Poems to Siva

Poems to Siva: The Hymns of the Tamil Saints

Indira Viswanathan Peterson
Copyright Date: 1989
Pages: 398
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    Poems to Siva
    Book Description:

    Composed by three poet-saints between the sixth and eighth centuries A.D., the Tevaram hymns are the primary scripture of the Tamil Saivism, one of the first popular large-scale devotional movements within Hinduism. Indira Peterson eloquently renders into English a substantial portion of these hymns, which provide vivid and moving portraits of the images, myths, rites, and adoration of Siva and which continue to be loved and sung by the millions of followers of the Tamil Saiva tradition. Her introduction and annotations illuminate the work's literary, religious, and cultural contexts, making this anthology a rich sourcebook for the study of South Indian popular religion.

    Indira Peterson highlights the Tevaram as a seminal text in Tamil cultural history, a synthesis of pan-Indian and Tamil civilization, as well as a distinctly Tamil expression of the love of song, sacred landscape, and ceremonial religion. Her discussion of this work draws on her pioneering research into the performance of the hymns and their relation to the art and ritual of the South Indian temple.

    Originally published in 1989.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6006-7
    Subjects: Religion, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiii)
    (pp. xiv-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  7. PART ONE Introduction:: Poetry and Religion in the Songs of the Tamil Śaiva Saints
    • CHAPTER 1 The Study of the Tēvāram
      (pp. 3-7)

      The poems translated in this book are Tamil hymns of devotion to the Hindu god Śiva.¹ The poets, Tiruñāṉacampantar (popularly known as Campantar or Naṉacampantar), Tirunāvukkaracar (Appar), and Cuntaramūrtti (Cuntarar), lived between the sixth and eighth centuries A.D. in the Tamil linguistic-cultural region of India. They are celebrated as the principal saint-leaders or Nāyaṉār (“leader, master”) of the Tamil Śaiva sect (see illus. 1).² The collection of the three saints’ hymns, entitled theTēvāram,serves as the primary scripture for Tamil Śaivas.

      To study theTēvāramis to study more than a text. In understanding the meanings and contexts of...

    • CHAPTER 2 The Making of the Tēvāram: The Text and Its Context
      (pp. 8-18)

      At the time oi the rise of Tamilbhakti,the Tamil linguistic-cultural area covered most of peninsular India south of the hill of Vēṅkaṭam, and roughly corresponded to the region made up of the three Tamil kingdoms of the Cankam classical age, ruled by the Pāṇṭiya (Pandya), Cōḻa, and Cēra kings.¹ In this region, such basic elements of brahmanical Hinduism as the Vedas and Vedic sacrifice, the Vedic-brahmanical gods, and the veneration of brahmins as specialists in the sacred had already become part of Tamil religion and culture; at the same time, aspects of the earlier indigenous religion played an...

    • CHAPTER 3 The Poets and Their Poems
      (pp. 19-50)

      The dates of the threeTēvārampoets and the factual details of their lives continue to be a matter of controversy.¹ It appears most likely that the lives of Appar and Campantar overlapped, and that they lived between A.D. 570 and 670. The most plausible date for Cuntarar is the end of the seventh and the beginning of the eighth centuries. Quite apart from considerations of factual accuracy, for Tamil Śaivas Cēkkiḻār’sPeriya purānamhagiography is the most authoritative account of the lives of the sixty-three Nāyaṉārs. In this brief summary of the lives of theTēvāramsaints, I have...

    • CHAPTER 4 The Lives of a Text: The Role of the Tēvāram Hymns in Tamil Śaivism
      (pp. 51-75)

      In a continuous tradition going back at least to the time of the recovery of the hymns, theTēvāramhas remained the fundamental instrument for Tamil Śaivas in their personal, communal, and ritual worship of Śiva. Devotees and professional hymn singers sing and recite the hymns, in informal as well as ceremonial settings. Thepatikamscan be heard in homes, temple courtyards, concert halls, and festival processions. Holy men sing them on city streets and country roads.² The rise in popularity of other gods and cults, as well as the “secularization” of modern Tamil life, appear to have in no...

