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....
Date of Appar
Several attempts have been to date Appar’s Tevarams. The dates assigned range from 7th to 10th Century A.D. Three groups of dates are (a) 7th Century A.D. Three groups of dates are (a) 7th century (b) 8th Century and (c) 10 Century A.D. The last was suggested by B.G.L. Swami in his article “The date of Tevaram Trio-An analysis and re-appraisal”(1) in the Bulletin of Traditional Cultures-Madras-Jan.-June 1975. Dr. F. Gros in his recent judicious study “Towards reading the Tevaram”(2) (introduction Tevaram, Vol.I, Pondicherry 1984) has refuted the contentins in the above articlee. He says that Swamy’s arguments are apparently scientific but that he “has lost sight of the essential” (p.XLII). That Swamy’s work is full a factual errors and unconfirmed assertions, it does not stand even a cursory scrutiny. As Gros points out 10th Century would be the least acceptable date for the Tevaram hymns. The second view that Appar lived in the 8th Century was propounded by K.R. Venkatraman and K.R.Srinivasan.(3) I have shown, that their works is full of self contradictions.(4) (Studies in Tamil Law and Society-R. Nagaswamy, pp.13 to 29. Also see F. Gros O.C. p.XIV – XVI). Gros in his work, leaves out for critical appraisal the tradition preserved by Sekkilar and arrives at the 7th Century as the most possible date of Appar and Sambandar. He holds that the Tevaram (of Appar and Sambandar) is contemporary with Bana’s Kadambari (p.III). Bana’s date is now certain as he lived at the court of Harsha whose life he sketched in his Harshacarrita. Gros has thus strengthened our dating from an altogether different angle. As a historian he is not much inclined to place reliance on details of Sekkilar’s version, though his regards for Sekkilar is so high, that it is worth quoting him – “It should be recognised that this work is an exceptional memorial. The erudition of its multiple facts reaches the highest standard of Indian scholarship an awesome recollection of texts of puranic stories and anecdotes, a feeling for narrative character of situation and all thus in the service of a noble cause”. Sekkilar’s strength lies in his use of the hymns as the wrap whilst the remains faithful to them, literally and in terms of the prosody. Thus the shuttle may run between the various threads loaded in turn with history, legend, mythology and pious tall stories. At the end the most diverse woof is inextricably interwoven with higher truth and with the authority of the same hymns themselves. Sekkilar is entirely incorporated into the Tevaram and nobody after him has been able to read it except through him. B.G.L. Swamy may revile this puranic story as lacking in historical value. Here it is the genius of Sekkilar “Which has brought history into being and which has conferred a new reality upon the Tevaram hymns and given them a perceptile presene on every acre of Tamil soil. The historan can only note that they are rooted there” (p. xliii). I have already sounded the need for a cautious approach(5), in utilising the Periyapurana materials for reconstructing history vide “Sttudies in Tamil laws” (p. 15) “The Periyapurana of Sekkilar and the Guruparampara are all puranas which take one or two episodes from the life of the saints and weave beautiful myths around them. We must thereforebe careful in utilising.”
It is Sekkilar who tells of Appar’s persecution at the hands of the ruler, a point not referred to by Nambi. That it is not an invention of Sekkilar may be shown from Appar’s own verse. “If the ruler misuses his protective power “Kattalpavar Kaval Ihalntamaiyal” (4163) In another verse, Appar states, that “he would not obey the petty services commanded by the King even if he is the very embdiment of the God of Death.” It is obviously this reference that formed the basis of Sekkilar’s account of the persecution of Appar in the hands of the then ruling king.
The story that the son of Appudi Adigal died of snake bite and that he was brought back to life by Appar is mentioned for the first time by Sekkilar. We are unable to trace the source of this tradition. A similar miracle is attributed t Saint Sambandar in the story of ‘Pumpavai’ whom he brught back to life.
Another story of great interest to us mentioned by Sekkilar, is the conversion of the then ruler. Sekkilar does not give the name of the ruler, but refers to him as ‘Pallava’ and also as ‘Kadava’. The incidents connected with the converson of Appar and the Pallava ruler are said to have taken place at Patalipura (modern Cuddalore) and Thiruvadigai respectively. We may examine four distinct points in this connection:
Whether the place where these episodes occurred fell within the Pallava territory.
Whether there are any Pallava relics in this region.
Whether there is any archaeological or epigraphical evidence to support the story of the conversions and
Any other point of interest.
That Patalipura, modern Cuddalore, and Thiuvadigai were well within the Pallava territory is well attested. Much earlier than Mahendravarman I, even from the 5th Century A.D., Patalipura was a great centre of Jainism. This is known from the Jain work Lokavibhaga. “It is said to have been reduced to writing by Simhasuri. All the available manuscripts, state that it was copied by Sarvanandi at Patalika in the Banarastra on a certain day the astronomical details of which are given. It is further stated therein it was in Saka 380, corresponding to the 22nd year of the Pallava king Simhavarman of Kanchipuram”. This corresponds to 457 A.D.(6).
