Life of Appar....
Development of the Story....
Date of Appar....
Appar as a Poet – An Eval....
Vedic Nature of Appar’s S....
Saiva Philosophy as Glean....
Music and Dance Gleaned f....
Festivals Gleaned from Te....
Appar in Art....
Festivals Connected with ....
Conclusion – Siva Bhakti....
Development of the Story
As mentioned earlier, we have to depend mainly upon five sources to reconstruct the life of Appar, (a) Appar’s own verses (b) Sundarar’s work, (c) Nambi Andar Nambi’s work (d) Sekkilar’s Periyapuranam and (e) epigraphical sources.
Appar states in many of his hymns that he had listened to the Jains and had been an ardent follower of Jainism from which Lord Siva had rescued him. Though he followed the Jain fatih for some time, he says, his devotion toSiva was enshrined in his heart of hearts ever since his birth.
“Karuvay Kidantu un Kalale ninayum Karuttudaiyen” (5076)
This would confirm he was born in a Saivaite family. “I remained in confusion following the evil path of the Jaina foes before taking refuge in the sacred feet of Lord Siva,” says he in his Thiruppadirippuliyur hymn (5080). In the first hymn addressed to the Lord ofThiruvadigai Virattam, Appar particularly refers to his unbearable stomach ailment (4159-4168).
Oh Lord of Virattana
On the banks of river Ghetila at Adigai
Never have I committed consciously any wicked act.
Day and Night and ever do I adore thee without forsaking.
Unbearable is the pain of my twisted and crippled bowels, inside my stomach.
Please do alleviate his terrific suffering
like death unto me
I have made my heart your abode
Never have I remained without your thought
But I have never experienced such a cruel thing
This piercing pain of the twisted bowels in my belly.
It destroys me like deadly poison.
Please do save me from distressing pain
And do offer me thy succour
Oh Lord of Virattana, on the banks of the river Ghetila at Adigai.
I suffered earlier out of ignofance.
And it cripplied and distressed me
Later I became your slave
The colic is consuming me, please remove this distress.
Is it not the primary duty of the great
To alleviate the suffering of those who take refuge in him,
Oh, Lord of Virattana on the banks of river Ghetila at Adigai, full of women of swanlike gaits
Oh Lod of Virattana on the bank of the river Ghetila at Adigai,
You eater of bali in the skull of the dead.
I never forgot to worship thee with water,Flowers and dhupa
Nor did I ever forget singing Thy praise in Tamil and in music
I never forsook thee either in joy or sorrow
Never did I fail to utter thine name with my tongue.
Vexed am I, Oh Lord,
Do alleviate the colic afflicting my body.
In these verses, there is a clear allusion to unbearable and acute stomach pain, suffered by Appar. He also seems to believe that this pain affected him due to his early ignorance (obviously referring to his life as a Jaina). He says that after he was afflicted with pain he became a devotee of Lord Siva and he prays for the removal of his sufferings. These verses must be considered clear autobiographical references to the story of Appar’s reconversion to Saivism. Incidentally Appar recalls in this hymn, only his ignorance as a cause of his pain and does not refer to the Jains. But there are several other verses of his where he pointedly refers to his life as a Jaina and in such instances he does attack them for hypocrisy. At one place he says that he reproached Lord Siva, by listening to the Jains (4542). At another place he says that he wasted his life with Jains (4548). “You effulgent light, Oh Lord, thou removed my delusion that arose from my assoiation with the Jains. Due to my company with the Jains I did not realize that their association was a vile deception (4547). I wasted my lofe long with the Jains in disputations. Owing to my friendship with the Jains, I got messy. Lord you snapped my association with the Jains (5115). Why did you associate me with the Jains, and made me follow the rotten path of those dump fellows and made my poor self an ass of (5115). I listened to their words, and dispraised formerly the Lord who subdued Ravana (6275). You, the mind do not accept as truth the falsehood, uttered by the wicked Jains who renounce the world, the falsehood of those who preach lofty ideals, but are wicked in their mind and also the falsehood of the Buddhist mendicants clad in rags crowding the public places (6473)”. In the entire hymn of ten verses, addressed to the presiding deity of Thiruvaiyaru, Appar refers to his association with the Jains (4542-4551). Sekkiilar has given for us the hymns and verses which formed the basis for the various episodes connected with the life of Appar. The line “Karrunai puttiyor Kadlil Paychinum Narrunaiyavadu Namassivayave” formed the basis for the story of Appar being thrown into the sea tied to a stone. A critic might say that this has no reference to the actual life of Appar but is only a general impression, that even if one is tied to a stone and thrown into the sea, the ‘Namassivayan’ is there as the succour.
