THE AGE OF MANICKA-VACHAKAR.*
[* With an account of the third academy at Madura.
By S. A. Tirumalai Kolundu Pillai. B. A., Thompson & Co., Madras, 1899, Price Rs. 2]
It is quite opportune that Mr. Tirumalaikolundu has brought out this work and he has appropriately dedicated it to the Rev. Doctor G. U. Pope, the Veteran Tamil Scholar and the translator of Saint Manicka Vachakar's Hymns. The author tries to follow and further the researches carried on by scholars like the Professors Sundaram Pillai and Seshagiri Sastrigal, and in doing so bestows unlimited praise on the former, and depreciates too much the work of the latter Mr. T. K. Pillai should have taken a leaf from Professor Sundaram Pillai himself as to the purely, scholarly and gentlemanly way he treats the authors from whom he had differed and severely criticized, and we regret very much indeed the tone Mr. T. K. Pillai has adopted in dealing with Professor Seshagiri' s views. The latter is a great scholar and Philologist, and one who has spent his precious time and money for the sake of the Tamil language and literature, and proposes to de even greater things, provided he can command time and money and it is therefore unmannerly to treat his views as mistakes other than honest. We do not say that the learned Professor has not committed mistakes and in a perfectly untrodden field, like the Tamil, who could not commit mistakes? And we are not sure if even Professor Sundaram Pillai did believe in the existence of the Sangam; and all the evidence accumulated by Mr. T. K. Pillai only goes to show that there is very strong tradition in support of it and that about a dozen of the Sangam Pundits could be shown to be contemporaries by mutual reference in their works. And the value of such evidence cannot be said to be conclusive. Nothing is gained by assuming a fighting attitude, and moderation is quite consistent with one's feeling of patriotism and truth; and the author would have done well to remember the motto he has himself chosen.
In other respects, the small volume before us shows considerable study and patient research among the almost forgotten times of the Tamil ancient classics, and it is only to be hoped that the author will pursue in right earnest the path he had chosen and show greater results as time passes. To go into the contents of the book, the author remarks that it can be easily shown that the Saiva Religion was the most ancient religion of India, and especially of the Tamil land and refers to the position occupied by the four great Acharyas. Tirugnana-Sambanthar, Appar, Sundarar, and Manickavachakar in the conflicts with the Buddhists and the Jain Religions, and to the great adoration paid to these Saints in the Tamil land. There is a Temple specially dedicated to the worship of Saint Manickavachaka, in which grand festivals are celebrated in his name, namely, Tiruperundurai or Avadayar Coil, about some 20 miles to the south of Pudukota. He points out how much he had influenced the poetry of Tattuvaranayar, but this is only mentioning one out of the whole body of the Tamil singers and poets both Saiva and Vaishnava who have come after him. Tiruvaimori is the Tamil equivalent of Tiruvachakam and one beginning to read the former newly discovers how almost every line of it is full of the sound and sense of the latter. Saint Thayumanar owes not a little to Saint Manickavachakar; and the late Ramalinga Swamigal of Vadalur was a special votary of his, and his Thiruvarutpa is but a commentary on Tiruvachakam. Mr. Pillai also refers to the pleasing lines* in Manonmaniyam in which Professor Sundaram showers his praise on Tiruvachakam.*
[* "மனங்கரைத்து மலங்கெடுக்கும் வாசகத்தின் மாண்டோர்கள் கனஞ்சடையென் றுருவேற்றிக் கண்மூடிக் கதறுவரோ."
In the heart-melting sin-removing Tiruvachakam once losing, can one blindly bellow forth in ganam and Jadai of Vedic chants.]
The sources for compiling the biography of the Saint are mainly Kadavul mahamuni's Vathavurar puranam and Paranjoti muni's Tiruvilayadalpuranam and the corresponding work in Sanskrit, Halasya Mahatmyam. The great Pandit Minakshisundaram Pillai's work, Tiruperundurai Puranam, though a work of art, is of no historical importance. Our author fixes the upper limit for Saint Manickavachakar's age as the beginning of the second century after Christ or the close of first century and all things considered this time so fixed does not seem to be extravagantly too near or too remote.
The first point he urges to prove the priority of Saint Manickavachaka over Saint Gnana-Sambantha is an old argument which we ourselves urged in a letter to Professor P. Sundaram Pillai, namely, that Jainism was of a later growth from Buddhism and was of a later introduction into Southern India and flourished more vigorously in the South even about the 6 & 7th centuries at the time of the Chinese travelers visit to Southern India, though by that time, Buddhism was in a great decline. But we were told that it was quite certain that Jainism was an off-shoot of Buddhism and that it was as old and independent as Buddhism itself and that its introduction into Southern India was much earlier. But this we may point out that as the Buddhist disputants are stated to have come directly from Ceylon to meet and vanquish Saint Manickavachaka it would seem to point to a time when Buddhists had not settled themselves in the Tamil land and very near to the time of the introduction of Buddhism into Ceylon itself, which would in fact make his time earlier than the first century. And our author further notes that our Saint must have influenced by the Sangam Poets, and that the great commentators freely quote from Tiruvachakam and had commented on Tirukovaiyar, whereas no references are given from the Devaram. Saint Appar's Devaram contains a reference to the incident of the jackals having been transformed into horses, a story which we meet nowhere else than in Saint Manickavachakar's life. And he quotes parallel lines from Saint Appar's Devaram and from Tiruvachakam to show how far Saint Appar's language had also been influenced by the latter, such as.
