Saturday, April 27, 2013


[* Extract from "Harper's Monthly Magazine", No. 733, June 1911.]

    At the risk of repeating ourselves, we must recur to our plea for certain immunities of childhood, in the interests of culture.

    The mistake almost always made in the appeal to the child is in holding out to him the wrong end of everything, in pressing upon him our ultimate attainment. If it were possible for us to succeed in the unnatural procedure, we should destroy all the values of childhood, for itself and for humanity. It is only in our power to torment, bewilder or oppress.

    The child is from the beginning surrounded by all our magnificent attainments, but fortunately they mean nothing to him for a little period of his existence. Nature, his wise and efficient nurse, withholds him from knowledge or part in the worlds about him save in the close intimacies which enfold all unfledged nestlings; and the immunity she thus secures for him we cannot break down if we would. Yet she does not make it an absolute immunity from the world's stimulation that, in gentle measure, she courts for him, and indulges his quick responsiveness, building a new annex to his brain after birth, which shall serve as a bridge over the moat of infancy for his intelligent communication with our articulate, rational, and progressive humanity. She is not jealous of the world, but careful and patient, waiting upon childhood and claiming for it all its natural belongings.

    We are wise if we learn a lesson from Nature in our treatment of young children. Her undisputed reign is very brief, and it is soon in our power to spoil her work, with abrupt and heavy handling. We need rather to provide more immunities, instead of violating those established and intimated by Nature. In the natural tuition, there is a free and open field for the senses and for irrational play, while perception and reason are held in reserve. The child at first, to use the pregnant phrase of Sir Michael Burke, in William Samuel Johnson's recent and very impressive novel, Glamourie, only "thinks things" and he knows no difference between "thing" and "think." He does not ask "why?" or "how?" but "what?" Quality is everything to him – color, taste, temperature, undetachable from the things themselves. Motin is for him only another quality, and his verbs are undistinguishable from his nouns. He does not measure, differentiate, or compare. In a word, judgment is denied him.

    It is often said that the child is averse from concentration. Yet he has sometimes the long gaze. It is not attention that tires him but the attempt to divide it, to define its separate moments, as when you ask him to count and soon find his limit. You are imposing terms of the mind upon him, arresting continuity, breaking up his concentration.

    Slowly but inevitably he develops a notional consciousness, becoming capable of inference, discrimination, judgment. He has a long way to go, before he passes from observation to reflection and introspection.

    It is just here, where he enters upon this difficult course and is on the way to become practically wise through rational consideration and self-control – on the way possibly to eminent achievement in great affairs, in science, in psychology, in literature, or in art – that his elders who are responsible for his tutelage must respect the difficulty, and wait upon him with at least as much patience as they would upon a tender plant, supplying the conditions of growth, without forcing it. As they would shade the plant from the too ardent rays of the sun, so they should shield the plastic child against a social environment which becomes with every successive generation more aggressively stimulant.

    Some of those who have succeeded to Nature's tutelage, themselves being near to Nature, especially mothers, are cautious, if not jealous, of the world's growing pressure, and their children have the happiness to grow into their fondness for the living things of the garden, the wild field, or the pasture before mingling even with schoolmates. Nothing is more conservative of sanity than this genial fellowship with beast and bird and flower and tree; and one of the happy privileges of birth, as a condition of human existence, is that for a little time bring the child near to the animate creation, upon almost a level therewith

    Stories for children, following old fables and folk-lore, abound in animal personations. Rudyard Kipling and Jock Chandler Harris, in such takes, adopt a fashion as old as totemism.

    It is good for the child that he should "think things" and dwell in a world of qualities – for which he has so fresh a sense – as long as the urgent stimulation of his environment will with our help permit. Our catechistic plan of education, secular or religious, is not a wise one to begin with. Let him be rooted in his earthly dwelling-place before he undertakes notional aviation. The rustic child, in a comparatively provincial neighborhood, may have too little mental stimulation, as the urban child is likely to have too much, but he has compensating advantages in his early years for a lack which, in American families generally, is hardly noticeable, even in strictly agricultural communities. He has a free and natural development, robust enough to forestall precocity without lapsing into stupidity. If he has creative genius the limitations of his childhood, if not unduly prolonged, may prove to be fortunate for its security and integrity. Milton was born and reared in the city; but usually, since Shakespeare's time, the beginnings of genius have been indicated by the Birth Registries of country parishes.

    The old-fashioned schooling did not begin too soon with the child, and was not complex enough to be confusing or an instrument of torture. It may have been too rigid in its discipline and too lax in its mental exactions; but the efficiency of its service was illustrated by creditable results in character and intellectual attainments, which, if not directly produced by the system, were at least permitted by it, in school, as everywhere else, there is the individual determination of achievement, only there are some educational methods, which are more calculated than others to express, if not to destroy, individuality.

    The evils of child labor are obviously pathetic, but the injury inflicted upon the child, in the primary and afterwards in the high School – by the oppressive study, by undue urgency, by unreasonable exactions, by the overcrowding of the course, and by the imposition of unusual difficulties – are farther-reaching in their effects upon humanity. They counteract Nature and so countermand genius.

