Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home > Tamils - a Trans State Nation > Tamil Language & Literature > Thamizh Literature Through the Ages - Preface > 1. Introduction > 2. The Sangam (Academy) period. > 3. The Didactic Period > 4. The Era of the Thamizh Epics > 5. The Era of Devotional Period  > 6. Epics of the ChOzha Period > 7. Grammar and Lexicography > 8. Philosophical Literary Period > 9. Thamizh purANangaL and Minor Poems > 10. IslAmic and Christian Contributions to Thamizh Literature > 11. Modern Period > 12. Present Situation  > 13. Conclusion

Thamizh Literature Through the Ages
தமிழ் இலக்கியம் - தொன்று தொட்டு இன்று வரை

Dr. C.R. Krishnamurti,
Professor Emeritus, University of British Columbia,
Vancouver, B.C. Canada

5. The Era of Devotional Experience (பக்தி காலம்)

5.1. Background

For nearly 200 years after the Sangam period, Buddhist and Jain scholars and monks had been dominating the Thamizh literary scene. Thanks to their efforts significant changes were made in the literary style and format as well as in the outlook of people. Despite their efforts to propagate Buddhist and Jain philosophy in the course of their literary pursuits, they did succeed in introducing many new concepts in literary theory.

For the first time in the annals of Thamizh literature, a well conceived story was woven into a cohesive poetic epic (காப்பியம்) using main and supporting characters. Secondly an ordinary woman was made the heroine (as in SilappathikAram) instead of the King or some other dignitary. Thirdly instead of being cast into a secondary role, a woman was elevated to the status of a deity because of her chastity and high moral calibre. Finally people had the opportunity to break away from the traditional mundane coverage of regulations pertaining to love, romance and the pursuit of worldly pleasures in an abstract fashion and were able to entertain themselves with the heroism and morality of fictional (or real) characters in the epics. In other words the epics carried whatever message the authors wanted to convey to the people much better than conventional poems.

On the other hand, the impact of Buddhist and Jain writings on people's psychology was not without their disadvantages. In a society where the emotional experience of clandestine love (களவியல்)  and chaste love (கற்பியல்) was considered highly desirable, and where the values of hospitality (விருந்தோம்பல்) and married life (இல்லறம்) were held high, the messages of strict control of the five senses (ஐம்புலன் அட்க்கம்), abstinence from worldly pleasures and the superiority of the ascetic way of life (துறவறம்) appeared alien to their minds. Even the appearances, the robes and other paraphernalia of the monks made them highly visible in the public and led to scepticism of their motives.

Moreover, the Thamizh people have, by this time, adopted the VhEdic traditions of Hinduism and worshipped ThirumAl (திருமால்) , Sivan (சிவன்) and Piraman (பிரமன்) as well as the other pantheons of Hinduism. Reference has already been made to the worshipping patterns of the Thamizh people during the temple festivals (இந்தர்விழ்வூரெடுத்த காதை) and Aycchiyar kuravai (அய்ச்சியர் குரவை) in SilappathikAram. They were able to relate to their personal deities by dancing and singing in their praise. It is probable that an unkown fear crept into the minds of people that the Buddhists and Jains were trying to impose upon them something exotic and novel!

Even the Thamizh Kings seemed to be confused over this issue which was borne by the fact that, from to time, one or the other changed his faith from Hinduism to Jainism and later back again. In other cases the Kings supported all the factions to suit their expediency. The animosity between the Buddhist and Jain monks and the followers of VishNu or Sivan became an open secret.

5.2. Semantics of the word 'Bhakthi'

The above introduction would explain why and how religion played a significant role in the development of the Thamizh language after the sixth century A.D. An interaction between Thamizh and Sanskrit also became inevitable due to the movement of scholars across different regions of the country. Visits by foreigners introduced new perspectives of language and religion. It is under these circumstances that the concept of devotional experience (பக்தி)became popular in the Thamizh region.

Dr. S.rAdhAkrishNan (எஸ். ராதாகிருஷ்ணன்) defines Bhakthi as the "conscience recognition of wholehearted response to the source of all goodness, the Divine. It is in this world, not vows, not pilgrimages, not yOga practices, not study of Scriptures, not sacrificial rites, not philosophical discourses; only devotion can give us freedom."

In the Bhagavad GItai (பகவத் கிதை) which explains the complex metaphysical concepts contained in the upanishads (உபநிடதம்) in simpler terms, many paths,YOga, (மார்க்கம், வழி) have been outlined for the realization of absolute truth. The karma yOga , the way of work, (கர்ம யோகம்), Bhakthi yOga , the way of devotion, (பக்தி யோகம்) and dhyAna yOga , the way of meditation, (தியான் யோகம்) lead to wisdom or enlightenment (gnAna) (ஞானம்). Thus Bhakthi refers to "unqualified love/devotion" to God. Since this experience cannot be translated in full verbally, it comes under the classification of akam (அகம்) according to TholkAppiar's definition. Bhakthi (பக்தி) is therefore referred to above as a devotional experience. This definition also renders the term, Bhakthi, universal, so that it transcends religious boundaries.

