Similes in Tamil Poet Tayumanavar Songs- Part 1 (Post No.9634)


Post No. 9634

Date uploaded in London – –22 May   2021           

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Thaayumaanavar was a Tamil Saivite poet who composed at least 1452 poems on Lord Shiva. He lived 300 years ago in Tamil Nadu.

Issac Tambyah published a book with English translation of 366 poems in 1925.

He has listed the similes in Thaayumaanavar poems. The title of his book is

Psalms of a Tamil Saiva Saint , Luzac & Co, London

He gives the background of his book.

Poets cousin Arulayya Pillai was among those who were constantly with the poet ,particularly when he had finally renounced the world and betaken himself to the devout life. Arulayya Pillai is described by a Tamil editor of the Psalms as the chief of those disciples who followed the poet from place to place as his very shadow . The poets only son Kanagasabaapathi Pillai received spiritual instruction from Arulayya Pillai . They preserve d his poems.

In a place called Annappan Pettai, south of Tanjore, is a mutt where Ambalavana Swamy, one in the line of discipleship from Thaayumaana Swamy, had gathered around him a number of devout students of religion. Among those students was Arunaasala Swamy, latterly head of the mutt, and he is believed to have had in his possession the original Edu/boos from which the psalms came to be first printed.

The Psalms of Thaayumaanavar are given in all Tamil editions as 1452 in number while JR Arnold referring to an edition of 1836 as apparently the first printed, gives the number as 1453 . Kochagam is attributed to the poet, but the internal evidence is unfavourable to it.


Some of the similes listed by Mr Tambyah


As water runs down a slope and meets a stream so is the soul’s joy when it meets the joy of god, verse 440

A stone thrown into a pool clears the film off the face of the water, so are the words of the wise to a man-849


The soul in the ecstasy is as wax in fire- 44,47

In yearning for god the soul is as wax in fire,88;577;1329

The mind is capable of receiving spiritual impression s as heated wax to receive material impressions 421


To lay foundations of grammar and other learning whereon to build a knowledge for obtaining heaven is like planting cotton trees in the hope of getting cotton for the making of a ladder of thread to reach the skies.


As the lotus in sun light so rejoices the soul in God.


 The soul has a capacity for attachment to good or bad as a mirror reflects colours and receives impressions. In the Tiru Arul Payan, is this comparison, As the crystal reflects itself and several colours in the light of the sun, so the world is related to the Light of the Lord.

In the Bhagavad Gita (3-38) another Hindu thought is by the figure of mirror, as the mirror is covered by rust so is this soul covered by it (taint).

The Siddhanta view of  soul , it is explained, is different from the  Vedanta . Intheir context of the mirror analogy, in that the Vedanta in this respect takes no account of God.

To  be continued…………………..

tags- Thayumanavar, Tayumanavar, Similes

TREE METAPHORS in Tamil and Sanskrit Literature (Post No.3650)

Research Article Written by London swaminathan


Date: 19 FEBRUARY 2017


Time uploaded in London:- 18–45


Post No. 3650



Pictures are taken from various sources; thanks.






Trees are used as similes and metaphors in Tamil and Sanskrit literature from very ancient times. The upside down Peepal Tree (Ficus  religiosa) is the most famous metaphor in the Bhagavad Gita (15-1)


Uurdhvamuulam adhahsaakham………………… (15-1)


“They speak of the imperishable asvattam (peepal tree) as having its root above and branches below. Its leaves are the Vedas and he who knows this is a knower of the Vedas (Bhagavad Gita 15-1)


The origin of this metaphor is in the Rig Veda (RV 1-24-7 and 1-164-20). Since Rig Veda is the oldest book in the world dated between 6000 BCE and 1500 BCE), Hindus are the first to use trees in literature. This is a highly philosophical verse. Later Katha Upanishad (With roots above and branches below, this world tree is eternal 2-3-1) and Bhagavad Gita repeated it.


It is SAMSAARA VRKSA, the cosmic tree. Mahabharata compares the cosmic process of a tree which can be cut off by the mighty sword of knowledge (Asvamedhaparva 47-12,15). Vedas (leaves) mean knowledge. Incidentally a section of Veda is called Saakhaa (branch).