Addressing the Lord of Nilakkudi, Appar alludes to the Jains who tied him to a stone and threw him into the sea.
“I escaped by uttering the good word Namassivaya (Pancakshara) with my tongue, when the mean Jains, tied me to a stone and threw me into the water.”
Kallile ennaip putti amankaiyar
Ollai nir puha tukka en vakkinal
Nellu kil vayal nilakkudi aran
Nalla Namam Navirri uyarntanan (5954)
This verse indicates clearly that the episode did take place. Similarly addressing the Lord Nanipalli, Appar refers to the poison administered to him by the Jains. “The Lord (of Nanipalli), converted the deceitful poison administered to me by the ruthless Jainas into milk”.
Vancanaip pal corakki
Valakkila Amanar tanta
Nani palli Adigalare (4841)
“Even if the mountain fallas, ye Men,
Don’t get shaken from your stand.
Can a deadly elephant kill the devotees
of Lord Siva.”
This verse seems to echo the elephant episode. There is however, no internal evidence referring to Saint Appar being thrown into a burning kiln. The biographical points mentioned by the saint in his own verses lead to the elaboration of his life sketch by Sundaramurti, Nambi and Sekkilar later. That he was born in a Saiva family and ws reconveted toSaivism after spending some years of his life as a Jain is clear. The reconversion was a result of accute stomach ache cured by Lord Siva. He was persecuted by the Jains with the approval of the King. He gave Appar poison, had him tied to a stone and thrown into the sea and let a deadly elephant against him. These as well as the imprinting of Saivite emblems on is body and his receiving gold coins for feeding the poor are the episodes based on his own works. That he lived to a ripe old age is also mentioned in one of his own verses wherein he says “I am no youth to enjoy the company of young maidens”.
Thus it seems, that the entire biographical sketch of Appar, as given by Nambi and later enlarged by Sekkilar, is based on some of Appar’s own significant verses. Even if we leave out the general references, the fact that Appaar was for sometime a Jaina and that after his acute stomach pain he turned a Saivite seems to be well reflected in his verses.
The following verses of Appa were sung when the king’s soldiers came to take him to the court:
We are not the subject of any
Nor are we afraid of death
We will not suffer in hell
Nor do we entertain any falsehood.
We suffer no self conceit
or diseases; we will not submit.
We are ever joyful and never distressed
We have taken refuge in the lotus feet of Lord Sankara.
We have enslaved irrevocably ourselves to Him
We have subjected ourselves to Siva, wearing white ear ring
A submission which is the state of absolute freedom. (7205)
We don’t associate with men running after women
We are bathed with oblation waters on our heads.
We have resorted to wear sacred ashes
With our eyes shedding joyful tears like torrential rains,
And with devotion made our stone like hearts melt,
And have renounced. Are we to obey
the rulers of earth, who move in chariots? (7207)
Our companions are Rudra palganas
Our dress is a piece of rag and a girdle.