5.3. Saiva SitthAntham (சைவ சித்தாந்தம்)

The basic philosophy of the Saiva saints is known as Saiva SitthAndham. It is believed that pasu , living things, (பசு) can attain the realization of the Supreme, pathi, (பதி) by getting rid of pAsam, attachment, (பாசம்). In practice this is accomplished by concentrating the mind on the Supreme through devotion and music.

The four components of the Bhakthi pathway are therefore the Absolute Being or the Divine, the paths to attain it, the devotion and finally the devotional experience. The Absolute Being or the Divine has been referred to as VishNnu or Sivan by the VaishNavaites and Saivaites respectively. This concept should be understood to dispel the wrong notion that Hindus believe in many gods ! In fact the two religious groups in the Thamizh region have been repeating ad nauseum about the importance of acknowledging the existence of only one Supreme Being, who may be referred to by thousand names.

(ஒருநாமம் ஓர்உருவம் ஒன்றும் இல்லார்க்கு ஆயிரம் திருநாமம் பாடிநாம் தெள்ளேணங்கொட்டாமோ) MAnicKa VAchakar, (மாணிககவாசகர்)

The second component, path, refers to the route to be followed for the realization of the Divine. In order to deliver the difficult message that the Divine has no form or name, to facilitate the control of the five senses and to divert the minds of people from sensual worldly pleasures towards concentration on the Supreme, the n^AyanmArkaL (நாயன்மார்கள்) and AzhvArkaL (ஆழ்வார்கள்) exploited the inherent tastes of the Thamizh people in music, dance and, in general, anything beautiful.

They composed moving lyrics in Thamizh and set up appropriate music (இராகம், பண்) so that they could be sung alone or in groups. Finally, to appeal to their aesthetic tastes, beautiful form(s) were given to the formless Divine to whom the folks can relate. This approach did work and gave the impetus for idol worship in the temples which proved to be a place where there is enjoyment for the five senses towards the Supreme. The following songs are examples of the descriptions of the idols which moved the hearts of Thamizh people in their spiritual pursuit:

குனித்த புருவமும் கொவ்வைச் செவ்வாயில் குமிண் சிரிப்பும்
பனித்த சடையும் பவளம்போல் மேனியில் பால்வெண்ணீறும்
இனித்தமுடைய எடுத்த பொற்பாதமும் காணப்பெற்ல்
மனித்தப் பிறவியும் வேண்டுவதே இந்த மாநிலத்தே.

குடதிசை முடியைவைத்துக் குணதிசை பாதம் நீட்டி
வடதிசை பின்பு காட்டித் தென்திசை இலங்கைநோக்கி
கடல்நிறக் கடவுள் எந்தை அரவணைத்துயிலுமா கண்டு
உடல் எனக்கு உருகுமாலோ, என்செய்கேன் உலகத்தீரே.
(நாலாயிரம் 890)

The third factor is the absolute faith with which the devotee surrenders himself or herself to the Divine. If the first three are adhered to sincerely, one gets the devotional experience within, leading to the realization of the Divine.

5.4. n^AyanmArkaL (நாயன்மார்கள்) and AzhvArkAL (ஆழ்வார்கள்)

The protagonists of Sivan are referred to as n^AyanmArkaL while those of VishNu as AzhvArkaL. In addition to their staunch devotion (பக்தி) to their chosen trinity of Hinduism, these religious leaders were also endowed with literary scholarship in Thamizh and Sanskrit as well as expertise in music. They travelled from place to place all over the Thamizh region singing the praise of God and were deriving their own internal pleasure during the process.

The devotional spirits, the literary composition and the music appealed to the aesthetically oriented Thamizh people, who were starving for a spiritual experience of this type. Of the many ways suggested for salvation, one would presume, they realized that the Bhakthi route (பக்தி மார்க்கம்)  was the one more appropriate to their tastes and way of life. In the absence of proselytic pressures they were free to join the VishNu or the Sivan group according to their choice. Besides prayers by individuals, group prayers (பஜனை) to their chosen deities were organized by the respective followers (அடியார்கள்).

The Thamizh Kings encouraged either of the two groups by building big temples whose architectural designs are the pride and joy of all Thamizh people. In addition to being places of worships, the temples served as a forum for promoting music and dance and for other social activities. Besides the financial gifts, the Thamizh Kings established endowments in the form of land gifts to make the temples self supporting. The tradition continues up to the present time.

The impact of the Bhakthi movement on the people was so great that there was a revival of interest in Hinduism. This, in fact, suited the AzhvArkaL and n^AyanmArkaL who were concerned about the domination of the new religious orders from the north. As one would expect in any situation where sects or creeds try to impose new theological dogmas on indigenous population, there were frequent verbal and even physical conflicts among the followers of the different groups.

As in many religious contexts in other parts of the world, not surprisingly, mysticism came into the picture. It would be futile to subject these mystic powers to critical analyses. It may well be that they played a psychological role to boost people's morale in themselves as well as in the system ! There are many references in the literarary works which came out during this period to the various mystic events that took place. An example of the Saivaite saint,  (திருநாவுக்கரசர்)  mystic deeds is summarized in the following poem:

தலைகொள் நஞ்சு அமுதாக விளையுமே
தழலில் நீறு தடாகம தாகுமே
கொலைசெய் யானை குனிந்து பணியுமே
கூர் அராவிடந் தீரெனத் தீருமே
கலைகொள் வேதவனப்பதி தன்னுள்ளே
கதவு மீண்டு கடுகத் திறக்குமே
அலைகொள் வாரியிற் கல்லு மிதக்குமே
அப்பர் போற்றும் அருந்தமிழ்ப் பாடலே.

