Tamil Hindu Encyclopaedia 8 (Karma Theory in Sangam Tamil Books) Post No.11,353


Post No. 11,353

Date uploaded in London – 13 OCTOBER 2022                  

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Ancient Tamils were strong believers in Karma Theory and Rebirth.  We find it in all the 18 books of Sangam Age and all the 18 Minor Books of Post Sangam Age.  It is stronger in all the five Tamil epics. Though we have got only two Tamil Epics in full, one can easily see the very basis is Karma Theory for all the five Tamil epics. The beginning is in 2000 year old Sangam books.

What is Karma Theory?

If you do good things and earn Punya (merits), you will have good birth in your next appearance on earth.

If you do bad things, you go to Hell and come back to earth and get new births as low life.

All the saints including great Tamil Saivite Manikka vasagar and Vaishnavite saint Kulasekara Alvar sing about being born as worms, insects, fish, animals, man and superman.

Hindus divided the Karma into three types: Prarabdha, Sanchita and Agamya ப்ராரப்தம், சஞ்சிதம், ஆகாமியம்

The Sanskrit word “karma”, literally translated, means action.

1. Sanchitta

These are the accumulated works and actions that you have completed in the past.

2. Prarabdha

Prarabdha is that portion of the past karma that is responsible for the present.

3. Agami

Agami Karma is the Karma we are creating for ourselves right here in the current moment. If you earn enough merits (Punya) in this life , all the previous bad Karmas will become null and void. In other words, you have cleared all the debts in the bank and saved lot of money for future.


If you have lot of bad karmas and go to God or a saint, he will teach you how to reduce the impact, because even God does not want to violate his own rule. You can never avoid Sanchita and Prarrabdha Karmas. It is like throwing a ball on the wall and it would definitely hit you back. But by approaching a saint or God, you will be taught a trick to avoid the impact.

For instance God will provide you a cushion by which you can avoid the force of the bouncing ball and reduce the impact.

Or Like Lord Krishna, he will teach you a trick. He will ask you to lie down low when the bouncing ball comes. When one powerful Astra was fired against Arjuna, Krishna lowered the chariot wheels and Arjuna lost only his crown. The impact was avoided. ( in Tamil we call it Thalaikku Vanthathu, Thalaippakaiyotu Pochchu)


The beauty is Tamils have coined beautiful words for this as

Nal Vinai நல் வினை Good Action/Karma)

Thee Vinai , தீவினை, Bad Action/Karma

Paza Vinai/Thol Vinai பழவினை /தொல்வினை/ Sanchita

Sey Vinai செய்வினை, (literally it means Action that was done, being done and to be done)

செய்த வினை, செய்யும் வினை, செய்யப் போகும் வினை

Iru Vinai, இரு வினை Two Actions- (good and bad actions)

Only from the context of the poems, we will be able to say whether it is Praarabdha or Aagaamya


The greatest wonder of Hinduism  is they explain what is action. The action comes out of your Word, Deed and Thought. This is known as Tri Karana Suddhi ; it is found only in Oriental religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism but also in Zend Avesta of Parsis. Tamils are the best in explaining it with three different words

Unmai- Thought உண்மை,

Vaymai – Word வாய்மை

Meymai – Deed, மெய்மை

Tiru Valluvar of Tirukkural used this more than Sangam poets

If one has purity in all these three areas, they can do miracles  and they can control natural forces.

Tiru Valluvar says a chaste woman can command rains to pour down; a honest king has no need for cultivation; good harvest will be there without even farming.


Let me give what exactly Sangam Age Tamils say,

Iru Vinai – Pari.13-48; Puram 29-11

In Pura Naanuuru verse 29, the poet Muthu Kannan (Mr Krishna Senior) Saaththanaar warns the Choza king about atheists. Beware of ‘Chaaruvaakaas’ who say that there is no good action or bad action (which will affect future births).

(Chaaruvaakaas mean Sweet Worded People who cheat simpletons saying there is no god or truth or untruth)

நல்லதன் நலனும் தீயதன் தீமையும்

இல்லை என்போர்க்கு இன்னா கிலியர் – புறம்.29


Nal Vinai- Natrinai 107; Puram 214, 367; Kurun.246

Using different words for Nal Vinai/good action– Kurun.246, 342; Puram.34; 213; 195; 214 (Commentators interpret these words as Nal Vinai)


Sey Vinai (in the past) 210-5/6 Past Karma

It is a beautiful poem by Nal vettanar. He explains Karma theory better than any other poet. He says,

Getting awards (like Padmashri, Bharatratna, Victoria Cross)  from the king and riding on horse, elephant or chariot is not your real wealth. All these came to you because of your good deeds in the past (Then he advises to wipe out the tears of suffering people and that is what is real wealth according to learned people. He meant ‘earn good merits for future births’)

நெடிய மொழிதலும் கடிய ஊர்தலும்

செல்வம் அன்று தன செய்வினைப் பயன்

(பின்னத்தூர் எ. நாராயணசாமி ஐயர்  உரை, கழக வெளியீடு)



Puram 27-7

புலவர் பாடும் புகழுடையோர்  விசும்பின்

வலவன் ஏவா வான ஊர்தி

எய்துப என்பதும் செய்வினை முடித்து என- Puram.27

This point is emphasised by poet Krishna Sr. (Muthu Kannan in Tamil) in Puram.27.

