan (7) (a Brahmin but according to Tiruvalluvar ‘Aravan’ with no attachment to the world but of beautiful and cool qualities), the King (8), and the Dancer (9) in the Heart of Love, i.e., the Lover,

IV

The Puranic descriptions abound in the first two lines of every verse. To our poet begging for gold, the gold-like form of the Lord comes uppermost in his mind when he begins this hymn (1), so do the divine acts which removed the obstacles of others—the tiger’s skin (1), the destruction of the three cities (1, 5), the three eyes (3), the crescent moon (4, 10), the company of the Mother (4), the elaboration of the Vedas (4), the blue throat (5), the worship by Visnu, Brahma, sun and Indra (6) and the eighteen group of Devas (8). The memory that He blessed him once before showering gold on him inspires him to make this request (2). The Amarars come in order to bow down before Him, the Oldest of the old of all these worlds, the Unique Lord of the winkless Devas (2), begging for His Grace; and Him Arurar of Navalur of rich fields (10), the chief of the Vedic Brahmins (10), has described in this divine hymn or the king of hymns (10). He begs for Lord’s love—for the bliss of Sivaloka and not for merely gold (10) which also represents to him one form of divine love. This is made clear by the final verse which assures those who had mastered this hymn that to them Sivaloka or the sphere of the Absolute or Siva the Good, is easy of reach (10).

V

This hymn also belongs to the period of his political greatness for our poet speaks in terms of royalty describing the hymn itself as being full of kingship, i.e., the king of the hymn itself as being full of kingship, i.e., the king of hymns (10) but without, at the same time, losing his feeling of self-surrender to the Lord. However, as already stated, ‘Iraiyar patal’ may mean a divine hymn. He cries to the Lord that he has not known himself remaining without praising the Lord (9). Our poet describes the Lord in reference to this feeling of his. “He is the Supreme of the Supreme (9) showering His blessings on His Bhaktas. He is free by nature, a Mukta and yet a Bhakta” (3). Our poet calls Him a Bhakta (3)—for Bhaktas are none other than Himself. This description of the Lord as Bhakta ought to be taken along with the other description, “Saivan, Pacupatan” revealing to us the cult of the Saivite Bhaktas so dear to the heart of our poet, the author of Tiruttontattokai.

VI

The description of Mudhukundram comes in mainly as the place of the Lord, where flock all (10). In one place he refers to the drums resounding when the eighteen kinds of Devas surround Him—probably in a festival (8). There is another idea—a favourite idea of our poet, that of the holy place, assuming ‘Sarupya’, by adorning the crescent moon on its crown towers (7). “Here are gardens full of bunches of flowers surrounding and cooling the great fortress walls of the palaces, on which the crescent moon comes and stays—that very crescent moon reaching the mat-lock of yours, O, Lord of Mudhukundram!” (7).

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