The Thamizh literary compositions of all the n^ayanmArkaL were later compiled into Saiva textual canon, ThirumuRaikaL (திருமுறைகள்) while those of the VaishNava AzhvArkaL into the VaishNava canon, the n^AlAyirat thivyap praban^tham (The Holy 4000 hymns, (நாலாயித்திவ்யப் பிரபந்தம்). The literary contributions of the AzhvArkal and n^AyanmArkaL are discussed below.

Before the Saivaite doyens (சைவசமயக்குரவர்கள்) appeared on the scene, there was a housewife who lived in KAraikkAl (காரைக்கால்) in the sixth century A.D. Her husband became disenchanted with her extreme devotion to Sivan and ultimately deserted her.

KAraikkAl ammaiyAr (காரைக்கால் அம்மையார்)  the respected lady from KAraikkAl, as she came to be known later, left home and roamed the country side self styling herself as a ghost  (பேய்) and performing mystic activities. She wrote heart rendering devotional songs which set the format for the ThEvAram poems to follow. She is said to be the forerunner of the Bhakthi movement in the Saivaite traditon. She is credited with 3 books: aRputhat thiruvan^tAthi (அற்புதத் திருவந்தாதி), irattai MAmaNi  (இரட்டை மாமணி) , MUttha ThiruppathikankaL (மூத்த திருப்பதிகங்கள்). The pathikams (பதிகம்)  are in the viruttham (விருத்தம்) meter. In the following poem she described that from the time time she was born and began to speak she revered and worshipped the glorious feet of Lord Sivan. She asks Him when He is going to relieve her of her (worldly) worries:

பிறந்துமொழிபயின்ற பின்னெல்லாங்காதல்
சிறந்துநின் சேவடியே சேர்ந்தேன் - நிறந்திகழும்
மைஞ்ஞான்ற கண்டத்துவானோர் பெருமானே
எஞ்ஞான்று தீர்ப்பதிடர்
(அற்புதத் திருவந்தாதி)

5.4.1ThirumuRaikaL (திருமுறைகள்)

The Saiva canonical poems composed by 63 leading saints scanning approximately 600 years were classified into 12 books, ThirumuRaikaL (திருமுறைகள்)  by n^ampi AndAr n^ampi (நம்பி ஆண்டார் நம்பி) (11th century A.D.) according to the wishes of ChOzha King abaya KulasEkaran (அபயகுலசேகரன், குலோத்துங்க சோழன்.)

The first, second and third ThirumuRaikaL were composed by Thiru GnAna Sampan^thar (திருஞானசம்பந்தர்). Born in SIrkAzhi (சீர்காழி) in the seventh century A.D. he is said to have been nursed by umAdhEvi (உமாதேவி), the sakthi (சக்தி) counterpart of Sivan. In a short life span of 16 years he was one of the architects of the Bhakthi movement. In addition to his delightful songs, he defeated the Jain monks in debate and succeeded in bringing the hunch backed PAndya King back into the Hindu fold. He has composed 1600 pathikams (பதிகங்கள்), out of which only 384 are now available.

The fourth, fifth and sixth ThirumuRaikaL were authored by Thirun^Avuk karasar (திருநாவுக்கரசர்).He is also known as appar (அப்பர்) , the other architect of the Bhakthi movement. He was born in ThiruvAmUr (திருவாமூர்) and was a contemporary of Thiru GnAna Sampan^thar. He joined the Jain movement for a while and after an attack of a severe abdominal ailment, he came back into the Hindu fold and spent his long span of 80 years in social service. Out of the 4800 pathikams (group of 10 stanzas) he wrote, only 312 are available.

Sun^tharar (சுந்தரர்), the author of the seventh ThirumuRai was born in ThirumunaipAdi (திருமுனைப்பாடி) . In addition to his devotion to Lord Sivan he was instrumental in organizing the followers into a cohesive group. Only 100 pathikams of Sun^tharar are available The first 7 ThirumuRaikaL are collectively known as ThEvAram (தேவாரம்), garland of gods.

Manicka vAchakar (மாணிக்கவாசகர்), one whose words are like gems wrote the eighth ThirumuRai consisting of ThiruvAchakam (திருவாசகம்) , ThiruvempAvai (திருவெம்பாவை)  and ThirukkOvaiyAr, (திருக்கோவையார்). He was born in ThiruvAthavUr (திருவாதவூர்) in the late 8th or early 9th century A.D. He was a minister in the PAndya Kingdom but when he was sent to purchase horses for the army, he spent all the money in religious pursuits. Lord Sivan is supposed to have blessed him with his grace and saved him from the wrath of the King. It is said that one who does not get moved by ThiruvAchakam will not be moved by anything else. (திருவாசகத்துக்கு உருகாதார் ஒரு வாசகத்துக்கும் உருகார்).

 ThiruvAchakam has 51 poems wherein all the four classes of meters (அகவல், வெண்பா, கலிப்பா, விருத்தம்) have been employed.

