The 12 Thirumurais

1. Introduction
Thirumurai are the compilation of hyms by Saiva saints. They are valuable sacred treasures to the Tamilians in the world of Saivism. These works deal with Lord Siva and the meanings of Saiva Siddhanta in a melodious language. Most of the verses of this works are centred around temple culture. They were sung by great Saint who had experienced the grace of Lord Siva in them.
The first usage of ‘Thirumurai’ was found in the inscription of Kulothunga Chola III (1178 A.D – 1216 A.D). In the inscription of Chola Kings prior to Kulothunga II, Thevaram hyms were called ‘Thirupathigam’. These works are compiled by Nambiandar Nambigal into Panniru Thirumuraigal or 12 Thirumuraigal which consist of the works by St Thirunjana Sambanthar, St Thirunavukkarasar, St Sundaramoorti, St Manikkavasagar and other saints.
7-Thevaram-Sundaramurthi Swamigal-1026
8-Thiruvasagam &
Thirukkovaiyar -Manikkavasagar -656 & 400
9-Thiruvisaippa & Thirupallandu-9 Authors -ThirumaaligaiDevar,Senthanar,Karuvutthevar,Poonthuruthi Nambi KadaNambi, Kantaratittar,Venatatikal,Thiruvaliya Amudhanar,Purudhottama Nambi,Chedirayar -288 & 13
11-40 Prapanthams -11 Authors -Thiruvalavuthaiyar,Karaikkal Ammaiyar,Aiyatikal Perumal, Nakkira Thevar, Kalladhanar, Kabilathevar, Paranathevar, Ilamperuman Adikal, Pattanattup Pillaiyar, Nambiandhar Nambi.-1419
12-Thiruttonda Puranam or Periya Puranam- Sekkilar Perumaan-4286
The term ‘Murai’ means antiquity ( Thonmai ), providence or destiny ( Uul), collection ( Kooddu), discipline or orderliness (Olunggu), literary work ( Nuul) etc. But in common it is acknowledged as Literary work or Nuul. Thus this is also better known as Stotram as it is in overall directs the inner meaning of the work towards Lord Siva.
The practice of singing saiva hyms was an important item of temple worship during the period Bakthi movement. Facilities were made in the temple premises by Chola emperorsfor the recitation of hyms. Special halls called ‘Thirukkai Kotti’ because of keeping time with hands, were built for recitation of these hyms and arrangements were made for feeding people who recited the hyms.
Karaikkal Ammaiyar, great devotee of Lord Siva, lived before the period of St Thirunganasambantar. Her hyms were included only in the 11th Thirumurai, whereas the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Thirumurais was formed ignoring the chronological order. The fact that the arrangement is not chronological, reveals that they were arranged as and when a gap was felt by the Saivite world getting to know in stages the significance of the Saivite works not included in the earlier compilation.
The twelve Thirumurais were compiled as such in different stages and st different times, but the hyms of St Sambanthar, Appar and Sundarar ( first seven Thirumurais) were collected by Nambiandar Nambigal at the Chidambaram Nadaraja temple.

