Thayyumanavar (1706 - 1744) was a Tamil philosopher and Hindu saint. Thayumanavar articulated the Saiva Siddhanta philosophy. he wrote several tamil hymns of which 1454 are available. his first three songs were sung 250 years ago at the congress of religions in Thirucirappalli. his poems follow his own mystical experience, but they also outline the philosophy of South Indian Hinduism, and the Tirumandiram by Saint Tirumular in its highest form.

Thayumanavar's key teaching is to discipline the mind, control desires and meditate peacefully. He went on to say that "it is easy to control an elephant, catch hold of the tiger's tail, grab the snake and dance, dictate the angels, transmigrate into another body, walk on water or sit on the sea; but it is more difficult to control the mind and remain quiet".

Kediliappa, his father and Gajavalli his mother. Kediliappa ' literally means immortal Father. Thayumanavar was named after the Deity of the Rock-Temple. Kediliappa Pillai, a Chola Vellala was an administrative officer of the Nayak Kingdom.
Kediliappa originally lived at Vedaranyam, a famous pilgrim centre. He was the trustee of the local temple. He was a learned man high in intellect and wide in heart. His wife Gajavalli was a pious lady humming devotional songs while attending to house-keeping. Their home was surrounded by a divine atmosphere. The liberality of their hearts expressed itself in charity and hospitality. There was a royal dignity in the personality of Kediliappa, and a remarkable sweetness in his words. His elder brother, Vedaranyam, a great scholar well placed in life, had no children. Kediliappa offered his own boy Siva Chidambaram in adoption to the elder brother. The brother's face glowed with joy and there was sunlight again in his life.

The Pandyan dynasty had declined. The Nayak chiefs of Vijayanagar possessed the Madurai Kingdom ( 1559-1736). Visvanatha, Tirumalai, and Mangammal were noteworthy rulers of Madurai. They were great patrons of art and poetry. The grandson of Mangammal was Vijaya Ranga Chokkanatha. He set up his residence at Thrisirapuram. He was a pious man, but not a statesman. He ruled for twenty-seven years (1704-1731 ).His kingdom was often attacked by the Maharattas and the Mussalmans. He wanted strong assistants. His minister Govindappa one day came to Vedaranyam. Kediliappa received the guest with temple honours and entertained him under his hospitable roof. Both of them spoke on religion and politics. The Minister said, "Kedili, you are a scholar, a devotee, a statesman, a clever diplomat and a keen accountant. You are just the man that we are seeking. Come with me and serve the King". Kediliappa shifted his family to Trisirapuram. King Chokkanatha, pleased even at the firstsight, took Kedili into his council and gave him a free hand in the management of his household. Kedili was faithful to the king, alert to his duty and timely in advising him against enemies. Chokkanatha treated him like a brother. Kedili's fame and fortune flourished day by day. There was only one gloomy spot in his life; that was the absence of a child to cheer his home. He and his wife went daily to the rock-temple and prayed to Swami Thayumanavar for a child.

They fed saints and made gifts to scholars. Kedili chanted holy songs. He also arranged for Vedic recitals before the sanctum of Thayumanavar. While the atmosphere was thus charged with holy vibrations, his wife Gajavalli conceived. Gajavalli spent her days in prayer and holy hearing. One day devotees were chanting the soul-thrilling hymns of Manikkavasagar when Gajavalli delivered the gifted child. That child was named Thayumavar, for it was born by the grace of Thayumanavar Swami. Kedili was overjoyed at the sight of his luminous son, radiant in beauty. Temple bells rang in blessings.

Everyone was attracted to this lovely child. King Chokkanatha admired the boy and marked him for his service. The father brought up the son with high hopes. He taught him Tamil and Sanskrit, spiritual and statecraft. The king was satisfied with his progress. He was the focus of saints and scholars. He was an expert in Vedanta and Siddhanta. He read with rapture the hymns of Saints like Manikkavasagar, Appar, Sambandhar and Sundarar. He mastered the Meikanda Sastras. These are holy books in Tamil.

He studied the Upanishads, side by side with Tiruvasagam. He was a clever logician and none could defeat him in discussions. But, he was not satisfied with book knowledge. Books did not reveal the Blessed One cradled in his heart. Words did not quench his thirst. From sunrise to sunset, he was seeking for something within, for somebody that can lead him to the Self-Conscious Bliss. He had a rich home. He had free access to the King's palace. He was welcomed in royal circles. But the born sage preferred solitude to company and reflection to reading. Words were loads to him, and books burdens. He went often to the rock-temple and spent his time in meditation and prayer.

In the moments of purified calmness, in the silent of inner peace, he sought Self-reality with all the belief of his faith. His eyes flowed with tears. His lips whispered with songs of spiritual melancholy. He had the sage-mind of Pattinattar, the contemplation of the Buddha, the inspiration of Vedic seers. Nuggets of golden truth, cast in brilliant couplets, came out of the inner mind. Then longer poems flowed out spontaneously. Showering tear-pearls gushing out of his lotus eyes, the boy saluted and contemplated upon the Supreme. Thayumanavar saw the Hata-yogins controlling breath and twisting their bodies. He saw religionists in hot discussion; he saw maniacs quarrelling about the God whom they cannot even imagine. He sought solace in the Unique One who is all and all in all.

He invoked His grace day and night for a Guiding Light.

On the death of his father, Thayumanavar, famed already for his scholarship and administrative, capacity, was asked to accept his father’s post as palace steward. He accepted out of respect to the ruler. As his mind always centred in the path of devotion to Lord Siva and his duties, he led a holy life of God consciousness and sincere service.

One day Thayumanavar went up the rock-temple for his daily worship. There he met a Sage who belonged to the order of St. Tiru Mula. The Master and the disciple discovered each other. The disciple fell at the feet of the Master, shedding tears of joy and poured out his heart in sublime hymns. He was brought into contact with Mouna Guru Desigar, the head of a Saiva mutt there, he gradually developed spiritualism in his mind.

The Master blessed him graciously, took him alone, and accepted his devotion. 

"Master" said the disciple, "I shall follow Thee, renouncing home and royal service."

"Wait. good soul! " stopped the Teacher, 
"Be a householder until you beget a child. 
Then I shall come to initiate you in meditation. 
Be silent. Rest in peace; keep quiet; have faith. 
You will reach the supreme state of Bliss". 
Having said this, the Master went away. 

Thayumanavar shed tears of joy and gratitude at the love of his gracious Master
who opened his inner eye and followed his teachings faithfully.

Once he was attending to his duty by reading some documents ( in palm leaves) he suddenly crushed and threw them away; the officers who were there could not understand the reason he did so. It was known later that the saree of Goddess Akilandeswari in the garba graha of Thiruvanaikka temple caught fire by camphor and was put out by this act of miracle.Some years later, Vijaya Ragunatha Chokkalinga Nayakkar passed away in 1731. Queen Meenakshi in course of time admired the charming young man, Thayumanavar and desired to share his life with her. The dutiful Thayumanavar was very much disgusted with the indecent words and conduct of the Queen. Foreseeing the impending danger in the palace, he quietly departed with one of his disciple, Arulayyar and joined his elder brother at Ramanathapuram. Pressure given by his relatives made Thayumanavar to have a married life. When he was leading a house hold life, he gegot a son named Kanagasabapathy.

