The Religion and Philosophy of Tevaram (Thevaram)

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

This page describes “nayanar 37: kazharitrarivar or cheraman perumal” 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 37th saint is Kazharitrarivar Nayanar (Kazharitrarivar). In some manuscripts of Periyapuranam, the name is found as Ceraman Perumal Nayanar (Cheraman Perumal). The words of Arurar are, “Karkonta kotaik Kalarirrari-varkkum atiyen’'—am the servant of Kazharitrarivar, munificent like the cloud’. Nampiyantar states that Kazharitrarivar was a Cera. He is also called ‘Tennarpiran’— ‘the Lord of the Southerners, of the Tamils’, in the sense in which Arurar often uses the term. There are only two incidents in the life of this saint that Nampiyantar mentions. One is that this Cera king saw a washerman full of fuller’s earth (Ulaman) as though appearing as besmeared with sacred ash. He fell down at his feet. The washerman prostrated saying that he was a dhobi servant of the Cera. The Cera continued worshioping him stating that he himself was the slave of the Shaivite Bhaktas. The other incident is that when Shiva gave Arurar an elephant for reaching Kailas, this Cera’s horse overtook it. Namviyantar also praises his own mind for becoming a servant of this brave saint who had conquered the warrior of the sugar-cane bow. In another place also he refers to the good path traversed by Arurar and Villavar or Cera on an elephant and the horse respectively.

Cekkilar gives us an elaborate version of the story of the saint connecting it with the story of Arurar. Malainatu or the Cera country where the Shaiva temple of Thiruvanchikulam is situated along with the capital city of the Ceras, Kotunkolur—the modern Cranganore, is first described. The Ceras were also known as Kotai and their city Makotai. In this family of the Ceras was born Perumakkotaiyar. He was doing service at Thiruvanchikulam when Poraiyan the Cera king abdicated the throne to become a tapasvin. The ministers approached the Shaivite member of the family worshipping at the temple Thiruvanchikulam with the request that he should become their king. He, however, wanted first to ascertain the will of the Lord and the Lord blessed him with (1) Sovereignty, (2) Loving service unto the Lord, (3) Knowledge of understanding whatever the men, beasts and the rest might say, (4) Unrivalled Power of victory, (5) Munificence, (6) Weapons and (7) Vahanams, i.e., carriages and animals for riding. He, thereafter, agreed to be crowned. Whilst ruling thus the incident of the washerman occurred.

Along with the Cola king and the Pandya, he formed the triumvirate of Tamil kings, conquering the internal and external enemies and ruling the world in such a way that the brilliance of the sacred ash glowed all the more gloriously. He realized, the greatest Royal happiness and wealth were but the feet of the Lord of Tillai of Citamparam. The Lord made this king hear the jingling sound of the anklet of His feet whilst dancing every day, at the end of his worship.

The next incident is the presents this Cera gave away to Panapattirar. This great Pana was devoted to the Lord of Tiruvalavay or Madura, whom he worshipped with musical compositions. One day, the Lord appeared in his dream to say that a letter directing the Cera to present him with gold, silk and precious gems would be given to him. This letter in the form of a poem is found as the first verse of the eleventh Tirumurai. When Panapattirar went with this letter of introduction to the Cera, he was received with all devotion and the presents already described were given, along the Cera kingdom and sovereignty which the Pana begged the Cera to be taken back.

The next incident is that one day when the Cera failing to hear the jingling sound of the anklet of the dancing feet of the Lord went to commit suicide, the sound came to be heard. On begging the Lord to explain this delay, He told the Cera that He was so much engrossed in the hymn just then sung by Arurar at Citamparam that He forgot to dance and make the jingling sound to be heard by the Cera. The Cera at once became desirous of visiting Tillai and meeting Arurar. After worshipping at Tillai, where he composed Ponvannattantdti, he went to Arur, where Arurar received him with all love and honour. There, the Cera composed Thiruvarur Mum/manikkovai. The Cera and Arurar went on a pilgrimage to the temples in the Pandya country. At Maturai where the Cola king was staying as the son-in-law of the Pandya all the three ancient kings of Tamil land and Arurar met together. From there Arurar and Cera returned to Arur. The Cera king went to his own capital along with Arurar through Aiyaru and the Konku country. Arurar was given a Royal reception and when Arurar wanted to return to his country, the Cera sent his presents through his servants which were however robbed at Thirumuruganpoondi. Arurar returned to Thiruvarur. At the same time Arurar started on his pilgrimage to the Konku country to meet his old friend the Cera. After meeting his friend he went to worship at the temple at Thiruvanchikulam and a white elephant was sent to take him back to Kailas. Ceraman followed him on his horseback uttering the Pancaksara in its ears, but his followers unable to bear the separation committed suicide. Both of them reached Kailas welcomed by the Lord and the work ‘Tiruvulappuram’ composed by Ceraman was heard by Shiva at Ceraman’s instance.

Nampiyantar does not mention anything about the abdication by the previous Cera king. The tradition is that the Cera kings called Perumals ruled for a fixed period abdicating the throne at the end of that period. Ceraman also had abdicated though under different circumstances. We know Kulacekarapperumal also abdicated. It is on the basis of this tradition that Cekkilar must be speaking of the abdication of the throne of Ceramanperumal’s predecessor. The story of this Ceraman listening every day the jingling sound of the anklet on the feet of the Lord is not mentioned by Nampiyantar. The yogis are said to hear miraculous sounds. Manikkavdcakar also speaks of hearing the jingling sound of the anklet—“Vatavurinil vantinitarulip pataccilampoli kattiya paricum”. Nampiyantar’s description that he had conquered ‘Manmata’ makes it clear that this saint never married.

