Saturday, August 9, 2014



DR. G. U. POPE.*

[* Dr. G. U. Pope has kindly sent this to us for publication as a specimen which we do so with much pleasure. This portion was published sometime ago in The Indian Magazine and Review we believe. At the suggestion of a respected friend of ours, Dr. G. U. Pope intends bringing out Manicka Vachakar's life in Tamil also. This is the Tamil form of his name, and is equivalent to the St. Manicka Vachaka ('Author of Ruby-like utterances').

    MANICKA VACHAKAR was one of the greatest of Hindu Poets, Saints and Sages: a typical Guru. It is very difficult to disentangle his history from the multitude of legends in which it is involved: but we have fifty-two Tamil poems ascribed to him, and (in the main) genuine. From these something of his character, history, and teaching may be gathered. When they are carefully studied the figure of a real man is seen.

    In preparing a work on the 'Poets, Saints and Sages of the Tamil-land,' I have had occasion to study the wonderful Saiva literature existing in Tamil. To European students this mixture of philosophy and religion presents an exceedingly interesting field of investigation: since no non-Christian system so nearly resembles Christianity, in some of its aspects; and, certainly, none has departed so far, in other very important respects, from what Christians recognize as pure and holy. The constant mixture of loftiest aspirations, tenderst prayers, and sublimest adoration with wild legends, and with symbolism much of which must seem to us uncouth, repellant, unworthy and degrading, makes this Saiva Psalter intensely fascinating. The Saiva Siddhanta† [† This is the Summa of Saiva's law. It is expounded in fourteen treatises by the Santhana Gurus
(Teacher of the succession).] system itself is the choicest (pure South Indian) product of Dravidian intellect and ought to be studied by all who seek to influence the Tamil mind. If an edition of Manicka Vachakar's poems which are so exceedingly precious in the sight of the Tamil people, with English translation, critical apparatus, lexicon and concordance, can be issued, as the writer hopes, it will with the Kural and Naladiyar, already published, enable the student of Tamil to understand with tolerable accuracy the mental attitude of the very interesting peoples of South India.

    Manicka Vachakar, whose legend (with those of others) it is hoped to publish, was a strange mixture of St. Paul and St. Francis of Assisi (not without something of St. Dominic). According to tradition he was the Hammer of the Buddhists. It seems certain, at any rate, that he was the great reviver of Saiva worship in the south, in or about 9th Century (A.D.), ‡ [‡ According to the facts brought out by Professor Sundaram Pillai, in his 'Some mile-stones,' Manicka Vachakar's date must be sought very far behind the 6th Century. – Editor.] and that he was engaged in a life long struggle with Buddhists, and other sectaries whom he does not in his poems clearly indicate.

    By the Christians in Travancore he was confounded with Manes; and it is an ascertained fact that he visited the western coast, and held intercourse with the Nestorian Christians, who were then very influential in those regions, nor is it improbable that he learn much from them, and exercised in return some influence over them. The (peculiarly Tamil) Saiva Siddhanta system of the south contains very much that may well have had its origin in such Christian influences.

    I venture to offer here, as a specimen of Saiva literature, a transcript of a hymn sung to this day in all the Siva shrines of South India, great and small. Of course very little of the exceeding beauty of the Tamil original can be preserved in a literal translation; but the attempt has been made to give with absolute fidelity some idea of this exquisite 'Morning Hymn.' Almost every line requires annotation, but this must be reserved for a complete edition. These remarkable poems are full of a simple fervor, which Tamil people find absolutely irresistible; and hence with Saivas they quite take the place occupied among Christians by the Book of Psalms.

    Few of the world's biographies are more interesting than that of this man of rare genius; who, in his early youth when he was the favorite and chief minister of the great King of Madura, met with, and was converted by a Saiva guru, whom he then and always believed to be Sivan himself; and became at once an utterly self-renouncing ascetic Saiva mendicant; containing instant in labors, patient in suffering, and constant in devotion, through the many years of his after life.




[* The image of the god is laid upon a couch each evening, and taken up in the morning. This reveille is the first business of the day. This seems strangely at variance with verse 5.]

Hail! Being, Source to me of all life's joys! Tis dawn;

    upon Thy flower like feet twin wreathes of blooms we lay

And worship, 'neath the beauteous smile of grace benign

    that from Thy sacred face beams on us. Siva-lord,

Who dwell'st in Perun-Turrai† girt with cool rice fields,

    where mid the fertile soil the expanding lotus blooms!

Thou on whose lifted banner is the Bull! ‡ Master!

    Our mighty Lord! from off Thy couch in grace arise.        (1)


[† This was composed in Perun-Turrai, 'the great harbor,' where the poet went to buy horse for his King, and was made a disciple of by Siva.

The bull is Siva's emblem, He rides on a white bull. It is also on his banner. The bull-headed Nandi is his Lord High Chamberlain, whose image is everywhere in South India.]



The sun has neared the eastern bound*; darkness departs;

    dawn broadens out; and, like that sun, the tenderness

Of Thy blest face's flower uprising shines; and so,

    while bourgeons forth the fragrant flower of Thine eyes' beam,

Sound the King's dwelling fair hum myriad swarms of bees†

    See Siva-Lord, in Perun-Turrai's hallowed shrine who dwell'st

Mountain of bliss, treasures of grace who com'st to yield!