As the birth of the son ended in the death of the mother, Thayumanavar renounced the worldly life, gave all and took to the saintly life of a wandering sage; he was going from from one holy place to another, singing highly devotional hymns in praise of Lord Siva and His saints. His pious sweet songs were elevating and drawing to himself and Lord Siva, the hearts of all who had seen or heard him, as if a magnet attracting to iron. So honeyed melody of Thayumanavar’s verses has a unique place in the Bakthi literature of Tamil Nadu.

As a wandering ascetic, Thayumanavar earned extra ordinary reputation for his true hearted and unbending sincere devotion to the Almighty. He spent his last years at the Head of Mouna Guru Mutt founded by his Guru at Thirucirappalli. Finally he went to Ramanathapuram and attained Samadhi on Visakam 28th day of the month Thaai in 1726 A.D

The hymns of Thayumanavar bring high solace to life; to hear them is to elevate life and soul. To live them is to enjoy the highest Bliss in spiritual consciousness. They are dynamic song-thrills that spark out of the Bliss-centre. Thayumanavar works is an out scripture for Saints and Yogins. It covers the entire field of Yoga and Jnana. It brings high solace to house-holders purifying their mind and heart. It feeds the flames of inner communion in real Yogins. There is not a single Tamilian who does not sing Thayumanavar and find joy in it. Every home cherishes it. Every mother puts her child to bed with its sweet symphony. The hymns of Thayumanavar are music of the Soul, the song of the inner Spirits, and sparks of Divine Essence. It is very difficult to render them into another language.

Saint Pattinathar

Saint Pattinathar was born in a wealthy family and yet he turned to be a Sanyasi. He was known also as Thiruvenkadar. It was said that even when he was a youth, Lord Siva appeared in his dream and directed him to go to Thiruvengadu, where he would meet his Guru. Pattinathar has given us his experience and wisdom in the form of hyms. His works include Thirukazhumala Mummanikkovai, Thiruvidai Marudhur Mummanikkovai, Thiruvegambamudaiyar Thiruvandhaadhi and Thiruvottriyur Orupa Orupadhu.

Pattinathar was born in Kaveripumpattinam in a very wealthy family. His parents were Sivanesan Chettiar and Gnanakalai Aachi. They were so wealthy, that in those days it was a customary that kings of the various dynasties and empires who rose to the throne will be crowned by the wealthiest in the country. And for three generations or more, Pattinathar's ancestors have crowned the kings in the Chera, Chola, Pandya and the Pallava Kingdoms. That would give us an understanding of how wealthy their family should have been. They had a lot of ships that sailed across to various countries in the globe for trade purposes.

As a kid, he spent most of his time playing and studies was a far distant thing to him. Pattinathar's father was worried that his son does not study well, but his mother convinced him that they had wealth that would feed more than 10 generations, so why worry about their son not studying. A few years later, Pattinathar's father died and his mother had to take care of business. Though she was able to manage that, her brother - Pattinathar's maternal uncle - gave her a helping hand and looked after the business.

Being born in the lineage of traders, he had the skills for trade. He wanted to venture into the seas to get more hands-on experience about trade across the oceans. He became well-versed and later he was married to a girl named Sivakavi at the age of 16. In those days, marrying at a young age was practised. Over the years, he grew to be a man who can handle businesses himself and became the wealthiest trader in Kaveripoompattinam. Thereafter he was referred to as Pattinathu Chetty or Pattinathar.

For a long time, the couple did not have a child as the heir to their wealth. They went to a lot of temples but still God did not bless them with a child. They were worried. It is said that once Lord Siva appeared to them in their dream and promised a child. In the dream an elderly couple showed them the way. He woke up from his dream and the next day Pattinathar and Sivakalai headed to Thiruvidai Marudhur. And when he reached Thiruvidai Marudhur, he saw the same elderly couple that he saw his in dreams. He enquired about them, and they said that they were poor and the child was born at a very later age, and now they are weak to feed for themselves. So they both decided to go and meet Pattinathu Chetty and ask him to adopt the child for which, the elderly couple told, that Pattinathar would give them gold equal to the weight of the infant with which they could manage the rest of their life. Pattinathar and Sivakalai eyes were in tears and they thought that Lord Shiva and Parvathi themselves came as the elderly couple and blessed them with the child.

Then Pattinathar and Sivakalai, took the elderly couple to Kaveripoompattinam and said that they will adopt the child and gave the elderly couple a good amount of wealth for them to survive through their age. Then they planned for the adoption ceremony of the child. Now, Pattinathar's sister, who thought that the wealth of Pattinathar will automatically be for her family as Pattinathar had no heir, had her dreams shattered by the adoption of this child. She argued and quarrelled with his brother. But Pattinathar made a firm decision that he is going to adopt that child and that child will be his heir. The adoption ceremony went very well in all its grandeur and they name the baby boy - Marudhavanan. They considered Marudhavanan as their own child and showed him a great love and affection.

After some years of his life the divine boy increased his extra ordinary wisdom. He went on shipping trade along with other merchants of the locality and brought back immense stores of wealth to Pattinathar. Thus, when Pattinathar was at the height of worldly joy and satisfaction, Marudhavanan disappeared from the house leaving behind a container which has a broken needle and a palm leaf scroll written; “No even an eyeless needle will follow you on your last journey”

This was regarded by Pattinathar as Gnanopadesam, the word of enlightened advice from Lord Siva Himself. This incident was the turning point on the life of Pattinathar; in other words it was enough to spark off the divine glow or awareness in his mind and heart. On realizing that Marudhavanan was in fact not a normal human and was Lord Siva who came in the guise of human form, Pattinathar decided to renounce the world. He entrusted al his wealth to the care of ‘Kariarsthan’ the personal assistant by the name of Nangur Senthanar. Then he ordered the person to give the wealth and property away to the needy people, with just a loin cloth round his waist, he left home as a sanyasin. He had to face many troubles in his renunciated life. His relatives and dependents did not like the course of action-renunciation of Pattinathar, they induced the king of the region to take action against Senthanar who had distributed the wealth to the poor but counteracted the punishment given to Senthanar with the grace of God.

In the course of his renounced life, Pattinathar gradually attained the stage of “Iruvinai Oppu” , Malaparipakam and Sakthinipatham and expecting salvation under the grace of God. He travelled many sacred places and came to Thuluva country and the king his disciple. The king in the name of Pathiragiriyaar also renounced the worldly pleasures and became a Sanyasin. It is said that Pathiragiriyaar attained Siddhi at Thiruvidaimaruthur.

Karma and birth continue one after another. Here questions arise. Is there no end to this cycle? How can the soul get liberation? Saiva religion shows the way for liberation. We should develop positive qualities and attitudes in life. Our action or Karma should be in the way of Lord Siva whose inherent nature is wisdom and attribute is love. In every birth, we gain experience through karma, and knowledge through experience. In this process the grip of Anavam, which is the source ignorance, get loosened and ultimately we become liberated from it. This process is called malaparipaakam. Also we develop the mind to take pain and pleasure, the fruits of evil and good karmas, alike. This is called iruvinai oppu. God Siva's Grace then descends on us. It is called Sakthy nippaatham. Then our actions will not be motivated by our senses which are prompted by Anava malam. They become His actions and karma will not follow us to come to experience.

While Pattinathar was playing with the cowherd boys at Thiruvotriyur, he disappeared from the spot and attained Siva Sayujyam, the final liberation of the soul. It is said that the relatives including his wife came to the spot where Pattinathar attained mukthi and offered their devotion.