    Our advanced ideas of education, as expressed by wise and experienced teachers, are excellent in their application to the higher courses of study. There we need a more creative and inspirational leading of the student and the encouragement of deep rational inquiry. As soon as the adolescent period begins, the student turns his face to the future, as something immediate to himself and to his generation. The past is for the most part remote and detached from his regard, cherished only for what in it in impulse and inspiration to his dream of things to come. To him information is secondary and incidental to creation. He repudiates static tradition; for him tradition must have a pulse, must be dynamic, front-facing. In the fervor of his mood, conventionalism is relaxed, if not dissolved. Modernism – in the extreme case, ultra-modernism – has set it; if there should have been any earlier sign of it, it was unreasonable and unbecoming. It is for youth at this stage of its unfolding, that the advanced and reformed curriculum is fit and necessary.

    Childhood is the very opposite of all this, in itself and in its requirements. It has not a single aspect of youth – is indeed separate from youth by a more impenetrable wall than age is; for age has memories. The infant can never again be, as really old as it is, when it is first-born, never so radically ancestral, with affinities so wholly of the past. Hope is dormant in the child, and his desires are to his elders. He unquestioningly accepts tradition, and delights in forms and rites, seeking no reason for or in anything and pleased by vain repetitions, asking for the same story over and over again and stickling for the exactness of the iteration. Therefore he likes rhyme and meter, finding in these help to a familiar groove. In all this he is like the primitive folk – only with the modern child it is a short-lived fashion.

    But it is a wise fashion in the first steps of his education. If, at this early stage, we attempt to awaken his reasoning faculty, it is simply a waste of time and effort. The easier course is the natural one, for such learning as is possible to him. If we let him learn by rote, not only will he learn much that is necessary, but this very method – as in the case of arithmetical tables and grammatical paradigms – will be an economy of time all his life, for what he learns thus, he is least likely to forget. The metrical catalogue of the crowned heads of England imparts no knowledge of any consequence to one seeking a rational view of English history, but it will abide in the memory, when many of the circumstances pertinent to such a view are forgotten, and it will be useful at need. How many references to the dictionary have been saved by the old-fashioned drill in spelling; how many exercises of the fingers, by early and complete familiarity with the multiplication-table! Sixty years ago, the interior walls of a district school-house would be lined with Pelton's outline maps, and every day a half-hour would be occupied, one pupil with a long pointer going the round of them, while the whole school in concert would recite the names of the localities pointed out. One day, it would be a catalogue of the great capitals of the world; another, of the principal rivers, and so on. The very singsong of the recital, as in the case of the spelling class, helped to fix indelibly in the mind this extensive geographical information.

    It was only superficial knowledge, but indispensable and exceedingly helpful. In the case of geography, the text –book supplemented the maps, giving something more than names – some glimpses of the humanity populating all these outlined-areas of the earth. That also was superficial, but, in very simple terms, informing; and to the exceptional child it was alluringly suggestive. There was nothing in this school-routine to tax the mind, except in the case of those puzzling "sums" in arithmetic, apparently contrived for the pupil's torment.

    In the early school years, a valuable immunity is secured for the child by this routine, this "learning by rote." It is not a course of study; it seems more like play. The learning is not all by rote. Incidentally, much information suited to a child's unstrained capacity, is imparted. In reading-lessons, there is something to be read and hear story and fable have their chance with him. The appeal is not to his reason through argument, explication, theory, or anything prompting critical inquiry, but to his imagination, through pictures and impressions. The lack of pressure in school leaves him free for much reading of imaginative literatures, and in this his natural leaning toward past rather than present exemplars should be encouraged. The Bible has more for him than any other or all other books. The recent experiment of making the reading of stories to children an adjunct to both the school and library – if the right stories are selected, and they appear to be – is to be commended. The teaching of young children need not be inspirational; its aim should be, not to urge on the child, but to wait upon him, gently guiding his steps in the ways proper to childhood, and these are all away from what we call modernism.

    It is good for the child that he is imitative, and accepts without question, old customs, traditions, conventions, and all sorts of rituals, and that he dwells long enough in the past, to feel its pulse as one with its own. It is a past that we elders have more or less broken with. We have another and better ideal of heroism than the world has had hitherto. But we do our boys no good, and only pain and bewilder them, by telling that Alexander and Napoleon were not really heroes. They too will have their revolt when they arrive at maturity and modernism. But it will better their modernism that they have cherished more backward ideals; and the future of our culture and of our literature will be brighter and stronger because they have once, for a considerable season, sincerely deferred to past masters who established the canons of an older art.



Sunday, April 21, 2013


        1.    Lotus, tender flower

            Of the crystal wave,

            Whence thy magic power,

            Say, for thou dost save

        Anon from chilling thoughts dark Sorrow's wretched slave,


        2.    Young when Phoebus rises

            Through the misty veil,

            Under his flaming kisses

            Thou dost blush and smile,

        Like an approving queen with passion trembling frail.


        3.    Yet how coy and distant

            To the languid moon,

            Whose bloodless beams extend

        But thwarted by thy shrunken frown do pining swoon!