He says a lot of kings were born and gone. A few only attained name and fame. But those who do good action only will be taken to heaven by Pilotless Spaceship.

( Hindu scriptures Ramayana and Mahabharata speak about Inter Galactic Spaceships; they are operated by thought power. NASA has to learn a lot from the Hindus. Tamil epic Silappadikaram, Sangam anthology Pura Nanuru also speaks about pilotless Thought Powered Space Ships)

Puram 195

This is a more interesting and informative poem. The poet’s name is Nari Veruvuth Thalaiyar . There are two meanings. He was fox faced and looked ugly. Another meaning is that his face was so ugly that even a cunning fox will run away from him. And Purananuru foot note adds that someone advised him to see the Chera king so that the ugly face would disappear. As advised, he met the Chera King (see foot note of Puram 5) and miraculously his face changed into a good face (probably he had doctors who could do Maxillofacial operations or Orthodontists). He sings about Hell in Puram 5 and about Yama’s appearance in Puram 195. He must be a Pukka (authentic, First class) Hindu. So the words must be interpreted in this context.

He says in Puram 195,

Even if you cant do good (karma), please avoid doing bad, because that is not only liked by all but also the Good Way (to heaven).

நல்லது செய்தல் ஆற்றீர் ஆயினும்

அல்லது செய்தல் ஓம்புமின் அதுதான்

எல்லாரும் உவப்பது அன்றியும்

நல்லாற்றுப் படூஉம் நெறியுமார் அதுவே – புறம் 195


Pattinappalai line 99

தீது நீங்கக் கடலாடியும்— பட்டினப்பாலை, உருத்திரங்கண்ணனார்

Sea bath will ward off bad Karma

Brahmin poet Mr Rudraksha (Uruththiran Kannan is the Tamil name) belongs to the oldest group of Sangam Tamil poets . He says that one who takes sea bath (ceremonially) will be cleared of Bad Karma (Paapa/Sin)


Thol Vinai/ Paza Vinai (Old Karma done in previous births)

Natrinai 88; Kali.118-2/4; Kali.21-10/11

Poet Nallanthuvanaar in Natrinai 88 sings about Sanchita karma and Praarabdha karma

Hindu saints, when approached by disciples, say that the troubles/ difficulties/ disease faced by the person , is due to his past deeds. So no one can cure it. Even great Hindu saints died of cancer (Ramana maharishi, Ramakrishna Paramahmsa). They considered their disease due to Sanchita karma and has to be exhausted now as Praarabdha karma. They never bothered about their sickness and never felt the pain.

Tamil poet also says it in Natrinai 88. The woman who was crying was consoled by her companion saying Don’t worry too much ; it is her Tholvinai/ Old deeds/ Previous Karma.


One more poem on the same topic:

Paalai Paadiya Perum Katungko was the Chera king who says in Kalittokai verse 21:

Hey man, why do you go to foreign country looking for wealth. Your wife can’t withstand such a separation. We know the wealth always come to a person according to his past karma irrespective of bad or good (person)


Another poet by name Nallanthuvanaar says that a king who did good things in the past goes to heaven  — in Kali 118.


Tamils were very clear about three types of Karma and they used mostly in poems dealing with family life. That shows it was part of the life of everyone young or old, men or women, rich or poor.


Tamil references for Rebirth as Birds, Insects, Animals and Fish

புல்லாகிப் பூடாய்ப் புழுவாய் மரமாகிப்
பல்விருக மாகிப் பறவையாய்ப் பாம்பாகிக்
கல்லாய் மனிதராய்ப் பேயாய்க் கணங்களாய்
வல்லசுர ராகி முனிவராய்த் தேவராய்ச்
செல்லாஅ நின்றஇத் தாவர சங்கமத்துள்
எல்லாப் பிறப்பும் பிறந்திளைத்தேன் எம்பெருமான்

–Tiruvasagam (tiru vaasakam) by Manikkavasagar (maanikka vaasagar)

i) கோனேரி வாழும் குருகாய்ப்———-பெருமாள் திருமொழி-4.1

ii) மீனாய்ப் பிறக்கும் விதியுடையேன் ஆவேனே:——————4.2

iii) பொன்வட்டில் பிடித்துடனே புகப்பெறு வேனாவேனே:—-4.3

iv) செண்பகமாய் நிற்கும் திருவுடையேன் ஆவேனே:———–4.4

v) தம்பமாய் நிற்கும் தவமுடையேன் ஆவேனே:——————-4.5

vi) அன்னனைய பொற்குவடா அருந்தவத்தன் ஆவேனே:—–4.6

vii) கானாறாய்ப் பாயும் கருத்துடையேன் ஆவேனே:————–4.7

viii) நெறியாய்க் கிடக்கும் நிலையுடையேன் ஆவேனே:——-4.8

ix) படியாய்க் கிடந்து உன் பவளவாய் காண்பேனே:—————-4.9

x)எம்பெருமான் பொன்மலைமேல் ஏதேனும் ஆவேனே——-4.10

–Kulasekara Alvar (aalvaar) in Divya Prabantham

To be continued…………………………………

Tags- Karma theory, rebirth in Sangam poems, Nal Vinai, Thol Vinai, Sey vinai, Paza Vinai, Sanchita Prarabdha, Agamya, செய்வினை, நல்வினை, பழவினை, தொல்வினை சஞ்சிதம், ப்ராரப்தம், ஆகாமியம்

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