The Religion and Philosophy of Tevaram (Thevaram)

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

This page describes “thirumuruganpoondi or tirumurukanpunti (hymn 49)” 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 94 - Thirumuruganpoondi or Tirumurukanpunti (Hymn 49)


This is a place in the Konku Natu, sung by Arurar alone. There are many villages with the name Poondi. This term as referring to a village is as old as Arurar and Pinkala Nikantu. Poondi is probably from the root ‘pun’ meaning a group of houses or people undertaking to live together or yoking themselves to a social life. The Poondi is called after Murukan (Murugan) (Murugan), the Tamil God, or a chieftain of that name. According to the Sthala Purana, the place derives its name from the fact that Murukan (Murugan) (Murugan) worshipped Shiva at this place.


This is another desolate place, laid as such by the poor marauders of Vatuku hunters. These Vatukars were probably the ancestors of the Badagas of Nilgiris and thus Vatuku was probably the Kannada language. By their very speech they express their unsocial nature. (Is this a reference to their foreign language or is it that their speech is unsocial, as breathing hatred?) They speak very harsh (1). They look like monkeys (3). Their peculiar chin is characteristic of their savagery (Morai vetuvarA). There is about them an awful offensive odour of rancid flesh (1). (Mutuku—if the formative ku’ is omitted, we get the root ‘mutu’ a root found in ‘mutai’, i.e., odour of flesh etc.; and in ‘mutuval’, the dog). The hair of their head is tied round like those of women—‘curaippanki—i.e., paniccai (4). (Or, it may mean they share the booty). These poor beings wear but rag and on that is fastened a small sword (4). They carry a curved but cruel bow and they frighten the wayfarers with it (1). They waylay and dash fast which our poet tries to express with the onomato-poetic phrase (Tituku mottu); (1) they box the poor people on the way and they throw stones at them (2). They have their own musical and battle drums; the sound of their ‘montai’ or pot drum never ceases (9). These devils live on killing cow and eating its flesh (3). They have no conception of sin; they undertake every day the slaughter of many lives (3).

The Poondi is the place of their highway robbery; the robbery is there, a daily event. But these wretches in torn clothes are only after clothes to cover their nakedness; they have been reduced to that level of poverty and savagery of bestial life. Therefore, they strip the wayfarers naked. This emphasis on their robbery of clothes heightens the desolation of the place. Our poet has given us a pen picture of their life and appearance. There is another beauty about this description in that the poet is trying to give it a local colour by using the dialectic words of the place and the people—‘Icukku’ (3), ‘Titukumottu’ (1), ‘Vcirkkolai’ (3); perhaps also ‘curai’ (4), ‘morai’ (4) and ‘montai’ (9). The story of the robbery of all gold presented to Arurar by the Cera is apparently based on this description of ‘Kurai kollumitam’.


Even this rendezvous of these hunters is not without natural attractions to our poet. The pollen dusts of the jasmine cast all round this place, their sweet fragrance (2); the buds bloom and the sweet smell spreads (6). Is it desolation? No! For, our poet feels that invisible eternals worship there before every one—a secluded place, a quiet resort, for the happy couple of the damsel and of the Lord (10). But this is an idea which comes last. At the first flush, it is the desolation—horrid desolation that comes to his mind. “What a place for the Lord to live with His consort the embodiment of His Grace!” and the poet exclaims, “What for are you here my prince, and patron?” (1). “If it is not your duty to safeguard the suburban areas why are you here, My Lord?” (2). “You have the bull to ride upon. You are not lame. You have not been disabled by any pain or suffering” (8). “You are proud and capable enough to move about” (5). “You are riding on the bull; why then are you here?” (8). “What is the reason? What are you guarding over?” (7). “You are fond of the Uttira festival of Otriyur of the tidal ocean (Uttirarn is one reading; ‘Utti’ is another) (7). “Why are you here? You receive alms to go down in this meanness of beggary” (6). ‘Icukku’ is ‘Ilukku’, the fault or meanness. ‘Ici’ probably as a corruption of ‘I!u’ in the sense of break is found in Tivakaram. ‘Icitta’ is found in Arunagirinatar. Probably the poet is using the dialect of the Vatukar. ‘Payikkam’ is begging (See: Paluril payikkam pukkuyntavare: Appar: 4: 5: 8). “If you live on the alms given, why permanently stay here?” (3).


This begging brings to our mind the Bhikshatana form and one may not be far wrong in calling this hymn also as a Bhikshatana hymn—a recurring motif in Arurar’s art. This beggar of love curiously enough as we had seen, comes with His loving consort. Our poet sings here, “You come as a beggar but you are dazed and you do not know any way of living on the alms offered in the cities” (5). We saw the poet emphasizing latterly the holiness and purity of the Lord. In keeping with this trend the poet harps on the white aspect of His ornaments. “He recites the holy Vedas; He besmears Himself with the white ash wearing a white loin cloth” (7). “He carries as a begging bowl of a white skull; His laurel is the white crescent moon” (9). “The skin he wears is shining. He is a beggar but He is one who creates happiness or bliss. He is a great musician. He sings the musical Sama Veda’ (5). “He is fond of the musical instruments and their intermittent sound—kokkarai, kotukotti, tattalakam, kuta-mula, tuntumi which are struck in accompaniment to the song; all accompaniments to the dance of the Beggar” (6).


These are the verses which the poet has spoken out of his heart—a hymn springing as it were out of his contemplation. This hymn whilst reciting inspires us with a calm joy where disappear all miseries, kindling in us a contemplation of the love of the Lord, coming a-begging for our love. This same experience is vouchsafed to those who recite the praise of the Lord. Our poet calls himself Uran, the Shiva Tontan. Another reading is ‘Ciru Tontan or the humbler servant (a meaning which we noted in Campantar’s words: 3: 63: 1-11),

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: