by M. A. Dorai Rangaswamy | 1958 | 410,072 words
This page describes “nayanar 28: thirugnana sambandar (tirujnana campantar)” 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 beginning of the fifth verse in Thiruthondathogai is “Vampara vari vantu” which has become the name of the fifth Charukkam, in Cekkilars Periyapuranam, where the lives of the saints mentioned in that verse are described.
The first saint in this verse is the 28th saint in the list, Tiru Ranacampanta cuvamikal.
The words of Arurar are:
“Vampara varivantu mananara malarum
matumalarnar konraiyan atiyalar pena
Empiran Campantan atiyarkkum atiyen”
“I am the servant of the servants of my Lord Campantar [Sambandar] who does not love anything except the feet of the Lord of the beautiful konrai flowers full of honey blossoming and bestowing fragrance and the banded bees never leaving these fresh flowers”.
The phrase ‘Empiran Campantar’ as contrasted with ‘Nampiran Tiru-mulan’, seems to suggest that Arurar thinks of Campantar as the leader of his school of thought, believing in singing hymns in praise of God. “Nallicai Nanacampantanum Navinukkaracarum patiya narramil malai colliyave colli ettukappan” seems to suggest this conclusion.“Nalum innicaiyal tamil parappum Nanacampanta-nukku ulakavarmun talam intu avan patalukku irankum tanmai-yalan”:
Arurar here speaks of Nanacampantar popularizing Tamil through his music. God according to Arurar was so pleased that in the presence of the people of the world, He gave him the cymbals. In another place also he refers to God recognizing the great service of these two saints Campantar and Appar offering coins to them: “Tirumilalai iruntum nir tamiloticai ketkum iccaiydl kacu nittam nalkinir”. Arurar speaks of Nanacampantar being blessed with ‘nanam’ by the Lord at Kali.
Arurar speaks of Campantar as Kalumalavurar and speaks of him as receiving a thousand gold from the Lord: “Kalumala urark-ku ampon ayiram kotuppar polum”. He describes Nanacampantar as the Lord of words full of music or a great composer of music—“Panmalinta moliyavar”. He speaks of himself worshipping the Lord along with this great composer and going with him following the Lord—“Panmalinta moliyavarum yanum ellam paninti-raincit tammutaiya pinpin cella”. There is a tradition that the gates of Thirumaraikkadu closed by the Vedas were opened by Appar and again closed by Nanacampantar.
Appar in his hymn on Tiruvaymur refers to this incident and states that the person who closed the door was of greater firmness than himself who had sung for opening the gates and that this person was also standing there before the Lord worshipping Him:
‘Tirakkap patiya enninum centamil
Uraikkap (uraippup?) pdti ataippittd runninrar
Maraikka vallard tammait tiruvaymurp
Piraikkol cencatai yarivar pittare”.
Nanacampantar himself refers to some of the events of his life: He states that the Lord had created an illusion and made him who could never forget the fact of the Lord, to be born on this earth—“Tiruntati marakkumarilata ennai maiyal ceytu im-manninmel pirakkumaru kattinay”. He further states that he continues in the old state—“Tonmaittanmaiyul Nana campant an”. He calls himself as one full of wisdom which is the lustre of the Lord—“Tannoli mikkuyamta tamil Nanacampantan”. He describes himself as one who has fulfilled the wish of the Lord—“Kaliyarkon karuttarvitta Nanacampantan” and as one who spreads the goodness of the Lord—“Paracutaru paniyai nalan-tikalcey tonipura nd tan”. He assures us that he has become completely submerged in the Lord that he has no qualities of his own —“Tanniyal pillac Canpaiyarkon”. He states that the Lord of Kali was his own guru—“Vittakarakiya venkuruve” who had purchased for a price certified by a sale deed. The Lord, he sings, has removed his old karmas—“Vinaikal paraiya”; his blot and deceit—“Kallamarntu kaliyappali tirtta” — his poverty and misery—“Nalkuravennai nikkum aviyar antanar allal firkkum appanar”; his fetters—“Pnca valvinai tirtta panpinan”; his old age—“Narai tirai ketutakavatu arulinan”; and his birth—“Pirap-pennai arukkavallar”. He has himself stated that he has realized God—‘Unar’ and knows the method—“Peruman akalam ariya-lakap paravum muraiye pay Hum” Seeing the miseries of the world, his mind loved the name of the Lord—“Vetanai noy nali-yak kantu kante unran namam katalikkinratu ullam” It is curious that in this verse Campantar speaks of his past inability to live separated from his wife, chilaren and relatives. He has known probably the yogic way which Bhlsma has known of leaving this body whenever he liked—
“Pinippatum utampu vittu irakkumaru kattinay”
“Icaintava ceya viruppane”“Palanaya tontu”.
He states he sang to save the world from the malas or blots —
“Iluku malam aliyum vakai kaluvumurai”
He followed the Vedic path and his Tamil verses according to him are full of the Vedic truths—“Maraimali Tamil”
The Lord, he sings, saved him when the heretics were speaking scandals of Shaivism—
“Amanar kuntar cakkiyar tolaiyatan kalar tunrat torrankattiyatkontir”.
He states he conducted a debate with the Jains and won a victory over them—“Amanar,..anca vatil arul ceyya”, after knowing the will of the Lord and for spreading Shiva’s greatness all through the world—
“Vatil venralikkat tiruvullame...nalum nin pukale mikaventum”
He states in one verse that because the hymn refers to the Mother Goddess, it will not be burnt when thrown into the fire—
“Eriyinil itilivai palutilai meymmaiye”;
“Korravan etiritai eriyinilita ivai kuriya col teri orupatu.”
These are references to the song going through the ordeal of fire. He refers to the songs going through the ordeal of water and the palmyra leaf on which the song was written running against the current and reaching the shore at Etakam—
“Paru matil Maturai man avai etire patikama telutilai yavai etire varunati yitai micai varukarane vacaiyotu malar keta varukarane”;
“Terrenru teyvam teliyar karaik kolai tennirp parrinrip panku etirvin uravum panpu nokkil perron ruyartta peruman perumanum anre";
“Vaikai nzr etu cenru anaitarum etakam".
The tradition tells us that the hymn that performed this feat is that which begins with “Valka anta-nar" and Campantar speaks of this in the last verse of that hymn—“Pallarkalum matikkap pacuram conna pdttu.”
When the heretics set fire to his mutt, be prayed to the Lord to give him a fearless heart—“Tancamenrun caran pukuntenaiyum ancalenrarul Alavay annale" and directed the fire to reach the Pandya so that he might suffer from the fever in a manner acceptable to the world—
“Amanar koluvum cutar...Pantiyarkakave”;
“Alavayati arulinal veppam tennavan melura metinikku oppa ftanacampantan urai pattu”.
Pandya was cured later on, thanks to the hymn on the sacred ashes—“Alavayan tirunirraip porri....Nanacam-pantan territ Tennan utalurra tippiniyayina tirac carriya patalkal pattu”, and the Pandya Queen was prevented from becoming a widow on account of the Grace of the Lord, the Grace so near to the followers—“Mikka Tennavan tevikku aniyaiye mella nalkiya tontarkku aniyaiye”
Apart from these debates with the Jains, Campantar seems to have suffered at the hands of both the Jains and the Buddhists and he speaks of the Lord helping him in these trying situations —“Kaliyin vallamanum karun cakkiyappeykalum naliyum nal-ketut tanta en natanar” The tradition speaks of a debate with a Buddhist whose head was miraculously cut off and the line “Vilanku oli tikaltaru venkuru mevinan” is pointed out as referring to this event. This speaks of the Lord sending a brilliant and resounding thunder but there is no clear and specific reference to the debate in this verse. The incident about the closing down of the gates of Thirumaraikkadu is referred to by Campantar himself: “Itu nankirai vaittarul ceyka enakku un katavam tirukkap-puk kollum karuttdle”.
We had referred to the verse of Appar referring to Nanacampantar also worshipping with him. Some experience seems to have occurred to both these saints at that place and Campantar speaks of a dream, a deceitful form of the Lord, of His frightening him and some passing misery—
“Veruva vantitar ceyta vikirta-nar”;
“Kanavil tuyar ceytu”;
“Vancanai vativinotu .
Arurar had referred to Campantar getting coins and Campantar s hymn “Vaci tirave kacu nalkuvir” refers to Campantar s prayers.
The tradition speaks of ftanacampantar drinking the milk of the Mother Goddess and Campantars hymn, “Potaiyar porkinnat taticil pollatenat tataiyar munivurat tanenai antavan ’ is interpreted as referring to this incident, that one day his father took this child along with him, to bathe, that when the father was in-
side the water the child became alarmed and that the child began to weep so that the Lord ordered the Mother Goddess to offer it milk in a golden vessel which was looking like a lotus bud. The only difficulty here is the word ‘aticiV which usually refers to cooked food which has to be taken in the most general sense of anything serving as food, so that it may refer to milk.
At Thirunanipalli, his father held him up on his shoulders when he composed the Thirunanipalli hymn—“Ituparai onra attar piyal meliruntu innicaiyal uraitta panuval” and we are told that the hymn was sung for converting the desert of a place into a seashore, full of shade. Tirukkalirruppatiyar and Nampiyantar Nampi refer to this miracle but there is nothing specific in that hymn. At Tirumarukal, Campantar sings in his hymn of the age-old akap-porul; it is a complaint about the Lord that He has made a lovesick maiden falling in love with Him to pine away because of His neglect. But this hymn is interpreted to refer to the saint’s special pleading on behalf of a maiden who eloped with her lover immediately after the marriage when the latter died there of snakebite. The story gives that this hymn brought her lover back to life. But one fails to see any specific reference to this story in this hymn; all that is mentioned as evidence to the story in tradition is the expression ‘alankal ival’ (in v. 8) interpreted as ‘the damsel with the marriage-garland’ (alankal may mean any garland in general).
At Tiruvottur was performed the miracle of converting a male palmyra tree into a female one yielding palmyra fruits. The line “Kurumpai an panaiyln kulai dttur” is often referred as proving this miracle. But the verse refers to this as though it were a freak of nature in that place rather than as a miracle.
On his pilgrimage to the northern Tamil country, it is said he forgot to worship at Thiruvalangadu but the Lord reminded him in time and we are told this is referred to in that hymn in the very beginning of the hymn itself:
“Tuncavaruvarum toluvipparum valuvippdy
Nencampukuntennai ninaivipparum munainatpay
Vancappatuttorutti vanalkollum vakaikettu
Ancumpalaiyanur Alankattem atikale”.
It is in this hymn that he refers once again to Ciruttontar:
“Vanankunciruttontar vaikalettum valttunkettu
Anankumpalaiyanur Alankattem atikale”
Taken along with this reference, one wonders whether the statement in the last verse of this hymn, “Ventan arulale viritta patal” may not be a reference to the king of Ciruttontar, i.e., Narasimhavarma Pallava or some other king of that part of the country. When discussing the life of Ciruttontar we had referred to Campantars references to this chief in his hymn on Cenkattan-kuti, a hymn which Campantar states he has sung at the request of this chief “Ciruttontan avan venta”
At Mylapore, Campantar sings a hymn where in every one of its verses he refers to one monthly festival. He himself says that he has composed it as a “Pumpavaip pattu”. Every verse ends with the refrain, “Kanat e potiyd pumpavay”— ‘O, thou beautiful girl! Will you go away without seeing the festival?’ According to tradition this has been sung to bring to life the bone of the daughter of one Civanecac cettiyar, an admirer and worshipper of Nanacampantar.
At Tirunallurp perumanam, Nanacampantar’s marriage is said to have been performed when he disappeared with all those assembled there, to attain salvation. There is nothing in that hymn except the line, “Perumanam pukkiruntir emaippokkarulire” •— ‘O, Lord of Perumanam! You bless me with a way of escape’, a prayer which occurs elsewhere also.
Nampiyantar Nampi in the Tiruttontar Tiruvantati has two verses in praise of Campantar. He refers to the three great ideals achieved by Campantar during his life time: (1) the joy of the world; (2) curbing the power of the Jains and (3) the restoration of gaivism to its past glory. This victory, it is said, was due to Campantar getting the blessings of the Mother Goddess even whilst he was an intant. That is the substance of the first verse (33). In the second verse Nampiyantar describes Campantar as one who had received (Nampiyantar’s Alutaiyapillaiyar Tiru Antati) and who in his own verses had referred to Cenkatcolan, Murukan (Murugan) and Nilanakkan.
But Nampiyantar has composed in addition not only the Alu-taiya Pillaiyar Tiruvantati (of 101 verses) but also Tiruccanpai viruttam consisting of 11 verses, Tirumummanikkovai of 30 verses, Tiruvulamalai consisting of 143 kannis, Tirukkalampakam of 49 verses and Tiruttokai consisting of 65 lines, all on Alutaiya Pillaiyar or Campantar. In these various works of his, he refers to the many incidents of the life of Campantar that appealed to him most.
He speaks of him as the Lord of Pukali or Clkali whose twelve names he enumerates: 1. Piramapuram, 2. Venkuru, 3. Canpai, 4. Toni, 5. Pukali, 6. Koccai, 7. Ciramarpuram, 8. Puravam, 9. Taray, 10. Kali, 11. Venupuram and 12. Kalumalam (Alutaiyapillaiyar Tiruvantati)
Campantar is said to have belonged to the Kaundinya Gotra (Kavuniyar tipan) It is rather curious that the kings of the Eastern Archipelago claim to belong to this same Gotra and their kingdom was called Campa, reminding us of the name Canpai or Cikali and also of Campapati which is the other name for Ka virippumpatf inam.
Nampiyantar Nampi thinks of Campantar as an ‘avatar?— incarnation. “Parmukam uyyap paritalaiyor malurralunta avatar it ton”; “Katakari atu pata uritta...katavultan tiruvarulatanar-pirantatu;” “Avataritta vallal”; “Canpai ennwn on patiyul utit-tanaiye” Campantar is said to have sung 16,000 patikams.
Even whilst Campantar was a child he was fed by Mother Goddess at the instance of Shiva because Campantar was hungry and was crying. He showed his father, the Lord, who blessed him, described the various marks of the Lord pointing out at the same time the Lord with his finger—
“Vctattalaivanai melviralal tottiyalkatan ivan enru tataikkuc cut vicumpir kattiya Kanru’;
“Tantai kana anru nalameriya pukalccampantan kattiya natan”;
“Em Civan ivanenru annal kutalait tiruvaymolikal arulicceyta”;
“Totani katinan enrum tollamanark kennknrum tetariya parapara-naic celumaraiyin akan porulai antic cemmeniyanai ataiyalam pala colli untaikkuk kana aran uvanam enruraittanaiye ;
“Uli mutalvan uvanenru kattavallan”
The Mother Goddess gave him nanamirtam in a golden bowl. Nampiyantar speaks of the food given as something concentrated—
“Elivantava elir puvarai nanmanittar talankat tulivanta kanpicain tenkalum enkal aran tunaiyam kilivanta colli porkinnattin nana amirtalitta alivanta punkunci incorcirukkantan ararule”;
“Kunci kutap paruvattu...mankai tan arul perravan”;
“Valarntatu... punkulal matitu ponakam unte”; “Amutun cevvay”;
“Amponcey vattilil kotil amirtam nukar kuncaram’';
“Malaiyaraiyan matap-pavai narkanni alaviranta nanattai amirtakkip porkinnattarul purinta ponakam mun nukarntanaiyo”“Pantamutu ceytatumai nankaiyarul mevu Sivajnanam”;
“Jnanam tiralaiyile untanai”;
“Mutirata ceppotta konkait tirunutali appan aruUile uttutalum appoints nanat tirdlaki munninra cemmal”.
He seems to be very much taken up by the story of Cam-pantar impaling the heretics and reveals in the description of the death of these people, of their blood flowing like water and the kites flying to feed on their corpses—
“Mayilukutta kantinam culnta valai pirampor kaluva utalam vintinam culak kaluvina dkkiya vittakane”;
“Vali kelu kuntarkku vaikaikkaraiyanru van kotutta kalikelu tintol kavuniyar tlpan”;
“Tolunlra vaikaik kuluvay etirnta urikkaip paritalaik kuntar tanka I kaluva utalam kaluvina dkkiya karpakam”;
“Aman kanam kalu erri”;
“Utalam porutak kaluniraiyakkuvan”;
“Pukaliyar konanna nat-katiyitterrum kaluttiram”;
“Nltikettar kulaiyak kaluvin kuluk-kantavan”;
“Vatinil vallamanaip pannaik kaluvin nutivaittem panta vinai arukkum”;
“Arumantap pccntu cencol natatti aman mulutum parumantak kanta caiva cikamani”
“Kantatu uriyotu pili orukaiyil kollum pari talaic camanaip pal kalumicaiye”;
“Vaikaiyil amanarai vatu ceytarutta Caiva Cikamani Campantan”;
“Vallamanar ollaik kaluvil ulakka”;
“Tennanran kutal kulanakaril vatil amanar valitolaiyak katalal punkeluvu cempu-nalaru otap porutavarai vankaluvil taitta maraiyon”;
“Anra-manar kuttattai acalittup ponra uraikeluvu centamilppa onrinal venri nirai kalumel uyttan”,:
“Amanaraik kalu nutikku anai-vuruttavanum ni”;
“Arivaki inpam cey tamil vatil venranta amanana vankuntar kaluvera mun kanta ceri mata vancanpai nakarali”;
“Kantatu arukantar kulamonri mulutum kaluvil era”;
“Arukarai murukkiya tamil payirriya navan”;
“Vanpa-kaiyam akkuntarai venroy”;
“Pali amanaik kaluverrinan”;
He has got a special fascination of the names “Arukacani”; “Kuntacani”; “Amararkkuk kalan”; ‘Arukacani’ means the thunder to the Arhas. He also refers to the Buddhist monk whose head rolled on the ground—“Nervanta puttan talaiyaip puvimel puralvitta vittakap patal vilampinan”,
He gives more details about the debate with the Jains—. “Arukar kulam venra koccaiyarkon”; “Arukar tankal tennattu aran atta cinkam”; “Vaikai mantanar enpar...paracamaya kol-arikkun nikarat tamil nattulla kuntarkale”; “Corceri nilkavi ceytanru vaikaiyil tollamanar parceriya vannam katta Campantan”; “Arukantar munkalanka natta mutai kelumu mal innam pun kalankal vaikaippunal”; “Amanmalaintan”. In the Tirut-tokai he refers to Pantimatevi and Kulaccirai praising Campantar whilst the heretics set fire probably to Campantar’s own mutt, when he ordered the fire to catch hold of the Pandya—“Pattic civamenru pantima teviyotum korrak katirvel Kulacciraiyum kontatum arraip polutattu amanaritu ventiyaip parric cutuka poyp pantiyanai enna vallan”;™ “Kantum kanalil kulir patuttuk katal kutalinvay ventin tuyar tavirttan”, The Pandya was cured of his misery probably with the sacred ash. Nampiyantar refers to the verses of Campantar undergoing the ordeal of water and fire. He specifically mentions that the hymn beginning with ‘Pokamar’ went through the ordeal of fire. The cadjan leaf containing Campantar’s hymn went against the current of the stream of Vaikai—“Nilaviya Vaikai-yarru etittu vanlr etirottum ceykaiydl mikka ceyalutaiyan”; “Mankaiyitattaranaik kavi nlr etir ota matittarul cey tanku pukalc catur mamarai navalar caiva cikamani’\
Nampiyantar mentions Campantar receiving gold coin as prize along with Tirunavukkaracar at Thiruveezhimizhalai, an important meeting according to him of the two saints which saved the world—
“Patiya centamilal palankacu paricil perra nitiya cirt tiru nanacam-pantan nirai pukalan netiya puntiru navuk karacotu elil milalaik kutiya kuttattinal ulatayttik kuvalayame”;
“Tecam mulutum malai marantu un ketac centalarkai lean tiruvarulal elil vllimilalaiyinvayk kacin inalaipolintan”;
“Tunkap puricai toku milalai ankatanil nittan celunkacu kontu nikal nelvayil muttin civikai mutalkontu”;
“Vayal ani ten vilimilalaiyinilavu kacin mali malai poliyum mana kuna maturan”;
“Vilimilalaip patikkacu konta piran”.
He also refers to Campantar as the friend of Nilanakkar, Muruka Nayanar and Ciruttontar—
“Elil Ntlanakkarkum inpap puntan pukalur Murukarkum tolan”;
“Nilavu Murukarkum Nilanakkarkum tolaivil pukalc ciruttontarkum kulaviya tola-maiyayt tollaip pirapparutta cuntar an”
In one place Nampi-yantar states that if we praise Ciruttontar we can easily attain an intimate relationship with Campantar—
“Virumpum putalvanai meyyarintu akkiya innamirtam arumpum punal cataiyay untarul enrati paninta irumpin cutark kalirran Ciruttontanai ettutirel curumpin malart tamilakaran patat totarvu elite”.
He also refers to Campantar making mention of Murukanayanar’s worship in the hymn of Varttamamccuram—
“Varttamanicar kalai vananki val Muruka pattiyai lean patikatte kattinan”
Along with this fact he mentions that Campantar was very friendly with Nilanakkan—
“Attan Tirunilanakkarkum anputaiyan”
Nampiyantar sings of Campantar’s greatness and love which were so endearing to the Lord that he blessed him with the cymbal (talam) at Kolakka; with a palanquin of pearls at Nelvayil Arat-turai; with a purse of a thousand gold coins at Avatuturai to enable his father to perform sacrifice.
He refers to the discomfiture of the proud Pana probably Nilakantayalppanar and the smashing of the yal by him because of his impossibility to play the hymn called “yalmuri’ in his ‘yal’.
At Tirumarukal, he states that when the husband fell down dead, bitten by a poisonous serpent, Campantar took pity on his wife and saved him. In Tiruttokai, Nampiyantar Nampi refers to another incident where Campantar saved this time a woman who died of snake poison. Probably this refers to what the later day generation referred to as the “Ankam pumpavai” incident of Mylapore though Nampiyantar nowhere mentions that the bones alone were transformed into a maiden—“Veyya vitam mevi iranta ayilverkan matamakalai vavenralaippittim mannulakiL valvitta clminra cemmaic ceyalutaiyan”.
Another miracle of Campantar is curing the daughter of a Malava chief who was suffering from Muyalakan or epileptic fits. Tradition has it that this miracle was performed by the hymn sung at Thirupachilachiramam. This is one of the Akapporul hymns, a complaint by the mother of the love-sick maiden who had fallen in love with the Lord.
The miracle of changing a desert into a fertile sea-base at Nanipalli is also referred to by Nampiyantar Nampi, There is a line in Tiruttokai, I. 17—which is often taken to refer to this miracle but that line simply states that Nanacampantar was capable of singing Palai and Neytal—“Palaiyum neytalum patavallan”, i.e. capable of singing the ‘Palai’ and ‘NeytaV tracts even whilst he was young.
The other miracle of metamorphosing a male palmyra into a female palmyra at Tiruvottur is mentioned in several places
At Tirukkollamputur, Campantar crossed the Kaviri river against the current with the help of a boat. This is looked upon as a great miracle of Campantar and this is referred to in various places.
The story of Campantar’s closing the doors of Thirumaraikkadu is another miracle mentioned in various places.
The marriage of Campantar performed at Nallurp perumanam when everyone attained Salvation is another miraculous act.
Ulamalai mentions that Campantar cured his relatives and atiyars from the shivering fever with which they suffered at Konku.
In some temples like Uttarakocamankai, we find the image of Campantar with one leg held up in a dancing posture and playing upon the cymbal (tdlam) whilst singing. Nampiyantar almost describes this form—
“Ciruparar karanta vilikurar kinkini cevipul-lic cilkural iyarri amutun cevvay aruvi tunkat talam piriydt tatak-kai acaittuc ciru kuttiyarric civan arulperra narramil virakan”.
The story of Shiva offering the milk of Parvati and the enraged father demanding the child to point out the person who had given the milk has taken the present form even during the time of Pattinattar:
“Tataiyopu vanta vetiyac ciruvan
Talarnataip paruvattu valarpaci varutta
Annayo enralaippa munninru
Nana ponakattu arulatfik kulaitta
Anat tiralai avanvayin arula
Antanan munintu tantar yarena
Avanaik kattuvan appa vanar
Totutaiya ceviyan enrum
Pitutaiya pemman enrum
Kaiyir cuttik katta
Aiyani velippaf tarulinai anke”.
“The Brahmin boy went with his father whilst he was not capable of walking aright. The growing hunger began to inflict him and he cried, ‘O, Mother! You stood before him. The food of wisdom mixed with your Grace, you offered as the infinite morsel. The Brahmin (father) was angry and asked of the child to show who gave the food. The child said, ‘Father, I shall show Him. He is “Totutaiya ceviyan; pitutaiya pemman'— thus singing he pointed You out, with his finger and lo, You became manifest then and there”.
Sri Sankaracharya, in his Soundaryalahari, describes the heaving bosom of the Mother and refers to its milk making the Tamil child sing the glorious and mellifluous verses. Commentators like Laksmidhara fail to understand the reference; but anyone who knows the story of Campantar will readily identify the Tamil child as Tirujnanasambandar [Thirugnana Sambandar]. The Tamil translation of this work by Virai Kaviraja Pantitar and its commentary by Shaiva Ellappa Navalar makes this point quite clear. Therefore, this story must have become popular by the time of Sri Sankaracharya.
Cekkilar describes the story of ftanacampantar almost as a great epic in 1257 verses. The name of the father of Nanacampantar is Civapata Irutayar (15), a fact not known to us from Campantar’s hymns- The father was feeling miserable (18) at the spread of heresy and was anxious to bring forth a child (19) who would restore the past glory. Like Nampiyantar Nampi, Cekkilar speaks of Campantar’s birth as an avatar (26). The child grew up and attained three years of age (54). The ‘father took the child with him to the temple tank to bathe, because the child persisted in coming with him (56). When he was inside the water uttering aghamarsana mantra (60), the child not seeing the father began to cry ‘Amme, Appa—Mamma, Pappa!’, Shiva came with the Mother Goddess and requested the Mother to feed the child with her milk—‘pal aticil’ (69) in a gold bowl, a description tlearly following Campantar’s verse, “Potaiyar porkinnat taticil,” and when she did so the child became full with divine knowledge and Sivajnanasambandha (69), i.e., one who is linked to divine experience—realizing that the Lord is the creator of everything and the Lord of his servants (71).
The father coming out of the tank found the child with marks of milk and was afraid that it had taken the food given by someone other than a Brahmin. He was, therefore, angry for the breach of the caste rules and demanded the child to show the person who had given the food (72). All this is clearly brought out by the poem of Campantar.
Probably, it is this breach of the caste rules Arurar refers to, when he speaks of Campantar having committed a fault, which fault God accepted as his greatness: “Narramil valla Nana-campantar.... kurranceyyinum kunamenak karutuh kolkai kantu nin kurai kalai atainten”, That divine wisdom dawned upon Campantar, thanks to the blessing of the Lord of Ctkali, is also referred to by Arurar. From these references, the story of the drinking of Parvati’s milk had grown and the hymn ‘Totutaiya ceviyan’ is said to have been sung in reply to the father and pointing to Shiva as the person who had given him milk. That hymn is an ‘akapporul’ song being the speech of a love-sick maiden confessing that Shiva as Bhikshatana is the person who had robbed her heart making her emaciated as to lose her bangles: “Erparanta inavel valai cora en ullam kavar kalvan”; “Iraikalanta ina vet valai cora en ullam kavar kalvan”.™
The father of Campantar, Cekkilar continues, took the child on his shoulders (94) and when Campantar sang the hymn beginning with “Mataiyil valai”™ at Thirukolakka, two cymbals of gold, on each of which was inscribed the pancaksara, came into the hands of the child (103). When people learnt of this, invitations from various places poured in. Campantar started on a pilgrimage to temples and visited Thirunanipalli (116) where his mother was born. Tirunilakanta Yalppanar came to Cikali along with his wife and undertook, of his own accord, to follow Campantar wherever he went so as to play the hymns on his yal (131). After worshipping at various places around Cikali and Citamparam, Campantar reached Nelvayil Arathurai and rested that night at Maranpati. Shiva appeared in the dream of the people of Nelvayil Arathurai and directed them to present Campantar with an umbrella, a pearl palanquin and ‘cinnam’ or horns, kept within the temple (197). £iva appeared also in the dream of Campantar to request him to accept His gift (206). Hymn 90 of the second Tirumurai was then sung when he accepted the gift according to Periyapuranam.
The ‘upandyanam’ ceremony of Campantar was duly performed according to the Vedic rites, but he emphasized on that occasion about the greatness of Pancaksara (266), the mantra of the Shaivites, by singing hymn 22 of the third Tirumurai, beginning “Tuncalum tuncalilata poltum”. Hearing of the fame of Campantar, Tirunavukkaracar came down to Cikali and lived with him for some days (273) before he left on his pilgrimage to the temples (274). Campantar, when he went round the temples, once came to Tiruppaccildcciramam where the chief Kollimalavan brought his daughter suffering from epileptic fits or Muyalakan to the presence of Campantar (217) who sang the hymn beginning with “Tunivalar tinkal”™ and cured her of the disease. He reached Cenkunrur (324) where probably people were accustomed to suffer from a kind of hill malaria. His followers had an attack of his fever. He sang the hymn beginning with “Avvinaikkiv-vinai”, when all his followers as well as others became whole (336). Whilst he was nearing Tiruppatficcuram (391), it was so hot that a Sivagana held up a canopy of pearls over his head (392), a canopy which came down to be caught by the followers of Campantar (394). Hymn 73 of the third Tirumurai was then sung. In the last verse, the words, “Pantamuyar vitum nala Patticcuram” occur; perhaps there was another reading “Pantar uyar” from which this story of the pearl canopy might have arisen.
Whilst Campantar was at Thiruvaduthurai, his father was desirous of performing a sacrifice for which he wanted money (422). Hymn 4 of the 3rd Tirumurai where he rhetorically asks of the Lord, “Is there nothing to be given?” is said to have been sung on this occasion, when it is said a Sivabhuta placed a purse of 1000 coins on the pedestal (426). Campantar went to the place of Tirunilakanta Ydlppanar’s mother, Viz., Tarumapuram (444) and Panar’s relatives were so proud as to claim all the popularity of Campantar s hymns for the musical talents of Panar (445). Panar felt so miserable that he begged of Campantar to sing a hymn which cannot be played on the ydl. Panar was about to break his musical instrument when he could not play the ‘Yalmuri’ hymn on his yal but Campantar begged of him to resist that attempt (450-52). On his pilgrimage to various temples, Campantar came to Marukal where he heard the lament of a maiden who had eloped with her beloved who was unfortunately bitten by a snake. Moved by this tragic situation, Campantar sang the hymn, “Cataiyay enumal” to bring back the dead man to life (482-83). At the instance of Ciruttontar, he worshipped at Cenkattan kuti. He met Tirunavukkaracar at Thiruppugalur (492-93) and went to Thiruvarur to worship on the Tiruvatirai day (496). At Thiruveezhimizhalai he had a vision of the Lord of Cikali (555). Whilst these two saints were staying at Thiruveezhimizhalai a severe famine raged in the country. The saints got a coin each from the Lord of the temple to feed their followers. At first a coin on which a commission had to be paid, was given to Campantar and therefore Campantar sang begging the Lord to give coins on which no commission need be paid (570). Both the saints then reached Thirumaraikkadu (575) where Appar sang a hymn for opening the gates of the temple (582) whilst Campantar sang one to close them (587).
Whilst staying there, people from Maturai came to inform them of the persecution of the Shaivites by heretics. Appar offered to go, lest the heretics should do any harm to Campantar. He also pointed out that it was not an auspicious occasion whereupon, Campantar sang the ‘Kolaru Pathigam’ (616). Therein, he stated that everything was auspicious to the followers of God. Kulacciraiyar, the minister and Mankaiyarkkaraci, the queen welcomed him to Maturai (660) when he sang a hymn- On the night of his arrival, the heretics by their black magic, set fire to the mutt (700), where Campantar and his followers were staying. Knowing this, Campantar sang the hymn 3: 51, ordering the fire to catch hold of the Pandya in the form of fever (705). The pain was so unbearable that the Pandya consulted his minister and the queen who explained to him that all this was due to his friends trying to set fire to the mutt (719). The king sent for Campantar (723) who, however, went to the temple for knowing the will of the Lord as to his entering on a debate with the heretics by singing the hymns 3:47 and 3:108. After knowing the will of the Lord, he went to the palace and when the Pandya asked of him his birth place (753), he replied by singing the hymn 2:70. The heretics, were all in anger and even the queen became nervous when Campantar re-assured her by singing the hymn 3:39. The heretics undertook to cure the left side of the king and Campantar, the right side of the king. Campantar sang the hymn on the sacred ash and cured the fever on both the sides, when the heretics felt helpless (766). The heretics preferred the magical contest of fire and water from which the cadjan leaves containing the truths of their respective religions should escape. Campantar took out the hymn of Thirunallar ™ from his collected works and threw it into the fire (783) and sang the hymn, “Talarila vanamulai”, Whilst the cadjan leaf of the heretics was burnt to ashes, the leaf of Campantar remained fresh (789). Then followed the ordeal by water. The hymn “Valka antanar” was written on a cadjan leaf and thrown into the waters of Vaikai. Whilst the cadjan leaf of the Jains rushed away with the current, Campantar’s leaf travelled against the current and reached ‘Tiruvetakam’ (850) where Campantar sang. Campantar refers to the cadjan leaf reaching Etakam, “Etu cenra-naitarum Etakam” in the last verse of his hymn. How a temple was built there and how the place itself came to be ‘called Etakam even whilst Campantar was singing the hymn when the cadjan leaf travelling against the current are not made clear.
The heretics—the ‘atatayins— were impaled as a punishment for their crime of setting fire to the living quarters of Campantar and his followers (855). It is not clear how this tradition grew, for prior to the song of Nampiyantar Nampi, we do not hear anything about this story. One modern writer has printed a verse of Campantar with the reading, “Cirankalaic cinta vatu ceyyat tiruvullame’'—‘Is it your wish that the heads of the heretics should roll down?’ instead of the old reading, “Tirankalaic cinta vatu ceyyattiru vullame”— ‘Is it your wish that I should debate with the heretics bringing their capacities to nothing?’ Perhaps some such reading or misunderstading was responsible for the growth of this tradition.