The ninth ThirumuRai is named ThiruvisaippA (திருவிசைப்பா), a collection of poems by nine saints.

The tenth ThirumuRai, Thiruman^thiram (திருமந்திரம்) was written by a Saiva mystic (சித்தர்), ThirumUlar (திருமூலர்) who was a philosopher-poet of the late 6th century A.D. His poems are supposed to have the simplicity of veNpA (வெண்பா) and the music of the viruttham. Thiruman^thiram   (திருமந்திரம்) is noted for its profound philosophical messages and reformatory principles. As one who stood for the eclectic school of mysticism, ThirumUlar had made references in his book to tantra (தந்திரம்), mantram (மந்திரம்)and yOga (யோகம்) practices.

In an apparent condemnation of the practice of self mortification, he states that there is no use of even frying one's own flesh in the fire till it becomes like gold; one cannot attain salvation unless one becomes deeply devoted whole heartedly to the divine.

என்பே விறகாய் இறைச்சி அறுத்திட்டுப்
பொன்போல் கனலில் பொரிய வார்ப்பினும்
அன்போடு உருகி அகம்குழை வார்க்கன்றி
என்போல் மணியினை எய்தஒண் ணாதே.

ThirumUlar's most profound contribution to Saiva SitthAn^tham, which was followed later by ThAyumAnavar (தாயுமானவர்) and rAmalingar (இராமலிங்கர்), was his emphasis on the oneness of God and oneness of all creeds in the whole world. The following poem represents his philosophy nicely :

ஒன்றுகண் டீர்உல குக்கொரு தெய்வமும்
ஒன்றுகண் டீர்உல குக்குயி ராவது
நன்றுகண் டீர்இனி நமசிவா யப்பழந்
தின்றுகண் டேற்கிது தித்தித்த வாறே.
(திருமந்திரம் 2962)

The eleventh ThirumuRai consists of poems composed by a heterogenous group of 12 Saivaite scholars and devotees including KAraikkAl ammaiyAr, n^akkIra ThEvar (நக்கீர தேவர், கைலைபாதி காளத்தி பாதி அந்தாதி), KallAdat ThEvar (கல்லாடத்தேவர்), Kapila ThEvar (கபிலதேவர்), cEramAn PerumAL (சேரமான்பெருமாள்), n^ampi AndAr n^ampi (நம்பியாண்டார்நம்பி), and Patttinat thatikaL (பட்டினத்தடிகள்)

In Thamizh literature there were two poets with the name PattinatthAr (பட்டினத்தார்). Part of the confusion is because both hailed from KavirippUm pattinam (காவிரிப்பூம் பட்டினம்)and both followed the Saivaite faith. Their similarities end there.

One of them lived in the 11th century A.D. while the other belonged to the 14-15th century. Generally referred to as PattinatthatikaL (பட்டினத்தடிகள்), the 11th century poet contributed the following works which form part of the 11th ThirumuRai (திருமுறை): KOil n^AnmaNi MAlai (கோயில்நான்மணிமாலை), Thirukkzhumala mummaNik kOvai  (திருக்கழுமல மும்மணிக்கோவை), Thiruvidai maruthUr mummaNik kOvai (திருவிடைமருதூர் மும்மணிக்கோவை), ThiruvEkampamutayAr Thiruvan^thAthi (திருவேகம்பமுடையார் திருவந்தாதி) and ThiruvoRRiyUr orupA orupathu (திருவொற்றியூர் ஒருபா ஒருபது) . Though he was a staunch Saivaite, PattinatthatikaL followed a philosophy in which he advocated that people should remain inside the traditional family system but lead a virtuous life coupled with devotion to Sivan. This was diametrically opposite to the total renunciation preached by PattinatthAr who lived later.

The twelfth ThirumuRai was written by SEkkizAr (சேக்கிலார்). His work is called Periya purANam (பெரிய புராணம் அல்லது திருத்தொண்டர் புராணம்) . The former terminology means the Great purANam and the latter refers to the fact that the work deals with the glory of the Saivaite saints. He lived in the twelfth century A.D. during the reign of the ChOzha King KulOthunga III (முன்றாம் குலோத்துங்க சோழன்) Salient features of 12 ThirumuRaikaL Formless Supreme

Despite the multiplicity of godheads one encounters in Hindu mythology, a closer study of the ThEvAram poems would indicate that, in fact, the reverse was true. All the saints were stressing the oneness of the Supreme in no uncertain terms. MANikkavAchakar's pleads in his ThirutheLLENam (திருத்தெள்ளேணம்) , "For One who does not have any name or any form, why not we give thousand different names and hail His greatness"? (ஒருநாமம் ஓருருவம் இல்லார்க்கு ஆயிரம் திருநாமம் பாடிநாம் தெள்ளேணங் கொட்டாமோ).

ThirumUlar has stated unequivocally in his Thiruman^thiram "one caste and one God only".

ஒன்றே குலமும் ஒருவனே தேவனும்
நன்றே நினைமின் நமனில்லை நாணாமே
சென்மே பகுங்கதி யில்லைநுஞ் சித்தத்து
நின்றே நிலைபெற நீர்நினைந் துய்மினே.
(திருமந்திரம் 2104.)

