The Religion and Philosophy of Tevaram (Thevaram)

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

This page describes “nayanar 45: kalia (kaliya)” 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 45th saint is Kaliya Nayanar (Kalia). Arurar mentions only his name. Nampiyantar calls him merely Kali. His native place according to Nampiyantar Nampi is Thiruvottiyur which is near Madras. He was wont to burn a lamp in the temple and when he could not afford it, he sold out everything and worked as a cooly at the oil-mill for performing the service of lighting the lamp without break.

Cekkilar also refers to him as Kaliya Nayanar but speaks of him as Kalinltiyar in the last verse of Kalikkampa Naya-nar Puranam, a name, which is also found there in the Sanskrit and Kannada traditions. He is an oil-monger, a cakkiri, according to Nampiyantar, and a resident of Cakkarappafi teru in Thiruvottiyur according to Cekkilar. He was born rich and lit the lamps in the temple all the day. He lost all his wealth and he began to sell oil as a cooly and make some profit for doing his service.

When even this could not be done, he worked at the oil mill as a cooly. On account of many people taking to this work he lost his employment. He made up his mind to sell away his wife, but found no purchaser. Knowing no other way and carrying out services as usual, he thought of using his own blood as oil and began to cut away his own throat when the Lord appeared and caught hold of his hand.

One of the Darasuram sculptures on its right hand half, shows the saint, first working as a cooly driving the bulls and next as a cooly removing the oil from the mili. In the left hand half is the vimana ol the temple in front of which stands a series of lights in what appears a pillar, for lighting which with his own blood, the saint is trying to cut away his throat.

The Sanskrit and Kannada versions are the following:

Kaliniti, a Shaivite saint, wont to burn a light before Shiva all the night over, went so far as to sell his wife for money to purchase oil for lamp-light. But when no purchaser could be found, he attempted to commit suicide rather than abstain from keeping a light in the temple. Shiva is said to have prevented him from doing so”.

It is clear that this story is very much more developed than what is found in Nampiyantar’s version. If one is to take into consideration the context one may be tempted to hold that Kaliyan or Kaliniti was also a chief or chieftain like Kalikkampan, Sakti and others mentioned along with him. The word Kaliyan reminds us of the name of Tirumankai Alvar, a Kalavar chief.

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