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|The twelve volumes of Tamil Śaiva hymns of the sixty-three Nayanars|
|Paadal Petra Sthalam|
|Paadal Petra Sthalam|
|Raja Raja Chola I|
Tirumular (Tamil:திருமூலர் ,also spelt Thirumoolar etc., originally known as Cuntaranātar) was a Tamil Shaivite mystic and writer, considered one of the sixty-three Nayanars and one of the 18 Siddhars. His main work, the Tirumantiram (also sometimes written Tirumanthiram, Tirumandhiram, etc.), which consists of over 3000 verses, forms a part of the key text of the Tamil Shaiva Siddhanta, the Tirumurai.
Legend has it that Tirumūlar was a travelling Shaiva saint and scholar from Kailash who used his yogic powers to transmigrate into the body of a southern cowherd, Mūlan. He would wake up from a state of intense meditation once a year and compose one verse until he completed the Thirumandiram.
The Nayanar is said to have been one of the eight students of Tirunandi Devar. Tirumūlar, desiring to see Agastya Rishi in the Pothia Hills, left Kailasa and journeyed southwards. On his way, he visited many Saivite shrines. When he came to Tiruvavaduthurai, he took a bath in the Kaveri River then went to the Temple. Upon leaving the Temple and walking along the banks of the Kaveri, he noticed a herd of cows crying because their herder had died. Wanting to pacify the grief stricken cows, the Nayanar entered the body of the cowherd after safely depositing his own body in the trunk of a tree.
Mūlan, the cowherd, was a resident of Sattanur and drove the cows back into the village in the evening. Mūlan’s wife was expecting the return of her husband but when she approached him, he would not allow her to touch him, but said: ‘Oh lady, I am not your husband. Adore Lord Siva and attain Liberation.’ He left and went away to a near-by Math.
The cowherd's wife complained to the village elders about her husband’s conduct. They examined him and after they came to the conclusion that he was a great Yogi who had attained spiritual eminence, instructed the lady to have no further contact with him. The next day, Tirumular followed the cows, but could not find his body in the trunk of the tree, where he had left it. It was the Lord’s Leela. Lord Siva wanted Tirumular Nayanar to write a book in Tamil on Saiva Philosophy, containing the essence of all Siva Agamas. Tirumular understood the Lord’s wish and returned to Tiruvavaduthurai.
There he worshipped the Lord and sat under a Peepul tree in deep meditation. He was in Samadhi for three thousand years. But, every year, he would come out of samadhi and compose a stanza: thus, in three thousand years he wrote three thousand stanzas, and the stanzas were compiled into a book named Tirumandiram. Once he had finished, he returned to Kailasa.
The dates of Tirumūlar's life are controversial, and because his work makes reference to so many currents of religious thought, the dates that different scholars assign are often appealed to for anchoring the relative chronology of other religious literature in Tamil and Sanskrit. Verse 74 of the Tirumantiram makes the claim that Tirumūlar lived for 7 yuga before composing the Tirumantiram.
Some are therefore inclined to place his composition well before the Common Era. The scholar and lexicographer S. Vaiyapuripillai, however, suggested that he probably belonged to the beginning of the eighth-century AD, pointing out that Tirumūlar could not very well be placed earlier given that he appears to refer to the Tevaram hymns of Sambandar, Appar and Sundarar, that he used `very late words' and that he made mention of the weekdays.
Others wish to push the date still later: Dominic Goodall, for instance, appears to suggest, on the grounds of religious notions that appear in the work with Sanskrit labels for which a certain historical development can be traced in other datable works, that the Tirumantiram cannot be placed before the eleventh or twelfth century AD. Yet another view, alluded to for instance by Vaiyapuripillai (ibid.), is that the text may contain an ancient core, but with "a good number of interpolated stanzas" of later date. Whatever the case, allusions to works and ideas in the Tirumantiram cannot, at least for the moment, be used as useful indicators of their chronology.
- Tirumantiram A Tamil scriptural Classic. By Tirumular. Tamil Text with English Translation and Notes, B. Natarajan. Madras, Sri Ramakrishna Math, 1991, p.12.
- Vaiyapuripillai's History of Tamil Language and Literature (From the Beginning to 1000 A.D.), Madras, New Century Book House, 1988 (after the first edition of 1956), particularly footnote 1 on p.78.
- See pp.xxix-xxx in a Preface (entitled Explanatory remarks about the Śaiva Siddhānta and its treatment in modern secondary literature) to The Parākhyatantra. A Scripture of the Śaiva Siddhānta, Dominic Goodall, Pondicherry, French Institute of Pondicherry and Ecole française d'Extrême-Orient, 2004.