A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO TAMIL DEVOTIONAL LITERATURE (Post No.3424)

Compiled by London swaminathan

 

Date: 6 December 2016

 

Time uploaded in London: 10-50 am

 

Post No.3424

 

 

Pictures are taken by Tamil Conference Booklet.

 

contact; swami_48@yahoo.com

 

 

1981 World Tamil Conference Procession in Madurai -Part 2

 

Yesterday I posted Part 1 with the title A Brief Introduction to Tamil. following is the 2nd part.
THE RELIGIOUS SAVANTS AND TAMIL

Thirugnana Sambanthar

 

He lived in the 7thc. A.D. This young devotee who attained the divine mercy at the age of seven, was largely responsible for Saivism becoming popular in Tamil Nadu. His poems are melodious and mellifluous and they form the first three books in the twelve canons of Saivite sacred texts, which are popularly known by the term Panniru Thirumuraikal.

 

Tirunavukkarasar (Appar)

 

An ardent Saivite saint, Appar lived in the 7th C. AD. He has composed his devotional lyrics in the Thandakan form and hence he was called by the popular attribution Thandaka venthar (King of Thandaka genre). His works are included as the fifth, sixth and seventh books of the twelve Saivite sacred books. As per the Saivite tradition, he was the supreme example of Divine Service.

 

Sundarar

 

He lived in the 8th C. A.D. and considered himself to be a close friend of Lord Siva. Consequently, his devotional poems reveal his sense of comradeship with God. His poems form the seventh book of the Tamil Saivite sacred books.

 

Manikkavasakar

 

He lived in the Eighth century A.D. and composed the very beautiful Tamil devotional lyrics entitled Thiruvasakam and Thirukkovaiyar. The special charm. of the former work has captivated the mind of the European missionary G.U. Pope, who has rendered it into English.

 

LORD AT THE SERVICE OF PEOPLE

 

When the Pandya King Arimarthanan punished Manikkavasakar for spending the Govt money for religious purpose, Lord Siva performed a miracle before the king to make known the greatness of the famous Saivite saint. As per His divine orders, there was heavy flood in Vaikai river. It destroyed the banks of Vaikai. The officials of the Pandya King ordered that each one of the subjects should do his allotted work to repair the damaged river banks. The poor Vanthi who sold Pittu (rice pudding) could not find a man to work on her behalf. As per her prayer, Lord Siva assumed the form of a coolly and came to Vanthi. After eating the Pittu given by her, he joined others who were engaged in the flood relief activities. He carried in his basket the sand for filling the damaged portions of the river bank. But, he had not sincerely done his job. Consequently, the work allotted to Vanthi remained unfinished. When this was reported to the King, the King got angry and started beating the coolly by a cane. Everyone present there felt a blow on their backs. The coolly put one basket of sand in his allotted area and suddenly disappeared.  The outrageous King’s men went to Vanthi to punish her. But, she was taken to Heaven on a divine chariot by the Siva ganas. When the King’s men went to the river bank they found that it was completely repaired.

 

Andal –THE DIVINE BRIDE

 

Andal, the daughter of Periyalvar, is one of the most fascinating of the Alvars. Periyalvar, her foster father found her as a baby in his garden and he brought her up as his daughter. Later, she imagined herself to be the bride of Krishna, refusing to marry mortals, boldly wearing even the garlands intended for the image of Krishna. One day, when her foster father saw it, he was shocked. He proclaimed that the garland which was worn by mortal being was not befitting to Krishna. Consequently, he would not use it to garland the image of Krishna. The same night Krishna appeared in Periyalvar’s dream and said that he would like only the garland which was worn by Andal. Finally, she was given in marriage to the lord of Srirangam. Andal has left but two works Tiruppavai of 30 stanzas and Nachiar Thirumoli of l43 stanzas. Krishna is the hero and she, the heroine in both. Thiruppavai owes its origin to a religious observance among maidens of the cowherds’ class. This tableau depicts Periyalvar looking in wonder at his daughter offering the garland to the statue of Krishna.