Similarly, ThirumUlar says in his thought provoking Thiruman^thiram that the omnipotent One cannot be transcribed in a single place nor can be measured, nor has any names but can only be experienced:

அந்தமில்லானுக் ககலிடந்தான் இல்லை
அந்தமில்லானை அளப்பவர்தாமில்லை
அந்தமில்லானுக்கு அடுத்தசொல்தான் இல்லை
அந்தமில்லானை அறிந்துகொள்பத்தே

The fact that the Divine has no beginning, middle or end and is also timeless has been mentioned in numerous places:

ஆதியும் அந்தமும் இல்லா அரும்பெருஞ் சோதியை,
கேட்டறியோம் உனைக் கண்டறிவாரை,
 முந்திய முதல் நடு இறுதியும் ஆனாய் -

ஆதியும் அந்தமும் ஆன ஐயாரன் அடித்தலமே), (ஆதியும் அந்தமும் ஆனான் கண்டாய -

ஆதியும்ஈறும் ஆய எம் அடிகள் - சுந்தரர்.

Others in their moments of their spiritual ecstasy have personified the Divine as music.

ஏழிசையாய் இசைப்பயனாய்), (இறைகளோடு இசைந்த இன்பம், இன்பத்தோடு இசைந்த வாழ்வு -சுந்தரர்.

எழுநரம்பின் இன்இசை கேட்டானை இன்புற்னை), பண்ணின் இசையாகி நின்ய் போற்றி - திருநாவுக்கரசர்.

Thirun^Avuk karasar has employed the following 10 tunes (இராகம், பண்) in the first 21 pathikam (பதிகங்கள்) of the fourth ThirumuRai: kAn^thAram (காந்தாரம்), sAthAri (சாதாரி), kAn^thAra panchamam (காந்தார பஞ்சமம்), kolli (கொல்லி), pazan^ takkam (பழந்தக்கம்), pazam pachuram (பழம்பஞ்காரம்), indhaLam (இந்தளம்), sIkAmaram (சிகாமரம்), kuRinji (குறிஞ்சி), piyanthaik kAnthAram (பியந்தைக்காந்தாரம்) .

The recognition of music for devotional purposes is, however, not unique to the Thamizh community. People belonging to different religious faiths all over the world have resorted to music for holy communion with the Absolute. The nature of music and the tune (இராகம், பண்) employed may vary but music did provide the liaison between the worshipper and the Absolute. It is true that the Saivaite saints used the name, Sivan to denote the Absolute Reality. But this is a matter of semantics which is inevitable when one tries to describe the divine in human terms. Love as God

The concept of the Divine as Love is another example of human perception of the Absolute. This point has also been stressed in several passages in the ThirumuRaikaL. In the following Thiruman^thiram poem, ThirumUlar states that only the ignorant will think that love and Sivan are two different things; only few really understand that Sivan is nothing but love; once everyone understands that Sivan is nothing but love, everyone will become saintly.

அன்பும் சிவமும் இரண்டென்பர் அறிவிலார்
அன்பேசிவமாவது யாரும் அறிகிலார்
அன்பே சிவமாவது யாரும் அறிந்தபின்
அன்பேசிவமாய் அமர்ந்திருந்தாரே Portrayal of the Divine as friend

An imaginary concept unique in the ThirumuRaikaL is the portrayal of the Divine as the hero (பதி)and the individual (பசு) as the heroine or friend and the involvement of messengers who will transmit the love to the Lord. This is perhaps a carry over of the akam (அகம்) concept from the Sangam period. A sincere devotee always longs for the Lord; sighs heavily thinking about him; derives pleasure in listening to the Lord's names and grace; suffers from the pangs of separation; gets obsessed about joining the Lord. (தன்னை மறந்து தன்னாமங்கெட்டு, தலைவன் தாளையே தலைப்படுதல்)  These reactions are the same encountered in love torn heroines separated from their heroes. Absolute faith and surrender

According to Saiva SitthAn^tham, the prerequisite to attain salvation is absolute faith and complete surrender of the individual to the Divine. By doing so, one gets a psychological boost and confidence to face up to any complex worldly situation. When the PAndya King asked Thirun^Avuk karasar to call on him, the latter refused by saying that "we do not believe in servitude, we do not fear even death":

"நாம் யார்க்கும் குடிஅல்லோம் நமனை அஞ்சோம்"

When he was tied to rocks and thrown into the sea, Thirun^Avuk karasar escapes miraculously through divine grace and says that even if heaven drops into earth and the oceans engulf everything, even if the galaxies lose their way and the sun and moon fall from their orbits we shall not fear:

மண்பாதலம்புக்கு மால்கடல்முடி மற்றுஏழ்உலகம் விண்பால் திசைகெட்டு இருசுடர் வீழினும் அஞ்சல் நெஞ்சே.

The absolute surrender to the Divine is expressed in the following passage by Thirun^Avuk karasar wherein he addresses the Lord and says " On the very day you have graced me, you have taken away my soul, body and wealth; I am therefore not concerned about any hardship I may encounter; whether good or bad comes to me I am not responsible".

அன்றேஎன்றன் ஆவியும்
உடலும் உடமை எல்லாமும்
குன்றேஅனையாய் என்னை ஆட்
கொண்டபோதே கொண்டிலையோ
இன்றோர் இடையூறு எனக்குண்டோ
எண்தோள் முக்கண் எம்மானே
நன்றேசெய்வாய் பிழை செய்வாய்
நானோஇதற்கு நாயகமே.