        4.    On the green and diamond

            Paving soft thy floor,

            Dance thou spirit Jocund,

            Laughing evermore,

        Dance, dance and laugh, for pain did never reach thy shore.


        5.    Like a naiad lovely

            With her sister nymphs,

            All the day full gaily

            To celestial hymns,

        Still dancing stately measured unwearied in her limbs!


        6.    As thy breath delicious

            Overflows the air,

            Heavenward rising wishes

            Free from guilt or care,

        Inspire the soul till it sparkles as thy waters clear.


        7.    Sweet as is thy fragrance,

            Holy, deep, serene,

            Never sensuous joyance,

            Wild and gross and keen

        Thy pious petals breathe; for godly is thy mien.


        8.    Like a saintly maiden

            Clothed in purest thought,

            Whom passions never madden

            With vexations fraught,

        Thy sister white communes with Heaven that reigns the peace she sought;


        9.    Like a chaste-eyed star

            Of the clear azure,

            Sending from afar

            Her tranquil beams and pure,

        When clouds like evil thoughts do not her orb obscure.


        10.    Nature's heart unfolded

            Shedding love and bliss,

            Till the world be moulded

            Into one soul of peace,

        Where tenderness doth flow, and furies never hiss.


        11.    Sounds of war or strife,

            Shaking souls that bloom

            On the waste of life,

            Do not yell their boom

        To mar the sacred calm that reigns within thy home.


        12.    Music sweet unearthly

            From thy presence rains,

            Heard by mortals hardly

            But when their spirit reigns

        In ecstasy upraised from lulled corporeal trains

A. S.



    I summarized, long ago, in the very first number of this journal, Kurinjipattu, the best of the ten idylls; and several others have since been summarized by my friends. At a time of stress and trouble, I had to take up the Parayanam of this idyll, a religious and philosophical one, and the most difficult of the whole series, and I now give the results of my study. It is the production of Narkirar, the chief of the Sangam poets, who is even said to have defied God Siva. He is also the author of Nedunalvadai, the seventh of this series. His other religio-philosophic poems have found place in the eleventh Tirumurai, which contains as many as ten pieces from his pen, including this idyll. Some of the pieces like Kopaprasadam, Porritirukalivenba, Perumthevapani were composed to appease God, when he met with His displeasure. All of them are devotional and highly philosophic; and from a historical point of view, they are highly interesting, as they precede the writings of the Samaya and Santanacharyas. Some people seem to think that Vaishnavite acharyas were the pioneers of the Bhaktimarga, but that is because they are ignorant of the writers in the eleventh Tirumurai, most of whom have preceded the Vaishnava writers, and because they are ignorant of the history of the Saiva religion. To them, these devotional pieces will come as a surprise. Narkirar must therefore be regarded as the earliest exponent of the Saiva Siddhanta religion and philosophy which has for its paths, Dasa, Satputra, Saha and Sanmargas, otherwise called, Charya, Kriya, Yoga, and Jnana. I propose to give some illustrative texts.

    The first verse of his Kailaipadi Kalattipadu andadi, is a most beautiful one.


    "With words and their import as wick and ghee

    The earthen lamp as my tongue, the very rare

    Metres as flame, to Dweller of Kailas

    I lit the light to God Ardhanari."




    "Ye sages see the greatness of my heart

    The God of God so rare to find, The King

    Of Kailas fair praised by good men and true

    This heart of mine He chose as His dwelling."




    "From days of yore, to praise Thy Feet

    And to become Thy slave I try.

    To make me Thy slave and show me grace

    Havest Thou mind or no, say my Lord."



"Toast in the great whirlpool of fleeting Life

My Lord I am troubled sore; To lose all care

And reach The Haven lend me Thy hand, O Lord

Of Devas and Kalatti, freed of my Sin."




"Longing for e'er thy Joyful cassia wreath

Her heart breaks sore with love O my dear Lord

O Kailas towering to the Heavens, O speak,

    My beloved one pine away; what shall I do."




    "As you place it in the mouth, it is the pill

    That sure removes the ills of birth;

    Of the Lord who with his Lady in Kailas dwells

    This is His mystic letters five."


    "These five letters becomes the Vedas rare,

    Once these are learned, they bring ye near know ye

    What goes far far beyond the ken of all

    The true seat of our Lord of Kalatti."




    "While we want to know Thy Form, Thou wilt not show;

    While we enter Thee, as amrita appearest Thou.

    O Lord of Kailas Hills, crowned with blossoming trees

    Such is the sweetness of Thy Nature rare.




    "The word and its import, the body and the soul,

    Fragrance and flower, flawless like these,

    Our Lord of Kailas Hills too difficult to reach

    Stands He immanent in all."




    "Myself and Thyself, there are no such two,

    Though this be truth, I have known always,

    The Lord of wide Kailas where bees e'er hum

    Me He confounds, He spreads His maya veils."







    "Ever It saves that seek: and if with love,

    They pray, mukti it gives; and in their heart,

    They contemplate, before such it appears,

    This is the sacred foot of Kalatti-Lord."




    As Brahma, Vishnu, the king of Gods, and rest

    He creates protects and rules and in the end,

    Alone He stands, again becomes all these

    Our king of limitless Kailas, He is.