Saint Manikkavasagar

In Thiruvadavur, in the Pandya kingdom, there lived a pious Brahmin. He and his dutiful wife, due to merit earned in past lives, got a worthy son whom they named Vadavurar, after the native place.

As the child grew, his wisdom increased as well. Soon, Vadavurar had mastered all the scriptures. He also shone as the embodiment of all virtues and won the love and esteem of all. Even learned pandits and saints were attracted by his personality and wisdom. The king of Madurai, Arimardana Pandyan, heard of Vadavurar's qualities and discovered that Vadavurar was an all-rounder and was proficient in administration also. The king made Vadavurar his Prime Minister. Even as the role of the king's minister, Vadavurar shone with extraordinary brilliance and won the title of "Tennavan Paramarayar."

As days passed, however, dispassion grew in Vadavurar's heart. He had realised the unreality of the world. To him everything was painful — birth, disease, death, rebirth, etc. Vadavurar wanted to enjoy the eternal bliss of Sivanandam. Even while he was administering the affairs of the state, Vadavurar's mind was fixed on the lotus feet of the Lord. He would invite learned men and discuss with them the intricate points in the Vedas. Soon, Vadavurar realised that a Guru was necessary for real spiritual progress. Vadavurar longed to meet his real Guru. Whenever he went out on duty, Vadavurar also searched for his Guru.

One day, while the king was holding his court, the head of his cavalry entered and informed him that the cavalry needed immediate replenishment, as age, death and sickness had greatly effected its strength. The king immediately ordered the purchase of good horses. The task of buying good horses from the right place was entrusted to Vadavurar. He was extremely happy as Vadavurar was sure that he would find his real Guru during that tour. It was a God-sent opportunity for him. Vadavurar offered sincere prayer to Lord Somasundarar (Siva) in the temple and, besmearing Siva's holy ash on his body and with Siva's name on his lips, Vadavurar started on the errand of buying horses, with enough money. He reached Thiru Perunturai.

Lord Siva, who is the Indweller of all hearts, knew Vadavurar's mental condition and had decided to take Vadavurar into the divine fold. So, in the guise of a Brahmin and with a copy of the book Siva Jnana Bodam in his hand, the Brahmin was seated under a Kurunta tree near the temple at Thiru Perunturai. He was surrounded by others (the celestial servants in disguise). Vadavurar entered the temple and stood motionless before the Lord, in intense prayer. He shed tears of God-love. Then Vadavurar went round the temple. Near the tree he heard the holy vibrations of the Lord's name (Hara, Hara) which melted Vadavurar's heart.

Vadavurar glimpsed sight of the Brahmin, whose magnetic personality immediately attracted him. With overflowing love and devotion, Vadavurar ran to the Brahmin, as a calf to its mother after a long separation, and fell at the Brahmin's feet. By Siva's grace, Vadavurar was able to recognise Siva as his real Guru. Holding Siva's feet with his hands Vadavurar prayed, "Oh Lord, kindly accept me as your slave and bless me." The Lord was waiting for this! Siva cast a graceful glance on Vadavurar. This at once removed all Vadavurar's sins and purified his heart.

The Lord then initiated Vadavurar into the divine mysteries of Siva Jnana. This very initiation entranced Vadavurar. He tasted the divine bliss and was self-forgetfully absorbed in it. Then Vadavurar regained his consciousness and again fell at the Guru's feet and prayed, "Oh Lord, who has come to initiate me into the divine mysteries! Oh Lord, who has captivated me by a mere look! Oh Lord, who has melted my mind! Oh Lord, who has made me surrender all wealth, body, mind and soul! Oh my jewel! Oh wealth imperishable! Oh ocean of bliss! Oh nectar of immortality! Prostrations unto you!"

Singing Siva's glories, thus, Vadavurar removed all his belongings and offered all at the feet of the Guru. Vadavurar had become a Sannyasi. Smearing his body with sacred ashes, fixing his mind on the lotus feet of the Guru, Vadavurar plunged into deep meditation. When he awoke from this meditation, Vadavurar was filled with an eagerness to sing the glories of the Lord. With love as the string and his nectarine words as the gems, Vadavurar made a garland and offered it at his Guru's feet. The Lord was highly pleased with it, and called him "Manikkavasagar" since the hymns sung by Vadavurar were like gems in wisdom.

The Lord asked Manikkavasagar to remain at Thiru Perunturai and disappeared. Separation from the Lord and Guru, made Manikkavasagar suffer intense pain and anguish. Soon, Manikkavasagar consoled himself and lived in the remembrance of the Lord and Guru.

The king's servants, who had accompanied Vadavurar thought that Vadavurar had forgotten the mission, and, so, after waiting for a few days, gently reminded him. Manikkavaasagar sent them back to the king with the message that the horses would reach Madurai within one month. When the king heard of what had happened to Vadavurar, the king was angry — but, waited patiently for a month.

At Thiru Perunturai, Manikkavasagar was devoted to the Lord, forgetting the king and the mission. Manikkavasagar had spent the money he had brought in the construction of a temple. After waiting for a month, the king sent Manikkavasagar an angry note reminding him that one should be as alert in dealing with the king as one would be when dealing with a cobra, and asking Manikkavasagar to appear before the king at once.

Manikkavasagar was upset. He went to the temple and prayed for the Lord's protection. Moved by Manikkavasagar's sincere prayer, the Lord appeared in his dream that night in the same form of the Guru who initiated Manikkavasagar and said, "Oh noble soul, fear not. I, myself, will bring the best horses to Madurai. You can go in advance. Tell the king that the horses will arrive there on Avani Moolam."

The Lord disappeared after placing a very costly diamond in Manikkavasagar's hands. The next morning, Manikkavasagar took leave of the Lord of Perunturai and, with his ministerial robes, started for Madurai.

Manikkavasagar bowed before the king and gave him the diamond. Manikkavasagar explained, "Your majesty, I have already purchased the horses for the entire money I had taken. I was waiting for an auspicious day on which to bring the horses here. Avani Moolam is an auspicious day. In the meantime, as commanded by your majesty, I have returned. The horses will reach here on the auspicious day."

The king apologised to Manikkavasagar for the rash note he had sent earlier. Manikkavasagar built a big stable for the horses. His relatives, apprehensive of the real state of Manikkavasagar's mind, appealed to him to look after them and not to renounce the world. Manikkavasagar laughed and said, "Oh friends, the day the Lord initiated me, I have offered everything at His Feet. I have now no relatives except the Lord and His devotees. I have no connection with this body, even. My only attachment is with the Lord, who is the remover of all our sins and bestower of immortal bliss. Birth is painful. Death is painful. Everything that is not connected with the Lord is painful. I do not worry about anything in the world now. I will beg happily with my palm as my begging bowl and appease my hunger with the food that is received by chance. When the earth is ready to give me shelter, why should I resort to a special dwelling place? The perfume I smear my body with is the sacred ash. My only belonging is the garland of rudraksha, which destroys the sins of many births. Oh friends, when I am under Siva's protection, why should I fear anybody?"

With his thoughts fixed on the Lord, Manikkavasagar was expecting the forthcoming auspicious day.

In the meantime, one of the ministers had told the king that in truth Manikkavasagar had spent all the money in the construction of temples and that Manikkavasagar's statement was false.