 

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Arunakiri Nathar

 

He is the author of Tiruppukal, which consists of three thousand devotional poems endowed with high rhythmic qualities. He was proficient in Tamil music too. He composed the metrical compositions such as Kanthar Alankaram, Kanthar Anuputhi, Kanthar Antathi, Vel virutham, Mayil Virutham and Tiruvakuppu.

 

Tirumular

 

He was a saivite saint and a mystic poet par excellence. He has composed the famous philosophical work Tirumanthiram. His poems are the revelations of his deep reflection in Yoga, Jnanam and Siddha medicines. To him, serving humanity is the chief way to serve God

 

Thayumanavar (1705 1742)

 

Born at Vedaranyam, Thayumanavar a great saint was full of love for mankind. His notable poetic works are Anandak kalippu and Paraparak kanni

 

Ramalinga Swamikal

He lived in Tamil Nadu in the 19th century A.D., and composed Tiruvarutpa which consists of six thousand devotional hymns. He was born on 5-10-1823 at Marutur, near Chidambaram. He lived in Madras for more than thirty years and composed a number of poems. He has established Sathiya Taruma Salai Sathiya Gnanasabai and Samarasa Sanmarka Sankam in Vadalur. His philosophical reflections which are full of egalitarian sentiment and profound humanitarian spirit are considered to be unique contributions to the world of religion and philosophy.

THE POET AND THE PATRON

KAMBAR

The Tamil poets are endowed with genial spirit and modest character. But they become crusaders of their cause if anything happens to stain their spotless virtue and prestige. In such cases, they are even prepared to fight with their royal patrons. Consequently, the rulers of the Tamil land patronized the poets with much care love and respect without offending their tender feelings. An event which stands as a typical example of the poet-patron relationship of the ancient Tamil Nadu is depicted here. The Chola King failed to recognize and give due respect to Kamban, the greatest epic poet of Tamil. The offended poet decided to teach him a lesson. He took a vow that he would sit before the court of the Chola King duly served and attended by great king equal in status to the Chola monarch as his errand man. The Chera King who was captivated by the poetic talent of Kamban followed him as an errand man and prepared betel leaf to Kampan while he was seated in the Chola palace. The Chola king promptly recognised the greatness of Kamban.

 


THE TAMIL RENAISSANCE POETS

 

  1. Subramania Bharathi (1882-1921)

 

Bharathi started his poetic career as a court poet of the Zamindar of Ettayapuram. He completely freed himself from the court life when he was attracted by the currents of the renaissance spirit as well as the upsurge of the waves of the Indian Freedom Struggle. When he found that he was not able to give vent to his patriotic feelings freely in Sudesamithiran, a Tamil journal in which Bharati worked as a sub-editor, he relinquished his job and started a new journal entitled India. He lived the life of a political exile in Pondicherry. He successfully experimented in modern Tamil literature and showed a new way to his successors. He used poetry as an invincible weapon to fight against oppressions of all kinds. His poems played a predominant role in the Freedom Struggle kindling the patriotic feelings of the Tamils. Most of his poems are highly prophetic.

Among his poetical compositions his national poems, Kannan Pattu, Kuyil Pattu and Panchali Sabatam are famous.

 

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5 Comments

  1. Sri Subramanya Bharati is the last great poet in the true Tamil tradition of religious devotion combined with nationalistic [ pan-Indian] fervour, known to the public. But he died young, in 1921, before the Gandhi era began. He shared the vision of Sri Aurobindo and knew that we would become free and sang accordingly. It was Namakkal Ramalingam Pillai who emerged as the Tamil poet of the Gandhian era, though he did not attain the heights of Bharati.

