The Religion and Philosophy of Tevaram (Thevaram)

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

This page describes “thiruvenkadu or tiruvenkatu (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 47 - Thiruvenkadu or Tiruvenkatu (Hymn 72)

I

In the previous hymn the poet sang the glory of the holy place itself as the glory of the Lord, experiencing the harmony of the puranic Lord as shining within himself and within that place. The Puranic lore establishes harmony amidst all contradictions through the love of the Lord, flowing out to save every one. In this hymn, he emphasizes the contradictions, to appreciate better the harmony. Our poet begs of the Lord to reveal the truth of these contradictory acts and appearances of His. This hymn is in the form of nine interrogations and each verse ends with the words, “Enne velai cul Venkatan nire”!—“O, Lord of Venkatu, surrounded by the sea! Why have you done this?” The remaining part of the verses describe the contradictory acts and appearances.

II

“The serpent is on your crown; but the tiger’s skin is on your waist. You pounced on the three cities to burn but blessed the three asuras then and there. Enraged, you flayed the man, (the lion man) but you were happy with him. You, the Lord, go a-begging, you of the natural beauty, but carrying the dead skull. Why this? You of Venkatu, surrounded by the seas”! (1).

“You have slighted your former form, i.e. of being in company with the Mother, but you were happy with it. You refused to utter any word even unto the Devas and discarded every one, but you were glad of them. You in the presence of the father Visnu, opened up your eyes and burnt down Kama, who came to destroy your tapas and you were glad of it. What is this victory? (For, it did not last long since you married the damsel falling a prey to her love)” (2).

“Surrounded by the ghosts (paritam) you go with your damsel but with a loin cloth of an ascetic. Pray tell us the truth; Sir, I am asking you only. You dance but ride on the bull, speaking of your greatness whilst begging. What is this?” (3).

“You are the life of music; you have become the song itself. Bhaktas think of you; but you go and fill their heart even before that. (This is according to one reading ‘Pattar cittam paravik-kontir’. The other reading is ‘Pattar cittar par avikkontir’—“You praised the Bhaktas and Siddhas”—a topsy turvy act; for it is they who ought to praise). You are in their eyes and they contemplate on you in their mind so that they may see you: You (the Beyond) became enshrined in this earth placing the crescent moon (on your crown). And yet you stand enshrined in the vast expanse of space to enable Lords of the Heaven to embrace and praise you. What is this?” (4).

“The Tontars serve you with flowers and pots of water. You choose one dance, perform it and sing a song and thus you bless them. Thus you are pleased with them. But you go to embrace the damsel keeping her always as one part of your body. (How to embrace her?). And yet forgetting all these loving servants and the loving damsel you commit the suicidal act of swallowing the poison and keeping it ever in your throat. What is this?” (5).

“In that hostile forest, the elephant came. You flayed its skin and yet as though in love with it you have covered yourself with its skin. You go a-begging (making love to those who give alms), in that inseparable company of the damsel and on the bull. What is this roaming about in all these contradictory ways?” (6).

“You dance for the sake of the loving ‘Tontars’ contemplating on you, but you dance surrounded by Bhutas and yet the whole world praises you, Master Dancer! You are the righteousness; yet you are the eternal form of the music of the yal (Elil—the instrument of seven strings). Siddhas or freed souls surround you whilst you roam reciting the Vedas as though you were a student learning the Vedas. What is this?” (7).

“Ah! The Lord of the mat-lock where mix all mimical things, the kuravu, the precious konrai, the negligible mattam, the crescent moon, and its enemy the serpent and the damsel jealous of these two. You have been contradictory. (‘Viruttam’ may also mean, “You have been old in age or learning or morality”). My Lord, remove the blemishes inflicting me, who is contemplating on you (That the blemish should inflict one, contemplating on Him is itself a contradiction. That is why the prayer is for removing it at once.). The damsel has been half of your body. Why frighten her by fighting with the elephant? What is this?” (8).

“You are in Kacci exhibiting its palaces, (the capital of the Pallavas), whilst out of certainty and firmness, people contemplate always on you and you reside in their hearts as the dancer singing in the forest. How is one to praise and worship you? Visnu and Brahma search for you and you exhibit the form of a fire impossible of approach. You roam about like this (full of contradictions). What is this?” (9).

III

This hymn is a hymn of inquiry and our poet describes it as such in the last verse. Aruran, Tontan and slave of Tirunavalur has asked “the Creator and Lord of contradictions, out of love, these queries”. The answer also is implied in the interrogations. It is the great truth of the harmony of the Lord’s love resolving all contradictions. Those who are capable of reciting these ten verses, of the garland of interrogations, in the way in which the truths are made clear therein are according to the upright—the perfect—the denizens of the Heaven of Bliss (The forest is really the heart as explained in our discussion of the Dance of Siva) (10).

IV

Apart from the puranic stories, here we have some references to the methods of worship. The distinction between Pattar and Cittar we had already noticed. Worshipping the Lord with water and flowers is emphasized (5). “Contemplation by the Bhaktas on Him is referred to more than once (4, 7, 9) and the Lord dances therein, their heart. The song, music and dance are also ways of worshipping Him. He is the very form of the song and the very life of music, the eternal form of the music of the yal of seven strings—or seven svaras. He is impossible to be reached—except through self-surrender, never through egotism and efforts of self conceit.

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