The king's suspicion increased. He sent some messengers to Perunturai to see whether the horses were really there. They returned with a negative reply. Only two days remained now. The king did not get any information about the horses. So, the king ordered his soldiers to torture Manikkavasagar and get the money back. They informed Manikkavasagar of all that had happened in the court. Manikkavasagar kept quiet. They tormented him, according to the king's orders. Manikkavasagar bore everything, fixing his mind on the Lord. The Lord, Himself, bore all the torture, and the bhakta was relieved. The soldiers could not understand the secret of Manikkavasagar endurance. They tortured Manikkavasagar further!

Manikkavasagar prayed to the Lord. The Lord heard His bhakta's prayer and wanted to play His leela. So, Siva willed that all the jackals of the place should assume the form of horses. Siva also sent His celestial servants to act as horsemen. Siva, Himself, assumed the form of a trader in horses and reached Madurai. The dust raised by the gallopping horses filled the sky. The people were wonderstruck to see the fine horses. That day was Avani Moolam. The thought that he had unnecessarily tortured Manikkavasagar pained the king's heart. He at once released Manikkavasagar and apologised to him. Both of them went to the place where the horses had been stationed.

The king was happy to see the good quality of the horses. The merchant was also very handsome. Manikkavasagar knew that it was the Lord Himself and so mentally prostrated to the merchant. The king's servants led the horses to the stable.

Day passed into night. In accordance with the Lord's will, the horses assumed their original form of jackals, broke the fence and fled from the stable, howling. Some of them injured even the real horses. A few old jackals remained in the stable. The next morning, the horsemen did not find any of the horses and there were only a few old jackals in the stable. They immediately reported the matter to the king. The king got terribly angry with Manikkavasagar who, the king thought, had deceived him by magic. The king's soldiers again began to torture Manikkavasagar by making him stand barefeet in the hot sand during the warm Avani season. Manikkavasagar prayed to the Lord for help. Unable to bear the suffering of His devotee, at once, the Lord caused a heavy flood in the river Vaigai. There was panic everywhere in the town. The people could not understand the cause of this untimely flood. The soldiers who were guarding Manikkavasagar also fled.

Manikkavasagar went to the temple and worshipped Lord Somasundarar and was completely absorbed in meditation.

The king was puzzled. He wanted to save the city from destruction. So, he ordered everyone in the city to bring one basketful of mud and throw it on the bank of the river to stem the flood. Everyone, except an old woman by name Vandi (Vanthi), did so. She sold Pittu (a South Indian delicacy eaten by Tamils) and earned her living. She was so much devoted to Lord Somasundarar that she would daily offer it to Him first and then sell it. She was in distress. She prayed to the Lord for help. Lord Siva, out of His compassion, appeared as a young labourer before the old woman and offered his services in return for a handful of pittu.

With a dirty cloth around his waist and a basket on his head, he would sing and dance and then put the mud on the bank of the river. He ate Vandi's kind offering and threw the mud with such force that it caused new breaches! For some time, he would sit idle and again sing and dance. The king's servants found the breach not closed where the Lord (in disguise) was working and reported the matter to the king. The king who personally supervised the work, noticed the idleness of the labourer, and hit him with a stick. The Lord threw the mud on the breach and it was closed. The blow, however, was felt by all beings in the whole universe (including the king) — since Siva is in all.

The king at once understood that it was all the Lord's leela and he also recognised the greatness of Manikkavasagar. At that time, the king heard an invisible voice, "Oh king, your entire wealth was spent on me and my bhaktas. By this act Manikkavasagar earned for you great merit. Instead of being grateful to him, you have tortured him. The jackals turning into horses, and this sudden flood, were all leelas performed by me for the sake of My devotee. At least now, open your eyes and learn a lesson for your future." In the meantime, Manikkavasagar had reached the temple and was absorbed in meditation. Manikkavasagar, too, felt the blow that the king gave the Lord. He got up from meditation.

The king was in search of Manikkavasagar. On the way, the king learnt that the old woman had been taken to the Lord's abode in a celestial car. When the king came to the temple in Thiru Alavai, he prostrated before Manikkavasagar. He requested Manikkavasagar to accept the rulership of the kingdom. The saint refused this offer but asked to be permitted to go to Perunturai. Both of them came to Madurai and worshipped the Lord. Manikkavasagar then left for Perunturai. The king also renounced everything soon after this and reached the Lord's abode.

At Perunturai, Manikkavasagar sang highly inspiring songs and prayed that he should see the Lord in the form of the Guru, as Siva appeared at first. The Lord fulfilled Manikkavasagar's wish. Siva then asked Manikkavasagar to go to Chidambaram. On the way to Chidambaram, Manikkavasagar visited many shrines. In every shrine, unless the Lord appeared in the original form of the Guru, he would not be satisfied. At Thiru Uttarakosha Mangai, Manikkavasagar wept bitterly when he did not see Siva as the Guru. The Lord had to adapt to Manikkavasagar's wish! By stages, Manikkavasagar reached Chidambaram and rolled on the holy ground. He stayed in a garden near the temple and sang the famous Thiruvachagam. The people of Thillai heard the songs and enjoyed its bliss.

In Ela Nadu (Ceylon), there was an ascetic who was constantly repeating, "Long live Ponnambalam."

The king of the place could not understand this, as he was a Buddhist, and had called the ascetic to him. He went to the palace and sat down in front of the king with the same words!

Upon being asked by the king to explain the meaning, the ascetic said, "Oh king, Ponnambalam is a sacred place in the Chola kingdom. This place is also called Chidambaram. Here the formless God takes a form, of Nataraja, the divine dancer, for the welfare of the world. The object of His dance is to free the souls from the clucthes of Maya. Inside the temple there is a tank called Siva Jnana Ganga tank. In this tank Hiranyavarman, the son of Manu, took his bath and got his leprosy cured. Those who take a bath in this sacred tank and then worship Lord Nataraja are purified of all sins. For them there will be no more birth. They will attain eternal bliss."

The Buddhist Guru (in the king's palace) who heard all this questioned, "Oh king, how can there be a God other than Lord Buddha? I will myself go to Chidambaram and defeat the Saivite in argument and convert the temple into a Buddhist shrine." So saying, the buddhist king left for Thillai.

The king, with his dumb daughter, accompanied the Buddhist guru.

The Saivites sent a message to the Chola king asking him to arrange a debate with the Buddhists when the latter had arrived at Chidambaram. The day prior to the appointed day, the Brahmins prayed to Lord Nataraja for success in the debate. That night the Lord appeared in their dream and said, "Approach Vadavurar and request him to oppose the Buddhist guru in argument."

The next morning, the Brahmins approached Vadavurar who readily agreed. Manikkavasagar went to the temple, worshipped the Lord, and entered the hall of the debate. He did not like to see the face of the Buddhists, so, Manikkavasagar sat behind a curtain. The Buddhists opened the debate. Manikkavasagar explained the principles of Saivism. The Buddhists could not offer counter-arguments. They went on repeating their arguments! Manikkavasagar prayed to the Lord for help. At Siva's instance, Devi Sarasvathi withdrew Her grace from the Buddhists, and they became dumb. The Buddhists were defeated in argument.

The Buddhist king understood Manikkavasagar's greatness and said, "You have made my teacher and all his disciples dumb. If you can make my dumb daughter speak, I and my subjects will embrace Saivism." Manikkavasagar asked the Buddhist king him to bring his daughter.

