by M. A. Dorai Rangaswamy | 1958 | 410,072 words
This page describes “the cult of atiyars (adiyars)” from the religion of the Thevaram: the conception of Paramanaiye Paduvar. 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
I - Pattarayppanivar:
We referred to the cult of Atiyars’ worship—the worship of the Atiyars (Adiyars)—being considered greater than the worship of Shiva. Is that not the philosophy of Viranmintar, which is said to have given birth to the Thiruthondathogai? Our poet also expresses this truth elsewhere in his poems. Pattarayppanivar are the followers of this cult who worship the Bhaktas and make preparations for their puja—a kind of Carya, in Juana. Though a distinction has been made, this does not create any water tight compartments. Saints of one group are found to be saints of other groups as well. In our poet himself we find the aspects of all these, though we may speak of him as Paramanaiye Paduvar.
Our poet calls himself, “'Paramanaiye paniyac cittam vaitta tontar tontan” — ‘I am the servant of the servants of those who resolved with all their heart to worship the Lord’. He remonstrates in another place, ‘I have become not only His servant, but also the servant of His servants’—“Orumaiye......atiyen, atiyavarkkatiyanum anen” Again he confesses, ‘Even if you will not get attached to me, I am always attached to you; I have become the slave of those who take refuge in your feet, yet I have not left off singing your praises’—“Ottl rakilum ottuvan atiyen ummati yataintavark katimaip pattenakilum patuta loliyen”. In the Tirumalapati hymn, the chorus of the song is, “Whom else could I think of, except you?” and for stressing this idea he exclaims, ‘I am your servant and I have long long ago assumed the service to all the servants of your servants’—“Pante ninnatiyen atiyar atiyarkat-kellam tonte puntolinten”, When he sings of the Thiruketharam in the north, he is reminded of this idea and again confesses “Civanatiyarkaluk katiyan atittontan” — ‘I am the slave of the servant of the servants of Shiva’.
There are whole hymns expressing this idea of surrender to the Bhaktas, The Thiruvalangadu hymn has, as it were, for its chorus for every one of its verses the phrase, “Alankata un atiyark-katiydn avene”—‘O, Lord of Alankatul I shall become the servant of your servants’. It looks as though the saint is here rededicating himself to the service of the Bhaktas. The Tiruva-naikkd hymn in every one of its verses expresses the idea that those who take refuge in the Lord are his own Lords. The Pancaksara hymn of Kotumuti, as already pointed out, expresses the idea that his realization of the truth of Pancaksaram has brought him the birthless state. He also expresses the idea implied therein, that when he forgets this truth he is no more than a dead man. But Pancaksara is interpreted not only as ‘I am not mine but Shiva’s’, but also as, am not mine but Shiva’s servants’ i.e., I belong to the servants of Shiva’ because it being Shiva’s amounts to being the servant of the servants of Shiva. It is because of this that the second verse of the hymn No. 48, instead of saying that he would be a dead man if he forgets the Lord, he states that he would be a dead man when he slights the Bhaktas of the Lord—“Ittanum ati ettuvar ikalntitta nal marantitta nal ketta nal ivai enralan karuten”.
The servants of the Lord are in a sense our guides showing us the way. Nampi Arurar says that he was seeing the atiyavar worship the Lord and he went imitating them or went under their cover—“Ayalavar paravavum atiyavar tolavum anparkal cayalul ataiyalur rirunten”, We had already referred to the other verse wherein he exclaims, “When am I to worship you with flowers and bubbling love, realizing that all that the atiyars sing is about you”. These guides are the messengers of God who introduce us to God. Hymn 73 is addressed from this point'of view to the Bhaktas begging them to inquire of the Lord if he would accept Nampi Arurar as his servant—“Iruppatum Arur avar emmaiyum alvaro kelir”. The hymn 44 seems also to be addressed to the Bhaktas raising various questions about His puranic personality. The third and the fourth verses have explicit reference to ‘Tontars’ begging them not to speak harsh words and not to speak of separation. The 33rd hymn is also addressed to those who worship the Lord as they like—“Numakkicaiyuma (or vallava) ninaintet-tuvzr”. Here also Nampi Arurar raises the various puranic descriptions of the Lord in the form of rhetoric interrogations. The last verse of this hymn makes it clear that it is addressed to the Bhaktas, “Paticey nirmaiyir pattarkal panintettinen paniyl-rarul”.