Even those who want to eliminate us will not hate
The evil would turn auspicious
Ours is not the path of births and deaths
Our tongues would recite only Namassivaya
The glories of Siva, of sweet smelling floral-head wear,
We follow the path of Effulgent Light
The brilliant eye that burnt Cupid to ashes. (7208)
We are committed to sing the praises of Him
Who is of the nature of mobile and immobile
The earth, water, fire, either and air,
Little, great and rare,
Easy of access to the devout
Is the immeasurable Tatpara and Sadasiva
Who is Himself and me
Will we speak the language of the devils? (7211)
It is the song of the liberated, of one who had experienced divine consciousness, and was not concerned with mundane happenings, a total recluse, taken to the path of Siva consciousness. Taking bath in sacred waters, covered with only a rag, wearing sacred ashes and uttering Namassivaya and deeply immersed in devotion, Appar attained true liberation from the fetters binding ordinary citizens. He was now a great Sivayogi. The soldiers of the king returned with the news of Appar’s refusal.
Next to the autobiographical references of Appar, it is saint Sundaramurti, who gives some details about the life of Appar. Sundarar, who lived in the 8th Century, is the first to give the list of sixty three Saivie Saints in his Thirut-tondar-tokai which formed the basis of later works like that of Nambi Andar Nambi and Sekkilar. The Thiruttondartokai is virtually a list of great Saivite Saints compiled by Sundarar, Appar being earlier to him in point of time is mentioned in the list.
Refering toAppar, Sundarar says that ‘I am a devotee of Thirunavukkaraiyan who cherished in the heart of hearts pure devotion as the greatest treasure.’
Thiruninra Cemmaiye Cemmaiyay Konda
Thirunavukkaraiyan tan adiyarkkumadiyen
To Sundarar, Appar symbolised the acme of Siva-bhakti – the personification of pure and supreme devotion.
Once Thirunavukkarasar and Jnanasambandar, jointly visited the templeof Thiruvilimilalai. Lord Siva is said to have given both of them coins. The country then was affected by a severe drought. Lord Siva gave one coin each to Appar and Sambandar daily. The coins are said to have appeared on the pitha, on the eastern pitha for Sambandar and on the western pitha for Appar. Both Sambandar and Appar established mathas-monasteries there to feed devotees.With the coins thus obtained, they regularly fed the devotees daily. The coin obtained by Appar was pure and fetched food-stuff, but the coin obtained by Sambandar had verdegris formed over it and hence did not fetch enough commodiies. When Sambandar came to know of this from his attendants, he felt, Appar got the pure coins because of his great, sincere service and pure devotion. Sekkilar putting it in the mouth of Sambandar says that the truthful devotion and service of Thirunavukkarasu fetched him the good coin. ‘Peruvaimai Thirunavukkarasar tondar Perum Kacam(1) (V.2472). Jnanasambandar then went to the Lord with sincere devotion, sang His praises and received good coins. He sang the hymn beginning with Vaci tirave kacu nalkuvir.This episode puts the devotion of Thirunavukkarasar on a higher place than that of even Sambandar, who is the foremost of Siva’s devotees.
Sundarar refers to the episode of both Appar and Sambandar receiving coins from Siva at Vilimilalai but says that Lord Siva gave coins daily, out of His desire to listen to Tamil poetry and music. Thirumilalai irundu nir Tamilodu Isai Ketkum iccaiyal kacu nittal nalkinir(2). Though the verse do not mention the names of Appar and Sambandar it is obvius that it refers to this episode. There is no reference to the fine coins obtained by Appar. The same episode is referred to by Sundarar at another place, wherein it is said that the Lord gifted daily coins at Thiruvilimilalai to ward of the sufferings of his devotees and to feed them(3).
“Nesamudaiy adiyaravarkal Varuntamai arunta Nirai maraiyor
urai vilimilalai tamil nittal Kacarulic ceytir”
In an interesting verse, Sundarar lists eight of the Saivite devotees. 1) Jnanasambandar 2) Navinukkaraiyan 3) Thirunalaippovan (Nandan) 4) Sutan 5) Sakyan 6) Spider (Koccengat Cholan) 7) Kannappan and 8) Kanampullan who wronged Siva and yet the Lord gracefully accepted those deeds as his service(4).
“Narramil valla Jnanasambandanum Navinkkaraiyan Nalaippovanum Karra Sutan Narcakkiyan Silandi
Kannappan Kanam Pullar enrivargal Kurram ceyyinum Gunamenak karutum Kolkai Kandu”.