Manikkavasagar prayed to the Lord for help and then asked the girl to give proper answer to the questions put by the Buddhist Guru on Lord Siva. The dumb daughter not only began to speak but gave fitting answers to those questions. They were all wonder-struck at this miracle. The king and the Buddhists recognised the superiority of Saivism and embraced it. Manikkavasagar restored speech to the Buddhists also.

One day Lord Siva desired to hear Thiruvachagam from the lips of Manikkavasagar and bestow moksham on him. So, Lord went to Manikkavasagar in the disguise of a Brahmin. Manikkavasagar welcomed the guest with respect and enquired of his needs. Lord Siva told Manikkavasagar, "I want to hear Thiruvachagam from your own holy lips. I shall write it down, so that I can learn it and with its help free myself from the grips of Samsara."

Manikkavasagar recited the Thiruvachagam and the Brahmin (Lord Siva) wrote it down on palm leaves. Then the Brahmin suddenly disappeared! At once, Manikkavasagar knew that the Brahmin was the Lord Himself. Manikkavasagar felt terrible anguish for not having recognised the Lord.

The Lord wanted to immortalise Manikkavasagar and to spread his glory. So, Siva kept these songs (which He had written on the palm leaves) on the step of Panchakshara of the Chit Sabha. The Brahmins of Thillai were surprised to see the palm leaves lying there. They opened the leaves and read the contents. In the end it was written, "Manikkavasagar repeated this, Thiru Chitrambalam wrote this."

The Brahmins wanted to know the meaning of these verses, so they showed this to Manikkavasagar.

Manikkavasagar took the palm leaves to the temple, and, pointing out to the image of Lord Siva, said, "This Thillai Nataraja is the meaning of these stanzas." Manikkavasagar at once merged himself at the Feet of Lord Nataraja.

Saint Kumaraguruparar

Another classic of the 17th century in praise of the of Tiruchendur is Kandar Kalivenba by Kumaraguruparaswamigal, a disciple of Srilasri Masilamani desigar of the fourth head of the Dharmapuram Adheenam and was the founder of Thiruppananthal Adheenam which is also known as Kasi Mutt. The author was horn in 1625 A.D. of a Saiva Vellala family at Srivaikuntam on the northern hank of the Tambaraparani, nineteen miles from Tiruchendur. His parents Shanmukha Sikhamani Kavirayar and Sivakami Ammaiyar were blessed with this child after a long penance to Muruga of Tiruchendur. The boy grew of age and until his fifth year showed no signs of speech. The parents were pained at this and resorted to Tiruchendur penance again. Tired of waiting for months and seeing signs of approaching speech, the parents determined to drown themselves in the sea along with the child if he would not speak by a particular day.

The day dawned, and yet there were no signs. At last, both the parents and the child entered the foamy waves. Deeper and deeper they went from knee to neck and, as they were about to sink with the waves over their heads a human form appeared with a flower in his hand and asked the child what it was; all in a surprise the child broke out in praise of the Lord with the words; “Poomevu senggamalap…” the opening lines of Kandar Kalivenba. This delightful poem of 244 lines projecting the praise of God and the truths of Saiva Siddhanta.

Having studied Tamil at the feet of his father Shanmukha Sikhamani Kavirayar, and attained in it great proficiency by divine grace, he grew up to manhood, took to an austere way of life, left home, and wandered throughout the Tamil country visiting famous places of pilgrimage and composing poems on the presiding deities. From Thiruvarur Kumaraguruparar moved to Dharmapuram, reaching where his mind was signaling about a great thing that was going to happen soon. This town hosts the renowned Adheenam (mutt) of the Saiva Siddhantha tradition called Thirukkayilaya Paramparai Dharmapura Adheenam. The saint who was decorating the presidency of the mutt was Srilasri Masilamani desigar. Arriving at the mutt, Kumaraguruparar paid his obeisance to the saint. Desikar asked Kumaraguruparar to explain the significance of the song from Periya Puranam – “Ainthu perarivum kankale kolla”. This is the song that describes the state of Sundaramurthi Nayanar, as he saw the dance of Lord shiva at Thillai. Who can tell the state of that great Saint Sundarar as he saw to his ecstasy the Blissful dance of his beloved Lord ! Sekkilar has so beautifully described the union Sundarar achieved with the God at that sight. Unless by utter stupidity one tries to talk about that glory beyond any words, how can it be explained at all?

Kumaraguruparar stood stunned. His words stammered. He realized that he is in front of the guru whom he has been searching for so long. He fell down at the feet of Desikar and pleaded him to initiate him in the renounced life. Desikar was not just a spiritually oriented person. He also had enough care about the society. When spiritually getting elevated, shouldn't one become full of love for all the lives around ? Desikar has realized the state in which Hinduism is getting crushed under the Moghul empire with its barbaric intolerance towards Hinduism. He realized the need for the spiritually high, well skilled and devoted caliber like Kumaraguruparar to strengthen the saivite wisdom in the troubled lands. So he agreed to be the guru of Kumaraguruparar on the condition that he goes on pilgrimage to Kasi and returns, subsequently he would initiate Kumaraguruparar into sanyasa.

Kumaraguruparar pleaded to Desikar that it would take long time for him to complete the pilgrimage to Kasi (given the lack of facilities at that point of time). So Desikar waived off Kasi for the time being and asked him instead to stay at Thillai for period of one Mandalam (48 days). Happily Kumaraguruparar agreed to that and proceeded to Thillai Chitrambalam. On the way divinity called him to Vaithishvaran koil. There he sang Muthukkumaraswami Pillai Tamil.

It is said that during the early days of Kumaraguruparar, he was invited to adorn the chair of Court poet by Thirumalai Nayakar (1623-1659 AD) and he did good service to Tamil by writing ‘Neethi Neri Vilakkam’. When he was inaugurating his devotional prabhandam ‘Meenakshi Pillai Tamil’ in praise of Goddess Meenakshi at the royal court, Goddess Herself as a young maiden appeared and seated on the lap of Thirumalai Nayakar, taking out a pearl necklace and put it on the neck of the poet and dissappeared.

Kumaraguruparar enjoyed the stay at Thillai worshipping the Dancing Lord. He composed on the God and Goddess Chidambara Mummanik kovai, Chidambara Cheyyut kovai, Sivakami Ammai Irattai Mani malai. On his return Desikar initiated him to the renounced life with the saffron robe. Having given the initiation, Desikar stressed him the importance of revitalizing saivism in the northern part of the country where it was suffering from the oppression by the Muslim rulers. Now Kumaraguruparar agreed to go to Varanasi.

It was about the year 1658 AD. Dara Shuko was the ruler of the Varanasi province of the Moghul empire. Aurangazeb the most intolerant of the Moghul lineage was ruling at Delhi. Dara was an exceptional one in the Moghuls. He was tolerant enough to seek what the other religions have to say and encouraged discussions among the religions. He dealt with respect the scholars of Hindu religion (to be killed by his own brother aurangazeb !!). He is said to have translated some of the Upanisads into Persian language. For a long time before the successive Muslim invaders and ruined the holy city of Kasi and demolished the abode of Lord Visvanathar. At this point of time there was a critical urge to keep alive the spirituality of the suppressed Hindus.