According to the Pallankoil copper plates(7), Simhavishnu father of Mahendra, extended the Pallava territory upto the Kaveri (modern Thiruchi) where Mahendra’s inscriptions are found. Sekkilar is, therefore, right in stating that when Appar became a Saivite and settled down to worship Siva at Thiru Adigai, the Jains asked the Pallava ruler of the region to intervene.
At Thiruvadigai there are a few archaeological relics which deserve notice. The Virattana temple at this place is a Pallava foundation carrying inscriptions of the Pallavas Paramesvaravarman, Tellaru erinda Nandi and Nrpatunga. Paramesvara’s inscription relates to another shrine of this place. Nandi’s inscription refers to a gift of gold for worship in the temple while, that of Nrpatunga, refers to renovation to the temple, carried out by him. In the pakara, at the western end there is a Caturmukalinga, decidedly a Pallava sculpture of 7th century A.D. Fig. 1 and 2.
Besides the Virattana temple, there is another Siva temple in the village called Gunabharisvaram. The garbhagrha of the temple is of brick and is evidently a late structure. But the main linga, a prismatic one, is of the Pallava age. The Nandi, a fairly big one is also a Pallava figure of 7th century. There is a good stone sculpture of Vishnu, about four feet in height, is also a Pallava image of (the 7th century A.D.) in the Mahendra style. Another image, that of Surya, is to be assigned to the same age. Near this temple are found on the road side some Jain sculptures, one representing a Tirthankara and the other a yaksha, but decidedly both are of 7th century in the Pallava age. Fig. 3-7.
The presence of the Siva temple called the Gunadharisvaram, and of a number of sculptures of the Pallava period, of 7th century A.D. both Hindu and Jain adds strength to the account of Sekkilar. That a Siva temple, bearing the title of a Pallava Gunadhara was built in that plaace is thus a historical fact, attested by archaeological evidence. One has therefore to look for his Pallava bearings of the title, Gunadhara.There was a Pallava rluler in the 7th century who bore the title Gunabhara in a number of his monuments and he is Mahendravarman I, who ruled from 580 to 630 A.D. There is a slight variation in the name. While Sekkilar alls him Gunadhara, inscriptions of Mahendra call him Gunabhara. This variation is superficial, and that both are identical is beyond doubt.
The question arises whether, there is any evidence to prove that Mahendra followed the Jain faith and that he became a convert to Saivism. This question is also linked to another whether there were Jain leanings in the royal family of Mahendra, immediately before or during his reign. An inscription of Mahendravarman found in the Thirucchirapalli upper rock cut cave does mention that Mahendra changed his faith and became a convert to Saivism. Before this inscription is taken up for detailed study, we may examine the Jain leanings among the members of Mahendra’s family.
There are two important Pallava copper plate charters that need notice in this regard. One is the Hosekotte copper plates of Simhavishu, the father of Mahendra(8). It mentions that the mother of Simhavishnu, gifted lands for worship and maintenance of a Jaina temple of Yapahavaniya Sangha. The other character also of the reign of Simhavishnu, records a gift of land as Palliccandam to a Jain ascetic, Vajranandi by him(9). Mahendra’s grandmother and father Simhavishnu were patrons of the Jains is thus attested by epigraphical sources. Born and brought up in such an environment as he was, Mahendra’s support to the Jains was a natural corollary.
There are two excavated temples on Thiruchirappalli hill. The upper rockcut cave, as it is called, bears inscriptions of Mahendravarman. One inscription besides giving several titles of Mahendra, mentions that the cave was a temple to Siva, named ‘Lalitankura Pallavesvara grha’, caused to be made by Mahendra. There are also excellent Sanskrit verses giving a detailed description of the cave(10).
Titles of Mahendra are found inscribed in the cave. The series of titles begin with the king’s well known abhishekanama – Mahendravikrama. Among several verses the following is of great significance:
Gunabhara namani Rajani
anena linggena lingini Jnanam
Prathatam ciraya loke,
The whole vese is a slesha, giving two meanings as given below, evidenced by the use of the terms Linga, lignin, Jnana, Vipakshavritta etc.
Linga i.e. 1) Sivalinga, 2) hetu. Lingin- i.e. 1) Saivite, 2) major term in inference (sadhya) Jnanam i.e. 1) Siva Jnanam, 2) inferential knowledge Vipaksha Vritteh Paravrttam –1) turned away from opposing conduct; 2) absence in counter example.
The first meaning is:
“Through the Sivalinga established here, let it be known in the world for long, that the king named Gunabhara has turned away from hostile faith and that he constantly adores Linga (Siva)”.
The second meaning is:
“Through this cause which is non existing in counter example, let the knowledge be known in the world, that the king Gunabhara is Anumana”.