    But there has been another great poet, about whom the world does not know much, except in a limited circle. He is Muruganar. Born C.K.Subramanya Iyer, he was a great Tamil scholar of the rank of Raghava Iengars, and U.Ve.Swaminatha Iyer. He found a place as a member in the Tamil Lexicon Committee. He was a natural poet and attracted by the Gandhian movement , he wrote his first volume of poetry on nationalistic themes. Named “Swatantra Geetam”, it is unfortunately lost to posterity. Because of his love of Tamil, he changed his name to முகவைக் கண்ண முருகனார். He came to Bhagavan Ramana in 1923 and became his ardent devotee. He gave up everything, including his love of poetry, and remained with Bhagavan Ramana for the rest of his life, till 1973. Lover of poetry himself, Bhagavan did not allow Muruganar’s poetic genius to fade or fail, but rekindled it. Everything that Muruganar wrote thereafter was only about Ramana and his teaching.There are three groups of his writings.

    In the thirties, his first collection of poems on Ramana, in praise of Him, came out with the title “Homage to the Presence” [ ஸ்ரீ ரமண சந்நிதி முறை]. It earned appreciation from the leading Tamil scholars of the day, like U.Ve.Swaminatha Iyer, M.Raghava Iyengar, V.S.Chengalvaraya Pillai, etc. It creatively combines the style and themes of Tevaram and Tiruvachakam without blindly following ( ie copying) their contents. It is an aesthetic and literary continuation of the grand Tamil devotional tradition, clothed in classic expression and the native devotional Tamil idiom.

    This was followed a few years later, in the late 30s, by a volume containing Bhagavan’s teachings. Two things are to be noted here: Bhagavan never used to give lectures or long talks. He would talk only when absolutely necessary, to clarify matters: he never even once imposed his teaching on anyone. And he would only answer in Tamil, no matter in which language the question was put. It was only given to Muruganar, who spent most of his time in the literal presence of Bhagavan, to record these statements as they fell from his lips, and give them a poetic form using the words and ideas of Ramana himself. He would then show this to Bhagavan who would correct, modify or even compose his own verse to express his idea more clearly. This collection is known as குரு வாசகக் கோவை [Garland of Guru’s Sayings].It effortlessly and gracefully combines Vedanta and Siddhanta. [ In fact, Muruganar used to say that he did not know Vedanta or Siddhanta, but only Ramanata ரமணாந்தம்! ] Its greatness can be gauged by the mere fact that Ramana himself said that any doubt about his teachings should be resolved on the basis of this Garland!

    By this time, Muruganar had lost his sense of personal ego almost completely. He continued to write , but about his spiritual experiences under the guidance of Ramana, indicating the state of bliss he was in. But he had no sense of possession and did not keep them arranged and organised. So self-effacing was he that they were discovered very late and in the 80s , 9 volumes of his sublime poetry came out with the title ரமண ஞான போதம் thanks to the efforts of his devotees. This collection contains nearly 20,000 verses in chaste Classical Tamil on the single theme of spiritual practice and experience! In this sense, it is unparalleled in the entire Tamil literature.

    Unfortunately, the political developments in the region and the maya of Cinema eclipsed all great literary efforts, almost completely. And since the govts there follow an atheistic, chauvinistic attitude, the younger generation has had no chance to get a glimpse of this sublime poetic outpouring containing the true Tamil classical tradition! Just three samples:

    ஊனான அகந்தை ஒழித் தகமே
    தானாஒளிர் தற்பர சிற் சொருபம்
    மோனானுபவங்கிளர் முத்தியருள்
    கோனா வளர் சற் குருதாள் பணிவாம்.
    [This states succinctly Bhagavan’s true teaching viz the loss of ego-identification with the body- means the realisation one’s true state and that this is conveyed through silent experience!]

    எனக்கிறையா உள்ளத் தெழுந்தருளி மோக
    மனக்குறையை மாற்றியொளிர் மா நிறைவாம் பாதம்

    வழிவந்த தொண்டர் வளம்பட வாழ்ந்தனர் வான்கருணை
    விழி நின்றருள்பொழி வேங்கடநாத விவ்வெவ்வினையேன்
    பழிநின்ற யாக்கையைப் பார்மேல் சுமந்து பதைபதைப்புற்று
    அழிகின்றனன் உடையாய் அடியேன் உன் அடைக்கலமே.