    I do not wish to give more texts, but would draw attention to the last two pieces of Narkirar wherein he sets forth the great Bhakti of St. Kannappa, and this is exactly the story which Sekkilar has elaborated in his Periapuranam. And it may be remembered that this story is taken by both St. Manikkavacaka and Sri Sankara as illustrative of Bhakti.

    Coming to the Idyll in question, it is said to have been composed when Narkirar was confined in a cave by a Demon, who had already collected 999 men to make a huge sacrifice of God Muruga appeared, and killed the Demon, and saved Narkirar and the others, and it is believed even now, with great reason, that the reciting of this idyll has the same saving power.

    This idyll is one of the arrupadai in this collection, and its structure is this. One, who had already received the grace of God, meets another who has the same intent, and shows him the way to salvation. Other persons may also be subjects of the arrupadai, such as poets, swordsmen, actors, songsters &c., and one of them who had received presents from his patron, meets another of his class, and describes to him the praises of his king and patron, and asks him to go to him. The present idyll is, of course, of the first kind. One who had received the grace of God Muruga meets another, and tells him if he wished for salvation, to go to Tirupparankunram, Tiruchchendur, Tiruvavinankudi (Palani), Tiruveragam, Kunruthoradal, Palamuthirsolai (Alagar Kovil) and worship him and receive His grace. Though good deal of space is devoted to the description of God Muruga and his praise, even in these descriptions, we have pen-pictures of Nature in all her glory, of the sea and sky, hills and forests, the sun and the moon, of trees and flowers and of the song of birds. We cannot see God with our eyes, and we cannot hear Him with our ears, and sense Him with our senses, and yet the True Seer sees Him in every phase of Nature's Beauty, and hears him in every rustle of the leaves, and senses His joy in every breath of the wind. I will indicate in my footnotes such of these beauties as strike the eye in this famous Hymn of Narkirar.

    One word is due to the famous Nachchinarkiniyar, the commentator of the Ten idylls and Purananuru and other classical works, and but for whose keen insight and critical acumen and intelligence, all these works would have been altogether unmeaning to us; and our need of praise is also due to our Tamil Savant Maha Mahopadyyaya Swaminatha Iyer but for whose labours these splendid treasures would have been altogether lost to us. It may be noted here that Nachchinarkiniyar quotes many appropriate passages from the Tiruvachaka Hymns




[* Near Madura, one of the six seats of God Subramanya.]

    The Consort of that chaste heavenly Bride with shining forehead,

    Whose Light blinds and spreads far, like that of the sun,

        as it rises above the sea, delighting the world, and

        travelling round Mount Meru,

    Whose Foot gives shelter to his bhaktas and sunders their ignorance

    Whose thunder-like hand shatters the hostile hosts,1


    1 The first picture presented is that of the sun in all his majesty rising above the gently rippling bluish green waves of the Sea, dispelling the deep darkness of the night, adored by millions in all parts of the world and inducing the world's activity and bringing light and pleasure to all. God as the Sun and Light is the most universal figure adopted in all religions; and the famous verse in Svetasvatara Upanishat echoes this thought.

    "I see the Great Purusha, sun like beyond the darkness. A man who knows Him truly passes over death; there is no other path to go" (III.8)

    The commentator points out that the simile is double appropriate as applied to God Subramanya, as he comes riding in the skies on his beautiful peacock, after conquering the hostile hosts of Asuras, (man's evil desires) and showering His Grace on the adoring Bhaktas. In form the bluish green peacock corresponds to the sea and God Muruga whose form is red corresponds to the blood-red sun. The action of the sun in dispelling the darkness and bringing light corresponds to God's action in removing our may veils and giving us grace. The world translated as 'blinds', is not exactly so in the original. The sun's splendour is so great that as we look up we have to shut our eyes. We cannot see God objectively but we can feel His Presence and Grace through his Grace. Hence we cannot know Him, and yet we can know Him.

    The sun that gives life to everything and spreads its light far and beyond is brought out by another text of Svetasvatara. "That Purusha is the Mahadeva; He is the mover of existence; he possesses the purest power of reaching everything. He is Light, He is undecaying." (III. 12.)

    While the peacock dances, from time to time, there is a rustling of the feathers of the whole body, and the dancing and rustling is happily compared to the dancing and rippling waves of the sea. God Muruga is first described as the consort of Deivayanai to bring out His function as creator and protector. The peacock also symbolises avidya or anava which is put down by God's Grace. The Muyalaka under God Siva's foot, and Mahishasura under Devi's foot reproduce the same symbolism.

    The Skanda Purana devoted to the glorification of the Son-God, Kumarasvami, "God Subramanya" is the weightiest of the Puranas, and its ancient character was only brought out by the discovery of its manuscript in birch bark recently by Dr. Bendal, which are as old as the fourth century A.D. The study of this God is noticed in most of the Puranas and in the Mahabharata and Ramayana and has been immortalised in the famous drama of Kalidasa, Kumarasambhava. The Tamil version of the Purana is also the oldest of the existing Purana and its date is said to be as far as the tenth century A.D. Whether God Subramanya was an Aryan conception or a South Indian conception or whether the two had become blended we will consider later on.

