The omission of his name from Periya-Puranam.
In connection with the chapters on 'Manicka Vachakar' which have recently appeared in our journal as part of 'History of Tamil Literature' from the pen of our valued contributor Mr. S. A. Tirumalai Kolundu Pillai, we have received from some of our readers queries turning upon the question of the omission of Saint Manicka Vachakar's name from the Periya-Puranam of Sekkilar
சேக்கிழார். We give below an extract from Mr. S. A. T's work which will go a great way towards affording a satisfactory answer to most of these queries.
We shall take up now the question of the strange omission of the name of Manickavachakar from the versified list of saints furnished by Sundarar – we mean his famous Tirutttondattokai. We consulted with some of the leading men of the times, whose opinion generally passes for high value, and no reasonable solution of the difficulty was forthcoming. It is said that in a certain Roman funeral procession the statues of Brutus and Cassius were conspicuous by their absence; more so in the case of Manickavachakar's name, which does not find a place in the famous Versified List of Canonized Saints furnished by Sundarar – the basis out of which the famous Biographer of Saiva Saints has constructed one of the lasting monuments of Saiva Literature, namely, the Periapuranam. Can the omission be due to oversight as some assert? To bring forward this reason is certainly disparaging to the saintly celebrity of the author of the ruby-like utterances. When Sundarar had the goodness to hunt after the names of the most insignificant among the Saiva devotees, it is creditable neither to his devotion nor to his fame, to omit the name of the great saint, whose works never fail to bring down tears of joy divine, from the eyes of any human being endowed with the least spark of devotion.
The famous list contains the names of 62 individual saints who along with Sundarar who has extolled them make up the 63 Saiva saints; in this list, of course, are included the names of Jnanasambandar and Appar and several others of various vocations and castes, as well as the names of several kings and chiefs, inclusive of Kun-Pandya knows as Nedu Maran, and Kocchengannan who is often referred to by Jnanasambandar. Besides the names of these saints, the list furnishes the names of nine companies of saints (called Tokai Adiyargal in Tamil) to make room for all else who might have attained salvation. These are:
1. Tillaival Andanar
வாழ்ந்தணர் (Lit. the Brahmins living at Chidambaram, but really the Three Thousand Brahmins attached to the shrine, as evident from the interpretation of Sekkilar).* [* See
2. Poyyadimai Illatha Pulavar பொய்யடிமையில்லாத
புலவர். (Lit. Poets of no untrue devotion. Nambi Andar Nambi and Sekkilar interpret this to mean the poets of the Madura Academy).* [* See Tiruttondartiruvantati of Nambi Andar Nambi Stanza 49 in the 11th Tirumurai and
3. Paramaneiyepaduvar பரமனையேபாடுவார்
(Those who sing of God alone).
4. Sittatai Sivanpaley Vaittar சித்தத்தைச்சிவன்பாலே
வைத்தார் (Those that have riveted their mind on Siva).
5. Tiruvarur Pirantar திருவாரூர்
பிறந்தார். (Those born at Tiruvarur).
6. Muppolutum Tirumeni Tinduvar முப்பொழுதுந்
திருமேனிதீண்டுவார். (Those that touch the Holy Body – Siva Lingam – all the three times).
7. Muluniru Pusia Munivar முழுநீறுபூசியமுனிவர். (The sages who smear their bodies completely with holy ashes).
8. Appalumadi Sarnda அப்பாலுமடி
சார்ந்தார். (Lit. those that attained God's feet even beyond).
The word appalum is interpreted by Sekkilar in a double light very correctly. One interpretation is 'beyond in time'; according to this interpretation Sundarar considers Himself a servant unto all those that have attained beatitude before his time as well as to those that might attain such bliss after his time. The other interpretation is 'beyond in place', i.e., foreign lands beyond the land of the Tamils.
Some find no objection to the omission as the name of Manickavachakar can find a place in the company of saints known as Appalumadi Sarndar. Such as argument should be dismissed without serious consideration as it is damaging to the reputation of both the Manickavachakar and Sundarar for reasons similar to those already adduced in the objection to the first explanation.
What else can be the cause of this strange omission? Some Saivas bring forward the argument that Sundarar might have omitted the name of Manickavachakar, on considerations of hoary antiquity, as he has done in the case of Markandeyar, whom he has referred to in eulogizing the praise of Siva at Tiruppunkur* without, however, giving place to his name in the famous list.
[* The pasuram referred to is:-
In the case of Manickavachakar such an argument is not applicable as he is not so old in the eyes of Sundarar. For Sundarar has included in his list two saints whose glory is referred to by Manichavachakar* with reverential admiration. [* Refer to the 4th Stanza in
and Stanzas 3 and 7 in
திருத்தோணோக்கம்.] These are (1) Kannappar the Huntsman who plucked an eye of his and applied it to the bleeding eye of God Siva to stop the bleeding; and (2) Chandesvara the Brahmin cowherd who cut away his father's feet, when his irreligious parent interrupted him sacrilegiously, while engaged with full devotion in the holy worship of Siva. A perusal of Kalladam † and some of the works of Nakkirar ‡ lays bare the fact that there were three other saints (whose names find a place in the famous list) that preceded Manickavachakar; those are the famous Lady of Karaikkal, Murthi Nayanar that rubbed his elbow on the stone § for want of a piece of sandalwood and Sakkyar who threw stones at a Siva Lingam without fail every day. [† Refer to the 78th Agaval where the Lady is referred to as a demon that witnessed the charming dance of Siva at Tiruvalankadu; also to the agavals 57 and 68 of Kalladam, Subbaroya Mudaliar's Edition.; ‡ Refer to verses 17 and 18 of Nakkirar in Kopapprasadan in the eleventh Tirumurai.; § The stone is a சந்தனக்கல்.] Thus there were at least five saints who preceded Manickavachakar but yet found a ready welcome to their names in Sundarar's list. Thus the argument that Manickavachakar's name should have been omitted on considerations of hoary antiquity is entirely baseless and absurd.