History of the Thirumurais
Thirumurai Kanda Puranam by Saint Umapathi Sivam explains in detail of how these works were found. Raja Raja Cholan who was known as Abayakulasekara was was inspired by the idea of winning back the lost hyms. Some of the devotees of Lord Siva used to sing a few lines of the Thevarams that they know of. The king was mesmerized with the hyms but he was in deep sorrow as these beautiful heart melting hyms are nowhere to be found.
In Thirunaraiyur, there lived a great devotee named Nambi. As a child, he worshipped Pollappillaiyar and performed all necessary rituals for Pillaiyar. He believed that the food and sweets offerings (Neivethiyam) offered to Pillaiyar will be eaten by Pillaiyar after the prayers. When he realized that the offerings were untouched by Pillaiyar, he assumed that there was a mistake in his worship. Due to this he decided to hit his head on a rock and that is when a voice was heard; “ Nambi,..wait!”. Pillaiyar then appeared and ate all his offerings.
Pillayar became the guru of Nambi and he was then known by the name Nambiandar Nambigal. This miracle of Nambi reached the King Raja Raja Cholan and decided to visit Nambi. The King came to Thirunaraiyur with many offerings for Pillaiyar and paid his respect to Nambiandar Nambigal.
The King was in great joy to see his offerings were received by Pollappillaiyar. He then requested Nambi to help him to find the origin and the source of the hyms by Samayakuravargal. Nambi then prayed to Pillaiyar to help the King. Pillaiyar granted his wish and told them to proceed to Thillai where the hyms are all locked in a room inside the Chitsabha.
In Thillai, the dikshitars refused to open the door of the room where the hyms are kept. They demanded that the three saints should come in order to open the room door. The king prayed to Lord Ambalavanan and decided to make statues of the saints and brought it to the Chitsabha. The door was opened and the King was extremely disappointed to see the condition of the hyms on the palm leaves that was destroyed by the termites.That was the time when a divine voice was heard; “ Whatever that is need for the world today are saved, the rest are made to be destroyed with my grace”. This voice was heard to everyone who was there at that time and King was satisfied with this and requested Nambiandar Nambi to collect the undestroyed palm leaves and compile it accordingly.
Nambi arranged St Sambanthar’s thevaram’s as first in Thirumurai 1, 2 and 3. He then arranged St Thirunavukkarasar’s thevaram as second in Thirumurai 4, 5 and 6 and finally St Sundarar’s as third in Thirumurai 7. Nambiandar Nambigal proceeded with compiling the 8th and 9th Thirumurai as Thiruvasagam and Thirukkovaiyar by St Manikkavasagar. Based on St Sundarar’s Thiruthondathogai, Nambi also did his first work called ‘Thiruthondar thiruvanthathi’, then six ‘prabhandam’s’ on St Sambanthar and one ‘prabantham’ on St Appar. Upon King’s request he compiled his works in the compilation of the 12 Thirumurais as the 11th Thirumurai.
Raja Raja Cholan also known as Thirumurai kanda Cholan and Nambiandar Nambi wanted to have the correct set of musical tune or ‘Pann’. They then came to Thiruyerukattam Puliyur ( now known as Rajentirapattinam )and requested to the Lord there to guide them. A divine voice was heard; “ A lady from the lineage of Thiruneelakanda Yaalpanar’s received this musical gift from me. Guide her to Thillai and she shall compose the tunes for the hyms”. This is how the Pann or musical tunes were composed for the Thirumurais.
The “Panniru Thirumurai Varalaru” or the “History of the 12 Thirumurai” by Scholar ‘Vidwan’ K. Vellaivaranar explains that the word Thirumurai was only used for the hyms of St Sambanthar, Appar and Sundarar only in early days. Later in the period after Nambiandar Nambigal, this word was used for the Thiruvasagam and rest of the hyms.