I am the originator of world tree, says Tattriya Upanishad (1-10)


The Petelia Orphic tablet suggests that our body comes from the earth and our soul from heaven “ I am a child of the Earth and of Starry Heaven; but my race is of Heaven alone”. (Quoted by S Radhakrisnan in his Gita commentary)

Swami Chinmayananda says in his commentary on Gita:

“Ashwattha is botanically known as Ficus religiosa, popularly called the peepal tree, which according to some gathers its name because horses (Asva) used to stand under its shade (Ashwattha). According to Adi Shankara, this tree has been chosen to represent the entire cosmos because of its derivative meaning: ‘Shwa’ means tomorrow; ‘Stha’ means that which remains; therefore, ‘ashwattha’ means that which will NOT remain in the same till tomorrow. In short, the word indicates the ephemeral, the ever changing, world of the phenomena.


According to Anandagiri, samsara is represented as a tree (Vriksha) because of the etymological meaning of the Sanskrit term Vriksha, that which can be cut down. The tree of multiplicity that has seemingly sprung forth from the Infinite Consciousness Divine, can be cut down by shifting our attention from the tree to Divine.

Luckily, we who are educated in modern universities, have a similar use of the term ‘tree’ in our text books. The ‘Family Tree’ of kings and dynasties are, without any exception, shown as branching down from their ancestral source. Similarly, the tree of Samsara, has its roots UP in the Divine Consciousness. A tree holds itself up and gets nourished by its roots; similarly, the experience of change, and the experiencer of them, are all established in the infinite and draw their sustenance from it alone”.


The universe is described as an upside down tree 6-37-1

These metaphors suggest hugeness and extensiveness as the probable general imagery.


As Emeaneau has shown, the picture in the asvattha metaphor is based on an epiphyte stage of the tree. It is rooted above, on another tree, and hence lets root down to the ground. Its branches grow on all directions from its place on the host tree, both up and down.


It is in Kathopanishad 6-1 and Taittriya Aranyaka 1-11-5



Another tree imagery that is popular is the uprooted tree by the floods. This is used in negative contexts. We find it in Tamil and Sanskrit.


Kaliadsa and Tamil poets used the same similes which shows that the culture is one and the same from land’s one end to the other. This explodes the myth of Aryan-Dravidian races.



Kalidasa’s references:

Perish the sinful thought

Why are you out to sully your family’s honour

and to make me fall; you are like a river

that crumbles its banks to muddy its crystal stream

and uproots the tree growing by its edge

Sakuntalam 5-22 (King Dushyanta to Sakuntala)



Understand that the bow of Shiva which you have broken had been divested of its strength by the power of Vishnu; understand further that even a light wind lays low a tree situated on the bank of a river which is already uprooted by the gush of the river. [11-76]


In this way when his subjects are being filled with compassion day after day for him, he though recently enthroned was undisturbed like a firm-rooted tree. [17-44]

Raghuvamsam 11-76, 17-44



Sangam Tamil Literature References:


Our lives, however dear

follow their own course

like the rafts drifting

in the rapids of a great river –Puram 192,Kaniyan Punkundran



Horse did not come, Horse did not come

All other horses came back!

My husband’s horse didn’t come

He was caught like a tree in between

two great rivers meeting point

torn and fell!

Puram 273 (Erumai Veliyanar)



I am shaking like the leaves of a mango tree

that fell down, when its roots were washed by the floods

in a wild stream ( a woman who is separated from her lover)

Natrinai 381 (Avvaiyaar)



we shook like the plantain tree that was washed by the floods

with foam (Kurinjippaattu lines 178/9 by Kapilar)


Poetess Nachellaiyar compared a  creeper that was struggling in the water uprooted by the floods to the lotus stalks in the river.

Pathitrupathu 52-21,

Palai padiya Perum Katungo compares the dried and withered trees to the people of a country where tyrants rule (Kalitokai 10)


In the Mahabharata



The significance of trees in similes, however, is different in different contexts.

Thus a tree broken by a thunderbolt or wind etc is a symbol of death. Bismarck sighing on the ground like a tree broken by the wind.6-14-13


The hunter, coveting Damayanti fell down on the ground like a tree burnt by fire.