MANicka vAchakar's sense of absolute surrender is expressed in the following poem where he states that "he does not want family, place, fame or the company of the learned ; thanks to you everything will come to me; all that I want is to cry like a calf yearning for its dam":

உற்றாரை யான்வேண்டேன்
ஊர்வேண்டேன் பேர் வேண்டேன்
கற்றாரை யான்வேண்டேன்
கற்பனவும் இனி அமையும்
குற்லத்து அமர்ந்துறையும்
கூத்தா உன் குரைகழற்கே
கற்வின் மனம்போலக்
கசிந்துருக வேண்டுவனே Devotional experience (மெய்ப்பாடுகள்)

The final outcome of all the penances mentioned above leads to a devotional experience which defies description. Thiru GnAna Sampan^thar says " if one utters your name with deep love and sing your praise with tears rolling down, you will show the right path; the name n^machivAya, which is The Absolute beyond the four vEdhAs".

காதலாகிக்கசிந்து கண்ணீர் மல்கி
ஓதுவார் தமை நன்னெறிக்கு உய்ப்பது
வேதம் நான்கினும் மெய்ப்பொருளாவது
நாதன் நாமம் நமச்சிவாயவே.

ThirumUlar brings in the akam principle again to emphasize "how can anyone visualize the Lord through the normal eyes? one can only see the Divine through the mind ; for example, how can the mother explain to the daughter the pleasure she and her husband had?"

முகத்திற்கண் கொண்டு பார்க்கின்ற முடர்காள்
அகத்திற்கண் கொண்டு காண்பதே ஆனந்தம்
மகட்குத்தாய்தன் மணாளனோடு ஆடிய
சுகத்தைச் சொல்என்ல் சொல்லுமாறு எங்கனே.

In conclusion, the Saivaite doyens (சைவசமயக்குரவர்கள்.)  launched the Bhakthi movement to counteract the Jain and Buddhist propaganda. By combining their musical expertise with heart rendering lyrics they were able to inculcate the devotional trait into the minds of the Thamizh people which seems to have sustained till today.

5.4.2. n^AlAyirat thivyap praban^tham (நாலாயிரத் திவ்யப் பிரபந்தம்)

The AzhvArkaL (ஆழ்வார்கள்), the protagonists of VishNu, wrote the VaishNavaite canonical poems. They were responsible for launching the Bhakthi movement over a period of 400 years. The four thousand devotional poems written during this period were compiled into the n^AlAyirat thivyap praban^tham (நாலாயிரத் திவ்யப் பிரபந்தம்)  by n^Athamuni (நாதமுனி) who lived at the end of the ninth century A.D.

It is divided into four sections: Muthal Ayiram (முதலாயிரம்),  Periya thiru mozhi (பெரிய திருமொழி) , iyaRpA (இயற்பா) and ThiruvAi mozhi (திருவாய் மொழி). The entire work was written by 12 AzhvArkaL who went from to place singing the praise of VishNu and his 10 incarnations.

The first three AzhvArkaL, Poikai AzhvAr, BUdhattAzhvAr, PEyAzhvAr were contemporaries (460-540 A.D.). All of them lived in the Pallava country. Their compositions were in the veNpa (வெண்பா)  meter. The three were noted for their equanimous attitude towards other religious traditions.

a) Poikai AzhvAr (பொய்கை ஆழ்வார்) was so named because he was found in the temple pool (பொய்கை) in KAnchIpuram. He wrote the first Thiruvan^thAthi (முதல் திருவந்தாதி).  The word an^thAthi denotes that the last word in each verse would be the first word of the next verse.

b) BUdhattAzhvAr (பூதத்தாழ்வார்) was nicknamed BUdham (பூதம்) because he believed that ThirumAl represented the five matters (ஐம்பூதங்கள் - நிலம், நீர், தீ, வளி, விகம்பு). He was the author of the second Thiruvan^thAthi. He belonged to MahApalipuram.

c) PEyAzhvAr (பேயாழ்வார்), the author of the third Thiruvan^thAthi, was so named because he was roaming the country side like a ghost singing devotional poems tenaciously. He lived in MylApore.

d) Thiru mazhisai AzhvAr (திருமழிசை ஆழ்வார்)  (520-620 A.D.) was a native of Thiru mazhisai near Chennai. His works include n^Anmukan Thiruvan^thAthi (நான்முகன் திருவந்தாதி), Thirucchan^tha viruttham (திருச்சந்த விருத்தம்).