In this verse there is an allusion to the mistake committed by Appar. It obviously refers to Appar following the Jaina faith for sometime, though he was born in a Saiva family.
Sundarar mentions Appar and Sambandar together at three places, and categorically states that they were contemporaries.
Nallisai Jnanasambandanum Navinnukkarasarum Padiya Narramil malat(5)
Narramil valla Jnanasambandan Navinukkariya(6)
Navinmisai Araiyannodu Tamil Jnanasambandan(7)
In one verse Sundarar says that “Lord Siva is pleased to listen to the recitation of the Tamil malai, the garland of Tamil hymns, sung by Jnanasambandar and navinukaraiyar.” It clearly indicates that the tradition of singing the hymns of Appar and Sambandar, in the presence of the deity in temples, was already established in the 8th century, at the time of Sundarar. In fact the tradition could be traced even earlier to the time of Appar Sambandar themselves, as Jnanasambandar refers to the singing of his compositions in the last verse of all his padigams. Following this tradition Sundarar also refers to the singing of his own hymns in his last verses. In one verse there seem to be a suggestion that the recitation of the verses of the three will bestow heaven, paraloka. As it occurs in the last verse of Sundarar’s hymn (on Thiru Kedara) it seems to us that the recitation of the Tevarams of the three Saints, was getting popular by the time of Sundarar.
Navinmisai araiyannodu Tamil Jnanasambandar
Yavar sivanadiyarkalukku adiyan adittondan
Tevan Thirukkedarattai uran urai ceydo
Pavin Tamilvallar Paralokattu iruppare(8)
It is also of great interest to mention that Sundarar refers specifically to 4900 Panuvals composed by Appar.
Inai kol elelunuru irum panuval
Sundarar refers to the saint always by the name Thirunavukkaraiyan and not by the name Appar.
3. Nambi Andar Nambi
The next writer to refer to Appar is Nambi Andar Nambi,(10) who devotes two verses toSaint Navukkarasu. Nambi gives more biographical data than Sundarar. He states that Navakkarasu, the pure gem, hailed from Thiru Amur; had the lotus feet of the Lord implanted on his head at Thiru Nallur; received the grace of the Lord ofViratta (Thiruvadigai) who wiped out the cycle of birth and death, turned the terrible poison given to him into nectar by his poetry; had the temple door opened at Vedaranyam (Maraikkadu), had the heavy stone tied to him float in the ocean and lead him towards the Saiva path.
Appar’s life is intimately associated with Appudi Adigal. Nambi, mentioning this in his work, states that Appudi, a Vaidika Brahmin held refuge in the sacred feet of Thirunavukkarasu, as the greatest wealth. He set up a drinking watershed and named it after Thirunavukkarasu. Anar Nambi does not refer to the miracle of bringing back to life the son of Appudi Adigal who died of snake bite. This however occurs in Sekkilar’s work in detail. Nambi gives biographical data about Saint Thirujnanasambandar and mentions that he has sung of Koccengat Chola, Muruganar and Nilanakkar in his verses but does not refer to Appar. So also he does not refer to the saint while mentioning Muruga Nayanar.
