This is an ongoing series on the Siddhar Parambarai of India. Siddha refers to perfected masters who have achieved a high degree of physical as well as spiritual perfection or enlightenment. We look at various Siddhas who have graced upon this earth with their Presence — their life and the wisdom they shared in the form of poems, couplets that are referred to as Siddhar Padalgal. To begin with, we are looking at Siddhas from the tradition of “Pathinen Siddhargal”. In the previous issues, we saw about Kudhambai Siddhar, Pambatti Siddhar, Idaikkaattu Siddhar, Sattaimuni Siddhar, Sundaraanandar Siddhar, Karuvoorar Siddhar, Goraknatha Siddhar, Matsyendranatha Siddhar, Ramadevar Siddhar, Dhanvantari Siddhar and Patanjali Siddhar. In the Guru Poornima special edition of series we were blessed to also write about the great Siddha Avvai.We also saw how the Siddhargal poetry is presented in Sandhya Bhasha. In this article, we will see the glory of Siddha Thirumoolar.
Sekkizhar’s Periya Puranam is a revered Tamil literature that documents the charithiram (life-account) of sixty three Nayanmars (loosely meaning saints) of Shaivism (the tradition devoted to Lord Shiva). Siddha Thirumular’s life-account is documented in Periya Puranam, as he is also revered as one among the sixty three Nayanmars. Other sources that also share the history of this great Siddha are Thiruththondar Thiruvandhadhi, Thiruththondar Purana Saaram and a few more texts.
In the book “The Guru Chronicles” by the monks of Kauai Adheenam, the complexity of ascertaining the exact time of Thirumoolar Siddhar’s life span is well captured. To quote from the book: “Ask six historians when Tirumular lived, and you may well get six answers. This biography, based on statements in Tirumular’s Tirumantiram, makes him a contemporary of Yogi Patanjali, author of the Yoga Sutras, who lived around 200 bce. In another analysis, Sundaramurti Nayanar mentions Tirumular in his list of Nayanars. The common view that Sundaramurti Nayanar lived in the period between 840 to 864 ce would mean that Tirumular lived before that period.
Then there is a reference by Tirumular himself in the Tirumantiram to the Golden Hall of Chidambaram. Since the roof was first thatched in gold for the first time by the Pallava king Simhavarman, who lived in the fifth century ce, many historians conclude that Tirumular must have lived in the later fifth or early sixth century ce. But this ignores the possibility that Tirumular was, in Tirumantiram, describing Chidambaram from his mystic vision rather than from the sight of his physical eyes. Still others place him in the 10th century ce, noting that a sage by the name of Kalangi (the not uncommon name of one of Tirumular’s disciples) was the guru of Bhogar Rishi, who lived during that period and was connected to Rajaraja Chola. Others point to his linguistic style and suggest he lived as late as the 11th or 12th century. India’s history is notoriously debatable, and the period in which these great gurus lived may forever defy certainty.”
Thirumoolar Siddhar’s Thirumanthiram
Both the life and works of Thirumoolar Siddhar are extremely important for the Tamil Shaivism and Siddha tradition. It is our absolute blessing that we have access to these texts. Siddha Thirumoolar’s Thirumanthiram unfolds the most profound and subtle realizations of a phenomenal Siddha. It is revered as Siddhantha — “the end of ends”.
Legend has it that Thirumoolar was immersed for years in deep samadhi. Some accounts say the Siddha was in a cave and others say the Siddha sat under an Arasa Maram (Peepal Tree). At the end of each year of his continuous and great samadhi, he would come out to scribe a single verse with a stylus on a palm leaf, capturing in that verse the sum of one year’s meditations. Since he wrote over 3000 verses, this would mean he lived over 3000 years. There are other accounts that say Thirumoolar Siddhar wrote a single verse each day for 3000 days. Whatever actually happened, we believe that even a year’s meditation would be insufficient to comprehend the subtle and complete jnana (realized knowledge) contained in the four-line stanza of each verse in Thirumanthiram.
With our namaskaram to our great Gurus and namaskaram to the entire Shiva Kudumbam (family), we begin our meagre effort. To even present a few verses from this deep work demands multiple articles. So we are going to bring you the life-account of Siddha Thirumoolar and a few profound gems through a multi-part series.