"யாமார்க்கும் குடியல்லோம் யாதுமஞ்சோம்" (St. M).
"நாமார்க்கும் குடியல்லோம் நமனையஞ்சோம்" (St. A).
"அவனருளாலே யவன்றாள் வணங்கி"
"சிந்தையே கோயில் கொண்டவெம்பெருமான்"
"உற்றாரை யான் வேண்டேன்….
"உற்றாராருளரோ உயிர்கொண்டு போம்பொழுது
குற்றாலத்துறை கூத்தனல்லால் நமக்கு"– உற்றார். "
The author then goes into the much debated question connected with the Vanni tree miracle and he agrees with Professor Sundaram Pillai in thinking that the Thiruvilayadal story connecting Gnana Sambantha with the Purambayam* tradition is not correct. [*புறம்பயமதனில் அறம்பலவருளியும்
is not to be translated "spot where many charities were performed," but its true meaning is found in a similar sentence occurring in the Devara Hymn of Tirugnana Sambanthar "நால்வர்க்கு அறம்பயனுரைத்தனை" "Thou explained the nature of Dharma to the Four great Rishis."] Purambayam was not identified by Professor Sundaram Pillai, but this is a small town near Kumbakonam; and referring to the Kshetra Mahimai, we find the local tradition follows the Thiruvilayadal account and the name of the Local God is called Sakshinadar, 'The Witness-Lord,' and the strictly limited his sacred history to whatever could be gathered by internal evidence from the Devaram itself, and it is well-known he has omitted many another well-known local tradition. And in none of the hymns connected with Purambayam is there any reference to Gnanasambanthar's miracle, though the miracle is set forth in the Hymn connected with Maruganur near Negapatam.
Then he discusses the vexed question why Saint Manickavachakar's name is omitted in the list of saints by Saint Sundarar and those who followed him, and he suggests that it was included in the class enumeration of "பொய்யடிமை யில்லாத புலவர்" referring to the Sangam Poets such as Narkirar, Kabilar and Paranar, &c. All that we can say is that this is not improbable, though the reason that the name is omitted for the reason that Saint Sundarar himself scrupled to call him an Adiar, servant of God, in as much as Saint Manickavachakar represents the Highest Path of Sanmarga when no separate identity is perceivable as servant and Lord, cannot be left out of account altogether.
The rest of the pamphlet is taken up with the discussion as to the existence of the Tamil Sangam and the author shows that 11 at least of the 49 Sangam Poets were contemporaries, but the author himself is not prepared to accept the tradition that these very 49 poets lived for 1850 years, but he suggests that there were 49 seats always provided in the Sangam and by these names and that different individuals assumed these names, and filled it from time to time. Or rather would it not be more reasonable to hold, that these 49 poets were the chiefest lights of the last Sangam which flourished for about 1000 years and more and who have left the stamp of their genius for ages to come, though some of these might have been contemporaries also. When giving an account of a public Sabha and giving the names of those present, it is only customary to mention the leading persons and not all. Much reliance cannot be place on the 49 poets having sung the praises of Tiruvalluvar, and literary forgeries are only too common among our people. As an instance, a small book also called "ஞானத்தாழிசை" is attributed to Saint Manickavachaka and is believed in by the credulous, but the reading of the first line itself could show that it cannot be the work of the Saint. Curiously also, the Vaishnavas possess a reduplicated edition of the Sangam stool only giving place to Tiruvalluvar's Kural, in their history of Saint Nammalvar, and they seriously enough give all the stanzas composed on the occasion by all the 300 poets, chiefest of whom is called as Ekamban, a name not to be found in the usually published lists. And the age of Saint Nammalvar; himself is given as Kali 43, more than 4900 years ago; though they ignore quietly enough references to Sakkyas, and Shamanas and Linga Puranikas, in the Saints own works; and whole passages which smell of the Tiruvachakam and Tirukural are also found there. We really wish that Tamil scholars will take up the age of the Alwars to clear up the mists which exists in this field. In the meanwhile, we offer our kindest congratulations to Mr. T. K. Pillai for his eminently useful book and we hope it will find its way into the hands of every Tamil Student.
J. M. Nallasami Pillai, B.A., B.L.