The Religion and Philosophy of Tevaram (Thevaram)

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

This page describes “thiruvennainallur and thirunavalur (hymn 17)” 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

Chapter 55 - Thiruvennainallur and Thirunavalur (Hymn 17)

[Chapter title: Thiruvennainallur (or Tiruvennai Nallur) and Thirunavalur (or Tirunavalur) (Hymn 23)]


In the previous hymn the poet was giving expression to his joy at the special Grace the Lord bestowed on him. Therein he stated that he was a bond slave of the Lord. This idea is made clearer in this hymn, when our poet goes to Thirunavalur, the place of his patron and foster father, Naracinkamunai Araiyan (10). It is not clear why this was not referred to in such graphic way in the earlier hymns. One wonders whether this hymn may not belong to the previous period of our poet’s life. Though the hymn was sung at Navalur, the poet speaks of Thiruvennainallur where the poet has been saved as the bond slave of the Lord. It is in this hymn that we get the detailed version about this episode. The pattern of the sentence is as follows: “The place of the God of the Puranas who saved me at Thiruvennainallur is Thirunavalur”. Usually the third line refers to the Thiruvennainallur incident in the words, “Vennei Nalluril vaittennai alum konta” (but see verses 2, 3, 6 and 10 where the incident is referred to in the second line). The fourth line ends with the words, “Itamavatu nam Thirunavalur”. The metre and the tune are the same as that of hymn No. 19.


The puranic stories about the destruction of the three cities (1), the riding on the bull (3, 4), the company of the Mother (3), the love of Kali of Katikkarai (3), the ornament of serpents (3), the feast of poison (4), the flaying of the skin of an elephant (5) and the sacred ash (5), the discomfiture of Indra (5) and the Sun (6) (at the sacrifice of Daksa), the crushing of Ravana (10), the hunter going after Arjuna (8), the sharing of the body with the damsel and Visnu (9)—all referred to.


There are some interesting descriptions of the Lord. “He is the great debater (Navalanar-1), the Lord of Goodness (2), my patron and our Lord (5), the Chief (Nayakan-7), the great Dancer (6, 9), the Dancer of the fire (8), of the hue of the fire, full of pure gold” (5)—thus our poet gives expression to his experience of the Lord. The oratory, probably, refers to the debate in the court of the Brahmins (8). He speaks of the Lord as ‘Vayati’— sharp tongued (8). He refers to His coming reciting the Vedas as a Brahmin (8). But he describes Him as a ‘Nayati (8) and ‘Veyavanar’ (7)— ‘the hunter probably because of his cruel persistence in the debate’ (8). Or, is there the idea of the Hound of Heaven involved in the conception of a Hunter. (Veyavanar— 7, may mean a spy and a Dandin or a Brahmin.—The ‘Stala-Purana’ of this place gives the story of the Lord manifesting Himself in a bamboo shrub.—Nayati may mean Lord dancing with your Mother—‘Nay’; ‘nay’). “When He saved me in that assembly out of His characteristic of love, I spoke harsh words. He gave me the great status of an obstinate servant. Even when I abused Him, He gave me gold and made me experience pleasures” (2). “He became my mother and father” (7). “He made me attached to His feet of gold without any birth or death so that I may not leave Him and go away from Him” (7).


Our poet refers to Candesvara whom the Lord loved as Himself (4). He also remembers the dance of Tillai (6), the enjoyment at Koti (3), the temple of Kutamukku, Koval and Kot tit-tai (6). He speaks of the Lord enjoying the bath with the five yields of the cow—a mode of worship already referred to (4).


Our poet thus gives expression to the Lord cutting away the shackles of his karma and this makes him assure a similar blessing to those who learn or with love listen to this Tamil hymn of Arurar. Vanrontan, who is very well fitted to speak of the greatness of Navalur as the city of the Lord, his own city, the city where Naracinkarnunai Araiyan serves the Lord out of love (11).

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