In the hymns of Alvars and Nayanmars, there occur some requests to the birds to carry the message of the love-sick maiden to the Lord. The Vaishnavite commentators have always interpreted these birds as the Bhaktas, as spiritual guides carrying the message to the Lord. Hymn 37 has to be interpreted in this manner. Therefore, the philosophy of Thiruthondathogai is not at all foreign to the other hymns of Arurar. He takes a pride in calling himself a ‘Tontan’; ‘Atittontan’; ‘Tontar tontan’
It was the common belief in that age that for a full blown Bhakta to be born, his previous seven generations should have been pure and should have been worshipping the Lord. In some places it is possible to interpret that what is referred to is not the previous generations but one’s own previous births. Probably we will not be far from the truth if we conclude that both the ideas are included: “Orumaiye alien elumaiyum atiyen” — I am not in one birth alone your servant, but in seven births’; “Narravai ennaip perra murravai tammanai tantaikkum tavvaik-kum tampiranar”; “Enakkiniyavan tamarkkiniyavan elumaiyum manakkiniyavan” —‘He is sweet unto me, sweet unto my people, of seven generations, sweet unto their mind’.
II - Classification of the Saints:
Our study so far reveals that Arurar has been referring to the groups of saints enumerated in the verse beginning with ‘Patta-rayp panivar’ in the Thiruthondathogai. We may here group together his references to the various kinds of Bhaktas for proving that this verse beginning with ‘Pattar ay ppanivar’ is in his mind and that verse explains our poet’s outlook on religion.
Our poet speaks of Atiyar, Tontar, Pattar™ Cittar and Anpar™ emphasizing respectively Atimai—absolute self-surrender, Tontu—service, Bhakti—reverential love, Citti (Siddhi)—spiritual realization and Anpu—love. These ideas are also found combined in ‘At it ton,tar/ ‘Pattakiya tontar’ Most often our poet like his predecessors uses the phrase ‘Pattar Cittar’: Bhaktas or devotees and Siddhas or those who are Jivanmuktas. In other places, he speaks of Anpar, Tontar and Pattar. He sings in that verse, “Atumin anputaiyir”—‘You lovers dance’; “Atikkatpatta tuli kontu cutumin tontarullir”—‘You tontars, who have dedicated yourselves to the service of the Lord, crown yourselves with the dust of the feet of the Lord’s followers’; “Umaratu emar cula vantu vatumiv valkkaitannai varuntamal tiruntaccenru patumin patta-rullir”—‘Bhaktas or devotees! let your people and our people come together and improve and reform this life which is a life of lightning of suffering’. Pattar and Anpar are here found mentioned together; therefore, the first must refer to Sadhaka Bhaktas; the second to Sadhya Bhaktas, where Anpar or Siddhas dance in the rapture of divine bliss beyond words. Tontar will be those who serve. The word, ‘Anpar will be emphasizing the mind, ‘Tontar’, the bodily activity and ‘Pattar’, the speech aspect. It is because of this we have not chosen to take the words ‘tittikontu’ to go along with ‘apumin anputaiytr’ though such an interpretation will be justified according to the conception of the age as learnt from Kulasekhara Alvar: “Tontar atippoti ata nam peril”. In discussing the Kapali form of the Lord, we had to interpret the Bhutas, Pey and Paritam’ in a similar way, as referring to these three classes. ‘Pattarayp panwar’, ‘Paramanaiye Paduvar’, ‘Cittattaic Civanpale vaittar’—these are the three classes mentioned in the Thiruthondathogai, which correspond to the three classes mentioned here; only the name ‘Pattar’ is used there for ‘Tontar’ here.
He speaks of the greatness of the Atiyar in another verse. He describes: (1) the services of many atiyar s with which the Lord sympathizes; (2) the song and dance of Bhaktas whom He loves; (3) the spiritual goal of those who follow His foot path, almost close on His heels, without swerving even by a hair’s breadth, all of whom the Lord blesses with Mukti and Siddhi; (4) the hidden treasure of a Lord turning up to save the ‘Nal atiyar’— the good followers—in times of scarcity or danger; and (5) the desire of the mind of those ‘Vai atiyar’, the undaunted followers, the desire being the very Lord Himself. The first is the description of those in the service of the Lord; the second, of those who sing His glories; the third, of those who reach the Lord with all their heart and mind, these three corresponding to the ‘Tontar’, ‘Pattar’, and ‘Anpar above referred to.