Jayadrathas soldier,with his chest broken , vomiitting blood from his mouth, fell down in front of Arjuna like a tree severed from its root:

Sa bhinnahrdayo viiro vaktraac chonitam udvaman

Papaataa bhimukhah paartham chinnamuula Iva drumah 3-255-14, 3-17-20 etc
A tree fallen from the bank into the river current is a figure of dependence and subordination. Thus a man is at his own command, even for a while, like a tree fallen from the bank approaching the middle of the stream.


naa tmaadhiino manusyo yam kaalam bhavati kam cana

srotaso madhyam aapannah kuulaad vrksa iva eyutah

–Mahabharata 3-31-26


Duryodhana is described as a great tree of anger

Duryodhano manyumayo mahadrumah 1-1-65

Source Books

Bhagavad Gita commentary by Swami Chinmayananda

Bhagavad Gita commentary by Dr S Radhakrishnan (President of India)

Sangam Tamil Literature

Kalidasa’s Works

Elements of Poetry in the  Mahabharata





Perfume Simile in Hindu Literature (Post No.3639)

Written by London swaminathan


Date: 15 FEBRUARY 2017


Time uploaded in London:- 19-19


Post No. 3639



Pictures are taken from various sources; thanks.






Many of you would have read the famous quote of Shakespeare in Macbeth:


“Here is the smell of blood still. All perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.”


But the art of perfume making spread to various parts of the world from India. I have already written about the art of perfume making from Brhat Samhita of Varaha Mihira and Kamasutra of Vatsyayana. It is considered one of the 64 arts prescribed to all the women of ancient India. So there is no wonder we have some quotations and similes in our epics. here is one form Mahabharata:

As the perfume of flowers (in contact with them) scents clothing, water, sesame seed, or the ground, so qualities are born from contact (with the good or evil)

vastram aapas tilaan bhuumim gandho vaasayate yathaa

puspaanaam adhivaasena tathaa samsargajaa gunaah (Mbh 3-1-22)


In the olden days we mixed perfume with water, oil and used them.

In Tamil we have a proverb (Puuvoodu serntha naarum manam perum). Even the string that is used to make garlands gets the fragrance of the flowers. We use this to say that anyone who hasthe company of scholars will shine like the scholars.


There is another proverb saying that even the weaving tools in Kamban’s house will sing Ramayana!

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa says that if anyone has done good or bad that lingering smell will still be there. So one must be careful not to join the same group:-


“The cup in which garlic juice is kept retains the odour, though washed several times. Egotism is such an obstinate aspect of  ignorance that it never disappears completely, however hard you may try to get rid of it.”


Once a Marwari gentle man, approached Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and said, “How is it, Sir, that I do not see God although I have renounced everything?”

The Master: “Well, haven’t you seen leather jars for keeping oil? If one of them is emptied of its contents, still it retains something of the oil as well as its smell. In the same way there is still some worldliness left in you, and its odour persists.”





Similes and Analogies used by Sringeri Acharya (Post No. 2340)



Compiled   by London swaminathan

Date: 18 November 2015

POST No. 2340
Time uploaded in London :– 15-54
( Thanks for the Pictures )



Carpenter and Spiritual aspirant

A carpenter, however intelligent he may be, cannot function properly if he squats on a rickety seat or has blunt instruments or does not know how to use them effectively. Similarly a person who wants to launch into the most subtle and difficult of endeavours, namely, to achieve progress in the field of spirituality, must have a strong and healthy body, senses capable of effectively functioning and a strong and healthy mind capable of controlling and directing properly the body and the senses.

 mirror dirty

Mind and Mirror

The mind is like a mirror and, if it is pure and steady, it will reflect clearly the Self. If the mirror is coated with dust and is shaky, it cannot reflect the object before it. The dust which darkens the mind is SIN and its shakiness is due to DISTRACTION. The sin has to be eradicated by the performance of the prescribed good deeds known as Karma and the distraction by the practice of one-pointed devotion known as Upasana.