Some devout Saivas attribute this conspicuous omission to the greatest admiration which Sundarar had for Manickavachakar whom he feared* [* The lives of Tirujnanasambandar, Appar and Sundarar depicted by the famous Biographer of Saints clearly indicate the fact that these reformers had the greatest veneration for departed devotees of great repute, so much so, that they thought it a sacrilege to tread the sacred soil and sang from a distance.] to call out as a devotee separate from God; so also the author of Ilakkanakkottu (lit. a bunch of grammatical principles) has said 'It is quite certain that Manickavachakar is Siva Himself from his superior wisdom'. † [† Refer to Ilakkanakkottu lines 10 and 11 page 14 of Arumuga Navalar's second edition of the same.] This argument, however, will not be received easily by the Saiva public to some of whom Tirujnanasambandar is a divinity.
The last argument advanced by some of the Saivas when every other solution is beaten down as erroneous is: 'Though the saints Manickavachakar and Jnanasambandar were true devotees of Siva, yet there is a subtle difference in the nature of their creed.' The Devaram hymners wanted to teach a practical lesson to the masses, in religion; they wanted to impress on the minds of the people the idea of a personal God to whom all beings should pay obeisance. Whereas in Tiruvachakam the idea of divinity is a little too high pitched. Only minds advanced in culture and devotion as Manickavachakar can have the true insight of the doctrines of the great saint. The religious ideal in his eye is of a very high type for common humanity to comprehend. The oft-recurring expression "He who has made me his 'vassal' by making me Sivam' does not occur even once in the whole range of Devaram. Any approach to it, if at all be found, may be seen in the verses of Appar who in his famous Tiruvankamalai breaks out as follows:- 'I have searched and found out in me the divinity soaring beyond the reach of Vishnu and Brahma.' Even this tendency in Appar to realize the divinity in himself can be traced to the influence of Manickavachakar as we have already shown. It is for this reason (the difference of creed) it is contended that Sundarar has not mentioned the name of Manickavachakar in the list.
However ingenious this argument might be, it may not be satisfactory and convincing. True, though it be, that the religious ideal pitched by Manickavachakar is of a very high type, we can find ample evidence in his works to show that he had a great admiration even for the lower stages of the faith. He deprecates* [* Refer for instance to the 14th Stanza in
திருச்சதகம்.] himself much for not extending all the services in his power for winning God's grace, such as, sweeping the temple, besmearing it with cow dung, tying garlands, etc. With growing experience in religion the sage, no doubt, transcended to heights beyond the comprehension of ordinary mortals. His Tiruvachakam contains certain passages of a paradoxical nature † [† For instance refer to Stanza 7 in
கோயிற்றிதிருப்பதிகம்.] puzzling even the greatest psychologist. Thus to attribute the omission to this cause is not safe.
This conspicuous omission is the most vexed question of the day; after a good deal of reflection we arrived at a solution which is offered for what it is worth, Sundarar seeing that his list would swell out did not make mention by name of Nakkirar, Paranar, Kapilar, Kalladar and other important poets and sages of the Sangam period whose works have, after his time, found a place in the eleventh Book of the Saiva Bible of the Tamils but included them all under the common Clause 'Poyyadimai Illatha Pulavar' or 'Poets of no untrue devotion.' That this refers to the poets of the Madura Academy is clearly seen from the interpretation given to it by Nambi Andar Nambi the Tamil Vyasa and Sekkilar the author of the great Puranam. Their interpretation is, however, a little narrow as they restrict the expression to the Bench of poets – the 49 poets who conducted the academy and especially to the last 49 members of the Board, i.e., to the members who presided over the last formal sessions of Madura College when Tiruvalluvar took his sacred Kural for their approval. Outside the Board there were ever distinguished poets* [* Inclusive of the members of the Academy there were 449 poets attached to the Sangam. Vide Commentaries on the 1st Sutram of Iraiyanar Agapporul.] whose contributions were readily received and accepted. So the term 'Poyyadimai Illatha Pulavar' should refer to the poets of the Sangam period including both the members in the Board and the distinguished literati of the day connected with the Bench. As a general rule the poets of the Sangam age were devout followers of the Saiva faith which was the prevalent creed of Southern India then.* [* There is abundant evidence in favor of this view which however is reserved for a separate and elaborate handling.] Sundarar instead of making individual mention of the names of the poetic sages in the Madura academy which would have swelled his list beyond practical bounds gave them a place in the expression 'Poyyadimai Illatha Pulavar.' We see sufficient reasons to think that, in all probability, Sundarar has purposely omitted to make individual mention of the name of Manickavachakar, as the latter was a poet of the Sangam age and thus included in the Company of Saints known as பொய்யடிமையில்லாத புலவர்.