Thiruvachagam July 20, 2005Posted by vettithoughts in On spirituality and religion.
I am presently listening to this song Pollaa Vinayen from the Album “Thiruvasagam” composed and orchestrated by Ilaiyaraaja sir. I am not a person well-versed at the intricacies of carnatic music to talk about the ragas or anything else for that matter. When I was reading the reviews on the internet, I found that many people thought that the album did not hold up to the hype that was created. Many more had written that IR sir shouldn’t have lent his voice to the songs. There are others who didn’t appreciate it as an Oratorio when compared to as sung in a traditional manner by “Othuvar” (1The odhuvars chant the Thevarams in a traditional way set up by the Nayanmars in ancient times. As an offering to Lord Shiva, the word “Thiruchitrambalam” is uttered before and after singing of the Pedhigams. The padhigams are sung in the raga-s known as PANN. The Thala is created by the brass Jhalras duly accompanied by Mridangam). The purpose of this blog is not to discuss that. There are people more qualified to do that. People who have been familiar with the material would probably prefer the traditional manner. As a person who has been aware of Thiruvachagam as one of the numerous work out there but inaccessible (to many like me, who have not had the chance to study tamil as a second language at school), this is a great form of introduction. Music is not bound by any limitations. It is only bound by each person’s imagination and creativity. This music makes you forget the singer. Instead enchants, enslaves you in its words, emotion and devotion. After all it is said that 7“thiruvachakaththukku urukadhar oru vachakaththukkum urukar” (people who do not melt (with bhakthi) at hearing thiruvachakam, will not be able to enjoy (melt) any other song).
Though I got this CD from ‘Music World’, Chennai the day it was released, I did not listen to it until I came to the US. Part of the reason being I was not in the mood to listen to any devotional music unless I had to. I believe in god. My favorite god is Lord Shiva. But other than a 5 min prayer everyday, there is not much I do. When I got home the CD, my mom just mentioned a few stories about the devotees, who form the 63 saints. I had recently gone to SriKalahasthi and happened to see the idols of the 63 nayanmars (messengers of god) of which Sudaramurthi Nayanar, Thirugnanasambandar, Thirunavukkarasar, Thirumoolar and Manickavachagar are the most famous. This furthered my interest to know more about these Saivaite saints. The tamizh shaiva literature comprises of 12 Thirumurais. The first 7 are called Thevarams (outpourings of Sambandhar, Appar and Sundarar); the 8th Thiruvachagam and Thirukkovaiyar of Manickavachagar; 9th miscellaneous Thiru-isaippa; 10th Thirumandiram of Thirumoolar; 11th another miscellaneous collection and 12th Sekkizhaar’s Periya Puranam. It is said that in between them (Sundarar, Appar, Sambandar and Manickavachagar) they have sung more than a hundred thousand Pedhigams. Out of these, only 797 Pedhigams could be retrieved from oblivion, thanks to the efforts taken by the great king Raja Raja Chola. There is no trace of the rest of the Padhigams. My periappa on knowing about my interest, happened to mention that the Periya Puranam (by Sekkizhaar), which is a comprehensive collection of the Saivaite saints was available in English. I finished reading the book during the long flight back from Chennai. That should say a lot for how interesting a read it was.
Bear with me when I list a few things I have read about Saint Manickavachagar. From reading the Periya Puranam, I learnt that the way of 2spiritual life can be
- Life of a Servant of God (dasa-margam)
- Life of a good Son of God (sat-putra-margam)
- Life of a Companion of God (saha-margam)
- Life of a Knower of God (gnana-margam)
The mukti gained by these paths are salokya (inhabiting the same world as god), sameepya (close at hand to god), saroopa (gaining same form as god), sayujya (eternal release from bonds of death and birth).
3Manickavachagar was born in Tiruvadavur in the Pandya kingdom. He was named Vadavurar, after the native place. The king, Arimardana Pandyan, heard of Vadavurar’s qualities and made him his Prime Minister. Here Vadavurar won the title of Tennavan Paramarayar with his excellence. As days went by, he realized the unreality of the world and wanted to leave the pain of the world and enjoy eternal bliss. While talking with learned men, he realized the need for a guru. Lord Shiva, came to him in the guise of a Brahmin with Siva jnana bodham and Vadavurar recognized him as his real guru. After initiation into Siva Jnana, Vadavurar gave up his worldly possessions and became a sanyasi. With love as the string and his words as the gems, he made a garland and offered it at the Guru’s feet. The Lord highly pleased with it, and called him ‘Manickavachagar’ since the hymns sung by him were like gems in wisdom. There is also a story on the side that, during his quest for a guru, he had gone to buy horses for the pandya king. Manickavachagar had to undergo various tortures at the hands of the king for his failure to bring horses and for spending the money meant for horses on temple construction. The rest is how god comes to the aid of his devotee and teaches the king a lesson.
Manickavachagar had the greatest fascination for thillai when compared to the other 4. 4Out of the 51 decads of his thiruvachagam, 29 have been sung at Thillai.
5Apparently, Lord Shiva desired to hear Thiruvachagam (In the internet I also found references that said that it was 6Thirukkovaiyar that the Lord Nataraja wrote down as a Brahmin. I don’t know which is correct. Thirukkovaiyar talks about the love between a man and woman with Lord Shiva as the hero and was sung before he attained shiva sayujyam (mukthi)) from the lips of Manickavachagar. He came in the disguise of a Brahmin, and wrote it down on the palm leaves and disappeared. Manickavagar realized that it was the Lord who had come to him in the guise of the Brahmin. Lord Shiva kept these songs on the step of Panchakshara of the Chit Sabha. The Brahmins of Tillai (Chidambaram) were surprised to see them lying there. They opened the leaves and read the contents. In the end it was written ‘Manickavachagar repeated this, Tiru Chitrambalam wrote this.’
Thiruvachagam thus contains the “Sivapuranam” revealing the five-lettered “Siva Mantram” and is a spontaneous outpouring of the heart’s travail and triumph in melodious songs.
2, 4 Periya Puranam by Sekkizhaar (English version by G. Vanmikanathan)