The Religion and Philosophy of Tevaram (Thevaram)

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

This page describes “thirunanipalli or tirunanipalli (hymn 97)” 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 48 - Thirunanipalli or Tirunanipalli (Hymn 97)

I

Contradictions find solution in the love of the Lord. If the Absolute is everything, it cannot be otherwise. But this itself makes one despair of understanding fully or reaching the Lord. Before any such despair could spring, our poet sees the temple of Nanipalli— where, the unapproachable has come to approach us. He is nearer there in that incarnation of beauty than anywhere else. The poet in this hymn emphasizes our Lord being beyond knowledge or thought (1, 3), beyond the reach of any one (5), the most subtle (8). “Nannum ur Nanipalliyate”—“The place He reaches is Nanipalli” “Nannum ur Nanipalliyate” is the refrain of this hymn. The interrogations about the contradictions themselves suggested that these were resolved in his love and in this hymn the poet shows that love taking concrete form at Nanipalli where He rushes to save us. The poet, therefore, to throw this concrete approachability of the Lord into bolder relief, describes by way of contrast the unapproachable aspects of the Lord.

II

The puranic references help him here as well. He is the Light unknown to Brahma and Visnu (1). He is the learned author of the Vedas (1, 6)—the wearer of the sacred thread (6) and the Lord of that distant world (1). He is possessed of the vast space but He is the beggar possessing only a skull and a loin cloth (4). He is the powerful destroyer of the three cities (2), the destroyer of the sacrifice of Daksa (5), and the conqueror of Ravana (8) adorning Himself with the boar’s tusk and the shell of the tortoise (9), the munificent patron giving the discus of his creation to Visnu (5), and blessing the great Partha or Arjuna (6).

III

Apart from the puranic stories, there are philosophical implications which our poet suggests. The Lord is the Beginning (1). He has given the extensive Vedas full of all the words and their meaning (through which we could approach Him) (1). He has no relatives of His—no father or mother—but all the living beings of this world are his kith and kin (2). He is their father (1)—our Lord. He is perfect, without any defect (2), the Great and the Big, beyond the thoughts of our mind (3). But He becomes an atom, and contracted in the form of a fire spark he enters the body of flesh (3)—He is the Lord of the graveyard (4). But this country of the seven mountains surrounded by the seas is His (4)—He is our great man but of the form of a spark (or, a tail of a barley as the Upanisad will say) (3). He is the Lord entering the heart and then He expands all through (3). He is seated gloriously in the five-fold yields of the cow (in which the Bhaktas worship Him) (3). Ah! He is our patron. (1). Therefore, He is after all the wealth of mine (3). The poet speaks like a child—the speech of the nursery Nanutai matu— the child which has not distinguished ‘I and my’—‘Nani and ‘En. It is impossible to reach Him but He reaches his place and this is Nanipalli (5). He is the purest but He is a lover (Viruppan—6). He is our Lord (6). He is the most subtle principle but He is the rare and glorious medicine of nectar, all through our seven-fold births, one who removes our diseases and fetters—removing them in a subtle way (8). He is our patron blessing us (8). He is the Lord of Grace and mercy which shine with lustre and glory, as the karma of those contemplating on Him is erased and destroyed (8). He is beyond our mind (3) but yet He is the Lord who blessed that Jay that great Nana Campantar with jnanam or true knowledge, there at Kali of no defects (9). Nana Campantar is the leader of Arurar s school of thought as we had pointed out elsewhere.

The Lord is time (10). His favourite day is Atirai (Ardra) (1), the star of dance visible to our eyes. Our poet, the Uran of the cool Navalur contemplates all through his time every nalikai of it (nalikai is 24 minutes) on this Nanipalli, the reservoir of God’s love and on this beautiful form which the Lord has assumed here, for it is the Temple (Urai koil) where He resides with His form (7).

IV

Our poet gives expression to that bliss of contemplation in his garland of a hymn. When we think of this overflowing of His ove—overflowing only to reach us and save us, who could think of this world and its miseries? Our poet forgets at once this world and we are transported to the pure sphere of Higher Heavens of good and immense bliss, to stand dedicated to Tapas and Service in that sphere. Our poet assures that those who value his hymn high and recite it, will experience this higher spiritual life of divine bliss and service (10).

The holy place is also described in one place. He is very near all. It is the Tiru Nanipalli— the holy or wealthy or beautiful city. It is the place where Antanars rear up everywhere, the sacred three fires, (7) and through them the Vedic sacrifices as well as the Vedas and their six angas (adjuncts of Vedic knowledge, etc.) (7). But it is not unapproachable to lower beings—the red carps, the tiny fish—rush into the fields of that divine city. (7) (Otiyan is a peculiar form—(1) ).

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