The Religion and Philosophy of Tevaram (Thevaram)

by M. A. Dorai Rangaswamy | 1958 | 410,072 words

This page describes “mudipadu gangai—thiruvanchikulam (hymn 44)” from the part dealing with the Pilgrim’s progress (unto the last), which represents the development of Arurar’s Mysticism as gleaned from his hymns. The 7th-century Thevaram (or Tevaram) contains devotional poems sung in praise of Shiva. These hymns form an important part of the Tamil tradition of Shaivism

Chapter 92 - Mudipadu Gangai—Thiruvanchikulam (Hymn 44)

[Full title: Mudipadu Gangai—Thiruvanchikulam or Mutippatu Gangai—Thiruvanchikulam.]


This hymn according to tradition is on the temple in the Cera capital, Thiruvanchikulam, probably the ancient Vanci or Karur. But the hymn itself does not mention any specific place. The Lord is described as ‘Empiran in all the verses of this hymn. Does it refer to the Cera Country calling their princes ‘Tampiran’ and princesses ‘Tampiratti? This may be taken as one of the Bhikshatana hymns or a hymn sung by our poet with the same feeling of love, reverence, fear and humour of those damsels who had the vision of the Bhikshatana. Five verses end with the word, “Is there nothing else but snakes, bull, etc. for our Lord?” (1, 2, 6, 8, 9)—these end with the word “Empiranukke’. These express the humour, fear and love—a curious combination of emotions. Five verses end with the word ‘Empiran’ (3, 4, 5, 10), two of which beg of the devotees not to speak harsh of the Lord (3) and not to speak of deserting the Lord (4); one speaks slightingly of the world which in spite of the Lord showering His Grace, condemns Him as mad (5) and the other requests the servants to speak about the Lord (10). Perhaps all the other verses also express this regret that the Lord is not receiving His deserts. Or, is it that the political failures had dashed the hopes of others to whom our poet suggests they should not speak of forsaking the Lord.


“His crown is the Ganges and the moon. What He destroyed are the three castles reduced to ashes in a second. Ah! I am afraid that the poison of His serpents will spread to the brain as soon as it bites. What beautiful hands of His! Is there nothing else to be held in these hands?” (1). “Is there no other dance hall but this jungle of bushes; no toilet except this ash of the burning ghat? Has He no share other than this share of the form of the damsel of the Himalayas? Has He nothing else to ride on, except this petty bull?” (2).

This feeling of fright and love slowly gives place to a feeling of regret that the Lord in spite of His coming begging for our love, for our benefit continues to go about as a beggar without His love being returned—He who is the Lord of the Devas of great power. But all the same there is a sly humour in this kind of speech which amounts to decrying the Lord.

“The Lord begs of you often and often to prevent and remove hesitations and confusions of your mind and to challenge the slaughter of the lives of this great earth (Has our poet like the Great Asoka become sick of the slaughter of war—the war of succession to the Pallava throne?). He is the learned of the exemplary conduct—the Deva of Devas, the light of lights, with great powers of destruction over evil, reducing to ashes the three cities” (3).

“He is our wealth adorning His mat-lock with a garland of grinning skulls, in the unapproachable dark graveyard surrounded by ghosts of fiery tufts of hair in the midnights whilst the fox steals away the dead head with its mouth and the wolves shriek (What penance and beggary for our sake! What meanness by the way!). O, devotees! Pray do not speak of deserting Him, our Lord” (4).

“There is no illusion about Him. He has become the Lord of the mountainous country (Cera country is known as the country of mountains—the Lord becomes one of the residents of the place to save others). That is His greatness. People praise Him according to their capacity and the Lord cuts them away from their miseries. And yet, alas! He is spoken of as a mad man and as a wandering ghost” (5).

“The celestials and the eternals praise our Lord as their all pervasive sovereign. They come together concentrating their minds in their path (of Love). They worship His couple of feet with flowers of purity. But has not our Lord anything else to sing other than the secret chant (Vedas). Has He nothing else to crown Himself with, except this crescent moon?” (6).

“His garland is but of konrai, kuvilam, and unique mattam. His beginning and end are what no one has fathomed. He has no city of His own. But yet it is said He has thousand names, to be worshipped by those who love Him, in all the worlds” (7).

“Great souls even when they had reached the state of greatness of Visnu and Brahma, find it impossible to know Him. But He adorns His mat-lock with only the serpent, the vanni leaves, the moon and the mattam. He is our Lord of purity (Punttan). Has he, our Lord, nothing but fire for His hand?” (8).

“Alas, is this to be His characteristic feature—to feast on the consuming fire of scandals of the eagles revelling on their food or ghee—those heretics, Jains, of dark mind. Has He nothing but this elephant’s skin frightening the large heart of the Damsel of the Himalayas?” (9).


Though all kinds of emotions struggle to find expression in this hymn, the poet himself assures us it is only humour that is the basic emotion. He calls this hymn, a hymn making fun of the Lord, the gem of the angry bull and blotted throat and that is why we characterized it as a Bhikshatana hymn. Our poet calls himself Uran, the slave of the Lord, and the father of Vanap-pakai of great fame praised by willing tongues (10).

(Vanappaikai like her paternal grand mother is called Jnani).

Our poet does not give any specific result of reciting this hymn but calls upon the devotees to recite it. That itself, our poet feels, is a great joy.

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