    He whose chest is adorned with the garland made of flowers of

        Red Kadamba Trees, growing thick and darkening the

        glades of the forest, which receives from the bright sky,

        the first showers of the clouds rising above the sea.2



The next picture presented is that of the moisture-laiden cloud as it rises from the sea, and travels over and pours its refreshing showers over the valleys with the most luxuriant tropical vegetation. It is a beauty, indeed, as one gets up the hills, in the early spring, to see the kanals bursting into leaves and buds and flowers of all shapes. The tallest trees fill the valleys and they are literally dark as the poet has described. One has only to bear in mind the Perambu Kanal and other kanals lower down the valley of the Pambar River issuing from Kodaikanal.

The garland is described here as God is Bhogi as described above, though at the same time He is the Yogi of Yogis. The poet has in mind in beginning these descriptions of the sun and the clouds what is considered as ma-galavaittu in beginning a poem.

The author of Silappadigaram has the following, besides praising the moon:

    ஞாயிறுபோற்றுதும் ஞாயிறுபோற்றுதும்

    காவிரிநாடன் திகிரிபோற் பொற்கோட்டு

    மேருவலம் திரிதவான்.


    மாமழைபோற்றுதும் மாமழைபோற்றுதும்

    நாமநீர்வேலியுலகிற் கவனளிபோல்

    மேனின்று தான்சுரத்தவான்.


    He whose crown is adorned with the bright flowers of Red

        Kantal tree growing the Hill sides thick with trees difficult

        to be climbed by monkeys, in sholas where roam the forest

        nymphs dancing with tinkling bells, on their feet, and

    shouting 'Hail, Hail' to the victorious Cock-Banner of God Muruga.3


This is another picture higher up among the hills. The Tinai of the last section is Mullai, and the Tinai of the present is the Kurinji, the Highland Villages. Considerable space is devoted to the beauty, the dress, and the adorning of their hair and person of the forest nymphs which we have omitted. But it is a beautiful picture and well harmonises with the surroundings. Adukkam, the word used to mean a Hill is actually the name of a Hill Village on the lower Palaneys, a few miles from Periakulam. It is an ideal Village with its cardamom and coffee gardens, Plantain and jack trees, and limes and oranges, well watered with many a gentle stream but for its malaria and the odour of cow dung of the hundreds of cattle maintained there.

The Son-God with the Spear, whose praise is immeasurable

    and who six-faced terrified and subjugated the Asura who

    assumed the form of the mango tree and the Surapadma

    half man and half horse; ever whose victorious battle

    field, the terrible she-devils danced their Tumangai dance

    with the heads of the fallen held aloft in their hands.4


From this gay picture, we are taken to the grim picture of the battlefield reeking with the blood and mangled bodies of the slain, and where the she-devils danced and gloated over their huge feast. The she-devils are described at length which we have omitted. The description of the battlefield was necessary as God Skanda's Mission was to slay the Asuras and redeem the imprisoned Devas. And it is a grim sight indeed as man wars with his evil passions and subjugates them.    

If thou, with mind made steady and purified by good deeds

    dost desire to reach His Sacred Foot, which the wise

    know without thought,5 thou wild surely secure It even

    now, as your previous good works have ensured this bliss

    in your heart.


This recalls the famous thought in the Kenopanishad "He by whom It is not thought, by him it is thought; he by whom It is thought; he by whom It is thought knows it not. It is not understood by those who understand it, it is understood by those who do not understand it" (Talavakara Up. 2,3, It means man cannot know God with his Pasubodha or what is called
சுட்டு அறிவு, with his human objective consciousness. This can only end in objective knowledge. When this consciousness is merged in the Divine consciousness, then he can know God. "By the Atma (Pathijnana) we obtain strength, by such knowledge we obtain immortality" (Tal, Up. 2.4). The eye sees but it cannot see itself and God is the eye of this eye (Tai, Up.1,2), and hence the improbality of knowing God. The substance of the first Khanda is reproduced Sivajnanabodha Sutra XI. See also sutra IX.


Because He dwells in love in the Hill Tiruparanguram, where the

    little rock pools resound with the humming of the bees,

    over the lilies budding out like eyes, and where in its broad

    paddy fields, the bees sleep in the lotuses during night and

    after dawn, sound their trumpets in the nectar-laden nymphaeas

    and which is situated west of the famous city of Madura,

    filled with palaces and market places, where Lakshmi

    herself dwells, and whose Fort gate is listless

    without war, all the enemies having been already vanquished

    and where the banners fly with dolls and balls hanging about.6


Tiruparangunram still holds its own reputation as a picturesque place and its fine spring water is said to be very healthy. Some vandalism is being perpetrated in allowing portions of the hill being used for blasting stones which are of the finest quality. Madura is now the second City in the Presidency and first in importance on account of its architectural remains; and no tourist would care to miss it for all the world.