When his disciple, KaNikaNNan (கணிகண்ணன்)  refused to go to the royal court, the Pallava King got angry and ordered him to leave the town immediately. Thiru mazhisai AzhVar wrote the following poem requesting the deity, ThirumAl, to leave the temple because KaNikaNNan is leaving the town. ThirumAl did so and the town lost its prosperity. The King realized his folly and requested KaNikaNNan to come back:

கணிகண்ணன் போகின்ன் காமருபூங் கச்சி
மணிவண்ணா நீயிங் கிராதே - துணிவுடனே
செந்நாப் புலவனியான் செல்கின்றேன் நீயுமுன்றன்
பைந்நாகப் பாய்சுருட்டிக் கொள்

e) PeriyAzhvAr (பெரியாழ்வார்) (700 -785 A.D.) was a native of SrivilliputthUr and was the author of ThiruppallaANdu (திருப்பல்லாண்டு) and PeriyAzhvAr ThiruvAi mozhi (பெரியாழ்வார் திருவாய்மொழி).  He was devoted to the child God, KaNNan. His style was the forerunner for the PiLLait thamizh (பிள்ளைத்தமிழ்) type of poems which came later. In addition to his own scholastic abilities he is credited with rearing his daughter, ANdAL (ஆண்டாள்) in a spiritual manner so that she also grew up to be another AzhvAr.

f) ANdAL (ஆண்டாள்)  (716-782 A.D.) She was also known as kOthai (கோதை)and CUdikkoduttha n^AcchiyAr (சூடிக்கொடுத்தநாச்சியார்). She considered Lord KrishNan as her lover and refused to marry anyone else. Her two works, ThiruppAvai (திருப்பாவை) and n^AicchiyAr Thiru mozhi (நாய்ச்சியார் திருமொழி) are very popular in the Thamizh community.

g)Thirumankai AzhvAr (திருமங்கை ஆழ்வார்) (710-790 A.D.) is a prolific writer and has contributed 1362 peoms to the praban^tham series. His works include: Periya Thiru mozhi (பெரிய திருமொழி), ThirukkRun^thANtakam (திருக்குறுந்தாண்டகம்), Thirun^etun^thANtakam (திரநெடுந்தாண்டகம்), Thiruvezhuk kURRirukkai (திருவெமுக் கூற்றிருக்கை), siRiya Thirumatal (சிறிய திருமடல்)and periya thirumatal (பெரிய திருமடல்).

h)ThoNdaratippodi AzhvAr (தொண்டரபொடி ஆழ்வார்) (740-800 A.D.) was born in Mandalankudi in the ChOzha Kingdom. His name denotes that he revered even the dust (பொடி)under the feet of the devotees (தொண்டர்). ThiruppaLLi ezhucchi (திருப்பள்ளி எழுச்சி)  and ThirumAlai (திருமாலை)  are his compositions and are supposed to be laden with grief.

i) KulasEkara AzhvAr (குலசேகர் ஆழ்வார்) (750-780 A.D.) was a prince in the ChEra Kingdom who renounced his royalty to serve VaishNavaite devotees. His devotion to rAman is unsurpassed. In the song given below he sings an inspirational lullaby to rAman:

தளையவிழும் நறுங்குஞ்சித் தயரதன்றன் குலமதலாய்
வளையவொரு சிலையதனால் மதிலிலங்கை யழித்தவனே
களைகழுநீர் மருங்கலரும் கணபுரத்தென் கருமணியே
இளையவர்கட் கருளுடையாய் இராகவனே தாலேலோ

j)ThiruppaN AzhvAr (திருப்பாண் ஆழ்வார்) (750-780 A.D.) He was born in uRaiUr (உறையூர்)  in the PANar (பாணர்) community which was an untouchable caste. He wrote only 10 poems, amala n^AthipirAn, அமலநாதிபிரான் describing the physical appearance of ThirumAl. Though his literary contribution was meager, the high quality of his poems prompted VEdan^tha DhEsikar (வேதாந்த்தேசிகர்), a 14th century scholar, to write a commentary on them. The chief message from his life is that caste differences do not make any difference before God. A timely reminder to contemporary community leaders !

k) n^ammAzhvAr (நம்மாழ்வார்) (765-800 A.D.) He was born in AzhvAr Thirun^agari (ஆழ்வார் திருநகரி) and derived his nickname (nam=our own) from being very popular. He was also known as SatagOpan (சடகோபன்) and Tamizh mAran (தமிழ்மாறன்). His works are ThiruvAi mozhi (திருவாய்மொழி), Thiruviruttham (திருவிருத்தம்), Periya Thiruvan^thathi (பெரிய திருவந்தாதி)and ThiruvAciryam (திருவாசிரியம்).

l) Mathura kavi (மதுரகவி) (740-805 A.D.) His name is attributed to his ability to write sweet devotional poems. His work is called KaNNi n^uN siRutthAmpu (கண்ணிநூண் சிறுத் தாம்ப்) . By his own reference to n^ammAzhvAr as AchArya (teacher), he is believed to be a disciple of the latter. Salient Features of n^AlAyirat thivyap praban^tham

a) All the four components of the Bhakthi theme were presented in these poems with extreme sincerity and deep conviction. As one would expect, the AzhvArkaL have regarded VishNu or ThirumAl and his 10 incarnations as the Absolute or Supreme Being. Despite the differences in the theological beliefs of the VaishNavaites and Saivaites, the first 3 AzhvArs were more liberal than the otherrs in their attitudes towards the Supreme Being. For example, when PEyAzhvAr (பேயாழ்வார்) went to the VaishNavaite holy town of ThiruvEnkadam (திருவேங்கடம்) for worship, he finds in the Deity the characteristic features of both VishNu and Sivan.