It would be advantageous at this stage to critically evaluate the life sketch of Appar as presented by Sekkilar(11), both for its authenticity and historicity. Appar’s Tevaram hymns, as they have come down to us, are found grouped into three books, the fourth, firth and sixth ‘Thirumurais’. The compilation of these books, generally ascribed to Nambi Andar Nambi in the 10h Century, has been made with consummate skill. The fifth book consists of poems composed as Thirukkurunohai, the sixth consists of the Tandakam hymns. The fourth may be divided broadly into three parts. The first part consists of poems set to different pans and the second of poems in the Thirunerisai metre and the third in the Vrittam metre. Thus we see a general, sensible pattern in the compilation of these poems. Sundaramurti states that Appar composed 4900 panuvals (Sun.Te. 7.149). This is repeated by botth Nambi Andar Nambi and Sekkilar. Sundaramurti mentions the poems as 4900 ‘Panuvals’ but Nambi Andar Nambi calls in Padigam. Padigams means poems of praises of a deity commonly ten verses (Winslow’s Dictionary). In the 12th Century Sekkilar uses the word Padigam in the sense of ten verses or collection of verses. If the term Panuval used by Sundarar is taken to stand for ten verses then it would mean that Appar has sung 4900 hymns of ten verses each out of which only 313 have survived. If on the other hand the term ‘padigam’ is taken to mean a single verse, then about 3130 verses have survived the remaining have disappeared. Judging from the fact that Appar lived to a ripe age of 80, it is not unlikely that he composed 4900 hymn’s of ten verses each. It is however interesting to note that while Sekkilar in the 12th Century refers to 4900 hymns of Appar, the author of Thirumuraikandapuanam(12) states that only 307 hymns were available to Nambi to compile them into three books. The ‘Thirumurai kandapuranam’ is ascribed to Umapatisivam, who lived in fourteenth century. It must be remembered that Nambi himself refers to 4900 hymns and so does Sekkilar in the 12th Century. It is unlikely that within two hundred years of Sekkilar several thousand verses disappeared. The verses referring to the compilation of Thirumurai should be considered a very much later tradition.
The first poem to appear in the collection is ‘Kurrayinavaru Vilakkahilir’ set to the tune ‘Kolli’. The last verse to appear is ‘Punniya un adikke Poduhinren Pumpuhalur meviya Punniyane’. Sekkilar, states that the first verse composed by the saint was “Kurrayinavaru” and the last “Punniya un Adikke Poduhinren”.
Sekkilar makes it a point to mention whih poem was sung at what place and under what circumstances. In some instances he mentions in a general way, that the saint composed several hymns at a particular temple. In many placeshe refers to the poems connected with the respective temples. But what is of particular interest, he also mentions when some of the general poems have been composed.Thus it is possible to make out a complete chronology of events and poems composed by the saint. Throughout his narration, Sekkilar consciously arranges the events with an eye on factual presentation. The adherence to authenticity may be seen from the fact, that Sekkilar incorporates verbatim, the first or the last line of the hymn in his narration. This is a unique composition not attempted by any other. For example he gives the titles of the hymns Appar composed at Thiru Arur, Thiruppunturutti and Puhalur. Most of them appear with the same titles given by Sekkilar in the three books that have survived. Adaivutthirutandakam, Angamalai, Ninra thiruttandakam, Amainta thirunerisai,Dasapuranattirunerisai, Pavanasappadigam, etc. may be cited as illustrations of the titles of different hymns, mentioned by Sekkilar, still preserved in the present collection.
Referring to the ruler who at first persecuted Appar, Sekkilar specifically states that he was the Pallava (1358-1365) – “The Jains reached the Nagar of the Pallava” (Pallava Capital) (Periya Purana V. 1354). Sekkilar also mentins that the king was the firned of the Jains and a follower of their faith (1357). At another place, the king is referred to as Kadava (1416). The temple erecte dby the king at Thiruvadigai is called Gunabharisvaram. Sekkilar leaves us in no doubt that the king was a Pallava. That the name is Gunaharisvaram emphasises the historical nature of the account. These remains a Siva Temple at Thiruvadigai, with Pallava sculptures assignable to the seventh century. Nearby are found some Jain sculptures.
Sekkilar refers to the meeting of Appar with a numbe of otheer saints like Muruganar, Thirunila nakkar, Kungiliyakkalayar, Naminandi, Siruttondar, Pandya Nedumaran, his queen Mangayarkkarasi and his minister, Kulaccirai, besides Jnanasambandar. Except the meetings with Sambandar and Appudi Adigal, which need recalling on account of specific occurrences, meetings with others are not of much consequence and yet, Sekkilar mentions them. This would show his eagerness to present as authentic a history as possible.