Riding on the elephant, whose scarred head is adorned with

    golden shields and garlands, whose sides resound with

    the bells, which is swift of foot like wind, and powerful like

    God Yama.8


Tiruchchendur in Tinnevelly District is the finest bit of seaside we have ever seen. Its Vaisakam festival is famous and hundreds of thousands of people flock to it at the time. It was there that we saw the finest dancing peacock and it still dwells in our memory. The Pujaris in this Temple, by a peculiar custom, are drafted from Malabar from among the Namburi's and are called Porris (worshipful).

8 As the conquering Hero and deliverer of Indra, our Son-God rides on the elephant to show His grace to his devotees.

So, God Muruga appears, with his head glowing like lightning

    with the five kinds of skilfully wrought ornaments.

With his golden earrings shedding light like the moon surrounded

    by the inseparable stars,

His Faces blossom out from the hearts of devotees, practising

    austere Tapas.9

Of these, One Face sheds rays of light brightening fully the

    world shrouded in great darkness.

One face lovingly grants booms, being gladdened by the praise

    of his loving devotees.

One face takes care that no harm befalls the Yajnas performed

    by Brahmans according to strict Vedic tradition,

One face, like the Full Moon, spreads light in all quarters

    removing the doubts of Maharishis, after teaching the truths

    of sciences difficult of reach.

One face performs the Battle-Sacrifice crushing the hostile hosts,

    with thoughts dark with revenge and biased against them,

One Face smiled with joy on his young Highland Bride with

    the creeper like waist,

In consonance with these various functions of these six faces,

On his broad towering shoulders, bearing the sharp arms dividing

    the bodies of the foes, and glorified on account of their

    great might, and reached by the triple fold of the chest

    shining with golden garlands,

One arm was held aloft shielding the Divine Rishis sojourning

    in the skies,

The corresponding one reclined on his waist,

One arm wielded the Mahout's weapon and one arm rested on

    his thigh,

One pair of arms played the wondrous and sharp spear and


One arm was placed on his breast, and one arm shone amidst

    the garlands,

One arm rained down showers and one arm garlanded the

    divine bride.

So these twelve arms played according to the respective faces.

While the Heavenly music played, and the strong horns

    resounded, and the drums were struck like thunder, and the

    peacock with its variegated feathers swayed on the victorious banner,

So God Muruga appears on the aerial route, with rapid strides,

    and reaches and rests in the far-famed Alaivai praised by

    the world.


Compare the text from Svetasvatara.

"That Bhagavat exists in the faces, the heads, the necks of all; He dwells in the cave (guha) of the heart of all beings; He is all pervading. Therefore He is the omnipresent Shiva". (iii. I 1).

"Its Hands and feet are everywhere; its eyes and head are everywhere; its ears are everywhere it stands encompassing all in the world. (iii. I0).

Hence God Muruga is called Guha himself as dwelling in the hearts of all. Hence His six heads and twelve arms. Each face is doing a separate function and one pair of arms corresponds to each of these functions. In these, God as the Yogi and Bhogi, as the first teacher, as the ruler and protector, destroyer, as the Lord loving his devotees and being loved by them, all these different aspects are brought out.



    While with joyful heart the great seers, the Munis,2

    Clad in garments of bark, with their spiral braids,

    Shining beautifully like the Valampuri chank*,

    Their persons bright and clean, their bodies lean and boned

    Covered in deer skins, feeding sparingly after the day is past

    Their heart freed of ill feeling and hate

    Their head filled with intuitive knowledge not possessed

        by the learned

    And yet surpassing all in learning too,

    Their soul purified of all desire and anger,

    Their mind never becoming pain, while they led in front;

    While the Gandarvas, clad in spotless clothes

    Wearing garlands of freshly opened buds,

    And practised in playing on the well stringed instrument,

    And in the fine company of their female kind,

    Whose bodies know no human ills    

    And shine like tender mango leaves

    And showed in every turn true golden spots

    Whose person was adorned with jewelled cloth,

    While they with heart of love tuned their music Sweet;

    And while the Gods, Vishnu with the banner of

    The spangled Garud striking down the cobra

    Spouting venom with its bellowed teeth,3

    Where function sole is Lordship over the world4

    Wherein the cities gleam with temples to the four5

    And Uma's Lord, whose banner shows the Victorious bull

    With mighty shoulders and never closed Triple Eyes

    The Lord whose rage destroyed the Triple forts,

    And Indra of the thousand eyes victorious6

    Over his enemies by hundred sacrifices well performed,    

    Riding on his four-tusked famed elephant,

    Possessed of easy gait and swinging trunk,


    The Thirty-three Demi gods of classes four7,

    Great seers of truth freed from diversity,

    And eighteen Ganas8 of high estate, all these,

    Came on and on circling on the firmament

    Like twinkling stars to pay their homage due

    To free the lotus born Brahma from curse9,

    And the Trinity to regain their lost dignity,

    With speed like wind over waves where fishes roam,

    And might resembling fire in the blasting wind,

    And voice like thunder crashing fire behind

    So our War-God with His Divine Bride comes

    To rest for a time in Tiruvavinangudi.