    • CHAPTER 5 On Translating the Hymns
      (pp. 76-92)

      TheTēvāramhymns are among the earliest examples of the stanzaic song (patikam) in Tamil. When the poets call their songspattu(“ten”), they are referring to the hymn as a sequence of ten four-line stanzas in a single meter. The poems of the early Cankam anthologies (tokai) vary greatly in length and, in fact, were grouped together on the basis of length as well as subject matter.¹ The shortest of these poems, all of which are in theakavalmeter, are found in theAirikuṟunūṟu(“Five Hundred Short Poems”; poems of 3–6 lines) andKuṟuntokai(“Anthology of...

  8. PART TWO An Anthology of Hymns from the Tēvāram
    • Section I Mūrtti:: Images of the Lord
      • [SECTION I Introduction]
        (pp. 95-102)

        The poems in this section focus on the person and nature of Śiva as the poets of theTēvdāramvisualize them. Śiva Mahādeva, the great god of the pan-Hindu tradition, is the “Lord” of these poems, and many verses celebrate him in his cosmic dimensions. He is identified as Īśa, the “Lord” of the theistic Upanisads,¹ the Supreme Deity who manifests himself in and as all things in the universe. Like the awesome and life-giving Rudra-Śiva of the VedicŚatarudrīyalitany, Śiva of theTēvāramis manifest in the wild aspects of nature, in forests and bodies of water, in...

      • 1 The Beautiful Lord (POEMS 1–19)
        (pp. 103-111)
      • 2 The Lord Is All Things (POEMS 20–28)
        (pp. 112-117)
      • 3 Naṭarāja: Lord of the Dance (POEMS 29–36)
        (pp. 118-122)
      • 4 Bhikṡāṭana: The Beggar (POEMS 37–39)
        (pp. 123-126)
      • 5 Śiva’s Myths (POEMS 40–54)
        (pp. 127-142)
    • Section II Kōyil, Ārūr:: Beloved Abodes
      • [SECTION II Introduction]
        (pp. 143-148)

        The shrine is a center in more senses than one: it is situated at the center of the sacred landscape in a palpable manner; it is, at the same time, identified with the center or navel of the universe, the spot through which passes theaxis mundilinking heaven, earth, and the nether regions.¹ In this section, beginning with theTēvāramdescriptions of the shrine as sacred center, we move to the sacred geography of the Tamil Śaivas. We have noted that this early Tamil devotional poetry is distinguished by its preoccupation with particular sacred places, with Tamil towns and...

      • 1 The Temple (POEMS 55–68)
        (pp. 149-157)
      • 2 The Lord’s Dear Town (POEMS 69–73)
        (pp. 158-161)
      • 3 Sacred Landscapes (POEMS 74–84)
        (pp. 162-179)
      • 4 Celebrations (POEMS 85–99)
        (pp. 180-189)
      • 5 Brahmin Ways (POEMS 100–103)
        (pp. 190-192)
      • 6 Talapurāṇam: Local Legends (POEMS 104–126)
        (pp. 193-204)
    • Section III Aṭiyār:: The Ways of Love
      • [SECTION III Introduction]
        (pp. 205-208)

        The emotional core of Tamil Śaivabhakti—the relationship of love between Śiva and his devotees, and the many ways in which this love is felt and expressed—forms the major theme of the poems presented in this section. We begin with hymns in which the saints focus on Śiva as the beloved Lord, invoking him in emotionally charged images and metaphors. In such verses, the Lord is the saint’s master, bridegroom, friend, father, mother, and kinsman; he is all the things that the poet-devotee loves and treasures in the world. Pan-Indian images mingle with characteristically Tamil ones. To the...