தாழ்சடையும் நீள்முடியும் ஒண்மழுவும் சக்கரமும்
சூழரவும் பொன்னணுந் தோன்றுமால் - சூழந்
திரண்டருவி பாயுந் திருமலைமேல் எந்தைக்கு
இரண்டுருவம் ஒன்ய் இசைந்து

The other AzhvArkaL were, however, not as generous and unbiased in the acceptance of other deities as equal to ThirumAl. This paved the way for frequent squabbles between the supporters of AzhvArkaL amd n^AyanmArkaL The VaishNavaite literary format is extremely appealing to everyone due to the simplicity of the language and musical backup. The use of an^thAthi (அந்தாதி) style in their compositions was eye catching and added to their popularity.

b) In order to describe fully their love, undisputed faith and surrender to the Absolute, The AzhvArkaL, like the n^AyanmArkaL, resorted to the akam (அகம்)  technic popular among the community. They considered the Divine as the hero (தலைவன்) and the devotees as the lover (தலைவி), or friend (தோழி)and expressed their love in human terms.

PeriyAzhvAr (பெரியாழ்வார்) regarded the divine KaNNan as a child and expressed his love as a devoted mother. ANdAL (ஆண்டாள்),  the only woman in the category of AzhvArkaL, represents the extreme devotion to the Lord in the capacity of a maiden who refused to marry anybody else and insisted that she could not live without His companionship. In her ThiruppAvai (திருப்பாவை)  she even persuaded other maidens in the village to join hands and undergo penance (நோன்பு) until they succeeded in joining the Divine. In the following poem in ThiruppAvai, ANdAL says to KaNNan, the cowherd, "that she and her colleagues will surrender themselves to the Lord and serve him not only in this birth but in 14 more births if necesssaary". This tradition of singing ThiruppAvai songs during the month of mArkazhi (மார்கழி) continues upto the present time:

சிற்றம் சிறுகாலை வந்துன்னைச் சேவித்துன்
பொற் மரையடியே போற்றும் பொருள்கேளாய்
பெற்றம்மேய்த்துண்ணும் குலத்தில் பிறந்துநீ
குற்றேவல் எங்களைக் கொள்ளாமல் போகாது
இற்றைப்பறை கொள்வான் அன்றுகாண் கோவிந்தா
எற்றைக்கும் ஏழேழ் பிறவிக்கும் உன்றன்னோடு
உற்?மே ஆவோம் உனக்கேநாம் ஆட்செய்வோம்
மற்றைநம் காமங்கள் மாற்றேலோர் எம்பாவாய்.

c) The extent of sacrifice a devotee will make to get the grace of the Divine is expressed beautifully in the following verse written by ThoNdaratippodi AzhvAr (தொண்டரடிபொடி ஆழ்வார்) who says " I do have no place, no land, no relative. I am all yours, Oh. KaNNA, Who else is there to protect me except You".

ஊர் இலேன் காணிஇல்லை உறவுமற்று ஒருவர் இல்லை
பாரில்நின் பாதமுலம் பற்றிலேன் பரம முர்த்தி
கார்ஒளி வண்ணனே என் கண்ணனே கதறுகின்றேன்
யார் உளர் களைகண் அம்மா அரங்கமா நகருளானே.
(தொண்டரடிப்பொடி ஆழ்வார்)

d) The following poems illustrate the usage of akam concept to describe the emotional feelings of endearment of a mother (devotee) to the child:

கிடக்கில் தொட்டில் கிழிய உதைத்திடும்
எடுத்துக் கொள்ளில் மருங்கை இறுத்திடும்
ஒடுக்கிப் புல்கில் உதரத்தே பாய்ந்திடும்
மிடுக்கி லாமையால் நான்மெலிந்தேன் நங்காய்.
சீதக்கடலுள் அமுதன்ன தேவகி
கோதைக்குழலாள் யசோதைக்குப் போந்தந்த
பேதைக்குழவி பிடித்துச் சுவைத்துண்ணும்
பாதகாகமலங்கள் காணீரே
பவளவாயீர் வந்து காணீரே.

5.4.3. Conclusion

Together the n^AyanmArkaL and the AzhvArkaL did succeed in their attempts in channelling the minds of people from indulging in sensual pleasures to concentrating on the Supreme Being. This becomes evident from the fact that after the advent of the Bhakthi movement both Buddhism and Jainism were not able to take roots in the Thamizh region. Viewing the events historically, it would appear that the mentality of people has not changed significantly during these 1000 years. The bias towards the semantics to be used for the undescribable Divine is stronger than ever. The allegiance to the creeds or sects is still considered to be more important than truth.

A definite disadvantage of the Bhakthi movement is that people, instead of pondering over why these concepts were instituted by n^AyanmArkaL and AzhvArkaL in the first place wounded up regarding the pathways and tools as ends in themselves and perpetuating, in the process, internal animosities. At least this is the impression that is being presented to the outside world. In a world torn with religious strifes, it would be appropriate to reiterate the essence of the Hindu doctrine in MaNicka vAchakar's immortal words "For One who does not have a name or form, why not we give a thousand names and hail His grace":

(ஒருநாமம் ஓர்உருவம் ஒன்றும் இல்லார்க்கு
ஆயிரம் திருநாமம் பாடிநாம் தெள்ளேணங்கொட்டாமோ)

5.5. Bibliography

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