The fourth and the fifth descriptions introduce another distinction. The poet describes one class as ‘Nal atiyar’ and the other as ‘Vai atiyar. To the one class, the Lord comes to its rescue as a hidden treasure. The other class possibly forms a hidden treasure to God Himself like Kannappar and other servants coming as it were to His rescue. The members of the latter class have no thought of themselves; they have no self of theirs; God moves them and all their acts are His. These are the towers of spiritual strength. But both of them are atiyars. The path of the one seems to be tempting and easy for us to follow and they are the ‘Nal atiyar’ like those in Thiruthondathogai, who like Neca Nayanar and others come offering anything they can to the world at large, a pot, a cloth, or food without any suffering whatsoever. The other path seems to be beyond our reach. But in both the cases there is self surrender and God loves them all.
The epithets Wai' and ‘Vai’ with reference to the Atiyars are explained by the author of Tirukkalirruppatiyar as applying to their acts, ‘nalvinai and ‘valvinai . Whatever the action, the aim is the destruction of the separating self, ‘I’; for, when that self is destroyed, Lord appears in Love.
Therefore, both achieve the destruction of the selfish ‘I’.
“Melvinaiye yenna viyanulakil arrariya
Valvinaiye yenna varumirantum—Collin
Civatanma mamavarrir cenratile celvay
Pavakanmam ninkum pati”
“Atiyai arccittarku ankamum ankanke
Titil tirampalavum ceyvanavum—Vetiyane
Nalvinaiydm enre namakkum eli tanavanrai
Melvinaiye enratunam veru”.
“The various steps of worshipping the Lord, who is the Beginning, the steps of the various blotless ways of our actions, that is, all these good actions which are easy for us—it is these we have mentioned separately as ‘melvinai’.”
Here it is important to note that this author who first labelled these as ‘melvinai’ identifies them also with ‘nalvinai’ which we may, therefore, interpret as the actions of the ‘Nal atiyar” of Arurar. “The terrific acts like killing and cooking with their own hands for the fthairava without any compunction are those which we have called ‘valvinai”:
“Varankal tarumceyya vayiravarkkut tankal
Karankalinal anru kariyakka—Irankate
Kolvinaiye ceyyum kotuvinaiye anavarrai
Valvinaiye enratunam marru”.
The reference here is to Ciruttontar. The author refers further under this head of ‘valvinai’ to Sandesvara and Arival Taya Nayanar where all their acts are really acts of God and not of their lower selves which have become destroyed or transcended.
It is thus clear that what our poet has stated in Tiruttontat-tokai is asserted all through his Tevaram. It is, therefore, nothing incredible in his having written that hymn. Has he not given us his vision of the whole universe as a Gurukula under the feet of the Great Master of the banyan tree and all the living beings becoming comrades in divine love and being saved by the Lord? Appalum atic carntar may be interpreted to include this vision as well.
This social aspect of this spiritual progress needs no special mention. Universal salvation is the goal of Hinduism. Buddhism has evolved its Bodhisattva conception where the freed soul refuses to reach salvation before all the souls have attained it. This is the heroism of refusing salvation which according to Cekkilar characterizes the Bhaktas of Thiruthondathogai. The Pur ana speaks of the Tontars reaching Kailas. According to Appayya DTksitar when one individual attains freedom, he attains identity only with Isvara, and not with Brahmam, with which he attains final identity only when all the souls or jzvas attain Moksa or freedom, just like when a particular mirror is destroyed the reflection of the face becomes one with the reflecting face; becoming one with the face itself being possible only when all the mirrors are destroyed when alone there can be no further reflection. This may be the truth underlying the stories which assert that the saints reached Kailas.
III - The Thiruthondathogai:
A new element has thus been introduced in this Thiruthondathogai hymn, that of communion with the loving souls hankering after God. These are called ‘Tontars’, that is, those in the service of God. This conception of Tontar is considered by the Sai-vites as another spiritual message of Arurar. The ideas of reverential feeling towards the tontars is nothing new. Periyalvar talks of the ‘Tontakkulam’ thereby abolishing all castes and creating a family of all those who worship the Lord, to whatever caste or community they may belong. Arurar also refers to this great community. The love for God reaches its highest point only when it becomes the love of the Bhaktas or tontar, even to the neglect of God. The phrase ‘Tontaratippoti’ is very significant, the dust on the feet of the Bhaktas; this is purer than the water of the Ganges—that is the conviction of Kulasekharar: "Tonta-ratippoti ata nam peril Gangai nlr kutaintu atum vetkai en dvate ? Our saint Arurar goes a step further.