After this, Campantar went to the temples in the Cola country and once when he had to cross the river Kaviri in a boat without a boatman, he sang the hymn “Kottame kamalum” (898). The word “Celia untuka'’ occurs in every one of the verses and the sixth verse speaks of “Otamvantanaiyum Kotlamputilr”. ‘Otamvantanaiyum’ is the description of that place as much as ‘Anuvantanaiyum’ and other phrases which occur in other verses. It is, however, on this description that the tradition had grown.
When he reached Potimankai (904), the seat of the Buddhists, one Buddhanandi (906) opposed him and one of his followers went to write his verses on the cadjan leaf sang the verse “Puttar Caman kalukkaiyar” where it is stated that the Pancaksara was the weapon against the enemies of Shaivites. We are told that the Buddhist died of a lightning shock (909).
Campantar came to meet Appar at Tirunpunturutti (929) where unknown to others, Appar carried the palanquin of Campantar along with others (934). Campantar was shocked to learn this and got down from the palanquin to embrace the elder saint (936). After taking leave of Appar, Campantar went to the temples of Tontainatu (945). At Tiruvottur, he found all the palmyras planted becoming male ones (978). He sang the hymn ‘Puttern-tayana’. In the last verse he speaks of “Kurumpai an panai zn kulai Ottur”. Probably it is a beautiful description of the freak of nature around which a tradition had grown. At Tirumayilap-pur, one Civanecaccettiyar had a daughter by name Pumpavai (1044) whom he wanted to give away to Nana campant ar. But she unfortunately died of snake bite. Her poor father preserved her bones in a pot which he placed before Campantar on his visit to Mylapore. Campantar sang the ‘Pumpavaippatikam’ and out of the bones rose a beautiful damsel back to life (1090). Having brought her to life he explained that he was in a sense her father and therefore he could not marry her (1114). Campantar returned home and his parents in spite of his refusal, insisted on his marrying the daughter of Nampantar Nampi (1161) at Tirunallurpperumanam. Tirunila nakka Nayanar acted as the priest (1239). Whilst coming round the fire along with his wife, he sang the hymn beginning with ‘Nallurpperumanam’ and all the assembly disappeared as it were into the light. He sang the Pancaksara hymn beginning with ‘Katalalaki ordering all to enter into the light to attain salvation including Tirunilanakkar, Tirunilakanta yalp-panar, Murukan (Murugan), Nampantar and Civapata Irutayar, on that Vaikaci mulam day.
The Kannada and Sanskrit traditions are summarized as follows: “Tirujnana Sambandhi-pille nayanar was a Brahman Sai-vite famous for his Tamil songs in praise of Shiva. He is considered an Avatar of Shiva. He cured Kubjapandya, King of Madura, of his fever which Jinasena and other Jaina devotees of his time could not cure with all their Jaina spells and charms, and thus persuaded him to embrace Shaivism again. He paid a visit to Gaja-ranya and worshipped the Linga which was set up there by Rak-takshachola, son of Subhadeva, King of Cholas. Vagisa, Nilanagna, Skandanatha, Kulapaksha, Haradatta and others were his contemporaries. At his request, Tirumanghayalvar, one of the celebrated Vaishnava saints, anterior to Ramanujacharya, paid a visit to a Vaishnava temple in Madura. Vadlbhasimha, a celebrated Jaina scholar, is said to have disputed with Sambandhar on the merits of Shaivism”. We have already pointed out that in this tradition various great men who had lived in different periods are brought together as is often done in the stories of other great men like Sankara. Vadibhasimha, who is the author of Gadya Cintamani, is considered to have lived during the reign of Raja-raja II of the 12th century.
One of the Darasuram sculptures gives a representation of the story of Alutaiyapillaiyar (Campantar). We have on the right, an elderly person with a beard and a sacred thread and with a tuft of hair knotted to the left. He is placing his left hand on the hip and holding a stick in the right hand as it were in the act of beating. A child stands in front with a vessel in its left hand. On the left appear Shiva and Parvati on the sacred bull. This depicts the story of Campantar pointing to the Lord after having drunk the milk.
We have thus seen the story of Nanacampantar developing from time to time; but the references in Arurar’s hymns are crystal clear about the life of Campantar as Arurar had known it. We had given references to Campantars verses where the great saint describes his own experience and his own message which must have moved Arurar to such a great extent as to speak of himself as simply following in the footsteps of Campantar, The references in Arurar’s hymns seem to suggest that Campantar was the leader of an important school of thought and worship which Arurar followed-
The 83rd sutra of Narada Bhakti Sutra is important from this point of view: “Thus the teachers of Bhakti unanimously declare without being in the least afraid of public criticism—the great teachers Kumara, Vyasa, Sukha, Sandilya, Garga, Visnu, Kaundinya, Sesha, Uddhava, Arini, Bali, Hanuman, Vishisana and others”. The work, ‘Narada Bhakti Sutra’ is assigned to the 12th century and the teacher Sesha mentioned therein is sometimes interpreted as referring to Ramanujacharya. In that case, it is for consideration whether Kaundinya may not refer to Jnanasam-bandha who calls himself ‘Kavuniyan’ (Kaundinya) in many of his verses. If this interpretation is correct, Campantar must be the head of a school of Shaivite Bhaktas believing in singing hymns in praise of God.