Saiva Ellappa Naavalar was the person to mention the hyms sung by the three saints are called ‘Thevaram’. Before that, St Sambanthar’s hyms were called Thirukkadaikkaappu, only Appar’s hyms are called Thevaram and St Sundarar’s hyms are called ‘Thiruppaattu’.
The(y) + Varam; here the word “The” means another word to describe Deivam or Lord in one word of advanced Tamil. “Varam” means, a collaboration of divine tamil and music are used in a rightful manner. “Varam paaduthal” is the word used in the last Sanggam period ( Kadaicchangga Kaalam ) to indicate singing the praise of God through a combination of melodious music and song. The 11th and 12th Century’s stone inscriptions indicate that the word Thevaram’s origion is from the aspects worship.
In the book “ Tamil Ilakkiya Varalaru (13th,14th & 15th Century), great scholar T.V. Sadasiva Pandarattahar (1892-1960), a lifetime researcher and lecturer at Annamalai University, who was personally invited by Annamalai Chettiyar to serve in the History Department of the university. He has stated that during the era of Mallinatha Sambuvarayan’s rule, two great scholar have presented works of the three saints in the form of hyms called ‘Thevarams’. Here it clearly indicates that the word Thevaram is referred to the hyms by the three saints only.
Thevaram is the most important aspect in Saiva worship and without it, the ritual or worship is considered void. In temple festivals and ritual ceremony, Thevaram has been given the ultimate priority and also for the prosperity and wellness of the country and people in general.
Compilation of Thirumurais
In Thirumurai, St. Sambanthar’s “Thodudaiya Seviyan..” is placed as the first song. St Thirunavukkarasar is older to St Sambanthar by age and giving priority to St Sambanthar’s hymns will certainly raise a question to everyone. Above all, St Thirunavukkarasar has sung his first ‘pathigam’ “Koottrayinavaru..” before St Sambanthar sung “ Thodudaiya Seviyan...”
Based on Vidwan K. Vellaivaranar and the Periya puranam, it clearly describes that few years after St Sambanthar had attain the abode of Lord Siva together with everyone who witnessed His wedding, only then St Appar attained Sivapatham. In this world, human’s seniority are entirely based on the age of this body but in the spiritual journey, the seniority is based on the soul that attains the feet of Almighty first. Here St Sambanthar’s soul is greater than the soul of St Appar when looking into the aspects of the soul which experiences the Lord’s grace.
In realizing this St Appar once carried the palanquin of St Sambanthar, which he understood that the age of the body and age of the soul is entirely different. In accordance to this, Nambiandar Nambigal has placed the “Thodudaiya Seviyan..” pathigam as the first Thirumurai. Nambi has arranged the Thirumurais in the sequence of ‘Pann’ or melody based on the various ‘Pann’ in the hyms of three saints. Vidwan K. Vellaivaranar has explained in detail the process of this compilation in 180 pages of his book.
The Thirumurais of three saints were compiled into one with the correct Pann and named it “Adanggan Murai” and after many years later, in the year 1864 its was published as a book using papers. It was certainly an impossible task to complete this without a deep knowledge in Saiva Siddhantam.
To sing Thirumurai according to Pann is considered the best way to sing Thirumurai but for those who do not know the Pann should not avoid singing Thirumurai or be afraid in making a mistake by not singing with Pann.
The total number of 12 Thirumurai that we have today is 18,497 but the actual figure of the hyms including those which was destroyed by termites are as below:
Thirunganasambanthar - 16,000 pathigam with 176,000 songs
Thirunavukkarasar - 49,000 pathigam with 490,000 songs
Sundarar - 38,000 pathigam with 380,000 songs
TOTAL 1,046,000 songs
Songs found 8250 songs
Lost 1,037,750 songs