On reaching at Kasi, Kumaragurupara sung Sakala Kalavalli Malai in praise of Goddess Sarasvathi, praying her to bestow the skill of words. The blessings of Vaani came as the boon when he had to convince the opponents about the glory of the Saivism. He got to know Hindustani language by Kalaivaani's grace. Kumarguruparar wanted to meet with the Badusha, in order to establish a mutt in Kasi. Though Dara was fair with other religions, Kumarguruparar had to cross many obstacles to meet Dara. The blessed saint, who had the valiance of the spirituality, rode over a lion and went majestically into the court of Dara with all obstacle creators frightened. Dara realized the spiritual power of saint Kumaraguruparar. He showed his respect to the saint. Dara had organized an inter-religious conference. He requested the saint to address the same. Kumaraguruparar accepted the invitation and he spoke fluently in Hindustani language explaining the greatness of the philosophy of Saiva siddhanta. The audience were thrilled to know the glory of Saivism. Dara bowed down to the saint and venerated him.

Dara asked him what he could do for him. What materials would the saint want, for whom only God matters. He asked the king to provide him with the land in Kasi where he can build a mutt and serve Saivism. The king gave the option of the place to the saint himself. The saint wanted to renovate the Kedareshvara swamy temple at the Kedhar ghat. He said there would be a kite that would fly above the spot, whatever be the area that it circuits in the sky, that should be given to him to build mutt. The kite (Garudan) appeared in the sky and marked the area that included the Kedhareshvarar temple and the land for building a mutt. Dara happily gave that land.

Kumaraguruparar renovated the abode of Kedhareshvarar which was earlier ruined due to the religious intolerants. In the Kumaraswamy Mutt that he built, he guided the people in the glory of Saivite philosophy. His inspiring teachings paved way for the restoration of the highly adored Lord Viswanatha temple. The devotees offered lots of valuables to the saint. He took them to his guru at Dharmapuram. But Desikar denied to accept them and directed him to spend those for the spiritual development of the people of Kasi. As per that Kumaraguruparar spent the materials in spreading the message of Saivism. He visited Dharmapuram four times to pay respect to his guru. In Tamil Nadu he paved the way to build another Kasi Mutt at Thirupanandhal in Kumbakonam District. Later this mutt was enlarged by Kasivasi Thillainayaga Swamigal. 6th head in the line after Saint Kumaraguruparar swamigal, Srilasri Muthukkumaraswami Tambiram Swamigal now presides over Kasi Mutts both in Kasi and Thirupanandhal.

Kumaraguruparar while in Kasi also had sung ‘Kasi Thundi Vinayagar Patigam’ and Kasi Kalambakam. It is said that Kumaraguruaparar also gave discourses on Kamba Ramayanam and among those who got inspired by that were the famous Hindi poet Tulasi Das, who wrote Ram Charita Manas. Kumaraguruparar stayed in Kasi for thirty years from 1658 to 1688 spreading the glory of Shaivism giving the vital support to the Hinduism that needed support during those troubled periods. He attained samadhi at Kasi on the third day after fullmoon day in May 1688. His vital services for the sustenance of the Hinduism will be remembered along with his beautiful compositions by the generations of devotees.

Saint Arunagirinathar

Great saints have hailed the glory of Muruga, Adi Sankara (Subramanya Bhujangam), Kachiappa Sivachariyar (Kandha Puranam), Nakkeerar (Thiru Murugatru Padai), Kalidasa (Kumara Sambhavam) and the list goes on like Pamban Swamigal, Vannacharapam Dhandapani Swamigal, Chidambara Swamigal etc.

Thiruppugazh, composed by saint poet Arunagirinathar is unique because it brings before us the image of Lord Muruga in full splendour and glory and bestows us the abounding grace of Muruga. Among many saints who guided humanity to the path of perfection, Arunagirinathar occupies a unique position. His songs not only sparks the flame of devotion in the minds of people but also the light of knowledge in the intellect. He showed the way to the life of virtue and righteousness. He showed the way to the Lotus Feet of Muruga.

All devotional works hail the glory (Pugazh) of the Lord and come under the category of Thiru Pugazh, but only Arunagirinathar’s works got that title because he alone described, in his own beautiful poetic style, the glory of the Lord truly, completely and magnificently. No other works portrayed the glory of the Lord so elegantly and elaborately as done by Arunagiri and therefore only Arunagirinathar’s works have acquired the name, quite appropriately, as “Thiruppugazh”. His works therefore rightly deserved the name “Thiru Pugazh”.

Born in 15th century at Thiruvannamalai and he spent the greater part of his life there. The particulars of his parents are unknown; some say he was a son of a courtesan ( Daasi) by the name of Muthu ( Muthamma) As his father expired soon after his birth, Muthamma and sister, Adhi, brought him up. They aspired to bring him up in the rich cultural and religious tradition. Arunagiri showed a receptive mind and even studied the scriptures but gradually his interests turned elsewhere. It is said that Arunagiri grew up to manhood and found the company of courtesans more to his attachment than the company of God. He was mostly seen in their houses than in temples.

He used to get money from his sister each time to go to devadasi's. His sister always give whatever she earned to make his brother happy. Taking advantage of his sister’s affection, he utilised all her jewels and possessions for the daasi’s. His body began rapidly lost its energetic youth and became diseased. One day he demanded money from his sister, but unfortunately she had no money. She was very sad and said, "Oh brother, I am sorry that there is no money to give you today." Arunagirinathar shouted how its possible and he wanted money now to have pleasure. His sister then said "Brother, if you need to have pleasure then please sell me to someone and that money can be used somehow".

Hearing that, Arunagirinathar felt how self centered and selfish he was. Arunagiri was well versed in Tamil literature, such as Thevaram, Thirumantiram etc. He gradually developed his sense of devotion to Lord Muruga. He composed poems for getting money from the rich people, the hard earned money also was spent to the courtesans. At last he learnt a lesson from hs sister and his mind went back in a few minutes over the wasted years of his life. On realisation of the ‘crimes’ he committed against the religious and righteous path, he decided to end his life, went to the temple hit his head in all the pillars and steps, begging for forgiveness. He climbed up the Vallala Gopuram of the Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleswarar temple and was about to jump down and dash himself to death on the granite stones beneath.

But rather than falling to the ground, he found himself in the hands of a Saviour. “You are not born to die. You are born to save lives. You are not born to fall but make others rise. You are born to fulfill a divine mission. You are the chosen one to sing the glory of Lord Muruga.” said the saviour, who was none other than Lord Muruga Himself. Arunagiri, who has been rescued from the darkness of death, now found himself before a power that radiated brilliant rays of brightness. He now got the vision of Lord Muruga.

He was however miraculously saved from the death by Lord Muruga who also transformed him to a holy saint instantaneously".
Arunagiri could not believe his eyes and ears. Lord Muruga was standing before him majestically, holding the sparkling Vel (lance), His Mayil (peacock) nearby and radiating an aura of charm and splendour. It was as if all the power, beauty and knowledge of the universe had personified and descended on earth. Overwhelmed with emotion and wondering how he became worthy of such an enormous grace, Arunagiri folded his hands and bowed in reverence. Words failed him. The Lord, full of mercy, blessed him, conferred him the saintly advice (Upadesa) and set out the sacred tasks before him. Arunagiri was delighted at being initiated to saint-hood direct by Lord. According to legend, it was Arunagirinathar, who had the fortune of belonging to the “Blessed Three” who received the saintly advice (Upadesa) direct from Muruga, the other two being Lord Shiva and Saint Agasthiyar. Lord Muruga helped Arunagirinathar with the beginning of his inspired poesy in his praise with “Muthai Tharu patthittirunagai...”; He showered His grace on Arunagirinathar by directing to proceed on the divine path. He wrote on his tongue,Sadatcharam ( Aareluthu ) using His Vel.

