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Thiruvachagam July 20, 2005

Posted 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

  1. Life of a Servant of God (dasa-margam)
  2. Life of a good Son of God (sat-putra-margam)
  3. Life of a Companion of God (saha-margam)
  4. 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.


5 http://www.dlshq.org/download/nayanar.htm


6, 7 http://www.shaivam.org/siddhanta/thiru8.html

1 http://www.soundofindia.com/showarticle.asp?in_article_id=1859768681

2, 4 Periya Puranam by Sekkizhaar (English version by G. Vanmikanathan)



1. Ganesh - July 20, 2005

Super Sowmya
Excellent presentation

2. vettithoughts - July 21, 2005

Thanks Ganesh,Did you realize that the person who told me that Periya Puranam was available in english- was periappa, your dad!!!

3. ROBBIE - July 21, 2005

Hey sowmya:
I read your entire post and I liked it a lot. It made me understand that you have a very spiritual self hidden somewhere inside that very practical exterior. hmm! you continue to surprise me…

4. Swahilya - July 22, 2005

Hi Balasoumi: A beautiful name and brilliant work. Taking so much effort to quote and present on the blog, references et.al I am Swahilya, Reporter from The Hindu -still soaking myself in the divine melody of I’s Tiruvasagam. I also wrote about it in The Hindu and have posted two blogs on Tiruvasagam. Congratulations on your effort. Talk to me about Shiva and can go on and on! Namaste.

5. Swahilya - July 22, 2005

Ganesh: Appo Kudumbame Anmeegathila Uuri Poyirukkeenga Pola Irukku? Swaha.

6. vettithoughts - July 22, 2005

Thank you Swahilya and Robbie for your encouraging comments.Robbie, don’t throw the word spirituality around. My understanding of that word is very very different and it wouldn’t apply to me :)Swahilya- I did google some articles on Hindu on Thiruvachagam, when I was writing this blog.Iam always eager to know more about Shiva. I have ordered the translation of Thiruvachagam by G.U.Pope. Looking fw to that.

7. Ganesh - July 22, 2005

yes 🙂 hope so, wish all my sisters took up some interest.

8. Sriram - July 29, 2005

Hey Sowmya
Sooperooo sooper..very good blog and in Journal paper issshhstyle.. polandhuta..keep the good work..

9. vettithoughts - July 29, 2005

Thanks Sriram,I got the email you fw. I will send her an email and try to change the settings to allow anonymous comments.:)

10. vettithoughts - July 29, 2005

Sriram,I got it corrected.

11. Sriram - July 29, 2005


12. Anonymous - September 14, 2005

Flood the world and submerge all life and soul with your divine thoughts.keep it pouring for those who need to sail in spirituality.

13. vettithoughts - January 8, 2006

Thanks anon.

14. v sekar - May 26, 2006

The no of comments you recd. for your blog on Thiruvachakam itself shows the greatness of the topic.As an ardent devotee of Shiva and repetetive reader of Thirumurais, I join others in expressing my happiness and commendations to you.I believe in carrying forward the message in them to others(very soon you will find my writing on hymns fron Thiruvachagam in my blog page,Ardhra.blogspot).My priority would be to renovate those neglected temples of chola origin.I have taken up this work as a goal in my life.Wellwishers like you can join me in this noble project.Should you wish,more details will be mailed to you.
Sekar.V secretary,Thiruvadhirayan
Thiruvarutsabhai,7,sakthi nagar2nd st.,Choolaimedu,Chennai-600 094.
e-mail: venkataramansekar@rediffmail.com

15. Archer - May 16, 2011

Sowmya ji,
My name is Archer.I wrote this Tamil poem for a poem contest about Mylapore. Do send your comments.
Also if you have an English translation ebook of tiruvachagam/tirumanthiram,can you send it?.

வலம் வந்தேன் வளம் தேடி

கேளா வரம் தந்தாய் ,நின் புகழ் பாடுதலே

I came around your shrine for well being of the world & myself and
u gave a boon that was never asked,singing you praise

கடல் சுவாசம் செய்ய வாசம் செய்தோனே

நின் கட்டிட நாசம் செய்தும் ஆசனம் அழியாநேன்

You settled in this place to breathe the refreshing beach air
Even after your temple was demolished,thy conquest remained intact

எம் மயிலையில் எம்மை சிலிர்க்க வைக்கவே

பிரம்மனவர் சிரம் கிள்ளி சினம் தனித்ததுவோ

Is it to give us a hair-raising experience in mylapore by your presence,
that you plucked Brahmma’s head and extinguished your so-called anger.

அப்பா கபாலீசா, நடத்திய நாடகம் நிகழத்தியன யாவும்

புகட்டிய பாடம் புகுத்திய பண்டாரங்கள் போல பின்காணவே

O Lord Kapaleesha, the stage play you enacted(refers to establishing himself in Mylapore) and every other act of yours shall be realised later ,just like the lessons you taught us and the way you brought 63 Nayanmars into the temple.
(According to the author’s imagination here,the Lord brought the 63 Nayanmars to stay alongside with him in the temple to later celebrate the arubatthimoovar festival held every year)

நஞ்சுண்டனே ,நெஞ்சம் உன்னிடம் தன்னே

தஞ்சமடைந்தேனே, பணிந்து நின் பாதம் பற்றிடவே

O drinker of poison,my heart stays with you all the time
I seek refuge in you,prostrating myself at your feet

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