TAMIL SIDDHARS AND VEDIC SYMBOLISM IN POETRY (Post No.7831)

WRITTEN BY LONDON SWAMINATHAN

Post No.7831

Date uploaded in London – 15 April 2020   

Contact – swami_48@yahoo.com

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It will be interesting to compare the symbolism in Vedas and Tamil Siidhar songs though they are separated in time by thousands of years. Vedic seers said openly they enjoy using mystic and mysterious language. They used coded language. Orthodox Hindus believe that Vedas are followed for its magical sound effect and literal meaning is not important. Even Shankaracharyas don’t quote Sayana’s commentaries. They still follow the orthodox school. But Westerners translated Vedas in French, German and English and started interpreting them in their own way. Tamil Siddhars are not known to them and so they don’t understand the symbolic language.

Who are Siddhars? What is the meaning of Siddhar?

Siddhar is a Sanskrit word. Siddhar means one who has attained ‘Siddhi’, i.e. special psychic and supernatural powers which has been defined eight fold in the science of Yoga (Ashta Ma Siddhi- Eight Great Supernatural powers) . The term has been loosely used and understood to denote a certain category of mystic poets , who were grim and uncouth ascetics credited with supernatural powers.

A floating tradition has it that there are Eighteen Siddhars; but there are more than 18 siddhars, some are known only locally.

Tamil literature is rich in religious and philosophic poetry. In fact, Tamils produced more religious poetry than Sanskrit writers if we take the last 15 centuries into account. Kanchi Paramacharya(1894-1994)  also highlighted this point in his discourses.

Siddha verses are famous for their brevity, terseness, epigrammatic and enigmatic symbolism. They are iconoclasts. They threw out the old rules and rituals in the wind. Because of this anti- Agamic approach orthodox Saivites ignored them. But some like Tirumular, Karuvur Thevar and Tirumaligai Thevar are recognised and their verses are included in the Saivite canonical literature known as Panniru Tirumurai (12 Holy Books/Compilations)

To almost all the Tamil Siddhars, Lord Shiva is the Supreme God. But there is a tradition recorded in the ‘Guruparampara’ that Vaishnavite Nathamuni was a Yogi and Siddhar. He taught Yoga to his disciple Kurugal Kavalappan. But when Nathamuni tried to teach Yoga to Uyyakkondar, another disciple of his, he declined it and remained as an ordinary devotee.

The siddhars are seers and highly evolved and realized souls. They are not agnostics. They had faith in the divine essence of man and his capacity to become a superman and even to work miracles by developing his latent powers by Yoga. They allowed all castes to follow them or practise what they teach. Unlike devotional poets most of the Siddhars were celibates. They criticised sensual pleasures

Bur they emphasised all that is said in devotional poetry, which are older by several centuries. Only difference was that devotional poets respected Agamic rules, Temples and Rituals. Following are the common things between the two groups:

1.Belief in Divine Essence of Man

2.Man is mortal and sensual pleasures are short lived .

3.Wealth and material comforts are impediments to virtue, moral well- being and spiritual endeavour.

4.Caste is no bar. Anyone can reach god .

Main difference is

1.To siddhars religious institutions , festivals or rituals and conformity of any kind whatsoever are not important.

2.Siddhars used herbs and Kaya kalpam (elixir) to prolong life span. They did research in herbal cure and wrote books.  They also believed in philosopher’s stone  which converted base metals in to silver and gold.

Sufis and Siddhas

A V Subramaniya Aiyar in his book ‘The Poetry and the Philosophy of the Tamil Siddhars’ compared the Tamil Siddhas with the Sufis of Islam and Gnostics of Europe:-

“ The Islamic Sufis appear to have been similar to the Tamil Siddhars. Sufism is defined ‘ as a total disengage ment of the mind from all temporal concerns  and worldly pursuits; an entire throwing off, not only of every superstition, doubt or the like , but of practical mode of worship, ceremonies etc. laid down in every religion’.

Christianity also had the antitypes of the Tamil Siddhars in the early Gnostics of Europe. St .Francis of Azzizi , can be compared to mystic poets of India

Characteristics of Siddha Poetry

On the whole , the literature of Siddhars  is inferior to the hymnal literature of Saivism and Vaishnavism

They adopted common speech for poetry.

They did not leave their life history or biographical details in their poems.

All we know about them comes from the traditional accounts written later.

Thiru vilaiyadal Puranam in Tamil, written by Paranjothi Munivar, refers to many Siddhas including Idaikkadar.

xxx

I will compare one or two Rig Vedic Mantras with the  Siddha Poetry:-

Tamil Siddha Sivavakkiyar and Tirumazisai Alvar (not a Siddhar but one of the 12 Alvars) both used same symbolism in their verses.

A rough translation of one of the verses runs like this-

8+8 and as 8 and 7+7 as 7

8 and 3 and became 1 as the original Deva

And as 8 pada/beda, reciting His name

Those who recite  8 letters will live without Troubles.

These verses are composed with rhyme and rhythm but wont make any sense without a commentary. And even commentators can interpret it differently.

This is approximately 1200 year old.

Let us compare it with the most difficult Hymn of the blind poet of Rig Veda Dirga Tamas (literally Mr Long Darkness) RV.10-164.

Ludwig and others consider it the most difficult one.

Out of the 52 mantras in this verse we will take the first three stanzas or mantras –

1).“Of this benignant priest with eld grey coloured , the brother of the 3 is lightning

 midmost

The THIRD is he whose back oil is sprinkled. Here I behold the chief with 7 children.

2.) Seven to the one wheeled chariot yoke the course; bearing 7 names the single courser draws it.

Three – naved the wheel is, sound and decaying, whereupon are resting all these worlds of being

3). The 7  who on the 7 wheeled car are mounted have horses , 7 in tale, who draw them onward.

7 sisters utter songs of praise together, in whom the names of 7 cows are treasured.

Out of 52 mantras in this particular hymn I have given the first three mantras/stanzas.

Further down he uses 720, 360, 12, 6, 3, 5, 33, 6, 2, 4 etc. in other mantras; we know he is singing about 360 nights and 360 days , but other numbers are with obscure meaning. Commentators use “it MAY mean”, “It is PROBABLY” , “PERHAPS he says”etc.

If we find it difficult to understand simple Tamil worded symbolism of yesterday’s Siddhas how are we going to get the meaning of Dirgatamas verse who lived many thousand years before our time?

tags – Tamil Siddhas, Siddhar, Symbolism, Sufi, Gnostic,Dirgatamas, RV 10-164, Sivavakkiyar, Tirumzisai alvar.

–subham–

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