    O surging sea! from off Thy couch in grace arise!             (2)



[* The original says, Indra's region, since he is regent of the East. There are 8 points of the Compass. Over each a deity presides.

This passage is a curious double catendre. It may also be rendered 'the vast assembled host sing the six-syllables': om-ci-va-ya-na-mah. The bees, or winged beetles, are called by metonomy 'six-feets.']


The tender Kuyil's‡ note is heard; the cocks have crowed;

    The little birds sing out; loud sound the tuneful shells; §

Starlights have paled; day's lights upon the eastern hill

    Are mustering. In favoring love O show to us

Thy twin feet, anklet-decked,|| divinely bright;

    Siva-Lord, in Perun-Turrai's hallowed shrine who dwell'st

Thee all find hard to know; easy to us Thine own.

    Our mighty Lord, from off Thy couch in grace arise!        (3)


[‡ The Koil, or Kuyil for which there is no English name. It is the 'Indian nightingale,' a small bird with a very tender note; it must not be confounded with the 'Indian Cuckoo,' which is a larger bird, the ('golden oriole,') and net a sweet singer.


§ The Sankhs, or conch-shell, used in the temple music.

|| Worn especially by Kings and heroes.]


There stand the players on the sweet voiced lute and lyre;

    there those that utter praises with the Vedic chant;

There those whose hands bear wreaths of flowers entwined;

    there those that bend, that weep, in ecstasy that faint;

There those that clasp above their heads adoring hands;

    Siva-Lord, in Perun-Turrai's hallowed shrine who dwell'st;

Me too make Thou Thine own, on me sweet grace bestow!

    Our mighty Lord from off Thy couch in grace arise!         (4)


'Thou dwell'st in all the elements,' tis said; and yet

    'Thou goest not, nor com'st;' the sages thus have sung

Their rhythmic songs. Though neither have we heard nor learnt

    of those that Thee by seeing of the eye have known.

Thou King of Perun-Turrai, girt with cool rice fields,

    To ponder Thee is hard to human thought. To us

In presence come! Cut off our ills! In mercy make us Thine!

    Our mighty Lord, form off Thy couch in grace arise!         (5)

Thy Saints, who sinless in Thy home abide and know,

    their bonds cast off, have come, and now, a mighty host;

With beauteous garlands decked, and clothed in human shape

    they all adore Thee, Bridegroom of the Goddess dread!

Siva-Lord, who dwell'st in Perun-Turrai's hallow'd shrine,

    Girt with cool rice-fields, where th' empurpled lotus blooms!

Cut off this 'birth,'* make us Thine own, bestow Thy grace!

    Our mighty Lord, from off Thy couch in grace arise!        (6)


[* Compare by Naladiyar, Chapter XI pages 66 to 68.]


'The flavor of the fruit is that'; 'ambrosia that';

    'that's hard'; 'this easy'; thus Immortals too know not!

'This is His sacred form; this is Himself'; that we

    may say and know, make us Thine own; in grace arise!

In Uttara-Kosa-Mangai's † sweet perfumed groves

    Thou dwell'st! O King of Perun-Turrai's hallowed shrine!

What service Thou demandest, Lo! we willing pay

    Our mighty Lord, from off Thy couch in grace arise!        (7)


[† Uttara-Kosa-Mangai, an ancient Pandian capital, 8 miles South West of Ramnad.]


Before all being First, the Midst, the Last art Thou.

    The Three ‡ know not Thy nature: how should others know?

Thou, with Thy fawn like spouse, Thy servants' lowly huts

    in grace did'st visit, entering each, Supernal One!

Like ruddy fire Thou once did'st show Thy sacred form;

    did'st show me Perun-Turrai's temple, where Thou dwell'st;

As Anthanan § did'st show Thyself, and make me Thine.

    Ambrosia rare from off Thy couch in grace arise!            (8)


[‡ i.e., Indra, Brahma and Vishnu.

§ A title of Brahmans. (See Pope's Kural in Lex.]


The gods in heaven who dwell may not approach Thy seat!

    O Being worthless! Us who worship at Thy foot

To this earth having come. Thou causedst to be blest.

    Dweller in fertile Perun-Turrai's shrine! our eyes

Beheld Thee; honied sweetness made our being glad.

    Ambrosia of the sea! Sweet sugar-cane! Thou art

Within Thy longing servants' thought! Soul of this world!

    Our mighty Lord, from off Thy couch in grace arise!        (9)


'Tis time we went to earth no more, were born no more!

    This day in vain we spend, look forth and cry;

'Ah, when, and how will Sivan come this earth to save?'

    Thou King, Who dwell'st in Perun-Turrai's hallow'd shrine,

Mighty Thou wert to enter earth, and make us Thine;

    Thou and the Grace, that flower like blooms from forth Thy form.

Which sacred Mal || and flower-born Ayan ¶ longed to see!

    Ambrosia rare, from off Thy couch in grace arise!            (10)


[|| A name of Vishnu.

¶ A name of Brahma.

    This is Hymn XX in Thiruvachakam.]    


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