      • Illustrations
        (pp. None)
      • 1 The Lord Is Sweet (POEMS 127–143)
        (pp. 209-216)
      • 2 The Lord’s Emblems (POEMS 144–153)
        (pp. 217-223)
      • 3 Pain and Grace (POEMS 154–180)
        (pp. 224-244)
      • 4 The Lord, My Lover (POEMS 181–185)
        (pp. 245-250)
      • 5 Five Who Dwell Within (POEMS 186–193)
        (pp. 251-254)
      • 6 Acts of Devotion (POEMS 194–212)
        (pp. 255-264)
      • 7 Singing of Śiva (POEMS 213–220)
        (pp. 265-268)
    • Section IV Mūvar Mutalikaḷ:: The First Three Saints
      • 1 Campantar: The Blessed Child (POEMS 221–233)
        (pp. 270-282)

        Of the exemplary and eventful lives of the first three saints, so well known in the Tamil Śaiva tradition after the age of the Nāyaṉārs, we catch only a few glimpses in theTēvāram. Yet these glimpses have the value of illuminating for us the saints’ own perspective on certain incidents in their lives that have fired the popular imagination. This section is devoted to poems containing such autobiographical and historical material. The selections are arranged in four subsections, the first three dealing with the lives of Campantar, Appar, and Cuntarar, and the fourth containing verses and hymns in which...

      • 2 Appar: The Reformed Monk (POEMS 234–245)
        (pp. 283-301)

        Tirunāvukkaracar (Appar; see illus. 3) was born Maruṇīkkiyār in Tiruvāmūr, near the holy shrine of Tiruvatikai (Atikai) Vīraṭṭāṉam, to the Vellala Pukaḻaṉār and his wife Mātiṉiyār. Maruṇīkkiyār’s sister Tilakavatiyār (Tilakavati) was betrothed to Kalippakai, one of the sixty-three Nāyaṉārs. When Kalippakai died in battle, Tilakavati devoted her life to Saiva piety, while Maruṇīkkiyār, in search of a fulfilling personal religion, turned to Jainism. He became a respected Jain monk in the Digambara sect, took the name Tarumacēṉar (Dharmasena), and soon became head of the Jain monastery in Tiruppātirippuliyūr. Tarumacēṉar began to suffer from acute colitis; though he tried many remedies,...

      • 3 Cuntarar: The Lord’s Comrade (POEMS 246–258)
        (pp. 302-322)

        In the relatively short span of a hundred hymns, Nampi Ārūrar or Cuntaramūrtti provides us with more particulars about his life and times than either of his fellow saints. Like Campantar, Cuntarar mentions details of his personal and public life in his signature verses. From these, and from traditional accounts, we learn that Cuntarar was born in Tirunāvalūr to the Śaiva brahmin (Āticaivar) Cataiyaṉār and his wife Icaiñāṉiyār. He grew up in luxury as the adopted son of Naracinka Muṉaiyaraiyar, a Pallava feudatory prince. The poet calls himself “Ārūraṉ,” and speaks of himself as the father of the girls Cinkati...

      • 4 The Servants of the Lord (POEMS 259–270)
        (pp. 323-336)

        The lives of the first three saints are closely linked with the lives and acts of other Nāyṉārs. Few among the sixty-three saints named in Cuntarar’s “List of the Holy Devotees” (Tirut tontat tokai) are actually mentioned in the rest of theTēvāram. Yet wherever such reference is made, whether in passing or in detail, it serves to illuminate in an authentic, concrete manner the sense of community that informs the poet-saints’bhakti.

        In addition to several Pallava kings and princes, theTirut tontat tokaicontains the names of monarchs of the Pāntiya, Cōḻa, and Cēra kingdoms. Cuntarar describes many...

    • APPENDIX A Important Sacred Places in the Tēvāram
      (pp. 339-340)
    • APPENDIX B The Twenty-three Paṇ Scale-Types in the Tēvāram
      (pp. 341-341)
    • APPENDIX C Aṭṭavīraṭṭaṉam: The Sites of the Eight Heroic Deeds of Śiva
      (pp. 342-342)
    • APPENDIX D Major Puranic Myths of Śiva in the Tēvāram
      (pp. 343-348)
    (pp. 349-356)
    (pp. 357-366)
    (pp. 367-370)
    (pp. 371-382)