I translate the terms, anenea lingena, Rajani, lengini Jnanam as follows: Through this hetu, inferential knowledge (anumana), Lingini Jnanam in he king (paksha) be established.
Indian thinkers, accept three essential means of cognition, namely pratyaksha, anumana and sabda. Anumana isinferential cognition. The Saivas have the following definition of anumana.
“Lingat Linginah Vijnanam anumanam iti smritam(11)” (Superbheda Agama, cited by Velliambalavana ambiran, Dharmapuram Vol.1 1957 p.455)
This citation from the agama Superbheda is of great significance, since it is a Saivaite text. The cave inscription of Mahendravarman occurs in a Saivaite context. The use of the words Linga, Lingini and Vijnanam and anumanam should be noted. Obviously Mahendra chose the appropriate Saiva terminology to refer to anumana. It is of very great interest to note that Mahendra assumed two significant titles “Anumana_” and “_Upamana”. From this interesting verse, he also suggests that his title is Anumana. That Mahendra is fond of such usage is also known from his “_Mattavilasa prahasana” Note the very invocatory verse of this interesting text. Obviously as a great poet Mahendra himself composed the epigraphs inscribed on his monumental creation, the Thiruchy cave.
That Mahendra specificalloy syas in the above epigraph, that he became a convert to Saivism need to be understood in its proper perspective. Francoise Gros, in his cautious approach, seems to have missed the real import of the verse (as already pointed out by me), when he says that the conversion of Mahendra from Jainism to Saivism, is based on the three words Vipaksha vritteh paravrittam(12). The main point is that the verse should be taken as a whole, one in which there is a positive reference to Mahendra’s conversion to Saivism. Here again Sekkilar’s statement that the Pallava king became a convert to Saivism is confirmed by epigraphical sources.
It may be mentioned that, according to Sekkilar, Appar did not convert Mahendravarman. There are two verses in Sekkilar (1415 and 14416), wherein the poet refers to the Pallava’s change of faith.
“The Pallava, who all along had performed evil deeds, following the cruel minded Samanas and whose own pasa of old deeds was now removed, reached Adigai, saluted Appar, and abandoning the bad company of the Amanas, fell at the feet of Lord Siva”.
Realising that the falsehood of the Jains, the Kadava destroyed the Jain monasteries and temples at Patalipura, and making use of those materials, built Gunabhartsvaram, a temple to Siva at Thiruvadigai”. Thus the Pallava became an ardent follower of Sivva of his own accord and Appar did not persuade him to embrace Saivism.
Sekkilar also says that the Kadava changed from the Jain faith. These statements find corroboration in the Thiruchi inscription. That a temple to Siva called Gunadharisvaram still exists at Thiruvadigai, shows that this temple did exist in the time of Sekkilar too. Appar’s contemporaneity with Mahendravarman is, thus corroborated from different angles.
According to all sources, Appar and Thirujnanasambandar were contemporaries. Appar himself in one of his verses refer to the contemporaneity of Sambandar, Kalumalavurar. Sekkilar narrates many of the episodes connected with the two saints and states that they were contemporaries. According to Sekkilar Sambandar visited the court of the Pandya Ninrasir Nedumaran the victor of Nelveli and converted him to Saivism form the Jaina faith. Reference to a Pandya Nedumara the victor of Nelveli occur in the Velvikkudi grant. The Sinnamanur copper plates(13) refer to a Nedumaran, as the victor of Nelveli. From these copper plates it is evident that this Pandya ruler, lived in the 7th Century A.D. and that he had the title Arikesari Parankusa Maravarman. Two inscriptions of this ruler have been fund recently. They give him a long rule of over fifty years. These records identify him with Mara the son of Sendan. There ruled only one Pandya Nedumaran, the victor of Nelveli, in the 7th Century A.D. and that the reference to him by Sekkilar is a historical fact. This Arikesari Nedumara, ruled from 650 to 700 A.D. Jnanasambandar should be signed to this period. Appar being a contemporary of Sambandar should also be assigned to the 7th Century A.D.(14) (A new Pandya record and the dates of Nayanmars and Alwars-Studies in Ancient Tamil Law and Society, pp.11-16)
The date of Sambandar and Appar is corroborated from another source. The Saiva saint Siruttondar was a commander under the Pallava ruler. He is said to have led the Pallava army to Vatapi, the capital of the Chalukyas and gained a remarkable victory by pulvarising that city (Periya puranam-Siruttondar Puranam(15). Among the Pallava rulers, Narasimhavarman I, Mamalla, is praised for his conquest of Vatapi in all the copper plates of the Pallavas. A Pallava inscription found in Vatapi(16) gives the Saka era and also the regnal year of the Pallava. This corresponds to 664 A.D. Obviously Siruttondar participated in this expedition and distinguished himself. This date also points to the fact that Sambandar, Appar and Siruttondar lived in the middle of 7th Century A.D. Thus historical evidence, pointing to the middle of 7th Century A.D., as the date of Appar are overwhelming.