This part gives a description of an aerial procession of Gods and goddesses of surpassing beauty. The Hero of course is the War God in whose train all the other gods follow including the Trinity, and to whom all of them pay homage. God Siva as the author of all Vedas and Vidyas is the First teacher in the Person of Dakshinamurti and His son is said to have taught the Truth even to God Siva and He is called Kumara Guru Para. The Supreme Son-Teacher. He is said to have taught sage Agastya and other Rishis. And the Rishis accordingly follow in His train. Tiruvavinankudi is identified with a small place called Sittanvajvu near Palani, a famous place sacred to God Subramanya.

2 A good description of the Rishis or Yogis is given. They are ever joyful, though they practise the severest austerities. They are Yogis and at the same time Bhogis, representing their Highest ideal God Siva both in form and in attributes. They have no likes and dislikes and are ever perfectly balanced in mind, knowing no anger and no sin. They have mastered all knowledge and what is more they have seen the Truth (செம்பொருள்) as Saint Tiruvalluvar puts it. See for a like description in Periyapuranam.

* I.e., Conch

3 The poet discloses an intimate knowledge of the mechanism of the cobra's teeth secreting poison. The Venom is secreted in the glands and fangs through a tube (தாம்பு is the word used by the poet) in the sharp teeth placed in the sides and as the cobra strikes a small quantity is ejected.

4 According to the poet, God Vishnu has only one function that of Stithi and not any other function.

    5 The four Gods are Indra, Yama, Varuna and Soma, whose Temples are in the four respective quarters of the city. It shows a time when there were Temples dedicated to these Gods also and their worship was popular, though in course of time, the worship of Siva and Vishnu superseded all other worship


    6 The Tripura Samhara is a story given in the Yajur Veda and it is always mentioned in connection with the Supremacy of Siva, we have given the passages from the Veda and explained its symbolism elsewhere (vide p. 279 Studies in Saiva Siddhanta).

    7 The four classes are Adityas twelve, Rudras eleven, Vasus eight; Maruts two, making in all thirty-three.

    8 The eighteen Ganas are Devas, Asuras, Taityas, Garudas, Kinnaras, Kunpurushas, Yakshas, Vijnadaras, Rakshasas, Ghandarvas, Siddhas, Charanas, Bhutas, Paisachas, Taraganas, Nagas, Akasavasis, Bhoja-bumigas.

    9 When the War-God after vanquishing the Asuras was married to Devayanai, He declared all this He achieved as the strength of His spear (Vel). Brahma said that even that spear was created by him, where at the War-God was angered and cursed Brahma to be born in the earth, as he could not give the spear its strength. As God Brahma owing to the curse lost his power of creating people, the other Gods also lost the power of protection and destruction.



    The Brahmans failing not in duties six2,

    On both sides famed for long and high descent,

    Their good youth spent for eight and forty years3

    In Vedic paths and teaching Dharm always

    And tending sacred fires of three different forms4

    And wearing sacred thread of three triple strands

    In wet cloths clad and palms over heads held up

    Landing self5 and the secret word of letters six6

    Repeating, they offer flowers sweet at proper times.

    Much pleased our Lord doth dwell in Veragam.


    1 This is said to be a shrine of God Subrahmanya in the Hill country, Malabar.

    2 These six duties are Reciting the Vedas, and teaching the Vedas, performance of Yagnas and getting them performed, giving charity and accepting charity

    3 These brahmans belong to the Brahmacharya asrama.

    The three fires are Agavamya, Dakshinagni and Grihapatya, and they are tended in pits of the form of the square, triangle and bow shape. The editor notes that the two latter forms are different from the forms now in use and attributes it to Sahabatham.

    4 This is the practice of Soham Dhyana.

    5 The commentator says this mantra is Namakumaraya. But the modern mantra usually practised is Om Saravanabhava.



    God Velan crowned with garland made of leaves and flowers

    And fragrant wets with scented sandal paste well smeared

    While cruel Highland men armed with death-dealing bows

    Drink deep potations of strong mead with kith and kin

    And dance to the Music of the Thondaka drum,


    While damsels fair like peacock fine with modest gait

    And hair adorned with strings of water-lilies sweet

    And body streaming with garlands of green leaves

    And flowers white wherein dip in the honey bees,

    Raise their hands in mute adoration,

    While some left their voices sweet like stringed instruments,

    Our Lord of Reddish-hue in cloths of Reddish colour clad,

    His ears with cool and tender leaves of Asoka stuck,

    Kilted and belted with the Victorious tinkling bells

    And garlanded with flowers of red Iseora,

    Blowing sweet notes from hollow reed, and on the peacock

        Striding swift,

    Striding swift with goat in front and flawless banner raised,

    His stature soaring high, with armlets rare adorned,

    His waist fastened with soft cloths trailing to the ground,

    The damsels fair within shoulders soft and eyes like those

        of deer,

    Swinging quick to the lilt of the kuravai2 dance,

    Our Lord leads out with his strong hands interlaced

    And plays over all these Hills and shows His endless grace.


