The Religion and Philosophy of Tevaram (Thevaram)

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

This page describes “nayanar 24: karaikkal ammeiyar (ammaiyar)” from the religion of the Thevaram: a comparative study of the Shaivite saints the Thiruthondathogai. 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

The 24th saint is Karaikkal Ammaiyar [Karaikkal Ammeiyar]. Arurar speaks of her as ‘Pey’. Appar seems to be referring to this »saint when he sings of the Lord, “Peyttolilattiyaip perrutaiyir’ Karaikkal Ammaiyar speaks of herself, “Peyaya narkanattil onraya nam ? She speaks of herself as residing in the burning ghat, “Katumalinta kanalvay eyirruk Karaikkal Pey” but all this is mystic language, for it is clear from Arputattiruvantati (16) that she had the experience of the Absolute.

In this connection, what Narada Bhakti sutra (63) describes of the Bhakta who has attained self-realization as ‘Matta’ is significant. The Bhakta is often spoken as a honey-bee and Atman is spoken of as honey. The Sufis compare the realization to wine whilst the Christians use the wine; the Vedas speak of ‘Soma rasa’ and the Saktas utilize intoxicating liquor in their rituals as a symbol of Divine experience. The Bhaktas become transformed under this new experience and their ways seem as inexplicable as that of mad men; for they have no will of their own; they are moved by the inner force. “Birds become his little sisters, a wolf a brother” (St. Francis of Assisi). “If men were drunk with the love of God, they ought to dance like mad men in the streets”—sings Nammalvar. To Plato this is ‘Saving madness’. To the Christian mystics this is a draught of that wine of Absolute Life which runs in the arteries of the world. Emerson points out that a tending to insanity is always attended by the opening of the religious sense in man as if he was blasted with excessive light.

Karaikkal Ammaiyar is the author of Tiruvalankattu Mutta Thirupathigam, Tiruvalankattut-Thirupathigam, Tiruvirattai mani-malai and Arputattiruvantati. In the work last mentioned, who speaks of her love for Shiva ever since she began to speak (v. 1). In the last verse (101), she calls herself a Karaikkal Pey.

We know from references in Tiruvacakam and Nalayirap-pirapantam. the prevalence of the name among saints like Karaikkal Pey and Peyalvar. “Cakam peyenru tammaiccirippa”: “Peyane everkkum yanume”—Kulasekhara alvar. It is said some saints had been misunderstood as mad people while the saints themselves were glad they were so abused. Nampiyantar refers only to her going to Kailas walking on her head, making Parvati laugh when Shiva endearingly called her, ‘Mother’. The story of her getting a mango from God is not referred to by him. Cekkilar makes her the daughter of a Vaisya chief Tanatattan and the wife of Paramatattan, who left her to marry another woman in the

Pandya country and to name his child after the name of his first wife. According to Cekkilar, Karaikkal Ammaiyar’s name was Punitavati and she after the desertion by her husband threw out her flesh to assume the form of a ‘pey’. After composing Arputattiruvantati, Irattaimanimalai, she went to Kailas walking on her head and prayed to the Lord that she might be always under the dancing feet there after praising them in her Tamil verses, viz., Mutta Thirupathigam and Thirupathigam. Cekkilar lays much emphasis on the name of ‘Ammai’ because Shiva himself addressed her as such. It is rather surprising that Arurar does not refer to her as Ammai. He has chosen to refer to her as Pey because she was calling herself Pey in her work. Arurar, therefore, may be taken to lay emphasis on her works which reveal her mystic vision of the Lord and her sublime philosophy. The Sanskrit and Kannada traditions speak of her as Karikalammeyar or Putavati and know only of her making many out of two mango fruits which her husband gave her.

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