Compiled by London swaminathan
Date: 2 January 2017
Time uploaded in London:- 16-15
Pictures are taken from different sources; thanks.
Pattinathar was a rich man who lived in the port city Kaveri Poompattinam (also known as Pumpuhar) in the tenth century CE. He has not been included among the Sixty-Three Saiva Nayanmars, though five of his poems have been taken into the Eleventh Tirumurai.
A bright infant he was, left uncared for in a garden at Tiruvidaimarudur. It was picked by a poor couple who it to Pattinathar for reward. He took the child and reared it as his own son, naming him Marudapiran. Some years later the boy disappeared after asking his mother to handover a box to his father when he returned home. When Pattinathar opened, it he found an eyeless needle and a palm leaf on which a conundrum had been written. This is said to have opened his eyes to the truth about the divine nature of the boy, who was thought to be God Shiva himself. He immediately arranged for the distribution of his wealth to the poor, renounced life and became an ascetic. He wandered far and wide visiting several sacred places and temples and finally attained salvation at Tiruvotriyur.
In the course of his pilgrimage he is reported to have visited the Tuluva country and converted a king of Bhadragiri to his creed of Yogic asceticism.
Commenting on the eyeless needle which brought a sea change in the life of Pattinathar A J Appasamy (in a book published by YMCA Publishing house nearly 100 years ago) says: “The eyeless needle, tradition maintains, was the means of Pattinathar’s conversion. It swiftly flashed across his mind that just as a needle without an eye is of no value., though the eye itself be the tiniest of things, so the human soul which does not devote itself to God, is lost. The little symbol brought home to him that great truth.
The word Pattinathar means “He of the City”. Pattinathar belonged to the mercantile clan. According to the tradition he was a Chettiar. A flourishing merchant, it is well known, will be greatly attached to his business and wealth. It takes a miracle to wean him away from these. And, a miracle did take pace, in his life. It pleased Lord Shiva to bring about his enlightenment in a flash “ All wealth is worthless, yes as worthless as an eyeless needle”. This knowledge made a new man of Pattinathar. He revelled in divine vagabondry. He sang
Our home is Tiruvalankadu; we have with us
A begging-bowl – God given- and never empty;
To supply as whatever we need, there is the rich land;
O goody heart, there is none our equal.
Visit to a Courtesan’s house
The great commentator Sivagnana Munivar says “Here is commanded the chanting of Panchakshara as ordained. Though for these souls the effulgence of Gnanam (wisdom) is vouchsafed, Nescience does its besetting, even as the worm accustomed to eating neem, forever repairs to it.” Lust besieged, out saint visited a courtesan. She took some time to present herself before him. Meanwhile, our saint quelled his sinful thought. When the woman eventually came, he burst into verse thus:
“O Peafowl-like woman adorned with the garlands
Of bourgeoning flowers, the one that just now
Quested for you, has gone away; compose yourself.
If you yearn for me I will kick you on your hips
And if I think of you, you kick me.
In the history of Tamil religious literature he has secured a niche which is proof against the tooth of time and razure oblivion.
It is said that there were two Pattinathars. The author of the hymns included in the Eleventh Tirumurai is the earlier of the two. A careful perusal of his poems establishes this fact indubitably. Pattinathar the second, if such a description can pass muster, is the author of the poems given below:
Kovil Tiru akaval, Kachi Tiru akaval, Tiruvekampamalai, The decad of Obsequies, Anatomical song.
Pattinathar refers to the eyeless needle episode his poems:
He tore a cloth of silk, placed there in with love
A thick needle, folded it and put it into the hand
Of my wife with rich tresses;
Did Siva by his advent intend that I should
Give up my love for my bewitching wife?
For ever hail the flower-feet of the strong-armed Lord
Of Annamalai, oh my heart!
In this world, of what avail are wealth
Tined with evil and the buries riches?
Even an eyeless needle accompanies you not
After you decease”.
AV Subramania Aiyar wrote the following in 1957 believing that there was one Pattinathar:
“A careful study of the very scanty materials about the life and works of Pattinathar shows that there are, broadly, two periods in his life after his final and sudden renunciation. Ther is a tradition that when he left his home he took with him a broken pot and a palm leaf manuscript of Tirumular’s poem. There is no doubt that he was greatly influenced by Tirumular’s Tirumantiram. There was a significant change in the lives of both Sivavakkiyar (a Tamil Siddha) and Pattinathar at some crucial period in their lives.
There are some similarities and differences in the pomes of Sivavakkiyar and Pattinathar. Both have shown an excessive desire to extoll the virtues of unqualified asceticism and Yogic mysticism in language that can be understood by the masses. Their frequent and repeated scornful references to the physical facts of sex and the biological facts of birth are similar in tone, if not in language.
Pattinathar’s poems are happily free from the violent denunciations of idol worship, temples, rituals, caste, the Vedas, Agamas etc. which Sivavakkiyar indulges in.
St Pattinathar in English by Sekkizhar Adippodi T N Ramachandran, Dharmapura Adinam,1990
The Poetry and the Philosophy of THE TAMIL SIDDHAS, A V Subramania Aiyar, Tirunelveli, 1957