Thirumurai is a compilation of works by great Shaiva saints in Tamil literature and contains 12 texts and Thirumanthiram is one among the collected 12 works. And Thirumurai collection is the very life breath of the spiritual tradition alive for millenias in Tamilnadu. Such is the importance and impact of Siddhar Thirumoolar’s great mission.
The structure of Thirumanthiram is such that it comprises nine tantras (books) and a preface. The preface commences with an invocation to Lord Vinayaka. It is a highly upheld tradition in Shaiva works to pay salutations to Lord Vinayaka before the commencement of any work, as per the very directive of Lord Shiva Himself.
Many from Tamil Nadu know the invocation of our Siddhar Thirumoolar to Lord Vinayaka and many among them still don’t know that it is from Thirumanthiram. We still sing this song in schools and temples.
ஐந்து கரத்தனை யானைமுகத்தனை
இந்தின் இளம்பிறை போலும் எயிற்றனை
நந்திமகன் தனை ஞானக் கொழுந்தினை
புந்தியில் வைத்தடி போற்றுகின்றேனே
Adoration to the Holy Feet enshrined in my Consciousness
Whose arms are five,
Whose face has the Elephant’s majesty,
Whose single tusk rivals crescent moon,
Who is the darling child of Lord Nandi (Shiva),
And who is wisdom pure and overflowing.
Another phrase that is well known among us is: யான் பெற்ற இன்பம் பெறுக இவ்வையகம், which literally translates to: May all in this world get the Bliss that I got! We use this sentence in our everyday life, but it was said by Thirumoolar and it gives us a glimpse into how eager our Siddhar was to share his treasure with us.
யான் பெற்ற இன்பம் பெறுக இவ்வையகம்
வான்பற்றி நின்ற மறை பொருள் சொல்லிடின்
ஊன் பற்றி நின்ற உணர்வுறு மந்திரம்
தான் பற்றப் பற்றத் தலைப்படும் தானே
May all in this world get the Bliss that I got!
He who is omnipresent
Will shine forth within us too,
When we hold to our Guru Mantra with Devotion
Thirumanthiram consists of Nine Tantras. The First Tantra begins with a synopsis of all that is to follow in this great mystical work of Siddha Thirumoolar. The topics it covers include: “Transitoriness of Body also of wealth, youth and life-Not Killing, Poverty, Dharma of Rulers, Glory of Giving, In Praise of the Charitable, Siva Knows Those Who Love Him, Learning, Non-learning, Rectitude and others.” The First Tantra begins with Synopsis (பாயிரம்/Payiram), a beautiful recital about Lord Shiva based on the sequence of numbers.
ஒன்றவன் தானே இரண்டவன் இன்னருள்
நின்றனன் மூன்றினுள் நான்குணர்ந் தான்ஐந்து
வென்றனன் ஆறு விரிந்தனன் ஏழும்பர்ச்
சென்றனன் தானிருந் தான்உணர்ந் தெட்டே
One is He, Two His Sweet Grace
Three He stood, all the Four He Witnesssed
Five He conquered, Six He filled
Seven Worlds He pervades, He manifests in Eight and so he Remains
This song is also highly mystical in nature, and follows Sandhya Bhasha (refresh what is Sandhya Bhasha) to explain the Shiva tattva. Like this, the Payiram expounds on Lord Shiva and his attributes which is filled with devotion and love.
We mentioned that First Tantra covers lots of topic such as In Praise of the Charitable, Siva Knows Those Who Love Him, Learning, Non-learning, etc., Let us see a stanza from this Tantra which praises the Learned people.
கற்றறி வாளர் கருதிய காலத்துக்
கற்றறி வாளர் கருத்திலோர் கண்ணுண்டு
கற்றறி வாளர் கருதி உரைசெய்யுங்
கற்றறி காட்டக் கயலுள வாக்குமே
When the Learned-wise sat in deep meditation,
In their deep illumined soul there is an Inner Eye,
What they saw and spoke in contemplation,
In turn opened other’s to Wisdom
The elixirs offered by Siddha Thirumoolar are so many. We wish to continue bringing gems from Thirumanthiram in a series of multiple parts. We invite you to contemplate more on these lines and share with us your insights. We also invite you to share with us lines from Siddhar Padalgal that have deeply touched you. You could write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In absorbing this, may our abhyasa continue, may our shraddha in the Siddha Parampara strengthen and may revelations awaken as we grow within!