    [This shows how Bhagavan Ramana’s grace flows from his mere presence, through his gracious looks!]

  2. good point. Murugnar is great. Even Ramana maharishi composed many venbas and other verses. what about Tirisirapuram mahavidwan meenakshi sundaram pillai, Guru of u.ve.saminathaiyer who was nicknamed as “pathu kamban” . While kamban had 10000 verses only to his credit, meenakshi sundaram pillai sung one lakh verses and he was pathu kamban. Now one more forgotten poet is there. kanakarajaniyer! nobody knows about him. he has written anuman puranama ( i think about 10 000 verses)
    one more poet is from madurai. i have written about hims (mathura kavi). panditha jegaveerapandiyanar who lived in west masi street maduari was a great poet.the list is endless.we have to compile a list

  3. Yes, sir! We have to remember these poets and find some way of making their works available for a wider public. We at least get some references to some works of Mahavidwan Meenakshisundaram Pillai, mainly Sthala Puranas, in the works of Dr.Iyer and Ki.Va.Ja.But about others it is difficult to know.

    Ramana Maharshi himself was a great natural poet. He would usually resist the urge, only the 5 Hymns to Arunachala forcing him to write them down!.His other writings were due to some specific reasons. All his original teachings are in verse form! Muruganar was instrumental in making Bhagavan write two of these- the famous 40 Verses on Reality and its supplement, and also Upadesa Undiyar! Muruganar used to write something and make Ramana write something more! Ramana Puranam in ‘Homage to The Presence’ was completed in this way, Bhagavan writing more than 200 lines! In 1931-32 Muruganar wrote a verse on the significance of Annamalai and requested Ramana to write a verse on the significance of the Deepam! The following are the two verses!

    அருணாசல தத்துவம் [ முருகனார்]

    புத்தியகங் காரம் புலம்பெய்த வோங்கு
    மத்தி யிதயந்தான் மறையவனு மாலு
    நத்தவறி யாது நலங்குலைய வன்னார்
    மத்தியொளி ரண்ணா மலையினது மெய்யே

    தீப தர்சன தத்துவம் [பகவான்]

    இத்தனுவே நானா மெனுமதியை நீக்கி
    புத்தியித யத்தே பொருந்தியக நோக்கா
    லத்துவித மாமெய் யகச்சுடர்காண் கைபூ
    மத்தியெனு மண்ணா மலைச்சுடர்காண் மெய்யே.

    When the first volume of Muruganar’s poetry came out, famous Tamil scholars had sent in their appreciatory verses. Seeing them, one young inmate of the Asramam was also tempted to write something, but he could not go beyond repeating just the name of Muruganar: ‘முகவாபுரி முருகன்’ ! He put down the pencil and paper and left. When Ramana saw that, he completed the verse thus: [ and wrote in the slip the devotee’s name!]

    அகத்தாமரை மலர்மீதுறை அருணாசல ரமணன்
    நகைத்தானுற விழித்தான் அறச்செகுத்தா னெனதுயிரை
    மிகத்தானருள் சுரந்தானென முகவாபுரி முருகன்
    செகத்தாருய வகுத்தான்முறை திருவாசக நிகரே.

    The last poetic creation of Ramana was translation in Tamil Venba of Sankara’s Atma Bodha, when he was not satisfied with a translation done by a Muslim scholar-devotee sent to him.There is thus a story behind almost every verse that Ramana wrote!
    Thank you for giving an occasion to recall such matters!

  4. Thanks for adding excellent supplementary materials.

  5. good. muruganar has written hundreds of verses. his attachment to tamil is very very great. at one point of time, we must say in his last days, he wanted to raise himself above dropping this ‘tamil poems composing attachement’ also. there is a tamil book titled muruganar. excellent book to know more about him. muruganar has taken much pain in collecting ramana bhagavan’s poems. it is indeed a great pleasure to read about those golden days again and again.
    s nagarajan

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