Deeply immensed with the spiritual raptures, Arunagirinathar began to do penance at Illayanar Koil of the temple gopuram at Arunachaleswarar’s shrine. Lord Shiva appeared before him and blessed him with Thiruneer ( holy ash ) removing his fear. Goddess Unnamulai blessed him with encouraging words “Nin Pirappu Oliga” ( There will be an end to your birth ). Goddess Valliammai also showered Her grace on him by divine touch, “Sparisa deekchai”.

Having received the gracious enlightment, Arunagirinathar continued to sing Thiruppugazh in praise of Lord Muruga. The variety of the rhymic pattern of hymns has no comparison and it is vast in the field of Bakthi literature. He went out singing the praises of Lord Muruga all over Tamil Nadu. It is said that he had travelled to many shrines of Lord Muruga especially the celebrated Six Abodes ( Aaru padai veedu ) for worshipping the God by devotional songs. His dedication to his ‘Ishta Deivam’ (Muruga) did not make him a narrow minded sectarian. He worshipped with devotion whichever be the diety in the temples he visited and he sang about them.

In his religious tour Arunagirinathar went to Thiruvennainallur. He enjoyed the darshan of Lord Muruga in a dancing pose there. He then went and stayed at Chidambaram, singing in praise of Lord Subramanya inside the shrines near temple gopurams. He went to Sirghali, the sacred birth place of Thirunganasambanthar, he woshipped the saint as an embodiment of Lord Muruga. Then he visited Kaverippoompattinam, Karivananagar and Thirumannippathikkarai. He was directed by God to reach ‘Melai Vayalur’ near Thiruchirappalli. He went and stayed there for some time. Then he visited Thiruvarur, Thirumaraikaadu, Thiruchendur, Palani, Kumbakonam, Thiruchengodu, Paandikkodumudi and returned to Thiruccirappalli. He left for Viralimalai, Kodumpaloor and Kadampanthurai. When he stayed in Palani, he had the friendship of Kalisaichevagan also known as Kaverichevagan, a philanthropic chieftain. He went to Thiruchendur again through Madurai. Lord Subramanya of Thiruchencur appeared before him in the form of a beautiful child and showered grace on him.

Arunagiri then proceeded to Vayalur and prayed before Lord Muruga. It is believed that the Lord again appeared before him in the form of a person and ordained him: “Sing about Me, about My Vel (lance), about peacock (Mayil) about Seval (rooster) about Vayalur and about my various other abodes”. “It is indeed a rare honour to be able to sing Thy glory”, Arunagiri said and prostrated before Vayalur Muruga in total submission and surrender. After worshiping the shrine of Poyya Ganapathy nearby, he set out his historic journey; the journey that took him many holy places and gave him an illuminating experience.

Arunagirinathar had to face the challenges made by Villiputhurar. He was a poet going about the Tamil Nadu, challenging every learned scholars to contest with him on matters of ‘Pandityam ( Scholarly Skills); the condition was the loser should have his ears cut off in the challenge. When Villiputhurar failed to explain the meaning of the verse 54 of Kandar Anthathi, but he was graciously permitted by the saint to keep his ears intact.

Arunagirinathar went to Kanchipuram and praised 32 charities performed by Goddess Kamakshi there in hs Thiruppugazh. Then he visited Thiruvamathur, Chiruvai, Vallimalai and Thirutthan and worshipped the God with his poems. It is also mentioned that Arunagirinathar went on pilgrimage to some sacred places in the north such as Haridwar. On his return to south, he visited Jegannatham Visagapattinam ect. During this period of Visagappattinam the region of Thiruvannamalai was under the rule of Prabuda Devaraya a strong beliver of Hindu and a friend of a Sambanthaandan, who was both arrogant and boastful about his learning and spiritual attainments.

Arunagirinathar visited over 300 temples of Shiva, Muruga, Vishnu and other deities. Every temple had a unique history of its own. Impressed by the sanctity, the power and importance of the temple, Arunagirinathar composed songs on the Lord, bringing forth all the unique characteristics. While referring to the history of a temple, we often find special mention being made about Arunagiri's visit there, as if his mere visit has brought sanctity and sacredness to the temple. After an extensive of visit of temples, Arunagiri returned to Tiruvannamalai to lead a quiet life of devotion. The King Prabhuda Devaraja honoured him and granted him the privileged status of a 'Poet of the Royal Court'.

Sambanthaandan wanted to plese his friend Prabuda Devaraya; persuaded him to invite Arunagirinathar to a contest in which he and Arunagirinathar should each undertake to manifest their ‘Ishta Deivam’ before him. It was stressed that he who failed in the attempt should leave his domain.

Arunagirinathar was prepared for the proposal saying that Lord Muruga would yeild to his prayer and he would bless Devaraya by His darshan. Sambanthaandan first undertook to manifest his personal diety Kali and his proceedings were with great pomp and ceremony. Kali did not choose to present. Arunagirinathar started singing Thiruppugazh appealling to Lord Muruga with complete devotion, pleading to provide darshan and fulfill his prayer. Lord Muruga appeared with His peacock through one of the pillars of the Mandapam to bless Arunagirinathar. The brilliance of the manifestation of Lord Muruga was so bright as equal to hundreds of suns and the people were unable to see this with their ordinary eyes. Due to this everybody lost their eyes including the king and ministers.

Under the pressure given by Sambanthaandan, he requested Arunagirinathar to bring the Parijatha flower in order to cure the eye sights. Arunagirinathar is said to have entered the body of a parrot in order to fetch the parijatha flower. While Arunagirinathar transformed himself as a parrot, left his body secretly in the temple tower. His enemy Sambanthaandan found and burnt his body. On his return with the parijatha flower, Arunagirinathar couldn’t find his original body. Thinking it is a grace of God for a purpose, he sang the great Kandar Anuboothi and settled himself on the temple tower in the form of the parrot. There is a form of a parrot in one of the sthubis (Kili Gopuram), testifying to this story. Kandar Anuboothi, a short poem of 51 short quatrains as an essence of his mystical experiences though Kandar Anuboothi and Kandar Alankaram are smaller poems in simple language they are as popular as Thiruppugazh itself.

Aiming at God realization, many saints followed the path of knowledge (Gjnana). They went through the hard path of struggle and sacrifice. They denied themselves the basic necessities for the achievement of their aim. But the case of Arunagirinathar was different. He did not undergo any penance or meditation. He did not undergo any path of struggle. Yet, for some strange reasons, he qualified himself to the grace of the Lord. While other saints, having led a life of virtue, realized God at the end, Arunagiri, having pursued the path of pleasure, realized God at the very beginning. Strange indeed are the ways of God. There was something in him, beyond all his weaknesses that made Lord to choose Arunagiri as His ideal disciple. Perhaps, it was the devotional bend of mind that remained dormant in Arunagiri’s heart. Perhaps, it was his genuine sense of guilt or eagerness to atone for his sin. Perhaps, it was his inherent strength to rise up to the high task expected of him.

Whatever that be, Arunagiri proved himself worthy of Lord’s finest Messenger. Arunagiri rose up to the occasion, came out of his world of illusion, lived up to the high demands of his new role and admirably fulfilled the divine task expected of him.