Karuppaiah said...

An excellent blog. Please continue your saiva samaya thirupani by reaching adiyargal via the internet.

I'm just a little curious. I knew that Nambiandar Nambigal compiled all the Thirumurai upto 11th. Who actually included Peria Puranam and made it the 12th of the Thirumurai series? Peria Puranam was written by Theivapular Seikkizhar Peruman many years after Thiruthondar Thiruvanthathi composed by Nambiandar Nambigal.

Siva.Paramasivam said...

“Panniru Thirumurai Varalaru” by K. Vellaivaranar and Thirumurai Kanda Puranam of Saint Umapathi Sivam will have the details of how Periya Puranam is included in the 12 Thirumurais but unfortunately I am yet to find these two books.

Based on my analysis, as we know the Chola Kings have contributed greatly for Saivism and Thirumurai. It was upon King’s request that Nambiandar Nambigal’s work is to be in the compilation of the 12 Thirumurais as the 11th Thirumurai. Raja Raja Cholan also known as Thirumurai kanda Cholan and his following successor years later is Chola King Kulothunga Chola II. It was during his rule, Sekkizhar was a poet and the chief minister.Kullottonga Chola II was a staunch devotee of Lord Ambalavanan at Chidambaram. He continued the reconstruction of the center of Tamil Saivism that was begun by his ancestors. However, Kullottonga II was also enchanted by the Jain epic, Jivaka Cintamani
Jivaka Cintamani, is a royal epic that consisted of erotic flavor called Sringara Rasa. In the work, the hero of the epic is Jivaka who combines heroics and erotics to marry seven damsels and gains a kingdom. In the end he realises the impermanent of possessions and renounces his kingship and finally attains Nirvana by prolonged tapas or meditation.
In to order to divert Kullonttonga Chola II away from a work such as Jivaka Cintamani, Sekkizhar undertook the task of writing the Periyapuranam .

The study of Jivaka Cintamani by Kullottonga Chola II, deeply affected Sekkizhar .
He persuaded the king to abandon the pursuit of impious erotic literature and turn instead to the life of the Saiva saints celebrated by Sundaramurti Nayanar and Nambiandar Nambi. The king there upon invited Sekkizhar to expound the lives of the Saiva saints in a great poem. As a minister of the state Sekkizhar had access to the lives of the saints, visited the places of these saints and after he collected the data, he wrote the poem in the Thousand Pillared Hall of the Chidambaram temple
This work is considered the most important initiative of Kullottonga Chola II's reign Although, it is only a literary work elaborated of the Saiva saints composed by Sundarar and Nambiandar Nambi, it came to be seen as the establishment of high standards of the Chola culture, because of the highest order of the literary style ( Ilakkiyam)
Kullotongga Chola II was extremely impressed with Sekizhar’s work. It is said that this glorious work took a full year to complete and the exposition ( Aranggetram ) also took a full year; the King Kulothungga II was beside him with joy. This was a great event at the thousand pillared Raja Sabha of Lord Nataraja which turned Chidambaram into Kailash, the Sivalogam on earth.
The Periyapuranam is considered as a fifth Veda in Tamil and immediately took its place as the 12th Thirumurai and the last book in the Saiva canon. It is considered as one of the masterpieces of the Tamil literature and worthily commemorates the Golden age of the Cholas. So as Raja Raja Chola requested Nambiandar Nambigal’s work to be in 11th Thirumurai, based on the above fact possibilities of acknowledging Periya Puranam as the fifth Veda and as the 12th Thirumurai by Raja Raja Chola’s successor Kulothungga Chola II seem to be a strong fact as well.

Karuppaiah said...

Thanks for details, Yes, its possible that Kulothugga Chola II might have requested that Peria Puranam to be included in the set of 12 Thirumurai. Hopefully this is documented any of the temple inscriptions. In todays world, historical facts are so important which was always ignored by our fore fathers.

Peria Puranam also befits/complements the theory of how Thirumurais being logically arranged i.e. the spiritual journey of an adiyar begins with knowing God exists and how he looks like depicted in Thirumurai I ... and that the end of an adiyar's spiritual journey is "anainthor thanmai" attained by our nayanmars by living a life based on the virtues of Saivism depicted in Peria Puranam.

On a separate note, I heard from some of the current Saiva scholars that Thirumurai Kanda Puranam has accounts of events that may have been fabricated. It seems that there are no enough historical evidence to support the some of the events as we have read. However, should Umapathy Sivam avargal has written historical accounts, evidences can be ingnored as his words from are from the Master Himself and its beyond our scrutiny.

Eagerly awaiting for your new writings in this blog..



fine work
n.d. nataraja deekshidhar

rajesh said...

Nice work

What is the base for account of lost songs by saints

Maruthu said...

Great Work.

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please send your comments.

Unknown said...

Om Namah Sivaya.

Thank you for sharing the blog. May i request you to share the image you have used on top of the post. It will be of great help.

Thank you

V.S. Kumar said...

A good set of information with simple english. Your noble service is appreciated and continuous process I believe utmost important for information seekers.