Number Symbolism in Tirumular—2 (Post No.10,804)


Post No. 10,804

Date uploaded in London – –    2 APRIL  2022         

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Story of Tirumular

In the sacred hills of Kailasa, there were many followers of Nandi and Lord Shiva. One of them travelled to Podiya Hill to see sage Agastya . Having passed many a place of pilgrimage, he reached Tiru Aduthurai in Tamil Nadu. There he heard the sad bellowing of cattle continuously for a long time. He went to the place and found the cowherd Muula by name dead on the ground, surrounded by the faithful cows and calves, bemoaning the loss of their master. This sight aroused his sympathy and in order to bring solace to the afflicted animals, he entered into the dead body of the cowherd Muula and gave life to it. The cattle were pleased and went about grazing and returned home at nightfall as usual followed by Tiru Mula. The animals had gone to their sheds.

Hindus believe that Siddhas can do Eight Types of Miracles. One of the eight supernatural powers they have is ‘Para Kaaya Pravesa’. It means entering another’s body. That is how Tirumular entered the body of the cowherd. By the time Tirumular returned to the cowshed, the body of the original Mula was cremated. So Tirumular stayed in the new body. When cowherd Mula’s wife saw Tirumular, she was surprised and shocked. She called him to come into the house mistaking him as her husband. Tirumular refused to enter the house saying there was no relationship between him and the woman. She informed her relatives, and they came to see him the next day. By the time they came he went into temporary Samadhi in the nearby Mutt. It is said that the duration of the Samadhi was 3000 years and he composed one stanza every year and thus we got 3000 verses in his book Tiru Manthiram . It means Sacred Mantra. He composed the Tirumanthiram in four parts Cariai, Kiriyai, Yogam and Jnaanam

Hindus add the number 1000 to mean an unusually longer period. So we should not take it literally. Rig Veda also use the number 1000 without rhyme or reason. When we hear from a religious speaker that Dasaratha had 60,000 wives, what we understand is he had unusually a large number of women in the harem.

Tirumanthiram has the impress of a work of knowledge or a compilation of certain prevailing ideas about ethics, doctrines of Saiva Agamas and the occult science of Yoga based mainly on the Yogasastras and the Mantra Sastras found in Sanskrit literature and on his personal experience.

A V Subramania Ayyar in his book The Poetry and the Philosophy of The Tamil Siddhars (year 1957)  says the following,

“In dealing with the Ashta Ma siddhis, eight fold supernatural powers, and the Ashtanga Yogam, the eight fold discipline of the body and mind to gain yogic powers, Tirumular had freely drawn on Patanjal’ s Yoga Sutras. He has used materials from some of the commentaries on Upanishads.

“The truths about the science of Yoga have been expressed in a symbolism, a part of which only has been standardised and made intelligible. There is an obscurity in certain portions which has not been removed, by different meanings put on the symbolism of the poet.

“This obscurity arises partly from the frequent use of mere numerals such as one, two, three,……… ten etc to denote facts or ideas or allusions, which is a favourite device of the Tamil mystical poets. In the very first stanza of the Tirumanthiram itself, this has been adopted. When number five is used it may mean the five senses or the five elements or the five Prananans or the five sacred letters or the five Murtis and so on . The meaning has to be inferred from the context. Similarly for every numeral there are several meanings”.

Number Seven and Number Three are used through out the Rigveda and we fully depend upon Sayana’s commentary to understand them.


Yesterday we saw some verses with symbolism. Here are some more verses,

Tirumular is against the control of the senses to the point of causing harm to the body and the spirit. Excessive control of the senses will, according to him, make this body inert matter. He thereby implies that the mind can have an active and fruitful existence in this life only if it is inseparable from the working of the senses. For the higher life, however, senses have to be controlled as pointed out in the following stanza . Here he plays on number five.

Linguistic Scholars see a lot of Sanskrit words and strange expressions and idioms in his work. They believe that he belongs to Kashmir Saivite school. In more than one place he addresses Lord Siva as the ‘Aryan’ and his consort as ‘Aryin’i or ‘Arya Nangai.’ Though we see Aryan for Shiva in Thevaram and Tiruvasagam, Aryini or Aryanangai aren’t found anywhere else. We knew for sure that Tirumular lived before Sundaramurthy Nayanar of eighth century CE . Sundarar’s Tiruthonda thogai mentions Tirumular. The account given of his life and work in the Periapuranam is purely legendary.


For number symbolism one more example from the RIGVEDA

RV 4-72-7

The seven milk a single cow; the two set other five to work

On the stream’s loud sounding bank

RV 4-72-8

Entreated by Vivasvan’s ten, Indra cast down the water jar

With three fold hammer from the sky

RV 4-72-9

Three times the newly kindled flame proceeds around the sacrifice


Now from Tiru manthiram:–

அஞ்சும்  அடக்கு அடக்கு என்பர்  அறிவிலார்

அஞ்சும்  அடக்கும் அமரரும் அங்கில்லை

அஞ்சும்  அடக்கில் அசேதனமாம் என்றிட்டு

அஞ்சும்  அடக்கா அறிவு அறிந்தேனே

–திருமந்திரம் 2033

ஐந்தில் ஒடுங்கில் அகல் இடமாவது

ஐந்தில் ஒடுங்கில் அருந்தமாவது

ஐந்தில் ஒடுங்கில் அரன் பதமாவது

ஐந்தில் ஒடுங்கில் அருளுடையாரே

–திருமந்திரம் 2035


tags- Tirumular, Tirumanthiram, Siddha, Mula, cowherd, symbolism, Rig Veda

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