The Religion and Philosophy of Tevaram (Thevaram)

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

This page describes “introduction” from the part dealing with the Pilgrim’s progress (to the North), 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

I

These hymns belong to the temples north of the Cola country. They form a continuous whole with the previous group as relating to the period of our poet’s northern tour. We noticed our poet describing the Lord as the remover of the scandal. Perhaps this refers to some political trouble which probably sent our poet northward. The Navalur hymn occurring as the first in the group may belong to the first part itself. The three hymns giving us a list of the temples, as emphasizing the temple cult is included in this part.

II

The burden as it were of these songs consists in these exclamations: “The place of the Lord who had saved me at Venneinallur is Tirunavalur, the place of Naracinkamunaiyaraiyan” (H. 17); “To get rid of your sins, faults and shallow knowledge, O, Ye people! worship at Kalukkunram, which is the place of the Lord residing in the heart of His faultless followers” (H. 81); “O, Lord! Is that love of your going about begging for us, same as this way of saving me? I shall not forget you. Just think of those who think of you. Is it fair that you should beg making your followers miserable over that?” (H. 41); “I shall not praise any one but you” (H. 21); “You do not do anything for us; You go about begging” (a humorous remark of the damsel to Bhiksa-fana) (H. 5); “This is the place of the Lord of this activity and that” (H. 10); “Of what worth is their prop, their experience, their speech, their worship, their company, their knowledge, their thought or their love, of those who do not think of Him? (H. 86); “I shall not knowingly praise any one except you, my Lord!” (H. 26); “Ciparppatam is the rendezvous of the deer, etc.” (H. 79); “O, Ye people who suffer in this world, pronounce the word ‘Ketaram” (H. 78); “His place or temple is at Orriyur on the beach” (H. 91); “Bless me, O, Lord! to sing of you, to see you, to experience and enjoy you who removes the miseries of your followers who reach you leaving off their usual watch, over their bodies” (H. 12, 31, 47).

III

The goal to be reached as pointed in the last verses is the breaking down of the bondage of karma, the reaching of Sivaloka, Paraloka, Vinnulakam, Vanakam— the Heavens, to be one with the Lord and the destruction of sin and all faults. Sivaloka is the place where flock and sing the followers, those who worship the Lord singing the hymns, those who reside on our head worthy of our worship. They are cool, happy and calm.

IV

Nature is too much in evidence in this part. Nature is identified with the Lord, for instance, Tirupparuppatam. The temple cult of pilgrimage is clearly brought out. The holy places are a Heaven of beasts, birds and plants, perhaps all reminding us of the human life—another vision of the universe as a happy family of the Lord. The descriptions of the places sometimes are with reference to the worship of Bhaktas, their conch, their music and their festivals. Even the bees circumambulate the Lord. These descriptions sometimes have an esoteric meaning—the sleep of the bees being on a par with the rest given to the soul after what is called destruction. There can be here no poetry of world negation when Nature is thus looked upon as the Lord Himself. The condemnation of the world is justified when one forgets this happy vision and gets lost in the trap of common women and the passing show of delusion.

V

The Lord is described as Navalar or Orator. This is a unique description coming from the heart of a politician and poet who must have known the mighty powers and bewitching charms of oratory. Another phrase is “Attapuya nkap piran”. Always insisting on the escape from Karma, our poet describes the Lord as the Medicine for the karma. The path of Jnana is emphasized. Our poet is fond of describing God as the Flame of the Light—the eye of knowledge. He is the only reality—‘Meypporul’, He is the Supreme Paraman—Siva and the Guru. He is immanent and transcendental. He is all sorts of relationships. He is all love to those who take refuge in Him—those who know no deceit. He is full of mercy, full of forbearance. He is nectar, insatiable nectar—Ard amudu— a favourite term with the Vaisnavites. The ‘marjara kisdranydya 9 the way of the cat, comes out when our poet asserts that the Lord saved him even when he was false and that thereafter he became fearless.

VI

The Bhiksatana form continues to be the main art motif and we have humorous slings at the Lord. The esoteric significance of the depr and the bull as the Vedas and Pranava respectively is also given.

VII

The followers of the Lord are faultless and deceitless; they are as good as the Lord deserving our worship. Their congregation and choir, form the Sivaloka. Worship with Pancagavya, hymns, praises of the Lord, music, contemplation, self-surrender, love, concentration and manual services are all mentioned. Worshipping at the various temples and bathing in the holy rivers, and waters are emphasized but what is important for the blotless Lord of purity is not the outward but internal purity and love. Worship at dawn is specifically referred to. Our poet refers to Nana Campantar, Candesvarar and Naracinkamunai araiyan.

VIII

Our poet in all humility refers to himself as Atittontan— the slave of His feet. He describes his own round shoulders. He is a great scholar, pulavar and a great orator of good words; a description of the Lord as an orator becomes thus significant. Our poet refers to the death of his parents. Therefore, these hymns can be assigned to the latter period of his life—a life of political complication, of poetry and oratory and of pilgrimage.

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