The Religion and Philosophy of Tevaram (Thevaram)

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

This page describes “thiruvalampuram or tiruvalampuram (hymn 72)” 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 46 - Thiruvalampuram or Tiruvalampuram (Hymn 72)

I

In this hymn (i), the holy place of natural beauty reminding one of God’s Grace and greatness, (ii), the subjective experience of the poet and (m) the puranic descriptions as objectifying his personal experience become unified and the joy of this harmony may be heard in the trot-like movement of these kali verses almost echoing the natural and rhythmic movements of falling fruits and the waves of the sea, the rhythmic activities of the Lord of the Puranas and the rhythmic beating of the joyful heart of the poet. The rhythmic song of this hymn makes Cekkilar describe this as ‘Urai ocai-t tiruppatikam’. The importance of Temple as the reservoir or fountain of divine love has been pointed out. This hymn starts with all this in mind.

II

In the previous hymn the poet waking up in this world, affirmed that no one of this world could be relied for as help. In this hymn, the idea of the temple in which is enshrined the incarnation of the Lord as the beauty of the idol comes to his mind and he cries in joy, “Why a human companion for help! He is this piece of earth. Even an iota of this earth is enough—I have found and realized herein a refuge for me—me, who has been in search of an earthly companion and support ‘in this place of the Lord (1), my Master (Atikal—3, 8)”. “This Valampuram, is His place; the place of One who is the One great light for all the eight points of the compass (10)”. Our poet must have experienced this in his universal vision. “He is sweet to me. He is sweet to His (our?) people. Ah! He has been sweet to our mind all through the sevenfold births” (1).

“His place—the place of the Lord of these qualities and activities—is Valampuram”—this is the pattern of this hymn. Every verse ends in these words, “Itam Valampurame” (with the sudden implied suggestion of an oxymoron, for ‘itam’ in addition to its meaning here, ‘place’, also means ‘left’, whilst the word ‘valam’ in the phrase ‘Valarripuram’ means right. The three half lines pile up its descriptions or activities of the Lord.

III

The descriptions of the puranic stories are epitomized forcibly in the swift moving short but telling phrases. The burning of the three cities (2), the garment of tree bark (2), the tiger skin (2), the skin of the vanquished Nara (Narasimha or Trivikrama) or the skin of the serpent (2), the beggar at every door (2), the Fire dance (2), the sacred ash (3), the fiery serpent (3), the strategy (5), the battle axe (5), the river bedecked mat-lock (3), the bull (8), the bull flag (3), the mountain bow (5), the elephant skin (6), the dance hall of the graveyard (7), the songs of dance (7), the company of the Mother (7) and the begging bowl of a skull (8)—are all referred to.

IV (a)

As expressed in the opening line itself, our poet who has been speaking of the feet of the Lord as his refuge, here speaks of this holy place—an iota of its good earth—as the future refuge; he speaks with the joy of a great discovery (1). This hymn, therefore, is a hymn on Valampuram which becomes identified with the Lord. That is why the poet refers to the hymn in its last verse as his words on Valampuram, referring to himself before that great refuge, as Vanrontan, Uran of the rare Tamil, of the precious community. This community has to be interpreted as referring to the community of Saivite followers. That is how Vaisnavite commentators interpret the words, ‘Kulam tarum’ used by Tirumanarti Alvar of the Pallava Age; this interpretation is based on the words of Periyalvar who speaks specifically of the Tontakkulam, the community of Bhaktas and the servants of the Lord.

IV (b)

This community, enjoys repeating times without number, the glories of God a repetition which appears to others as mad babbling—‘pitarral’ (11). Our poet in relation to the difficulty he felt in becoming a member of this community describes it as ‘Arunkulam’ (11), the rare or precious community. But when he sees the greatness of this group ever increasing in number and saving innumerable people of the world he describes it as Perunkulam (11), or the Great Community. It is their greatness to recite this hymn to rave interminably and unconsciously in the delirium of divine love. (This is according to the reading ‘Perunkulattavar kotu pitarral’. The other reading is ‘Perunkulattava-rotu pitamral’ (11) when the meaning will be, “It is one’s greatness to recite this along with the great community of Bhaktas”).

IV (c)

Coming to speak of this ‘Tontakkulam’ as ‘Perunkulam’ and ‘Arunkulam’, he describes the other community of the wordly people, who amass wealth and perform all charities and occupy this holy place as the sons born of the great community of the black sea, Perunkuti Vanikar as they are called, protecting and rearing, as such children of the sea, the ships coming laden with the wealth of foreign countries. These are the traders who enrich the place where Devas reside (4) in search of God. This reminds one of the light house of ancient times—a light on the beach for showing the ships that the shore is nearby; the Lord is, therefore, described as the light for all eight points of the compass (10).

IV (d)

This place is on the beach—it must have been much nearer the sea than it is today. These waves come in rows in turn, one after the other—a kind of group dance competition (4). The waves of the wide expanse of sea dash against the place—reminding us of the stroke of the Lord’s Grace. The sandy dunes forming a bank as it were, is giving way (itikarai—9). These waves carry as a great burden the gems, pearls and corals and throw on the sandy dunes on the beach (5). The sandy expanse reminds us of the dance hall of graveyard with palmyra fruit falling down as though it were a drum placed so as to keep time with the dance (1). The waves dash rhythmically and perhaps with the same rhythm fall the fruits of curved but cool cocoanut and palmyra plants, where hum the bees to feast on their fragrant honeyed juice (4). The palmyra fruits fall almost on the sea on the beach where this Valampuram is (1). The poet is catching the rhythm and expressing it in his verse as ‘catacata’ (9). It is not a mere sandy desert; it is full of paddy fields surrounded and beautified by gardens inviting the very waves—a beautiful place, where, in the extensive fields, crowd the carps and where in the places interspersed with the atumpu creepers (6), the conches glowing bright with the waves of the seas are carried for their honey moon (6).

V

The hymn also refers to the Jains as carrying a pot and eschewing flesh as vegetarians. They saw the blind Tanti Nayanar of the stick gaining his eyesight and fell at his victorious feet, losing their challenge. The Lord has this Tanti as his relation. (The Lord has become the light to this blind sage; Yes). He is the Light for the eight points of the compass (10).

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