Image Worship

Nobody who engages himself in in image worship ever commits the mistake of limiting god to that image. He knows clearly that the image is resorted to for the purpose of establishing contact with the intangible universal godhead who can manifest himself in any form.


Nobody who wants to write is immediately able to able to write small letters and in a neat hand. He has to begin the practice of writing big letters on sand or on rough sheets till he gets some proficiency. Similarly, the aspirant who wants to contemplate on god has to begin by concentrating his mind on a gross visible image of God.


Sweetmeat shop

If we take some children to a sweetmeat shop and ask them to select what they want, a child may prefer to have a ring shaped sweetmeat, another a rod like one, another in the form of a peacock, another in the form of a chair, and so on. We know all these are made up of sugar and it is not material to us what form each child choses. We know also that, once the children put the sweetmeats into their mouths and begin to taste them, the particular forms will easily dissolve themselves leaving only the taste of sugar and that this taste will be common to all the children though the forms through which they obtain it are quite different from one another. Similarly, our religion recognises that forms of Gods are necessary and that the forms lose their significance when the Godhead in them begins to be realised.



If 50 people contribute Rs 3 each to honour a Pandit, the total amount will come to only Rs 150, though they all may sincerely feel that this is not an adequate remuneration for the valuable discourse of the Pandit. Any amount of sincere feeling on their part will not affect the arithmetical truth that 50 multiplied by 3 is only 150. It is quite open to the Pandit also to say and feel that this 150 is a1000 to him; but his saying or feeling so will not in any way swell the cash. So truth is one thing and concept is quite another. Our Dharma is Truth and therefore eternal; it is not a concept liable to variations.


Other similes used by the two previous Shankaracharyas of Sringeri Mutt are covered in my earlier articles.


Interesting similes in Mahabharata


Research paper written by London Swaminathan
Research article No.1492; Dated 16th December 2014.

Hindus use sesame seeds or the white mustard seeds as comparison to show how small a thing is. They have even coined some phrases with that to belittle something.
(The demons terrifying Sita say): Let us devour and tear her to pieces dividing her up in pieces small as sesamum seeds (3-231-5)

(Mahabharata has several references to Sita, Rama etc and Ramayana has none on Mahabharata characters)
Avayor antaram viddhi merusarsapayor iva 1-69-3

Sakuntala travelling in the air, Dushyanta only on earth, differ as widely as Mt Meru and a mustard seed.

Grass is also used to belittle something. When the arrogant Nandas laughed at the bony, slender looking Chanakya stumbled upon some grass, Chanakya stopped and pulled out the grass from the earth and made a vow that he would root out the Nada dynasty like that grass. Later he helped to establish a new dynasty under the Mauryas. Great Tamil poet challenges God of Death to come near him so that he could crush him grass.
In the Mahabharata we have (Bhima’s grievances uttered to Yudhistra): By one handful of grass, you want to have Himalayas covered, O Yudhistra, you who want to restrain from war.

Trnaanaam mustinai kena himavantam tu parvatam
Channam icchasi kaunteya yo smaan sampavartum ichchasi (3-36-22)

Having been addressed thus by Ravana, Sita of auspicious face turned towards him, and having placed a straw beween (herself and Ravana) spoke to that demon.
This is an insult or expression of indifference to Ravana. Ravana is like a grass for Sita.
Valmiki Ramayana 3-56-1
Adhyatma Ramayana 5-2-31
Tulasidas’ Ramacaritamaanasa 5-9-3 also had the same expression.

Bhima’s challenge to Hidimba: In a moment today I will render this forest free of thorns (i.e. free from Hidimba’s atrocities-3-12-72)
Anyone giving troubles is considered thorns. It is used the same way in several other languages as well. In Tamil the proverb goes like this: a thorn must be removed by another thorn.

“One thorn of experience is worth a whole wilderness of warning”, says James Russell Lowell
“But he that dares not grasp the thorn should never crave the Rose”, says Anne Bronte.