Sekkilar’s narration of the route taken by Appar from Kalahasti to Mount Kailasa in interesting. Next to Kalahasti, he mentions Srisaila which is obviously a great Sivakshetra.Srisaila was and is in the Telugu country. After Srisaila the next Siva temple to be mentioned in Varanasi, though Appar is said to have crossed the Kannada, Malaya, Lata and Madhya Paitira countries before reaching the Gangetic plains. Either Sekkilar had no direct knowledge of the Siva temples enroute or there were no recognised kshetras then. The Linga Purana speaks of Srisaila after Varanasi, without referring to any other kshetras in between. Maybe this Puranic tradition weighed greatly with Sekkilar.
Appar’s visit to Mount Kailasa is portrayed dramatically by Sekkilar. After reaching a particular height, Sekkilar says that Appar could no go beyond. It is possible that Appar reached as far as Manasarovar the maximum height reached by pilgrims then. The lake mentioned in the text is probably the Manasarovar.There was no need otherwise for Sekkilar to refer to a lake there. From there, Appar probably had darsan of the Summitt and was compelled to return without attempting to scale. The difficult nature of the expedition is brought out by Sekkilar.
The story that he bathed in a lake at Mount Kailasa and emerged at Thiruvaiyaru should be viewed from a fascinating angle. The name “Aiyaru” also called “Pancanadam” stands for five rivers.The name the five rivers” is derived from the word Pancanada, the five streams, that fell on Nandikesvara, from Lord Siva and Parvati at Mount Kailasa. These five streams falling on Nandikesvara as abhisheka, conferred on him the place of Gananatha, leader of the Sivaganas.Thiruvaiyaru is intimately associated with nandikesvara. The festival of Nandi’s marriage is celebrated with great acclaim to this day at Thiruvaiyaru. Obviously, tradition has connected Thiruvaiyaru with Kailasa from early times.That Appar visited Mount Kailasa, and emerged at Thiruvaiyaru, has this traditional meaning. Just as Nandikesvara beheld Siva and Parvati seated on Kailasa, so also Appar beheld the same sight at Thiruvaiyaru. Obviously he had a vision of Lord Sia here and became a fully realised soul, a Sivagana. Afte this, Appar lived in a state of pure “Siva-consciousness”. Two temples were erected in the reign of Raja Raja Chola I, both within the premises of Pancanadisvara temple, Thiruvaiyaru; one is now popularly called “Vada (North) Kailasa” and the other “Ten (South) Kailasa.”
There is a tradition among the Hindus of the South, that a visit to Ramesvaram should follow a visit to Varanasi. The northern pilgrimage is considered complete only with a visit to Ramesvaram in the south. As if conforming to this tradition Sekkilar states that Appar visited Rama Sethu before finally Puhalur where he attained final release.
There are a few other points connected with the life of Appar that deserve notice.Appar is said to have prayed for the Saivite signs of Trisula and Rshabha imprinted on his shoulders by Lord Siva at Pennagadam. Of the ten verses sung by Appar on the presiding deity of Pennagadam, only three have survived. However in these verses Appar himself clearly prays to Lord Siva to bestow these signs on him. “Lord the brilliant flame of Tunganaimadam, I have a request at your golden sacred feet. If you have a desire to save my soul ever devoted to your greatness, please do imprint on me, your shining trident that would dispel death”.
Minnarum Muvilaic culam en mel pori (5186)
Appar also prays for besmearing his body with ashes (Thiru vadi niru ennaip pusu). He also asks for the sign of bull to be imprinted (Idavam Porittu ennai enru Kollai). It is unfortunate that the other verses have not survived. Among the surviving three verses, Appar mentions one sign in each verse as trident, ash and bull. Probably the other verses also mentioned a sign each. Imprinting sign is not now prevalent among Saivaite devotees, butt is practiced by the Vaishnavites of the Ramanuja and Madhva schools. They imprint the conch and the cakra. It is a symbol of absolute surrender or enslavement to the chosen God. Some dancing girls are said to have had the trident and rshabha imprinted on them. The custom was given up by the Saivites later. The term Ishavattaliyilar, applied to a group of dancing girls of Siva temples, was probably derived from this custom. It may be termed an emblem of dasamarga.