Many saints derived inspiration from temples like Saint Sri Ramadas from Bhadrachalam, Sri Ramana Maharshi from Tiruvannamalai and Bhattathiri from Guruvayoor. Arunagirinathar received enlightenment from Tiruvannamalai and Vayalur. While Tiruvannamalai transformed Arunagirinathar into an enlightened sage, Vayalur made him a scholar. Arunagiriathar composed number of songs on Muruga in his unique style. What provided speciality for his songs was his 'temple experience'. It was an enlightening experience for him to visit the six abodes of Muruga, Tiruchendur, Tirupparamkundram, Tiru Avinangudi, Swami Malai, Tiruthani and Pazhamudhir Solai, where Lord Muruga performed various acts of bravery, marriage, renunciation, enlightenment and redemption.

It is believed that Arunagirinathar composed over 16,000 songs but only 1365 songs have been traced. Having had the vision of Muruga and the experience of realizing Him, Arunagiri emphasized the various divine qualities of the Lord, His benevolence, His knowledge, His bravery and courage, His exquisite beauty and brought all His magnificence into full focus in his Thiruppugazh. In the song: “Thandayani Vendayum, Kinkini Sadhangayum” he likened the beautiful face of Muruga to that of beautiful energetic moon. He did not differentiate between Shaivite and Vaishnavite thoughts and ended his song addressing Muruga as “Perumale”, the term normally used by Vaishnavites to address Lord Maha Vishnu. He referred Muruga as “Malon Marugane” (Son-in-law of Maha Vishnu - Thirumal), as, according to legend, Muruga's consorts, Valli and Deivayanai were daughters of Thirumal in their previous births. Arunagirinathar conveyed messages of truth and Dharma by citing instances from Ramayana and Mahabharatha.

Kandhar Alangaram, an ornament of verses Arunagirinathar made for adoring Muruga portrays the splendour of the Lord from His sacred head to His Lotus feet. It is believed that just as Thiruvachagam would please Lord Shiva, Kandhar Alamgaram would please Lord Muruga. Kandhar Anuboothi, containing 51 stanzas, depicts Arunagirinathar’s experience of having received the saintly advice (Upadesa) and having experienced the presence of Lord Muruga. It is said that Anuboothi which means divine experience is the ultimate of all Arunagiri’s works. All these songs are ideal for daily prayer and one who renders them with devotion is sure to overcome the storm and sail through the ocean of life smoothly.

Arunagirinathar says, so long one has the grace of Lord Muruga, the mighty Lord of Death, Yama Raja, cannot come near. There is a general impression that death is something untoward, something ‘unfortunate’, and something to fear about. One who has the actual knowledge of death fears not. Death is not an end in itself. Death occurs only to the body and not to the soul. Death means transition of the soul from a temporal world to an immortal world, from material to spiritual and from Maya (illusion) to real. This view is expressed in the dialogue between God of Death (Yamaraja) and Naciketas, the nine year old inquisitive boy as revealed in Kathopanishad and one finds almost similar views in Arunagirinathar’s works.

Arunagiri had not received any formal learning. He had no opportunity to study scriptures in depth. In fact, he spent time seeking pleasure. It defies reason how such a person could compose a great masterpiece like Thiruppugazh that equals the knowledge of the Vedas? Arunagirinathar himself answers this question: "This knowledge, this talent, and this skill do not belong to me. They are the gift of Lord Muruga". (Yam Odhiya Kalviyum Em Arivum). It was the enormous grace of Muruga that helped him to compose a work of such magnitude and find answers to various human problems.

Arunagirinathar used the pleasing medium of music and the sweet language of Tamil to communicate with God. He composed Thiruppugazh in the Chandam style which means setting the verses in conforming to beats or rhythm. Going through his songs, it would seem that Tamil has rarely been handled so beautifully in poetic verses before. According to Tamil scholars, the poetic expression of Arunagiri, his language and style, the metaphors and similes he used, all went into making his works an outstanding literary masterpiece. “Villukku Vijayan, Vakkukku Arunagiri” so goes a Tamil saying. “If Arjuna is known for his archery power, Arunagiri is known for his vocabulary power”.

As Arunagirinathar composed Thiruppugazh after receiving the enlightened Advice (Upadesa) from the Lord, his songs acquired an inherent strength and power and those who render these prayers would find fulfillment in life.

The seventh and ninth centuries witnessed a phenomenal rise in Shiva worship. The 63 Nayanmars hailed the glory of Lord Shiva in magnificent verses. They brought a new revolution to Bhakthi movement. It gave a new era of Shaiva Sidhanta. Arunagirinathar gave another direction and brought Muruga at the centre stage of worship. Though Muruga worship existed even from the period of Tholkappiyam, it was Shaiva Sidhantam that prevailed all over. Many great Shiva temples leaped towards the sky like Thiruvannamalai, Brahadeeswarar, Jalakandeswar, Sundareswar, Chidambaranar, Sanghameswarar, Ardhanareeswarar, Nellayappar, Thayumanavar, Vaitheeswarar, Kapaleeswarar, Patteeswarar etc. Though Arunagirinathar himself worshipped at Shiva temples and drew inspiration from saints like Nganasambhandar, he highlighted the glory of Muruga, as never before. The songs of Arunagiri have brought the glory of Muruga to an all time high. Muruga, already known as Thamizh Kadavul, became the Lord most loved, adored admired and worshiped.

With every word selectively chosen like a flower, the song that Arunagiri composed brightened up as a colourful garland. While saints appreciated the depth, range, and message, scholars appreciated the diction, poetic excellence and the literary richness. Devotees found in Thiruppugazh a novel, easy and pleasant form of worship. Never before, there was a poet of such distinction. Never before, literature and devotion blended so harmoniously. It is difficult to judge who is greater, the poet Arunagirinathar who composed the verses with remarkable skill or the saint Arunagirinathar, who propounded the doctrine of devotion (Bhakti) in a convincing manner. Needless to say, it is his devotion towards Muruga that helped the poet in Arunagiri to bloom in full colours. The immortal works of Arunagirinathar would continue to inspire the spiritual seekers for many more years to come.

Sri Sachidhananda Swamigal dedicated his entire life to highlight the glory of Thiruppugazh. Seshadri Swamigal described Thiruppugazh as the Maha Mantra that would transform the life of devotees Thayumanavar said: “Oh Arunagiri! Who else can compose a word of truth as beautifully like you” (‘Ayya Arunagiri’). Chidambara Swamigal said: “Oh Thiru Porur Kumara, as your enchanting body is adorned with garlands composed by Arunagiri and Nakkeerar, I feel the fabulous fragrance from you.”. Many saints hailed the glory of Arunagiri in the form of Pillai Thamizh and Sannidhi Murai. There were many saints like Pamban Swamigal, Vaidyanatha Desikar, Poet Veera Raghava Mudaliar, Poet Sahaya Devar, Chidambara Munivar, Kandappa Desikar, Kirupananda Variyar, Sengalvaraya Pillai, Calcutta Thiruppugazh Mani Iyer, T.M. Krishnaswamy Iyer, Pithukuli Murugadas etc. who took the glory of Thiruppagazh to great height.

Matchless in its appeal to the intellect and heart, Thiruppugazh stresses the importance of knowledge and devotion. Thiruppugazh penetrates into the self, awakens the inner consciousness and enlightens the soul. It synthesizes the different concepts explained by saints and aims at reaching the Lotus Feet of Muruga. The songs not only delight the heart, they enlighten the intellect, heal the disease, console the mind, ensure happiness and take the devotees to the right destination in life.