He creates a democracy of Bhaktas, a democracy for all times and climes. Though this is universal in its core, he has made it appear as a Tamilian democracy at the first sight. Man as he is constituted cannot grasp the full significance of the universal spirit. He is a speaking animal and it is this speech that creates his communal life. Our poet coming to sing in Tamil, has naturally to appeal to the Tamilian at first. Therefore, he groups together the saints of Tamil land and they represent the first vision of this spiritual democracy. The individual saints mentioned in his Thiruthondathogai are ah, saints born within the sacred precincts of the Tamil country. This is not narrow parochialism; for, we soon find our poet hastening to make this democracy universal for all lands, for all times. He has only utilized the national awakening of the Tamil country of his times to serve the religious cause. Even in his age, Tamil land was not one political unit. The Pandyas, the Colas, the Ceras and the Pallavas have made the Tamilakam their battle ground and our poet perhaps was himself a partisan of the Pallavas. He wants to escape from this scene of hatred and disunity, to a world of love and union. Fortunately, the Tamil language and its culture offered one way of escape into this world of love. The common man understood this uniform culture of the Tamil land. This democracy of Bhaktas emphasizes that way of the common man. The spirit of renunciation, the feeling of divine love, are possible for the poorest of the poor to whatever caste or community they may belong. Kings also come within this group of Bhaktas not as kings but as Bhaktas great for their spirit of self-surrender and self-sacrifice. These great Bhaktas live for their great ideal laying down their very lives if necessary.
IV - Suggestive description of Saints:
The next important point that deserves our attention is the suggestive description of some of the saints given by our poet. He calls ‘lyarpakai’ as one who never says, ‘No’—“Illaiye ennata lyarpakai’: ‘Meypporul Nayanar’ is described as one who is an adept in the path of success—“Velluma mikavalla Meypporul”, This description gives the inward view and significance of the life message of this saint. Meypporul Nayanar breathed his last at the bands of a traitor who came in the form of an Agamic scholar. This saint pleaded with the servant, Tattan, in spite of the deceit to save the honoured form thus glorifying his own reverence for the sacred book through his own death. The victory is the victory of the Ideal. Again, ‘Tainti’ is described by our poet as one full of eyesight—“Nattamiku Tanti”, though according to the tradition he was blind. Our poet must be emphasizing the inner light and the ideal which guided Tanti. Similarly Kannappar, the illiterate hunter saint, is described by our poet as the hero of all arts—“Kalaimalinta cir Nampi Kannappar”; The hunter saint was as it were the fruition of all arts, the divine love, and it is this, our poet must have had in his mind. In describing ‘Amarniti’, our poet refers to his garland of ‘mullai’ or jasmine—“Allimen mullaiyan-tar Amarniti” Usually it is a symbol of chastity. Probably our poet wants to emphasize that kind of relationship between Amarniti and the Lord.
The poet describes some of the saints by the honoured title of Nampi perhaps looking upon them as divine princes. Some of them, Apputi and Naminanti are Brahmins and they might deserve the title of Nampi as already explained; so do the heroes and ministers, Kulaccirai, Itankali Munaiyatuvar and Kot-puli. But there are also others, who are not Brahmins. Therefore, our poet could not have had the castes in his mind when he described them as Nampis. Kannappar is called by him as ‘Kalai-malinta cir Nampi’ ® and he is accepted by all as the prince among the Bhaktas. Kanampullar is one Nampi— Kanampulla Nampi” and his caste is not known. Eripattar is another Nampi. Kulac-ciraiyar, the minister of the Pandya was responsible for bringing fianacampantar to Maturai for restoring Shaivism and he is, therefore, called “Peru Nampi Kulaccirai” Apputi who exemplified the path of service, “Tirunavukkaracu valar tiruttontin neri” is called “Orunampi” ±—‘The unique one’. Naminanti is called “Arunampi” —Aru means rare. Munaiyatuvwfi® and Kot-puli are “Velnampis” like Eripattar, the saints of heroism and valour. Itankali is called, “Tar Nampi” Tar means garland, the prince who is considered to be a Cola.