This means God's play in all the Hills. According to Sutra five of Porul Adhigaram Agattinai iyal of Tolkappiyam, the Hill country called Kurunji inhabited by the Kuravars is especially associated with the worship of God Muruga; as pasture land (Mullai) with the worship of Vishnu, as seaboard (neithal) with that of Varuna; and cities (marutham) with that of Indra. The form of marriage is Gandharva and free courtship and love. The courtship of God Muruga with the girl Valli born among Kuravars and his subsequent marriage arises out of the usual incidents of Kurinji tinai. See Kurinjipattu of this collection. The last section dealt with the high philosophic and ritualistic worship of God Muruga by Brahmans who had vowed celibacy and practised the greatest austerities. And the present section gives a thorough contrast to the above scene and the god of these severe Brahmans, whose secret name could not even be audibly pronounced, this austere God is seen here mixing freely in the company of these low hill-people in their dances and drinking bouts; and the explanation is given by the poet in one word. This is how God shows His graciousness. He is all in all to all, to the High and the low, the lettered and unlettered, the sage and saviour. To all of them He is accessible and shows grace. A simple faith and trust in God and more than any learning austerity, will lead to a quicker knowledge of God; and this is also the lesson brought out in the story of the Hunter Saint Kannappa.

    2 Kuravai Dance deals with the subject of love and war.



    At famous festivals in all and every village,

    Where goats are sacrificed and blood mixed with millet is sprinkled,

    At every abode where devotees invoke him,

    At every sacrificial ground where Velan dances,

    At every forest, grove and tank and rivers and other places,

    At squares where three, four and five roads meet,

    At flower gardens and village munds and public places,

    At places where the cattle are herded together,

    At towns where the kuravai girls,

    Fixing the cock banner, and smearing ghee and white mustard thereon

    Recite the mantra secretly and in loving worship,

    Offer the flowers, and trying two different pieces of cloths

    On their loins and the raksha on their arms,

    And sprinkle white fried rice and offer oblations

    Of white rice with goat's blood in different corners,    

    And smear with paste of sandal and fragrant saffron,

    And tie up the garlands of red oleander and green leaves

    After severing them, and invoke Muruga's blessing

    On their Hill Villages (so that it may be freed from famine, sickness and enemies).

    Offer incense singing the Kurinji melody,

    While the music of the instruments mixed with that of the rippling brooks.

    And sprinkling the red flowers and millet mixed with blood

    The kuravai girls danced a fearful dance to the tune of the music,

    And invoked God Muruga so that unbelievers may be baffled,

    While others of the city make the Holy place resound

    With their songs and the blowing of many horns,

    And the ringing of many bells, and praising

    The Royal Elephant invoke God and obtain boons they wished for,

    In all these places, Our Lord is sure to dwell

    This I state of my own knowledge;

    Yet He may dwell in places not known to me.

    There where you see Him, praise Him, with your face

        beaming with joy and lift your hands over your head in

        worship and fall down at His feet and repeat His praises as follows:-

    Thou Oh Lord, six bodied, of six holy women born,

    In sacred pool of Himayam with darbha grass grown

    And borne by one of the elemental Gods (Agni),

    Thou Son of God seated under the Banyan tree,

    Thou child of the daughter of great Himavat,

    Thou the Death of my foes, thou Lord of the Bow

    Thou darling child of Victorious and Victory-giving Durga,

    Thou Lord born of the Sylvan Goddess well adorned,

    Thou, the General of the Suppliant Deva hosts,

    Thou, the wearer of the garland and knower of all Arts,

    Thou, incomparable in war and victorious in youth,

    Thou, the wealth of the Brahmins and the word of the wise,

    Thou, consort of Valli and Devasena,

    Thou, bull among heroes with spear in arm,

    Thou, mighty Lord who split the rock of evil,

    Thou, Lord of Kurinji whose hills to sky do soar,

    Thou, Hero of whom all bards do sweetly sing,

    Thou, Muruga whose station none can reach,

    Thou whose praise is Thou fulfillest all desires,

    Thou showerer of grace on those in travail

    Thou Lord whose chest Victorious in war is blazoned in gold.

    O Thou who hast no equals in Thy Supreme Wisdom.

    Thou liberal dispenser of gifts to those who pray to Thee

    Thou whose name is praised by the great

    Thou who acquaint the name of strong over evil by your

        prowess in Vanquishing Surapadma and his hosts

    Thou the Comparable, Thou the Chief."

    Thus have I praised Thee in words not adequate,

    As Thou art difficult of description by mere mortals

    And approached Thee to gain Thy Feet

        (By the Poet to God Muruga)

    Desiring to mix with the hosts of devotees of all sorts and conditions

    And share in the joy of the Festive ground

    This deserving poet of mature knowledge and truth

    Has approached Thee, O Lord, desiring to utter

    Thy great praises and praising Thee in words of wisdom

        and sweetness

    Before even these prayers were thus addressed

    His divine form of incomparable strength

    And His stature extending to the skies

    This fearful Form concealing and approaching the Sabha

    And showing his old Divine Form of Youthful Beauty

    The Lord, will say

    "Your Visit I know – Leave off fear."

    And graciously uttering words of love

    So that you of all others in the world surrounded by the

        Waters may shine

    He will grant you the boons difficult to obtain.

    (Here follow the description of Palamuthirsolai)

    He, the Lord of the Hill in Palamuthirsolai.


    J. M. Nallasami Pillai, B.A., B.L.