The information about the various works Ceraman has composed may be gathered from the 11th Tirumurai in which they find a place. The references in Ponvannattantati are in many cases to the dance of Shiva and, therefore, that book has been taken as sung at Tiruttillai (Tillaiccivan-84) but he also mentions Maraikkadu, Arur and Kalukkunram.. One of the verses found at the end of Ponvannattantati gives us the information about the ‘Uta’ being accepted by the assembly at Kailas. Thiruvarur Mummanikkovai as the name itself suggests might have been sung at Thiruvarur.

Cekkilar tells us that he went through the Heavens or the sky to Kailas but the paintings discovered at Rajarajesvaram temple at Tanjore give us a picture of a bearded person riding on an elephant with the ‘talam’ or cymbal in his hand. This must be Arurar singing the hymn beginning with “Tanenai munpataittan” (H. 100). Next to him rides Ceraman on a horse. In front of him rides Ceraman on a horse, with a beard and ornaments. His tuft of hair is flowing whilst that of Arurar is found knotted to the right. Ceraman is turning towards Arurar. Beneath them are found the waves with fish. This seems to represent the tradition that they took the sea route; “Ali katalariya” occurs in the last hymn of Arurar wherein the Lord of the Seas is asked to carry the hymn and the information to Ceraman. But they might have followed the sea route whilst at the same time flying through the air, even as our modern day aeroplanes do. This painting at Tanjore further shows the welcome these saints received at Kailas as referred to by Cekkilar.

Punturutti Nampi Katava Nampi, one of the authors of Tiruvicaippa, speaks of Arurar and Ceraman going on a white elephant with their own physical bodies. An inscription of the 32nd year reign of Rajadhiraja I speaks of a priest Nampi Katava Nampi of Attireya gotra, a priest of Tiruvaiyaru, which is near Punturutti. One wonders whether this priest is the same as the author of Tiruvicaippa referred to above. It is curious that the Darasuram sculpture represents what it calls ‘the Ceraman Perumal katai’ by representing two elephants one after the other on which ride two men, who are taken to be Arurar and Ceraman by some. But the fact, that the person riding on the first elephant is holding the Royal umbrella with his right hand and having his face turned towards the person on the second elephant with all regard and respect, raises in our mind a point of doubt whether it will be right on our part to take him as Arurar.

In our ancient Cankam Literature in Tamil, we hear of the Royal umbrella being carried as the first thing in a procession as a symbol of sovereignty. It is this that is represented by the first elephant on which is found the Royal umbrella. The second elephant carries the king. On the ground, we see four or five people, probably in the act of dancing in that procession. The person riding on the second elephant should, therefore, be the king Ceraman Perumal taking a procession soon after his becoming the crowned king. So far we can take as representing the first scene. On the left hand side we find two persons standing, one with the hands held above his head in ancali pose, whilst the other is bowing down silghtly with the hands held in ancali pose near his chest. This reminds us of the first incident referred to by Nampiyantar Nampi, where Ceraman on seeing a dhobi worships him whilst the dhobi protests saying that he is the slave of the king. How this could be taken as representing the final march to Kailas as is done by some is not clear. Even Nampikatava Nampi must be taken to have mentioned the horse, thanks to what poetry calls the ellipsis; as a poet, he has emphasized the white elephant leaving the horse in our mental background.

The name ‘Kalanirrarivar’ has been explained by Cekkilar as explaining the gift given by Lord ;Shiva that this king would be capable of knowing all that the beasts, men and birds could express especially their miseries and shortcomings in his kingdom. But the word ‘Kalaru’ as found in the old phrase ‘Kalar retirmarai’ means according to the Tamil Lexicon, admonition, expostulation or criticism at once, kind and severe. Therefore, the title Kazharitrarivar will explain the greatness of the king ruling according to Tirukkural, with the noble quality of welcoming and seeing through destructive criticism against his rule. In Needur, there was a temple to this saint, which was called, ‘Connavararivar Koyil’. It is not clear whether this refers to our saint or to the Lord; we know Visnu was called ‘Connavannam ceyyum Perumal’. The folk tales speak of knowing the language of birds and beasts. Probably the conceptions of Tirukkural and the folk tales have given us this phrase Kazharitrarivar emphasizing the important qualification of the ruler according to the hearts of the people.

The next incident is about Panapattirar. Thiruvilaiyadal Puranam also mentions this incident as taking place in the reign of Varaguna I who is considered to be no other than Koccataiyan, the grandfather of Varagunavarman, according to C. V. Narayanaswamy Aiyar. This is an incident which Nampiyantar has not mentioned, but the description by Arurar, “Karkonta kotaik ‘Kazharitrarivar” ‘that he was as munificent as the rain-bearing cloud’ suggests that he was a great patron and it is probably this description that necessitated as a tradition of the Pana described by Cekkilar. We have the Sanskrit and the Kannada traditions about this Panapattirar mentioning him as Yalppananayanar or Tirunilakantha and as a musician famous for his devotional songs in praise of Shiva. He is said to have received valuable rewards from Cherama (Ceraman Perumal) king of the Ckeras. These traditions speak of Ceraman Perumal or Cherama, called also Mahagoda, a Shaivite King of the Cheras who is said to have visited Sundara Nambiyar. As we had already discussed the age of Arurar we need not repeat the same arguments here; for, after all, Ceraman is a contemporary of Arurar.

In the light of certain facts referred to by us in the portion on the life of Arurar one may take the meeting of the three kings at Maturai as the meeting of the Pandya, Cera and Pallava (Rajasimha) who had given his daughter in marriage to the Pandya Koccataiyan whose son was named Rajasimha, after his grandfather.

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