Alexander and Tamil Saint Pattinathar


Alexander and Tamil Saint Pattinathar


Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) was the king of Macedonia. He conquered several countries from Greece to India. Pattinathar was a Tamil saint who lived in tenth century AD in Tamil Nadu. Alexander and Pattinathar were born rich. Both of them sent a powerful message by their deeds: “ In the end we leave empty handed”.


When death was neaing Alexander reflected within himself: “ I have committed so many evil deeds to amass all this wealth. Now death’s call has come. When departing I have to leave all the riches behind and go alone without taking a single coin”. He told his followers and courtiers : “when my body is taken t the grave, you have to seethat my two hands are stretched out, with palms open, and fully exposed,while the rest of the body is covered, so that my subjects may see that I, a great king, the richest man in the world, went on my final journey, quite empty handed, as I could not take anything with me”. Alexander was buried according to his wish.


Happiness does not consist in storing or accumulating wealth. We bring nothing with us when we came in to the world and we take nothing with us when we leave the world. Pattinathar story was another example to emphasize this.


Pattinathar was a rich man doing roaring business in the harbour city of Chola country. He had no issue. A bright child was picked up from a garden in Tiruvidaimarudur and was reared by Pattinathar. Ne day the boy disappeared after asking his mother to give a box to Pattinathar. When Pattinathar opened it he found an eyeless needle and a palm leaf on which a conundrum was written. He immediately distributed his wealth, renounced life and became an ascetic. He has sung lot of hymns in praise of Lord Shiva.


We see the message of leaving empty handed in most of his hymns. Alexander showed it in body. Pattinathar said it in his poems.

In Thiruvekampamalai, he says,


Nothing was brought at the time of birth

Nothing will be taken at the time of death;

What then shall I say of that class which

Knows not giving, well realising that the wealth

Gained in the interval is that which  was given

by Shiva, Oh Kachi Ekampa.


Stamp released by Greece in 1968


In another verse he says what happens to emperors,

Crowned kings and others , in the end, are burnt

And reduced to a handful of ashes and dirt;

(This article is posted by me in Tamil as well—london swaminathan)

Pattinathar Poems translated by Dr T N Ramachandran.


For Tamil readers:


பிறக்கும்பொழுது கொடுவந்ததில்லை பிறந்து மண்மேல்

இறக்கும்பொழுது கொடுபோவதில்லை இடை நடுவில்

குறிக்கும் இச்செல்வம் சிவன் தந்ததென்று கொடுக்கறியா

திறக்கும் குலாமருக்கு என் சொல்லுவேன் கச்சி ஏகம்பனே


முடிசார்ந்த மன்னரும் மற்றுமுள்ளோரும் முடிவில் ஒரு

பிடி சாம்பராய் வெந்து மண்ணவதுங் கண்டு பின்னும் இந்தப்

படிசார்ந்த வாழ்வை நினைப்பதல்லால்  பொன்னின் அம்பலவர்

அடிசார்ந்து நாம் உய்யவேண்டும் என்றே அறிவாரில்லையே.


(பட்டினத்தார் பாடல் கருத்துக்களை நான் முன்னர் எழுதி வெளியிட்ட பட்டினத்தாருடன் 60 வினாடி பேட்டி என்ற கட்டுரையில் காண்க.)

Pictures are taken from other blogs.

Map of Alexander’s empire


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1 Comment

  1. Sir;
    I have a query – Going through the history depicted in Ramayana;there are mentions that Rajarshi Viswamitra did meditations for 1000s of years to attain Brahmarshipadam.So is it not natural the longevity that time (Thretayuga) was much higher than this yuga ? So also there is a mention while Hanuman describing Rama’s physique to Sita at Asokavani in Lanka that Rama’s height is 96 times of a finger length – that could mean several feet -going by average length of a finger now about 3 inch it must be atleast 24 feet height minimum !!!
    Rama is Vishnu incarnated in human form in Treta yuga;must then be a man huge physique representative to that age ?? Appreciate if you could help me understand it better.

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