(Yayati to Sarmishta): And in your beauty, I don’t find even as much as the point of a needle to be found fault with.
Rupe ca tena pasyaami suucyagram api ninditam -1-77-14

Sakuntala’s rebuke to Dushyanta):So long as an ugly man does not see his own face in the mirror, he considers himself more handsome than others. But when he sees his own ugly face in the mirror, than he precieves himself as inferior, not anybody else:

Viruupo yaavad aadarse naa’tmanah pasyate mukham
Manyate taavad aatmaanam anyebhyo ruupavattaram
Yadaa to mukham adarse vikrtam so ‘bhiviksate
Tade taram vijnaati aatmaanam ne taram janam

Beautiful Classic Patterned Design Luxury Wall Mirrors Ideas


Similes in Sanskrit Literature


Research paper written by London Swaminathan
Research article No.1489; Dated 15th December 2014.

Appaayya Diksita’s ‘Citramimamsa’ gives the definition of simile as follows,

“Tad idam citram visvam
Brahmajnanad ivo pamajnanat
Jnatam bhavati’ ty adau
Nirupyate nikhilabhedasahita sa
Upamai ka sailusi
Samprapta citrabhumikabhedan
Ranjayati kavyarange
Nrtyanti tadvidam cetah”

Meaning :–As this diversified universe is known by the knowledge of Brahman, so all the figures are known by the knowledge of the simile. Thus the simile with all its varieties is described in the very beginning. The simile alone, an actress dancing in different kinds of costumes on the stage of poetry, taking different shapes of figures, delights the heart of those who know it.
Jayadeva defines the simile (upama) as a figure of speech in which the beauty of similarity exists between two objects, as between the two breasts of a woman (Candraloka 5-3)

In the Mahabharata gods are used as similes. Indra tops the list of Gods. This shows that Mahabharata was written nearer to Vedic times. Had it been written in the Common Era (CE), Siva or Vishnu would have topped the list. As per the statistics available, the frequency table shows the following:


Indra (brilliance and prominence) – at least 247 times
Surya (splendour) –164 times
Agni (Fire; for splendour and destruction) – 155 times
Yama (destructionand terror) 104 times
Gods (Devas) (Brilliance) – 81 times.

Siva, Vishnu and Brahma are way down below in the frequency table and so the Mahabharata was written long before the Puranas which glorify Siva or Vishnu.

The name Upama occurs as early as the Rig Veda (5-34-9; 1-31-15). Yaska quotes the grammarian Gargya’s definition of Upama.
The oldest Tamil book Tolkappiam also used the Sanskrit word Upama (uvamam).
Ramayana has more than 3400 similes. Kalidasa has used more than thousand similes.


Ramayana Wonders-1


Ramayana and Mahabharata are two great epics in Sanskrit language. Hindus consider these two epics as their sacred literature. They worship the books. They won’t even touch them with unclean hands or on unclean days. Though the illiterate Hindus do not read the books the story is known to every Hindu through hymns, songs, lullabies, nursery rhymes, proverbs, paintings, sculptures, dances and religious/musical discourses. There are lot of hidden gems in the Ramayana.

Valmiki Ramayana is the original Ramayana written by Valmiki in 24,000 couplets. It is considered Adi Kavyam= First Epic. 

300 Different Ramyanas

1.There are 300 different Ramayana versions in the world. It is written in all major Indian languages in the olden days. Now it has been translated into all major western languages in the world.

2. Gayatri mantra in the Rig Veda is the holiest mantra for Hindus. One of the 300 Ramyanas is called Gayatri Ramayana. It is formed from 24 couplets from Valmiki Ramayana. Each couplet starts with one letter of Gayatri which has got 24 letters. Whoever reads these 24 hymns will get the merits of reading the full Ramayana.

3. There are more than 200 different types of plants described by Valmiki. More than 185 weapons are described by Valmiki!

3. Divya Prabanda Pasura Ramayana: An ingenious Tamil Periyacvachan Pillay selected Tamil Hymns from 12 Vaishnavite saints (known as Alvars) and composed a Ramayana. It is called Divya Prabanda Ramayana after the book Divya Prabandam, which contains 4000 hymns of the Tamil Vaishnavite Saints.