In some places our poet gives more than a passing reference to the glorious deeds of these saints—“Velluma, mikavalla Meyp-porul”; “Illaiye ennata lyarpakai”' “Mummaiyal ulakanta Murti”; “Umaipankan kalale maravatu kallerinta Cakkiyar”; “Kaitatinta varicilaiydn Kalikkampan” and “Tennavanay ulakanta Ccnkandr” Usually our poet devotes one half of a line in describing each one of the saints. He devotes more than half a line to Kanampullar. But he devotes almost a full line to some of the saints: viz., Tirunavukkaracar™ Cakkiyar, Netumd-ran, Vayilan, Kalarcinkan and Pukalttunai: He devotes a line and a half to Canticar and Campantar But to Murukan (Murugan), Uruttirapacupati, Milalaikkurumpar, Karaikkal Ammaiyar, (Peyar) Tanti, Murkkar, Kari Mankayarkkaraci (Varivalai-yal mani) and Necan, he devotes only one quarter of a line. He describes Nanacampantar as our Lord (Empiran) who pays no regard except to the feet of God adorned with the beautiful and sweet smelling konrai Tirumular is also described as Nampi-ran, our Lord. He speaks of Tirunavukkaracar as one who had the straight path of Grace as his ideal path. Netumaran is said to have conquered the battle of Nelveli because of the power of his mind so full of concentration on the Lord’s feet Kalarcinkan is referred to as the son of Katavarkon and the Lord of the world surrounded by the seas. The verb used is ‘kak-kinra’ which is in the present tense suggesting that he is the contemporary of Arurar. The description implies that the Pallava king was the Lord of the seas.
Some of the names themselves are suggestive of the greatness of the saints: Viranmintar Eripattar, Kannappar Meyp-porul, lyarpakai, Maran, Tirunalaippovar Tirukkuripput-tontar, Cakkiyar, Kalarirrariv dr Sakti and Kanam-pullar,
We have further discussed this significance of the various descriptions given by Arurar, in our study of Thiruthondathogai hymn in connection with the hymns giving us a life history of mysticism.
V - Shaivism, the religion of service:
Atiyars are the life of the Bhakti cult. From this point of view, Shaivism becomes a religion of service. It is this philosophy which has really worked the miracle, making Shaivism popular in South India. Mysore Archaeological Report, 1925, explains the consequences of this Philosophy of Service, after giving a short account of the life of each saint:
“Little or nothing is known of Shaivism and Vaishnavism of Southern India before the advent of the Jains and the Buddhists in this part of the country. While Brahmin immigrants of Southern India seem to have given a Vedic colour to those local cults and have mingled with the local people in the interests of their own culture, there is no doubt that the ambition of the Jains and the Buddhists was to root out the local cults and convert the people to their own faith. The most powerful means they employed for this end was "Ahara-ab'haya-bhaisliajya-sastra-dana—gift of food, protection, medicine and knowledge. Food, security, medicine and right knowledge! What more will man want than these? The temptation for the people to embrace Jainism or Buddhism was so great that unless the Shaivites adopted the same policy, Shaivism was in imminent danger. That the Shaivites adopted the same policy that the Jains and Buddhists observed for spreading their own faith, is evident from the stories of Nos. 4, 31, 32, 34, 39, 41, 42, 52, 55, 58 and 59. That like the Buddhists and the early Jains, the Shaivites discarded caste distinction, if at all they had it, is clear from the stories of Nos. 32 and 42. It is also clear from stories of Nos. 2 and 35 that in the matter of pleasing a Shaivite guest neither wife nor life was too sacred to part with. So great was the honour shown to the Shaivites that even a thief and a murderer (Nos. 52 and 4) were honourably let off. It may be presumed that the rivalry in feeding the Shaivite poor gave room for no accumulation of wealth in a few hands, an economic evil for which no solution other than religious piety could be found. Even kings seem to have been afraid of abusing their wealth and of being indifferent to the claims of poverty. Immorality which is ever attendant upon selfishness seems to have had no wide scope owing to the altruistic spirit of Shaivism”.
The munificence of the patrons of Shaivism strengthened this philosophy of service and gave political importance to Shaivism. Some of these patrons are said to have amassed the wealth in whatever way they liked either in gambling or in war for offering their services to the Shaivite Atiyars. It is this philosophy of love and service that had made Shaivism popular and powerful. Great Vedic scholars and ritualists like Sornasimarar, Rudrapasupati, great Agamic scholars like Sivakosariyar, learned men and poets like Poyyatimai illata pulavar and Kari, great kings like Netu-maran, Kalarcinkan, great chieftains like Eyarkon, Kotpuli along with fishermen like Atipattar, untouchables like Tirunalaippovar and Tirunilakanta yalppanar, potters like Tirunilakantar, washermen like Tirukuripputtontar and hunters like Kannappar became followers of this religion, making it thus a cosmopolitan one.
