p20213 Lesson 3 Tottiram (Thirumuraigal)

This lesson talks about the ‘Panniru Thirumuraigal’ which constitute the corpus of saivite devotional literature. The saivite bakthi movement reached its pinnacle with the compilation of the tottirams (or hymns in praise) written by the saivite poet saints. The poems or hymns were classified into 12 books which were collectively called the ‘Panniru Thirumuraigal’. Nambiaandaar Nambi who lived during the 10th century A.D. compiled the first 11 Thirumuraigal. The ‘Periapuraanam’ which is the 12th Thirumurai was added later.

The spiritual outpourings of Thirugnanasambandar constitute the first 3 Thirumuraigal while those written by Thirunaavukkarasar form the next 3. The 7th Thirumurai consists of hymns sung by Sundarar. Together, the first 7 Thirumuraigal are called ‘Thevaaram’. ‘Thevaaram’ means a garland of songs in praise of the Divine (“the” meaning the “Divine” and “aaram” denotes “garland”). Hailed as the fountainhead of saiva philosophy, the Thevaaram songs were originally inscribed on palm leaves. In the 11th century A.D. a Chozha warrior chief inscribed these on copper plates. The Thevaaram hymns were also preserved as stone inscriptions in temples. This lesson includes brief hagiographies of Thirugnanasambandar, Thirunaavukkarasar and Sundarar and analyses the unique features of their hymns.

‘Thiruvaasagam’ and ‘Thirukkovaiyaar’ composed by Manikavaasagar are referred to as the 8th Thirumurai. ‘Thiruvaasagam’ comprises 659 songs while ‘Thirukkovaiyaar’ has 400. The lesson briefly traces the life of Manikavaasagar and discusses the merits of his works.

The 9th Thirumurai called ‘Thiruvisaippa’ contains the hymns of 9 poet-saints. The last part of the 9th Thirumurai sung by Senthanaar is popularly known as ‘Thiruppallaandu’. There are 301 songs in the 9th Thirumurai.

‘Thirumanthiram’ written by the saiva mystic Thirumoolar is the 10th Thirumurai. Also known as the ‘Tamil Aagamam’, the ‘Thirumanthiram’ expounds the principles of saiva siddantam and has references to tantra, mantra and yogic practices. 3048 verses from the ‘Thirumanthiram’ are available today.

The 11th Thirumurai is a compendium of 1430 devotional hymns rendered by a heterogeneous group of poet-saints. Legend has it that the ‘Thirumugap Paasuram’ in this Thirumurai was revealed by Lord Shiva Himself. Karaikkaal Ammaiar, the sangam poet Nakkeerar and Nambiandaar Nambi are some of the poets whose works are included in the 11th Thirumurai. A distinctive feature of the 11th Thirumurai is that it has many of the verse forms that come under minor literature. This is the reason why this Thirumurai is also called the ‘Prabanda Thirumurai’.

Sekkeezhaar’s Thiruthondarpuranam, more widly known as ‘Periapuraanam’ is the 12th Thirumurai. ‘Periapuraanam’ contains the hagiographies of poet-saints. A book of epic propotions, ‘Periyapuraanam’ is regarded as the crowning glory of saivite canonical literature. The book which details the lives of the poet-saints in moving verses is hailed as one of the great epics in Tamil literature.