4.Nama Ramayana: The English word Name came from the Sanskrit word ‘Nama’. So this Ramayana is full of Rama’s name at the end of each line. No one knew who composed this. But this has been repeated by thousands every day. In sixty simple Sanskrit lines it relates the whole story of Ramayana. It begins with the line ‘Sudha Brahma Parathpara Rama’ and ends with ‘Ragupati Ragava Rajaram- Patita Pavana Sita Rama’.

3462 Similes

5.Ramayana has Seven Cantos, 24,000 couplets. But the seventh canto is considered a later addition. It has got 500 chapters. Ramayana has 3462 similes. Kalidasa who is famous for his similes has used less than half of this number. Valmiki’s 3462 similes belong to 13 different types.

In Sundara Kanda, more than 30 similes are used in just 22 couplets. A heap of similes are in canto 19 of this Kanda.

6.Jain Ramayana: Padma Sarita (pavuma sariya) is a Prakrit language book containing 118 pervas/sections. This big book has been dated to 4th Century AD by the German Scholar Jacobi. This book analyses Ramayana in a logical way and says Ten Heads for Ravana, Six Month Sleep of Kumbakarna  etc are wrong.

No ‘Sati’, so older than Mahabharata

7.In Ramayana the custom of Sati is not mentioned anywhere. All the wives of Dasaratha and other characters did not die with their husbands in the funeral pyre. So it is definitely older than the Mahabharata where there are numerous references to sati.

8.Cremation was practised by everyone. Dasaratha, Vali, Jatayu, Ravana and Andhamuni were all cremated. So burial was unknown to Ramyana. Dasaratha’s body was preserved in oil till Bharata came from Iran-Afganistan border. His mother Kaikeyi was from Kekaya which was in the border of modern Iran-Afganistan. Eldest son was supposed to do the cremation, a custom followed by the Hindus until today. Since Rama was banished Bharata had to do it.


Announcing Three Times

9.Janaka, father of Sita, repeats three times the decision to give her to Rama in marriage. This custom is followed around the world in many ceremonies (In Judicial Courts, Muslim Talaqs/divorces, going round the temple etc).

King lists differ from the king lists in thirteen Puranas. But it is not uncommon. We have similar conflicting and contradicting king lists of Sumerians and Egyptians.

Tamil Festival Pongal

10.Tamils celebrate Pongal, a Harvest festival on Makara Sankranti Day. A harvest festival known as AGRAYANA is mentioned in Valmiki Ramayana (III-16-16)

Ramayana says Candalas wore blue clothes. Sangam Tamil Literatures says Roman Body Guards wore blue clothes. Sanskrit literature says that those who were sentenced to death wore Red clothes.

Pet Birds: Parrots and Peacocks

11.Parrots and pea cocks were raised as pet birds. We have numerous references to parrots in Tamil and Sanskrit literature (Please read my posts Can Birds Predict Future, Animal Einsteins and Lie Detectors in the Upanishads)

Pet Birds (VI-75-20, II-65-5), caged female parrots (V-13-13), sportive peacocks (V-6-38), Parrot-Myna (II-53-22), parrots in palace (II-88-7) are some of the references to pet birds.

Elephants are mentioned in a number of places. Even 60 year old elephant (ii-67-20) is mentioned.

Swastika Symbol

12.Hindu Mangala (Auspicious) emblem Swastika is found around the world from pre historic times. But it is considered Hindu because they have been using it from Vedic/ Indus Valley days until today. Swastika is found on Royal raft (II-89-2) and panegyrists (II-16-46).

1000 pillar mandap ( now seen in Nayak Temples of Madurai, Tiruvannamalai etc) is mentioned in Ramayana (V-15-16 and VI-39-22)

Contd. in second part…………………………

Source Materials: India in the Ramayana Age by Shantikumar Nanooram Vyas; The Ramyana of Valmiki- translated by Hari Prasad Shastri and JM Macfie; Stotramala by LIFCO. Pictures are from Face Book and other websites. Thanks. Contact

Please read other posts about Rama: 1. Ram –the Best PR Man 2. தியாகராஜ சுவாமிகளுடன் 60 வினாடி பேட்டி 3.நாமும் அனுமார் ஆகலாம் 4.கம்பனுடன் 60 வினாடி பேட்டி 5.ராமாயண வினா-விடை (க்விஸ்)