Prof. P. N. Srinivasachari speaks of all the Nayanmars as mystics in the following passage:
“The devotees of Shiva, known as the sixty-three tondars or servants of Shiva, belong to all ages and castes and form a spiritual democracy whose common quality was their deep Shaivite experience. Another feature common to all of them was their refutation of Buddhism and Jainism which are said to be not only anti-Shaivite but anti-mystical. The lives of these saints are recorded in Periyapuranam by the saintly poet Sekkizhar. Among the best known of the saints is Kannappar, who was a hunter of the second century A.D. He nourished an image of Shiva every day with his own food consisting of flesh and finally risked his sight owing to his perfervid devotion to the Lord. Service to Shaivite saints was deemed superior even to that to Shiva Himself.
The life of Tiru-nilakanta Nayanar, a potter of Chidambaram, is an example of such service. Nanda was an Adidravida of Adanur near Chidambaram. In his irrepressible longing to see Sri Nataraja, he hastened to the shrine and is said to have disappeared in the shining ecstatic Presence. A devotee, who was by profession a washerman, dedicated himself to the service of Shiva bhaktas and washed their clothes in a spirit of service. Buddhism stressed the practice of love to all living beings, but denied the Supreme Being.
A Buddhist, Sakya Nayanar, gave up his creed and became a Shaivite. He gave a positive meaning to love and lived in that love which is Shiva Himself. Shiva is every man’s God and is easily accessible to the devotee in any form desired by him. Adipatta Nayanar was a fisherman by profession who lived near Nagapat-tinam. He gave one fish every day to Shiva in order, as he thought, to satisfy His hunger and finally offered himself to Him.
Kalia Nayanar was an oilmonger who became, by his bhakti, a Shiva-monger. Karaikkal Ammaiyar was a Vaisya woman. She had visions of Shiva, the Inner Light in all lights, and saw Him with the spiritual eye of love. Vayilar Nayanar of Mylapore was, as his name implies, a silent seer of Shiva who built a shrine for Him in his inner life or spirit, lighted the lamp of self-illumination, and bathed Him in immortal bliss.
Pusalar Nayanar was also given to this manasapuja, as he constructed a temple for the Lord spiritually and worshipped Him there. Nesa Nayanar was a weaver and a votary of Shiva who served the bhaktas by weaving cloths for them. In this way every Nayanar spiritually sought God or Shiva, irrespective of birth or status and saw Him directly”.
This truth will be brought out in our study of Paramanaiye Paduvar whom we take to be mystic poets.
“Sundarar or Sundaramurti Svami was born as a Brahmin in South Arcot district in the 9th century A.D. His life is a typical instance of the Lord of Love seeking the sinner. The saint became intatuated with love to God who was Himself pitta or perarulald or Giver of Grace. He was once blessed with a vision of Nataraja dancing His cosmic dance in ecstasy in his heart.
The joy felt by the saint was momentary and he yearned for reunion, and burst into the inspiring hymns of Tevaram. His pilgrimage to different shrines was really a pilgrimage from worlaliness to Kaildsa. He felt that even if Shiva forsook him, he would cling to Him and yearn for Him like the calf for the cow. He realized his utter nothingness and felt that he was His in every way. He calls the Lord the deliciousness in the fruit, the light in the eye, the melody in the song, and the healing balm to the Shiva-sick souls and infinite bliss.
Shiva is in all beings as their indwelling mercy. He says that Shiva in His love for man accepts even insincere praise and prayer as sincere and deep devotion. God, to him, is the fount of Grace and He saves the sinner in spite of his sins. The purgative stage (vairagya) of mysticism is graphically pictured in Sundarar’s Tevaram where he speaks of the transitory and trivial nature of sense-pleasures.
The jiva, we are told, is entangled in the causality of karma and is caught up in the whirlpool of samsara in which every pleasure ends in pain and earthly life is steeped in sin and sorrow and ill-health; birth and death follow each other in cyclic succession. Earthly life is unreal and the body turns to dust. Life is from dust and goes to dust. Contrition is the only remedy for the sins of life and true repentance is based on firm faith in Shiva as the saviour of souls. Even punishment for sins is due to redemptive love, for Shiva is Sweetness and Love.
Sense-pleasures are but partial expressions of Divine bliss. Suffering from the delusions of life and steeped in sensuality and sin and thinking of all the released saints that preceded him like Appar and Sambandar, he sought His feet and finally attained mukti. With devotion on account of love for love’s sake, Sundarar, like Tirumangai Azhvar, sends messages of love to the Lord and finally the response comes and Shiva and the saint are united for ever in eternal bliss. Sundarar felt certain that there was no more birth or death for him”.